Pixel Scroll 9/18/19 Scrolls Move In Mysterious Ways Their Pixels To Perform

(1) BLOGGER BLOWS AWAY SHORT SFF REVIEW SITE. Jason McGregor of Featured Futures just announced he is going to quit promoting and reviewing short sff and has gone so far as to delete hundreds of posts from his site: “The Incredible Shrinking Blog”.

…I was discouraged from rushing back to do reviews by the John W. Campbell business. In many ways (especially socioeconomic) I’m a pretty liberal guy, but I have next to no patience with “political correctness” or historical “revisionism” or any number of the other manifestations of “theory” prevalent these days. This has always been a drag on my enjoyment of current SF and contributed to the burnout I was feeling which led to my falling behind in March, but I felt like I was ready to get back on the horse…. And while I was doing that, we got the Awards Formerly Known As Campbell. While the attack was vulgar and ignorant, it was also irrelevant to short SF. However, people who are relevant to short SF and should know better have not only failed to be voices of reason but have added to the unreason. It just underscores that I signed up to read a body of literature with a significant emphasis on creative ideas and positive visions of futures with technologically and rationally advanced natures and what I’ve been reading is mostly a subgenre of LGB,eTc. fiction[2] which is populated by Orwellian erasers of the giants whose shoulders they stand upon insofar as they are SF at all (or Wile E. Coyotes sawing off the limb they sit on). The great Katherine MacLean died recently. One guess as to who published her first story in 1949….

As a lover of the unpopular field of print science fiction and the even less popular field of short SF, I made the promotion of contemporary short SF the purpose of this blog, only to have to admit that short SF has become unpopular for very good reasons and I now wish to do anything but promote it.

(2) KEEP ON CYBERTRUCKING. AL.com profiles a band with a sff-writing friend: “Drive-By Truckers bringing new music to Mobile, Decatur”.

…Capturing the sheer tumult of the times, rather than being washed away by it, is an artistic challenge that spans genres. In this case there’s a positive: It has become common ground in a slightly surreal online friendship played out on Twitter, featuring Hood and novelist William Gibson. On one side you have a band known for its obsession with the ways that the South’s history taints its present; on the other you have the futurist who coined the term “cyberspace” and revolutionized science fiction with his 1984 novel “Neuromancer.”

What most people don’t realize, Hood said, is that Gibson has Southern roots as well, having grown up in Virginia before moving to Canada during the Vietnam era….

(3) HUGO WRANGLER. Ian Moore resumes his Dublin 2019 report in “An Irish Worldcon, Part 4: Sunday” at Secret Panda.

I also had the terrifying experience in the afternoon of being summoned to meet James Bacon, the chair of Worldcon. I assumed that word about The Incident had finally percolated up to him and I was about to be removed from the Convention Centre with extreme prejudice. But before I could launch into an unconvincing attempt to explain myself, James revealed that he was actually presenting me with a Hero medal in recognition of my work for Worldcon both before and during the convention. This was something of a surprise and I was truly honoured to receive the medal, which I wore with pride for the rest of the convention.

(4) A FEW BRIEF EDITORIAL REMARKS. If you want to know Eric Flint’s opinion of the Electoral College, he’ll be happy to share it with you. Well, happy wouldn’t be the right word, exactly: “Concerning the Electoral College, or the Twaddle Had Finally Gotten To Me”.

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE, about which historical ignorance, incapacity to reason, blindness to reality driven by ideology and just plain stupidity have produced an ocean of twaddle.

It should be blindingly obvious by now that the Electoral College is at best an antiquated institution which never matched the vision of it held by the Founding Fathers and has become an impediment to modern government. In times past, the reason most people shrugged off its grotesque features was because in practice it didn’t seem to make much difference. In the first two centuries of the nation’s existence, a candidate won the Electoral College while losing the so-called “popular vote” only three times (in 1824, 1876 and 1888). But it has happened twice in the past five elections (2000 and 2016), so now it has become a major topic of debate….

(5) GRAEME GIBSON OBIT. Writer and conservationist Graeme Gibson, Margaret Atwood’s partner, has died at the age of 85 reports the CBC.

Margaret Atwood, Gibson’s longtime partner, said in a statement Wednesday issued by publisher Penguin Random House Canada: “We are devastated by the loss of Graeme, our beloved father, grandfather and spouse, but we are happy that he achieved the kind of swift exit he wanted and avoided the decline into further dementia that he feared.

“He had a lovely last few weeks, and he went out on a high, surrounded by love, friendship and appreciation. We are grateful for his wise, ethical and committed life.”

Gibson died Wednesday in London, England, where he had accompanied Atwood for the global release of her latest book.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 18, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still had its theatrical premiere in New York City. Klaatu was played by Michael Rennie. 
  • September 18, 2002The Twilight Zone, 3rd version, premiered on TV.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late teens and early twenties, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that both iBooks and Kindle are heavily stocked with her works. (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1888 Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur. He is known primarily for his scholarly work on Beowulf and his translation of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda for The American-Scandinavian Foundation, but also as a writer of pulp fiction having written The Altar of the Legion (with Farnham Bishop), He Rules Who Can and one short genre story, “The Golden Story”, though iBooks has The Adventures of Faidit and Cercamon for sale which may or may not be genre. (Died 1971.)
  • Born September 18, 1944 Veronica Carlson, 75. She’s best remembered for her roles in Hammer horror films. Among them are Dracula Has Risen from the GraveFrankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also shows up in Casino Royale as an uncredited blonde.
  • Born September 18, 1947 Paul Seed, 72. Actor who’s now a director. He’s made the Birthday Honors list as he was Graff Vynda-K in “The Ribos Operation”, a Fourth Doctor story. That and an appearance on Tales of The Unexpected appear to be his only acting roles in the genre. 
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 71. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (to whom she was married for awhile) the Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her later work, so y’all will not to tell me how it is.
  • Born September 18, 1949 William Stout, 70. Illustrator who’s worked on projects as diverse as Manning’s Tarzan of the Apes strip, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder’s Little Annie Fanny in Playboy and  Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Born September 18 Michael R. Nelson. Conrunner from the Baltiwash area who got into fandom in 1989. He chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 and co-chaired the DC17 Worldcon bid. He is a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association.
  • Born September 18, 1955 Gary Russell, 64. As a writer, he is best known for his work in connection with Doctor Who and its spin-offs in other media. He worked for BBC Wales as a Script Editor on The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. (Anyone here who’s watched the former series?) as a writer, he’s written nineteen Doctor Who universe novels and directed forty audioworks for Big Finish, one of which he wrote.
  • Born September 18, 1973 James Marsden, 46. He was Scott Summers / Cyclops in the X-Men film franchise. He was gunslinger Teddy Flood, an android in Westworld. He plays Tom Wachowski in the forthcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 35. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) THE ROADS MUST ROLL. Kotaku says it all adds up to a new world record: “Truck Carrying Gaming Dice Spills Onto Highway, Rolls A Perfect 756,000”.

