2018 Westercon Finishes Its Business

Kevin Standlee sent the link to a playlist of videos of today’s Westercon Business Meeting in Denver, along with an abbreviated report of the results:

  • SeaTac, Washington won their uncontested Westercon 73 bid (2020).
  • Proposal to expand Westercon’s coverage to all of North America was postponed indefinitely (killed without a direct vote).
  • Proposal to require that bids provide at least one person at the site selection voting table passed and will be up for ratification in Utah.
  • The other two proposals on the agenda failed: One would have more precisely defined the use of members’ membership numbers, and the other attempted to precisely define what was meant by the words “first full day” of Westercon as used in the Bylaws.

“The meeting managed to get all of this done in just under 50 minutes,” writes Kevin, “which meant that they did not have to go to an ‘overflow’ session in the afternoon, much to everyone’s relief.”

Pixel Scroll 7/5/18 Trigger Scrollfile – Pixelman

(1) AVENGERS REASSEMBLE. The Society of Illustrators in New York will display “The Art of The Avengers and Other Heroes” from July 5 through October 20.

The Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is pleased to present an exhibition of original artwork showcasing characters from the Marvel Universe featuring the Avengers and other heroes. Artists include John Buscema, John Cassaday, Don Heck, Joe Jusko, Jack Kirby, George Perez, John Romita, Marie Severin, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor Smith, Jim Steranko, Herbe Trimpe, and others, on display from July 5th through October 20, 2018.

The exhibition includes vintage, original comic artwork from all years of Marvel Comics history. The selections illustrate how Marvel’s innovative creative teams initially led by legendary creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, kept the Marvel Universe evolving with the times.

(2) B&N EXEC GONE, BUT WHY? On July 3, Barnes and Noble announced it had fired CEO Demos Parneros for unspecified policy violations, adding that he would not receive any severance package. Publisher’s Weekly has the story.

In a brief statement released late Tuesday afternoon, the retailer said CEO Demos Parneros was terminated for “violations of the Company’s policies.” While not saying what policies Parneros violated, B&N said his termination “is not due to any disagreement with the Company regarding its financial reporting, policies, or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto.” In addition to being fired immediately, Parneros will not receive any severance, B&N said. B&N said Parneros’s removal was undertaken by its board of directors, who were advised by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

(3) CAUTION, I BRAKE FOR SINGULARITIES. When Daniel P. Dern read that “SpaceX delivers AI robot, ice cream, mice to space station” he immediately thought, “Boy, that sounds like a ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ tv episode waiting to happen…”

The International Space Station got its first robot with artificial intelligence Monday, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX’s capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.

The nearly 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes the round robot Cimon, pronounced Simon. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments. Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

(4) SMOFS ON THE AIR.  Bids for future Westercons, Worldcons, and NASFiCs gave presentations and answered questions at Westercon 71 in Denver on July 5.

Kevin Standlee sent a link to the YouTube playlist of videos where you can watch the appearances of representatives from the SeaTac in 2020 Westercon, Utah in 2019 NASFiC, New Zealand in 2020 Worldcon, and DC in 2021 Worldcon bids.

(5) RHYSLING AWARD FOLLOW-UP. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association press release about the winners of the 2018 Rhysling Awards, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra said:

My deep and personal congratulations to all of the winners and all of the nominees. The SFPA thanks everyone who nominated these poets and those who took the time to vote this year. Every year the awards are filled with great excitement, even as it is often deeply challenging to choose the best poem among so many styles and talented voices from around the world.

We’re looking forward to many more decades ahead of our members celebrating profound possibility, inquiry and imagination through verse.

First established in 1978, the Rhysling Award is now in its 40th year. Science Fiction fans may recognize the name. The Rhyslings were named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.” Rhysling’s skills were said to rival Rudyard Kipling’s. In real life, Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

The Rhysling Awards will be formally presented at DiversiCon 26 on Saturday, July 28th at 3:00pm in St. Paul (Bandana Square Best Western) by SFPA President, Bryan Thao Worra and other members of the SFPA executive committee. All members of the SF community are welcome to attend the ceremony. For scheduling at updates, visit www.diversicon.org.

(6) CALLING DESMOND MORRIS. How did Bambi’s distant ancestors bite the dust? Ars Technica turns to the professionals for an answer: “Archaeologists armed with spears demonstrate how Neanderthals hunted”.

Pleistocene CSI

At the Neumark-Nord site in Germany, Neanderthals 120,000 years ago hunted along the shores of a lake surrounded by dense forest. It’s a tough environment to make a living in, even for modern hunter-gatherers.  Here, archaeologists found two textbook examples of hunting-spear trauma. A fallow deer vertebra bore a circular wound from what Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues described as “a well-placed lethal injury” to the deer’s neck, not far from the trachea—probably from a spear thrust.

A pelvic bone from another fallow deer had a circular hole punched through the thinnest part of the bone, toward the front and close to the spine. The bone hadn’t begun to heal, so the injury, although likely not fatal in its own right, probably happened in the moments before death.

In micro-CT images, Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues could see that the wound had a tapered shape, wider on the outer face of the bone where the spear had entered. This pushed bone fragments inward, but things were narrower on the inner surface where the spear tip had come out the other side and pushed bone fragments outward. Such a clear injury is a rare find, and it offered Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues a chance to analyze Neanderthal hunting methods in detail.

(7) AND HAVING WRIT, MOVES ON. Someone corrected this blue plaque in Cambridge.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Basic Instructions (a rerun from 2011) how to bring science fiction characters back to life.

(9) FLIPSIDE. At Galactic Journey The Traveler fills in some missing info about his friend the Australian computer: “[July 4, 1963] Down Under to the Worlds of Men (Woomera, Part 2)”.

A few months ago I wrote about my friend Mary Whitehead, who works as an Experimental Officer in Australia. She recently wrote me back with some corrections, that I will pass on to you, in order not to mar the historical record.

For example, I said that Mary lived at Woomera, which was not the case. I was conflating the rocket testing range with the place where most of the computing work got done. She actually lives near the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE), which is located in Salisbury, a small town about 15 miles north of the big city of Adelaide. Woomera Rocket Range is in the isolated outback another 300 miles north of that.

In 1949, Mary, who studied mathematics in college, got a job in the Bomb Ballistics Section of the WRE. At that time, Mary was the only professional woman at Salisbury. Her first work was to lead a team of female Computers. At first, they used mechanical calculators like the noisy Friden’s and then Marchant’s like we used at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

(10) HE’S MAD. In “A new editor. A new home. But Mad magazine still takes sharp aim at Trump and Roseanne”, the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews MAD editor Bill Morrison, formerly with Bongo Comics, about how he is keeping his magazine fresh and topical after it moved to Los Angeles last year.

