Pixel Scroll 12/16/18 Cold-Hearted Scroll That Rules The File, Removes The Pixels From Our Pile

(1) ROLL ELEVEN. Nicholas Whyte reviews “Doctor Who, Series 11 (or 37), 2018”, beginning with an overview, followed by comments on individual episodes:

…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….

(2) SON’S MEMORIES OF LE GUIN. “Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin” in The Guardian.

One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.

Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.

(3) A WINNER. Seeing the movie prompted John Scalzi to have many “Thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.

2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.

(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!

(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES. SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:

GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street
BAD: The Santa Clause
WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

GOOD: Rise of the Guardians
BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night
WEIRD: The Polar Express

GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas
BAD: Santa’s Slay
WEIRD: Fred Claus

GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas
BAD: The Christmas Chronicles
WEIRD: Christmas Evil

(6) SPLATTERPUNK IN ITALY.At the Horror Writers Association blog: “Revelations on the New Horror Renaissance – an Interview with Italian Author/Editor/Translator/Poet Alessandro Manzetti”.

Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?

A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.

(7) RAMBO ACADEMY. Sign up for Seanan McGuire’s workshop: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Your Own Worlds”.

Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.

This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.

Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.

(8) THEY’REDEAD(POOL), JIM. Aw, Jeez, he’s at it again (HuffPost:Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Is Even Better When Everyone Is Deadpool”).

So much Deadpool. Truly a maximum effort.

And we thought the last “Avengers” trailer was better when every character was Deadpool.

Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth. 

(9) WHALE TALE. ASLE-Brasil (Association of Literature and the Environment) interviewed Craig Russell about Fragment: “Craig Russell – Literature and Ecocriticism / Literatura e Ecocrítica”:

2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?

C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive. 

Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • December 16, 1927Randall Garrett. Ahhh Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. OK, confession time. I’m not a fan of his work so the only acquaintance I’ve with him is the first Bladerunner film which I’ve watched in its various forms many times. (Died 1982.)
  • December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)

(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”

In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.

(12) BUNNY TIME. Tim Goodman supplies “‘Watership Down’: TV Review” for The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.

On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.

Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.

(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —

Jenny

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.

(14) FREE READ. Vice’s Motherboard “imprint” has posted a free short story, “The Bonus,” by Liz Maier.

Two hundred extra hours of life per month, and only a few would have to be dedicated to the Company. Who would say no to not sleeping, to the bonus?

(15) APPROACHING GENRE. An NPR interview: “Lin-Manuel Miranda On ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ And Writing His Way Onstage”.

Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda: [Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.

I mean, that’s a little strong.

Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.

If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.

Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”

That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.

“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.

(16) MYTH REFURBISHED. Paul Weimer’s latest contribution to Nerds of a Feather is “Microreview [book]: In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard”.

The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.

(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

(18) SNL. The New York Times coverage of the most recent Saturday Night Live includes two skits of genre interest.  

Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.

In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.

As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”

She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/18 By Grabthar’s Pixel, By The Scrolls Of Warvan, You Shall Be File’d

(1) SNAPPY JACKETS. BookRiot lists its choices for “The Best Book Covers of 2018”. Lots of genre book covers here. Two examples:

I love a cover with a flipped image, this one showing a well-dressed man and woman on one side and a bowler hat-wearing man bicycling on the other side. The colors and rainy arc of tree branches in the London mist makes me think of Mary Poppins (that scene with Mr. Banks, anyone?) and then all I want to do is put this book into my eyeballs.

—Aimee Miles

Any time someone mentions this book—which is often because it’s awesome—the cover vividly pops into my brain. It’s like a movie poster for a blockbuster that you just can’t wait to see, and then after you see it you put the poster up on your bedroom wall!

—Jamie Canaves

(2) ATMOSPHERICS. Out today, the Game of Thrones “Official Tease: Dragonstone.”

Fire and ice. The final season of Game of Thrones begins this April.

 

(3) AUREALIS AWARDS DEADLINE. Tehani Croft, Judging Coordinator of the Aurealis Awards, reminds everyone that entries close at midnight, Friday, December 7:

It’s important to remember that ALL eligible Australian work published for the first time between January 1 and December 31, 2018, must be entered by midnight on December 7even work intended for publication after the December 7 cut off.

When entries are made, you will receive an auto response from our system to acknowledge receipt (please check your spam folder if this does not arrive) – this is the only requirement for entries to be valid. Details regarding payment (for long form entries) and submission will follow in the coming week.

Thank you to everyone who has already submitted entries this year – the judges have appreciated a consistent flow of entries in a timely manner, which has helped avoid an end-of-year bottleneck.

(4) FOURTH ALLEGATION AGAINST TYSON. Buzzfeed News adds a new charge: “Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s First Accuser. Now There Are Three More.”

…Now a fourth woman has told BuzzFeed News her experience of sexual harassment from Tyson. In January 2010, she recalled, she joined her then-boyfriend at a holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, its most famous employee, drunkenly approached her, she said, making sexual jokes and propositioning her to join him alone in his office. In a 2014 email shared with BuzzFeed News, she described the incident to her own employer in order to shoot down a proposed collaboration with Tyson….

(5) MORTAL PETER JACKSON. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy renders his verdict: “‘Mortal Engines’: Film Review”.

A fantastical bit of steampunk sci-fi runs to a considerable extent on fumes in Mortal Engines, an action-loaded tale of adventure and combat set in a future that takes its design cues entirely from the past. Based on the initial book in a series of four by British author Philip Reeve, the first of them published in 2001, this new effort by Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films is certainly lavish and expensive looking but never thoroughly locks in to capture the imagination or sweep you off to a new world where you particularly want to spend time. It’s combat-heavy, but not in an especially enthralling way, spelling an uncertain commercial future in the U.S. at least; foreign results could be significantly better.

One thing the film does have going for it is a resilient female lead, Hester Shaw (Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar), a survivor of childhood violence compelled to take revenge on her mother’s killer. Another is a bizarre form of conquest that’s illustrated in the extensive opening action sequence, in which one mobile society — in this case, a condensed version of London — races on giant treads across a rough wasteland in pursuit of a smaller, rag-tag community in order to literally gobble it up. There’s a milder, less demented Mad Max quality to the set-piece that decidedly rivets the attention, even if the sheer physics of it seem more than a bit preposterous; it’s akin to a huge garbage truck consuming a lawn mower.

(6) APPS AND TRAPS. Etelka Lehoczky says “Surrealism Meets Sci-Fi In ‘Parallel Lives'” in a review of this collection of short comics stories by O. Schrauwen and Eric Reynolds.

Parallel Lines is loosely a work of sci-fi. Most of its characters live at some time in the future, and all make use of rarified technologies. One woman communicates with a hologrammatic friend and lives in a coffin-sized pod. A team of explorers wend their way through outer space in a shimmering cubical ship. Schrauwen’s father Armand turns up in the book: He uses something called a Bomann Kühlbox T5000 to beam his face and voice to the future. (He finds it a frustrating experience, as the futurians ignore him in favor of seeking out exotic new ways of “leisuring.”) Schrauwen himself makes an appearance, too, in a first-person story of alien abduction that toys unsettlingly with the tropes of that genre.

