Pixel Scroll 9/1/18 Knives, Pixels, Files, Scrolls Of Energy Raved Against The Screens Of The Dentless

(1) SPIDER STORY. Worldcon 76 GoH Spider Robinson’s hometown paper profiled him before the convention: see “Spider Robinson’s star shines in Worldcon’s sci-fi universe” in the Bowne Island Undercurrent.

In the waning charge cycles of a 12-year-old MacBook Pro, Spider Robinson is typing out his autobiography.

“I’m writing the serious, logical case that I’m the luckiest [person] who’s ever lived,” he said.

“My luck ran out, but all luck does.”

It’s extraordinary that a man who lost both his wife and daughter prematurely can still count himself as lucky.

But Robinson concentrates on the joy that his family and career brought to his life.

The well-known science fiction writer, winner of three Hugo awards and a Nebula award, has lived on Bowen Island since 2001.

This week, Robinson is one of the guests of honour at Worldcon, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, this year held in San Jose.

(2) CANON FIRE. Foz Meadows’ “Trash and Treasure” column for The Book Smugglers does a recap on Worldcon 76, including thoughts inspired by the Author vs Fan Ownership panel there wasn’t enough time to unpack:

 …Afterwards, multiple audience members asked for my thoughts about the recent trend in claims by some fandom extremists that fans literally own the stories they love, whatever those stories might be, just by straight-up virtue of passion.

To give an example of two of the more toxic examples of this sense of fannish entitlement, taken from both ends of the fan-political spectrum, consider both the MRA Star Wars fans who tried to crowdsource funding for a new, lady-free version of The Last Jedi, and the lone Voltron: Legendary Defender fan who tried to blackmail Studio Mir into making their gay ship canon. In both cases, there’s a belief that wanting a personal, idealised, specific version of the narrative to exist in canon should not only trump the plans of the creators, but effectively constitute a shouted BECAUSE REASONS! override of their actual, legal ownership….

(3) MAINTAINING TWEET SILENCE. Is Wil Wheaton coming back to Twitter? Eh, no. He turned it off one day in August, for reasons he explains in “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it.” Then he thought he found another social media home, but the administrators wearied of the flood of complaints (see post for explanation) and he left there too.

As most of you know, I deactivated my Twitter account earlier this month. It had been a long time coming, for a whole host of reasons, but Twitter’s decision to be the only social network that gives Alex Jones a platform to spew hate, hurt innocent people, and incite violence was the final straw for me. But I haven’t regretted leaving for even one second. Having that endless stream of hate and anger and negativity in my pocket wasn’t good for me (and I don’t think it’s good for anyone, to be honest).

I was on Twitter from just about the very beginning. I think I’m in the first couple thousand accounts. I remember when it was a smallish group of people who wanted to have fun, make jokes, share information and tips on stuff that was interesting, and oh so many pictures of our pets. It was awesome.

It started to get toxic slowly at first, then all at once, starting with the misogynist dipshits who were behing the gate-which-shall-not-be-named. That was clearly a turning point for Twitter, and it never really recovered from it. I watched, in real time, as the site I loved turned into a right wing talk radio shouting match that made YouTube comments and CSPAN call-ins seem scholarly. We tried for a couple of years to fight back, to encourage Twitter to take a stand against bad actors (HA HA LIKE ME BECAUSE I AM A BAD ACTOR RIGHT YOU GOT ME HA HA HA). Twitter doesn’t care about how its users are affected by themselves, though. Twitter cares about growth and staying on the good side of President Shitler’s tantrums….

(4) LIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT. An event called KekCon set out to publicize itself at Dragon Con and drew criticism on social media. Lura Groen’s thread starts here.

Groen, who received at least one threat after tweeting her thread, reports the KekCon reps left Dragon Con.

(5) PRESCRIPTION FOR ENTERTAINMENT. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie thinks Filers may enjoy The Third Pill, which BBC Radio 4 has just put on iPlayer.

The Third Pill by James O’Neill

Greg works in children’s publishing but feels middle aged and out of touch. Then something pops up on his computer that will transform his life. A comedy about finding that elusive elixir of youth.

Surely it is a scam, or is it?  And if it works, what are the consequences….

(6) A STROLL DOWN MEMORY ROAD. “A graphic tale: the visual effects of Mad Max: Fury Road” is a nuts-and-bolts of how many of the shots were built over bits of reality. From 2015 – but may be news to you!

But the intense Namibian shoot, and further filming in Sydney, was only half the story in the creation of Fury Road’s insane stunt action and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Hundreds of visual effects artists, led by overall visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson, would spend considerable time crafting more than 2000 visual effects shots and helping to transform the exquisite photography into the final film that at times feels almost like a single car chase. Even more plate manipulation would also be carried out by colorist Eric Whipp, weaving in a distinctive graphic style for the film with detailed sky replacements and unique day for nights.

(7) A STACK OF REVIEWS, AND A STACK OF WAX. Links to the reviews below at Patti Abbott’s blog: “Friday’s Forgotten Books, August 31, 2018”.

  • Mark Baker. LOST LEGACY, Annette Dashofy
  • Yvette Banek, MURDER MAKES MISTAKES, George Bellairs
  • Les Blatt, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW, Elizabeth Daily
  • Bill Crider, EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP, David Markson
  • Kate Jackson at CrossExaminingCrime, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
  • Martin Edwards, THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Minette Marrin
  • Curtis Evans, THE MAN WITH TWO WIVES, “Patrick Quentin”
  • Rich Horton, THE FOUR FEATHERS, A. E. W. Mason
  • Jerry House, ELECTION DAY 2084, ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • George Kelley, THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS, 9th SERIES, T.E. Dikty and Earl Kemp
  • Margot Kinberg, FACES OF THE GONE, Brad Parks
  • Rob Kitchin, THE SHINING GIRLS, Lauren Beukes
  • Kate Laity, SWITZERLAND, Joanna Murray-Smith
  • Evan Lewis, WATERFRONT FISTS, Robert E. Howard
  • Steve Lewis, SEEING IS BELIEVING, Carter Dickson
  • Todd Mason, 1960s audio recordings: THE ZOO STORY, Edward Albee; NO EXIT, Jean-Paul Sartre (translated by Paul Bowles); LUV, Murray Schisgal; JUST SO STORIES, Rudyard Kipling
  • Matt Paust, LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, Colin Dexter
  • James Reasoner, THE WATER BEND FEUD, William MacLeod Raine
  • Richard Robinson, A FALL OF MOONDUST, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Kevin Tipple, BAD LITTLE FALLS, Paul Doiron
  • Tomcat, FLASHPOINT, John Russell Fearn
  • TracyK, DARK PASSAGE, David Goodis

Links to online archives of some of the recordings under discussion at Todd Mason’s post: “THE ZOO STORY, Edward Albee; NO EXIT, Jean-Paul Sartre (translated by Paul Bowles); LUV, Murray Schisgal; JUST SO STORIES, Rudyard Kipling”

(8) EC COMICS REMEMBERED. The Society of Illustrators in New York City will exhibit “Tales from the Crypt: The Revolutionary Art of MAD and EC Comics” from September 5 to October 27, 2018.

For the first time in NYC, an exhibition of the EC comic book art that struck fear in the hearts of arbiters of good taste will see the light of day. Featured are more than 70 large original comic book art pages by comic art masters. On display September 5 through October 27 in the Hall of Fame Gallery….

A big business in the fifties, as many as 100 million comic books were sold monthly. Although the superhero and funny animal titles were popular in the forties the appetite had turned to subjects that reflected current trends and interests.

Perhaps the most prominent comic book publisher at the time was Entertaining Comics (EC), led by William M. Gaines. An aspiring high school teacher, Gaines found himself the 25 year old head of a struggling publishing company when his father died in a boating accident. Gaines knew little about the industry but hired young, creative editor/artists Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman to test new formats and launched a broad slate of revolutionary titles covering science fiction, horror, crime, war, suspense and humor.

The EC team would later be called among the most talented assembly of comic book artists and writers the industry had ever seen. While quickly copied because of their unprecedented success, EC stories were markedly different from the competition. They were expertly illustrated, written for an intelligent audience and offered an unexpected twist ending. Critics would point to the violence depicted in the crime and horror titles or the mature nature of the story subjects. Gaines had assumed an intelligent audience comprised of young adults and older readers and not children who would otherwise find little meaning in the work.

Titles presented in the exhibit include Aces HighCrime Suspenstories, Crypt of Terror, Extra!, Haunt of Fear, Frontline Combat, Impact, Piracy, MAD, Two-Fisted Tales, Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science, Weird Science Fantasy, MAD 3-D art and more. Artists featured include Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Al Feldstein, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, B. Krigstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Marie Severin, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 1, 1902A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) is directed by Georges Méliès is released.
  • September 1, 1954Tobor the Great premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1885 – Edgar Rice Burroughs. Pulp writer (and no I’m not being disparaging with my use of that term) of many series of which I’ll single out the BarsoomPellucidar, Tarzan and Venus series.  Both Rudyard Kipling and Ray Bradbury considered him to be an influential and entertaining writer. Edgar Hamilton in an interview said once that “We sort of grew up on Edgar Rice Burroughs.”
  • Born September 1 — Diana Pleasance Case Gillon, 103. Only one novel, The Unsleep, but noted here for one hundred and three years old! Or at least that’s what three sources think.
  • Born September 1 – C.J. Cherryh, 76. Author of several major series set in different settings including the Alliance-Union universe, the Foreigner universe, the Russian stories, Heroes in Hell, the Fortress universe and Ealdwood. I think my favorites are the Russian stories, particularly Rusalka which was a Locus Fantasy Award nominee. Downbelow Station and Cyteen both won Hugo Awards as did her short story titled “Cassandra.”
  • Born September 1 – Timothy Zahn, 66. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything by him on and only know of him by his work in the Star Wars Universe. His other work appears largely to be milsf and largely on Baen Books.
  • Born September 1 – Brad Linaweaver. His Moon of Ice novella was a Nebula Award finalist and the novel length version won a Prometheus Award

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest decide it’s better to go with their second favorite name for a new invention.

(12) A COOKIE WITH MORE BITE TO IT. Oreo has introduced two new cookie flavors — wasabi and hot chicken wing. For now, they are only available in China.

(13) A LITTLE LIST. Kendall has read the comments here before and introduced this as “Another list for people to slam!”

Unbound Worlds, who posted a ‘100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time’ list a while back, now has a 100 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time list. As before, they’re clear they just asked staffers for top sci-fi recs…

Hey, there are a bunch of books on this list I like, and if I’ve read 41 of them, your count probably will be even higher.

(14) IT’S NOT EPIC BUT IT IS FANTASY. Camestros Felapton reviews Matt Groening’s new series for Netflix, Disenchantment.

A new series from Matt Groening of Simpsons and Futurama fame was bound to generate some excitement. Using an epic fantasy/fairytale faux-medieval setting sounds like a fun premise for the kind of genre subverting humour that worked for Futurama. I’m up to the last two episodes and well, it isn’t great. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t great.

There are two issues:

  • Quite a lot of Futurama wasn’t that great either but your brain edits in the best bits.
  • Disenchantment leans too much on standard jokes and tropes used in its predecessors, making the show feel less fresh and novel.

It gets better, mainly because the characters start working on you and sometimes because of basic plot development.

(15) DOCTORDONNA IS IN. Sometimes the unexpected happens at Dragon Con. Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia Stacey Abrams encountered actress Catherine Tate.

(16) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo found comic relief at the SFWA business meeting during Dragon Con.

(17) RUGRATS. Airboy notes, “There was a ‘weird news’ story on the front page of August 31’s Wall Street Journal on the odd carpet design of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Atlanta that is one of the DragonCon Hotels.  It had an odd carpet that was eventually removed due to age.  Some fans obsessed over it creating dresses, camo outfits, and eventually a group of them marched together in the annual DragonCon parade in downtown Atlanta.”

The article is online behind a paywall at the Wall Street Journal, “‘We’re Spending Our Hard-Earned Money to Dress Up Like Carpet.’ The Tight-Knit World of Rug Fans”.

These are the people who are obsessed with carpet and rug patterns in hotels, airports and office buildings; Dragon Con at the Marriott

Here’s a lot more material (free!) at the Dragon Con Eternal Members site: “Marriott Carpet Pattern”, including the famous photo of two prone cosplayers whose camo military uniforms blend almost perfectly with the rug.

(18) IN CASE YOU’RE CURIOUS. I’d never seen a photo of Dragon Con CEO Pat Henry before (not that they aren’t available). Writers of the Future’s John Goodwin posted a photo of them together.

He also posted a photo of the Writers of the Future panel with Contest judges Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Resnick and Jody Lynn Nye.

(19) MORE CON HEALTH ADVICE. In advance of this weekend’s PAX West convention, the Seattle’s Public Health Insider warned con crud is a thing: “Gaming, Cosplay, and Con Crud, Oh My!”

