Pixel Scroll 5/24/18 Filenheit 770

(1) LEAVE OF ABSENCE FOR FANX’S BRANDENBURG. Salt Lake City’s Fox13 news has been told “FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg stepping aside amid criticism of handling of harassment complaint”.

Salt Lake City FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg is stepping aside in response to criticism of his handling of a report of harassment.

Brandenburg told Fox 13 News Thursday he is taking an “immediate and indefinite” leave of absence.

He said he wants his decision to step down from the convention to show the women who have complained that he has heard their complaints. He said it was a hard decision to leave the company he founded with Dan Farr in 2013, but he would rather step aside so that the fan base can thrive.

Brandenburg told a Good4Utah reporter (ABC-TV):

“If it takes me walking away, to see something survive, it’s my baby. And I would rather see it thrive than to have it go through the trauma that it’s going through now,” said Brandenburg.

Brandenburg said he was saddened by all of the divisiveness this caused within his organization.

He said he didn’t want to distract from FanX which is why he’s taking that extended leave of absence.

Today’s TV interviews indicate a definite break, in contrast to superficial changes shared by con organizers in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune story “After sexual-harassment controversy, FanX says its founders are stepping back and it will donate to Time’s Up” which had only said Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg were stepping back from social media. (Indeed, Brandenburg’s Facebook page is now offline.) The Tribune  reported further defections among FanX guests and vendors:

With authors, celebrities and a major publishing house saying they will pull out of FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention over its insensitive response to sexual-harassment accusations, organizers say they will donate an unspecified amount to the Time’s Up campaign and reduce the public role of co-founders Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr.

Brandenburg set off a firestorm on social media this week by posting about best-selling Utah author Shannon Hale, who was questioning FanX’s handling of a sexual-harassment accusation against Utah author Richard Paul Evans.

Without contacting Hale, FanX social media manager Manda Bull posted Tuesday that the convention was inviting her to join a new committee to improve its recently revised anti-harassment policy. The author said Wednesday she’s not interested.

…Since Monday’s dust-up, two celebrities booked for FanX — Lindsay Jones and Arryn Zech, voice actors on the popular anime-style web series “RWBY” — have canceled their appearances. Several authors, showing solidarity with Hale, also have said they will skip the convention.

On Tuesday, one of Utah’s biggest publishing houses — Shadow Mountain Publishing, an imprint run by LDS Church-owned Deseret Book — ended its association with FanX.

…It was the Shadow Mountain booth where, according to a complaint filed with event organizers, Evans harassed a woman at last September’s convention. The woman told FanX in a written account that Evans “touched me several times and went so far as to kiss my cheek. I had never met him before … but he made me very uncomfortable and even said, ‘You’re so pretty’ after he touched me, as though he couldn’t help himself.”

In an interview that aired Tuesday on KUTV-Channel 2, Evans told reporter Chris Jones that “there is a war on men, and that men — white men in particular — are under attack, oppressed by a changing culture, victims of an extremist feminist agenda.” Evans compared the plight of white men in America to “Jews in Nazi Germany.”

(2) EYE PROBLEM. Larry Niven will miss Balticon 52, where he was scheduled to be Author Special Guest. The convention announced the news on its website

Larry Niven will be unable to attend Balticon this year:

We are sorry to report that at the last minute Larry Niven developed a problem that will prevent him from traveling to Baltimore and attending Balticon 52. He suffered a minor complication from a recent eye procedure and lthough is readily reparable it needs to be fixed soon and will require a week or so of bed rest. Riding in a pressurized aircraft is not a good plan at the moment as it could cause his retinas to go all retrograde. He sends his regrets, and we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

(3) PACKET IS COMING. Worldcon 76 knows you’re waiting: “Hugo Voter Packet News”.

The Worldcon 76 Hugo Team are working on testing the Hugo Voter Packet and expect to have it online shortly, within the next few days.

The Hugo Voter Packet is a collection of finalist works for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards, made available to members of Worldcon 76 to better allow voters to make their decisions when voting on the Hugo Awards. Finalists’ works that appear in the Hugo Award Packet appear through the courtesy of the finalists, publishers, and rights-holders. Not all finalists will be in the Packet.

(4) COPYEDITOR’S CORNER. Is it just me? I find the wording of this headline troubling. It probably wasn’t written by the author of the article itself who knows how to make her points.