(7) WHAT’S WRONG WITH WOKE “WHO”? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Lucy Jones of the Independent uses Doctor Who’s more inclusive storytelling — and the resultant backlash — as a framework to examine what it means to be “politically correct.” Her conclusion is pretty close to what most people on File 770 have been saying all along: that there’s nothing incorrect about telling stories that fully represent the diversity of society. “Doctor Who backlash shows why it’s time to bin the phrase ‘politically correct’”.

Words have consequences, and, in the rise of populism, these ones certainly have had, so instead of writing it off, I wanted to delve deeper into the Doctor Who criticism and try to understand what these swathes of shocked people online were outraged by, and if it had anything valuable to say about how people feel about changing societal and cultural norms.

(8) ARMITAGE OBIT. Peter Armitage (1940 – 2018): British actor, died December 4, aged 78. Screen appearances include Jack the Ripper (both episodes, 1988), Chimera (one episode, 1991), The Indiana Jones Chronicles (one episode, 1993), The Second Coming (both episodes, 2003), Magic Grandad (four episodes, 2003).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 6, 1911 – Ejler Jakobsson, Writer and Editor born in Finland who emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. Several short fiction works co-written with his wife Edith were published in the horror pulps in the late 1930s, and they co-edited two one-off magazines entitled The Octopus and The Scorpion. When Super Science Stories was revived briefly in 1949, he was editor for that two year run – with Damon Knight as his assistant. In 1969, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl. With the assistance of Judy-Lynn and Lester del Rey, he worked to make the magazines more contemporary. Under his auspices, several Best of anthologies for both If and Galaxy were published, and Galaxy was a three-time finalist for the Hugo Award. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 6, 1924 – Wally Cox, Actor and Comedian. Who can resist the voice of the Underdog series, which ran from 1964 to 1967? I certainly can’t. He also appeared in the films Babes in Toyland,  Quarantined, and Once Upon a Mattress, and had guest parts in The Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Get Smart, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Night Gallery. Interestingly, he had a lifelong close friendship from childhood with Marlon Brando (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1938 – Patrick Bachau, 80, Actor, Writer, and Producer from Belgium who had parts in French-speaking genre films before crossing the ditch where he became known to genre fans for his four-year role as Sydney on The Pretender. He also played a main role in the miniseries Kindred: The Embraced, had guest parts in episodes of Alias, The Dead Zone, and Earth 2, and had roles in Jennifer Connelly’s genre film debut Phenomena, The Cell, Serpent’s Lair, Vampires: The Turning, the execrable The Rapture, and 2012: We Were Warned.
  • Born December 6, 1948 – JoBeth Williams, 70, Oscar-nominated Actor and Producer who graduated from university intending to become a child psychologist, but instead caught the acting bug. Genre fans will remember her for her Saturn-nominated role in Poltergeist and its sequel. Other genre films include The Day After, Endangered Species, Switch, TiMER, It Came from the Sky, and The World Beyond. She also played Marge Slayton in From the Earth to the Moon.
  • Born December 6, 1953 – Tom Hulce, 65, Oscar-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer. His first genre role was in a highly-praised performance as the lead in the American Playhouse broadcast of The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket, about a young boy who discovers that he can fly. Although the bulk of his career has been in the theater, his most notable genre film role was as Henry Clerval in Kenneth Branagh’s Saturn-nominated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his voice performance of Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared in the films Stranger than Fiction and Jumper.
  • Born December 6, 1962 – Colin Salmon, 56, Actor from England who is best known for playing M’s Deputy Chief of Staff in three James Bond films, and as James “One” Shade in the Resident Evil film series. He has had roles in films including Alien vs. Predator, Tales from the Crypt, Punisher: War Zone, Annihilation: Earth, and Space Island One, and on television series including Arrow, Limitless, and the obligatory Doctor Who appearance (with David Tennant). He had a main role in the British series Hex, and currently plays General Zod in the Krypton series.
  • Born December 6, 1969 – Torri Higginson, 49, Actor and Producer who is almost certainly best known for her Saturn-nominated main role for four seasons as Dr. Elizabeth Weir on Stargate: Atlantis – but, like JJ, you may experience the lightbulb going on when you hear that her earliest genre role was as the female lead in Shatner’s TekWar series. She also had a main role in the supernatural series Inhuman Condition, and a recurring role in the deep space mystery series Dark Matter. Other appearances include Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Stonehenge Apocalypse, The Cult, and episodes of Highlander: The Raven and The (new) Outer Limits.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity puts a smart weapon in Captain Kirk’s hands – or is that a smartass weapon?

(11) THEY’RE IN A RABBIT STEW. BBC One has put out a trailer for its adaptation of Watership Down. It will be released on Netflix on December 23, the day after it debuts on BBC One.

(12) MORAL EQUIVALENT OF WAR. M. Harold Page expounds on internet culture in “Worldbuilding Once and Future Fake News: Not Really A Review of Singer & Brooking’s LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media at Black Gate.

I’ve been reading LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media by Singer and Brooking. It describes the emerging world of Internet “news” where news passes from person-to-person on social media, no source is uncontroversially trustworthy, and where both information warriors and click-bait farmers are uninterested in the truth, except as a way of making untruths more plausible.

In this world, what determines a narrative’s success is not veracity but rather: Simplicity; Resonance; and Novelty.

Just switch the arena to “rumor” and this looks awfully like a greatly accelerated version of the pre-modern — especially Medieval and Renaissance — milieus we use as inspiration for Fantasy worldbuilding.  Keep the rumor but return the tech, and it’s also a good jumping-off point for building a Space Opera future. Stay with me and I’ll explain. But first, back to the smoking ruins of Limoges.

(13) THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON. Nature reports a Chinese spacecraft will soon make the first visit: “Journey to the far side of the Moon” [PDF file].

Early in the New Year, if all goes well, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 will arrive where no craft has been before: the far side of the Moon. The mission is scheduled to launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province on 8 December. The craft, comprising a lander and a rover, will then enter the Moon’s orbit, before touching down on the surface.

If the landing is successful, the mission’s main job will be to investigate this side of the lunar surface, which is peppered with many small craters. The lander will also conduct the first radio astronomy experiments from the far side of the Moon — and the first investigations to see whether plants will grow in the low-gravity lunar environment…

(14) MORE MUPPET MUSIC. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “Paul Williams unearths lost ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ Muppet soundtrack: ‘One of my favorite things I’ve ever done'”, says that Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which hasn’t been seen since its broadcast on HBO in 1977, is about to be released in theaters later this month.  Paul Williams talks about his song “When The River Meets The Sea,” which was played at Jim Henson’s funeral in 1990 and which he thinks is one of his best works.

When songwriting legend Paul Williams met Muppets mastermind Jim Henson in 1976, after appearing on The Muppet Show, the fateful encounter led to a long and fruitful musical partnership, highlighted by Williams’s Oscar-nominated theme for The Muppet Movie, “Rainbow Connection.”

But it all started with the 1977 HBO cult classic Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which will be screened in theaters nationwide for the first time ever this month, on Dec. 9 and 16. And incredibly, Williams’s twangy Emmet Otter soundtrack has finally been officially released, just in time for this holiday season, with a previously unreleased song, “Born in a Trunk,” that didn’t make it to air.

(15) FRUIT FLIES LIKE A… MARULA? NPR reveals “When And Where Fruit Flies First Bugged Humans”.