PAX West opens on Friday and will bring tens of thousands of people to downtown Seattle. Be prepared for legions of cosplayers and badge wearers in downtown, even if you aren’t attending.

So… what is “con crud”?

“Con crud” is an artificial term that refers to the common cold, mild flu, or other non-threatening illness that may strike towards the end of a convention, or soon after leaving. You might have also heard it called PAX pox, festival plague, or even nerd flu.

The balance of the post advises ways to avoid getting it. [Via Ron Oakes.]

(20) AIR APPARENT. Fixing a flat: “Astronauts tackle air leak on International Space Station”.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are having to deal with an air leak from a possible collision.

It has been traced to a small hole in a capsule that was used to deliver a new crew to the laboratory 400km (250 miles) above the Earth in June.

It is thought the damage was caused by the impact of a high-speed rocky fragment flying through space.

(21) BACK ON THE RAILS. BBC tells “How the Hogwarts Express was saved from a Welsh scrapyard”.

Emerging from the clouds of steam engulfing platform nine and three-quarters, the gleaming Hogwarts Express commands a special place in the hearts of Harry Potter fans.

Yet there was a time when the only place this engine could call home, was a south Wales scrapyard where it lay rotting among the hulks of a bygone era.

That is because the locomotive that entranced millions of Potter viewers and now sits proudly in Warner Brothers Studios, was once earmarked to be dismantled for the furnace.

Written off, abandoned and forgotten for 17 years, this lowly engine’s final destiny was originally far from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

(22) MORE THAN JUST ONLINE. “Telepresence: ‘My robot makes me feel like I haven’t been forgotten'”. – about helping shut-ins keep up with school.

Internet-connected robots that can stream audio and video are increasingly helping housebound sick children and elderly people keep in touch with teachers, family and friends, combating the scourge of isolation and loneliness.

Zoe Johnson, 16, hasn’t been to school since she was 12.

She went to the doctor in 2014 “with a bit of a sore throat”, and “somehow that became A&E [accident and emergency],” says her mother, Rachel Johnson.

(23) CASTING CONTROVERSIES. ScreenRant analyzes “10 Superhero Castings That Caused Fan Backlash.”

(24) ALMOST TIME. The House with a Clock in Its Walls – in theaters September 21.

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead. Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural). Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. And belated thanks to Joanna Rivers for an item the other day. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Harlan Ellison Tribute Roundup

Acclaimed speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison died today at the age of 84. Here is a selection of tributes and reactions posted in social media immediately following the announcement.

Stephen King

Samuel Delany on Facebook

Here’s the guy who started the notable part of my career. At the Tricon, he ran up to me and demand a story: I wrote it at the upcoming Milford–Aye and Gomorrah, which won the following year’s Nebula Award.

Patton Oswalt

Arthur Cover on Facebook

As most of the planet knows, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last night. I am seriously bummed. Little did I know when I bought the first volume of the paperback edition on Dangerous Visions when I was a sophomore at Tech did those two words would have such a profound impact on my life. Harlan was responsible for my first sale, to the mythical Last Dangerous Visions, at a Clarion Workshop.

He became a big brother figure to me, and I stayed at Ellison Wonderland on and off during the many times when I was *ahem* between places in LA. I knew his dog Abu, who used to sneak out of the house to get some Hungarian Goulash from a couple down the street. I knew his maid Yosondua, a wonderful person. And I missed meeting his mother by a couple of weeks. There’s so much to remember about him that I can barely stand it.

I met a whole bunch of interesting people thanks to him. Forget the famous ones like Erica Jong; thanks to him, I met Pam Zoline, author of “The Heat Death of the Universe.” We saw Borges together. Thanks to him, I discovered Mahler and Bruckner. I turned him on to Kalinnikov. We both read comics and he liked to impersonate the Hulk with the voice of Ronald Coleman. (Try it.) He tried to set me up with young women; usually I ignored them, thus driving him stinking bonkers. And that was just the 70s.

Then there’s that Dangerous Visions thing – a whole bunch of autograph parties just for starters. (And let’s not forget the time he streaked A Change of Hobbit.) He was immensely supportive throughout the entire frustrating, rewarding enterprise. True, he had his faults; usually I ignored them too. But the exception of my family and friends from Tazewell, I wouldn’t know any of you today were it not for his generosity and friendship. He was a helluva guy, and I have been proud to be his friend forever.

Barbara Hambly on Facebook

Just got word that my friend Harlan Ellison passed away last night. An amazing man to know. I knew he was very ill – he’d never really recovered from a stroke a couple of years ago. So I feel no surprise. Just very, very sad.

Michael Cassutt on Facebook

A talented writer for sure, a self-made writer for absolutely sure…. I so remember “Repent, Harlequin” and “On the Downhill Side” and THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER… and his columns that became THE GLASS TEAT, which sent me here to LA…. and more, the friendship that developed in the past decade or so, where I would pop up to Ellison Wonderland and have coffee with HE in his kitchen…. telling tales of George O. Smith and who else. I am actually bawling right now…..Harlan was my big brother and while his passing now, given his stroke three years back, is not a surprise…. it’ s still a shock.

Jaym Gates on Facebook

Harlan Ellison has died. My sympathies to those who will miss him. His voice was powerful, sometimes for good.

As a woman, I am not sad that there will be one less person who thinks it is funny to grope a woman on stage, and who was often used as a smoke screen for bad behavior by creative men.

Wil Wheaton on Twitter

Rest in Peace, Harlan. You always treated me like I was a person whose voice mattered, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

David Gerrold on Facebook

Harlan didn’t drink. I rarely drink.

Today I will drink.

Today I will toast a man who was a role model, a mentor, a critic, a friend — and ultimately my big brother.

He knew how much I loved him. I told him more than once.

The one thing he said about me that I cherish the most was shortly after I adopted Sean. He said, introducing me to someone else, “David Gerrold is the most courageous man I know.” Actually, it was Sean who needed the courage, but I understood what he was saying. He was acknowledging that I had finally grown up.

Harlan had a great public persona — but it was the private soul I loved the most. And goddammit, I’m going to miss that man.

Charles de Lint on Facebook

I’m very sad to have to write this but Harlan Ellison has passed away. He was a voice of reason, if somewhat contrary, and one of the best short story writers this field, or really any field, has known. He wore his “angry young man” persona lost after he was a young man but behind that bluster was a kind and generous man who would do anything for a friend. He will be greatly missed.

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Ellison’s voice was infectious and has a tendency to creep into his fans’ writing. When I was 19, I attended a writing workshop at a local convention taught by Ann Crispin, who told me that I would be pretty good writer once I stopped trying to write like Harlan Ellison (I went on to sell that very Ellisonian story to Pulphouse).

Harlan was one of my Clarion instructors in 1992. He taught us remotely, by speakerphone, from his hospital bed in LA where he was recovering from angioplasty. I had attended that year because I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn from Harlan Ellison, whom I held in highest regard (“hero worship” is not too strong a phrase to use here).

Ellison was not a good teacher (that year, at least). In fact, I think it’s safe to say that his instructional methods, which involved a combination of performative bullying and favorite-playing, were viewed as a disaster by all of my classmates, at least in hindsight.

Confronting the very real foibles of the object of my hero-worship was the beginning of a very important, long-running lesson whose curriculum I’m still working through: the ability to separate artists from art and the ability to understand the sins of people who’ve done wonderful things.

John Scalzi in the Los Angeles Times

…My second Harlan Ellison story was from 2011, the last time he was a finalist for the Nebula Award, given out by SFWA. Traditionally, SFWA contacts the Nebula finalists by phone to see if they’ll accept being on the ballot, and knowing of Harlan’s sometimes irascible phone manners, I was the one to call.

Harlan was not irascible. He wept into the phone. He had been ill, he said, and he wondered if what he was writing now still resonated and still mattered to people. To have his professional peers nominate him for one of the field’s most significant awards, he said, meant everything to him.

In that moment he wasn’t a giant of the field, a figure equally loved and loathed, a man about whom everyone had a story, or an opinion, about. He was simply a writer, happy to be in the company of, and remembered by, other writers.

Jeff VanderMeer on Facebook

He was a monumental personality who was influential in his day and to some extent today. He dove into the style and issues of his times with vigor, which sometimes makes his work feel dated but also resulted in classics that feel timeless. As an anthologist, he pushed boundaries in ways that, like his fiction, risked looking silly or actively terrible to modern audiences, but because of that also published a ton of innovative material and furthered the careers of writers who were quite experimental.

In erratic and sporadic fashion Ellison tended to be immensely helpful to some beginning writers and actively not helpful to others for no particular reason. Sometimes, I think, because he was too caught up in his mythology. Sometimes because he had a chip on his shoulder and was mercurial. I have mixed feelings about him for that reason, not to mention others, but there’s no denying he was a protean creative talent. I did learn to take risks in my writing from him, while also learning who I did not want to be as a teacher.

Richard Pini on Facebook

There are no words. He used them all anyway, and far better than most.

Robert Crais on Facebook

We lost Harlan Ellison today. The dedication to THE FIRST RULE reads as follows: “For my friend, Harlan Ellison, whose work, more than any other, brought me to this place.”. He cannot be replaced. He was a giant. He mattered.

David Brin on Facebook

Harlan was wickedly witty, profanely-provocative, yet generous to a fault. His penchant for skewering all authority would have got him strangled in any other human civilization, yet in this one he lived – honored – to 84… decades longer than he swore he would, much to our benefit with startling, rambunctious stories that will echo for ages.

John Hertz

I can’t remember who first remarked that “H.E.” stood equally for Harlan Ellison and High Explosive.

It also stands for His Excellency. Our H.E. being a whole-souled egalitarian would never have stood for that. But if one can break from the bonds of aristocratic associations – which in principle he was always for – it’s true.

I’m glad, not I hope without humility, that what pushed down the Montaigne piece was your notice of Brother Ellison’s death. Although Montaigne and the nature of zeal were two topics I never discussed with him, he might – and he did this sometimes – have approved.

David Doering

I feel a strong sense of loss with his passing. While he and I shared few opinions in common, I always appreciated his ability to stir up discussion.

To be clear, I did not have much personal interaction with Harlan over the years. The first tho was at a Worldcon in the 80s when he asked a large audience who had read a particular book he appreciated. Turned out that only he and I had done so. We chatted for a minute sharing comments, and, as a first encounter, I found him pleasant despite his reputation.

The other time was when Ray Bradbury suggested I call “his friend Harlan” about serving as a guest to LTUE. I can just imagine what must have gone through Harlan’s mind when he got a call from Utah, and from very Mormon BYU at that, asking about being a guest. (Had it happened, it would certainly have stirred things up here!) He was polite, straightforward, and nothing like his public “persona”. I came away appreciating him much more.

The last time was at a LASFS meeting at the old “Hooverville” building. He looked tired, but came to be with fen and seemed to have a good time. I’ll keep that image in my mind as I remember him.

Deadline.com“Harlan Ellison Dead: Legendary ‘Star Trek’, ‘A Boy And His Dog’ Sci-Fi Writer was 84”

Along with the Star Trek episode, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits installment “Demon with a Glass Hand” is widely considered among the best of its series. The bizarre, uncanny episode starred Robert Culp as a man who wakes with no memory but an apparently all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumors persisted that “Demon” inspired Terminator, though Ellison was quoted to have said, “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand,’ it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, ‘Soldier.’” According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Ellison once again sued and settled.

ComicBook.comSci-Fi Writer Harlan Ellison Dies At 84

…Ellison also crafted a script for the Batman ’66 television series that would’ve introduced Two-Face into the show’s canon, but it was never shot. The story recently was turned into a comic titled Batman ’66: The Lost Episode, which officially brings the character into the series.

Variety Harlan Ellison Dead: Sci-Fi Writer Was 84

…When he dealt with Hollywood, he fearlessly said exactly what he thought again and again — often causing fallout as a result. In the wake of the 1977 release of “Star Wars,” a Warner Bros. executive asked Ellison to adapt Isaac Asimov’s short story collection “I, Robot” for the bigscreen.

Ellison penned a script and met with studio chief Robert Shapiro to discuss it; when the author concluded that the executive was commenting on his work without having read it, Ellison claimed to have said to Shapiro that he had “the intellectual capacity of an artichoke.” Needless to say, Ellison was dropped from the project. Ellison’s work was ultimately published with permission of the studio, but the 2004 Will Smith film “I, Robot” was not based on the material Ellison wrote.

Perhaps Ellison’s most famous story not adapted for the screen was 1965’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” which celebrates civil disobedience against a repressive establishment. “Repent” is one of the most reprinted stories ever.

Shawn Crosby

[Editor’s note: The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his legend. In some of the worst cases he refused to have his name appear in the credits, and they aired with his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird shouldering the blame.]

Harlan’s death is accompanied by the passing of Cordwainer Bird, his writing partner of many years, described as “a short, choleric, self-possessed writer of mystery stories and science-fiction for television”, who “has no compunction about punching directors and producers two foot taller than himself right in the mouth.” Bird’s parents were Jason Bird and Rhonda Rassendyll, and he is nephew to The Shadow and a descendent of Leopold Bloom. As a member of the Wold Newton Family himself, Bird’s illustrious heritage has made him something of a fighter for justice in his own right.