For decades, the field of fantasy books was dominated by white men penning tales about dwarfs, elves, and other Norse-based mythology. Today, that’s changing as diverse writers are bringing fresh voices to the field, incorporating the myths and legends of cultures around the world. “People have been trying to do this for decades,” says author Tomi Adeyemi. “It’s just that enough people have broken down the doors over the decades that we’re where we are now.” Certainly, speculative fiction writers since at least Octavia Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur Grant, have looked beyond Europe for inspiration. But no longer can they be dismissed as niche. From the $1 billion-plus box-office take of “Black Panther,” directed by Ryan Coogler, to the success of Ms. Adeyemi’s breakout debut, “Children of Blood and Bone,” audiences and readers are flocking to well-drawn worlds inspired by African and Asian countries. As one science fiction professor says, “We are not the field that thinks that what white men say is the only way to say things.”

(5) SALVAGE. When Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star, did you think the whole thing vanished into its component atoms? Not so! Cnet brings word: “Chunk of original Star Wars Death Star goes for sale on eBay”

…Get started on your very own Death Star by picking up a prop piece of the original ship from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope on eBay.

…Most of the pieces ended up in a landfill, but an anonymous former ILM employee grabbed this particular panel and kept it safe for decades.

… The panel measures nearly 24 inches (61 centimeters) long and “every inch of the piece has complex modeling used to create the raised elevations and valleys of the Death Star.”

The eBay auction from Hollywood Memorabilia on Thursday, timed to coincide with the weekend release of the Han Solo origin movie Solo: A Star Wars Story. The Death Star chunk is expected to bring six figures in US dollars.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 24, 2008 — The sci-fi musical Christmas On Mars premiered.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered evolution in action at Non Sequitur.

(8) CONVENTION TOOL. A feature at this year’s Confab —

(9) DOWN TO THE WIRE. One of Minnesota’s best-known conventions announced they are being squeezed in hotel negotiations and haven’t secured the DoubleTree Hotel for this July’s con, although they hope to. Lawyers are at work: “CONvergence 2018 Timing Update—Please Bear With Us”.

Dear CONvergence Members,

We wanted to make you aware of some ongoing negotiations regarding this year’s convention. Over the past year, the Board has been in conversation with the DoubleTree Hotel regarding the arrangements and logistics for CONvergence 2018. The hotel has put forth several demands regarding the practices and procedures of the convention. The Board has been negotiating with the DoubleTree regarding which demands we feel are reasonable and which are not. The Board’s main objective is to preserve and provide the best experience for our members.

Unfortunately, these negotiations have gone on longer than we had hoped and have not yet reached resolution. We do currently anticipate being able to hold this year’s convention on time, but must resolve these outstanding issues first. Because of these negotiations, we’ve had to delay some of our normal processes, including room reservations. We are working hard to bring everything to resolution as soon as possible and will keep you updated as quickly as we can, but due to the nature of the negotiations and on advice of counsel we can’t discuss in full detail. We appreciate your understanding.

For now, let’s continue to build those costumes, launch those campaigns, and get ready for the 20th year of CONvergence!

(10) GRRM MOVIE PROJECT ANNOUNCED. “George R.R. Martin’s ‘The Ice Dragon’ to Get the Animated Movie Treatment”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Martin’s children’s fantasy novel, The Ice Dragon, has been picked up by Warner Animation Group to be adapted for the big screen, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The writer will be actively involved with the project, acting as a producer. There is even a possibility he will take a crack at penning the script, although that is still to be determined (and will undoubtedly scare GoT fans who are awaiting him to finish the latest, long-in-the-works and who knows when it will come out novel).

(11) THE EXISTENCE OF YOUR BANE. Gizmodo’s take on this invention begins: “Hello, You’ve Reached Gotham’s Reckoning. How May I Direct Your Call?”

How many times has this happened to you? You’re trying to organize the destruction of a major metropolitan area and the overthrow of a system you view as irredeemably corrupt, but you keep having to step out of the office to take a call. That problem is no more thanks to Bloxvox, the voice muffling muzzle that lets you plot to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s destiny from the comfort of your desk.

The actual item is a “voice privacy tool” that’s supposed to let you make private phone calls in public place.

A new Kickstarter seeks money to develop Bloxvox — a Bane-like mask that’s supposed to let you make private phone calls in public places (think open-plan offices, airports, etc.). At this writing, the Kickstarter is approaching $2000 out of a $25,000 goal; that amount raised from a mere 15 backers. The device allows you to insert the microphone part of your earbuds into the mask, providing some level of voice muffling for your office mates (or the other people in the coffee shop or what have you) but none for the microphone. A head strap holds the mask in place while a hole in the front “allows you to breathe, while letting minimal sound escape.” A soft seal around your mouth is said to “[create] a comfortable fit and voice-blocking seal against your face.”