A study published Thursday suggests Drosophila melanogaster first shacked up with humans when the insects flew into the elaborately painted caves of ancient people living in southern Africa.

That’s according to a report published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

Scientists say the flies would have been following the alluring smell of stored marula fruit, which were collected and stored by cave-dwelling people in Africa. This tasty yellow fruit was a staple in the region in those days — and was also the fruit that wild flies apparently evolved to depend on in nearby forests.

The humble fruit fly now lives with humans all over the planet and is one of the world’s most studied creatures. For more than a century, biology and medical laboratories have depended on this fly — one scientist notes that at least nine times, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded for research on Drosophila….

(16) STONE FAT: Harder to lose than cellulite! “Fossil preserves ‘sea monster’ blubber and skin”.

Scientists have identified fossilised blubber from an ancient marine reptile that lived 180 million years ago.

Blubber is a thick layer of fat found under the skin of modern marine mammals such as whales.

Its discovery in this ancient “sea monster” – an ichthyosaur – appears to confirm the animal was warm-blooded, a rarity in reptiles.

The preserved skin is smooth, like that of whales or dolphins. It had lost the scales characteristic of its ancestors.

The ichthyosaur’s outer layer is still somewhat flexible and retains evidence of the animal’s camouflage pattern.

The reptile was counter-shaded – darker on the upper side and light on the underside. This counter-balances the shading effects of natural light, making the animal more difficult to see.

(17) NO LONGER SF. Remember to tip your avatar: “Japanese cafe uses robots controlled by paralysed people”.

A cafe staffed by robot waiters controlled remotely by paralysed people has opened in Tokyo, Japan.

A total of 10 people with a variety of conditions that restrict their movement have helped control robots in the Dawn Ver cafe.

The robot’s controllers earned 1,000 yen (£7) per hour – the standard rate of pay for waiting staff in Japan.

It is hoped the project will give more independence to people with disabilities.

(18) A WORD FROM SOMEBODY’S SPONSOR. We’ve come a long way from the one-room schoolhouse. I suppose in another generation they’ll be saying we’ve come a long way from the one-robot schoolroom.

The Belgian company Zora Bots is currently conquering the world with its unique solution especially designed for humanoid robots. Now, Zora Bots is about to change the way education system prepares the future generations to the ongoing technology revolution. In Belgium, a new step has just been made in that field with the support of Zora solutions. Comitted in an ambitious digitilization program, the town of Ostend (West Flanders) becomes today the first smart city in Europe to equip all its secondary schools with a humanoid robot. That means no student in secondary cycle will be deprived of having his first coding experience with a robot.

(19) MAKING A POINT: BBC tells about “The Indian restaurants that serve only half a glass of water”.

At the pure vegetarian Kalinga restaurant, a couple have just been seated when a waiter approaches their table and asks if they want water.

“I said yes and he gave me half a glass of water,” says Gauripuja Mangeshkar. “I was wondering if I was being singled out, but then I saw that he had only poured half a glass for my husband too.”

For a moment, Ms Mangeshkar did wonder whether her glass was half full or half empty, but the reason why she was served less water was not really existential.

Nearly 400 restaurants in Pune have adopted this measure to reduce water use, ever since the civic authorities announced cuts in supply a month ago.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Steve Green, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/18 Keep Scrolling All The Time – Stormy Pixels

(1) RABBIT CAST MULTIPLYING. More celebrities join the Watership Down warren: “Daniel Kaluuya, Rosamund Pike Join Animated Netflix/BBC Miniseries ‘Watership Down'”.

The latest adaptation of Richard Adams’ classic allegorical bunny adventure novel will be a CGI series, with John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Ben Kingsley previously announced as voicing a group of rabbits, led by the brave Hazel (McAvoy) and visionary Fiver (Hoult). Written by Tom Bidwell, the series also will feature the vocal talents of Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace), Freddie Fox (Pride), Anne-Marie Duff (Suffragette), Miles Jupp (The Thick of It) and Olivia Colman, it was previously revealed.

The story follows a group of rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther) will voice Bluebell; Pike (A Private War, Gone Girl) will voice The Black Rabbit of Inle; Egerton will voice El-Ahrairah; and Capaldi will voice the seagull Kehaar. Other new voice talent includes Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians, Humans) as Dewdrop, Tom Wilkinson (Selma) as Threarah and Rory Kinnear (Skyfall) as Cowslip,

(2) TOO MUCH SUGAR IN THAT PLUM. The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney really doesn’t like it: “‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’: Film Review”.

Disney’s attempt to wrestle E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 story and the perennially popular Tchaikovsky ballet into a fairy tale with a modern attitude is like one of those big, elaborately decorated, butter cream-frosted cakes that looks delicious but can make you quite ill. Something else that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms calls to mind is those mechanized holiday department store windows, stuffed with so many busy elements you can barely take them all in before some obnoxious kid behind you is nudging you to keep the line moving. So much attention has been lavished on the sumptuous visuals that the story and characters are suffocated.

(3) CROWDFUNDED DEPARTURE. Amazing Stories contributor Susan Sussman has launched a GoFundMe appeal to get her family out of Venezuela. Steve Davidson hopes everyone will help:

Susana Sussmann, author, conference organizer, editor and contributor to the Amazing Stories blog (read her posts here), is trying to get her family out of strife torn Venezuela and she needs our help.

She and her husband have secured job offers in Germany and have opened up a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to help her get to that job and her family to safer environs.

Susana and family have been caught up in and affected by Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis (information on which can be found here.)  Her son needs medical and educational support which is simply no longer available to the family,

(4) EARLY REPUBLICAN. Camestros Felapton engages Plato in “Dialogue: Thessaly by Jo Walton”.  Some say we don’t have great fan writers like this anymore – but we do!

[Warning on themes around sexual violence and consent]…

Camestros: You are a man of contradictions, Plato! You scorn poetry and yet you are the most poetic of classical philosophers. You fear fiction but you literally include made-up stories in your model civilisation and call them noble lies! In Western history, you are arguably the first person to invent a story and overlay claim that you just made it up and that it wasn’t actually based on an existing myth or history!
Plato: But those myths are for the purpose of instruction and improvement of the mind. The fictions you tell me about these “science fictions” are untruths about knowledge! What was that last one with the Olympic gods and thinking machines and the works of your island’s Homer? This new book you have better not be like that one.
Camestros: That would be Olympus and Illium by Dan Simmons. Well, there are some similarities. There are some excellent robot characters, as well as the gods of Olympus and both books discuss arete. However, Walton’s book is genuinely concerned with examining your ideas, rather than just exploring the Greek pantheon.
Plato: Excellent!

Plato: Before we part company, can you tell me where I might find these books we have been discussing? It may be that you have at last brought me something worthy of my interest?
Camestros: Oh, you get them from Amazon!
Plato: The great warrior women are now booksellers! What wonders you era brings!

(4) YOUR NAME HEAR. This thread summarizes World Fantasy Con’s panel about podcasting – starts here.

(5) MONSTER SCIENCE. Amusing podcast from Harvard Dept. of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology on the science of big monsters: “Veritalk: Monsters Episode 3 – King Kong vs. Gravity”. There’s also a transcript.

AFP: So this really busts the idea of having King Kong. We couldn’t have an ape the size of a skyscraper that just wouldn’t work at all.