Godspeed, gentlemen…

Mark Barsotti

A great voice silenced.

Until you pick up one of his books…

 

Pixel Scroll 6/4/18 A Pixel Came Down To File770, It Was Lookin’ For A Scroll To Steal

(1) FOLLOWING IN GODZILLA’S FOOTSTEPS. The Harvard Map Collection presents “Where Disaster Strikes: Modern Space and the Visualization of Destruction”.

Floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanoes, bombings, droughts, and even alien invasions: disaster can take many forms. And, although disasters are always felt dramatically, a disaster’s form and location impacts who records its effects and what forms those records take. “Where Disaster Strikes” investigates the intertwined categories of modern space and disaster through the Harvard Map Collection’s maps of large destructive events from the London Fire to the present.

The map collection includes a Godzilla feature. Stacy Lambe figured out how many times stomped all the cities. Then Danielle Brown mapped them. (I can’t get the link to function here, but go to the Harvard Map Collection link and click “30” on the left sidebar, that worked for me.)

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Safe Surrender” by Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, is this month’s entry in the Future Tense series that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. The series is offered through a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

The laws are so old that they were written with fully human children in mind. Before first contact, two humans might make a fully Terran baby and still abandon it, because they didn’t have enough money or because one of their ancient tribal honor codes forbid them from breeding. It still happens, but nobody talks about it. Humans like to forget what they used to be. Now, safe surrender sites are known as places where hemis get dumped. Hemis like me.

It was published along with a response essay “Oppression of the Future in ‘Safe Surrender’ by tech policy lawyer Laura Moy.

As technology advances, will we use it to promote equity, or to serve and preserve systems of oppression? This question is central to Meg Elison’s “Safe Surrender,” which explores a future in which humans are in regular contact with extraterrestrials called Pinners, who exchange diplomats, trade goods, and even interbreed with Earthlings. In “Safe Surrender,” a grown-up human-Pinner hybrid (a “hemi”) struggles to find their identity and make sense of their origin—surrendered at birth by a mother who did not want or perhaps felt she could not care for or protect a hybrid infant.

In Elison’s not–totally foreign, not-so-distant future, the racial prejudices, inequities, and oppression that plague humankind today map easily onto extraterrestrials….

(3) POOHOGRAPHY. Who needs $200,000 when you can have this map? Atlas Obscura knows where you can find it: “For Sale: A Winsome Map Showing the Way to Pooh Corner”.

But all the adventures of a boy and his bear started here, alongside illustrations by the English artist E. H. Shepard. In its opening pages, a map shows the way around the Hundred Acre Wood, sometimes stylized as “100 Aker Wood.” There’s “Where the Woozle Wasnt” and the route to the North Pole. Now, for the first time in nearly 50 years, the original map is on sale at the British auctioneer Sotheby’s, along with four other illustrations. They are expected to fetch as much as $580,000 together when they go on sale at the auction house in July, the BBC reported.

It’s a lot of money for a map—but then, this isn’t any old map.

(4) MEXICANX. John Picacio introduces the next set of MexicanX Initiative guests who’ll be coming to Worldcon 76.

(5) MERRY MONTH OF MAY. Eric Wong sent along Rocket Stack Rank’s May ratings highlights.

  1. New Prolific Reviewer Added

Gary Tognetti @ 1000 Year Plan

  1. Most-Recommended Stories

Here are 15 stories (out of 72) recommended by at least 2 out of 4 prolific reviewers who post at the end of each month (GTognetti, JMcGregor, RSR, SFRevu). That’s 21% of 72 stories, while 56% (40 stories) got no recs from any of the 4 prolific reviewers.

Novellas (click for story & review links)

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells 1h:48m Tor Novella 05/08/18

Bubble and Squeak by David Gerrold & Ctein 1h:50m Asimov’s 05?06|18

Novelettes (click for story & review links)

The Thought That Counts by K.J. Parker 28m BCS 250
Crash Site by Brian Trent 29m F&SF 05?06|18
Inquisitive by Pip Coen2 25m F&SF 05?06|18
Fleeing Oslyge by Sally Gwylan 30m Clarkesworld 140
Angry Kings by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam 25m BCS 250
Argent and Sable by Matthew Hughes 47m F&SF 05?06|18
Hubpoint Of No Return by Christopher L. Bennett 41m Analog 05?06|18

Short Stories (click for story & review links)

A Green Moon Problem by Jane Lindskold 20m Lightspeed 96
Unstoppable by Gardner Dozois 19m F&SF 05?06|18
Blessings by Naomi Novik 07m Uncanny 22
Cold Blue Sky by JE Bates2 13m Apex 108
Godmeat by Martin Cahill 23m Lightspeed 96
While You Sleep, Computer Mice™ Earn Their Keep by Buzz Dixon 07m Analog 05?06|18

(Sometimes RHorton’s recs are included if Locus Magazine releases his latest column online by the end of the month. The recommendations from the 5 major awards and 4 major SF/F anthologies are typically available within 5 months after the calendar year and are shown in the 2018 YTD.)

  1. Most-Recommended Magazines

Every BCS and Lightspeed story got a recommendation from at least 1 out of 4 prolific reviewers. Every magazine got at least 1 story rec except Strange Horizons.

(All 11 magazines included in RSR Monthly & YTD ratings are covered by at least 3 of the 4 prolific monthly reviewers, except for Tor Novellas.)

  1. Stories by New Writers

Stories by 2019 Campbell Award-eligible writers, grouped by year of eligibility.

Year 1 Eligible: 5 stories, none recommended.

Year 2 Eligible: 6 stories, 3 recommended.

Coen, Pip Inquisitive 25m F&SF 05?06|18
Bates, JE Cold Blue Sky 13m Apex 108
Falowo, Dare Segun Ku’gbo 19m F&SF 05?06|18

The remaining 61 stories were written by authors whose first pro SF/F story was before 2017.

(6) BEING INVENTIVE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett says “Let’s consider how to add a little local colour to steampunk fiction with some interesting but failed nineteenth century inventions. Necessity might be the mother of invention but that doesn’t mean all her children are born equal.” — “With A Strange Device”.

Putting some steampunk junk in the trunk.

I’ve long been a fan of Jack Vance’s fiction for a number of reasons. One of these is the way he liked to throw quirky details into his stories. There were often no reason for these details as they weren’t designed to advance the plot (well okay, very occasionally yes they did but usually no they didn’t). Mostly Vance just liked to add a little local colour to the fictional landscapes his narrative was passing through. A little local colour, as actually exists in the real world, is something far too rare in science fiction of any era.

(7) SAURON’S DIGS. Olga Polomoshnova pieces together a description of “The tower of adamant” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Barad-dûr was built in the Second Age when Sauron chose Mordor as his abode. He began the construction of the Dark Tower in c. 1000 SA and finished it in c. 1600 SA — the same year when the One Ring was forged in the fires of Orodruin. The foundations of Barad-dûr were thus strengthened with the power of the One Ring, so the tower was virtually indestructible by any force and could stand as long as the Ring lasted. After the War of the Last Alliance and the seven-year siege of Barad-dûr its foundations remained, though the tower itself was destroyed, and thus the Dark Tower rose again in the Third Age.

The appearance of Barad-dûr is left rather vague by Tolkien. Readers can catch only glimpses of the Dark Tower by means of visions or looks from afar, without many details provided. Those glimpses offer a very uncertain picture, as if just allowing a peek at the mighty tower: we look at it quickly and then withdraw our glance so that the never-sleeping watch of Sauron does not catch us at looking at his citadel longer than it is necessary.

The main impression that can be gathered from those fragmentary glimpses is that of hopelessness and terror: the Dark Tower is huge and impregnable. In this case less is more, and the lack of detailed descriptions does the trick, but one thing is certain: we are dealing with a very serious stronghold here.

(8) THE QUIET MAN. Jon Del Arroz hasn’t been tweeting for the last few days. Part of it is because he was officiating a wedding for a friend, but the main reason is that his Twitter account was frozen. JDA says I have to get the details from the response piece he has written for The Federalist….

(9) VON TIESENHAUSEN OBIT. WAFF-TV has the story: “‘Father of the Lunar Rover’ dies at 104”

Georg von Tiesenhausen, who is dubbed the “Father of the Lunar Rover,” has died at age 104.

Tiesenhausen was the last living rocket scientist who came to the U.S. under Operation Paperclip with Wernher von Braun at jump-start the U.S. space program.

(10) PHIPPS OBIT. Actor William Phipps, who had a huge number of genre TV and movie roles on his resume, died June 1—The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…He starred as a young poet, one of the five people on Earth to survive a nuclear explosion, in Five (1951), then fought martians in The War of the Worlds (1953) and Invaders From Mars (1953), a giant spider in Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and the Abominable Snowman in The Snow Creature (1954).

Walt Disney himself heard Phipps’ audition tape and hired him to play Prince Charming opposite Ilene Woods in Cinderella (1950). The actor said he was paid about $100 for two hours’ work on an afternoon in January 1949….

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 4, 1982 Poltergeist premiered.
  • June 4, 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan debuted in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 4 — Angelina Jolie, actress in the Tombraider films and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock says Rhymes With Orange believes they could never remake Wizard of Oz quite the same way today.

(14) JIM HENSON. “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” is on display at LA’s Skirball Cultural Center from June 1-September 2.

Immerse yourself in the imaginative world of Jim Henson (1936–1990) and discover his groundbreaking approach to puppetry and transformative impact on contemporary culture.

Featuring more than 100 objects and twenty-five historic puppets—including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Ernie and Bert, Grover, and other popular favorites—The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited illuminates Henson’s unique contributions to the moving image. Along with a talented team of designers, performers, and writers, Henson created an unparalleled body of work that continues to delight and inspire people of all ages to create a kinder and gentler world.

Explore Henson’s enduringly popular productions—from The Muppet Show, the Muppet movies, and Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth—through character sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, costumes, film and television clips, and behind-the-scenes footage. Then design your own puppet and try your hand at puppeteering in this highly interactive exhibition.

Highlights include:

  • Kermit the Frog puppet from 1978
  • Handwritten scripts from Henson’s first television series, Sam and Friends (1955–1961)
  • A clip from Henson’s Academy Award–nominated experimental short film Time Piece (1965)
  • Puppets from Sesame Street (1969– ), including Grover, Ernie and Bert, and Count von Count
  • Section on The Muppet Show (1976–1981), including puppets of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Scooter, as well as material from the Muppets’ transition to the big screen, such as set models and storyboards
  • Jen and Kira puppets from The Dark Crystal (1982)
  • Red Fraggle from Fraggle Rock (1983–1987), which celebrates its thirty-fifth anniversary this year
  • Jareth’s and Sarah’s ballroom costumes from Labyrinth (1986)

(15) BEGONE, I HAVE NO POWER HERE. NPR reports “‘Sherlock’ Star Benedict Cumberbatch Saves Cyclist From Muggers” — no mystic powers needed.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays detective Sherlock Holmes in the television series Sherlock, foiled an attempted robbery by fighting off a gang of muggers in London. The attack occurred near his fictional character’s home on Baker Street.

(16) CONCAROLINAS. Yesterday’s Scroll reported the terms under which David Weber agreed to be a ConCarolinas special guest next year, his characterization of those who had issues with Ringo’s selection as a special guest, and the statement delivered by the ConCarolinas chair at closing ceremonies of this year’s con (wording negotiated with Weber).

There has been mixed reaction to the ConCarolinas statement.

So, apparently, ConCarolinas committee gave a closing statement where they doubled-down on being open to having special guests who are bigots, racists, sexists, etc claiming the onus is on the people these hate-mongers target to be willing to sit in a room with them as a sign of tolerance and mutual respect.

Listen, it’s not on me to be willing to tolerate someone who thinks I shouldn’t even be in the room or any group who supports bigotry, racism, misogyny, or hate speech.

Now, for those of you who gave ConCarolinas a pass this year and went anyway they’ve made where they stand abundantly clear. You either support that or you don’t – there’s no middle ground. Don’t think you can continue to support it and be my “friend”. Pick a side. You’re either with the people who support giving a platform to hate or you’re an ally of the marginalized people those bigots/racists/misogynists would like to see excluded from SFF and fandom. Don’t expect me to be ok with it.

My thanks to those allies who made a principled stand and withdrew from ConCarolinas, both guests and attendees. I appreciate your willingness to take a stand for what’s right and not try to parse your participation down to some justification for continuing to support people who CLEARLY want to be in a position to give a platform to people who would like nothing better than to target women and people of color.

  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

  • Rabid Sparkle Badger

  • Stabby Carpenter

  • Nick Mamatas

  • Stephanie Souders

  • Keffy

So, the director of Con Carolinas has made a choice of who is welcome, and who is not. This is now a convention openly antagonistic to the health, comfort, and safety of anyone who is not straight, cis, male, white, and conservative.