“We wanted to come up with a ‘summer fun’ cover and looked to things like beach parties, county fairs and amusement arcades for inspiration,” Morrison says of the cover illustrated by Mark Fredrickson. “Art director Suzy Hutchinson thought an image of [Mad mascot] Alfred playing Whac-A-Mole would be fun, and mocked up a surreal cover of Alfred whacking mini-versions of himself.

“Then,” the editor says, “we turned on the news and decided that taking a whack at some notorious celebrities would be not only fun, but therapeutic.”

(11) LITIGATION. Don Quixote is feeling better. “Terry Gilliam: Legal Battle Over ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Won’t Stop Film’s Release”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Terry Gilliam says the legal battle over the rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will not prevent the film’s long-awaited release.

Nearly a quarter of a century in the making, the film that premiered at Cannes and screened out of competition Wednesday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, has been dogged with challenges worthy of Cervante’s noble hero.

After false starts and many rewrites, ex-Monty Python member Gilliam finally completed the film only for a legal dispute with a now former Portuguese producer Paolo Branco to threaten to derail it.

Branco’s threats were sufficient for Amazon to pull out of a deal that would have ensured a 90-day cinematic release in the U.S. before it was available for streaming. Even Cannes chief Jerome Paillard was rumored to have had the jitters before its festival screening in May.

But that decision, Karlovy Vary’s screening and an upcoming competition screening at the Munich film festival appear to have strengthened the French distributors Kinology’s hand, despite a Paris court ruling last month granting the film’s rights to Branco.

“It is about to be released broadly in Holland and Belgium,” Gilliam told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “I think Cannes changed things. Paolo just went too far – ‘I will tell the festival not to show it’… It seems things are floating along nicely, although he did scare a lot of people away at one point.”

(12) NOT CANALS, BUT… From Nature: “Mars’s river valleys whisper of a rainy past”.

Fast-flowing waterways on ancient Mars carved river valleys much like those on modern Earth.

Although Mars is cold and dry today, channels on its surface look as if running water shaped them, leading researchers to think the planet was warm and wet in the past. But scientists have struggled to determine whether that water fell from the sky as rain or seeped upward from the ground.

To discern the water’s source, Hansjoerg Seybold at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and his colleagues analysed the geometry of Martian valley channels. The channels branch off at relatively narrow angles, as do waterways in arid landscapes on Earth, such as the US Southwest. More-humid landscapes with a lot of groundwater — the Amazon rainforest, for example — host river channels that branch at wider angles.

(13) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Born on the Fourth of July – no, not George M. Cohan. ScreenRant celebrated with its post: “Today is MCU Captain America’s 100th Birthday”.

We know Cap’s exact date of birth thanks to a scene early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, when pre-serum Steve Rogers attempts (not for the first time) to sign up for the army. The doctor dismisses him due to his long list of ailments, and in the process gives the audience a look at his medical records, which include his date of birth. Naturally, he was born on Independence Day.

The comic book version of Captain America, meanwhile, is actually 101 years old, having been born on July 4, 1917. His birth date is often incorrectly cited as being July 4, 1920, since that’s the date given on his Wikipedia page. However, The Adventures of Captain America #1 (the source for Wikipedia’s claim) states that he was born in 1917.

(14) JULY 4TH LEFTOVERS. NPR’s astronomical salute to the holiday: “LOOK: Hot, Young Stars Form ‘Celestial Fireworks'”.

If you squint, the image above bears a pretty strong resemblance to what you might see at a July 4 fireworks display.

But it’s actually, dare we say, far cooler. Or hotter: The image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is a cluster of “huge, hot” stars called NGC 3603, about 20,000 light years away in the constellation Carina.

The glittery image was captured in 2009, and NASA posted it on its website on the eve of today’s Independence Day celebrations. The swirling purple clouds of gas and dust, it says, are the “raw material for new star formation.”

(15) DISSERTATION DEFENDER. Congratulations to Shaun Duke, of Skiffy and Fanty, who earned his Doctorate today.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchock, JJ, Daniel P. Dern, Steven H Silver, Eric Franklin, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

2019 Westercon Names Gaming GoH


Westercon 72, to be held in Utah in 2019, has announced its Gaming Guest of Honor will be The GM Tim Mottishaw.

Professional Game Master (GM), author and podcaster Tim M., aka The GM Tim, hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As a contributor to the podcast network “The Commentist”, Tim participates in two of their podcasts, “Loose Endz” (Live play Dungeons & Dragons) and “Skyfire Comics” (Live play ICONs), and starting with Season 4 of the network’s flagship podcast “Roll to Hit” as the GM. You can find him on his website, http://thegmtim.ca or @thegmtim on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook Page.

As a professional GM, The GM Tim has become a go-to panelist and RPG Judge at GenCon, Winter Fantasy, and Goblins II Golems. He is an advocate for breaking down the aged beliefs and stereotypes associated with RPGs. as the Tabletop/RPG Coordinator for GaymerX West, and organizer of Quests & Queers (an LGBTQA2+ Game Night) Tim champions the belief that gaming should bring everyone together regardless of race, gender identification, and political views.

This year The GM Tim will be spending time in France for D&D in a Castle D&D in a Castle among other great Game Masters such as Jeremy Crawford, Elisa Teague, and Ruty Rutenberg.

Anyone with questions can find con representatives this week at Westercon 71 in Denver. They are running a fan table and hosting a party Friday Night at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center to promote Westercon 72, 1632 Mincon, and their upcoming NASFiC Bid.

Classics of S-F at Westercon 71

By John Hertz:  Westercon LXXI, combined with Myths & Legends Con VI, will be 4-8 July 2018 at Denver, Colorado: the Denver Tech Center Hyatt Regency Hotel.  We’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

In fact Denver has hosted three Worldcons, but this is its first Westercon.  Partly by way of unbreaking the circle, Denvention 3 chair Kent Bloom, and his wife Mary Morman, will be Fan Guests of Honor at Westercon LXXI.  But I digress.

I’m still with “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our three may be more interesting now than when first published.

I thought it only right that each should have something to do with myths and legends.

Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)

Three men who discover a country peopled only by women find “daring….  broad sisterly affection … fair-minded intelligence…. health and vigor … calmness of temper” (ch. 7).  It’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted.  How does she do it?

Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road (1963)

Is it science fiction?  If not, where does fantasy belong?  Samuel R. Delany called it “endlessly fascinating” and said it “maintains a delicacy, a bravura, and a joy”.  Is he a dope?  Why does Heinlein’s preface quote Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra? What happened to Herr Doktor Professor Gordon?  Is this (gasp) a feminist tract?

Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God (1964)

Centuries after Communism has inevitably prevailed on Earth, students follow other planets – but if they interfere, they’ll ruin the progress of historical materialism and bring about catastrophe.  How’s that for a Prime Directive?

Pixel Scroll 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

(1) ISSUES IN SFF REVIEWING. Several interesting threads about reviews and reviewing in sff. Each tweet is the jumping off point for the thread.

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

  • Also, Jason Sanford did an overview which includes numerous links to reviewers.

(2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. John Joseph Adams advises that the 2018 World Fantasy Awards nominations have opened and voting continues until May 31.

The World Fantasy Awards will be presented in Baltimore, MD during the World Fantasy Convention (Nov. 1-4). Deadline for nominating is and ballots must be received by May 31, 2018.

All registered members of the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, the 2017 World Fantasy Convention, and the 2018 event in Baltimore will be eligible to vote before the deadline. If you didn’t attend one of the previously mentioned World Fantasy conventions, and you don’t plan to attend this year, you can still nominate by purchasing a supporting membership.

Already registered? Go and nominate your favorite works! Voting information is available on the World Fantasy Convention 2018 website.

(3) CODE OF OMELAS. Ursula Vernon tells about the ones who stagger away…

(4) SUPER TRAFFIC MONITOR. The Caped Crusader says, “Don’t get run over!” Or something like that. From the BBC: “Lost footage of Batman star Adam West to be screened”. [Video]

Previously lost footage of Batman star Adam West teaching road safety will be screened for the first time in more than 50 years.

The clip from May 1967 of Batman teaching children the Kerb Drill will be shown to an audience of TV professionals and enthusiasts in Birmingham to kick-off a hunt for 100 missing television clips.

Kaleidoscope, which specialises in finding missing television footage, recently discovered the segment, which was never screened outside of the UK.

It will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday, as the company launches its list of the UK’s top 100 missing TV shows that industry professionals most want to see recovered.

This includes early episodes of Doctor Who featuring Mark Eden as Marco Polo, Top Of The Pops and The Avengers.

(5) UTAH WESTERCON NEWS. Westercon 72 (July 4-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah) has added Special Guest Eric Flint. Westercon also will host the 2019 1632 Minicon.

Eric Flint’s writing career began with the science fiction novel Mother of Demons. His alternate history novel 1632 has led to a long-running series with over thirty novels and anthologies in print. He’s also written many other science fiction and fantasy novels. He resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Along with Mr. Flint, we are also pleased to announce the 2019 1632 Minicon will be held in conjunction with Westercon 72. The minicon is the annual event that allows the 1632 fans and authors to get together. (Of course, in the case of 1632, fans and authors overlap substantially.) Each year the minicon is held “inside” a science fiction convention in a different part of the country. Many cons have agreed to host the minicon over the years. (Wording courtesy of https://1632.org )

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. A fresh trailer for Incredibles 2.

(7) TIN FOIL HATS FOR CATS. Did you know these were a thing? From the Archie McPhee catalog:

It’s a tin foil hat for conspiracy cats! They want to know what your cat is thinking. They want to control your cat’s thoughts. Not on our watch! We’ve made a Tin Foil Hat for Cats to make sure that kitty’s thoughts stay private. This mylar hat fits most cats, has a comfy felt lining and is held in place with an elastic strap. It even has holes for cat ears! Take that, Illuminati! Restores the dignity of your kitty. Very effective against MKUltra satellites, cat food company dream-insertion marketing, Guy Fieri, Soviet cat control protocols, psychic dogs, skull tapping, focused magnetic pulse and the neighbor’s labradoodle. Great for pictures! Fits most cats.

(8) BELL OBIT. Art Bell (1945-2018), the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM, died April 13. At its peak in popularity, Bells show was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly

(9) TOWFIK OBIT. Sindbad Sci-Fi eulogizes an influential Egyptian sf writer: “Remembering Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962 – 2018)”.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is no longer with us. After a period of prolonged illness, he died of a heart attack on 2 April 2018 in El-Demerdash hospital, Cairo, at the age of 55.

By day, Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik practised as a medical professor at Egypt’s Tanta University. Over time, he was an obsessively prolific writer who became the Arab world’s most prominent bestselling contemporary author of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror genres. He is claimed to have written over 500 titles of which one third is science fiction, including his Arabic translations of English Sci-Fi.

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

  • April 14, 1936 – Arlene Martel. She played Spock’s betrothed, co-starred with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits Demon with a Glass Hand written by Harlan Ellison plus a couple of Twilight Zone episodes.
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Peter Capaldi
  • Born April 14, 1977 — Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Born April 14, 1982 – Rachel Swirsky

(11) SWIRSKY CELEBRATED. Steven H Silver shares his appreciation in “Birthday Reviews: Rachel Swirsky’s ‘The Monster’s Million Faces’” at Black Gate.

Rachel Swirsky was born on April 14, 1982. To this point, her writing career has been focused on short stories, although in 2010 she co-edited the anthology People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Sean Wallace. Her stories have been collected in two volumes, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

(13) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. Charles Payseur tests a new batch of short fiction: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018”.

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

(14) ARE YOU KIDDING? The Deseret News reports “Former FBI director James Comey is a fan of Utah author Brandon Sanderson”.

In an interview with The New York Times Book Review “By the Book” section, Comey said he’s an avid reader of fiction, “almost always (reading) something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”

When asked what books readers would be surprised to find on his shelf, Comey answered with “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Red Rising series, by Pierce Brown.

(15) SFF HISTORY. Tom De Haven remembers what it was like to write for Byron Preiss in a memoir at Café Pinfold.

…I met Byron Preiss in the 1970s, near the start of both our careers—as I recall, it was at an art show that he’d curated in a small Manhattan gallery (somewhere up near Bloomingdale’s, I believe) that consisted of super-realistic, high-key paintings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys; don’t ask me why, although probably it was the first or second or third step in a scheme to produce a “Byron Preiss Book” sometime in the future). He was the most confident man I’d ever met. Soft spoken, slow moving, but confident as hell. Always well dressed.  Good clothes but they could get rumpled looking. For as long as I knew and saw him, and it was quite a while, Byron always had a hundred ideas for new projects and the sublime confidence they’d all make millions.

So far as I understood it, he worked like this: he’d pitch a slew of different ideas to a variety of book editors in New York City, ideas that (again, so far as I understood it) he’d dreamed up himself, ideas inspired by current trends in publishing or pop culture (U.S.S.A., for example, followed in the wake of the original Red Dawn movie). Whenever Byron got the go-aheads for specific packaging projects, he’d call up writers to do the actual writing. (He was also likely to call up cartoonists and illustrators since most of his books came illustrated. Later, when he was one of the first people to pionneer digital publishing, he probably called up programmers.)