On Friday, September 13, a truck bound for the Georgia-based tabletop and video game company Trivium Studios took a turn too sharply, spilling 216,000 gaming dice onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta in what could be the biggest unintentional dice roll ever.

(10) MARK YOUR CALENDARS. Tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I guess I jumped the gun by running my “Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!” post today.

(11) OVERDUE RETURN. It used to be part of the decoration outside the Los Angeles Public Library, until someone liberated it: “Piece of missing sculpture resurfaces in antiques store 50 years later”.

Lillard said a recent hunt for clues on Google brought him an old photo from a California newspaper showing the Well of Scribes, a sculpture that disappeared in 1969 from the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.

“You could only see half of the well in the picture,” Lillard said. “That’s the half that I had.”

Lillard’s portion is one of three pieces that composed the entire sculpture. He said he has been in contact with the Los Angeles Public Library about bringing the sculpture home.

The final two pieces of the sculpture are still missing, but Lillard said he has hope they might still be found.

(12) POE FAN. S.D. Sykes, in “Why We Will Always Love ‘The Masque of the Red Death'” on CrimeReads, explains why she thinks Poe’s great story is “a beautiful and classic work” and “a gothic masterpiece.”

Whether you see Poe’s story as a reflection on mortality, or rather a tale of morality, it’s also important to remember that Poe himself was famously averse to didacticism in literature—so perhaps we should simply read the story for its own beauty and not try to imbue it with meaning? And “The Masque of the Red Death” is, indeed, a beautiful and classic work. A gothic masterpiece. The guests retire to “the deep seclusion” of a “castellated abbey.” The prince’s designs for the masquerade ball glow “with barbaric lustre”—being “grotesque” as they “glitter” with “piquancy and phantasm.” The story throbs with “something of the terrible” as the atmosphere of dread builds. Until, in true gothic style, we have the tragic ending, where all die in a “despairing posture.”

(13) BUT ARE THE JOKES CLEAN TOO? “The robot that cleans floors and tells jokes” – video.

More than 100 fully autonomous cleaning robots are coming to Singapore this year, made by local manufacturer Lionsbot.

Ella tells jokes as she cleans the floor in the island nation’s National Gallery… but not everyone is convinced.

(14) AREA CODE. Arby’s is still trying to tap into some of that free social media publicity: “Arby’s Declassifies ‘Storm Area 51’ Special Menu Items” reports Food & Wine.

…Arby’s, for one, has not given up on the dream. In July, the chain showed its support for the viral cause by announcing that it would bring a special menu of Arby’s items to feed whoever was in attendance at Area 51’s storming. And today, not only did Arby’s confirm that it’ll still be there, but also announced what those otherworldly new items would be.

… The “Redacted on Rye Sandwich” is billed as “roasted turkey on a toasted marble rye bread with Swiss cheese, tangy slaw and thousand island dressing,” a further spin on the classic Reuben. The “E.T. Slider” will feature “a crispy chicken tender dipped in Bronco Berry Sauce.” “Arby’s Frying Objects” will be “Arby’s loaded curly fries topped with savory moon rocks.” And finally, the “Galaxy Shake” is described as a “purple cow meets a Sour Patch Kid—a blue sweet milkshake base that turns pink and tarter as you drink or stir it, topped with a fruit crunch.”

(15) 30-50 FERAL COOKIES. Meanwhile, John King Tarpinian has sighted the Halloween Oreos in the field…

(16) WINDUP UP YOUR WATCHMEN. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Everything begins 10/20 on HBO,

[Thanks to Nancy Sauer, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John A Arkansawyer, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Darrah Chavey, StephenfromOttawa, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories.  Title credit goes to File 770’s contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/19 Rikki, Don’t Scroll That Pixel, It’s The Only One You Own

(1) SOUND AND FURY. Locus Online has a fine summary of recent developments in “Audible’s Caption Controversy”.

Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publishing arm, announced plans for “Audible Captions,” a fea­ture that displays the text of a book along with the narration on listener devices. Audible said the feature would be “available on hundreds of thousands of audiobooks at launch” – a decla­ration that was met with surprise and alarm by publishers who haven’t licensed the rights to publish such text to Audible. Publishing the text without permission would likely be a violation of copyright.

The Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit on August 23, 2019 in the southern district court of New York to block the program….

(2) RECEIVED WISDOM. New “Worldcon Runner’s Guide Updates” are posted on the WSFS web site.

The Worldcon Runner’s Guide Committee has issued updates to several guide sections. These are now available on the main Guide page. The sections that have been updated are:

(3) JOE ON JOE. In a teaser for the Joe Lansdale documentary — All Hail the Popcorn King: Joe Hill talks Lansdale inspiration”

Joe Hill is currently one of the hottest scribes around. His popular book, NOS4A2 has been adapted for an AMC series. Netflix will be partnering with producer Carlton Cuse on a 10 episode version of Hill’s comic book series, Locke and Key.

Recently, the busy writer sat down with Hansi Oppenheimer, the director of the upcoming documentary on Joe Lansdale, All Hail the Popcorn King. He discussed his deep admiration and fondness for his fellow author.

As an impressionable 13-year-old, Hill read Lansdale’s The Drive In and was transformed. He made such a deep connection with the novel that he felt that it was written especially for him. Which is one of the best compliments to receive when you are a wordsmith. It is what you strive for, to make an impact on your readers.

(4) AUTUMN LEAVES. Entertainment Weekly’s Kristen Baldwin includes a couple of genre works on her list of “The 8 must-watch new TV shows this fall”.

First, a disclaimer: With approximately 183 TV series premiering every hour in America, it would be all but impossible for any one critic to view all the new fall shows. That said, I was able to screen 31 of the programs making their debut in the coming months — and now that my eyes have readjusted to sunlight, I humbly submit this report.

One of them is Evil. The other is —

Watchmen

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued.

(5) FOUNDATIONS OF HORROR FILMMAKING. SYFY Wire thinks fans should go ape over “Fay Wray’s underappreciated career as a genre queen”.

Fay Wray is remembered best for her role in the original King Kong as Ann Darrow, the woman who is kidnapped and carried about like a rag doll while Kong goes on his city-wide rampage. Yet she had a much longer career than just that one film, spanning several different genres and working for more than half a century. In her early years in Hollywood, she would have been better known for a series of westerns she had done in the silent era than anything else, but even at that, she’d also been in several comedies and romances. Wray was a working actor for most of her life, so her filmography is mostly all over the place.

Of course, we’re mostly here for Wray’s career as a Scream Queen. In the time leading up to what would become her definitive role, she starred in a series of low-budget horror movies that are now considered as much a part of classic horror canon as Frankenstein or The Mummy….

(6) GROWING UP GRYFFINDOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall at Financial Times, Alice Ross discusses how YA authors in Britain are increasingly interested in politics.