Two important wins vs. the antisocial injustice crusaders in SFF.

  1. ConCarolinas, with prompting from DavidWeber, has declared themselves politically neutral.
  2. DragonCon fired the head of its fantasy lit track, who was apparently trying to impose a political litmus test.
  • Shaun Duke

  • Ari Marmell

  • Declan Finn

ConCarolinas is beginning to see the first groundswell of criticism for the position Jada took at final ceremonies yesterday. I expect it to get pretty ugly, because she and the concom are now officially recidivists. I would request that anyone who supports the con’s efforts — and fandom in general’s effort — to . . . diminish the scope for the ex post facto dis-invitation of guests to speak up in support of the con’s position, but lets not take this any farther into Mutually Assured Destruction territory than we have to. I know the temptation will be to lob H bombs back in response to the fission warheads coming in in condemnation of the con’s position. I understand that, because I’ve got a temper, too. But if we want to minimize the bigots and the fanatics on both sides of the divide, then we can’t be fanatics ourselves. Determined, unyielding, and unwilling to put up with or yield to cyber bullying — all of those things, damned straight. But if we’re going to be the grown-ups in the room, then let’s BE grown-ups. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t approve of banning anyone for anything short of criminal acts or DEMONSTRATED personal harassment of an innocent bystander who didn’t lob the first grenade in any exchange between them. Don’t care whether they are on the right, and they’ve been screaming about John’s withdrawal from ConCarolinas and Larry’s banning from Origins, or if they are on the left, and they are now screaming about ConCarolinas’ response to the arguments voiced by people on the right. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion and to attend or not to attend any convention because of guest lists or for any other reason(s) that seem(s) good to them. They also have a right to voice and explain those opinions. I’d just really prefer for us to do it as civilly as possible. It is at least remotely possible we could shame the hate merchants (of whatever political persuasion), but I’m not looking for any miracles here. What I would like to accomplish, however, is to APPEAR as the reasonable parties by BEING the reasonable parties so that those who have not already drawn their own lines in the sand can form their own opinions and reach their own conclusions about who is truly in favor of diversity and inclusiveness and who isn’t.

(17) IN THE FRAME. Gary Tognetti reviews “The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts” at The 1000 Year Plan.

Watts falls within the lineage of classic hard SF writers who can make far-future science magic seem tangible, but his true gift lies in how personable he makes it feel. Heavy themes like alienation, the value of existence, and the nature of consciousness are woven into the brisk narrative with humor and pathos. Watts may be too smart to let a big idea pass by without picking it to pieces, but above all, “The Freeze-Frame Revolution” is fun to read.

(18) WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG. Frederik Pohl’s IF magazine floats The Traveler’s boat at Galactic Journey: “[June 4, 1963] Booked passage (July 1963 IF)”

Down to the Worlds of Men, by Alexei Panshin

14-year old Mia Havero is part of a society of human space-dwellers, resident of one of the eight galaxy-trotting Ships that represent the remains of Earth’s high technology. She and 29 other young teens are dropped on a primitive colony as part of a rite of passage. There is always an element of danger to this month-long ordeal, but this episode has a new wrinkle: the planet’s people are fully aware (and resentful) of the Ships, and they plan to fight back. Can Mia survive her coming of age and stop an insurrection?

Panshin hits it right out of the park with his first story, capturing the voice of a young almost-woman and laying out a rich world and an exciting adventure. Finally, I’ve got something I can recommend to the Young Traveler. Four stars, verging on five.

(19) THEME SONG. Wil Wheaton declares “This Is Brilliant”.

When we worked on Next Generation, Brent Spiner and I would sit at our consoles on the bridge, and make up lyrics to our show’s theme song. I vaguely recall coming up with some pretty funny and clever stuff, but nothing that held together as perfectly as this, from the weirdos over at meh.com:

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, mlex, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Top Elf, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lanodantheon.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/18 The Scroll Above The Pixel Was The Color Of An Old File, Tuned To A Dead DNS

(1) NOBEL ROLLOVER. The Associated Press reports “No Nobel literature prize this year but 2 prizes in 2019”.

Following weeks of internal bickering, sex-abuse allegations and a financial investigation by police, the body that hands out the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature announced Friday that no prize will be awarded this year.

Instead, the academy said two Nobel Prizes in Literature will be handed out next year, the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize. The decision was made Thursday at a weekly meeting of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on the grounds that the group was in too deep a crisis to choose a Nobel winner properly.

“The present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change,” said Anders Olsson, the academy’s permanent secretary. “We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced.”

(2) WHEATON’S SPEECH ABOUT DEPRESSION. The actor has posted the text of his speech for NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise: “My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.”

…My life is, by every objective measurement, very very good.

And in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self esteem, my self worth, and my value not only as an actor and writer, but as a human being.

That’s because I live with Depression and Anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling With Mental Illness Federation.

And I’m not ashamed to stand here, in front of six hundred people in this room, and millions more online, and proudly say that I live with mental illness, and that’s okay. I say “with” because even though my mental illness tries its best, it doesn’t control me, it doesn’t define me, and I refuse to be stigmatized by it.

So. My name is Wil Wheaton, and I have Chronic Depression….

(3) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU.  For the Fourth, iFixit is doing a number of teardowns (inside hardware looks) of Empire/Jedi tech, like this lightsaber:

Do you have the death sentence on twelve systems? Do you frequent wretched hives of scum and villainy? Then you probably don’t want to see this saber firing up.

And by the way –

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Lightsaber, use our service manual.

(4) SALLY FOURTH. SW Day Observation: “Heathrow pranks travellers with fake Star Wars departures board for ‘May the 4th Be With You’”The Sun has the story.

Destinations such as Tatooine, Kamino, Hoth and Jakku were up on the board in a tribute to Star Wars Day.

A note below the 11.40am flight to Jakku announced that it had been “delayed due to sandstorms”.

(5) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Saturday May 5 is Free Comic Book Day. Click here to find a participating location near you.

(6) PREVIEWING THE FREEBIES. NPR’s Glen Weldon presents “Free Comic Book Day 2018: A Guide To The Best Bets And The Best Avoided”,  a series of mini-reviews about the free comics being handed out on Saturday.

Free Comic Book Day has been an annual event for 17 years now. I’ve been writing up this guide to the FCBD books for the past 10 of those, so believe me when I say:

This year’s a good ‘un. The best yet. Don’t skip it.

There are more all-ages books in this year’s mix, more stories starring girls, women and people of color and a healthier, more robust selection of genres to choose from than ever before.

It’s also gratifying to see fewer publishers putting out FCBD offerings that amount to little more than samplers, offering readers only tiny snippets of stories from several different comics they publish. Happily, most of the books you’ll be able to pick on Saturday — even those that are simply excerpts from new or forthcoming graphic novels — make for solid, substantial, satisfying reads.

Here’s an example —

Title: Bongo Comics

Genre: TV Tie-In/Humor

The Gist: A perennially solid FCBD choice: Looks and feels like several episodes of (latter-day, it must be said) Simpsons.

Additional Info: Standout story is the lead one: Lisa takes over Krusty’s show and transforms it into an educational snore. (Yes, it’s just a riff on the season one episode “Krusty Gets Busted,” but it’s got primo Sideshow Mel content — he studied English Lit at Cornell!)

Verdict? Sure?

(7) FUNDS ROLL IN FOR BRADBURY STATUE. “Waukegan Ray Bradbury statue fundraising halfway to $125,000 goal” – the Chicago Tribune has the story.

A $ 5,000 donation from the National Gypsum Company has helped the Ray Bradbury Statue Committee reach and surpass its halfway-mark goal to erect a statue commemorating the life and works of world-renowned author and Waukegan native Ray Bradbury.

The proposed 12-foot-tall statue, which will sit on the grounds of the Waukegan Public Library on County Street in downtown Waukegan, was inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” and will be created in stainless steel by acclaimed artist Zachary Oxman, depicting Bradbury astride a rocket ship.

(8) ROBOCOP. Another stfnal statue is landing in Detroit: “The Robocop statue finally finds a home”.

Back in 2011, a tweet to then-mayor Dave Bing led to a Kickstarter project that gained worldwide attention.

Project organizers announced yesterday that the Robocop Statue will land at the Michigan Science Center.

It’s been a long, strange trip for the 10-foot-tall bronze statue. From tweet to Facebook group to Kickstarter project to one small plan to one much larger vision. On the project update, organizers say, “From a humble thought of 3D scanning an action figure and blowing it up to 6 feet tall to pour in iron, we somehow found ourselves on a path to create a 10-foot-tall officially MGM-sanctioned bronze statue from a recreation of the original suit Peter Weller wore when he played RoboCop in 1987”.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found what Chewie and Heathcliff have in common.
  • Workout fashions inspire humor at Off the Mark.
  • Speed Bump makes a genre reference into sports pun to get laughs.

(10) YA AUTHOR INTERVIEW. At NPR, author Dave Eggers talks about his new YA book Lifters: “In Dave Eggers’ New Book, Heroic Kids Do The Heavy Lifting”.

On having kids read his story

They’re astoundingly good editors. They will tell you exactly what’s working, exactly what’s not working. I took every last edit from every one of these kids. They are the purest readers. They do want to be entertained, and I’ll say that sometimes they are easier to please, for sure, than cynical adult readers, because it’s all new to them — so this might have been, like, the seventh chapter book some of these kids read, or the second or the third. So that’s why I feel honored to be part of their reading experience at such a young age, because I remember every last book I read in that era. I was not, like, a voracious reader, so I remember the one or two books a year that I read when I was ten and 11 and 12, because I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a chapter book at that age.

(11) SHARKE TIME. Now that the official Clarke Award shortlist is out, Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller takes stock in “Shortlisting Thoughts”.

The Shadow Clarke jurors have now all produced their reading lists, and the official Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist has been revealed. It’s time to reflect on everyone’s choices.

At this point, it is worth reminding everyone once again that the Shadow Clarke jurors are not in direct competition with the Arthur C. Clarke Award judges. Our projects are complementary but rather different. The Clarke Award judges have to choose a winner at the end of their judging process, and we, the sf reading public, are not privy to their deliberations, as is right and proper. The Shadow Clarke jurors, on the other hand, don’t have to choose a winner, hence our emphasis on choosing ‘reading lists’: lists of titles that interest us and will, we hope, promote some broader discussion about the state of science fiction in 2018. And we can talk about how we made our choices. As our introductions have shown, we’ve chosen our lists according to a wide range of criteria. And yes, in some instances we are playing against the system, so to speak, but we have a licence to explore the submissions list in a different way.

(12)DEAR OLD DAD. Son of Bigfoot Trailer #1.

A teenage boy journeys to find his missing father only to discover that he’s actually Bigfoot.

 

(13) WORD COINAGE. Here’s where it’s happening: “Feelinig litt? The five hotspots that are driving English forward”.

The English language is forever in flux, as new words are born and old ones die. But where do these terms come from and what determines whether they survive?

Charting linguistic change was once a painstakingly slow task, but a new analysis of nearly one billion Tweets – presented on 17 April at the Evolang International Conference on Language Evolution in Torun, Poland – now offers us an unprecedented glimpse of this process in action….

The researcher behind the study, Jack Grieve at the University of Birmingham, UK, analysed more than 980 million Tweets in total – consisting of 8.9 billion words – posted between October 2013 and November 2014, and spanning 3,075 of the 3,108 US counties.

From this huge dataset, Grieve first identified any terms that were rare at the beginning of the study (occurring less than once per billion words in the last quarter of 2013) but which had then steadily risen in popularity over the course of the following year. He then filtered the subsequent list for proper nouns (such as Timehop) and those appearing in commercial adverts, and he also removed any words that were already in Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Acronyms, however, were included.

(14) FAUX GYRO. Syfy Wire says “Aliasing illusion makes 3D sculptures wiggle and gyrate”:

Another effect is called “aliasing,” where something is moving in beat with the camera frame rate. The most common of these is when you watch a video of a car moving, and it looks like the wheels are spinning backward. They’re not! It’s just that the wheel spins almost all the way around in the time it takes the camera to take two frames of video, so in the second frame it looks like the wheel has turned backward a little bit. Do this many times in a row and you get that weird effect of the wheels looking like they’re spinning the wrong way. I wrote about this extensively when a video taken by a camera that fell out of a plane went viral. You can also use it to make what looks like a magic spiral of water.

So you can get really weird effects by accident. However, artist John Edmark has used this effect on purpose and to his advantage, creating stunning and mesmerizing videos. He makes sculptures with cyclic patterns in them, then records them spinning (he also uses a strobe light with timed pulses to mimic camera aliasing). What you wind up with is very cool:

 

[Thanks to Kip W., Rich Lynch, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mark Hepworth, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/18 It Was Me Who Ate All The Cupcakes In The File770 Office IN SELF DEFENCE!