(12) WATCHMEN CASTING. Here are the players – but who they’re going to play is still a secret: “‘Watchmen’: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson to Star in Damon Lindelof’s HBO Pilot”.

Watchmen, Damon Lindelof and HBO have announced the star-studded cast of the drama pilot take on Alan Moore’s beloved comic series.

The Leftovers grad Regina King will reunite with Lindelof on the HBO pilot and lead a cast that includes Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman), Adelaide Clemens (Rectify) and Andrew Howard (Hatfields & McCoys).

Details about their respective characters are being kept under wraps.

(13) HE’S WHO? You can watch Dr. Michael Keaton’s complete Kent State University commencement address, or skip ahead to the genre-related peroration at about the 18:00 mark.

(14) NOT JUST HANGING AROUND. A teenager dressed as Spider-man, dropped out of a window upside down, and asked his girlfriend out to the prom. Insider says “It’s the most extra thing we’ve seen today”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/22/18 The Return Of The Revenge Of The Son Of The House Of The Bride Of The Night Of The Living Pixel Scroll

(1) ROBSON ON WORLDBUILDING. Juliette Wade interviews celebrated author Kelly Robson in her latest Dive Into Worldbuilding hangout — “Kelly Robson and ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’”. Wade has both notes on the interview and a video at the link.

This hangout looks twice as exciting now that Kelly has gone on to win a Nebula in the meantime (for her novellette, A Human Stain)! It was a pleasure to have her on the show to talk about her recent novella, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.

Kelly started out by telling us about how critical economics was to this story. She’s passionate about economics! (And so she should be; worldbuilding without economics is flimsy.) She calls it “the physics of worldbuilding.” She told us that when she was first writing historical fiction, she began with medieval settings because it seemed more straightforward to manage, but that since then, she’s branched out into greater challenges. In this story, the historical portion is set in Mesopotamia!

(2) RECAP. Shannon Hale, one of the principals in the story, gives her own rundown of yesterday’s FanX antiharassment news in “My FanX craziness, annotated”.

Since this has blown up and become news, I’m going to lay out here all my interactions with FanX (Salt Lake City’s Comic Con).…

(3) IN TUNE. Olga Polomoshnova shares her analysis “On Lúthien’s power of singing” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

The fairest of all Children of Ilúvatar, Lúthien is not an ordinary character. Being the daughter of an Elf and a Maia, she inherited various traits of both kindreds. Among many of her gifts and skills singing was one of the most exceptional. However, when it comes to talking about Lúthien’s singing, we should bear in mind that hers was not renowned just for being done in a beautiful voice. Lúthien’s songs possessed special power

(4) REALITY SHOW. Tom McAllister tells new writers to recalibrate their expectations in “Who Will Buy Your Book?” at The Millions.

Before I ever published anything, I’d assumed that if I ever finished a book, there would be so much demand from family and friends alone that we’d have to go into a second printing before the release date. But I am here to tell you: most people in your family will never buy your book. Most of your friends won’t either.

I have a handful of friends and family members—people I consider close to me, people I see regularly—who have never come to any of my dozens of book events. I don’t know if they own any of my books because I haven’t asked, but I have a pretty good guess. After my first book came out, I would peruse friends’ bookshelves, trying to determine their organizational system (if it’s not alphabetical, then where is my book? Maybe they have some special hidden shelf for books they truly cherish?). On a few occasions, I called them out for not having it. This accomplished nothing, besides making both of us feel bad.

The point of this piece is not to shame those people or to complain about not getting enough support. It’s just to say: whatever you think it’s like after you publish a book, it’s actually harder than that.

(5) PAYSEUR. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur covers “Beneath Ceaseless Skies #251”, which, coincidentally has a story by Jonathan Edelstein.

It’s a rather quick issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, with two stories linked in a way by their length (neither of them over 2500 words, which is unusual for the publication). But it lends both stories a sort of impact, and a feeling of anticipation. In the first, that means having to wait for the results of a very important test. In the second, that means having to wait for the results of a very important confrontation. In both, there are certain indications that might guide readers otwards guessing what happens next, but both times it’s left up in the air what _actually_ transpires after the final stories end. What it is certain is that both look at characters struggling to solve tricky problems, ones where they have been made culpable of a misstep and are desperate to find a way forward. So yeah, to the reviews!