For me, and no doubt for many other “midlist” authors like me, it was often a lifesaver to get a telephone call from Byron Preiss; he took a big cut of any advance, naturally, and the advances were never better than just okay, but when you were in-between books and fresh out of ideas, or in-between advances for novels of your own, or had a major house repair that you couldn’t afford, or there was a new baby on the way, you were glad—at least I was glad—for an offer from Byron….

(16) WILL ROBINSON REBOOTY. NPR’s Glen Weldon goes back and forth in “Will Robinson, Meet Danger; Danger, Will Robinson: The ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot”, props for competent women, points off for repetition.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

Over the course of its run, the focus of the show shifted from the family to that weaselly doctor. Looking back, it’s easy to see why: The family was a bunch of white-bread squares in matchy-matchy outfits, but the doctor – played with a sublimely mincing menace by Jonathan Harris, was a revelation. The character of Doctor Smith was vain, overdramatic (“Oh, the pain, the pain!”), selfish, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing – a campy, eminently hissable villain out of a Christmas panto, down to the clipped British accent (which was something the Bronx-born Harris sniffily affected).

(17) LOST ATTENTION. In contrast, the Boston Globe reviewer describes the robot and the series as “sleek, shiny, and boring”: “‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem” (may be passworded soon).

The casting is a problem, except in one case — Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. Molly Parker, a favorite of mine from “Deadwood” and “Swingtown,” is OK as the logic-and-science-loving Maureen — but she can be so much better than OK. The writers try to give her a personal storyline, since she and husband John, played sternly by Toby Stephens, are dealing with a troubled marriage. But it’s hard to care about the fate of their relationship because they’re so bland and heroic. The rest of the Robinsons are bland too, with Will (Maxwell Jenkins) a sweet but dramatically inert presence. I didn’t worry about their safety during all of their dangerous missions because I just didn’t care enough about them. TV’s original Robinson family wasn’t particularly exciting, either, but at least whimpering Jonathan Harris’s Dr. Smith brought enough camp and cowardice to keep things entertaining.

(18) SHARKE BITES. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller shares her picks: “A Shadow Clarke 2018 selection box – six exciting centres”. First, what you won’t find in her box:

This year, inevitably, my decision-making process is going to be more focused and more self-conscious, so I’ve laid out a few ground rules for myself. First, I have tried to avoid seeing what the other jurors are choosing, so this selection process has been conducted in isolation. Second, my Shadow Clarke to-read list isn’t going to feature anything I’ve already read, although there are some titles there I’d dearly like to discuss with the other jurors: Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, for example, which is very much my kind of novel – formally inventive, a challenging read, a great story. But Gnomon is among a handful of titles already touted as shoo-ins for the official Clarke shortlist, and I have also decided to avoid putting any of those on my to-read list. I’m going to read them anyway and at this stage I’d rather experiment in my reading and see what’s going on in sf. This may seem very perverse but I would remind you that this exercise is categorically not about attempting to second-guess the official shortlist. As such I have leeway to explore.

With those decisions made, things become both easier and more complicated. Critics and reviewers are mortals like the rest of the world, and we all have our prejudices. For example, as I’ve noted before, I dislike zombie novels and while I could test that prejudice by reading a zombie novel – there seems to be a prime candidate on the list – I’ve come to the conclusion that I am secure enough in my understanding of my active dislikes to avoid wasting everyone’s time by confronting them, because the chances of anything positive emerging from the encounter are unlikely.

(19) CALL FOR PAPERS. Sublime Cognition is a very catchy name for a conference:

(20) SOLO CARDS. I don’t think I covered this with the rest of the Denny’s Star Wars-themed advertising: “Solo: A Star Wars Story exclusive trading cards, available only at Denny’s!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Camestros Felapton, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 4/4/18 Scroll Me, Ray Pixelbury

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUNDRAISER. The SFWA charity auctions resume April 5. All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

Available items this month include:

  • Gerrold Manuscript: The Thing on the Shelf
  • Gerrold Manuscript: The Bag Lady
  • Stewie as Robin T-shirt
  • Cooking Out of This World
  • 13th Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror signed by Ellen Datlow Advance Reading Copy
  • Signed Advance Reading Copy The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • Autographed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman ARC
  • Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg ARC

The bidding will begin April 5 on — : Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

To learn more about the SFWA Givers Fund and what it supports, visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

(2) PIERCE BROWN IN HUNGARY. The author will be coming to the International Book Festival in Budpest, a visit heralded by the English-language profile — “Interview: Pierce Brown – April 2018”

Pierce Brown, author of Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star and Iron Gold, is going to visit Hungary soon, during the 25th International Book Festival Budapest. (You can read more about the visit and the related events here.)

Due to this occasion, we discussed sci-fi and writing, meritocracy and graphic novels with him: interview by Dominik Szabó. Many thanks to Ferenc Benk? for the translation. Photo by Joan Allen.

I imagine Iron Gold to be the elaboration on the most difficult questions of Morning Star (What happens after the fighting ends? Who will rebuild the world?), not to mention that the Hungarian title (Years of Chaos) holds out little hope… Am I right if I say that you’re not a writer who prefers “happily ever after”-stories?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I don’t enjoy happy endings. I think some stories resound because of their happy endings, while some stories would be disingenuous if they ended on anything less than a bitter note.

The Red Rising world has always been defined by its shades of grey, rather than its black and white depiction of conflict. That is why I thought it appropriate to explore the inconvenient questions of what happens after Morning Star.

(3) ART PIRACY DISCOVERED. Westercon 72 chair Kate Hatcher apologized for using some art at their publicity tables the vendor did not have rights to:

As chair of Westercon 72, and the NASFiC Bid for 2019, I need to right a wrong concerning artwork and our fan tables. It was brought to our attention a tapestry purchased through rosegal.com that we used as decoration, is a piece of artwork which was illegally obtained by the manufacturer, according to the artist. Vetting of the company was not enough. It is troubling on a level I can’t express, how widespread the image is in over 650 sites, and the depth that purchasing needs to be checked to protect artists worldwide.

What I can do is express my regret at using this image and remove it from our systems. I also reached out through ASFA (The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists) to the artist, Kazuhiko Nakamura, to let him know of the infraction and apologize as well for its use. I hope that the Science Fiction Community can continue to work together to inform and shut down pirated artwork, which has become a monumental problem far beyond what I understood.

I will continue with tools and information given me from ASFA and local artists to work better on this issue, inform our committee, and collaborate to protect artwork rights and expand awareness of this at our event (s).