The second legacy often credited to Harry Potter is that the series helped to form a generation of liberal thinkers.  In Harry Potter and the Millennials (2013), political scientist Anthony Gierzynski published th results of his survey of more than 1,000 college students.  He concluded that readers of Harry Potter were more often to diversity and more politically tolerant than non-fans…

…Modern authors of children’s books both in the UK and the US–many of whom hail from the Harry Potter generation–tend to feel strongly about social or moral issues, and they bring this into their writing.

‘I really do believe that all writing is political and you have to try to do that; you are not just bringing yourself to your work,’ says Kiran Millwood Harris, whose debut novel The Girl of Ink and Stars won the 2017 Waterstone Children’s Book Prize. ‘I see some people saying, ‘I don’t want to be political’ but actually now it’s kind of immoral not to speak up or take a stand as some people don’t have that luxury.  Her latest book The Way Past Winter deals with the environmental crisis, increasigly a topic coming up in children’s books.

(7) DYSTROPIA. Michelle Goldberg’s opinion piece “Margaret Atwood’s Dystopia, and Ours” in the New York Times coincidentally shows how hard it is for fictional commentary to keep pace with cultural changes.

…And it’s not just in America that truth has lost its political salience. Naked censorship continues to exist, but it’s augmented by the manipulation of search algorithms, and by trolls and bots harassing dissidents and spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. Truth is less suppressed than drowned out. Contemporary propaganda, write P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking in “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” “is colorful and exciting, reflecting the tastes of the digital age. It is a cocktail of moralizing, angry diatribes, and a celebration of traditional values, constantly mixed with images of scantily clad women.” There’s a solemn churchlike hush in Gilead. Modern authoritarianism is often as lurid and cacophonous as a casino.

Dystopian fictions that extrapolate from this shift are starting to appear. (Though young adult novels had a head start: “The Hunger Games” foresaw the nightmare of fascism run as a reality show.) There’s a scene in “Years and Years,” a recent series co-produced by HBO and the BBC, where Vivienne Rook, the sly British demagogue played by Emma Thompson, is asked about the spread of fraudulent, digitally created videos of her political rivals making inflammatory statements. “Oh, of course they’re fake videos. Everyone can see they’re not real,” she says to an interviewer. Then she adds, with faux concern, “All the same, they really did say those things, didn’t they?” Soon after, she is elected prime minister…

… “Writing dystopias and utopias is a way of asking the reader the question, ‘Where do you want to live?’” Atwood said when I talked to her last year….

(8) SCHELLY OBIT. Comics fan, writer, and historian Bill Schelly (1951-2019) died September 12 of cancer. His books included The Golden Age of Comic Fandom (1995; rev. ed. 1999) published by his own company, Hamster Press, Harvey Kurtzman, The Man Who Created “Mad” (Fantagraphics, 2015), and his autobiography Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story (North Atlantic Books, 2018). Carl Slaughter recommended Schelly’s biography Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionaryto Filers in 2016.

Many friends have left comments on his Facebook page. Neil Caputo penned “Bill Schelly: In Tribute”, Mark Evanier ends his appreciation “Bill Schelly, R.I.P.” at News From Me by saying:

Bill was quite good…just a lovely, talented man. I’m sure going to miss talking to him on the phone and at conventions, and I’m sorry we aren’t going to get all the other books that he would have written. Such a loss.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 15, 1965 — CBS debuted Irwin Allen’s  Lost In Space as “The Reluctant Stowaway” episode seeing the Jupiter 2 being sabotaged by  Dr. Smith who became part of the inhabitants. The theme music was composed by a little known composer then credited as, Johnny Williams.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 Agatha Christie, or to giver her full name of Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller). ISDB lists her Harley Quin tales as being genre as they think the lead character is supernatural though no reviewers I can find think that he is. Anyone here who has read them? They also list one Hercule Poirot story, “The Big Four”, as genre – it apparently involved the use of atomic explosives in a 1927 story. Weirdly iBooks has almost nothing by her but Kindle has works beyond counting. (Died 1976.)
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlo Rambaldi. He won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects in 1980 and 1983 for, respectively, Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which was for the mechanical head-effects for the Alien creature and the design of the E.T. himself. The 1976 version of King Kong earned him an Oscar for Best Visual Effects as well. He also worked on Dune, Conan the Destroyer, King Kong Livesand films you’ve likely never heard of such as Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 79. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. He published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print  in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthologywhich he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 73. I think that the The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as  “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards is most excellent. A generous selection of his short fiction and novellas are available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 73. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s has done other genre with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. 
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 57. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. 
  • Born September 15, 1987 Christian Cooke, 31. He’s Ross Jenkins, a UNIT Private in two Tenth Doctor stories, “The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky”. Genre wise, He’s also been Luke Rutherford-Van Helsing in Demons, a six-part series from the Beeb, and he’s Frederick Beauchamp in the second season of The Witches of Eastwick.
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when aliens reach the border.

(12) CLASSIC REVIVED? The Far Side web page made this announcement:

Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen.

A new online era of The Far Side is coming!

(13) SCOOBY TAXONOMY. Eleni Theodoropoulus, in “How Scooby Doo Revived Gothic Storytelling for Generations of Kids” on CrimeReads, says that Scooby-Doo is really a Gothic series rather than mystery, as she discusses how the show’s supernatural elements made it so popular.

.. From its first episode, “What a Night for a Knight,” Scooby Doo establishes the very atmosphere that is integral to the gothic genre. The episode opens onto an empty country road under a full moon when a pickup truck rolls into view. The crate in the back opens. An armored knight rears his head and fixes his glowing eyes on the driver. Danger is imminent. “What a nervous night to be walking home from the movies, Scooby Doo,” says Shaggy, echoing the viewer’s sentiment. Moments later they come across the abandoned pickup truck where the suit of armor sits behind the wheel. Pristine, it shines in the moonlight. Suddenly, the head of the armor rattles and tips over, landing at their feet. Boy and dog chuckle nervously before they run away in what will become their signature manner of dealing with problems. The next two seasons of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! follow in this same vein, resting on a balance between suspense and fear, mystery and horror.

Instrumental to evoking these feelings in the viewer was less the plot itself than the atmosphere framing it….

(14) PLAYING FOR TIME. Cecilia D’Anastasio relates the “Confessions Of A Teenaged Strip-Mall GameStop Delinquent” at Kotaku.

… Once a week, I’d enter that GameStop to ask whichever bored employee was manning the place when they’d get Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, and whether they’d give it to me early. I wanted to play a video game before anybody else, and I wanted it to be Super Smash Bros. Brawl so I could get really good and nobody would ever be able to catch up. Certainly, I felt, GameStop had that power and would be generous with it. Theo, who worked at that GameStop, told me many times: Cecilia, it comes out in December. Each time, I’d fuss, forget what he said, and distract myself with some other game they had pre-installed on the Wii kiosk in the store. Then I’d go in again the next week….