Stories:

“The Examination Cloth” by Jonathan Edelstein (2232 words)…

(6) LAW WEST OF THE EAST RIVER. The New York Times Magazine offers the verdict of “Judge John Hodgman on Children Watching James Bond Movies”. Here’s the problem —

Ren writes:  Our children, ages 7 and 9, love James Bond movies.  We’ve seen almost every one, but my wife doesn’t want them to see Casino Royale.  It’s often referred to as the best Bond, but she believes it is too inappropriate for them.  Can you help?  I’d like to watch the movie with my kids, who are James Bond fans just like me.

John Hodgman’s answer:

Of course 7-and 9-year-olds like movies with cars that fly.  But they don’t love problematic gender portrayals and seventh-grade-level sex jokes.  That’s why Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for children and the James Bond series for man-children.  But if Casino Royale (which is great!) is truly the last one you have left, why not?  Why not complete your experiment and cuddle up with your kids and watch Daniel Craig be tortured in a very private area?  No one can stop your mad plan now.  Not even you, Mr. Bond!

(7) GOLD OBIT. Virtuoso movie poster creator Bill Gold died May 20 at the age of 97. His iconic work included Casablanca and The Exorcist.

Mr. Gold comfortably spanned the years from paperboard to the computer era, and many of his posters became nearly as famous as the movies they promoted. Some won design awards; many were coveted by film buffs, sold at auctions or collected in expensively bound art books. The best originals came to be considered rare and costly classics of the genre.

For Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” (1942), Mr. Gold’s second assignment, he drew Humphrey Bogart in trench coat and fedora, dominant in the foreground, with a constellation of co-stars — Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and others — in the airport fog behind him. To raise the drama, Mr. Gold put a pistol in Bogie’s hand. And he put fear and regret, not love, in Ms. Bergman’s eyes, to avoid stepping on his last lines.

(8) COMICS SECTON.

(9) SHORT STUFF. Camestros Felapton walks us through his rankings in “Hugo Ballot 2018: Short Story”.

…It doesn’t feel that long ago that the talk was whether the SF short story was dead or close to death. The impact of Sad Puppy campaigns and Rabid Puppy vandalism hit the short story category hard. And what an emblematic category it had been for the Hugo Awards and science fiction! American style science fiction had grown out of the short story style and some of the greats of SF were intimately connected with shorter form fiction. Ray Bradbury especially but also Issac Asimov – The Foundation Trilogy being one of many SF classics that grew from connected shorts.

The Hugo finalists this year are a set of entertaining and varied reads. There’s not one theme or style and there are elements of fantasy and science-fiction as well as some classic twists.

(10) KATE BAKER AT WORK. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak points to Clarkesworld where people can “Listen to one of the best short science fiction podcasts right now”.

In the years since she became the full-time narrator for the podcast, Baker has become the de facto voice for the podcast, an experience that she says is “surreal.” “I view it as a huge responsibility and an honor,” she says. “because I get to go and be in someone’s ear, and I think that’s an intimate power, and I don’t ever want to abuse that.”

Baker doesn’t read or rehearse the story before recording, and while she notes this approach has burned her a couple of times, the “biggest draw to this whole job is the fact that I’m experiencing the story along with the listener for the first time, and I can experience those emotions with the listener. If you’re hearing my voice crack or if I sound stuffy because I had to walk away because I started crying, that’s all pretty genuine.”

That’s something that shines through: a recent episode featured Rich Larson’s heartbreaking short story “Carouseling”, and you can hear her voice break after she finishes reading the story. This emoting, along with Baker’s long-standing narration for the podcast, provides a familiar and consistent warmth that subtly enhances each story that the magazine produces. The result is not only a catalog of powerful short fiction, but one that’s also presented in a voice that makes them even better.

(11) CHINESE BOTS. My brethren are bound for Luna. “China launch will prep for Moon landing”.

“The launch is a key step for China to realise its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon,” the state news service Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, the satellite project’s manager, as saying.

In addition to its onboard communications equipment, Queqiao will also carry two scientific instruments and will deploy two microsatellites.

The forthcoming Chang’e 4 mission will explore the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin with a payload of scientific instruments. It is a key step in China’s long-term plan to further its ambitions as a major space power.

China previously landed a robotic lander and rover, collectively known as Chang’e 3, on the Moon in December 2014. The rover continued to transmit data until March 2015.

(12) STONY END. BBC tells about plans for “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever”.

With rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, scientists have been testing “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) solutions since the 1970s.

CarbFix, however, stands out among CCS experiments because the capture of carbon is said to be permanent – and fast.

The process starts with the capture of waste CO2 from the steam, which is then dissolved into large volumes of water.

“We use a giant soda-machine”, says Dr Aradottir as she points to the gas separation station, an industrial shed that stands behind the roaring turbines.

“Essentially, what happens here is similar to the process in your kitchen, when you are making yourself some sparkling water: we add fizz to the water”.

The fizzy liquid is then piped to the injection site – otherworldly, geometric igloo-shaped structure 2km away. There it is pumped 1,000m (3,200ft) beneath the surface.

In a matter of months, chemical reactions will solidify the CO2 into rock – thus preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere for millions of years.

(13) HOW IT BECAME A KILLER. From the BBC: “Malaria genetics: study shows how disease became deadly” — relatively recently — and a warning to watch for other parasites and viruses jumping species.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people are infected with malaria every year; the disease caused the deaths of almost half a million people globally in 2016, and the majority of those deaths were children under the age of five.

By far the deadliest species of the parasite which causes this global health scourge is Plasmodium falciparum.

While this species infects and often kills people when injected through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, there are many other related species which infect some of our great ape cousins – chimpanzees and gorillas.

To study those, the researchers collaborated with a team caring for injured and orphaned apes in a sanctuary in Gabon. As part of the animals’ health checks, veterinary staff take blood samples from them.

“It turns out that healthy animals have a really high background level of parasites in their blood,” Dr Berriman told BBC News. “[These animals] are blissfully ignorant of the scientific value in their blood.”

The blood samples provided a series of malarial genetic codes that the scientists could use to trace its evolutionary history.

“We don’t have fossils for tracing the history of a parasite,” said Dr Berriman.

(14) WATCHMEN PITCH. ComicsBeat is less skeptical after seeing how “Damon Lindelof details new WATCHMEN television adaptation in open letter”.

But recently, reports began to spring up that the showrunner might be taking a completely different approach to the material. Instead of a mannered, straight adaptation of the 12 issues or any kind of extrapolation thereof, he was instead comparing it to what Noah Hawley has been up to with FX’s Fargo: a series whose world is informed by the original property, but not beholden to it in terms of character or plot. In short: think of it as “stories taking place in that same world, at any time period you can think of”. It’s great, with a capital “G”.

And today, Lindelof has spoken in more specific (maybe) terms, with a letter he posted on his Instagram, to give the public an opportunity to dig into his headspace a bit regarding his overall pitch for the series…if it sounds familiar, well…it should:

 

Day 140.

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on

More at the link.

(15) ZOMBIE EMERGENCY. Not “Florida man” this time: “Florida city apologizes for alert warning of zombies”.

Officials in a Florida city apologized for an emergency alert that warned of a real power outage and a not-so-real “zombie alert.”

The alert, sent out by the city of Lake Worth early Sunday, warned of a “power outage and zombie alert for residents of Lake Worth and Terminus,” referencing a city from AMC’s The Walking Dead.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/17 The Late-Night, Double-Feature, Motion Pixel Scroll

(1) CALL THE MOUNTIES. Imagine that — when you walk around town costumed as an armed survivalist, some people just can’t help believing their lying eyes: “Cosplay goes bad for gamer in Grande Prairie”.

Grande Prairie RCMP draw firearms in response to man dressed as video game character

It was almost game over in Grande Prairie this week for a cosplay enthusiast.

Dressed as a character from Fallout, a popular post-apocalyptic video game series, the man walked down a street wearing a gas mask, helmet, armour and bullet belt.

He carried a flag that said “New California Republic” — one of the factions from the games.

A man dressed as a character from the Fallout video-game series walks down a street in Grande Prairie. (Kyle Martel/Facebook)

RCMP Cpl. Shawn Graham told CBC News that police received calls just before 5 p.m. Tuesday from citizens concerned the man was wearing what looked like a bomb on his back.

At least eight officers responded with their long guns drawn. Photos show them crouched behind vehicles and bushes

(2) HPL. Thanks to rcade, we know what a World Fantasy Award nominee pin looks like:

(3) NEW DIGS. LASFS sold its clubhouse and is vacating the premises. They haven’t bought a replacement property yet, so the club will be meeting temporarily at the Art Directors Guild in Studio City beginning May 4. More details at Meetup.