SCS:  I think both King Kong and Godzilla, at the very least they would have to be built very differently than what we typically see as a lizard or a or a primate. They would definitely have to remodel their body shape in order to support that much weight.

AFP: So, if you’re big?—?you need lots of oxygen, a long life, and industrial-strength limbs. But if you want to survive, you also need to eat.

SCS: I mean, this is one of the things that worries me the most about Godzilla. If you just go into Tokyo and you start smashing things, at some point you get hungry. And as a carnivore that means you have to hunt. But all of the prey that are available are so tiny with respect to your size?—?and being big requires a lot of energy. The largest animal on the planet, the blue whale, it is still technically a carnivore. It spends its life eating krill, which are these small crustaceans. But a blue whale has to take in something like eight thousand pounds of food every single day.  I have no idea how long it would take me to eat eith thousand pounds of food but every single day that’s what it has to do just to stay alive and keep swimming.

AFP: Right. You would have to eat a lot of bus loads full of people before you feel a little bit full.

SCS: Many, many busloads. yeah. [laughs]

(6) FOR COMICS GOURMANDS. Among the stacks of comics coming to Marvel Unlimited this month:

Avengers (2018) #1

Thor Odinson. Steve Rogers. Tony Stark. The Big Three of the Avengers are reunited at last! And just in time to save the world from total annihilation at the hands of their most powerful enemies yet: the 2000-foot-tall space gods known as Celestials. Behold the coming of the Final Host. Who will answer the call to assemble for a wild new era of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Hint: one of them has a flaming skull for a head. And what strange, world-shaking connection exists between the Final Host and Odin’s ancient band of Prehistoric Avengers?

(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Paul DiFilippo has reproduced Ray Bradbury’s 1984 “A Salute to Superman” at Theinferior4. Paul rightly says, “I doubt this has seen the light of day in 35 years.”

(8) CLI-FI NEWS. “Amazon launches climate change sci-fi series about ‘possible tomorrows’”The Hill has the story.

Amazon Original Stories, an Amazon Publishing imprint, this week launched a sci-fi series about “possible tomorrows” in a United States ravaged by climate change.

The series, called “Warmer,” includes seven books that explore fictional stories about characters fighting to survive despite rising temperatures, floods, ice storms and rising sea levels.

“’Warmer’ is our first collection of topical fiction, an area where we plan to keep expanding next year with collections of socially-attuned suspense stories, tales of dating after #MeToo, and more,” Original Stories’ editorial director Julia Sommerfeld said in an interview with Publishing Perspectives.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 2, 1913 Burton Stephen Lancaster, Actor who played Dr. Paul Moreau in the 1977 film The Island of Dr. Moreau, which also featured genre favorite Michael York. His only other genre appearance is in Field of Dreams as Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham.
  • November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko, Artist and Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics, and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention that DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of the Marvel Comics superheroes Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove, all characters in use to this day, he was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990, and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • Born November 2, 1942 Stefanie Powers, 76, Actor whose best known genre role has been as the lead, April Dancer, in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., a spinoff from the original TV series which lasted one season. Other appearances include a crossover guest role on episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, the horror movies Someone Is Watching, The Astral Factor (aka Invisible Strangler), Ellery Queen: Don’t Look Behind You, and Fanatic, and the Transformers Bumblebee predecessor, Herbie Rides Again. She played aviation pioneer Beryl Markham in the movie A Shadow on the Sun.
  • Born November 2, 1949 Lois McMaster Bujold, 69, Writer and Fan who has won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record (not counting his Retro Hugo). Quite impressive that, especially given the multitudes of other awards her works have received. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series (aka The World of Five Gods), and the Sharing Knife series – the first two of which have won the Hugo Best Series Award. Starting out in fandom, she joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and with Lillian Stewart Carl, co-published StarDate, a Star Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster. To this day, she has great engagement with her fans through the blog she maintains on GoodReads. She has been Guest of Honor at dozens of conventions including the 2008 Worldcon, and she has been presented the Skylark Award for achievement in imaginative fiction.
  • Born November 2, 1952 David Andrews, 66, Actor probably best known in genre for his role as Claire Danes’ father the Army General in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. He also played Astronaut Pete Conrad in Apollo 13, and had roles in World War Z, Stealth, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cherry 2000, and Graveyard Shift.
  • Born November 2, 1957 Michael Bailey Smith, 61, Stuntman and Actor, he’s appeared in multitude of genre films and TV shows, including The Fantastic Four, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Seven Days, Roswell, Men In Black II, and the Emperor: Battle for Dune video game.
  • Born November 2, 1959 Peter Mullan, 59, Actor and Filmmaker from Scotland whose first genre role is in FairyTale: A True Story, which is based very loosely based on the story of the Cottingley Fairies (and which makes for interesting reading, if you have the time). He played Corban Yaxley in both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and is currently in a recurring role on the Westworld series as the James Delos character.
  • Born November 2, 1968 Samantha Ferris, 50, Actor from Canada who had starring role on the TV series The 4400, a recurring role as Supernatural, and guest roles in episodes of The New Addams Family, Stargate SG-1, V, First Wave, Smallville, The Collector, and Battlestar Galactica

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WHAT THEY HEAR. Something to keep in mind when you’re in New Zealand for the 2020 Worldcon –

(12) READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP. NASA has published a composite image of Bennu—the clearest look yet at the near-Earth asteroid that’s being visited in about a month. (Gizmodo: “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Captures Stunning View of Asteroid Bennu Ahead of Arrival”). Even with the fancy processing, Bennu is still only about 100 pixels wide.

More than two years after its launch, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has beamed back what the space agency is calling a “super-resolution” view of the asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s exciting mission to near-Earth asteroid 101955 Bennu, which the spacecraft is set to reach in about a month, to collect and bring back a sample to help scientists better understand the origins of the Solar System.

The close-up of Bennu was created with a series of images taken on October 29 and shared by the space agency earlier this week. NASA used eight images snapped by the spacecraft from roughly 205 miles away to create a super-clear composite image.

“The spacecraft was moving as it captured the images with the PolyCam camera, and Bennu rotated 1.2 degrees during the nearly one minute that elapsed between the first and the last snapshot,” NASA said this week. “The team used a super-resolution algorithm to combine the eight images and produce a higher resolution view of the asteroid. Bennu occupies about 100 pixels and is oriented with its north pole at the top of the image.”

(13) PROFESSORS PHONING IT IN. BBC announces “‘Hologram’ lecturers to teach students at Imperial College London”.

Imperial will initially limit its use to its Business School’s activities but expects the technology could eventually become common.

“The alternative is to use video-conferencing software but we believe these holograms have a much greater sense of presence,” Dr David Lefevre, director of Imperial’s Edtech Lab, told the BBC.

(14) SWAG. Steven Hager registered at World Fantasy Con and took a photo of his free bag of books.

Alma Katsu gave a peek at what’s inside –

(15) I’VE SEEN DEFACE BEFORE. Scott Edelman asks people to be on the lookout for the suspect –

(16) POST-APOCALYPTO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The final episode of Post-Apocalypto, an explicit animated series from rock duo Tenacious D (Jack Black & Kyle Gass) has been released and with it the same-named album (Billboard: “Tenacious D Premiere Their Hilarious ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ Album: Listen”). The animated series is hand drawn by Black and “follows the hilarious antics of two friends, voiced by Black and Gass, after the world is destroyed by an atomic bomb.”

