Pixel Scroll 12/9/19 My High School Class Voted Me Most Likely To Scroll Pixels

(1) INTERSTELLAR TBR. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In response to comet Borisov streaking through the solar system, the Guardian invited Alastair Reynolds to talk about his favorite books about interstellar objects. Alongside some obvious choices, he gives shout-outs to some lesser known gems. It’s a nice little article: “Space invaders: the best books about interstellar arrivals”.

… A significant triumph in recent astronomy has been the detection of gravitational waves, finally achieved by an international consortium using immensely precise (and huge) laser interferometers. But the work to reach this discovery began a century ago, and encompasses a huge cast of heroes and dreamers – and its share of failure. In Black Hole Blues astrophysicist Janna Levin has written the definitive account of this grand quest, and it’s as insightful about the human protagonists in this story as it is about the mind-bending physics of black holes and warped spacetime….

(2) BOOKSCAN. Jason Sanford’s informative analysis “An Author’s Guide to Understanding BookScan” is an unlocked post at his Patreon page.

How Authors Should Use BookScan

If you’re an author, be aware of the limitations in what BookScan captures. A good publisher or agent will know BookScan numbers are useful for analyzing overall sales trends but do not reflect total sales. Be sure to point out your correct sales numbers when approaching publishers and agents. 

You can also try pointing out any important sales not captured by BookScan, such as with e-books. If you’ve hit a Kindle Bestseller list, definitely mention that because it won’t be reflected in BookScan. If you’ve likewise sold a large number of books at conventions and other appearances, mention that.

And if you’re an author where BookScan captures a much lower percentage of your print sales than the 45 to 50% mentioned above, point that out. The BookScan numbers for one of the ChiZine authors represented only 20% of their total print sales in the USA. If I was this author I’d mention that to any publisher or agent I worked with. Otherwise people may assume your sales are extremely low when they aren’t.

(3) OSHIRO UPDATE. Mark Oshiro filled in blog readers about his loss, and made a request: “Mark Does Stuff is going on hiatus”.

…I am currently safe and surrounded by friends every day. Suffice to say that I am devastated beyond words; even typing all of this feels trite and artificial. I don’t think there’s a person in this community in the last five years who doesn’t know how intensely I loved him or how instrumental he was in my life, in my work, and in my happiness. 2019 has been truly one of the worst in my life, as I unfortunately separated from him in the beginning of the year, a choice I knew was necessary but yet still regret and have regretted for a long time. Love is fucking awful like that, and there is no person on this Earth I have ever loved so completely and painfully as Baize.

Baize’s mother started a fundraiser to pay for the astronomical costs of not just the funeral, but sending his body back home to Los Angeles for the funeral. It is most important that if you decide to help out, you start here. If you are not able, a simple boost on social media is very much appreciated.

(4) ACTING I’M NOT. “Baby Yoda: ‘The Mandalorian’ Star Isn’t Real, but Why Shouldn’t It Compete for Awards?”Variety makes the question sound almost reasonable.

… In 2003, the Broadcast Film Critics Association took a step in that direction, creating the category “best digital acting performance” for its Critics Choice Awards. Gollum won the inaugural award, for his part in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Serkis accepted the award, along with New Zealand’s Weta Digital team, which animated the character. Among nominees, Gollum beat out Yoda for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and Dobby from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But the category was a bit controversial, and didn’t return the following year — or in any future Critics Choice Awards after that.

The MTV Movie Awards also went tongue-in-cheek with its Lifetime Achievement award for a period of time, handing out the prize to characters such as Chewbacca, John Shaft, Godzilla and Jason Voorhees — but that was in the telecast’s early, 1990s life.

(5) THE EXPANSE. AV Club’s reviewer Zack Handlen reassure fans, The Expanse has a new home, but it’s as excellent as ever”.

On The Expanse, every choice has weight. Sometimes literally. Early in the show’s compelling fourth season, a character decides to leave her spaceship home and go planetside. It’s a decision her crewmates have made multiple times before, but in Naomi Nagata’s (Dominique Tipper) case, there are special circumstances. As a Belter, Naomi was born and raised in low-gravity environments, which means that her body hasn’t built up the necessary muscle mass to endure planetary gravity. The series hasn’t lost its sense of scope since it left the SyFy channel for Amazon Prime. If anything, it’s broadened its horizons, taking in new worlds and the political strife of multiple systems. Yet a small but meaningful amount of tension is generated out of wondering if a person can walk across level ground without collapsing.

Naomi’s struggles, and the attention paid to those struggles, is emblematic of what makes The Expanse so effective. The show’s canny use of consequences ensures that its wilder sci-fi concepts exist in a context that grounds them without diminishing their impact….

(6) EAR CANDY. Paste calls these the “The 19 Best Audiobooks of 2019”. Ann Leckie and Nnedi Okorafor are on the list, and so is this author –

The Passengers by John Marrs

Narrators: Clare Corbett, Roy McMillan, Tom Bateman, Shaheen Khan, Kristin Atherton, Patience Tomlinson

Run time: 11 hours and 39 minutes

John Marrs’ The Passengers, which follows strangers from the near-future who are locked in their self-driving cars by a murderous hacker, might be your new favorite thriller. As read by a quintet of narrators—all British, for you American listeners looking for your next pond-hopping aural hit—and scored by tempered sound effects, this novel reads as a multi-dimensional nightmare. Do we need another reason to mistrust both technology and the government? Obviously not. Do we still plan to obsessively listen? Of course! If you’re the type of reader who enjoys a truly harrowing story, Marrs’ chilling book is for you.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 9, 1960 The Twilight Zone First aired “The Trouble with Templeton”. Written by Ernest Jack Neuman (1921 – 1998) who was an Edgar and Peabody award-winning writer and producer, it had an amazing cast as well including  Brian Aherne as Booth Templeton, Pippa Scott as Laura Templeton  and Sydney Pollack as Arthur Willis. The Twilight Museum has an great essay on this episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes, he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900 Margaret Brundage. An illustrator and painter who’s now remembered chiefly for having illustrated Weird Tales. She’s responsible for most of the covers for between 1933 and 1938. Wiki notes that L. Sprague de Camp and Clark Ashton Smith we’re several of the writers not fond of her style of illustration though other writers were. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1902 Margaret Hamilton. Most likely you’ll remember her best as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. She would appear later in The Invisible Woman, along with much later being in 13 Ghosts, a horror film, and a minor role in The Night Strangler, a film sequel to The Night Stalker. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 9, 1911 Don Ward. Author of H. Rider Haggard’s She: The Story Retold. More intriguingly, he ghost-wrote works credited according to ESF to both Alfred Hitchcock (Bar the Doors: Terror Stories) and Orson Welles (Invasion from Mars: Interplanetary Stories). He also worked with Theodore Sturgeon on Sturgeon’s West. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 9, 1916 Jerome M. Beatty Jr. His best-read fiction is the Matthew and Maria Looney books, a SF series for children. They were a brother and sister who live on the Moon, part of an alien civilization resident there. ISFDB lists seven novels in total across two series, one for each child. Nothing of his books including The Tunnel to Yesterday, a time travel novel, is available digitally, nor does it appear that anything is in print currently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 85. M in a lot of Bond films. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love which is at genre adjacent, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie. 
  • Born December 9, 1937 – Fandom. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says “Fandom’s Thursday meetings in London begin, 1937 – then weekly in a teashop, now in a pub on the first Thursday of the month.”
  • Born December 9, 1952 Nicki Lynch, 68. She and her husband Rich Lynch edited Mimosa which won six Best Fanzine Hugos and was nominated a total of 14 times. She and her husband have been members of WSFA, the Southern Fandom Confederation, the Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. She has also been a member of SAPS, SFPA, Myriad (Galactic Hitch Hiker), and LASFAPA.  Nth Degree has a neat conversation with her and her husband about Mimosa here.
  • Born December 9, 1952 Michael Dorn, 67. Best known for his role as the Klingon Worf in the Trek franchise. Dorn has appeared on-screen in more Star Trek episodes and movies as the same character than anyone else. 
  • Born December 9, 1953 John Malkovich, 66. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decided that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series which is at genre adjacent. He also appeared in Mutant Chronicles, though, and there was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well.
  • Born December 9, 1970 Kevin Hearne, 49. I’ve really, really enjoyed the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Though I’ll confess that I’ve not yet read the spin-off series, Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DECONSTRUCTING THE GHOSTBUSTERS TRAILER. Vanity Fair hunts down all the Easter eggs: “Who You Gonna Call-Back? How the Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer References the 1984 Original”.

…In the original film, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz, and the late Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler investigated a spirit in the New York Public Library, where they found a similar tower in one of the basement corridors. “Symmetrical book stacking!” Ray exclaimed, like a kid opening a birthday present. “Just like the Philadelphia Mass Turbulence of 1947!”

“You’re right,” Peter replied, drolly. “No human being would stack books like this.”

In that original scene, we hear a haunting, three-note piano trill on Elmer Bernstein’s score as the three men proceed deeper into the library. Those same three notes play in the Afterlife trailer when Mr. Grooberson examines a real-life ghost trap….

(11) THE CYBER WHISPERER. “How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real” is a New Yorker profile of the legendary author.

… Droll, chilled out, and scarily articulate, Gibson talked about the future on television. (“It doesn’t matter how fast your modem is if you’re being shelled by ethnic separatists,” he told the BBC.) He appeared on the cover of Wired, did some corporate consulting, and met David Bowie and Debbie Harry. For a time, U2, which had based its album “Zooropa” in part on Gibson’s work, planned to scroll the entirety of “Neuromancer” on a screen above the stage during its Zoo TV tour. The plan never came to fruition, but Gibson got to know the band; the Edge showed him how to telnet. During this period, Gibson was often credited with having “predicted” the Internet. He pointed out that his noir vision of online life had little in common with the early Web. Still, he had captured a feeling—a sense of post-everything information-driven transformation—that, by the nineties, seemed to be everywhere.

As the Internet became more accessible, Gibson discovered that he wasn’t terribly interested in spending time online himself. He was fascinated, though, by the people who did. They seemed to grow hungrier for the Web the more of it they consumed. It wasn’t just the Internet; his friends seemed to be paying more attention to media in general. When new television shows premièred, they actually cared. One of them showed him an episode of “Cops,” the pioneering reality series in which camera crews sprinted alongside police officers as they apprehended suspects. Policing, as performance, could be monetized. He could feel the world’s F.Q. drifting upward….