… Back then, I was usually grounded. Each sentence lasted for a week, two weeks, a month, and eventually, it all blurred into an endless, sprawling, dusty-grey dream. My mom theorizes that I’d purposefully do bad teen stuff so she’d ground me. That way I could avoid my increasingly complicated friendships at the strip. Time would spin on there without me: break-ups, fights, pranks, insults. In the world of Final Fantasy XI, I had comrades who needed me. As my dedication to leveling up heightened, so too did my in-game friends’ expectations of me as a community member. A couple times a week, one would reach out to me on a forum, or on Myspace, or eventually even through text message, asking me to log on and help them with some level grinding, some quest.

Then came the emotional labor. As a teenager, I did not have the tools to counsel the cat girl FlameKitty, the avatar of an older man, through his joblessness, his unpaid bills, his loneliness. I could not offer authoritative advice after a married mother of five fell in love with another Final Fantasy XI companion, whose shadowy forum profile picture featured a katana. …

(15) A FAMILIAR FACE. The Waterloo (ONT) Public Library is doing a sff author panel October 5 – details on the programs calendar. You should recognize at least one of the participants.

James Bow moderates a panel of five other authors talking about Canada as a setting for science fiction and fantasy novels. Why should New York, Los Angeles, or London have all the fun? Canada boasts some of the world’s best science fiction and fantasy writers, and some of the most innovative tech sectors. We have a part to play in the wider science fiction community, and we intend to represent.

Science Fiction and fantasy writers Erin Bow, James Nicoll, Leah Bobet, James Alan Gardner and (maybe – still to be confirmed ) Sarah Raughley join moderator James Bow in a free-flowing discussion of what Canada can contribute and has contributed to science fiction and fantasy. The event at the Main library will be followed by the launch of James Bow’s new urban fantasy novel, “The Night Girl”. Books will be sold and authors are available to sign copies. Everyone welcome

(16) BOARD OF EQUALIZATION. FastCompany thinks “‘Ms. Monopoly’ is not as patronizing as Hasbro’s version for millennials, but it’s not empowering either”.

…However, last year, Hasbro shook the table with Monopoly for Millennials, which critics universally bemoaned as an “insulting experience.” The game’s tagline of “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway” seemed to signify that Hasbro was perhaps more interested in wooing back older players (who also like dunking on young adults) rather than genuinely appeal to a new generation discovering the joys of game night. (The reasons why millennials can’t afford homes are varied and complex and have nothing to do with pouring our income into artisanal coffee and avocado toast—xoxo, a millennial.)

Then just last month there was Monopoly for Socialists, another widely panned bit of pandering to older people who might still be afraid of the s-word that the game-centric site Polygon dubbed “horrible, even as a parody.” The release also led to the surely unintended wider dissemination of Monopoly’s roots as a game created by a woman named Elizabeth Magie to spread the message that landlords and real-estate hoarding are societal ills, yet it was appropriated by men and turned into a pro-capitalist pastime.

Now, there’s Hasbro’s latest addition to the Monopoly family: Ms. Monopoly. Its tagline is “The first game where women make more than men.”…

(17) TRACKING DOWN BARGAINS. Contact Mr. Muffin’s Trains for all your Hell-bound “O” Gauge model train needs….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Walk The Dog Before I Sleep on Vimeo is an animated music video by Drew Christie of a song by Brian Cullman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Steve Johnson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/19 Scroll On, You Crazy Pixel

(1) FOR PARENTS OF TEENS AT WORLDON. A Facebook group has been created for parents who will have minors at Dublin 2019, to set up reciprocal chaperoning arrangements: Dublin2019parents.

This COMPLETELY UNOFFICIAL group is for parents of young people who will be attending Dublin2019, an Irish Worldcon, to discuss the logistics of Kids In The Space. We all want to have a great time, make sure our offspring are safe, and work within the rules set forth by the convention regarding unaccompanied children and responsible adults. Let’s collaborate!

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series presents Paul Witcover & Lara Elena Donnelly on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar. Chandler Klang Smith & Mercurio D. Rivera will be subbing for hosts Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel, who will be traveling.

Paul Witcover

Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, most recently The Watchman of Eternity. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson awards. He hopes one day to win something!

Lara Elena Donnelly

Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the Nebula- Lambda, and Locus-nominated trilogy The Amberlough Dossier, as well as short fiction and poetry appearing in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny. Lara teaches at the Catapult Classes in New York City and is a thesis adviser in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(3) WATCHMEN COMIC-CON TRAILER. Watchmen debuts on HBO this October.

There is a vast and insidious conspiracy at play…. From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.

(4) BID MAD FAREWELL. The New York Times letters section is filled with expressions of sentiment offered “In Fond Remembrance of Mad Magazine”.

I wholly endorse Tim Kreider’s views and mourn Mad’s effective demise to the extent it ceases the publication of new material.

As the beneficiary of slightly distracted conservative parents, I subscribed to and have collected Mad since I was a preteenager. Bill Gaines’s “usual gang of idiots” offered intellectual freedom from the confining dictates of the 1950s, and that freedom continues to inform my thinking.

The art was as meticulous as the writing. Each artist’s style was perfectly attuned to the text of the particular piece. What can compare to George Woodbridge’s illustrations of hippies and beatniks?

In contrast to so many publications, those many issues of Mad reflect no typographical errors, misspellings, grammatical mistakes or instances of poor usage, unless intentional. At least I have never spotted any.

Literate, entertaining, enlightening and inspirational.

R.I.P., Mad!

Barbara Jaffe
New York
The writer is a New York State Supreme Court justice.

Tim Kreider’s opinion piece “The World According to Mad Magazine” appeared July 12.

(5) ALL YOUR COMIC-CON BELONG TO US. Writers and editors at The Hollywood Reporter have picked “Comic-Con Winners and Losers From Film, TV and Comics Panels.” Each entry includes a paragraph on why it was selected, but the roundup is:

  • Winner: Marvel Studios 
  • Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
  • Winner: Paramount
  • Winner: The Witcher (Netflix)
  • Winner: The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Loser: The Eisner Awards 
  • Winner: It Chapter Two (New Line/Warner Bros.)
  • Loser: Game of Thrones (HBO) 
  • Winner: Westworld (HBO)
  • Winner: Watchmen (HBO) 
  • Loser: Ruby Rose 
  • Winner: Tom Hooper
  • Winner: Tom King 
  • Winner: The X-Men (Marvel)
  • Winner: Undiscovered Country (Image Comics)
  • Winner: Riverdale (The CW)
  • Loser: Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
  • Winner: Star Trek (CBS All Access)

Here’s one example:

Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
Surprise! All episodes of the highly anticipated revival are available to stream a week early! In what was designed as a reward for diehard fans of the Kristen Bell-led series from creator Rob Thomas, those packed into Ballroom 20 were delighted at the early arrival before likely realizing they’d be unable to stream it given that they already had weekend plans — at Comic-Con — and would likely be spoiled by that heartbreaking finale. The early drop was a regular topic on Friday but by Saturday, it had already been drowned out amid a glut of hundreds of other film, TV, video game and comic book panels and trailers.   

(6) MORE COMIC-CON COVERAGE. San Diego’s Fox 5 has a 45-photo gallery of “Best costumes of Comic-Con weekend”.