(1) 100 LOVED BOOKS. PBS series The Great American Read premieres May 22. One hundred books, one winner:

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

(2) AMAZING OPENS SUBMISSIONS WINDOW. Steve Davidson announced “General Submissions for Amazing Stories Opens Today”. See detailed guidelines at the link. Davidson had more to say on Facebook:

(3) COMPTON CROOK AWARD. Nicky Drayden announced on April 19 that her book Prey of Gods won the 2018 Compton Crook Award. [Via Locus Online.]

(4) RINGO’S WORLD. John Ringo’s April 16 Facebook post about his withdrawal as ConCarolinas special guest continues gathering moss, now with over 900 likes. Today Ringo showed everyone what they’ll be missing with a new comment that explains to his sycophants why ConCarolina’s Guest of Honor can’t compete with him.

No. Because nobody but people who pay close attention to the industry and awards has ever heard of her.

Her Amazon rankings are pretty low. Her bookscan ratings are low. That indicates she’s not particularly popular just heavily promoted and ‘popular’ with the ‘right crowd’. (Which is a very small crowd.)

James Patterson is a big name. JK Rowling is a big name. Hell, China Meville is a big name.

Seanan McGuire is not ‘a big name’.

I have no clue where we stand representationally in sales comparison to me but I suspect I sell more books. Just a suspicion, though, and it probably depends on the series.

Honestly, I suspect A Deeper Blue sold more books than all of hers combined.

(5) ENCHANTED MUSEUM. Atlas Obscura reveals the “Hidden Elves at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science”.

Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.

It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.

In 2018, Pendleton told the Denverite: “It was just kind of my own little private joke. The first one was so small that hardly anyone could see it, but it sort of escalated over time, I guess. Some of the museum volunteers picked up on it and it developed a life of its own.”

(6) THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE. Kevin Standlee is running for office in his home town:

I’m Kevin Standlee, and I’m running for a seat on the Board of Directors of the North Lyon County Fire Protection District, which serves the city of Fernley, Nevada.

I grew up in a fire station. As the child of a US Forest Service officer, I lived a lot of my formative years on a series of fire outposts in the Sierra Nevada….

June 12 is Election Day.

(7) HISTORIC DUNES. ABC News tells about “Visiting the desert where ‘Star Wars’ was filmed”.

There’s a reason the original “Star Wars” movie was filmed in the deserts of southern Tunisia. This stark, remote landscape looks like another planet.

One of Tunisia’s vast desert regions is even called Tataouine (ta-TWEEN), like Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tattoine.

And the underground home where Luke Skywalker first appeared living with his uncle and aunt is a real hotel in the town of Matmata, one of various desert locations used in the movies.

Masoud Berachad owns the Hotel Sidi Driss. He says visitors have dropped off since Tunisia’s democratic revolution in 2011 and attacks on tourists in 2015.

Still, devoted “Star Wars” fans keep the hotel in business….

(8) CURSED CHILD IN NEW YORK. David Rooney goes into great detail – perhaps too much – in his “‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’: Theater Review” for The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s a relatively spoiler-free excerpt:

…Pockets of racist outrage exploded online when it was first announced that a black actress had been cast as Hermione, which Rowling shot down in her no-nonsense style by pointing out that the character’s ethnicity was never mentioned in the books. In any case, only the most bigoted idiot could find fault with the brilliant Dumezweni’s performance, her haughtiness, quicksilver intellect and underlying warmth tracing a line way back to the precociously clever girl Harry first met on the train all those years ago.

Thornley’s Ron, too, is readily identifiable as the perennial joker of the trio. He’s acquired substance and a charming mellowness over the years, though a glimpse of him in a time-warped present tells a heartbreakingly different story. Miller takes the early indicators of Ginny’s strength and builds on them, shaping a smart, grounded woman capable of handling Harry’s complicated baggage. And Price’s Draco is still peevish and moody, his bitterness exploding in an entertaining clash of wands with Harry, but he’s found a softer side in maturity as well.

At the center of it all is Parker’s Harry, grown up and more confident but still pensive and troubled as ever, plagued by memories of the orphaned boy who slept under the stairs at his aunt and uncle’s home, and the reluctant hero he was forced to become. It’s a finely nuanced performance, with gravitas and heart, particularly as he wrestles with and eventually overcomes his struggles as a parent. Even with the sweet sentimentality of the closing scenes, what lingers most about Parker’s characterization is the stoical knowledge he carries with him that every moment of happiness contains the promise of more pain to come.

Of equal importance in the story are Albus and Scorpius, and while Clemmett is affecting in the more tortured role, at war with himself as much as his father, the discovery here is Boyle. His comic timing, nervous mannerisms and endearing awkwardness even in moments of triumph make him a quintessential Rowling character and a winning new addition. “My geekness is a-quivering,” he chirps at one point, probably echoing how half the audience is feeling. It’s stirring watching these two young outsiders conquer their self-doubt to find courage and fortitude….

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern doesn’t want Filers to miss xkcd’s cartoon “Misinterpretation.”
  • Lise Andreasen asks, “Things men weren’t meant to know?”

(10) GENESIS. In “How Stan Lee Became the Man Behind Marvel” Chris Yogerst of the LA Review of Books reviews Bob Batchelor’s biograpahy of the comics icon.

STAN LEE WAS FINISHED with comics. “We’re writing nonsense,” he once told his wife Joan. “It’s a stupid business for a grownup to be in.” After riding the early success of comic books, Lee was concerned about the future of the medium. He wanted to write more intelligent stories, something adults could connect to.

Following his wife’s advice, Lee decided to write one last story. With characters that were grounded in reality, stories that channeled Cold War tensions, and a narrative influenced by popular science fiction, Lee created the Fantastic Four. This was the type of story Lee would have wanted to read. If it was successful, maybe he would stick with comics a little longer.

Popular culture historian Bob Batchelor’s latest book turns a critical eye on the life of Lee, who ultimately became “the man behind Marvel.” Batchelor’s Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel focuses on where Lee came from, what influenced him, and how he became the immortal face of the comic book industry. In other words, to use the vernacular of the superhero genre, Batchelor gives us Lee’s origin story.

(11) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800.Here’s another variant cover for the upcoming milestone issue.

It’s all been building to this – the biggest Peter Parker and Norman Osborn story of all time, and the first Marvel comic EVER to hit 800 issues! In celebration of the 800th issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the now historic run of Dan Slott, Marvel is excited to show a variant cover from legendary artist Frank Cho and colorist David Curiel!

Witness the culmination of the Red Goblin story as Slott is joined for his final issue by epic artists such as Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Nick Bradshaw!

(12) SKYWATCH. Bill Gates among backers of proposed live-video-from-space satellite constellation called EarthNow:

EarthNow takes advantage of an upgraded version of the satellite platform, or “bus,” developed originally for the OneWeb communications service. Each satellite is equipped with an unprecedented amount of onboard processing power, including more CPU cores than all other commercial satellites combined. According to Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman of OneWeb, “We created the World’s first lowcost, high-performance satellites for mass-production to bridge the digital divide. These very same satellite features will enable EarthNow to help humanity understand and manage its impact on Earth.”

Use cases are said to include:

  • Catch illegal fishing ships in the act
  • Watch hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve
  • Detect forest fires the moment they start
  • Watch volcanoes the instant they start to erupt
  • Assist the media in telling stories from around the world
  • Track large whales as they migrate
  • Help “smart cities” become more efficient
  • Assess the health of crops on demand
  • Observe conflict zones and respond immediately when crises arise
  • Instantly create “living” 3D models of a town or city, even in remote locations
  • See your home as the astronauts see it—a stunning blue marble in space

(13) TODAY’S COPYEDITING TIP. From Cherie Priest:

(14) LOSING FACE. Motherboard says “This Is the Facial Recognition Tool at the Heart of a Class Action Suit Against Facebook”.

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that a class action lawsuit against Facebook can move forward, paving the way for what could turn out to be a costly legal battle for the company.

As Reuters reports, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook improperly collected and stored users’ biometric data. It was originally filed in 2015 by Facebook users in Illinois, which passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008. The law regulates the collection and storage of biometric data, and requires that a company receive an individual’s consent before it obtains their information.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook ran afoul of BIPA when it began using a tool called Tag Suggestions, which was originally rolled out in 2011. Like many Facebook features, it’s designed to make your user experience better while also providing the company with your data—in this case, very specific facial features.

(15) KNOT OF THIS WORLD. Gizmodo’s Kristen V. Brown advises “Forget the Double Helix—Scientists Discovered a New DNA Structure Inside Human Cells”.

The double helix, though, is not the only form in which DNA exists. For the first time ever, scientists have identified the existence of a new DNA structure that looks more like a twisted, four-stranded knot than the double helix we all know from high school biology.

The newly identified structure, detailed Monday in the journal Nature Chemistry, could play a crucial role in how DNA is expressed.

Some research had previously suggested the existence of DNA in this tangled form, dubbed an i-motif, but it had never before been detected in living cells outside of the test tube. Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, though, found that not only does the structure exist in living human cells, but it is even quite common.

(16) ROCKET MAN. In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked William Shatner’s 1978 performance of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at #17 on the list. Details from the Wikipedia —

At the 5th Saturn Awards Ceremony, which aired as the Science Fiction Film Awards in January 1978, Taupin introduced William Shatner’s spoken word[29] interpretation of the song. It used chroma key video techniques to simultaneously portray three different images of Shatner, representing the different facets of the Rocket Man’s character….

How can you not want to watch it after a build-up like that?

(17) MAKING A BIGGER BANG. Wil Wheaton has been having fun

Since last week, I’ve been working on the season finale of The Big Bang Theory, and today we shot Amy and Sheldon’s wedding.

It was an incredible day, and I am still in disbelief that I got to be in multiple scenes with Kathy Bates, Laurie Matcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Brian Posehn, Lauren Lapkus, Teller, Courtney Henggeler, and this guy, who is not only one of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with, but is also from a science fiction franchise, just like me!

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, JJ, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/18 Two Scrolls Diverged In A Wood And I – I Took The One Less Pixeled

(1) EVERYONE MUST GET STONED. James Davis Nicoll shares “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson with the panel in the latest installment of Young People Read Old SFF.

Incredibly influential, Shirley Jackson died aged only 48 back in the 1960s. I sense that while some of her acolytes (and their students) are well known Jackson herself has declined in fame. If a young person has encountered Jackson, it’s most likely thanks to the film adaptation of The Haunting, in which an attempt to probe the secrets of an ancient house goes very badly indeed (and the second, lesser, adaptation at that.). “The Lottery” is a more constrained affair than The Haunting. It’s a simple account of annual celebration that binds a small community together. A classic or superseded by more recent works?

Let’s find out…

(2) ETHICS QUESTION. Charles Payseur asked Rocket Stack Rank to drop him from the list of reviewers they track. His thread starts here —

Although as reported in the March 27 Scroll, the RSR piece was a project by Eric Wong, it may be the case that the reviewers tracked are predominantly white, as that is the demographic of many well-known critics and bloggers. But what about the point of the project – and one of Payseur’s goals as a reviewer – to help get more eyeballs on good sff by PoCs? Therefore, isn’t RSR multiplying the effectiveness of Payseur’s reviews? Should a reviewer have a veto in a case like this? And as I do quote from Payseur in the Scroll somewhat often, I now wonder what would I do if he asked me to stop?

(3) VR. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik talked to people who say “It could be the biggest change to movies since sound. If anyone will pay for it.” He visited the Westfield Century City mall, where people can experience the 12-minute Dreamscape Immersive virtual reality production Alien Zoo for $20.  He surveys the current state of virtual reality projects and finds that many of them are sf or fantasy, including an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls.

The Westfield Century City mall runs a dozen of the latest blockbusters at its modern movie theater here, but recently some of the most cutting-edge entertainment was playing one story below, at a pop-up store across from Bloomingdale’s.

That’s where groups of six could enter a railed-off area, don backpacks and headsets, and wander in the dark around the “Alien Zoo,” a 12-minute virtual-reality outer-space experience with echoes of “Jurassic Park.”

By bringing the piece to the mall, “Zoo” producer Dreamscape Immersive — it counts Steven Spielberg among its investors — hopes it has cracked a major challenge bedeviling the emerging form of entertainment known as cinematic VR.

(4) GENDER MALLEABLE. At The Verge, Andrew Liptak questions “Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson on depicting gender in John Scalzi’s next audiobook”.

Next month, Audible will release the recorded version of John Scalzi’s upcoming novel Head On, a sequel to his 2014 thriller Lock In. Like Lock In — but unlike most audio editions — this release will come in two versions: one narrated by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wil Wheaton, and the other by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Amber Benson, who are each popular audiobook narrators.

Why?

When Scalzi wrote Lock In, he made a creative decision to not reveal Chris’ gender, creating a character who readers could read as male, female, or neither. He explained that he did it as a writing challenge, and realized that in this world, gender might not be easily distinguishable for a Haden using a robotic body.

(5)  FIVE DAYS TO GO. The Kickstarter appeal to fund The Dark Magazine “for two more years of unsettling fiction” has achieved 70% of its $12,500 goal with just five days remaining.