 (12) HOLODECK QUALITY EXPERIENCE. Olav Rokne says, “Anytime I see an article about Douglas Trumbull in the news, I’m going to read it because the guy created the most important visuals of my childhood. I still think the best Enterprise is the one from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” — “‘Star Trek’ special effects expert gives talk in Monroe”.

… MAGI projects regular and 3D images at a rate of 120 frames per second. The standard rate at modern theaters is 24 frames per second.

Trumbull has been working on the MAGI technology for years at his home studio, where he has constructed a prototype of the MAGI Pods he hopes to one day install at public venues and movie theaters across the globe. These pods are fully enclosed, small-theater experiences featuring a hemispherical screen and cutting edge projection and sound technology.

“It’s so much like a holodeck, you wouldn’t believe it if you actually saw what we have,” Trumbull said. “In this hemispherical screen, with laser projection, and an extremely wide field of view and my frame rate, it’s like a window onto reality. It’s as close to a holodeck as we are going to get, and we could do it tomorrow, right now.”…

(13) PROPOSED INTERVENTION. A spammer is offering to help Paul Weimer fix everything wrong with File 770. Which apparently is a lot — (click for larger image)

Some of my titles are too long? (Said in the same tone as Rick in Casablanca when he looks up from his dossier and asks, “Are my eyes really blue?”)

Meanwhile Paul wonders, why him?

There actually have been days when this blog has been run by a non-male person (like when I was hospitalized, or needed a couple days away). Did the spammers not notice, or just treat the sudden, short-lived improvement as a statistical outlier? 🙂

(14) LEARNING ABOUT FACIAL RECOGNITION. Don’t be put off by the Harvard Gazette’s headline: “Who’s That Girl?”

Our ability to recognize faces is a complex interplay of environment, neurobiology, and contextual cues. Now a study from Harvard Medical School suggests that country-to-country variations in sociocultural dynamics — notably the degree of gender equality in each — can yield marked differences in men’s and women’s ability to recognize famous faces.

The findings, published Nov. 29 in Scientific Reports, reveal that men living in countries with high gender equality — Scandinavian and certain Northern European nations — accurately identify the faces of female celebrities nearly as well as women. Men living in countries with lower gender equality, such as India or Pakistan, fare worse than both their Scandinavian peers and women in their own country on the same task. U.S. males, the study found, fall somewhere in between, a finding that aligns closely with America’s mid-range score on the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index.

The results are based on scores from web-based facial recognition tests of nearly 3,000 participants from the U.S. and eight other countries, and suggest that sociocultural factors can shape the ability to discern individual characteristics over broad categories. They suggest that men living in countries with low gender equality are prone to cognitive “lumping” that obscures individual differences when it comes to recognizing female faces.

(15) RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. A BBC video chronicles how a “South African creates sign language glove for deaf parents”.

Having struggled throughout his childhood to communicate with his deaf parents, Netshidzati Lucky Mashudu, from Limpopo, South Africa, created smart glove which translates sign language into speech.

Through an app, it can also work the other way, translating speech into sign language.

He says it’s helped him to communicate with his parents.

He showed BBC Life Clinic how it works and what he hopes it could mean for others in the future.

(16) PARADE OF MYTHS. BBC’s post “Mythical creatures appear in Medellín” has spectacular photos.

Fantasy creatures took over the Colombian city of Medellín on Sunday with 800 artists taking part in the annual Parade of Myths and Legends.

The parade is in its 45th year. It started in 1974 as a family event and to bring the country’s myths and legends to life.

The event’s artistic director said that in 2019 the emphasis was less on Colombian myths but on legends from across the world.

As a result, Mexican “catrinas”, elegant skeletons made famous by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada more than a 100 years ago, featured heavily in the parade.

(17) UGLINESS WASN’T THE PROBLEM. Exceptional tastelessness was, explains Global News: “Walmart.ca pulls Christmas sweater featuring Santa with cocaine”. There’s a good video of the merchandise at the link.

Walmart Canada is apologizing after several adult-themed “ugly” Christmas sweaters — including one involving Santa and drugs — were posted for sale on its website.

…One sweater shows a bug-eyed Saint Nick and three lines of a white substance that is heavily implied to be cocaine, along with the phrase “let it snow.”

…Another featured an upside-down snowman with its carrot nose and jingle bells suggestive of genitals while another showed Santa roasting his “chestnuts” over a holiday ornamented fireplace.

(18) ON THE AVENUE. HBO dropped a new trailer for Avenue 5 with Hugh Laurie:

(19) A GRAND IDEA. Rich Horton is happy with SFWA’s latest choice for Grand Master – however, he would be even happier if an exception could be made to allow the addition of one more woman writer, as he explained to his Facebook followers.

Lois McMaster Bujuld has just been named the latest SFWA Grand Master, an honor she surely deserves. She is the seventh. The first was Andre Norton, in 1984.

However, in 1983 SFWA wanted to name C. L. Moore Grand Master. Alas, she had Alzheimer’s disease, and her family declined the award in her name, stating that she would find this too confusing. (Some have suggested that her second husband’s dislike of SF contributed to this, but I don’t know that we KNOW this, and, especially after the recent revelations about John M. Ford’s case, I don’t want to make such assumptions without knowing more about it.)

Moore was an entirely deserving recipient, and in fact the list of Grand Masters seems incomplete without her. And an idea occurred to me — would it be possible for SFWA to, even at this late date, posthumously award C. L. Moore the Grand Master title?…

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Michael Tolan, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Ahead with AudioFile Magazine’s Best New and Classic Audiobooks

From AudioFile Magazine, a sampler of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to listen to this spring

This African-inspired epic fantasy becomes an immersive experience as told by Dion Graham, whose deep-voiced narration makes listeners feel like they are walking in the shoes of the protagonist.


Gibson’s debut novel is the book that forever changed science fiction with a visionary style that forged the cyberpunk genre. With narrator Robertson Dean at the helm, this story of a washed-out computer hacker who is hired to do the unthinkable is reborn.


SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik, read by Lisa Flanagan (2019 Audies Award Winner, Earphones Award Winner)

Novik updates the story of Rumpelstiltskin with a wildly original fantasy tale that has all the markings of a future classic. A young woman with a special gift attempts to save her family but is swept up in world of magic and demons.

Narrator Video: Meet Lisa Flanagan, narrator of Spinning Silver.


THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY – HEXAGONAL PHASE by Eoin Colfer, Douglas Adams, read by John Lloyd, Jane Horrocks, Sandra Dickinson, Susan Sheridan, Jim Broadbent, Mark Wing-Davey, Geoffrey McGivern, Simon Jones and a Full Cast (2019 Audies Award Winner, Earphones Award Winner)

This entertainingly absurd audiobook is the latest in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and yet another example of the brilliance of the BBC’s audio programs. The talented ensemble cast brings to life Douglas Adams’s original characters, including John Lloyd as The Book, Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, and Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect.


THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie, read by Adjoa Andoh (Earphones Award Winner)

Powerful ancient gods, a stolen throne, and revenge. This is the first fantasy book from Leckie, an author known for her space operas, and narrator Adjoa Andoah’s dynamic voices for the imaginative cast of characters make it an audiobook worth seeking out. The story is narrated by a god, the Strength and Patience of the Hill, who tells the story of the world it has observed for millennia. The god also addresses a certain human, Eolo, who is trans. Eolo and heir to the throne Mowat get caught up in political intrigue at court.


WHO? by Algis Budrys, read by Grover Gardner (Earphones Award Winner)

Narrator Grover Gardner captures the essence of an underrated science fiction classic while highlighting its introspective musings. At the height of the Cold War, Dr. Lucas Martino works tirelessly on a mysterious project that explodes, leaving him disfigured.


William Gibson Named SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master


The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) has named William Gibson the 35th Damon Knight Grand Master for his contributions to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award recognizes “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.” Gibson joins the Grand Master ranks alongside such legends as C. J. Cherryh, Peter S. Beagle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Joe Haldeman. The award will be presented at the 54th Annual Nebula Conference and Awards Ceremony in Woodland Hills, CA, May 16th-19th, 2019.

Gibson is known for his cyberpunk novels Neuromancer, Virtual Light, and Mona Lisa Overdrive, and co-wrote the steampunk novel The Difference Engine with Bruce Sterling. Gibson’s writing, through novels such as Pattern Recognition and The Peripheral, continues to break new ground and stimulate conversation about the cyberworld. The influence of Gibson’s writing has not only been felt within the science fiction community, but has expanded to other forms of art, as seen in the music of Billy Idol and Warren Zevon and the Matrix films, as well as throughout computer culture. 

SFWA PRESIDENT, CAT RAMBO

William Gibson coined the word cyberspace in his story “Burning Chrome,” expanding on that concept two years later in the novel Neuromancer. He forged a body of work that has played a major part in the coalescing of the cyberpunk movement, influencing dozens of writers of cinema, fiction, and games, among other creatives. Not content to be one of the definitive writers in only one subgenre, he then went on to help engender steampunk with Bruce Sterling in their collaborative work, The Difference Engine. Gibson continues to produce taut, evocative works that reflect the despair and hope of the 21st century. To be a SFWA Grand Master is to be a speculative fiction writer that has shaped the genre and make it what it is today. Gibson fills that role abundantly.??

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award will be presented along with the Nebula Awards during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from May 16th-19th and features seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. On May 18th, a mass autograph session will take place at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills and is open to the public.

The Nebula Awards, presented annually, recognize the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The first Nebula Awards were presented in 1966.

The Nebula Awards include four fiction awards, a game writing award, the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book. SFWA also administers the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award

Pixel Scroll 6/30/18 Pixels Like Us, Baby We Were Born To Scroll

(1) KICK ASTEROID! Bill Nye and the Planetary Society want funds to educate people about the threat of asteroid impacts. Their Kickstarter, “Kick Asteroid!”, has raised $27,884 of its $50,000 target, with 25 days left to go.

The Planetary Society is excited to partner with space artist and designer, Thomas Romer, and backers around the world to create Kick Asteroid—a colorful graphic poster that will illustrate the effect of past catastrophic impacts, and methods to deflect future asteroid threats. Compelling and scientifically accurate art will be created for posters and other “merch” that backers can use in their everyday lives to spread the word about planetary defense.

… Thomas is collaborating directly with the Society’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Bruce Betts, to depict the asteroid threat in a compelling and scientifically accurate way. Bruce has briefed Thomas on the current state of the science related to Near Earth Objects (NEOs), as well as on the most promising asteroid deflection techniques.