The Comic-Con Blood Drive was the most successful ever:

(7) FULL LID REFILLED. Blade Runners, alien invasions of several kinds and the retirement of an all-time great are all part of this week’s “The Full Lid 19th July 2019”. Alasadair Stuart outlines what’s inside —  

We open with a look at the first issue of Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019 featuring a new member of the division with some very new problems. Then we’re off to curdled suburban horror with Jeremy C. Shipp’s superbly unsettling Bedfellow. A house guest turns a family’s lives on their heads, but he’s always been there, hasn’t he? An uncle, a brother, a god, a monstrous cuckoo nesting in their lives. Marv is here to stay and a superbly unsettling villain.

Then we salute the comics career of Alan Moore, godfather of the UK scene, film-maker, actor, magic user and architect of an age. But for all his legendary skill and gravitas, Moore is a hell of a comedian and my favorite work of his falls in that field. Finally, with the recent and much deserved Clarke Award win, we re-run the review of Tade Thompson’s excellent Rosewater from last year. Rounded out with the latest work from Anne Fortune, Claire Rousseau and You Suck At Cooking, that’s the Full Lid for the week.

(8) LEGO’S APOLLO PROGRAM. The Verge: “A Lego designer talks about designing spaceships and collaborating with NASA”. Tagline: “More than 40 years of LEGO Space”

The Verge spoke with Lego designer Simon Kent recently, who explained that he and his colleagues recently visited with NASA engineers and personnel to compare their toys against the real spaceships, rovers, and space stations currently in operation today. “Across the company, space is such a big theme, that we can tap into it in many different ways, whether its a plaything like Lego City, or a display model that goes into the fine details of the spacecraft’s design,” like the recently-released Apollo 11 Lunar Lander [list price $99.99].

(9) THAT’S NOTABLE, NOT NOTORIOUS. Camestros Felapton fills everyone in about “Today’s right wing author meltdown…” which commenced when Michael Z. Williamson learned his Wikipedia entry was slated for deletion on grounds that he is not sufficiently notable. In fact, the page has been deleted and restored pending debate while this has been going on.

Last night Michael Z. Williamson’s blog was brought to my attention, who if you are unfamiliar with him, was (is) one of the pioneering fiction writers in the wild west of the early-mid 2010s who bucked the system of social justice-focused “woke” writing in order to focus on craft and excellent storytelling.

Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page.

(10) KRAFT OBIT. NASA pioneer Chris Kraft died July 22. The Houston Chronicle headline: “Legendary NASA flight director Chris Kraft has died at 95”.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. — NASA’s first flight director and a legendary scientist who helped build the nation’s space program — died Monday, just two days after the world celebrated the historic Apollo 11 walk on the moon. He was 95.

“#RIP Dr. Christopher Kraft,” former astronaut Clayton Anderson posted on Twitter soon after. “You were a true leader for this nation and our world. So glad you were able to witness #Apollo50th…we felt your presence everywhere.

“Godspeed and thank you.”

Kraft’s name is emblazoned in bold letters on the side of the mission control building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to the base of operations where Kraft guided astronauts from launch to landing as the organization grew to a full-blown agency that required multiple flight directors to oversee a mission.

…During an era with no calculators and only rudimentary computers, Kraft essentially built NASA’s mission control to manage human operations in space. As the agency’s sole flight director, with a simple black-and-white monitor and listening to eight different communications loops, he had the final say for NASA’s first five manned missions, including the Mercury flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.

(11) HEDISON OBIT. Actor David Hedison, best known for his role in Sixties sci-fi series Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, hdied July 18 at the age of 92 reports Deadline.com. He also was in the original version of horror sci-fi classic The Fly.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1881 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1912 Stephen Gilbert. His final novel, Ratman’s Notebooks was adapted as the Willard film. Thirty’s years later, it was made into a film yet again. Kindle has most of his books available, iBooks just Ratman’s Notebooks. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 87. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them? Now Jitterbug Perfume, that’s genre!
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 75. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really be it genre or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel  Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original core group of Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 47. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. I miss that series. Did it win any Hugos? He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Hunger, The X-Files, The Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries
  • Born July 22, 1976 Karen Cliche, 43. She’s known for her roles on Flash Gordon, Mutant XVampire High and Young Blades. She’s does two horror films, Pact with the Devil and Saw VI

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cul de Sac shows how hard it can be to be a space flight dreamer.

(14) GRRM AND FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Irish Film Institute will start selling tickets to this event on Thursday:

(15) KEEPING THE R IN HARLEY. You’ve been warned. “Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn Show Is A ‘Tad R-Rated,’ She Warns With New Trailer”CinemaBlend explains the rating:

There’s gratuitous swearing, Joker shooting someone at point-blank range, and he’s taking a shot to the groin courtesy of Harley? Yeah, I can see why Kaley Cuoco wanted to get the warning out on her Instagram, especially when the animation for Harley Quinn looks like something DC would run on Cartoon Network in primetime.

(16) THE UK’S OWN STORM. They made a big splash on social media – will they really try to do the same in the Loch? “RNLI warning over ‘Storm Loch Ness’ monster hunt”.

A suggestion for a mass search for the Loch Ness Monster later this year has gone viral on social media, and caused concern for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

On Facebook, about 18,000 people say they are going to a Storm Loch Ness event with 38,000 “interested”.

It has been inspired by Storm Area 51, an idea tens of thousands of people could storm a US Air Force base to uncover the truth to a UFO conspiracy.

But Loch Ness RNLI is warning of the dangers of the loch’s deep water.

Concerned that hundreds, or even thousands, of people head out on to the loch for Storm Loch Ness on 21 September, the volunteer crew said it could not match the resources being used by the US military to deal with Storm Area 51.

(17) BOILED IN LEAD. Lest you think James Davis Nicoll is being too negative about this idea, he explains how it could have been even worse: “Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus”.

Many readers may find the plots of some SF novels deeply implausible. “Who,” they ask, “would send astronauts off on an interstellar mission before verifying the Go Very Fast Now drive was faster than light and not merely as fast as light? Who would be silly enough to send colonists on a one-way mission to distant worlds on the basis of very limited data gathered by poorly programmed robots? Who would think threatening an alien race about whom little is known, save that they’ve been around for a million years, is a good idea?”

Some real people have bad ideas; we’re lucky that comparatively few of them become reality. Take, for example, a proposal to send humans to Venus. Not to land, but as a flyby.

(18) YA AWARD. Garik16’s Lodestar Award finalist reviews: “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book”.

So yeah, there’s a lot of great works to be nominated for this award, and this year’s shortlist contains some pretty good works, including one book again that was one of my favorites from all of last year, one book that I really really liked, one I enjoyed a good bit which will probably win it all, and two other books that are at least solid – really only one nominee of the bunch do I think is unworthy, although I can understand why it’s nominated.  All in all, this award will give recognition to a work that definitely deserves it, which is the point of the matter.

(19) DOUBLE YOUR FUN. “Chandrayaan-2: India launches second Moon mission” – BBC has the story.