(4) A HAMMER FILM. We’ve seen ice cream made with liquid nitrogen; Nottingham University professor Martyn Poliakoff shows that same liquid gas can be used to make the new “indestructable” 5-pound note destructible.

In a clip uploaded to his Periodic Videos series on YouTube, the professor said:

“The Bank of England is issuing new bank notes starting with the five pound note, and they made them plastic and there have been all sorts of advertisements that you cannot break them.

“I felt immediately challenged, and I had the idea that if we froze it with liquid nitrogen, the strands of the polymer would be frozen rigid and you may be able to break it, hitting it with a hammer.”

 

(5) WHO BLABBED? CBR.com reports animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is on the way.

An animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ celebrated “Watchmen” is on the way, and it may arrive sooner than you’d think.

A recent survey by Warner Bros. “A-List Community” program, which regularly asks subscribers for their opinions on upcoming or recent film and television projects, has revealed the studio is bringing the graphic novel to animated form.

Reading the survey’s description of the project as “an upcoming made-for-video movie,” it’s apparent the film is already either in development, or in the final stages of production.

The survey further describes the film as “A faithful adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel executed in an animation style that mirrors the source material.” Going by that description, it’s safe to assume Warner Bros. Animation has opted to take a similar approach to the comic as it did when bringing Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and Moore and Brian Bolland’s “The Killing Joke” to life; both of those films homaged the respective artist’s style, making changes as needed to properly animate the story.

It’s interesting to note, though perhaps not surprising, that at no point in the survey are Moore or Gibbons mentioned. While Gibbons participated in the production and promotion of director Zack Snyder’s 2009 live-action “Watchmen” adaptation, Moore has made his disapproval of any “Watchmen” follow-up extremely clear. He was once quoted as saying he’d be “spitting venom all over” the Snyder-directed film, and has expressed on numerous occasions his preference that the original story be left to stand on its own.

ComicsBeat  sounded cranky when they relayed the story – “Someone broke NDA and revealed that an R-rated watchmen animated movie is coming”.

It’s a little surprising that news of this new adaptation of Watchmen has leaked to the general public so quickly as membership to Warner Bros. A-List Community program requires the signing of an non-disclosure agreement….

Then they proceeded to quote the NDA language at length, presumably to shame the rival news site. Bad, naughty news site!

(6) I LIKE CAKE. Lynn Hirschberg, in W magazine article “Gal Gadot Listened to Beyonce in Preparation for her Wonder Woman Debut”, profiles Gadot, who discusses how Beyonce provided inspiration, how she auditioned blindly for the part, and how despite being in a superhero movie she still likes to decorate cakes.

On the day we met, she was channeling her powers into decorating a cake. (Who would’ve guessed that the actress had such a way with fondant?) “I want to start with a blue cake,” Gadot said definitively, as we entered Duff’s CakeMix, in Los Angeles. She was wearing simple black pants, a navy sweater, and classic black Gucci loafers.

Although she was six-months pregnant with her second child, the baby bump was nearly undetectable. Gadot, who has a doelike quality, wasn’t wearing makeup and her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. “You couldn’t have invented a more perfect ­Wonder Woman than Gal,” Patty Jenkins, the film’s director, told me later.

(7) YOUR MOROSE ROBOT PAL. I think this is cool, although the name “Orpheus – The Saddest Music Machine” is a bit of anthropomorphizing I could do without. Having survived the effects of puppy sadness, do I really need robotic sadness?

We need companions in our lives. And it’s always helpful to have one who needs you in return. Orpheus, a robot-shaped DIY music box that plays music and lights up, is a bit sad and melancholic. But he looks cheerful, and he has a big heart. Orpheus will be a steadfast companion to any older child or adult. Though he needs some help being his best self, right out of the box.   Assemble Orpheus yourself or with your kids from the laser-cut wood pieces, and soon you will have your own hand-cranked music box with moving gears and lights, as well as arms and legs. His melody is called “Cycle of Happiness,” which you can play any time you need some inspiration, or when you feel Orpheus needs some attention. Orpheus is available in the U.S. through ThinkGeek before anyone else.

 

(8) THE WRITE CHOICE. Although it won’t be a pal, you could spend more than a hundred times more money on this geeky Chushev pen.

The “Complication” fountain pen pays homage to the Swiss watchmaking trade for all the innovations in precision mechanics it has achieved. Inspired by the craftsmanship of the Swiss masters, Chavdar Chushev, saw the miniature details in the watches as ideal specimens for abstract art compositions. From that moment, he spent the next three decades refining his technique and evolving his creative vision. The sophisticated design of the “Complication” is the result of countless artistic iterations and technological evolutions.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian knows you’ll appreciate the sf reference in Frank and Ernest.