(2) WRITER’S BLOCK. “How do you handle writer’s block?” Rachel Swirsky shares her advice about blocks from two sources. The first kind is medical:

…I think one of the best solutions is to be gentle with yourself about it. Hammering yourself and making yourself feel guilty because of your health is in the way is only likely to make you miserable and increase your stress–which can make the health problem worse. It can be hard to be generous with yourself, especially when the illness is lasting a long time and you have deadlines. …

(3) TWELVE RULES. The Chicago Tribune’s Stephen L. Carter lists his “12 science fiction rules for life”.

Like so many other scribes, I have been inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson’s fascinating book to sketch my 12 rules of life. But mine are different, because each is drawn from canonical science fiction. Why? Maybe because this is the literature on which I grew up, or maybe because I have never lost the taste for it. Or maybe because the sci-fi canon really does have a lot to teach about the well-lived life. Here, then, are my 12 rules. I cannot pretend that I always follow them, but I certainly always try.

  1. “An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” — Isaac Asimov, “Foundation.”

This is one of the clearest expressions of the basis of the liberalism of process. It matters not only whether one accomplishes an end but also how. Any tool available to the “good guys” today might be wielded by the “bad guys” tomorrow. One should always take this proposition into account when choosing a toolkit.

  1. “Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” — Robert Heinlein, “Starship Troopers.”

OK, happiness does consist of more than this — but getting enough sleep is indeed one of its key components. The larger point is that taking physical, emotional and spiritual care of the self is crucial to being truly happy….

(4) LANDING IN THE LAP OF LUXURY. Sarah Gailey ended up cruising through the skies with the 1%. See all the details in a Twitter thread that starts here.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. If you’re curious what the experience is like for finalists brought to LA for the workshops and ceremony, Eneasz Brodski covers it all: “Writers of the Future vol 34 – The Award Ceremony & The People”.

Let’s start with the ceremony!

This was a delight. It was fun to be treated special and given an award and just the belle of the ball for a day! Of course, it was apparently pretty quickly that this award ceremony wasn’t really for us. It was for the Scientologists. This was their party, for them to say to each other “Look at us! We’re helping these people at the start of their career, and supporting the arts! We are doing good in the world.” And good on them for it! They are helping new artists, and contributing to the SFF world in a meaningful way. They can have as big a party they want to celebrate that, it’s their money. I didn’t mind at all being the excuse for that. It kinda felt what I imagine being a unicorn for a couple would feel like? The experience is primarily about them, but they couldn’t have it without me facilitating, and I’m happy to serve that role to bring them that. Of course that’s probably my super-idealized fantasy of unicorning. But /shrug. I got the literary-award equivalent of that fantasy, so I’m happy. 🙂

(6) I HAVE NO CATEGORY AND I MUST SCREAM. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett would like to tell you a Harlan Ellison story about the 1964 Hugos and the plan to omit the Dramatic Presentation category: “London Calling”. It includes this passage by Ron Ellik from the fanzine Vair-Iner.

…When I had lost perhaps half a dollar, Harlan phoned again. He read me a letter. He had talked to two dozen people since his trans-Atlantic call – other Study Committeemen, convention committeemen from past years, etc – and this letter, signed by Harlan, cited these several people as being, each, in at least passive agreement that London should not do this thing. In conclusion, Mr. Ben Jason and the group producing the physical Hugo trophies had agreed with him to withhold the trophies from the London convention.

We eagerly await news of London’s answer.

And there you have it folks, if you want to be a successful squeaky wheel then you need to really apply some of that old-fashioned elbow grease. Ah, I hear you ask, and was Harlan, that tiger of the telephone, a truly successful squeaky wheel? Well, yes….

(7) A PRIVATE MOMENT. And Bill provided a clipping from Ellison’s army days.

(8) WOULD YOU BELIEVE? What record has sold the most copies in 2018? “The Year’s Top-Selling Singer Isn’t Kanye — It’s Hugh Jackman”.

Halfway through a year filled with new work from some of the most popular artists alive, the best-selling album is the soundtrack to a movie musical with Hugh Jackman that never led the box office.

“The Greatest Showman’’ has sold almost 4 million copies for Atlantic Records, outpacing works from Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. Music from the film based on the life of circus promoter P.T. Barnum has outsold the next most popular album of the year, Post Malone’s “Beerbongs & Bentleys,’’ by about 2-to-1.

(9) HUMP MONTH: At Featured Futures, the middle of the year doesn’t mean middling stories, as Jason has compiled another list of standout fiction gleaned from the SF magazines, plus links to reviews and other postings in Summation: June 2018.

This month produced nine noted stories (four recommended) from a total of forty-five (215 Kwds). Compelling made a strong and welcome return on its new semi-annual schedule. “Nightspeed” also contributed a couple of powerful tales.

(10) HUNTER OF THE SKY CAVE. Need a good laugh? Read Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag’s wonderful post “Inkwell and the Sky Raisin”.

…As anyone who has bothered to read this blog for any length of time knows, my husband and I are owned by a black cat named Inkwell. These are some of his recent adventures, mostly from Facebook and a few of his “Inkwell Sings the Blues” from his Twitter Feed.

This morning I woke up late, and my husband was already off running errands. I looked around the house for Inkwell, fearing he might have somehow gotten outside (he’s very much an indoor cat). I went from room to room looking for him, and when I opened the door to the garage, a fly (aka Sky Raisin) flew into the house. Eventually I found Inkwell by shaking his treats. He casually wandered out from wherever he was hiding to get his reward for being a cat from his mommy.

A half an hour later, he noticed the fly….

(11) TUNE IN. BBC Radio 4’s A Good Read this week included Gibson’s Neuromancer, plus had some other SF discussion. (Thanks for the share to Jonathan Cowie of Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation.)

Writers Juno Dawson and Pandora Sykes discuss favourite books Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, with Harriett Gilbert. How will Juno and Pandora enjoy Harriett’s foray into science fiction? And how did Sagan’s novel, written at the tender age of 17, influence Juno’s writing for young adults?

(12) COLLINS OBIT. Four-time F&SF contributor Reid Collins died on April 19. See his Washington Post death notice at Legacy.com.

…In 1982 he succeeded Dallas Townsend to become anchor of “The CBS World News Roundup”- the longest running news broadcast in history. His passion, however, was space. He anchored live coverage of all the nation’s manned space flights for CBS News from Gemini up to the Space Shuttle, including all the Apollo flights to the moon. In 1985, Mr. Collins took “one giant leap” from radio to television and became an anchor for CNN, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. During retirement, he enjoyed golf, cigars on his front porch in Kensington, his 1977 Saab convertible and spending time fishing and relaxing on the East Rosebud River at his vacation home outside Roscoe MT. Arrangements will be private. If so moved, donations in his name may be made to the Montana Historical Society, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201.

Collins had four short stories in F&SF between 1978 and 1984.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory opened.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 30 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 59. Men in Black and the animated Men in Black series as well, genre series work including Emerald City, Daredevil and Ghost Wars.
  • Born June 30 – Molly Parker, 46. Currently on The Lost in Space series as Maureen, but genre roles on The Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, HighlanderThe Sentinel, and Deadwood. Cat Eldridge says, “Ok the last may not be genre but it is a great love of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Emma’s novel Territory reflects her passion for the Old West.”

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian relays a warning from a well-known comic book hero delivered in Bliss.
  • Mike Kennedy shares how in Monty, robot sidekick EB3’s left arm had achieved a sentience of its own, was rebelling, and had to be replaced.  Doc and Monty found a use for the old arm…

(16) A FLUCTUATION IN THE FORCE. JDA’s Twitter followers had a market crash:

(17) HERETICAL PRONOUNCEMENT. Camestros Felapton dares to ask, “Is HAL 9000 a robot?”. Worse than that, he dares to answer!

So what about HAL? HAL presents as an AI. He’s talked about as a brain. He is shown as a computer. But what is he the brain of? Simple, HAL is the brain of the Discovery One and has control over the ship. Discovery One is HAL’s body. HAL is a robot.

Your Good Host has a meltdown in his comments section.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Synthetic Biology on Vimeo, Vasil Hnatiuk posits a future where giant bees race and living organisms became starships.

(19) RETRO FANDOM. Simpler times! A clipping courtesy of David Doering:

ACKERMAN  BEATS   BRADBURY   TO   A   PULP!

April 1, 1941 — Eyewitness account:

A low-flying, longstanding feud between the two would-be fun-rulers of Shangri-LA, Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman, broke into the open here late on the night of March 27 with serious injuries sustained by Bradbury — tangle occurred after a Club meeting — when Bradbury and FJA were leaving Cliftons and walked around the corner toward the newsstand. Each was playing the perennial game of trying to out-pun the other, when the now Stirring Science Stories was simultaneously spotted, Both fans leaped forward to secure the issue, Ackerman getting there first. So it was that Ackerman beat Bradbury to a pulp.

(20) BRADBURY AGAIN. Susan Sackett’s Inside Trek book promo site includes a small gallery of photos from a 1976 recording session.

In 1976, I suggested to my friend Ed Naha, A&R person for Columbia Records, that he should sign Gene to do a “spoken word” record. Gene loved the idea and wrote some great copy, inviting many science fiction luminaries to join him. “Inside Star Trek” was recorded at United Western Studios in LA, with Gene, Bill Shatner, and Ray Bradbury all present at this first session. (Isaac Asimov recorded his contribution in New York; DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard’s sessions came later.) I was there too, of course, snapping pictures for posterity. As you can see from this shot, Gene, Bill and Ray were discussing something important. I call this Gene’s “shaggy dog” period.

(21) HOT OFF THE DIGITAL PRESS. The 20th issue of Rich Lynch’s personal fanthology My Back Pages is now online at the eFanzines website. [PDF file]

Issue #20 is a “getting closer to retirement” issue and has essays involving close-up magic and far-off business destinations, oppressive desert heat and refreshing evaporative cooling, fast cars and slow bicycles, large buildings and small details, Madisonian libertarianism and Rooseveltian progressivism, 1950s space ships and current-day space stations, famous cowboys and famous Missourians, posh hotels and run-down motels, first fans and First Fans, State Capitols and County Courthouses, steamy blues and cool jazz, hot barbecue and the Cold War, bronze statues and scrap metal constructs, large conventions and larger conventions, fan libraries and fanfiction, no reservations and “No Award”.  And colophons… Why did it have to be colophons?

(22) IN A CAST. “Jared Leto ‘joins Spider-Man movie universe’ as vampire Morbius” reports the BBC.

The 30 Seconds To Mars frontman would hop from DC to Marvel, having previously played The Joker in Suicide Squad.