India has successfully launched its second lunar mission a week after it halted the scheduled blast-off due to a technical snag.

Chandrayaan-2 was launched at 14:43 local time (09:13 GMT) from the Sriharikota space station.

India’s space chief said his agency had “bounced back with flying colours” after the aborted first attempt.

India hopes the $145m (£116m) mission will be the first to land on the Moon’s south pole.

The spacecraft has entered the Earth’s orbit, where it will stay for 23 days before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit.

If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have been able to do so.

(20) FASTER THAN TUNNELING? Most SF posits living under the surface of the moon, but there’s an alternative: “Why 3D printing could be key to a Moon base”.

The European Space Agency (Esa) is researching technologies based on 3D printing to see how materials found on the lunar surface could be made into products to help with habitation on the Moon.

Dusty powdered rock found on the Moon’s surface could be made into construction materials, explains the Esa’s James Carpenter.

(21) I SPY, WITH MY LITTLE APP. Pixels, please! “Kazakhstan’s new online safety tool raises eyebrows”.

Kazakhstan’s drive to obtain government access to everyone’s internet activity has raised concerns among privacy advocates.

Last week, telecoms operators in the former Soviet republic started informing users of the “need” to install a new security certificate.

Doing so opens up the risk that supposedly secure web traffic could be decrypted and analysed.

Some users say the move has significant privacy and security problems.

Much of the concern focuses on Kazakhstan’s human rights record, which is considered poor by international standards.

…A statement from the Ministry of Digital Development said telecoms operators in the capital, Nur-Sultan, were carrying out technical work to “enhance protection” from hackers, online fraud and other cyber-attacks.

It advised anyone who had trouble connecting to some websites to install the new security certificate, from an organisation called Quaznet Trust Network.

…One user filed a bug report with Mozilla, maker of the internet browser Firefox, characterising the move as a “man in the middle” cyber-attack and calling for the browser to completely ban the government certificate.

(22) REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE. Frequent contributor Martin Morse Wooster says:

“I have a question I want to ask Filers but it’s guaranteed not to provoke a flame war. My question:

“I would like to eat more tomatoes.  What are the best recipes Filers have for using tomatoes from the farmers’ market?

“I am very serious about this.”

Your culinary advice is welcome in comments.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

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:

 

View this post on Instagram

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.]

Snapshots 150
The Sesquicentennial

aka “How Well I Remember the Days Before Puppies Were All the Rage” – James H. Burns

If you’re very new to File 770 this may be the first time you’ve seen Snapshots, the zine-within-a-zine.

In honor of the 150th edition, here are 35 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Even Kimball Kinnison’s swearing “By Klono’s brazen balls!” may be a leetle too strong in these refined times. What kind of cursing remains fashionable? Matthew Bowman tells all in “Frakking Goram Smegger! (Swearing in Fiction)”  at Novel Ninja.

While swearing serves an important function in real life, at least for the person doing the swearing, it doesn’t have the same effect on other people. It winds up being a great stress relief for the speaker, but over time there’s a diminishing return in terms of effectiveness, leading to people using it more and more to get the same effect. To the people around the speaker, though, all they get is the “more and more.”

The use of swearing in fiction has the same problem. There are really only two uses, and the audience only experiences the second use: shock value. Shock too much, and there’s no value to it. On the face of it, you might want to avoid swearing.

Well, no. Not entirely.

(2) With the Anagrammer I can turn my own name into a colorful curse. Like, “Ye Chiller Mag!” Or, “Rimly Geek!”

GRRM Plush COMP

(3) I’ve completely failed to find any website that has one for sale, but you have to agree the concept is amusing —  Talking George R.R. Martin Doll Adds Some Evil Santa Whimsy To Your Life:

Spotted at New York Toy Fair 2015: This talking George R.R. Martin doll from Factory Entertainment, which the Game of Thrones creator himself recorded dialogue for. One of the ten things he says is “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” One of the things he doesn’t say, I assume, is “f*ck you.”

There’s not the slightest doubt if there was a Harlan Ellison doll it would.

(4) On May the Fourth many ballparks honor the little movie franchise that’s been around for four decades. At Fenway Park, Darth Vader showed up and inexplicably agreed to do an interview.

Darth Vader

(5) More than a baker’s dozen, here are 14 pieces of advice from things your convention staff. Many of them are a lot more blunt than this —

Sleep

And not in our video/panel rooms. Find a bed or the floor of someone’s hotel room. At least a few hours. Please? Conventions are exhausting enough without trying to operate without sleep.

And it seems as time goes by fewer of the embedded anime gifs work for me – here’s hoping you have better luck.

(6) As soon as products reach market using the right software, you will be able to use the “Live long and prosper” emoji.

live long and prosper emojiAs spotted by Quartz, a ‘Live Long and Prosper’ hand symbol emoji has been found in the test versions of both Apple’s OS X and iOS Mac and iPhone/iPad software, which should be released sometime later this year. Apple has yet to confirm that all the new emojis in its beta software will be in the upcoming official releases. Among them are the much-awaited multi-ethnic smileys and figures.

With Apple’s new emoji picker, you should be able to send the Live Long and Prosper salute in different skin shades once it hits devices. You can visit Emojipedia.org to see what all the versions look like.

The Vulcan Salute was introduced to the Unicode system last June, and like any other symbol available in the universal emoji consortium, it’s now just waiting for software-makers to build it into their operating systems and keyboards, which Apple certainly looks to be doing.

(7) A month after the death of Leonard Nimoy, his son Adam Nimoy announced plans for a documentary about his father titled For the Love of Spock.

The project is aimed at celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek,” which aired for the first time on Sept. 8, 1966. Zachary Quinto, who portrayed the Spock character in last two “Star Trek” films, will narrate the documentary.

(8) It’s not that I’m breathlessly awaiting Sharknado 3, I just think we’re all thrilled to take a break from science fiction’s relentless parade of kerfuffles. So as a public service I am informing you that David Hasselhoff has been cast in the film despite a bum knee.

Needless to say, The Hoff has been quite busy, and in the midst of his crazy schedule Hasselhoff says he had to get “some knee work done.”

The injury even affected his role in “Sharkando 3,” the third installment in the hit Syfy franchise, co-starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. In the upcoming TV movie — called Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” — Hasselhoff plays Gilbert Sheperd, the dad of Ziering’s character, Fin Shepard. You can expect to see a lot of Hasselhoff in the film; it’s not just a cameo, he says.

“I hobbled through them [my scenes],” said Hasselhoff. “You’ll see me hobbling through ‘Sharknado 3’ because I said, ‘My character now has a limp!’ I wrote it in — that I jumped on a grenade during Vietnam and saved the entire platoon except for one person. I thought that was a funny line to put in and they allowed me to put it in.”

(9) Have you heard the true tale of the 50 Foot Woman and the FDA? The Washington Post recently told it as a graphic story, “Allison Hayes, the actress who got the FDA’s attention – too late”. Text and graphics by Art Hondros.