(4) A SUIT AND TWO PAIR OF PANTS. If it’s successful, sue them. Variety reports “‘Stranger Things’ Creators Accused of Plagiarizing From ‘Montauk’ Short Film”. Of course, that’s because there tends to be no point in hiring lawyers to sue a money-loser.

The director of “Montauk,” a six-minute film about an incident on a Long Island beach, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the creators of “Stranger Things” of ripping off the idea.

Charlie Kessler says he made the short film in 2012 as a teaser for a feature film to be called “The Montauk Project.” He alleges that he pitched the idea to Matt and Ross Duffer, the co-creators of the Netflix sci-fi hit, when they met at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014. Kessler says the idea went nowhere at the time, but the Duffer brothers used it as the germ for “Stranger Things,” which debuted in 2016.

The Duffer brothers’ attorney, Alex Kohner, issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the claim “completely meritless.”

“He had no connection to the creation or development of ‘Stranger Things,’” Kohner wrote. “The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr. Kessler’s short film nor discussed any project with him. This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work.”

(5) JOEY YU SELECTED. Walter Jon Williams announced the winner of the Terran Prize.

The 2018 Terran Prize, founded by George R.R. Martin and consisting of a full tuition scholarship to the Taos Toolbox master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, has been awarded to Joey Yu.

Joey Yu was born in Taipei, educated in Vancouver, and now works in Shanghai as a freelance creator.  He is the author of several novels published in Chinese, including The Sunlight Trilogy of futuristic fantasy novels, The Mirrored Truth, and The Locus, which won the Excellence Award of the Taiwan Fantasy Foundation.

(6) LONE STAR. Nnedi Okorafor will appear at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, TX on April 10.

(7) OUT TO LAUNCH. Hear Sam J. Miller in conversation with N.K. Jemisin at Miller’s Blackfish City Book Launch in Brooklyn in April 24. The event will run from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at The Powerhouse Arena (28 Adams Street). Click for more information.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY IRON MAN

  • Born April 4 – Robert Downey, Jr.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) POSTCARD FROM MOUNT TBR. Lots of sf readers know how you feel:

(11) FEAST FOR THE EARS. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Polish off Portuguese in Providence” with Victor LaValle in episode 63 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Victor LaValle

My story “That Perilous Stuff” was up against his “The Ballad of Black Tom” for a Bram Stoker Award in the Long Fiction category last year, and it was such a powerful piece of work, I was sure he was going to win. Well, neither of us won, but that doesn’t make his story any less amazing. In fact, it’s so amazing AMC recently announced it’s planning a TV adaptation, with LaValle as co-executive producer. Among his critically acclaimed novels are Big Machine—which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel in 2009, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, plus an American Book Award in 2010—and The Changeling—which was selected as one of 2017’s ten best books by the New York Public Library.

We stole away on the Friday night of StokerCon for O Dinis, one of the many Portuguese restaurants in Rhode Island, which I’ve been told contains the largest Portuguese-American population in the United States. I was extremely impressed with the restaurant. The food was delicious, and our server took great care of us, making us feel like part of a family, as if we were in someone’s home, not a restaurant. It was my favorite food experience of the weekend, and I’ll definitely try to return the next time I’m in Providence. Their hospitality was much appreciated!

We discussed the lunch during which his editor and publisher helped make The Changeling a better book, the graphic novel which made him fall in love with the X-Men, which magazine sent him the best rejection letter he ever received, why reading Clive Barker’s “Midnight Meat Train” for the first time was glorious, the differing reactions his readers have depending on whether they come from genre or literary backgrounds, the unusual way a short story collection became his first publication, why he was so uncertain of his critically acclaimed “The Ballad of Black Tom” that he almost published it online for free, the reason so many writers are suddenly reassessing H. P. Lovecraft, how his graphic novel The Destroyer came to be, and much more.

(12) CONJUGATION. Today’s lesson:

(13) NEW FAKE NEWS TECH. You heard it yourself? Of course you did. “Can You Believe Your Own Ears? With New ‘Fake News’ Tech, Not Necessarily”.
Soon, we might not be able to believe our own ears.

New technologies for creating faked audio are evolving quickly in the era of active information campaigns and their use of “fake news.”

This has serious repercussions for politics: Influence-mongers could create fake clips of politicians to undermine them — or politicians could deny they said things they were really recorded saying, calling it fake audio.

A Montreal startup called Lyrebird has released a product which allows users to create an audio clip of anyone saying anything. Here’s the company using a fake clip of former President Barack Obama to market their technology.

(14) ANOTHER TOLKIEN BOOK? And speaking of…. This post is dated March 31, but some have cast doubt on it as an April Fool: The Tolkien Society reports another new Tolkien book is coming in August. For what it’s worth —

Keen-eyed Tolkien fans have discovered that some bookseller sites are advertising the release of a new Tolkien book later this year.

Two days ago the book was simply listed as Untitled, so there was some speculation amongst fans as to what the subject matter was, and if indeed it was a genuine new title.

Just as with Beren and Lúthien which was published on 1 June 2017, The Fall of Gondolin, is reported to be written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and edited by Christopher Tolkien.

The news has taken many people by surprise, because in the introduction of Beren and Lúthien, Christopher Tolkien gave a strong hint that that was likely to be his final contribution.

According to Amazon the book is reported (which they still list as Untitled) to be 304 pages in length, and is due to be published on 23 August 2018.  The book is advertised to be published both as a hardback and as a deluxe slipcased version.  Amazon also mentions the simultaneous publication of a large-type version.  However, Book Depository, which does include the name of the book, has 1 August as publication day.

(15) EXTREME EMPATHY. A real-world case of the peak of The Stars My Destination, “The Man with English”, etc.: “The doctor who really feels his patients’ pain”.

Joel Salinas rushes in to the hospital bathroom and throws up until he’s dry heaving. Washing his face, the third-year medical student stares at his pale reflection in the mirror and wills himself to live.

He doesn’t know it yet, but Salinas has a condition called mirror-touch synaesthesia. Any time he sees someone experience pain, or even just the sense of touch, his brain recreates the sensations in his own body. And on this day in 2008 he has just watched someone die.

“Someone had a cardiac arrest and it completely caught me off guard,” he says.

“I saw them getting chest compressions and I could feel my back on the linoleum floor and the compressions on my own chest. I felt the breathing tube scraping down the back of my throat.”

When the patient was declared dead 30 minutes later Salinas experienced an “eerie silence”.

(16) SAMPLING THE WARES. Rowan Atkinson returns in Johnny English Strikes Again. Teaser today, full trailer tomorrow.

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much loved accidental secret agent. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Bence Pinter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Westercon 70 Was Hot

By John Hertz:

Let’s see, if we can,
Xanadu on other worlds,
Xenogamously.