Morbius is the third movie currently in production based on characters in the Spider-Man comic books.

After reports of the casting spread online, Jared shared some artwork of the character on Instagram.

(23) OVERRUNS. China Film Insider says it’s “This Year’s Most Expensive Summer Film”

When it comes to this year’s summer films in China, although Chinese audiences have been abuzz with Jiang Wen’s Hidden Man, Guo Jingming’s L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties, and Xu Ke’s action movie Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, the most expensive summer film is another one: Yang Zhenjian’s Asura. This film reportedly costs 750 million yuan ($115.5 million). Based on the current revenue-sharing model in China, it has to make at least 2.3 billion yuan ($350 million) in order to breakeven. In a recent interview with WeChat media outlet D-entertainment, the film’s director Yang Zhenjian explained that a big portion of the budget was allocated to hiring international technicians and visual effect teams. In addition, the film was made by a huge crew within a long period of time.

(24) DOCTOR WHO COMIC. Titan Comics and BBC Studios have announced Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Vol. 0 – The Many Lives Of Doctor Who – a special primer edition, which celebrates the Doctor’s many lives, and leads directly into Titan’s brand-new Thirteenth Doctor comic series – launching this fall in the U.S. and UK.

It’s said that your life flashes before your eyes when you die, and the Doctor’s had many of them! As the Doctor regenerates from his twelfth incarnation to her thirteenth (as played by Jodie Whittaker), she relives unseen adventures from all her past selves from Classic through to New Who.

(25) THE JOHNNY RICO DIET. It’s not Heinlein’s Mobile Infantry powered armor, though it may be a step toward it. It’s not even in deployed use. But the US military does seem to be getting serious about testing powered exoskeleton for both upper and lower body uses. In Popular Science: “Power-multiplying exoskeletons are slimming down for use on the battlefield”.

…newly developed exoskeletons is starting to meet […] slimmed-down, stealth requirements  […] Among the most promising, and weird-looking, is the “third arm” that the U.S. Army Research Laboratory developed to help soldiers carry and support their weapons on the battlefield. The lightweight device, which weighs less than four pounds and hangs at a soldier’s side, stabilizes rifles and machine guns, which can weigh up to 27 pounds. This improves shooting accuracy and also minimizes fatigue. It can even be used while scrambling into position on the ground.

…In May, Lockheed Martin unveiled its lightest weight powered exo for lower body support. Dubbed ONYX, the form-fitting suit, which resembles an unobtrusive web of athletic braces, reduce the effort soldier’s need for walking, running, and climbing over varied terrain while carrying a heavy loads of up to 100 pounds.

The suit uses tracking sensors, mechanical knee actuators, and artificial intelligence-based software that predicts joint movement, all of which reduce stress on the lower back and the legs.…

(26) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Sixth Tone is hot pursuit of the story: “Chinese Fantasy Show Accused of Stealing Harry Potter’s Magic”.

Harry Potter fans threaten to Avada Kedavra drama accused of plot-copying.

After “Legend of Fu Yao” premiered in China on Monday, some viewers pointed out that the television series appeared to have plagiarized “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire,” the fourth installment in British novelist J.K. Rowling’s seven-part series. Twelve episodes have aired so far — and online clips from or related to the show had gained over 350 million views within a day of the season premier.

In the series, the heroine Fu Yao is a disciple at Xuanyuan, a Taoist school that teaches swordsmanship and sorcery. The story focuses on the Tiandou Competition, an event held every eight years. To join in the contest, hopefuls must throw a piece of paper dipped in their own blood into a bronze cauldron. Once they’re signed up, there’s no getting out of the three-round competition, which sees challengers fight against a buffalo-shaped mythical creature, among other tasks.

Loyal Potterheads were quick to notice the similarities with the fourth installment’s Triwizard Tournament, a competition held every five years between three wizarding schools….

(27) HUMANITY NEEDS SAVING AGAIN. The Predator opens in theaters September 14:

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Jason, Bill, Rich Lynch, David Doering, Jonathan Cowie, Todd Mason, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/18 A Pixel Can Produce A Few Notes Though The Scrolls Are Very Flat

(1) CAMERON’S SF OVERVIEW. It’s remarkable how many people think I haven’t covered this before. But as my motto says, “It’s always news to somebody.” At AV Club: “James Cameron’s Story Of Science Fiction is a solid, albeit navel-gazing, primer”.

Cameron has made some truly great sci-fi movies (Avatar notwithstanding), and if anyone else were heading up a discussion of the genre, they’d undoubtedly devote a segment or several to the creator of the Terminator franchise. As he notes during a chat with Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Skynet” is synonymous with “robot revolution.” There’s no denying what Cameron’s contributed to the genre, and there’s a certain joy in seeing him geek out with Lucas, who had to be cajoled into participating, and Spielberg.

(2) LEFT COAST. Detailed options for watching the launch in person are given at the link: “Where to Watch NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Launch from the California Coast”.

NASA’s next Mars mission will be the first Red Planet spacecraft to lift off from the West Coast. The InSight Mars lander is scheduled to launch on Saturday (May 5) at no earlier than 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT/1105 GMT). Here’s how you can watch it in person, or online at Space.com or other locations.

InSight will provide an interior snapshot of Mars to learn more about how rocky planets are formed. A heat probe will dig under the surface to look at the temperature of the interior. A seismometer will measure marsquakes and meteorite hits. In addition, a radio science instrument will transmit InSight’s position to Earth as the planet wobbles in its orbit around the sun. The wobble provides information about the composition and size of the Martian core.

(3) BONESTELL. The Newport Beach Film Festival screens “Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future” on May 1.

Behind every architect and builder is an artist who takes designs and ideas, morphing them into beautiful images for everyone to understand. Chesley Bonestell was this artist, yet very few know his name. He worked on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Chrysler Building, as a matte artist on famous movies like Citizen Kane, and his mesmerizing paintings of planets and star systems helped jumpstart America’s space program. His iconic “Saturn As Seen From Titan”, became known as “the painting that launched a thousand careers.” Discover the power of the forgotten man whose art inspired Americans to conquer “The Final Frontier”.

Watch the trailer – Ray Bradbury shows up at 2:08.

(4) ONE IS THE ONLIEST NUMBER. Ars Technica’s Chris Lee says that in her new book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder argues that the search for Beauty and Naturalness may be leading theoretical physics in a wrong direction. Well established physics whose math looks beautiful now were often regarded at ugly kludges when they were proposed: “Lost in Math: Beauty != truth”

…Hossenfelder is sounding that alarm by suggesting that perhaps theoretical physicists need to spend a little more time on introspection and examining some of their working assumptions. Theoretical physics has been starved of new data for more than an entire generation. How can a theoretician choose a good model in the absence of data? And how do you choose which experimental options to pursue based on competing theoretical models?

…In Lost in Math, Hossenfelder delves briefly into the history of particle physics in order to explain the success of the Standard Model of particles and forces. She touches on why we’ve not had any unexplainable data from experimental particle physics for the last 50 years. She then takes us on a tour of the data that make us think we should be looking for physics that is not explained by the Standard Model—dark matter, dark energy, and cosmic inflation.

…But what makes a “good” theory in the absence of data? You and I might think that this would be predictions for new data and, yes, that plays a role. But Hossenfelder takes us into a realm where theories are decades from being tested. Unfortunately, we need to evaluate their quality now so we can determine how much effort we put into preparing for those tests. What is the criteria for that?

The answer is… ugly. Theoreticians make the following sorts of arguments: the Standard Model is described by math that physicists find beautiful; therefore, we insist that new physics be described by mathematical beauty. That’s paired with another argument, termed naturalness. What is naturalness? It turns out that everything should be about equal to one. If a theory produces a very large number, that is OK, as long as it also produces another very large number so that the difference or ratio of the two is, you guessed it, roughly unity. One is the most natural and only acceptable answer. Any other answer is unnatural because it is unlikely to occur by chance.

(5) PAROLINI OBIT. Gianfranco Parolini (1930-2018): Italian director / screenwriter, often billed as “Frank Kramer”, reportedly died April 26 at the age of 88. Genre entries include The Fury of Hercules (1962), The Three Fantastic Supermen (1967), Giant of the 20th Century (1977). He also introduced one of the iconic spaghetti western anti-heroes in Sabata (1969).

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born April 30, 1938 — Larry Niven
  • Born April 30, 1985 – Gal Gadot

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Beware “friends” bearing harpoons – Speed Bump.
  • Daniel Dern sent along his explication of today’s Sally Forth, because a lot of us will need one —

Hilary is their teen-age daughter. Here’s the speech being referenced:

The guy (Michael Keaton) driving Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and his date to the school dance isn’t just the date’s dad, he’s also the Big Bad for this movie (The Vulture). Peter didn’t know that until he showed up at their house, dad didn’t know Peter was S-M until this conversation.

(8) BOARD GAME ACCUSATION. Eric Franklin synopsized a “Communiqué from the French Game Designers Union about the Alien / Nostromo game”

“The brief: A few years ago,  François Bachelart showed an Alien-themed game off to a publisher (Wonder Dice).  It’s not uncommon for designers to create prototypes and the like for dream licenses – re-theming a game is often part of the development process.  They negotiated with the designer for a while, but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement.

“Wonder Dice recently announced that pre-orders are opening soon for a game called Nostromo, which bears striking similarities to the design that Bachelart showed them – only it doesn’t have his name on the product and the publisher is claiming it’s an in-house design. It looks like they actually managed to land a license to use Alien, too, which is impressive.”

The publisher has made several public statements, none of them good. One of their statements is quoted on Kotaku (originally in French, and the text shows signs of being a product of Google Translate): Alien Board Game Accused Of Plagiarism, Publisher Threatens To Sue Critics.

Franklin adds: “Copyright on board games is … interesting.  Because you can’t copyright game rules. Sorta. You can copyright specific expressions – that is, you can copyright specific wordings and the rules as a whole, but if someone else clones your game using different art and phrases their rules differently, it’s (oddly) completely legal. If you start to dig into this, it’s a real rabbit hole that will eat hours of your time.

“But that also means that game designers have no legal protections when something like this happens, and it needs to be fought out in the court of public opinion.”

(9) MYTHCON NEWS. The Mythcon 49 Progress Report is now available to read online or download and print. Our own Dr. Robin Anne Reid is a Guest of Honor. The con is in Atlanta, July 20-23. The theme is “On the Shoulders of Giants.”

The extended deadline for Paper Proposals is MAY 15.

(10) DEAD CHANNEL. Now available: “Dead Channel: Music Inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer”.