The new album brings listeners on a sonic journey through the series and features Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on drums. Post-Apocalypto is the duo’s fourth LP and first release since 2012’s Rize of the Fenix.

Samples of all 21 tracks (some spoken dialog; some played/sung) of the album can be streamed at the Billboard article. Full disclosure: I tired the first few samples and didn’t much care for it, so I didn’t finish the samples. I also watched the first of the six animated episodes (“Hope”) and found it less than hilarious (eliciting a few mild chuckles at best). YMMV.

(17) X-NUMBER OF SHOPPING DAYS LEFT. Here’s a gift for the sff fans on your list: “Calamityware Mugs: Things Could Be Worse (Set of 4)”. (Artist Don Moyer has all kinds of appealing designs at Calamityware.)

No matter how bad your day is going, these beautiful porcelain mugs graciously remind you things could be much worse. You could also be chased by UFOs, pestered by pirates, or plagued by giant frogs.

One set of four identical 12-ounce (355 mL) porcelain mugs adorned with Don Moyer’s multi-calamity drawing. These mugs are made and decorated by the award-winning Kristoff Porcelain workshop in Poland using the traditional in-glaze technique. That means the image is slightly melted into the surface like the fine porcelain you see in museums.

…These porcelain mugs feature Don’s drawing of a traditional blue-willow paradise discombobulated by more than a dozen calamities, perils, and pests. You’ll find…
• hairy fiend
• giant frog
• pirates
• cephalopod
• unpleasant blob creature
• voracious sea monster
• UFOs
• agressive pterodactyls
• rambunctious robots
• zombie poodle
and other suspicious animals and shrubs.

(18) EXCLUSIVE CLUB. Your mission should you choose to accept it….

(19) A WARNING FROM SFWA.

(20) SHADOW OF DEATH. Shadow puppets tell the story in a one-hour Frankenstein at Public Theater, January 3-12 in New York.

Love, loss, and creation merge in unexpected ways in this thrilling classic gothic tale conceived by Manual Cinema. Stories of Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein, and his Monster expose how the forces of family, community, and education shape personhood—or destroy it by their absence.

Internationally-renowned multimedia company Manual Cinema stitches together the classic story of FRANKENSTEIN with Mary Shelley’s own biography to create an unexpected story about the beauty and horror of creation. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

Richard Adams (1920-2016) Made Me Want To Write

watership-down

By Ursula Vernon: There’s an origin story for fandom that goes like this—“I was a precocious reader and I was tired of the kid books and one day I picked up X and that changed my life and I never looked back.” This isn’t true for everybody, but it’s a common enough origin that it’s nearly a cliché. There I was and I got bit by radioactive speculative fiction.

The value of X changes in this story from person to person. Heinlein juveniles and Asimov and Lord of the Rings are popular. But for a good number of us, that book was Watership Down.

Richard Adams, the author, passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve. He was 96.

“It was the book that made me want to write,” I said into the phone, wiping my eyes. I never cry on the phone and the fact that I was now doing so infuriated me enough that I stopped. “It was the book that made me write fan-fic for the first time.”

“Me too,” sighed the author on the other end of the line. “That was me, too.”

I was nine years old and I read this story about rabbits and at the end, the book couldn’t be over. It had mattered too much. I knew, as nine-year-olds do, that things that mattered that much weren’t allowed to just end. There had to be more, and if there wasn’t, I would make there be more. I had no idea what fan-fic was, I had no idea it was even a thing, I just sat in front of the Notepad program on my Amiga 500 and began to savagely hunt and peck because it was important.

Richard Adams was 52 when he wrote Watership Down. He’d been telling a story to his daughters in the car, and they asked him to write it down. He would say later that some of the characters in the story, notably Hazel and Bigwig, were based on soldiers he served with in World War II.

Mention Watership Down now, and there’s about a fifty percent chance the person you’re talking to will say “That movie scared the crap out of me!” The animated version is legendary now, perhaps because adults of the time assumed a cartoon about bunnies would be great viewing for children and did not realize how lovingly animated the blood pouring from General Woundwort’s jaws would be. (I watched the movie approximately eleven thousand times as a child, and clearly was not among the ranks of the traumatized, although my grandmother, who had to rent it for me, definitely was.)

Adams wrote several other books—Shardik, Maia, and The Plague Dogs, (which even George R.R. Martin described as a gut punch of a book, and which I could not finish because it was flaying my heart open) but Watership Down is what people remember. It was straightforward, almost brutally simple, and the characters felt like animals, not like little humans in fur coats. It was never cute.

Write a book with talking animals in it these days and you can expect to be compared to Richard Adams. (Trust me on this one.) Very very few of us measure up, of course. That’s okay. If we had to meet those standards, we wouldn’t get very far. As a children’s book author, I’ve often tried to explain to assemblies of kids that we didn’t used to have all these books with talking animals—we had Watership Down and we liked it.* (Also, it was uphill in the snow to the library. Both ways. And you had to kill wolves with your library card.) They gaze at me with the polite pity of children who have grown up surrounded by books with talking animals, knowing that I am from some unimaginably ancient era, before the internet or the discovery of fire.

I suspect that the vast majority of authors of those books were once like me—nine years old, maybe, with Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig and Blackberry newly etched on their hearts, determined that the story would not end here.

I live on Twitter these days, which is either a great personal failing or just the way of the world, and I watched it fill up with remembrances, from authors of bestsellers and authors of small niche works and readers of both, from comic creators and artists and fans. From all of us who, to this day, remember every word of Lapine, who know what El-ahrairah’s name means and why his ears glow like starlight.

The story will go on.

*Okay, we also had Bambi, and if you read the book by Felix Salten, the death of Bambi’s mother is possibly the least traumatic part of it. I choose not to mention this to third-graders.

Pixel Scroll 4/2/16 Neither a Scroller nor a Pixel be; For Pixels Oft Loses Both Itself And Friend, And Scrolling Dulls The Edge of Filery

(1) SO SUE ME. TrekToday reports “Axanar Files Second Motion To Dismiss”.

For the second time, the lawyers working for Axanar have filed a motion to dismiss and they are again seeking clarification from Paramount Pictures and CBS Corporation regarding which copyrights the production has violated.

Axanar posted an official statement regarding the new motion, which was filed yesterday. “Yesterday, acting on behalf of both Axanar Productions and Producer Alec Peters, Winston & Strawn filed a Motion to Dismiss the first amended copyright complaint of CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures Corporation. The motion explains that in multiple respects, the deficiencies in CBS and Paramount‘s original complaint are still not sufficiently addressed in their amended filing, and that in some ways the amendments have created new defects.

“The motion provides examples as to how CBS and Paramount overreach in what they claim are elements protected under copyright, and fail to be specific as to exactly which copyrights have been infringed upon; and, in the case of the potential feature film Axanar claims of alleged copyright infringement cannot be made against a film that doesn’t yet exist….

The Axanar legal team has requested a May 9 hearing date on the motion to dismiss.

The full motion can be seen here.

(2) DIGGING DEEPER INTO GALAKTIKA. Anna Grace Carpenter documents “more bad behavior” by Galaktika Magazine, the Hungarian periodical charged with not paying a lot of people for their work.