He also recommends the cinematic humor in Brevity.

On the other hand, Martin Morse Wooster is certain Tolkien fans will want to throw things at Stephen Pastis after reading today’s Pearls Before Swine.

(10) HANSEN OBIT. Actor Peter Hansen died April 9 at the age of 95. He was one of the stars of the 1951 science-fiction film When Worlds Collide, which won an Academy Award for special effects. He also appeared in an episode of TV’s Science Fiction Theatre.

However, his real claim to fame was years spent playing a character on the soap opera General Hospital, earning an Emmy in 1979 as Best Supporting Actor.

More details here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born April 15, 1990 – Emma Watson

(12) DOOMED AGAIN. LegalVision analyzes why an Australian court ordered the destruction of The One Ring – “This Apparently Precious Ring: Tolkien Estate Limited v Saltamacchia”.

The Infringement Issues

The Respondent hosts a website called “Australian Jewellery Sales”. Over the course of eight years, the Respondent sold approximately 1300 rings with the One Ring Inscription between $5 and $30 AUD each. He advertised the rings by referencing phrases such as: “The Lord of the Rings”; “The Hobbit”; and “Bilbo Baggins”.

The Respondent has about 50 remaining rings with the One Ring Inscription left. Right up until the date of the proceedings he continued to offer them for sale. The Respondent argued his rings did not accurately replicate the One Ring Inscription. It is important to note, here, that reproduction of copyright work does not need to be exact. The infringement must be a “substantial part”.

(13) WHAT’S COOKIN’? Enceladus also shows signs of life, although there’s still more hope for Europa:

Could there be life under the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus?

Scientists have found a promising sign.

NASA announced on Thursday that its Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn has gathered new evidence that there’s a chemical reaction taking place under the moon’s icy surface that could provide conditions for life. They described their findings in the journal Science.

“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

However, the scientists think that because the moon is young, there may not have been time for life to emerge.

In 2015, researchers said that there was evidence of a warm ocean under the moon’s surface, as NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel reported.

This posed an exciting prospect — researchers wondered whether that warm ocean might be interacting with rock to create a form of chemical energy that could be used by some forms of life.

If true, it would be analogous to ancient organisms on Earth fueled by the energy in deep-sea ocean vents.

(14) IMPROVING RECOGNITION. AIs are biased, probably due to inadequate samples: “Artificial intelligence: How to avoid racist algorithms”.

The Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) was launched by Joy Buolamwini, a postgraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in November 2016.

She was trying to use facial recognition software for a project but it could not process her face – Ms Buolamwini has dark skin.

“I found that wearing a white mask, because I have very dark skin, made it easier for the system to work,” she says.

“It was the reduction of a face to a model that a computer could more easily read.”

It was not the first time she had encountered the problem.

Five years earlier, she had had to ask a lighter-skinned room-mate to help her.

“I had mixed feelings. I was frustrated because this was a problem I’d seen five years earlier was still persisting,” she said.

“And I was amused that the white mask worked so well.”

(15) IT’S CALLED ACTING. Variety’s Lawrence Yee, in “Meet Rose, The Biggest Little Part’ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, discusses how Grace Marie Tran, who plays Rose, appeared on a panel at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando and while she couldn’t say anything about the film, she did say she told her parents she was shooting “an indie movie in Canada” and bought some maple syrup to prove to her parents she was in another country.

(16) THAT THING THEY DO. George Saunders probes “What writers really do when they write”.

…An artist works outside the realm of strict logic. Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art. Artists know this. According to Donald Barthelme: “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.” Gerald Stern put it this way: “If you start out to write a poem about two dogs fucking, and you write a poem about two dogs fucking – then you wrote a poem about two dogs fucking.” Einstein, always the smarty-pants, outdid them both: “No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.”

…I had written short stories by this method for the last 20 years, always assuming that an entirely new method (more planning, more overt intention, big messy charts, elaborate systems of numerology underlying the letters in the characters’ names, say) would be required for a novel. But, no. My novel proceeded by essentially the same principles as my stories always have: somehow get to the writing desk, read what you’ve got so far, watch that forehead needle, adjust accordingly. The whole thing was being done on a slightly larger frame, admittedly, but there was a moment when I finally realised that, if one is going to do something artistically intense at 55 years old, he is probably going to use the same skills he’s been obsessively honing all of those years; the trick might be to destabilise oneself enough that the skills come to the table fresh-eyed and a little confused. A bandleader used to working with three accordionists is granted a symphony orchestra; what he’s been developing all of those years, he may find, runs deeper than mere instrumentation – his take on melody and harmony should be transferable to this new group, and he might even find himself looking anew at himself, so to speak: reinvigorated by his own sudden strangeness in that new domain.