(10) Mr. Steed, we’re needed.

Trotify makes your bike sound like a galloping horse

The folks at Original Content London are hot to trot, thanks to their latest invention, the Trotify. For about $32 USD, the flat-packed laser-cut wooden contraption fits on the front brake mount of your bike and with a little assembly, a coconut, and a sense of humor, can create the sound of a trotting horse as you pedal. Able to amuse or confuse those with very poor eyesight, the Trotify is a great gift for those cycling nuts who have every accessory on the market or for those who are a little too short on cash to become real equestrians.

Warning – you can’t actually buy this from the vendor linked in the article, even though they have been trying to market the concept since 2012.

(11) The science fiction radio series X Minus One is still attracting new admirers.

Though I seldom long for my native culture when abroad, when the need for a hit of Americana does arise (and I say this currently writing from Seoul, South Korea), I fill my iPod with old time radio. Many shows from America’s “Golden Age” of wireless broadcasting can fill this need, but one could do much worse than Dimension X, the early-1950s science-fiction program we featured earlier this month, or its late-1950s successor X Minus One, whose episodes you can also find at the Internet Archive. Both showcase American culture at its mid-20th-century finest: forward-looking, temperamentally bold, technologically adept, and saturated with earnestness but for the occasional surprisingly knowing irony or bleak edge of darkness. That last comes courtesy of these shows’ writing talent, a group which includes such canonical names as Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.

(12) Neil Clarke celebrated passing 50,000 submissions to his magazines by running a list of the top ten most common short story names. That got so much attention he dropped all the story titles ever received into Wordle and posted he resulting graphic.

(13) Here’s how Jason. S. Ridler, Ph.D. overcame the trauma of an unsatisfactory book writing career:

There’s an old trick in psychology. If you’ve experienced trauma, do something new that has no relation to the context of said trauma. You generate new memories for your brain to chew on. Improv fit that pistol, and was life-saving. In writing, I abandoned the dead god of novels and moved to comic book scripts. I love comics, but had never attempted them because . . . if you think making money with novels is tough, it’s Shangri La compared to becoming a “professional” comic book writer. But I didn’t care about money, or a career. I had now stabilized my income to a degree where I felt comfortable easing off the gears of work and spending some time writing. I learned comic script format for fun. I found artists to work with, which was fun. And I failed all over the place as I learned the art, the business, and the challenge of working with artists. Some of this sucked bunnies, but I didn’t care. So long as I learned and got better, I enjoyed the challenge.

(14) Beware offering advice. Jim C. Hines offers breakdown of the topic in “The Advice Checklist”.

Are you more concerned with helping or with fixing the person so they’ll stop making you uncomfortable?

Hint: People talk about their problems for a range of reasons. To vent, to process their own feelings, to connect with others and know they’re not alone… If you genuinely want to help, great—but in many cases, giving advice isn’t the way to do that.

(15) Thanks to YouTube, people don’t have to be old enough to have seen commercials like “Cheerios, the ‘Terribly Adult Cereal’ w/Stan Freberg” – they can click and experience that bit of pop culture history immediately.

(16) Wired reports someone has adapted a drone to leave his tag in a highly visible place.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the age of robotic graffiti was born. KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist and vandal, used a hacked Phantom drone to paint a giant red scribble across Kendall Jenner’s face on one of New York City’s largest and most viewed billboards. By all accounts, it is the first time that a drone has been deployed for a major act of public vandalism.

(17) Pat Cadigan was scheduled to speak about cancer – instead, she has to fight it.

It took me a long time to be taken seriously as a writer, and to be seen as the writer I was trying to be––i.e., a hard science-fiction writer. A few years ago, Greg Benford turned to me in the course of a conversation and said, “Pat, you’re a hard science fiction writer…” I can’t remember the rest of the question, just Greg calling me a hard science fiction writer. I figure Greg would know the difference. So I got bonafides.

That’s what cyberpunk always was to me––hard science fiction, taken out of a wish-fulfilment setting where everything would be all right if we could just develop the right technology, and re-imagined in the real world, where things could go wrong and people could get hurt.

And so it goes. I should have been at USC talking about what was, what is, and maybe what’s coming, but things went wrong and I got cancer.

Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it’s kinda funny. I can see why our plans make God laugh. She’s got a wicked sense of humour. But then, I do, too.

(18) This story is more than a little strange, coming from a part of the world that is notoriously unreceptive to even mild religious mockery. Turkish students have petitioned for a “Jedi temple” on campus.

More than 6,000 students at a Turkish university have signed a petition calling for a Jedi Temple on campus “to bring balance to the Force.”

The Change.org petition, which had more than 6,000 signatures Thursday, was created by students at Dokuz Eylul University amid controversy stemming from an announcement last month from Istanbul Technical University rector Mehmet Karaca that his school would be getting a “landmark mosque” after a petition calling for a mosque on campus received nearly 200,000 signatures.

The ITU announcement also led students at that school to start a petition to found a Buddhist temple on campus, a request with more than 20,000 signatures.

(19) A photo of C.S. Lewis with his Officer Cadet Battalion in 1917 has been discovered among items donated by an alum.

Every college archive has a mass of material awaiting sorting and cataloguing, much donated by former college members, and Keble is no exception. Leonard Rice-Oxley went up to Keble to study history in 1911, and became the college’s tutor in English in 1921. After graduating from Keble in 1915, Rice-Oxley had served as 2nd Lieutenant in the London Irish Rifles, before being promoted to Lieutenant, and posted to serve on the staff of No. 4 Officer Cadet Battalion in 1917. During this time, Rice-Oxley produced a booklet Oxford in arms: with an account of Keble College, intended for the use of officer cadets stationed at Keble. A copy of this booklet was contained in the material given to the college archives by Rice-Oxley, along with an album of photographs.

Not long after her arrival at Keble, the new Archivist & Records Manager (Eleanor Fleetham) was asked by the College Librarian (Yvonne Murphy) to organize an exhibition of material from the Archives to commemorate Keble’s contribution to the First World War. One of the items on display was Rice-Oxley’s photo album, which contained a  photograph of “E” Company, No. 4 Officer Cadet Battalion, taken by an unknown photographer in the summer of 1917. A college undergraduate – Sebastian Bates (2014, Law) – noticed the photograph, and suggested that one of the people in the photograph was none other than C. S. Lewis.

(20) Michael Swanwick covered Samuel R. Delany’s retirement party, celebrating the end of his career at Temple University, in an aptly named post — Goodbye, Mr. Chip.

(21) It warms my heart to realize my antique File 770 webpage from the old Compuserve Ourworld days is still in the internet archives.

(22) And Teddy Harvia’s online exhibit of Best Fan Artist Hugo nominees has never gone away!

(23) Artist Richard Powers is remembered by The Daily Beast.