This opened up a broader problem. By this point I was certain that the English-language stories were primarily being published without the consent or compensation of the original authors. (I have been able to confirm that work published as early as 2008 was done so without author knowledge or consent. Pintér spoke with an author whose work was published in 2006 without their consent. The full extent of the ongoing piracy is still uncertain.)

Tracking down the translators who were working for Galaktika during 2015 was a little more difficult than contacting the authors involved; all I had were the names in the bibliography and Google.

The first few I tried didn’t turn up anything immediately useful, but with a little more digging I was able to reach two of the translators who worked with Galaktika in 2015.  The first (who had translated nine stories over the course of the year) said simply that they were not responsible for the rights involved in the stories. They would receive a request from the publisher (likely Attila Németh – the fiction editor at Galaktika) to translate a specific story, and would return the work once they were done….

They told me the effort involved to get paid for their work simply became too much and they stopped working for Galaktika. (They also became aware, after the fact, that Polenth Blake’s short story – “Never the Same” (Strange Horizons Sep 8 2014) – had been taken without her permission because they contacted her about the translation.)

Another Hungarian author I spoke with said they had sold work to Galaktika in 2006 for which they had received pro-rates, but had since stopped working with the magazine due to (among other things) other authors they knew personally not being paid for their work. They said their feeling was that Hungarian authors and translators had a better chance of being paid because they could always go to the Galaktika offices to demand what was owed.

But the translator I spoke with said they had heard of other translators and Hungarian authors who had never been paid – a fact which was such common knowledge that when they told their friends about the work their first question was “And do they pay you?” They recounted calling István Burger “who was really cocky, like it was by his grace that I was allowed to work for them, because apparently it’s him who sends everyone their money. So after Back to the Future I had enough.”

It would seem that Galaktika’s bad behavior is not limited to the theft and piracy of English-language stories, but a deliberate and continuous pattern of behavior where they attempt to profit off the work of others while making as little compensation as possible to the authors and translators providing the material for the magazine.

(3) SAD BUNNIES. A British Board of Film Classification sachem says “Watership Down ‘would be rated PG today’”.

The U-rated 1978 film Watership Down would be classified PG were it released today, the new head of the British Board of Film Classification has said.

BBFC director David Austin told BBC Radio 5 live its violence was “arguably too strong” for it to be rated U now.

He added the film also contains language that would be “unacceptable” in a film rated U under 2016 criteria.

His comments followed complaints over the film’s content after it was aired on Channel 5 on Sunday.

“Well done to whoever at Channel 5 decided that Watership Down was a nice Easter Sunday afternoon film to show,” wrote one tweeter.

… The film – which features the voices of Sir John Hurt and the late Richard Briers – received a U rating on its initial release for its “very mild language, mild violence and threat”.

According to Austin, though, “standards were different then”. “The film has been a U for 38 years, but if it came in tomorrow it would not be,” he continued.

(4) PITY THE FOOL. The March 31 Scroll quoted a story about Gmail’s new “mic drop” feature. On April 1 the BBC reported, “Google April Fool Gmail button sparks backlash”.

Google has removed an April Fool’s Gmail button, which sent a comical animation to recipients, after reports of people getting into trouble at work.

The button appeared beside Gmail’s normal send button and allowed users to shut down an email thread by sending a gif of a Minion dropping a microphone.

However, a flurry of complaints about the button appeared on Google’s forums.

The firm has since withdrawn the feature and apologised.

Will R. swears, “For the record, I didn’t realize they were crazy enough to make this an actual button.” Well, if they did.

(5) MORE UNTIMELY FOOLISHNESS. Variety reported on April Fool’s Eve (or as you civilians say, March 31) that actor Tom Hiddleston delivered Chicago’s Fox32 weather report as Loki — “Tom Hiddleston Gives Weather Report, Blames Storm on Thor”.

Tom Hiddleston can add another credit to his resume: weatherman.

The “Night Manager” and “Avengers” actor dropped by a Chicago news station as Loki (though tragically not in costume) to update viewers on the terrible weather hitting the area this weekend. He blamed it all on his thunderous brother Thor, saying that his “brother from another mother’s been misbehaving.”

“The God of Thunder has brought his skill set to bare on the local weather,” Hiddleston added.

In other words, the storm-front means that “Chris Hemsworth has taken his hammer and smashed it on the surface of the sky and it’s going to rain a helluva lot,” the actor said….

Hiddleston and Hemsworth will reprise the feuding brothers onscreen again in “Thor: Ragnarok,” which is set for Nov. 3, 2017.

 

(6) LINES AT ANIME BOSTON. Smofnews has the story

Anime Boston has posted a long statement detailing the causes of excessive lines at their con last weekend. Some of the causes are ordinary problems, like misallocated staff and the blocked shortcut. Others included a registration system provided by a third party which was found to have a serious bug right before the con started*, and a decision between the local police and the facility to use metal detectors, with the con being a bit out of the loop. It goes to show that being bigger doesn’t necessarily mean having more control of things.

(7) JAMES H. BURNS CLIPPING FILE. The Franklin Square Bulletin, which has no internet presence, but is a decades-old weekly on the South Shore of Long Island, published an item about a favorite son:

“Franklin Square Columnist Nominated For Rondo Award”

Franklin Square resident James H. Burns, a long time writer and actor, has been nominated as “Best Columnist for 2015” at the Classic Horror Film Board, the popular website administered for over twenty years by David Colton, the just-retired Page One editor of USA TODAY. Jim’s citation is for his columns at FILE 770, itself a multi-award winning website devoted to the worlds of the fantastic. It’s fun to note  many of Jim’s articles actually deal with lost elements of growing up in Franklin Square, and other unique facets of life in our community!

The columns range from “World War II and a Lexicon in Time” to man’s first landing on another world (“The Moon at Midnight”); a look at Irish folklore (“And a Moonbeam to Charm You”) to prehistoric worlds (in “My Father and the Brontosaurs” (including dinosaurs at Falaise, and the World’s Fair) and “Sons of a Mesozoic Age” (with memories of the Franklin Square Theatre!); and reflections on his friendships with some of the James Bond filmmakers (“The 007 In  My Mind”) and other theatrical personnel (“Back to Another Future”).

The best column may be a special look at our Christmas and Chanukah traditions, “The Geography of Eden.”

Burns says, “The whole idea behind some of the articles was to capture certain moments in time, experiences common to many of us who grew up in the area, but which might otherwise be forgotten.”

Burns writes about the small “farm” that used to behind Valley Caterers in “Clanky!”, and takes a look at a Franklin Square Independence Day evening, and the dawn of the Space Age, in “On This, The Fourth.”  (Some of his mainstream work for CBS-NY.COM and NEWSDAY is also reflected in the nomination, as the features were excerpted at the website.)

You can vote for “The Rondo Awards” until April 10th, by going online to:   http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/topic/62030/s-ballot-Gasp-14th-Annual-Rondo-Hatton-Classic-Horror#.VvAfW-azkWp.

You can read some of  the articles by Googling, “James H. Burns,” File 770, or “James H. Burns,” CBS.