I wasn’t sure I could manage a 5-7-5-syllable acrostic about Westercon LXX.  You may think I didn’t.

Anyway I meant Coleridge’s wonderful poem (not particularly how he may have come to imagine it, nor the Raymond F. Jones story “Person from Porlock”, about the fellow who interrupted him, nor the strange Sturgeon story – “strange Sturgeon story” may be redundant).  “Xenogamy” – cross-fertilization – is from a conversation I had with Kevin Standlee a few years ago about what general-interest cons, like Westercon, are good for.

There are lots of special-interest cons these days.  At a general-interest con you meet people you didn’t know you wanted to meet.

When the chair of next year’s Westercon took the gavel during Closing Ceremonies she quoted that, gosh.

But we trespass upon chronology.

Westercon LXX “Conalope” was 1-4 July 2017 at the Mission Palms Hotel, Tempe, Arizona, combined with local Leprecon XLIII.  Attendance about 600; Art Show sales $5,100 by 31 artists.  The Hospitality Suite had a stuffed-toy jackalope; the newsletter was The Jackalopian.  It being the 70th-anniversary month of something or other in Roswell, New Mexico, just 400 miles away, slant-eyed oval heads were all over.

Author Guest of Honor, Connie Willis; Graphic Artist, Julie Dillon; Fans, Val & Ron Ontell; also Science, Henry Vanderbilt; Special Guests in honor of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Bjo & John Trimble; Filker (our home-made music, from a 1950s typo of “folk” that stuck), Tim Griffin; Local Author, Gini Koch; Local Artist, Tom Deadstuff; Special Artist, Larry Elmore; Toastmaster, Weston Ochse.

On the cover of the Program Book was my favorite Dillon piece in the Art Show, Skyward Bound, a muscular black man in a knee-length tunic, golden wings strapped to his arms, poised to fly from a cornice in the clouds.

When I say the con was hot I mean it was lively, engaging, fun.  You probably know it was also 110F.  Even in the noonday sun I saw folks basking happily outdoors.  I asked.  They liked it.  There’s diversity for you.

Sarah Clemens leading her Art Show tour said “I couldn’t think of anything more incongruous for dragons to do than pressing flowers.  They’re terrible at it.”  That’s how she painted them.  Also “I like art’s having some ambiguity.  It gives people room to play.”

Regency Dancing had its usual salad bowl (so these must be my salad days) of people in modern clothes, period costume, fantasy and science fiction.  The last four words also describe my adventures teaching folks all over the spectrum from knowing nothing to lots.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The Utah for 2019 Westercon party had Italian sodas.  Also mead from Hive Winery in Layton, where they’ll hold the con (they won).

At the WesternSFA party Craig Dyer gave a cordial reception.  He’d started distilling the best from life in 1988; he was well along by Westercon LVII when I was his Fan Guest of Honor (and where I saw Clemens’ superb “Stigmata”).

Hal Astell the Vice-Chair of LXX told me how well the multitudinous local groups were co-operating.

First Classics of S-F discussion, The Sword of Rhiannon (Leigh Brackett, 1949).  Rich McAllister said, a planetary romance head and shoulders above the rest.  Lin McAllister said it was like The Sea Hawk (M. Curtiz dir. 1940).  I said, look how naturally everything that has to happen, does happen.  Also we see not only “I’ll give them the technology, punish me for it” but why it might have been forbidden.

Enter, Led by a Bear

Art Show chief Annette Sexton-Ruiz taught me about mono silkscreens.  She said half the Show came from mail-ins.  I think it’s vital people can participate from a distance.  Kuma Bear’s tour had, as Lisa Hayes admitted, a simple but limited perspective.  Bears don’t like dogs; dogs fight bears.  Cats steal fish.  Kuma liked Tabitha Ladin’s “Blackberry Bounce” and the Steampunk (with railroad trains!) of an artist identified only as Voit.

Tabitha Ladin’s “Blackberry Bounce”

Leviathan – Voit

I was Chief Hall-Costume Judge; hall costumes, the term we evolved years ago, are the fantasy and science fiction clothes some people wear for strolling the halls.  Marjii Ellers used to call them daily wear from alternative worlds.  Helping me were Elaine Mami, Sandy Manning, Bjo Trimble.  Jim Manning brought me a cookie from Alaska.

On Sunday afternoon I went to “Accurate Science in Science Fiction”.  As usual, the part after the colon was the real title.  Before the colon was “It Doesn’t Work That Way”, which might have been – I’ll let you do it.  Ron Ontell offered the best remark, “I’m only annoyed when after setting out to do science they get it wrong.”

Mami was the Masquerade Director; judges, Bridget Landry, Ochse, Bruce Rowan, Bjo Trimble; workmanship judge, Jocelyn Winters.  Julie Padegimas won Best Novice and the Southwest Costumers’ Guild workmanship award for “Dr. Arson” in red, and boots, and swell make-up; her name meant arson in Lithuanian.

Julie Padegimas as “Dr. Arson.”  Photo credit: Steven Goldstein – Keyhole Productions Photography

Steven Goldstein / Keyhole Productions Photography on Facebook

Sandy Manning won Best Presentation (Novice) for “A Touch of Color”, of course mostly black; expert at running Masquerades, she’s competed little herself.  Randall Whitlock won Best Workmanship (Master) and Best in Show as part of the Cady Family Strange Fabric We-Can-Do-It Challenge, each element judged separately.  He had fine stage presence.

Monday, The Lights In the Sky Are Stars (Fredric Brown, 1953).  Ben Yalow had stopped me in the hotel lobby to say kind things about this set of three.  Stars may be Brown’s only straightforward SF.  And what a wallop!  Bill Green said the protagonist, Max Andrews, was a villain.  Or was he a tragic figure?

At the Star Trek 50th-anniversary party I was neither first nor last to tell the Trimbles “You’re responsible for this.”  John said it was the greatest case of Who knew?  At the Westercon LXXI party (Denver, Colorado) – I think – Rick Moen tried to explain the Norwegian languages Bokmål (in case your software doesn’t show it, that’s a volle, an a with a tiny ring over it) and Nynorsk.

In the Hospitality Suite, talk of Justinian II led me into conversation with Paul Honsinger, whom I hadn’t known I wanted to meet.  Filking; I heard “Water’s been found on the Moon” and the Monster’s Lullaby.

Tuesday, The Time Machine (H.G. Wells, 1895).  R-Laurraine Tutihasi said it’s widely read a hundred years later.  Laura Freas Beraha asked “Who is its intended audience?”  Rich McAllister said it argues that struggle makes intellect.  Linda Deneroff asked “What kind of struggle?”  I asked if the end meant the world of the middle had failed.