The Ballantines believed in science fiction as a literature of ideas, not gadget porn for ham-radio buffs, so when they opened their doors in 1952 they thought of Powers. His modernist sensibility, steeped in things seen at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, set him apart from the pulp-magazine style—astronauts rippling their pectorals at bug-eyed aliens while space babes cowered in fear—that had dominated the genre for decades. “One of the things that appealed to me about science fiction,” he says, in The Art of Richard Powers, “is that it was possible to do Surrealist paintings that had validity … in their own right, and not necessarily functioning as the cover of a book.”

(24) Doctor Who’s son is Alfred the butler?

The actor who plays Alfred in the TV series Gotham is Sean Pertwee. His father is Jon Pertwee and he played the third Doctor Who:

And Mr. Pertwee – Sean, that is – certainly lived a life suitable to the son of a Time Lord. Mr. Pertwee recalled long stretches spent on Euro-billionaires and party-animals playground Ibiza, a “mad island…this weird eclectic bunch of people that ran away and lived in this sort of hedonistic paradise.” Many people know the name Elmyr de Hory as the master art forger of the 1960’s, and subject of the Orson Welles film F for Fake — Mr. Pertwee called him godfather. He experienced a youth surrounded by, in his words, “draft dodgers, murderers…actors.”

Pertwee stars as Alfred Pennyworth, a tough-as-nails ex-marine from east London who loyally serves the Wayne family. In the wake of their tragic deaths, he is fiercely protective of the young Bruce Wayne — the boy who will eventually become Batman

Sean is set to appear as a lead role, Alfred Pennyworth the unflappable butler, in the new Warner Bros. series of Gotham, which follows the story behind Commissioner James Gordon’s rise to prominence in Gotham City in the years before Batman’s arrival.

(25) If Disney had done cruise ships in the 1950s would they have added a Ben-Hur theme where kids could row like hell and ram a Roman warship? We’ll never know, but pretty soon young voyagers on the company’s passenger liners will get to head into hyperspace with the Millennium Falcon.

disney-cruise-millennium-falcon-625x351The Disney Dream will head into dry dock in October and emerge with two new interactive youth areas, one inspired by the interior of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, and the other based on the popular Disney Infinity video game.

As you can see from the concept art above, the Millennium Falcon is a pretty good recreation of Han Solo’s ship. Kids will be able to sit in the cockpit, participate in Star Wars-themed crafts and activities, watch episodes of Disney XD’s animated Star Wars Rebels on large screens, or play video games.

The Disney Dream is also bringing on board the popular Jedi Training Academy, in which young Padawans learn from a Jedi Master how to use a lightsaber, and then face Darth Vader in a final test.

(25) Jill Pantozzi on The Mary Sue draws attention to J.K. Rowling’s new tradition of apologizing for killing off her characters. Before it was Florean Fortescue. Now —

(26) A croggling thought – buying Watchmen with no pictures. But it makes sense for one audience.

Watchmen is a classic comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, published in 1986. It’s set in an alternate history where the existence of superheroes changed American politics, culture and everyday life. I’ve described it panel-by-panel for blind and low-vision readers, including the supplementary material at the end of each chapter.

(27) What is that image? A golden octupus? Chtulhu? Nope, that is a $20,000 vintage pen with a golden snake wrapped around it.

7728

(28) “The Woman Who Was a Man Who Was a Woman: Alice Sheldon and James Tiptree Jr.” is a fine proifile by Thomas Parker on Black Gate.

To Alice’s professed surprise, Campbell bought one of the stories, “Birth of a Salesman.” A new science fiction writer was born, one who would, in the space of just a few years, make a tremendous impact on the genre (as two Hugos, three Nebulas, and a World Fantasy Award attest, to say nothing of the James Tiptree Jr. Award, which is given to works which expand or explore our understandings of gender).

Alice Sheldon never looked back. She also never let anyone know that James Tiptree Jr. wasn’t a man; all of her many contacts and correspondents in the SF field assumed that the courtly “Tip” who had had such a wide-ranging life and wrote such witty letters was an all-American male. (Who wouldn’t take phone calls or meet anyone — including his agent — in person and would never show up to accept any awards. What began as a joke became, without Alice’s really planning it, an elaborate deception worthy of… well, of the CIA, and a banana peel that countless readers and critics would embarrassingly slip on.)

(29) Ferrett Steinmetz pays impressive tribute to his audience in “Thank You For Being So Goddamned Brave”.

One of the reasons I have any audience at all is that I blog about my insane burblings of social anxiety, and how hard it is for me to go to conventions.  I’d say about one out of every five people who’ve come to see me read from Flex and sign books has that hesitant smile when they approach me, and I know that the only reason they crept out into such a whirlwind social situation is because I’ve lent them strength at some point by sharing my own tearful fears, and that they and I are intertwined with the same terrors.

They’re braver than I am.

I couldn’t come out to see me.

(30) Author Jon Scieszka interviews Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, about writing the classic children’s novel with longtime friend Jules Feiffer after a screening of the documentary The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations.

(31) Writing to Robert E. Howard during the Depression, H. P. Lovecraft said he never spent more than $3 a week on food. What were H. P. Lovecraft’s economical favorites? The list includes —

Beans

“Incidentally—not many doors away, on the other side of Willoughby St., I found a restaurant which specialises in home-baked beans. It was closed on Sunday, but I shall try it some time soon. Beans, fifteen cents, with pork, twenty cents. With Frankfort sausages, twenty-five cents. Yes—here is a place which will repay investigation!” (to Mrs. F.C. Clark, 20 May 1925)

“…in New England we are very fond of baked yellow-eye beans…” (to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931)

(31) Among other things, Neil Gaiman has authored a Chipotle cup.

Why are you participating in the Cultivating Thought series?

My work with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees really opened my eyes to the fragility of the world. I thought it might be a good thing to open other eyes.

Tell us about your two-minute read.

I wrote about the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan; the state of people who have left everything, and gone through hell to escape an intolerable situation. What they went through, what they survived.

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(32) Ray Bradbury, one of the greatest sci-fi writers in history, talks with Merv about the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, Steven Spielberg, his mission as a writer, the future of mankind, and ends by reading from his poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” from his collection “When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.”

(33) For those who can’t get enough of Benedict Cumberbatch, news services have released video of his reading of a poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy at the memorial service for Richard III.

(34) The Telegraph has selected the 10 Best Fan Tributes to Terry Pratchett. On the list is —

6) Pub sign
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of Pratchett’s former watering holes in Wincanton, Somerset, was decorated with recently decorated with a tribute in the form of a Discworldified pub sign.

This pub sign, amended to feature the noted Ankh-Morpork pub, The Mended Drum, was commissioned before Pratchett’s death, and hung as a memorial shortly afterwards.

It was painted by illustrator Richard Kingston, who, along with Pratchett, was a regular patron of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Wincanton is already slightly unusual in that it was twinned in 2002 with a fictional Discworld city, Ankh Morpork.

In 2009, the developer George Wimpey named two streets in its new housing development after Ankh-Morpork’s, including Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road.

(35) And finally, this rare reveal of how they do things in Tinseltown.

[Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, David Gerrold, David Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster and Andrew Porter.]

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.