(8) ADRIENNE CORRI OBIT. BBC reports the death of actress Adrienne Corri on March 13, who played the rape victim in A Clockwork Orange, appeared in Hammer films, and featured in a Doctor Who (according to IMDB).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 2, 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey has its world premiere in Washington D.C.

(10) TODAY IN CURRENT EVENTS

April 2 is the second annual Planet of the Apes day.

The second annual gathering (this time both virtual and actual!) to celebrate the classic 1968 film and all its sequels, remakes and re-imaginings. We’re hosting a fan meetup event at the Idle Hour Cafe in North Hollywood, CA beginning at 5pm on Saturday, April 2nd [NOTE THE NEW DATE FOR EVENT] For those who can’t attend in person, we encourage fans in other cities to join us via Skype and Facebook, of course. More details will follow soon, so RSVP now to and note if you’re attending in person to give us a human-count. Mark this date in your calendar now and prepare to GO APE with the Damn Dirty Geeks!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • April 2, 1805 — Hans Christian Anderson.
  • April 2, 1908 — Buddy Ebsen. He missed appearing in the Wizard of Oz because the Tin Man’s makeup poisoned him. His Twilight Zone episode was written by Charles Beaumont.
  • April 2, 1914 — Sir Alec Guinness.

(12) FIFTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. The Traveler at Galactic Odyssey thinks Rod Serling should be doing better — “[April 2, 1961] Uprooting Itself (The Twilight Zone, Season 2, Episodes 17, 19, 20, 21”.

Twenty years ago, even ten (and zero in some places), science fiction was all about the twist ending.  Aliens would seed a dead planet with life only for it to turn out…that planet was EARTH!  Or folks might spend a story in a struggle to stay alive, only to find out THEY WERE ALREADY DEAD!  And so on.  Stories would usually end with a shock sentence, often with copious slammers (!!!)

But the genre matured.  Characters, writing, and fully explored concepts appeared.  These days, the “gimmick” often takes the back seat, facilitating rather than dominating the story.

The Twilight Zone, the science fiction/fantasy/horror anthology created by Rod Serling, is generally a cut above anything else on TV.  This includes its pale competitors like One Step Beyond and Way Out.  Unfortunately, several times in the first season, and more frequently in this, the second season, the show has aped the gimmick stories of print sf.  The result is a run of predictable, sub-par episodes.  There is light at the end of this tunnel, however – the most recent episodes have returned the focus to interesting characters and genuine drama.

(13) PUPPY WAR GAMES.

(14) OUR POET CHERRIOT. Kip W. confessed in a comment here.

This is just to say
I have eaten the Hugos
That you were saving
From destruction
Forgive me
They were just sitting there
Such sweetness
Such noms

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6 From the Mixed-Up Pixels of Mrs. Basil E. Frankscroller

(1) WITNESS FOR GOLLUM. Well-known Tolkien scholar Michael D.C. Drout is quoted in the New York Times’ “Is Gollum Good or Evil? Jail Term in Turkey Hinges on Answer”.

Michael D. C. Drout, an English professor at Wheaton College who edits an annual review of Tolkien’s works, is observing the situation from America. He said that those experts will be assessing the most complicated character in the English writer’s already complex world.

“I don’t think there’s any consensus that Gollum is evil,” Mr. Drout said in an interview. “He is the most tragic character in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ ”

Middle Earth, the place where Gollum began his life as a creature named Sméagol, is full of complex characters and allegiances. But a single gold ring, forged with a dark lord’s evil powers, has the power to rule them all. Sméagol catches a glimpse of the ring, murders for it, and possesses it for centuries until it is mislaid and found by another hobbit. Sméagol struggles to redeem himself, but his obsessive bloodthirst for the ring wins out. He accidentally destroys himself and the ring, but also saves Middle Earth in the process. (It is the hobbit hero Frodo who gets most of the credit.)

“The context is this: Gollum accidentally, not intentionally, saves the entire world,” Mr. Drout said.

Mr. Drout said that no one would’ve appreciated the existential debate over Gollum more than the author who created him. Painfully and pitifully, Sméagol almost succeeds in overcoming his evil side, but fails. It is a scene that is said to have upset Mr. Tolkien to the point of tears as he wrote it, Mr. Drout said.

“He didn’t see him as irredeemably evil,” he said of Mr. Tolkien. “He saw him as someone who had been destroyed by this evil ring.”

(2) COMIC CON IN INDIA. The fifth Delhi Comic Con drew an estimated 40,000 people last weekend.

Thousands of fans cheered and clicked pictures with their favorite comic characters Saturday at India’s annual comic book fest at a sprawling fairground in southeast New Delhi.

The fifth Delhi Comic Con had something for everyone who attended on this mild, wintry day. Die-hard fans came dressed as their favorite comic characters. Others crowded the more than 200 stalls selling comic books, graphic novels and merchandise on cartoon characters.

There was real live entertainment, as well.

Crowds of college students and young people cheered and roared as Kristian Nairn, best known for his role as Hodor in “Game of Thrones,” ascended a stage and addressed them. Nairn was mobbed as eager fans pushed to get themselves clicked with the star of the popular television series….

Indian mythological heroes, dressed in gaudy costumes with bejeweled crowns and sparkly clothes, added to the carnival atmosphere, ready to oblige fans with an autograph, a selfie or a photograph.

Indian comics have seen a revival in the last decade thanks to new funding and technologies for printing, animation, digitizing and distribution.

(3) STAR WARS REWATCH. A new installment of Michael J. Martinez’ Star Wars rewatch has been posted: ”Star Wars wayback machine: Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer)”.

I know this movie by heart. In fact, while in my 20s and firmly in my barfly life-stage, several friends and I recreated the entire movie over pints at the pub. We didn’t miss a line. There are few cultural touchstones so firmly rooted in our global community as this one.

But I’m now looking at it with fresh eyes, and asking myself…is it really any good? Does it stand up to the test of time and the grey clouds of cynicism accumulated with age?

Largely, yes. Enthusiastically, yes. Are there things that I’ve noticed now, years later, both good and bad? Absolutely. Is it dated? Sure, but not as bad as you think. But ultimately, I think it works. The resonance it has in our culture is well deserved.

(4) STANDLEE ON SMOFCON. Kevin Standlee is running short notes on his LiveJournal about this year’s SMOFcon.

At 4 PM, I went to the panel about administering the Hugo Awards. A year ago, a panel on this subject would have been lucky to draw more audience than panelists. This year, it was standing-room-only. Had we two hours rather than one to discuss how the Hugo Awards are administered, we could have filled it.

 

After breakfast with Linda Deneroff, Mo Starkey, and John Sapienza, I went to the first panel of the morning, presented by Andrew Adams based on work that René Walling has done to accumulate available demographic information about Worldcon members. The slide above shows the memberships over time, attending and supporting, both in absolute numbers (line) and percentage (colored bars) for the 2015 Worldcon, showing how the numbers changed over time. (The upper line and the upper colored section are supporting members; the lower are attending.) Sasquan really was different. There were many more very interesting charts in this presentation, and you can see some of them if you click through the photo above, but Andrew said he’d publish the entire slide deck later and asked us not to keep taking photos.

 

How to Call Out Other Conventions. This was a discussion about how and whether you should point out other groups’ mistakes, particularly the most egregious ones that could poison your convention’s relationship with hotel facilities. I found it very interesting listening to the stories behind the panel title, but I was so sleepy that I couldn’t concentrate that well.