The Dark Magazine has been around for five years and in that short period of time we have published award-winning stories by new and established authors; showcased great artwork from all corners of the world; and done it all on the backs of a small team of simply wonderful people. But now it is past time to take it to the next level, and help finance the magazine for two more years to allow us to increase the subscription base, increase the pay rate from three cents to five cents a word, and increase the amount of fiction we bring to you, with double Christmas issues. Because we don’t just like dark fantasy, horror, or weird fiction . . . we love it. And it means so much to us to introduce you to unsettling and thoughtful stories every month that we want to keep on doing it, with your help.

(6) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Gordon Van Gelder shared the May/June 2018 cover for The Magaine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The cover art is by Alan M. Clark.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY XENA

  • Born March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless

(8) COMIC SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian spotted an especially funny Brevity  — at least I thought it was, because I’m familiar with the collectible they’re joking about.

(9) NATURE CALLS. The next issue of Concatenation, the British SFF news aggregator, comes out in a couple of weeks, but while you’re waiting, Jonathan Cowie, lead editor of the original zine, sent along this link to the new issue of research journal Nature which carries a piece on “The ageless appeal of 2001:A Space Odyssey.

Fifty years on, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece looks more prophetic than ever, reflects Piers Bizony.

…Monoliths aside, 2001 was prescient in almost all its detailed predictions of twenty-first-century technology. For instance, in August 2011, the Samsung electronics group began a defence against a claim of patent infringement by Apple. Who invented the tablet computer? Apple claimed unique status for its iPad; Samsung presented a frame from 2001.

Samsung noted that the design claimed by Apple had many features in common with that of the tablet shown in the film clip — most notably, a rectangular shape with a display screen, narrow borders, a flat front and a thin form. In an era when computers still needed large rooms to accommodate them, Kubrick’s special-effects team rigged hidden projectors to enliven devices that looked as though you could hold them in one hand. Only the need to trim the film’s running length prevented ingenious mock-ups of touch-sensitive gaming screens and electronic newspapers from making the final cut.

(10) OFF WITH ITS HEAD. Can social media be saved? Should it? That’s the question Kevin Roose tries to answer in a New York Times column.

I don’t need to tell you that something is wrong with social media.

You’ve probably experienced it yourself. Maybe it’s the way you feel while scrolling through your Twitter feed — anxious, twitchy, a little world weary — or your unease when you see a child watching YouTube videos, knowing she’s just a few algorithmic nudges away from a rabbit hole filled with lunatic conspiracies and gore. Or maybe it was this month’s Facebook privacy scandal, which reminded you that you’ve entrusted the most intimate parts of your digital life to a profit-maximizing surveillance machine.

Our growing discomfort with our largest social platforms is reflected in polls. One recently conducted by Axios and SurveyMonkey found that all three of the major social media companies — Facebook, Twitter and Google, which shares a parent company with YouTube — are significantly less popular with Americans than they were five months ago. (And Americans might be the lucky ones. Outside the United States, social media is fueling real-world violence and empowering autocrats, often with much less oversight.)

(11) THE MATTER. “Ghostly galaxy may be missing dark matter”. i.e., it apparently doesn’t have any.

An unusually transparent galaxy about the size of the Milky Way is prompting new questions for astrophysicists.

The object, with the catchy moniker of NGC1052-DF2, appears to contain no dark matter.

If this turns out to be true, it may be the first galaxy of its kind – made up only of ordinary matter. Currently, dark matter is thought to be essential to the fabric of the Universe as we understand it.

(12) L’CHAIM! Shmaltz Brewing’s latest Star Trek beer is “Terrans Unite India Pale Lager.”

STAR TREK MIRROR UNIVERSE
TERRANS UNITE! INDIA PALE LAGER

Available in 4-Packs and on Draft.

MALTS: 2-Row, Pilsen, Patagonia 90
HOPS: Pacific Gem, Centennial
5% ABV

What if there was another world, a world that appeared similar to our own, with the same people, the same places, and even the same advancements in technology, but a world in which the motives and ethics of its inhabitants were turned upside down? The heroic now villainous and the noble corrupt, valuing power over peace and willing to obtain their desires by any means necessary – this is the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe.

Our universe may feel villainous and corrupt at times, but we can still find comfort in good friends and tasty beer. By spanning north and south, east and west, continents and traditions, Mirror Universe blends ingredients bringing together the world of brave new craft brewing. HOPS – MALTS – LAGER – UNITE!

(13) EXCEPT FOR ALL THE REST. Panoply took flak for appearing to overlook how far other podcasting pioneers have already taken the medium.

Here’s an example of the feedback:

(14) LEARNING FROM WAND CONTROL. Washington Free Beacon editor Alex Griswold, in “Harry Potter Is An Inspiring Parable About #Resisting Gun Control”, argues that “I’ve read all seven (Harry Potter) books on several occasions, and they make the strongest case for an armed populace and the evils of gun control I’ve ever read.”

…Even if you buy into the notion that fantasy books should dictate our policy, I find it surprising that so many of the children who read Harry Potter came away thinking we need more gun control. I’ve read all seven books on several occasions, and they make the strongest case for an armed populace and the evils of gun control I’ve ever read.

Instead of guns, wizards in Harry Potter use wands for self-defense. Every wizard is armed at eleven, taught to use dangerous spells, and released into a society where everyone’s packing heat and concealed carry is the norm. It’s an inspiring example the United States should strive towards.

But the reader slowly discovers there is wand control in the Harry Potter universe, and that it’s a racist, corrupt and selectively enforced. In the second book, Chamber of Secrets, we learn that the Hogwarts groundskeeper Hagrid has been forcibly disarmed after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. When government officials again come to falsely arrest Hagrid, he lacks any means of self-defense….

(15) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. New Statesman advised “Forget Facebook, Russian agents have been pretending to be furries on Tumblr”.

Cambridge Analytica. Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Bannon. Russians pushing propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but did you know that Russian agents were posing as furries on Tumblr to destabilise the crucial ‘Riverdale stans’, K-Pop obsessive, secretly-looking-at—‘arty’-porn in the office demographic? Because they were. And Tumblr just admitted it.

(16) REN AND STIMPY CREATOR ACCUSED. Buzzfeed tells “The Disturbing Secret Behind An Iconic Cartoon”.

Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice were teenage Ren & Stimpy fans who wanted to make cartoons. They say they were preyed upon by the creator of the show, John Kricfalusi, who admitted to having had a 16-year-old girlfriend when approached by BuzzFeed News….

In the summer of 1997, before her senior year of high school, he flew her to Los Angeles again, where Byrd had an internship at Spumco, Kricfalusi’s studio, and lived with him as his 16-year-old girlfriend and intern. After finishing her senior year in Tucson, the tiny, dark-haired girl moved in with Kricfalusi permanently at age 17. She told herself that Kricfalusi was helping to launch her career; in the end, she fled animation to get away from him.

Since October, a national reckoning with sexual assault and harassment has not only felled dozens of prominent men, but also caused allegations made in the past to resurface. In some ways, the old transgressions are the most uncomfortable: They implicate not just the alleged abusers, but everyone who knew about the stories and chose to overlook them.

(17) TRAILER PARK. The Darkest Minds, due in theaters August 3, sure has a familiar-sounding plot:

When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained. Sixteen-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking safe haven. Soon this newfound family realizes that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and they must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.

(18) SCOOBYNATURAL. Daniel Dern found this video via io9. Dern leads in: “Yes, there was the Farscape episode which turned the characters (and action) into an animated cartoon sequence. And the Angel episode where Angel got turned into a large-ish puppet. (That was fun.) And now this…”

“…as in, the Supernaturalists (if that’s the right word) somehow end up in a Scooby episode. (Note, this isn’t a show I’ve watched, and not clear I will catch this episode, but I’m glad I know about it.)”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/18 Yon Pixel Has A Lean And Hungry Look

(1) LUCAS MUSEUM. NBC Los Angeles was there for Wednesday’s ceremony: “George Lucas’ $1 Billion Museum Breaks Ground in Exposition Park”.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Exposition Park is beginning to take shape in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park area.

Filmmaker George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson were at a groundbreaking Wednesday for the $1 billion museum. The museum will house works by painters such as Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; illustrations, comic art and photography by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth; as well as storyboards, props and other items from popular films. It will be a “barrier-free museum” where “artificial divisions between `high’ art and `popular’ art are absent,” according to the museum’s website.

“It will be beautiful. It will be 11 acres of new parkland here,” Hobson said. “Everyone always wonders why we are doing so much to make this building stand out. George said, ‘I want an iconic building. I want a child to look at this building and say I want to see what is inside of that building.’ The building itself is a piece of art that will be in this park that we’re creating for this entire community and the world.”

The museum plans to feature a five-story building with 300,000 square feet of floor area for a cafe and restaurant, theaters, office space, lecture halls, a library, classrooms, exhibition space and landscaped open space.

Lucas told a CBS News interviewer:

Movies, including the “Star Wars” series, will be featured in exhibits showing what it takes to make a film, from set designs to character and costume sketches. There will be film storyboards and comic art. But the museum will also display paintings by Renoir, N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell – all from Lucas’ private collection.

“I think more people will come in for Rockwell than will come in for ‘Star Wars,'” Lucas said.

“Norman Rockwell can tell a whole story in one picture,” Lucas said.

“When were you captivated by Rockwell?” Blackstone asked.

“When I was 8 years old… I wanted to be an illustrator. I wanted to be able to do that,” Lucas said. “I wanted to be able to do pictures that have a message that appeals to a lot of people.”

Art that tells a story inspired him to tell stories. That narrative art is what Lucas will share in his museum.

(2) ANNIHILATION. Camestros Felapton has eyeballed the evidence and delivered his verdict: “Review: Annihilation (movie 2018 – Netflix)”.

The film (which had a very limited cinema release in the US and then a Netflix release internationally) is a different creature than the book. Events have been changed, plot elements removed, characters adjusted and the structure of the story altered. All of which seems to have been a good idea. The film carries the same sense of paranoia and wonder as the book and the same theme of people trying to cope when confronted with the incomprehensible. However, it has been remade into its own thing – a story with its own structure and characters that shares DNA with the book but which follows its own course.

(3) HELP WANTED. Journey Planet wants contributors for a Star Wars theme issue —

Regular Editors Chris Garcia and James Bacon, joined by Will Frank, have set out to create an issue of Journey Planet dedicated to the legendary Star Wars Universe. The issue, set for a May 4th release, will look at the films, the universe, the fans, the books, the comics, the toys, the Irish Connection and the meaning of the greatest of all science fiction franchises!

We want to hear from you if you are interested in contributing. We have an instant fanzine and are soliciting pieces, from short pieces on the first time you saw the films, about your massive collection of Star Wars figures (Mint-on-Card, of course)

We already have a beautiful cover by Sarah Wilkinson.

Please contact — journeyplanet@gmail.com

Tell us what you’d like to write about. Then content submission Deadline is April 17th

And may the Force be with you!

 

(4) HAL/ALEXA. So how is this invention supposed to parallel the workings of HAL-9000 – by preventing people from getting back into their homes? The Verge tells us “This replica of HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey comes with Amazon’s Alexa built in”.

HAL-9000, the malevolent supercomputer at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is an icon of science fiction cinema. So much so, that if you ask any one of the virtual assistants to “Open the pod bay doors,” they’ll dutifully parrot HAL’s lines from the movie back at you. Now, Master Replicas Group wants to take that step a bit further, turning HAL into a virtual assistant that can control your home.

The company name might be familiar to prop and costume fans: the original Master Replicas produced a range of high-quality props from franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek before going out of business a decade ago. If you’ve seen someone swinging around a lightsaber, there’s a good chance it’s one of Master Replicas’ props, or based off of their models. The new company is made up of several former employees, who are getting back into the prop replica business with a new range of products, including an interactive replica of HAL.

This isn’t the first time that someone’s thought about putting HAL into your home’s smart devices: a couple of years ago, fan prop-maker GoldenArmor made its own version that allows someone to mount it over their Nest thermostat. MRG’s prop goes a bit beyond that. It recently obtained the license from Warner Bros. to create an exact replica of the iconic computer, and while most prop replicas are static recreations of a movie or film prop, this version is designed to be interactive, using Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa.

A humorous video simulating “If HAL9000 was Amazon.com’s Alexa” has already gone viral —

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 15, 1956 Forbidden Planet premiered.
  • March 15, 1967 Frankenstein Created Woman stitched together a story for the theaters.
  • March 15, 1972 Slaughterhouse Five was first released theatrically.

(6) IS IT VINTAGE? Mark Kelly considers the sequel to Dandelion Wine in “Ray Bradbury: FAREWELL SUMMER”.