Six Colors’ Jason Snell is enthusiastic:

My friend Antony Johnston doesn’t just write comics, novels, and graphic novels that get turned into “Atomic Blonde”. He also writes electronic music as Silencaeon. This week he released a new album. I got a preview a few months ago when he sent me a track called “Wintermute”, and I started laughing… because I realized that the entire album, titled Dead Channel, is an homage to one of my all-time favorite books, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, which begins with the line:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

The album, which is great to have in the background while you’re focused on your computer screen, whether you’re writing, coding, or hacking into cyberspace while avoiding some nasty black-ice countermeasures, is officially “Music Inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer”, and even features an excerpt from the book at a key moment. The whole album, as well as the rest of Antony’s music stuff, is available at Bandcamp.

(For more on “Neuromancer”, check out this episode of the Hugos There podcast featuring my friend Lisa Schmeiser.)

(11) SHORE THING. The BBC indulges in some lit tourism: “The Scottish island where George Orwell created 1984”.

George Orwell escaped to a remote Scottish island to create his final masterpiece – the dystopian classic 1984.

Going into the Corryvreckan whirlpool is a heart-stopping experience even when conditions are relatively benign.

It hits quite suddenly as you are passing through the narrow stretch of sea between the islands of Jura and Scarba.

One side of the boat drops away and you find yourself sitting on the deck.

Then the other side goes and you are grabbing on to the guard rail to stop yourself sliding in the opposite direction.

It must have felt something like this when George Orwell found himself in the throws of the Corry on the way back from a picnic on the west side of Jura.

But for him, it was so much worse than being knocked about a bit.

The outboard motor was wrenched off and his young nephew, Henry, attempted to row them towards a rocky islet of Eilean Mor.

(12) CHEATERS WHO PROSPERED. For awhile — “China shuts down Player Unknown cheat code gang”.

Chinese police have arrested 15 people suspected of creating cheat programs for the popular Player Unknown Battleground (PUBG) game.

The cheats helped people survive longer, aim more accurately and spot foes in the competitive shooting game.

The 15 suspects have also been fined about 30m yuan (£3.45m) for profiting from the cheats.

Chinese police are expected to make more arrests as they break up the gang that made and sold the programs.

…PUBG is hugely popular in China and almost half of its players live there.

(13) SPEAKEASY. Jason Fagone, in “The Quest To Save Stephen Hawking’s Voice” in the San Francisco Chronicle, discusses engineer Eric Dorsey’s efforts to preserve Stephen Hawking’s synthesized voice after in 2016 Hawking and his staff found that the CallText 5010 speech synthesizer which has served Hawking faithfully since 1986 was collapsing, and the company no longer existed and its source code might be permanently lost.

Wood explained something so improbable that Dorsey had trouble understanding at first: Hawking was still using the CallText 5010 speech synthesizer, a version last upgraded in 1986. In nearly 30 years, he had never switched to newer technology. Hawking liked the voice just the way it was, and had stubbornly refused other options. But now the hardware was showing wear and tear. If it failed entirely, his distinctive voice would be lost to the ages.

The solution, Wood believed, was to replicate the decaying hardware in new software, to somehow transplant a 30-year-old voice synthesizer into a modern laptop — without changing the sound of the voice. For years, he and several colleagues in Cambridge had been exploring different approaches. What did Dorsey think?

(14) CELEBRITY BUS. James Corden takes the Avengers: Infinity War cast on a tour of Los Angeles. It’s really entertaining.

(15) LATE TO THE PARTY. Marvel itself is asking, after Infinity War, “Where Were Ant-Man and the Wasp?”

[Thanks to Gregory Benford, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Lynn Maudlin, Gerry Williams, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matt Y.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/18 Not All Pixels Scroll Up In Value. Some May Scroll Down

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO LOGO. Merchandise with the Thirteenth Doctor’s new logo is on sale starting today.

(2) MEDICAL MARVEL. Pat Cadigan reports some good news in her latest update: “I Have Cancer But Cancer Doesn’t Have Me”.

The level of cancer in my body has fallen again. The hormones I’m taking are still killing off cancer cells.

Today I saw a new members of my oncologist’s team. It was all I could do not to start dancing around her office. Although who knows—she might have danced with me. She looked amazed when she checked the results of my blood test.

On our way out, Chris and I ran into a few fellow-travellers who said they liked my lucky short—i.e., the one that says, I’m Making Cancer My Bitch. I love my lucky shirt.

(3) HEDGEHOG DAY. Daniel P. Dern has been keeping an eye on superhero TV and provided this update for the Scroll:

In last night’s Legends of Tomorrow (B-lister superheroes travelling through time and space to fix history hiccups usually using the Dr “House” method of first making things much much worse…) Season 3 Episode 11, ”Here I Go Again” — “Zari [not from our time period] finds her place on the team when she gets caught in a time loop that results in the Waverider blowing up over and over again.”

The fun part is that when she realizes what’s happening, she tries describing it, one of the from-our-time heroes says “OK, on the next cycle, find me and say, ‘Groundhog Day.'” (which, of course, on the first try, she instead says ‘Hedgehog Day.’)

(And another of the from-our-time heroes counters with a Star Trek time loop citation…)

Fun episode, marred only IMHO by (SPOILER ROT13ed) znxvat vg ghea bhg gb or n pbzchgre-vaqhprq plorefcnpr rkcrevrapr engure guna npghny Tebhaqubt Qnl ybbcvat. Cuhv.

(Just like bar bs gur yngre Beivyyr rcvfbqrf univat ~3/4 bs gur rcvfbqr erirnyrq gb or orra n “Jr’ir unq lbh va n ubybqrpx fpranevb sbe cflpubgurencl” znthssva, sru.)

Like one of the recent episodes of The Magicians (scrolled recently), it’s gratifying to see characters from our time period exhibit familiarity with sf pop culture enough to use them as information shortcuts.

(4) A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Robin Reid says, “I just finished John Kessel’s latest, Pride and Prometheus (Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice meets Victor Frankenstein and his Creature)” and recommends Liz Bourke’s review “Literary Fusion: Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel” at Tor.com.

There are three main points of view in Pride and Prometheus. The most interesting, by my lights, is Mary Bennett, younger sister of Elizabeth Bennett. Several years have passed since the end of Pride and Prejudice, and Mary has passed thirty years of age and is entering into spinsterhood. She has an interest in natural philosophy, especially fossils, and feels as though she should find a man to marry, but does not feel as though there is a man who will marry her. When she encounters Victor Frankenstein, a young man haunted by some secret of his past, she finds herself oddly compelled by his presence. Mary’s part of the narrative is told in the third person, unlike the other two narrators, who recount their parts of the story in the first person. This matches the approach of the original narratives.

(5) KEEP ON TRUCKING. Time to celebrate: “NASA’s Opportunity rover sees its 5,000th day on Mars”.

This weekend, NASA’s Opportunity rover spent its 5,000th day on Mars. While that is a feat in and of itself, it’s even more impressive when you consider that it was only planned to last 90 Martian days, or sols. Both Opportunity and its companion rover Spirit were launched towards Mars in 2003, landing on two different parts of the planet in January 2004. Neither were expected to make it through Mars’ harsh winter though, which lasts about twice as long as ours and is severely lacking in light, but NASA’s team discovered that pointing the rovers towards the north and towards the sun was enough to keep them powered through the winter. Further, making sure the rovers were on north-facing slopes each winter helped to keep them going for years longer than they were ever intended to function.

(6) HEROIC EFFORT. The Nielsen Haydens’ Making Light suffered a server problem and at the moment the latest post displayed is dated 2008. I wish them the best of luck and a complete return to the internet of all their text and comments.

(7) MORE GENRE FROM THE TOY FAIRE. See photos of toys hyped at the NYC Toy Fair at the link.

With new installments of Star Wars, Jurassic Worldand the Avengers headed our way this summer, movie fans have plenty to cheer about. The same goes for toy lovers, who can look forward to action figures, play sets, board games, and other playthings based on 2018’s biggest blockbusters and hottest television shows. Yahoo Entertainment spent the past weekend at New York City’s annual festival for toys, Toy Fair, where we got to see both the new and retro movie- and TV-related toys that everyone will be talking about this year. Scroll through the gallery and start getting your holiday wish lists ready now.

They include —

Lego ‘Star Wars’ Kessel Run Millennium Falcon

It took Han Solo only 12 parsecs to make his famous run through the Kessel Mines. See if you can lap that record as you assemble this 1,414-piece Lego Millennium Falcon, which comes complete with laser turrets and a Dejarik board

Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie

It’s the Star Wars answer to Teddy Ruxpin: an interactive Chewbacca doll who talks, uh, growls on command and can also be rocked to sleep or tickled into a laughing fit. Warning: Kids might have to compete with their parents for cuddle time with this adorable Wookiee.

(8) APES AT 50. Mark Kermode talks about the 50th anniversary of Planet of the Apes release and wonders if Star Wars will look as good at the same age.

“Of course,” says IanP, “Star Wars isn’t growing old as gracefully with all its repeated facelifts …”

(9) ALMOST ERASED. Vulture interviews “The Man Who Made Black Panther Cool”:

Christopher Priest broke the color barrier at Marvel and reinvented a classic character. Why was he nearly written out of comics history?

“I’m an asshole. I’m abrasive. I am so sure that I’m right about virtually everything. I can sing you an aria of reasons to not like me,” says comics writer Christopher Priest, his bass voice rising to the brink of anger but never quite tipping over. “Not liking me because I’m black is so juvenile and immature, because there’s many reasons to not like me.” He’s speaking, as he often does, about the racism — both overt and structural — that he’s faced in the comics industry over his 40-year career. But that set of attributes, seen from another angle, can apply to the reasons to like him, or at least admire him — he’s unwaveringly outspoken, endearingly opinionated, as well as a pioneer in the comics industry. He’s also likely the only comics writer to have taken breaks from his career at various times to toil as a musician, pastor, and bus driver.

(10) NEBULA TOOL. Now that the Nebula finalists are out, Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated version with links to the stories (where possible), synopses, reviews, etc. — “2017 Annotated Nebula Award Finalists”

Greg Hullender explains, “By sorting the list according to how many different sources of recommendation each one got, we make it easier to see where the Nebulas are acknowledging broadly popular stories and where the SFWA members have a unique perspective.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 20, 1962  — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20,  1926 Richard Matheson (links to SyFy Wire’s commemorative article.)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel P. Dern got the Amazon reference in Grimmy.
  • Chip Hitchcock noticed something super about Arlo and Janis.