(5) ASTRONAUTS SEND MESSAGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Sasquan GoH Kjell Lindgren is one of the astronauts in the video “Call to Earth: Astronauts Send a Message from Space to Global Leaders at #COP21 Urging Action on Climate Change”.

In less than three days, an outpouring of messages streamed in from astronauts around the world – eyewitnesses to profound changes to our planet they’ve seen first hand while in orbit. The messages were produced by members of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the professional association of flown astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts. ASE assists members to communicate their unique perspective of Earth to help stimulate humanity’s sense of responsibility for our home planet.

Also in the video was Wubbo Ockels, Ph.D. Space Shuttle, the first Dutch citizen in space, who said “Our Earth has Cancer and I have cancer too.” He was filmed the day before he died.

(6) BUCKELL. Tobias Buckell offers 28 solid ideas for finding focus in the task of writing.

There are two places to lose focus. One: yourself sitting down to do the work. Two: inside the work as the work itself loses focus. I’ll tackle number one, as I think that was what was being asked.

Caveat: I believe most writing advice is only as valuable to someone as it works. In other words, I believe all writing advice is a hack to get you to a finished draft and help you find tricks to get there. You try something. If it works, it goes in your toolbox. If it doesn’t, you mark it as not currently effective and move on….

11) Don’t tell anyone about what you’re writing about before sitting down to do it

12) Tell someone how cool what you’re writing about is right before sitting down to do it

I really like this pair. Obviously the answer is to use the alternative that helps you. Larry Niven always perfected his story ideas by explaining them to select people before putting them on paper. In contrast, if I tell somebody an idea, then I never feel the need to actually do the writing…

(7) WRIGHT. Someone showed John C. Wright Liu Cixin’s remarks about the Sad Puppies in Global Times, which triggered Wright into writing a post headlined “Liu Cixin to Sci Fi: Drop Dead”.

Within the same fortnight that David Hartwell announced that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer be a bust of Lovecraft, but instead be the head of someone whose sole qualification to represent all of fantasy literature is her skin color, Liu Cixin, the first chinaman ever to win a Hugo Award has publicly spit in the face of those of us who voted for him….

That means that this man is gullible enough to believe either what his translator, or Tor Books, or the mainstream news told him, namely, that we who voted for him were motivated by race-hatred against non-Whites. So we voted for a non-White because his book was good, not because his skin color was correct. Because we treated the award as if it were for the merit of science fiction story telling, not as if it were a political award granted to whatever most helped the far Left. We ignored race. By Morlock logic, that makes us racist.

I realize, my dear readers, that if you read THREE BODY PROBLEM, and weighed its merits, and in your honest judgment you thought it was the best SF novel of the year, and your judgment does not matter because you are not the correct sort of people to have opinions.

Even though your opinion in this one case agreed with our Leftist insect Overlords, the mere fact that the opinion was your taints it.

You are wrongfans.

(8) COLLECTING HEINLEIN. Black Gate’s John ONeill compares the collectible paperback market for science fiction’s Big Three – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – and comes away surprised by the demand for Heinlein.

Whatever your opinion on their relative merits, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Heinlein has endured longer than Asimov and Clarke… and virtually any other Twentieth Century genre writer except H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Philip K. Dick. Much of his work is still in print in mass market paperback today.

Even more impressively, Heinlein has stayed popular and in print with virtually no help from the film industry. With the notable exception of 1997’s Starship Troopers (and the much lesser-known films The Puppet Masters, from 1994, and Predestination, 2014), Heinlein has endured chiefly on his own steam.

(9) MORLEY REMEMBERED. Available online now and for the next few weeks is the BBC 4 radio production 1977, about the creation of the soundtrack for Watership Down.

In 1977 the bestselling children’s novel Watership Down was made into an animated film. Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queens music, had been hired as the film’s composer. But all was not well. Williamson, a notoriously difficult and complicated man, was under extreme pressure; it was the Queens jubilee year and he was over commissioned. When the film’s conductor, Marcus Dods, arrived looking for the film’s score he found to his horror that all that existed were two small sketches of music which amounted to no more than seven minutes of screen time. With an expensive orchestra and recording studio booked for the following week, the film’s future looked to be in jeopardy. In desperation he turned to the one person he knew could help; composer and arranger Angela Morley. But she, for her own reasons, was going to need some persuading…

Morley needed persuading because this would be her first high-profile composing job after transitioning to female. Morley later worked on other genre music projects, too, scoring for TV’s Wonder Woman, and assisting John Williams on several films including E.T.

(10) BULK SALES. Hey, John King Tarpinian saw rafts of these at his local CostCo and shot a photo.

GRRM at Costco by JKT COMP

Let Suvudu’s Shawn Speakman fill you in on the details —  “Gifts For the Geek – Day 6: George R. R. Martin leather Box Set”.

I’m always on the hunt for leather books!

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set fits that bill. It is a gorgeous representation of the bestselling series, perfect for that Game of Thrones fan in your life.

The books are not full-sized but instead of a traveling variety, easy to take with as well as looking beautiful on the shelf.

(11) EMPIRE PERIOD ARCHITECTURE. “Alamo Drafthouse Unveils ‘Star Wars’ Themed Movie Theater” at ScienceFiction.com.

If you happen to be curious about what it would be like to see a movie on the Death Star, you don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away. You can just head to Omaha, Nebraska. The Alamo Drafthouse just opened a Star Wars-themed cineplex that’s absolutely astounding.

There’s a 10-foot replica of the Death Star in the front lobby, and from the looks if it, you can purchase tickets at an Imperial Command center.

(12) SISTERS. The new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie Sisters will be released on the same day as The Force Awakens. How will they fight for their audience share? With a Star Wars trailer of their own called “Sisters – The Farce Awakens.”

(13) ALIENS DIG SECONDHAND SMOKE. Saturday Night Lives presents the Pentagon debriefing of three subjects of the first verified alien abduction.

An establishing shot of the Pentagon took us to a room where National Security Agency dudes Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan are interviewing the three participants in “the first verified alien abduction.” Cecily Strong and Gosling are all lah-dee-dah groovin’ on the cosmic beauty of the mind-expanding, I’ve-seen-God-and-all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow Kenny-G-type experience. Then there’s McKinnon, slumped in her chair in a K-Mart blouse and jeans, her hair a rat’s nest, cigarette in hand, relating a series of experiences that were much more, let’s say tactile, than teleological.

 

[Thanks to Petrea Mitchell, JJ, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Richard Briers (1934-2013)

British actor Richard Briers, who suffered from emphysema for many years, has died at the age of 79.

He gained early fame in a 70s British sitcom, The Good Life, and worked regularly thereafter. He had many sf/fantasy credits. In the movie Watership Down (1978) he voiced the role of Fiver, and in a later Watership Down tv series (1999-2001) played Captain Broom.

In 1987 he appeared in a four-part episode of Doctor Who, “ParadiseTowers.”

He was also Smee in Peter Pan (2003) – he appears in the trailer at 1:12 mark.

Briers was a close friend of Kenneth Branagh, who cast him in six of his films, notably Henry V (as Bardolph), Hamlet (as Polonius), Much Ado About Nothing (as Leonato) and in the non-Shakespearean Frankenstein (as Grandfather).

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]