It was as if, over the years, I’d become adept at setting up tents and then a very large tent showed up: bigger frame, more fabric, same procedure….

(17) VISITING SPACE SOON. A European Shuttle?

While Tumino and his team have worked on IXV and then Space Rider, there have been other European concepts in the background. UK company Reaction Engines has a design for an unmanned spaceplane, Skylon, that will launch satellites and the German Aerospace Agency has a concept called SpaceLiner that carries people. But, neither will be in orbit before Space Rider or anytime soon.

Space Rider could be in orbit in 2020 or 2021, as design funding was approved by Esa’s 27 member states in December last year. The money will enable Esa to work with the Italian Aerospace Agency, Cira, which is managing the project, and Thales Alenia Space and Lockheed Martin to complete the spaceplane’s design in 2019.

Its first flights will not, however, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. A full-scale model will be dropped in 2019 – both by atmospheric balloon and helicopter to test how it lands.

(18) ANOTHER APRIL FOOLS CLASSIC. Mount Vernon’s newest website translation for visitors is in Klingonese. And it’s dialed-in to Klingon sensibilities, as this video tour of George Washington’s home shows.

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

Before Watchmen Panel at C2E2

James Bacon said in an e-mail, “I got the opportunity to see a Before Watchmen presentation, so I told the Vice President I was pissed off.”

“Biden?” I wondered. But no, James’ report for Comic Buzz shows he meant someone with real power — in the comics industry:

I waited a little, then approached the stage…trying to catch Dan Didio [Co-Publishers of DC Comics]…. He leaned over, and I said; ‘I’m one of those angry guys, you’ve pissed me off with this, and I didn’t want you thinking people like me are not here’.

The panel also featured several of the talents who are working on Before Watchmen. One of them addressed the controversy in fandom about enlarging on Alan Moore’s creation:

JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] fields the question about how he is dealing with criticism. He explains that on an ‘Emotional level’ he ‘gets it’, but goes on to state that DC ‘Legally and contractually have the right.’ to do this. As an analogy for the use of Watchmen characters, he makes mention of Hyde from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and wondered Robert Louis Stevens approve of Mr Hyde raping a character to death. He of course makes light of this analogy, saying it will be reported out of context, but I don’t think the specific is the issue, rather that this is a weak argument, Stevenson is dead, and the copyright for his character is available, Hyde is used cleverly in another work, not rewritten as a whole novel. Its a poor comparison, and one that sits badly with me, but the crowd lap it up.

Check the report for more information and reaction about DC’s new project.

Before Watchmen – A Dissenting Voice

In the graphic novel, society wonders who watches the Watchmen.

We know who won’t be watching their adventures in Before Watchmen — Pádraig Ó Méalóid, eminent scholar of the works of Alan Moore.

James Bacon captured Ó Méalóid’s heated opinions in an interview posted at Comic Buzz:

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: I think all the writers and artists on these new stories – and particularly the writers, for some reason – should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Alan Moore is regularly cited as the best comics writer of our time, and possibly ever, and certainly those writers and artists – in this instance I find it hard to refer to them as ‘creators’ – all get a much better deal because of how hard he fought for creator’s rights, and probably all call him an inspiration, but they know he’s against this, and they still go ahead anyway. In other words, they’re quite happy to piss all over him and his principles for money. Will I mention again how this is an excellent analogy for what’s wrong with the world?

Actually, it’s entirely possible I’m more angry about this than Alan himself is.

And when slagged in a comment about the interview, Ó Méalóid jumped in to deliver this roundhouse punch:

I’m still standing by my assertion that Watchmen is the most important work to come out of the comics field. I mean, you can disagree with me, but it’s just *rude* to suggest that I’m delusional, and certainly does *you* no honour.

Keeping the Sue in Superhero

Litigation may delay the release of the Watchmen movie:

The theory at the time was that Fox originally owned the rights, some stuff got muddled, and Fox, instead of mentioning the situation to Warner Bros. when the studio started casting, decided to bide their time in the hopes that the production would just pay them a lot of money to go away once they had an actual movie shot and ready to go.