(14) A LITTLE MISTAKE. If either of us had actually gone to a copyediting school, I’d wonder if RedWombat and I graduated from the same one:

(15) INTERNET VISUALIZED. Looking back: “The Father Of The Internet Sees His Invention Reflected Back Through A ‘Black Mirror'” contrasts idealistic inventor Vint Cerf with William Gibson’s what-will-really-happen.

While Cerf and his colleagues were busy inventing, the young aspiring science fiction writer William Gibson was looking for a place to set his first novel. Gibson was living in Seattle, and he had friends who worked in the budding tech industry. They told him about computers and the Internet, “and I was sitting with a yellow legal pad trying to come up with trippy names for a new arena in which science fiction could be staged.”

The name Gibson came up with: cyberspace. And for a guy who had never seen it, he did a great job describing it in that 1984 book, Neuromancer: “A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”

(16) GOODLIFE. The scum of the Earth has been around longer than they thought: “Origins of land plants pushed back in time”.

A seminal event in the Earth’s history – when plants appeared on land – may have happened 100 million years earlier than previously thought.

Land plants evolved from “pond scum” about 500 million years ago, according to new research.

These early moss-like plants greened the continents, creating habitats for land animals.

The study, based on analysing the genes of living plants, overturns theories based purely on fossil plant evidence.

“Land plants emerged on land half a billion years ago, tens of millions of years older than the fossil record alone suggests,” said study author, Dr Philip Donoghue of the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

(17) AFROFUTURISM. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao, in the wake of Black Panther, gives an overview of Afrofuturism and discusses forthcoming Afrofuturist projects, including Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer and a forthcoming TV production of Octavia Butler’s Dawn directed by Ava DuVernay.“The resurgence of Afrofuturism goes beyond ‘Black Panther,’ to Janelle Monáe, Jay-Z and more “.

Monáe released a trailer on Friday for “Dirty Computer,” a new album with an accompanying narrative film. The 30-second teaser, set to air ahead of some “Black Panther” showings, presents clips of a dystopian world set to guitar feedback and snapping fingers. Monáe’s co-star Tessa Thompson is abducted by a man dressed in military gear. We cut to the two embracing on a beach. Seconds later, Monáe lies on an examination table while someone strokes a mysterious tattoo on her arm.

“They drained us of our dirt, and all the things that made us special,” she narrates. “And then you were lost. Sleeping. And you didn’t remember anything at all.”

Monáe’s work has exhibited Afrofuturist influences for years — the Quietus, an online British magazine, proclaimed back in 2010 that she “brandishes the acetylene torch for radical Afrofuturism.” In her multi-album “Metropolis” saga, the singer’s alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, is a messianic android who was sent back in time to lead a protest movement against an oppressive regime.

 

(18) CORRECTING AN OMISSION. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted K. Tempest Bradford’s tweet contrasting her own fundraiser to JDA’s, but she didn’t get all the benefit from that she might have because the tweet didn’t link to her YouCaring page — “Send K. T. Bradford To Egypt! (For Research)”. She had reached $3,135 of her $5,000 goal, but earlier today a couple of large donations put her over the top. Congratulations!

(19) THE FRANCHISE. With six you get Sharknado Bloody Disguting has the details:

Not surprisingly, Sharknado 6 is coming this Summer, and the first plot details, along with an early piece of poster art, have come to us out of EFM today.

In the sixth installment…

“All is lost, or is it? Fin unlocks the time-traveling power of the SHARKNADOS in order to save the world and resurrect his family. In his quest, Fin fights Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and even takes a ride on Noah’s Ark. This time, it’s not how to stop the sharknados, it’s when.”

Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and Cassie Scerbo return.

Sharknado 6 will premiere on July 25, 2018.

(20) BIG BANG’S BILLIONAIRE GUEST. Supposedly Sheldon has already met him: “Bill Gates to Guest Star on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ — But Remember When He Punched Sheldon in the Face?!”

Bill Gates is headed to The Big Bang Theory!

ET has learned that Gates will be guest starring as himself in an upcoming March episode of the hit CBS comedy. The famed Microsoft founder will be stopping by Penny’s work and when this news reaches Sheldon, Leonard and the rest of our geektastic gang, the guys do everything in their power for a chance to meet him.

But here’s a Big Bang fun fact for you: Sheldon has actually already met the infamous tech billionaire on the CBS comedy and let’s just say their first interaction did not go very well. In fact, Gates punched Sheldon in the face!

(21) SUGGESTION BOX. Here’s a fan video proposing the way to begin Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as Doctor Who.

There are many great stories, but none as great as this. This is the story of the girl who fell from the stars. And this is how it begins… Without the Tardis and without hope, the Doctor is sent plummeting towards the planet below. The Doctor must come to terms with her new body quickly and escape her incoming demise. Here is a concept scene I’ve created for the upcoming debut episode for the Thirteenth Doctor! Just a bit of fun really but actually turned relatively believable. I have this theory in my mind that the Tardis would materialise underneath the Doctor as she’s falling and catches her. I’ve tried to imagine this as best as possible in this video!

 

[Thanks to Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, IanP, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, Alan Baumler, Robin A. Reid, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/17 I’ve Been To Arrakis On A Sandworm With Two Names Twice

(1) NO, IT AIN’T COOL. Indiewire reports “Harry Knowles Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Austin Woman Two Decades Ago, and Drafthouse Owners Didn’t Take Action”.

An Austin-area woman said Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles sexually assaulted her at an Alamo Drafthouse event — but the reason she’s speaking out now is she believes change is coming.

“Harry Knowles groped me, opportunistically, on more than one occasion,” said Jasmine Baker. “I cannot just stay silent. I am not interested in remaining silent.”

The specifics are described at the link. Knowles denied the accusations.

Alamo Drafthouse has severed ties with Harry Knowles, who had a business relationship with the owners, and had cofounded a convention with them.

As a result of the charges, several Ain’t It Cool News staffers have left — Eric “Quint” Vespe, Steve “Capone” Prokopy, and “Horrorella.”

(2) WRITING ABOUT HEINLEIN. Farah Mendlesohn answers some pointed questions about her forthcoming Heinlein book in “Q&A with Ken MacLeod”.

KMM: Heinlein is a hero to and an influence on the ‘right’ of the SF field. I remember many years ago being surprised to hear you being enthusiastic about Heinlein, and I probably asked you something like this: As a feminist of the left, why do you find Heinlein so intriguing?

FJM: Heinlein has always been a hero to parts of the left as well, particularly to the anarcho-left of which I am, loosely, a part both as a feminist and because I’m a Quaker (Quakers invented anarchist decision practice, and it’s interesting that anti-pacifist Heinlein has a soft spot for them). But to return to the question: at the age of 12-20 it was because he was pretty much the only male sf writer writing women who had jobs, adventures, access to engineering jobs, and who got to be spies and ornery grandmas, and be liked by men who weren’t as smart as they. Believe me, when you are a smart girl in school, that’s pretty reassuring. In my late teens and twenties I started to get annoyed with the requirement to be “sexy” but attracted to the arguments about consent; frustrated with the performativity of the romances, and irritated by everyone wanting babies but attracted to the arguments about the different ways to construct families. This time round I’ve been fascinated by the way it’s clear that Heinlein knows what his women are up against; I’ve ended up with very different readings of Podkayne, Friday and Maureen (To Sail Beyond the Sunset) in which all three of them become resisters of other people’s narrative of them.

The crowdfunding appeal has reached 80% of its goal as of today.

(3) HEINLEIN COLLECTIBLES. Keith Kato, President of The Heinlein Society, announces: “Ensign’s Prize Offer now open to Non-Members!” Keith explains —

The “Ensign’s Prize” are multiple titles of pirated Heinlein works that Ginny Heinlein won in a lawsuit.  She donated them to The Heinlein Society for fund-raising.  Until now we have limited sales only to THS members, but as you can see in the link, purchases are now open to anyone while supplies last.  There are different numbers of remaining copies of the various titles, and being a pirated version, the quality is what it is (though surprisingly not bad).

More info at the Society website:

There are some rare editions here to add to your collection. A prime example is the only known hardcover edition of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long with lettering by D.F. Vassallo.

The numbers of available individual copies varies by book with no individual copies of Methuselah’s Children. Only a handful of individual copies of Stranger in a Strange Land (5) are available. All individual copies will be offered for a suggested donation of $60 each except for The Notebooks of Lazarus Long which is offered for a suggested donation of $75 each with shipping & insurance on single books at $6.00 in the US. Overseas shipping will be determined at time of donation.

These books/sets are used as a fundraiser to support projects and programs of The Heinlein Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to paying it forward. Proceeds from these books/sets will be used to support projects and programs of The Heinlein Society such as the scholarship program and Heinlein For Heroes.

This link will take you to a page where you can read a description of the books being offered and then click the “Details” link at the bottom of the page to be directed to the ordering site.

(4) BONES OF THE EARTH. “’Biggest Dinosaur Ever’ Discovered in Argentina”GeologyIn has the story.

New Species of Dinosaur Is the Largest Land Animal to Ever Walk the Earth

One hundred million years ago, a colossal creature the size of a 737 thundered through the forests of South America, picking trees clean with its head extended five stories in the air and sending ferocious T. rex-like therapods scattering like mice below its trunk-sized legs. It’s the largest dinosaur ever found — a titanosaur so huge that its skeleton can’t even fit into a single room in its home at the American Museum of Natural History. Scientists this week unveiled their first study on the ancient beast alongside its new, official name, ­Patagotitan mayorum, or, The Giant from Patagonia. Astoundingly, the Big Apple’s biggest resident wasn’t even fully grown when it died (scientists don’t know if it was male or female) — and an even more whopping cousin could be waiting to be uncovered, experts said Wednesday. “This animal [hadn’t] stopped growing at the time of death,” said Diego Pol, an Argentina paleontologist who helped dig it up.

…The scientists reproduced the skeleton in 3-D models, but the specimen was too large to fit in any local museum, Pol said, so they sent a fiberglass cast to New York last year. It has been welcoming visitors to the museum’s dinosaur floor ever since — literally, because its massive skull extends all the way out into the elevator bay. “[It’s] probably one of the world’s great selfie spots,” said John Flynn, the museum’s curator of fossil mammals.

(5) A VACUUM CLOSER THAN SPACE. “Australia commits to establish space agency with no budget, plan, name, deadline …” says The Register.