For “How Do We Get to the Stars?” Steve Howe brought a chart of energy against distance.  He dared to mention the Orion pulsed-fission model.  A drive using antimatter is conceivable; he’s written about it. Unless I was asleep – always possible – we didn’t get to ramscoops.  You don’t carry much fuel, but what if you arrive somewhere thin of interstellar dust?

The Dead Dog Party (until the last dog is – ) was fine for fireworks.  I recited a poem to Leslie Fish.  Sandra Childress, currently of Tucson – as Woody Bernardi said he was – had been coaching archery.  The hotel lobby had a ten-foot color-photo display from the Arizona State University School of Earth & Space Exploration (gosh) with Ceres, Vesta, Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons, and the Cassini, Dawn, Galileo, and New Horizons missions.  And so to bed.

Utah Wins 2019 Westercon Bid

Utah’s unopposed bid to host the 2019 Westercon won the site selection vote. The results were announced on July 2 at this year’s con in Tempe, Arizona.

Utah Fandom Organization, Inc. will host Westercon72 in Layton, UT with Kate Hatcher as chair. Their website will be online shortly

Kevin Standlee reports 43 votes were cast, with 4 No Preference. The 39 votes expressing a preference went to —

Utah 32
Tonopah NV 3
Reno NV 2
Hopland CA 1
“Both” 1

Westercon 72 has announced their guests of honor:

  • Author Guest of Honor: Jim Butcher
  • Artist Guest of Honor: Vincent Villafranca
  • Cosplay Guest of Honor: Kitty Krell
  • Fan Guests of Honor: Kevin Standlee, Lisa Hayes, and Kuma Bear

There is also a Utah for 2019 bid for the NASFiC, which if selected will be held in combination with Westercon 72.

Pixel Scroll 7/1/17 When A Scroll Loves A Pixel

(1) THE FANS CANNA STAND THE STRAIN. The show’s not on the air yet and they’re already bumping off beloved characters? Here’s what io9 is reporting: Game of Thrones Inspired Star Trek: Discovery to Kill More Main Characters”.

So, which characters are most likely to attend the Red Shirt Wedding? Some online speculation suggests that Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca will be the first to go, possibly after turning on his crew; below-the-line comments for almost any article on the show are full of fans betting on Lorca’s death. Even Vanity Fair has come out and said the dude is probably a dead man walking.

Didn’t this actually start with The Sopranos? 

(2) REBOOT AND REVIVAL. SyFy Wire reports two Jetsons projects are in the works, one animated, one live-action.

Following on the heels of the announcement that The Jetsons was orbiting Warner Bros.’ creative platter as a new animated feature film comes new info that the futuristic family will soon grace the small-screen airwaves in a fresh live-action adaptation.

It’d definitely be interesting to check out a live-action version of the sparkly shiny future of Astro City, and we look forward to seeing how this project develops. According to the announcement, this fresh take on The Jetsons will be set 100 years from now and will have a comedic edge similar to the classic ’60s cartoon.

Sources have confirmed that Warners has enlisted the assistance of Family Guy executive producer Gary Janetti to put the polish on this reboot and will start shopping the project around to interested broadcast stations and major cable networks next month. Janetti will also serve as an executive producer, with Forest Gump’s Robert Zemeckis and Castaway’s Jack Rapke.

(3) SHATNER. In The Truth Is in the Stars, William Shatner “sits down with scientists, innovators and celebrities to discuss how the optimism of ‘Star Trek’ influenced multiple generations.” The show is available on Netflix, and was aired a few months ago in Canada.

(4) SAN DIEGO HOLDS ONTO CON FOUR MORE YEARS. “Comic-Con is here to stay — through 2021” – the San Diego Union-Tribune has the story.

Despite dashed hopes for an expanded convention center, Comic-Con International has agreed to a new three-year contract that will keep the always sold-out pop culture gathering in San Diego through 2021.

The new three-year deal, announced Friday morning by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, hinged, as it has in previous contracts, on persuading local hotels to keep a lid on room rates over the term of the contract. The current contract, which will expire after next year’s show, covered two years and also included provisions for controlling what are always high room rates during the four-day July convention….

As much as hotel rates matter, so too does diminishing space for the Con, said Comic-Con International spokesman David Glanzer, noting that negotiations for the contract extension had been ongoing for a year.

“We have had to cap our attendance for many, many years so our income level is different and we have to be aware of that,” he said during a morning news conference outside the center. “But again, with the efforts of the mayor, the Tourism Authority, the hoteliers, we’re able to make what we have work.”

Glanzer, though, wasn’t willing to guarantee that the convention will always remain in San Diego.

“We’ve made it very, very clear we would love to stay here, but the truth of the matter is we have operated shows in Oakland, in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and in Anaheim,” he said. “If the worst thing were to happen, and that is we had to leave, we all can still live in San Diego and the convention can be in another city. That’s not what we want. And I’m glad we’re calling San Diego home for another three years.”

(5) THE BOOK OF TAFF. David Langford announces  TAFF Trip Report Anthology (unfinished reports) is available as a free download —

I’m rather pleased to have published this ebook at last on the TAFF freebies page, 130,000 words of chapters/fragments from abandoned TAFF reports and teaser chapters from several still in progress.

And at the TAFF freebies page you’ll also find some completed trip reports, as well as other items of a fanhistorical or mischievous bent.

(6) VISI-PHONE CALL FOR YOU. The Traveler from Galactic Journey will be calling from 1962 again on July 29, this time to discuss the Hugo Awards: “Take Two!  (Vote for the 1962 Hugos at the Galactic Journey Tele-Conference)”. Sign up so you can listen in and participate.

The 20th Annual WorldCon is coming, Labor Day Weekend, 1962.  Every year, attendees of this, the most prestigious science fiction convention, gather to choose the worthy creations of the prior year that will win the Hugo Award.

But if you can’t make it to Chicago, don’t worry.  You still get to vote.

Galactic Journey is putting on its second live Tele-Conference via Visi-Phone for the purpose of gathering as many fellow travelers together in one virtual place.  Our mission – to select the best novels, stories, films, etc. of 1961.  Maybe they’ll make the official World Con ballot, maybe they won’t.  Who cares?  It’s what we like that matters.  And if you’re not completely up on all the works of last year, check out our Galactic Stars nominations for 1961.

To participate in the Tele-Conference, send in your RSVP …and you’ll receive a ballot.  Then sit tight, and on July 29, 1962 at 11am, tune in to the broadcast.

(7) SIMULATING MARS. On July 20, Moon landing day, KPCC will host “Red-hot real estate —Living on Mars” in Pasadena.