RB provides an afterword to this book, also, in which he explains where this book came from. In the mid 1950s (several years after the successes of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN)  he submitted a manuscript to his publisher, Doubleday, for the book that became DW. But that original manuscript was too long and his editor suggested cutting it. RB quotes his reply (p210 in FS): “ ‘Why don’t we published the first 90,000 words as a novel and keep the second part for some future year when you feel it is ready to be published.’ At the time, I called the full, primitive version The Blue Remembered Hills. The original title for what would become Dandelion Wine was Summer, Morning, Summer Night. Even all those years ago, I had a title ready for this unborn book: Farewell Summer.”

With DANDELION WINE such an entrenched classic, it’s difficult to imagine how the content of FAREWELL SUMMER could have been incorporated into it. That would have been a completely different book. As it came to be, DW has a perfect story arc, across one summer in the life of a 12-year-old. Yet even as a leftover, on its own, FS is a quite different, a rather oddly amazing and moving, book.

(7) WHEATON MEETS SHATNER. In this video, Wil Wheaton acts out meeting William Bleeping Shatner when ST:TNG was in its second season.

The filming of Star Trek 5 happened only a few doors away from Star Trek The Next Generation, Giving Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) the chance to meet his idol William Shatner, it didn’t go as well as he had hoped…

 

(8) LAST-MINUTE CAMPAIGNING. We’re annually snowed under by award eligibility posts, but it’s strange to see them still arriving with less than 24 hours left to nominate, when voters no longer have time to read/listen to the person’s recommended body of work.

Lawrence Schoen urges consideration of his Eating Authors blog:

Every Monday morning*, since June of 2011, I’ve put out a blog post featuring authors and their most memorable meals. That’s more than 350 stories of incredible food, amazing dinning companions, astonishing circumstances, and remarkable settings.

And Crystal Huff points to a year’s worth of tweets:

(9) POOP HAPPENS. From Pitchfork we learn: “Neil Young Writing a Sci-Fi Novel Called Canary”.

Neil Young recently sat down with Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle to discuss his role in the upcoming film Paradox. In the midst of the interview, he opened up about the sci-fi novel he’s been writing. It’s called Canary, and Young said it focused on a power company employee who gets caught exposing the corruption at his workplace. “He discovers the solar company he works for is a hoax,” he explained. “And they’re not really using solar. They’re using this shit—the guy who’s doing this has come up with a way to make bad fuel, the bad energy, this really ugly terrible stuff, and he’s figured out a way to genetically create these animals that shit that gives the energy to make the [fuel]. So he’s created this new species. But the species escapes. So it’s a fuckin’ mess. It’s a long story.”

Young said he already has a New York agent on board with the project, but didn’t share a possible publication date. He also got candid when it came to the topic of retirement tours. “When I retire, people will know, because I’ll be dead,” he said. “I’m not gonna say, ‘I’m not coming back.’ What kind of bullshit is that? I could go out and play if I felt like it, but I don’t feel like it.”

(10) SHETTERLY. Are Will Shetterly’s and Jon Del Arroz’ situations alike? JDA evidently thinks so.

(11) YO HO NO. Fraser Sherman is teed off: “Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?”

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

(12) THE JEOPARDY BEAT. Rich Lynch says tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! included this answer:

A contestant got it right.

(13) GOT OBSIDIAN? “Changing environment influenced human evolution”: a site in Kenya is “the earliest known example of such long distance [25-95km] transport, and possibly of trade.”

Early humans were in the area for about 700,000 years, making large hand axes from nearby stone, explained Dr Potts.

“[Technologically], things changed very slowly, if at all, over hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.

Then, roughly 500,000 years ago, something did change.

A period of tectonic upheaval and erratic climate conditions swept across the region, and there is a 180,000 year interruption in the geological record due to erosion.

It was not only the landscape that altered, but also the plant and animal life in the region – transforming the resources available to our early ancestors….

(14) STORAGE WARS. That stuff sure looked familiar…. “Police: Marvel fan spotted his $1.4M collection for sale online”.

Police in California said two men were arrested on burglary charges after a man discovered his $1.4 million collection of Marvel super hero memorabilia for sale online.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department responded Feb. 22 to a storage facility where a man discovered his collection of Marvel collectibles had been stolen after he was made aware that some of his items were listed for sale online.

(15) LATE NIGHT NERDS. Joel Zakem spotted this TV highlight: “Steven Colbert talks to Paul Giamatti about Science Fiction and used book stores during the first 5 minutes of this interview from yesterday’s Late Show. It’s probably the only time you will hear Henry Kuttner and Avram Davidson mentioned on late night TV.” — “Paul Giamatti And Stephen Are Science Fiction Nerds”

‘Billions’ star Paul Giamatti gets some gifts or reading assignments from Stephen, depending on how you look at them.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/18 If You’ll Be My Pixel, I Can Be Your Long Lost Scroll

(1) TERRAN AWARD. George R.R. Martin, in “Aliens In Taos”, announces he has created a scholarship to bring an sf writer from a non-English speaking country to Taos Toolbox.

When astronauts look down on Earth from orbit, they don’t see borders, national boundaries, or linguistic groups; they see one world, a gorgeous blue globe spinning in space, streaked with clouds. I don’t know if humanity will ever reach the stars (though I hope we will), but if we do, it won’t be Americans who get there. It won’t be the Chinese or the Russians or the British or the French or the Brazilians or the Kiwis or the South Africans or the Indians or the folk of any other nation state either. It will be humanity; in the language of the SF of my youth, it will be Terrans or Earthlings or Earthmen. The future belongs to all the peoples of the world.

With that in mind, I want to announce that I am sponsoring a new scholarship, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress run every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The TERRAN AWARD, as I am calling it, will be given annually, and will cover all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (travel and meals not covered, alas). Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language. Walter Jon and Nancy and the Toolbox staff will select the winner. For more information on applying for the workshop, and the scholarship, contact WJW at wjw@taostoolbox.com

(2) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for January” for the SFWA Blog,

(3) VISIT QO’NOS. The first Klingon tourist center has opened in Sweden.

Humans! tlhlngan maH [we are Klingons]

The Klingon Institute of Cultural Exchange demand your presence at our Terra-Friendly© presentation of Klingon culture and customs at Turteatern on Terra, Alpha Quadrant.

You will get the possibility to try cuisine, listen to opera, and a chance to acquire useful lifesaving tips in your everyday interaction with Klingons and Klingon customs, so that you may plan your holiday to our great empire and the First City on the planet Qo’noS without risking any discomfort and/or premature death.

This live-act presentation is brought to you by Visit Qo’noS, the tourist department of the Klingon high council.”

(4) OPINION RECONSIDERED. Teresa Jusino goes in an unexpected direction at The Mary Sue with “Internalized Sexism and Star Wars: My Long-Overdue Apology to Luke Skywalker”.

It would be tempting to “blame” all this on the prequels adding in new information after the fact, but as the video essay goes to great lengths to point out, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda teach Luke the same lessons about burying his feelings in the original trilogy. The difference between Anakin and Luke?

Luke consistently bucks his Jedi training in favor of giving in to his emotions and saving people.

Luke cares about others, even if they’ve “fallen to the Dark Side,” and so whether it’s to save his sister and his friends or to try to redeem Darth Vader, he follows his emotions in spite of the warnings he gets from his mentors, and he’s heroic because of it. This is why, to me, the Luke we meet in The Last Jedi is Peak Luke. He’s at his most emotional, his most vulnerable … and ultimately, at his most heroic

(5) WHEATON. Think Tank tells about supernovas in “When Stars Go Boom.”

Why do some stars end their lives in a supernova explosion? And how does that lead to forming planets and life like us? A science expert (Jerrika Hinton) explains by hooking her hapless assistant (Wil Wheaton) up to a Thought Visualizer, a machine that allows anyone to see his thoughts. With Ed Wasser.

 

(6) MORE VIDEO ARCHEOLOGY. Fanac.org has posted the restored video of the “Weird and Horror Genre Luncheon Panel” from MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. This excerpt from the discussion held at the Weird and Horror Genre Luncheon features (L-R) Poul Anderson, Charles Grant, Ted White, Kirby McCauley (mod), Tom Reamy and Stuart Schiff talking about ghost stories, fairy tales, and why they are attracted to the genre. There are some spots where the film is damaged. Video and video restoration provided by David Dyer-Bennet and the Video Archeology Project.

 

(7) FLAME ON. HBO dropped a teaser trailer for Fahrenheit 451.

HBO Films presents Fahrenheit 451. In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young girl…and begins to rebel against society. Starring Michael B. Jordan, and Michael Shannon.

 

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share flash-fried cauliflower with Sheila Williams in episode 57 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sheila Williams

Sheila has worked for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine since 1982, became its editor in 2004, and went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. She also co-edited A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women with Connie Willis, as well as numerous other anthologies.

We chatted about her first day on the job more than a third of a century ago, meeting Isaac Asimov at an early Star Trek convention when she was only 16, which writer intimidated her the most when she first got into the business, what she learned from working with previous Asimov’s editors Shawna McCarthy and Gardner Dozois, the most common problems she sees in the more than 7,000 stories that cross her desk each year, the identities of the only writers she’s never rejected, what goes through her mind in that moment she reads a manuscript and arrives at “yes,” and much more.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 12, 1933:  Dr. Moreau adaptation Island of Lost Souls opens in New York City.
  • January 12, 1940:  Universal’s Invisible Man returns in The Invisible Man Returns! The Department of Redundancy Department approves.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EYEBALL

  • Born January 12, 1992 or 1997 – HAL 9000. In the film 2001, HAL became operational on this date in 1992. The Wikipedia says the activation year was 1991 in earlier screenplays and changed to 1997 in Clarke’s novel.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MASSIVE EFFORT. Pornokitsch reviews all ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2017 finalists in a single glorious post – “SPFBO2017: The Finalists Reviewed (All of ’em!)”.

But, for now, here are this year’s ten finalists, in no particular order, with my – somewhat arbitrary – scores. Thanks again for all the writers, readers, judges and administrator (singular!) for participating, and please check out the other judges for other perspectives!

(13) CON OR BUST. Kate Nepveu’s Con or Bust newsletter lists many opportunities for fans of color/nonwhite fans to get memberships and other assistance to attend upcoming sf events. For example —

The following cons have recently donated assistance or memberships to Con or Bust:

  • JoCo Cruise 2018, February 18-25, 2018, departing from San Diego, CA, USA. JoCo Cruise has donated at least five cabins, which accommodate two to four people, and which come with lodging, meals and drinks (except not alcohol or soft drinks), and access to all programming. Please see the blog post for important details.
  • The 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference, May 17-20, 2018, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. The SFWA Givers Fund has awarded $4,000 to Con or Bust to enable people of color/non-white people attend SFWA Nebula Conference; funds can be requested during February 1-10, 2018.
  • Beach City Con, October 12 – 14, 2018, Virginia Beach, VA, USA (@beachcitycon). Beach City Con is a Steven Universe fan convention; it donated four weekend passes, which can be requested during February 1-10, 2018.
  • Scintillation, October 5-7, 2018, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Scintillation is a small literary focused SF convention with program by Jo Walton; details at its Kickstarter page. It donated three memberships and $100, which can be requested during February 1-10, 2018

(14) LAST JEDI ANALYZED. Under some circumstances, Foz Meadows might like to take a red pen to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. BEWARE SPOILERS, if you still need to.

Based on this, it seems clear that The Last Jedi is intended to parallel The Empire Strikes Back, both structurally and thematically. All the same elements are in play, albeit recontextualised by their place in a new story; but where Empire is a tight, sleek film, The Last Jedi is middle-heavy. The major difference between the two is Poe’s tension-and-mutiny arc, which doesn’t map to anything in Empire.

And this is the part where things get prickly. As stated, I really love Rose Tico, not only because she’s a brilliant, engaging character superbly acted by Kelly Marie Tran, but because she represents another crucial foray into diverse representation, both in Star Wars and on the big screen generally. There’s a lot to recommend Vice-Admiral Holdo, too, especially her touching final scene with Leia: I still want to know more about their relationship. I am not for a moment saying that either character – that either woman – doesn’t belong in the film, or in Star Wars, or that their roles were miscast or badly acted or anything like that. But there is, I suspect, a truly maddening reason why they were paired onscreen with Finn and Poe, and that this logic in turn adversely affected both the deeper plot implications and the film’s overall structure.

(15) NO EMISSION CONTROL. NPR says “Researchers Spot Massive Black Hole In Double ‘Burp'”.

A giant black hole located at the center of a galaxy 800 million light-years from Earth has been caught on camera letting out not one, but two massive “burps” of highly charged particles.

It is the first time astronomers have viewed the phenomenon twice in the same black hole.

Images released Thursday and credited to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory were presented at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in National Harbor, Md., outside Washington, D.C.

“Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don’t have very good table manners,” Julie Comerford, an astronomer at the University of Colorado Boulder, said during a news conference Thursday, according to Space.com. “We know a lot of examples of black holes with single burps emanating out, but we discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole that has not one, but two burps.”

(16) PADDINGTON 2 VERDICT. NPR’s Andrew Lapin sees “‘Paddington 2’: A Story That Bears Repeating”.