Mission plan: retrieve lost votes from deep within black hole of democratic disillusionment…

Cash’s statement says the agency “will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement”, but there’s no detail on the agency’s name, budget, start date or anything else that would tell us what it will actually do. The fact that its future existence was first revealed to media in the city of Adelaide suggests one mission: help revive the city’s economy, which has struggled since auto-makers left in recent years (along with many votes for the governing Liberal Party).

(6) MAKE YOURSELF A GIBSON. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I finished Conversations With William Gibson and learned about this story, which was new to me.  This is from an episode of the Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy podcast by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley, who interviewed William Gibson in 2012.  This probably took place in the early 1990s.

GEEK’S GUIDE:  So when I first started going to science fiction conventions, I heard this funny story about you, and I’ve never been sure if it was true or if it happened the way I heard it, and I was wondering if you knew what I was talking about.  It was this story where you go into a hotel to check in, and you say, ‘Hi, I’m Mr. Gibson,’ and everyone acts all shocked at the hotel.”

GIBSON:  It was the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I don’t know, somebody had checked me in.It was when I had started doing some contact screenplay work after the ALIEN 3 script. So I got there, and it was like, you know, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  The desk people looked gobsmacked and really unhappy.   So the bellman takes me up to this very fancy suite, and in this suite there’s a table lavishly arrayed with very expensive wines and liquors and expensive floral displays, and a bit thing that says, ‘The Beverly Hills Hotel welcomes Mel Gibson.'”

And so I looked at the bellman, and I said, ‘No, no, I’m not him.  Take this stuff away.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, you can keep it.’ And I said, ‘What am I supposed to do with it?”  He said, ‘Call some friends, have a party.'”

(7) NAMING CALLS. While the writer’s mostly interested in Republican shenanigans, “8 Notable Attempts to Hack the New York Times Bestseller List” ends with a shout-out to a science fiction immortal.

…[DJ Jean] Shepherd decided that he wanted to get a book on the bestseller list—an imaginary book. “What do you say tomorrow morning each one of us walk into a bookstore, and ask for a book that we know does not exist?” he asked his listeners. The book they decided to ask for was I, Libertine, its author, Frederick R. Ewing, published by Excelsior Press, an imprint of Cambridge University Press. And ask they did…

…What is true, though, is that this book became real through sheer force of will. After only a few months, the story broke: I, Libertine was a hoax. But then it was un-hoaxed: Theodore Sturgeon, a friend of Shepherd’s, actually wrote the book, and Ballantine Books published it.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Batman Day

The purpose of Batman Day is to celebrate the anniversary of the character’s first ever appearance, which was in Detective Comics #27 way back in May 1939. Since those early comic book appearances, Batman has grown into one of the world’s best-loved and most recognizable fictional characters, and is the focal point of television shows, animated cartoons, video games and Hollywood blockbusters.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 26, 1937 – The first episode of The Shadow was broadcast.
  • September 26, 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian suspects there is something missing after reading The Wizard of Id.

(11) BIT PARTS. After reporting a leak about the forthcoming Star Wars movie, CheatSheet also tells about some of the more interesting appearances in earlier films of the franchise: “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: A Few Major Celebrities Will Make a Surprising Cameo”.

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi still upcoming, John Boyega let confirmation of a few major cameos — specifically, Princes William and Harry — slip out in an interview on BBC Radio (via Screen Rant). As he stated:

I’ve had enough with those secrets. They came on set. They were there. I’m sick of hiding it. I think it was leaked, anyway. There were images. Every time I get asked, I have to dodge it. I’m tired of dodging it. They were there. Tom Hardy was there too.

Hardy is certainly a major cameo. But he’s actually just one of many big names to show up in a film from the Star Wars franchise.

As fans look forward to the surprise appearances that are set to come in The Last Jedi, we take a look back at the history of celebrity cameos in the Star Wars franchise — including some you may not have noticed or heard about.

(12) FAN FEUDS. I was struck by David Gerrold’s observation about fan feuds, from a long post mainly about something else, although I’ve kept the first line for context. What he says about fan feuds is spot on.

Yes, I did ask Jody Wheeler and Carlos Pedraza to back off on the Axanar stuff — not just because of my respect for Alec Peters, but also because of my equal respect for Jody Wheeler and Carlos Pedraza, both of whom I have worked with. Fan-feuding helps no one. It hurts everyone. It destroys possibilities. It destroys opportunities. (I know of two entities who decided not to engage with Jody and Carlos because of their efforts in the anti-Axanar movement.) I speak from a half-century of direct experience on this.

But yeah, my bad. I should know better than to ask fans to disengage from a feud. Especially this one. I should have known better because internecine warfare is always more important than mutual support and partnership in any endeavor. It’s much more fun to have enemies — war is the most profitable human product, because it gives you not only the illusion of power and authority, it creates the opportunity to control how others think and act…

(13) YOUR SECOND-BEST SUIT. Electric Literature thought today is a good time to revisit “The 5 Weirdest Lawsuits About Authors Stealing Ideas”.

Claim: J.K. Rowling stole the word “muggle”

J.K. Rowling has been accused of idea theft, and vice versa, so many times that there’s a whole Wikipedia page for “legal disputes over the Harry Potter series.” The earliest was American writer Nancy Kathleen Stouffer, who sued Rowling for infringement in 1999, when only three of the books had been published (although it was already clear that the series was turning a handsome profit). Stouffer claimed that she’d invented the word “muggle” in her vanity-press book The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, and that another of her works featured a character named Larry Potter. This is thin enough—but the court didn’t just rule that the similarities were too vague to amount to much. It actually found that even Stouffer’s weak evidence may have been fabricated.

Two other cases involve Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and Cassandra Clare’s Darkhunter series.

(14) ON OR OFF THE SHELF? The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Banned Books Week: Why are illustrated books being challenged more than ever?”, notes that the top two books in the American Library Association’s list of banned books for 2017 were graphic novels.  He then looks at graphic novels that censors fund particularly irritating.

Some industry observers say that the spike in challenges to illustrated books can be attributed to the recent rise in the literary form’s popularity and accessibility on bookshelves, as well as the subject matter.

“Graphic novels are more popular and widely read than ever,” said Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy organization. “Their authors are speaking directly to the real concerns of their audiences in an accessible way.”

Brownstein noted, too, that the illustrated form can attract challenges that other books might not.

“There are many other factors to weigh, including the medium’s reliance on the power of the static image,” he said. “Graphic novels are frequently reduced to a single image or sequence of images that can be removed from the larger context of the work, and used to justify censorship. Comics’ use of images and words give the stories added power that resonates with audiences, and makes works like ‘This One Summer’ and ‘Drama’ even more compelling. These works must be considered as a whole to be fully appreciated. When that happens, the complexity, nuance and sophistication of the stories can be fully appreciated.”

The CBLDF director pointed, as well, to how comics are perceived by many parents and officials. “In many cases, comics are still regarded as lesser reading,” he said. “Some people don’t expect comics to have the kind of complexity or depth that earned ‘This One Summer’ the Caldecott honor and ‘Drama’ a Stonewall honor. We’ve seen cases where comics are challenged because the conversations that they raise were unexpected.”

(15) ALL WRAPPED UP. The Bangor Daily News makes a new novel sound tantalizing: “Kings of fiction: Father and son combine for ‘Sleeping Beauties’”.

In this year of all things King, with nearly two dozen movies, TV shows or miniseries based on Bangor’s own horror-meister in production or on screens, it makes perfect sense to add another Stephen King-thing to what has become a total-immersion experience.

Enter “Sleeping Beauties,” a novel that’s a team effort by Stephen King and his son, Owen. Published by Scribner, it goes on sale on Tuesday, Sept. 25 ($32.50 hardcover).

The duo’s first tandem effort on a novel, “Sleeping Beauties” is an ambitious work that combines some age-old Stephen King themes — the potential end of the world, the battle between good and … well … not so good, if not evil — with a distinctly sci-fi premise.

Simply put: Women around the world are falling asleep, and being covered in wispy cocoons. They may never wake up (and in true Stephen King fashion, those who try to rouse the females from their slumber quickly learn that doing so was a big, bad, bloody mistake).

Is the human race’s demise insured? Will a world with no women become a reality (for a time)? Or is there another option that we just can’t see on this side of the story? Good questions, all

(16) UNDER THE HAMMER. The Daryl Litchfield Collection of Arkham House & H.P. Lovecraft goes on the auction block October 5. So do a great many volumes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and other sff authors.

More than 300 lots of fine literature, from the 18th through the 21st centuries, are included in this exciting auction. Headlining the sale is the Daryl Litchfield collection of Arkham House and H.P. Lovecraft. The collection includes the earliest work by Lovecraft and a near complete collection of Arkham House publications. Many other science fiction and fantasy first editions are also offered, including nearly fifty lots of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, many in the rare original dust jackets. Also featured are more than fifty lots of Black Sparrow press limited editions of the writings of Charles Bukowski, many signed by the author. Other rare literary works from the last 300 years are also offered, including titles by Dickens, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Stowe, Twain, Wilde, and many others.

See the online version of the catalogue at www.pbagalleries.com

Direct link to the online catalogue: http://www.pbagalleries.com/view-auctions/info/id/434/

To view as ebook: http://pbagalleries.com/content/ecat/626/index.html

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In an Entertainment Weekly video “The Walking Dead cast explains 100 episodes in 30 seconds”.

(18) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. In March 1971, General Mills introduced the chocolate-flavored Count Chocula and the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry.

[Thanks to Keith Kato, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Wendy Gale, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories.. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who inquires “Not having read all the Dune books (by Frank Herbert, and then the non-FH prequels), and not remembering all of those I did read… did any of the individual sandworms have names (i.e., not ‘Shai Halud’ (sp?), which was the general name). E.g. ‘Big Fella,’ ‘Spot,’ ‘Masterful Mighty Wriggler of Doom,’ ‘Fluffy’?”]

Pixel Scroll 8/27/17 During Total Eclipse, Electric Sheep Don MirrorShades Before Looking Up

(1) WINTER IS COMING TO HOGWARTS. Buzzfeed wants to help: “Let’s Find Out Which ‘Game Of Thrones’-‘Harry Potter’ Hybrid House You Should Be In “. Click away!

(2)  DONATIONS SOUGHT. David Gerrold has started a GoFundMe to solve ” A Bubble In The Cash Flow”. He has raised $5,751 of his 7,500 goal at this writing.

Well, I wasn’t planning to do this, I really hate having to do this, but … circumstances have changed.

The mortgage, phone bill, and electric bill are all due and I have some serious car repairs looming, PLUS we’re still trying to repair two rooms in the house, as well as paying off some of last year’s delayed expenses. It’s a perfect storm of financial challenges.