How will humans survive on Mars? No food, no free oxygen and no stepping outside to enjoy the view without a spacesuit. Mars makes Antarctica look like a tropical resort. Nevertheless, scientists have found water below the surface, where life might be hiding. Engineers and scientists are seeking solutions that will enable people to visit the red planet as soon as the 2030s. Will a permanent station or colony follow? Or should Mars be off limits to all but robots?

Join Planetary Radio Live host Mat Kaplan for a fascinating conversation with Mars experts as the Planetary Society returns to KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum. We’ll also visit with the crew of the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), a group of men and women who are simulating an eight-month Mars excursion on a Hawaiian mountainside. Their experience is one more step toward turning Earthlings into Martians.

(8) PADDINGTON BEGINS. Radio Times in its June 28 issue reprints “Michael Bond: how Paddington Bear came to be”, which originally appeared when the movie Paddington came out in 2014.  He discusses how he started as a writer, how Paddington is really a refugee and how his parents would have dealt with refugees, and how an American told him, “I’m so used to Paddington being the name of a bear, it seems a funny name for a railway station.”

At the time I was a television cameraman with the BBC, so my writing had to be squeezed into days when I was off-duty. One such day found me sitting with a blank sheet of paper in my typewriter and not an idea in my head, only too well aware that the ball was in my court. Nobody else was going to put any words down for me.

Glancing round in search of inspiration my gaze came to rest on Paddington, who gave me a hard stare from the mantelpiece, and the muse struck, along with what was destined to become the equivalent of a literary catchphrase. Suppose a real live bear ended up at Paddington station? Where might it have sprung from, and why? If it had any sense it would find a quiet spot near the Lost Property Office and hope for the best.

I knew exactly how my own parents would react if they saw it, particularly if it had a label round its neck, like a refugee in the last war. There are few things sadder in life than a refugee. My mother wouldn’t have hesitated to give it a home, while my father, who was a civil servant to his fingertips, would have been less enthusiastic in case he was doing something against the law.

(9) SANDERS OBIT. William Sanders (1942-2017), an sf writer and former senior editor of the now defunct online magazine Helix SF, died June 30 reports Lawrence Watt-Evans.

He published several dozen short stories of which the most famous was “The Undiscovered” (Asimov’s Mar 1997), shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon awards, and winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. A second story, “Empire”, also won the Sidewise Award.

About his books the Wikipedia Wikipedia says:

Sanders has written several novels, including Journey to Fusang (1988), The Wild Blue and the Gray (1991) and The Ballad of Billy Badass & the Rose of Turkestan (1999). The first two are alternate histories with a humorous bent while the last is a fantasy novel.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 1, 1930 Halloween producer Moustapha Al Akkad is born in Aleppo, Syria

(11) WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU. Facebook drone in successful test flight.

Facebook has completed a second test of a solar-powered drone designed to bring internet access to remote parts of the world.

The drone – dubbed Aquila – flew for one hour and 46 minutes in Arizona.

On Aquila’s maiden voyage last summer, the autopilot system was confused by heavy wind and crash-landed.

This time, the drone flew at an altitude of 3,000ft, a long way from Facebook’s intended 60,000ft goal.

(12) WEAPONS HISTORY. Visiting Peenemünde: “The German village that changed the war”.

Peenemünde looks out across the mouth of the River Peene where it drifts into the Baltic Sea. In 1935, engineer Wernher von Braun pinpointed the village, which offered a 400km testing range off the German coast, as the perfect, secret place to develop and test rockets.

Frantic building work began on the world’s largest and most modern rearmament centre. About 12,000 people worked on the first-ever cruise missiles and fully functioning large-scale rockets at the site, which spanned an area of 25 sq km. The research and development carried out in Peenemünde was not only crucial to the course of the biggest war in history, but impacted the future of weapons of mass destruction, as well as space travel.

(13) FAKED NEWS. Spotting patch jobs: “The hidden signs that can reveal a fake photo”.

Research suggests that regardless of what you might think about your own abilities to spot a hoax, most of us are pretty bad at it. Farid, however, looks at photographs in a different way to most people. As a leading expert in digital forensics and image analysis, he scrutinises them for the almost imperceptible signs that suggest an image has been manipulated.

One trick he has picked up over time is to check the points of light in people’s eyes. “If you have two people standing next to each other in a photograph, then we will often see the reflection of the light source (such as the Sun or a camera flash) in their eyes,” he explains. “The location, size, and colour of this reflection tells us about the location, size, and colour of the light source. If these properties of the light source are not consistent, then the photo may be a composite.”

(14) WU CAMPAIGN. Hugo-winner Frank Wu endorses a candidate for Congress. And the cost of winning will not be insignificant.

My wife, Brianna, is running for US Congress.

Election night on 2016 was a disaster, bringing many of our worst fears to life. My wife Brianna Wu decided to take a stand. She’d worked her whole life to build a software company, but it all felt hollow with Trump in the White House. Marching wasn’t enough.  Protesting wasn’t enough. So, she decided to run for US Congress in Massachusetts District 8. I know it will be hard on our family, but I believe in her. Our country will not survive on its current path.

 

(15) THE SMOKING LAMP IS LIT. Alexandra Erin wrote a series of tweets about Anita Sarkeesian’s handling of YouTube harasser Carl Benjamin at VidCon. Click this tweet it and it will take you to the thread. Here are some excerpts:

(16) TODAY’S PRO HEALTH TIP. From John Scalzi at the Denver Comic Con.

(17) ADVANCE LOOK AT WESTERCON. If you want to get an early start on Westercon 70, happening next week in Tempe, AZ, the souvenir book is already available as a print-on-demand publication through Amazon. The “Look Inside” feature also lets you peek at random pages – I got an eyeful of the filk program schedule, for example. (I hope that’s curable.)

(18) DIMMER SWITCH. And the country goes eclipse-crazy…. NPR says “A Total Eclipse Will Sweep The U.S. In August, And People Are Going Nuts For It”.

The mayor of Hopkinsville, Ky., says his town has spent more than half a million dollars preparing for the event since learning 10 years ago that the area would be in the path of totality.

The town even has an eclipse coordinator.

“It’ll look like twilight outside. You’ll be able to see stars. Four planets will be visible — Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. You’ll notice the temperature drop about 5 to 10 degrees,” the coordinator, Brooke Jung, told the AP. “You’ll notice that animals will get a little disoriented. Birds will think that it’s nighttime and go in to roost. Some of the flowers and plants that close up at night will close up.”

“If it’s cloudy, then we’ll just have to deal with that reality as best we can and help people get to other locations,” Mayor Carter Hendricks told the AP. “But, if somehow we overprepare and we’re underwhelmed by the crowd size, that’s a big concern for me.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Frank Wu, Cat Eldridge, David Langford, Danny Sichel, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the mellifluous Steve Davidson.]