If only all of us could see the world the way Paddington sees London. The furry little bear in a raincoat looks around his adopted home and finds, in the smiling faces of his neighbors, nothing but joyful spirits and good intentions. There are no “no-go zones”; even a prison full of roughnecks can be a chance to help people in need. Forget the fact that he’s a talking bear from Darkest Peru. It’s Paddington’s impenetrable spirit, his striving to do right by the world, to “always see the good in people,” even those who wish him harm, that is the biggest wish-fulfillment of 2018.

(17) SHE GETS MAIL. Ursula Vernon cannot comfort the youth of America —

(18) MORE EYES IN THE SKY. BBC reports on a UK satellite, launched by India, to make movies from space, (first of a planned cluster, like ICEYE satellites sent yesterday).

A British satellite has gone into orbit on an Indian rocket to acquire full-colour, high-definition video of the surface of the Earth.

The demonstrator is expected to pave the way for a series of at least 15 such spacecraft, which will be operated by the Guildford-based company Earth-i.

The small, low-cost UK mission was one of 31 payloads riding on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

It lifted off from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

(19) BLACK WIDOW APPROACHING. According to Variety, “Marvel’s Standalone ‘Black Widow’ Movie Gains Momentum With Jac Schaeffer Writing”.

Marvel is finally pushing ahead with the highly anticipated “Black Widow” standalone movie starring Scarlett Johansson, with Jac Schaeffer penning the script.

Sources say this is still very early development, as the film has no greenlight, but naming a writer is the closest the studio has come to moving forward on a standalone pic. Marvel President Kevin Feige met with several candidates before tapping Schaeffer, and Marvel execs met with Johansson to discuss what they wanted from a “Black Widow” writer.

In case you need a reminder, watch this scene from Iron Man 2 of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in action.

(20) BLUE MAN CULTIST. Here’s the official trailer for Cold Skin.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Andrew Porter, Kathodus, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/18 Scrolled Pixel’s Book Of Practical SJW Credentials

(1) CLASSIC KETTLE. True Rat: The Beast of Leroy Kettle collects and preserves the humorous writing of British fan Leroy Kettle. Edited by Rob Hansen, it’s available as a free download in the usual ebook formats plus PDF from Ansible Editions. Over 105,000 words.

Every issue of True Rat is included, plus much more comic autobiography and articles, speeches and scurrilous gossip columns published elsewhere. Only a very few passages that seemed almost funny in the 1970s are here omitted to protect the guilty (Leroy Kettle).

One included item is the transcript of a live interview with our hero by Simone Walsh – with audience participation – at Skycon, the 1978 UK Eastercon. Rob Hansen strongly recommends the audio version, available as an MP3 download from this linked page on his site.

(2)  BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Wil Wheaton remembers his friend Stepto in a touching tribute, “who lives who dies who tells your story”. The excerpt comes from his remarks at the memorial. He follows them with a powerful and poetic vision.

“I want to tell you about the time Stepto and I had cigars in the Caribbean,” I say, “I want to tell you about how he saved my Xbox for me, about how he made me laugh and how much I miss him in my life.” I think, but don’t say, that I want to talk about how sad and angry I am that Stepto successfully kept his alcoholism a secret from me, and from everyone who was closest to him, for the more than ten years we were friends. I want to talk about how angry I am that he got a second chance, when he survived a coma last year. I want to say a lot of swears, because he convinced himself and me that it wasn’t alcohol that put him into a coma, but some kind of genetic thing and a virus and something else that was a bunch of bullshit. But I am coming up on two years of an alcohol-free life, myself, and even though I’m not an alcoholic, and even though I don’t do any recovery programs, I do know that addiction is powerful and all consuming. I know that it’s incredibly easy to convince yourself that you’ve got it under control, and that the rationalizations and justifications come as easily as opening another bottle after adding an empty one to the lie. Huh. I was going to write “line”, but my fingers made the first typo I think I’ve ever made that was more apt than what I intended. I want to be angry, but I can’t be. Stepto was sick, and he couldn’t get well, so he died. But while he was here, he was a good friend, and a magnificent human being. The world is better because he was in it, and the sun is not as warm or as bright as it was, now that he is gone.

(3) BOMBCON. Fanhistorian Rob Hansen has added the story of “Bombcon” (1941) to his THEN website. It happened in London during WWII. He’s assembled the text of two conreports plus supporting photos.

England’s biggest fan reunion for the last year was held over the weekend, September 20/21, when in spite of the manifold difficulties attending such a proposition – far in excess of anything the US fans encounter – a muster of some 14 was managed. At Saturday lunch time a party gathered to welcome Maurice Hanson, ex-editor of “Novae Terrae” who had wangled leave from Somerset. After some bookhunting in Charing X Road, the party saw the film “Fantasia”.

On Sunday, a crowd assembled in Liverpool St. stn. waiting room, and proceeded to convert it, in the approved manner of fan meetings, into a magazine mart. We rolled on to Holborn to meet author John Beynon Harris, nearly got arrested for taking photos of the gang, had tea, & held London’s first open air meeting of fans, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields….

(4) MEANING OF DECLINING NUMBERS OF STARS. John Scalzi’s “Four Views of the Same Short Story” uses reviews of his newly-published short story as the basis for an essay about how different readers perceive the same story differently and what authors should do about that.

…The text of the story is the same regardless of who reads it, but the experience of reading it is unique to the person reading.

This is a very important thing for writers (especially newer writers) to learn and build into their worldview: That everyone’s experience of your work, and any reviews they might then write, are inherently subjective, dependent on the person writing them, and there is nothing in the world you can do about that. That’s just the nature of putting work out into the world. Your job is to write the story as well as you can, and not worry overly much how it will be received. Because, as you can see above, it will be received well, and poorly, and everywhere inbetween.

And yes, learning to be okay with the fact everyone won’t love what you wrote is hard, because everyone has an ego, and everyone likes the validation of people enjoying their work…

(5) JOHN CARTER IS ALIVE! ALIVE! I09, in “John Carter Of Mars Is Getting an Action-Packed Romance RPG”, says –

Disney might have soured a few people on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic scifi saga, but John Carter and the world of Barsoom, Mars have been reborn with a new roleplaying game….

Modiphius Entertainment has announced its latest tabletop game, John Carter of Mars: Adventures on the Dying World of Barsoom. Working in cooperation with Burroughs’ estate, the pulp-action RPG lets players take on iconic roles like John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and Tars Tarkas (or a made-up character) “as they travel, battle, and romance their way across the wondrous and dangerous world known to its natives as Barsoom.” John Carter of Mars launched today on Kickstarter, and it’s already nearly tripled its fundraising goal.

The John Carter of Mars game rules are available on the Kickstarter page.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian liked Bizarro’s take on the Bard of Avon.
  • Tarpinian also recommends The Argyle Sweater, where they serve up some Transformer humor.
  • And I’m personally a fan of this cat joke at Bizarro.

(7) TRANSFORMATIVE WORK. The Washington Post’s John Kelly looks at the cheesy 1973 horror film Werewolf of Washington which he thinks has resonances with contemporary politics — “What a howl: Here’s the background story to ‘The Werewolf of Washington’”.

A few years later, one of that film’s producers asked Ginsberg whether he had anything else up his sleeve. As scandal was starting to engulf the Nixon White House — but before Watergate had exploded — Ginsberg went to New York’s Fire Island and in 10 days wrote “The Werewolf of Washington.”

Said Ginsberg: “I came back and the [producer] said, ‘Are you out of your mind? This is an attack on the president. The script is yours. Don’t ever show up here again.’?”

Another producer and some of Ginsberg’s friends stepped in to fund the movie, shot on a shoestring budget of $100,000. Somehow, they were able to get veteran actor [Dean] Stockwell to star. His career, Ginsberg said, “had fallen into eclipse at that time. He loved the script.”

(8) GAME CHANGER. NPR discusses “Fighting Bias With Board Games” — like Buffalo.

This is where Buffalo — a card game designed by Dartmouth College’s Tiltfactor Lab — comes in. The rules are simple. You start with two decks of cards. One deck contains adjectives like Chinese, tall or enigmatic; the other contains nouns like wizard or dancer.

Draw one card from each deck, and place them face up. And then all the players race to shout out a real person or fictional character who fits the description….

It’s the sort of game you’d pull out at dinner parties when the conversation lulls. But the game’s creators says it’s good for something else — reducing prejudice. By forcing players to think of people that buck stereotypes, Buffalo subliminally challenges those stereotypes.

“So it starts to work on a conscious level of reminding us that we don’t really know a lot of things we might want to know about the world around us,” explains Mary Flanagan, who leads Dartmouth College’s Tiltfactor Lab, which makes games designed for social change and studies their effects.

Buffalo might nudge us to get better acquainted with the work of female physicists, “but it also unconsciously starts to open up stereotypical patterns in the way we think,” Flanagan says.

In one of many tests she conducted, Flanagan rounded up about 200 college students and assigned half to play Buffalo. After one game, the Buffalo players were slightly more likely than their peers to strongly agree with statements like, “There is potential for good and evil in all of us,” and, “I can see myself fitting into many groups.”

(9) ALL GOOD THINGS. “End signalled for European Ariane 5 rocket” says the BBC — 82 straight successes, but Ariane 6 will be cheaper.

A final order for a batch of 10 Ariane 5 rockets has been raised.

The vehicle, which has been the mainstay of European launcher activity for the past 20 years, will be phased out once its successor is in place.

ArianeGroup, the French-led industrial consortium, expects its new Ariane 6 to be flying no later than mid-2020, and in full operational service in 2023.

At that point, Ariane 5 can be retired. The last order ensures sufficient rockets are available for the handover.

(10) BIGGER. How do you take away a crashed helicopter? With a bigger helicopter: “US Marines rescue their helicopter… with a bigger one” (video)

US Marines have rescued one of their helicopters after it made an emergency landing on a beach in Okinawa, Japan. The aircraft was airlifted back to base using an even bigger helicopter.

The US presence on Okinawa in southern Japan is a key part of the security alliance between the two countries. The base houses about 26,000 US troops.

(11) WITH FACTS UNCHECKED. It’s fascinating to see JDA start his post “I’m in Good Company” with the rhetorical fillip “I was wrong,”  then grandiosely “correct” himself by citing more misinformation.

It turns out I was wrong in saying WorldCon  made an unprecedented  move in banning someone over politics. It has happened — one time before. Today on the blog we’re going to take you all the way back to 1939, where WorldCon was, like in this year, all too proud of blackballing someone over their dangerous visionary ideas for science fiction. A reader wrote to me:

The Futurians were kicked out of the first Worldcon because organizers feared that they would distribute communist propaganda. The group included a number of luminaries including Asimov and Pohl.

Because  of their fear of not Asimov hurting anyone  (no one fears me hurting anyone by the evidence of how I’ve conducted myself at dozens of conventions in the past) — but spreading political ideas that they found too dangerous for the times  — WorldCon banned Isaac Asimov.

The implication is clear. The elites in science fiction believe I have the potential to be the next Asimov…

Asimov wasn’t kicked out of the first Worldcon. There are a lot of places you can learn who was (like this  Fancyclopedia entry.) Asimov wasn’t one of them — a fact he himself referenced when speaking at “Science Fiction’s 50th Anniversary Family Reunion” in 1989 (Noreascon 3), where he sounded less embarrassed than proud that he had not been turned back at the door with the six other Futurians.

(12) WHAT’S A MAP? Meanwhile, blogger The Phantom, determined to force a connection between the Worldcon and James Damore’s lawsuit against Google, performs this geographic sleight-of-hand:

What does this have to do with WorldCon? Well, this year’s WorldCon and Hugo award ceremony will be held in San Francisco. That’s where Google’s headquarters is, and where all the computer nerds who work at Google live.

Of course, Google’s headquarters is in Mountain View, and the Worldcon is in San Jose. Neither is in San Francisco.

(13) KING KONG. Steve Vertlieb’s 2014 Rondo-nominated article ”A Triple Life: King Kong’s Trinity of Reincarnation on Film” is “A published celebration of the enduring legacy, and profound cultural significance of Merian C. Cooper’s immortal 1933 motion picture masterpiece, King Kong, as well as its numerous cinematic incarnations, influences, and tributes throughout the past eighty five years.”

KING KONG related the remarkable tale of a giant beast, an impossible ape-ike creature whose imposing, horrifying shadow would follow the intrepid explorers whose heroic exploits had led them to its discovery.  Released by RKO Studios during the winter of 1933, the picture reunited Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong with Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack for yet another thrilling adventure in the lurid jungles of a primordial world.  They were joined by Bruce Cabot in, perhaps, the pivotal performance of his career.

(14) ADVERTISING ART. Andrew Liptak at The Verge recommended a documentary about a very rare collection:

The Collection is a short documentary (via Kottke) by Adam Roffman that chronicles a unique piece of Hollywood history: tens of thousands of plates and blocks used to create the newspaper advertisements used for nearly every film that hit theaters before the 1980s.

…The collection includes blocks used for films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Planet Of The Apes, and many others.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]