What makes this necessary, two royalty checks are delayed, payment for a BIG story isn’t due until October, and negotiations on something else are dragging on longer than expected (and nothing is final until the check clears the bank anyway.) So I need to raise some serious cash right now. (Online sales have helped, just not enough.)

MOST IMPORTANT, books five and six in THE WAR AGAINST THE CHTORR are done, but they still need some editing, and I need to buy some serious writing time to work on them.

(3) LISTEN UP. Cat Rambo’s Flash Fiction Reading is available to the public:

A reading of “Mystery in Metal,” first published in Signs of Life: Contemporary Jewelry Art and Literature at the Facere Jewelry Art Gallery, 2013.

 

(4) CALLING ALL WAYWARD WRITERS. Planning on taking a writing workshop with Cat Rambo at a convention or via her online school? Here’s what to expect.

(5) PACEY NOT PREACHY. At Bastian’s Book Reviews, Robert Holbach recommends The Salarian Desert Game by J. A. McLachlan”.

The Salarian Desert Game is just as wonderful to read as the first novel. Pacey, tongue  in cheek, fun, and filled with adventure and peril. It is more hard-hitting than the first book, and it tackles some more challenging moral dilemmas. Don’t get me wrong: this is not a preachy novel. It’s a fun adventure novel which is designed to make readers think (from time to time). Kia is a great protagonist because she has a sense of humour, a sarcastic / rebellious streak, and because she isn’t a goody-two-shoes hero. She does the right thing more often than not, but not without grumbling. When there is no right and wrong, she is just as beset by difficulties with making decisions as the reader would be. Easy to identify with and plucky – a great character to spend literary time with.

(6) RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Recent Reading Roundup #44”, regrets giving an author a second chance.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – I’m having trouble explaining to myself why I picked up The Buried Giant.  After all, the only other Ishiguro novel I’ve read, Never Let Me Go, left me feeling disappointed, frustrated, and genuinely puzzled at the love and admiration that so many other readers (including genre readers) had for it.  The only justification I have for giving Ishiguro another look is that it had been ten years since Never Let Me Go put me off, and in that time the ongoing praise for it made me doubt my own recollections.  Was it possible that I was being too harsh?  Did I miss the point of the novel’s tragedy, seeing nastiness in what was intended as a soulful meditation on the human condition?  Add to that the conversation that developed around The Buried Giant‘s genre, and the fact that its premise and setting sounded intriguing, and it seemed like a good opportunity to give Ishiguro a second try.  Turns out, I was right the first time.  Ishiguro is a nasty piece of work; The Buried Giant, like its predecessor, is a mean-spirited, taunting bit of misery-porn that seems to hold its readers in actual disdain, and pretends to profundity without having anything to say.  And what makes it all worse is that I have no one to blame but myself.

(7) LONG PLAYING. The records on the Voyager spacecraft — and how they almost got punted: “How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made”, from The New Yorker.

We inhabit a small planet orbiting a medium-sized star about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the Milky Way galaxy—around where Track 2 on an LP record might begin. In cosmic terms, we are tiny: were the galaxy the size of a typical LP, the sun and all its planets would fit inside an atom’s width. Yet there is something in us so expansive that, four decades ago, we made a time capsule full of music and photographs from Earth and flung it out into the universe. Indeed, we made two of them.

The time capsules, really a pair of phonograph records, were launched aboard the twin Voyager space probes in August and September of 1977. The craft spent thirteen years reconnoitering the sun’s outer planets, beaming back valuable data and images of incomparable beauty. In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, sailing through the doldrums where the stream of charged particles from our sun stalls against those of interstellar space. Today, the probes are so distant that their radio signals, travelling at the speed of light, take more than fifteen hours to reach Earth. They arrive with a strength of under a millionth of a billionth of a watt, so weak that the three dish antennas of the Deep Space Network’s interplanetary tracking system (in California, Spain, and Australia) had to be enlarged to stay in touch with them.

(8) THE IRON BOARD. In a kind of thought experiment, experts on British history and royalty weigh in on “Game of Thrones: Who is the true heir?” First to be considered, Cersei Lannister.

Richard Fitzwilliams says: In Britain, an heir is determined by descent and parliamentary statute. Succession is also determined by the sequence of royal family members.

Cersei declared herself queen without any legitimacy. Her claim rests on two things: being Robert Baratheon’s widow and the mother of two dead kings.

She resembles the villainous Margaret of Anjou, queen by marriage to the feeble King Henry VI. Margaret was also ruthless and highly influential.

Sarah Peverley says: Inheritance in the Seven Kingdoms is based on real medieval laws, often prone to contradictory interpretations.

Generally speaking, the law of primogeniture seems to govern the Iron Throne, which females can claim in the event of no male heir. Or they can act until a young king comes of age, as Cersei attempted to do. But her current claim rests solely on the power she wields.

Gordon McKelvie says: There have been plenty of unpopular queens with too much influence and power. Cersei seems to share their qualities.

I can’t think of any historical example where a king (with no children) dies and passes the crown to his mother. No one in medieval England made such a dramatic grab for power like Cersei did.

(9) HOOPER OBIT. Horror film director Tobe Hooper (1943-2017) died August 27 at the age of 74. He was most famous for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

His tale of a family of cannibals with oversized kitchen utensils, laced with dark humour, became cult viewing.

Hooper also directed Poltergeist, and the Salem’s Lot TV miniseries.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(11) WHEN GRRM COULDN’T GET HIRED AS A TV WRITER. Guess which show didn’t want to hire a science fiction writer, even one with previous TV experience?

Speaking at a workshop at UCSD’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in May, the prolific writer got onto the subject of how there has long been a stigma against science fiction. To illustrate this, he told the following story about being rejected by Star Trek: The Next Generation:

I had an interview with Star Trek: The Next Generation for a possible job as a staff writer. I remember coming in to the office of this producer – who thankfully did not last long on the show and you can see why when I tell the story. He said “I don’t know who you are can you tell me your credentials.” And I said “I am just coming off Twilight Zone where I worked for a while, but before that I wrote novels and short stories. I am primarily a science fiction writer.” And he said “Oh really, well Star Trek is not a science-fiction show, it is a people show.” I was fooled by the photon torpedoes and starships. I was misled. Needless to say I did not get that job.

(12) WORLDCON 75 VIDEOS. The con now has 45 videos on YouTube although a little birdie chirped that no video of the Hugo Ceremony is among them.

(13) HEAVY SCHEDULE. Nalo Hopkinson’s conreport on Patreon can be viewed by the public: “Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) & the Edinburgh Book Festival”.

Worldcon 75 in Helsinki was amazing, just bloody amazing. It was one of the best attended Worldcons ever. The general aura of the con was jubilant. Helsinki is very easy on the eyes, but I didn’t take many pics. When you’re a Guest of Honour at a Worldcon, you don’t get much breathing room. It wasn’t only the many panels and events I was on, but I gave a couple of interviews practically every day of the con….

(14) FREE DAY. Captain Pigheart — Nick Tyler, who works for Angry Robot Books – begins his report: “A Whistle-Stop Tour of Worldcon75, Helsinki Day One”.

We selected BICYCLE as our vehicle of choice, swayed by the 10 Euro a week rental. The con venue was relatively easy to find, though Google Maps yelling incomprehensible Finnish placenames in my ear was quite stressful. It was closed. Since it was the day before the con, that made sense. We had found the most important place. Second most important: beer.   

(15) PANEL FAN. Canadian professor and aspiring SFF author David Lamb covered a lot of programs in his convention write-up.

14:00 Writing about Plants, Landscapes, and Nature with Anthony Eichenlaub, J.S. Meresmaa, Eric Scott Fischl. The initial part talked about settings in general. One speaker didn’t like the “setting is a character” meme; it’s something else because it has no character arc. Descriptions can be practical, but can be also set the tone. What are the daily and seasonal challenges in a setting? What senses other than visual are evoked?

Setting can help establish a character’s personality; one speaker mentioned using descriptions of lawns, and another mentioned how someone curses at brambles. Non-nature settings deal with similar issues: Lyndon Johnson would establish dominance by sitting in a higher chair with visitors sitting on a low couch.

If a region is unfamiliar, you need to do a lot of research. There’s an incredibly detailed survey of different soil types around the United States. One author was tripped up in that the bioluminescent species in one place was fireflies and in another was glowworms. Describing the diversity of a forest is very hard, as is some type of landscape you haven’t experienced. Another resource: Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants; it has no pictures but you can google the plant names. The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart describes plants used to make alcohol.

(16) FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA. Stephanie Saulter sketches out a few memories in “What I Did On My Summer Holiday (or, How to travel to Helsinki and end up on the radio in Bristol)”.

No post-mortem as such, but I was asked if there was a particularly memorable con moment. There were actually two, starting with the panel I wasn’t scheduled to be on and the reading I hadn’t known I was going to do. The panel was Caribbean SF, and featured Worldcon Guest of Honour, fellow Jamaican Nalo Hopkinson; Barbadian writer, Worldcon Toastmistress and my good mate Karen Lord; and Brandon O’Brien from Trinidad & Tobago. As they made their way to the front of the room I was summoned from my front-row seat to join them on the platform….

(17) UNCANNY COMPLETES KICKSTARTER. The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter fully funded, and met its stretch goals for a print edition, and for a Disabled People Destroy Fantasy issue.

The final update included DPDSF Personal Essays Editor Nicolette Barischoff’s personal essay.

What do you want to see more of in representations of disability?  

What do YOU want to see more of in representations of disability?

I actually had to think awhile about how to answer it. Of course there are the self-evident answers: I want characters who are well-rounded, who are real, who are interesting. Characters who live honestly within their limitations without ever being consumed by them. But let’s assume the writer who asks this question is already planning on doing these things as part of writing a halfway decent story. What, specifically, do I as a disabled reader want to read more of?

The answer I came up with was that I wanted characters whose disabled bodies felt lived-in. I wanted to see characters whose disabilities were nothing new to them, who had inhabited their bodies for their entire lives (or at least a good long time) and who knew how to navigate their possibly deeply inconvenient worlds without thinking very much about it.

The trouble for me is that disabled characters as written by able-bodied writers tend to spend a lot of time thinking about disability, and feeling things about it. Bran Stark, one of the more prominent disabled protagonists right now, spends an awful lot of his inner life lamenting his broken body, even five books later. Around book four, I would have loved to experience a little less lamenting and a little more of Bran adapting to the new limitations of his body. What’s Bran’s day-to-day like? Apart from a convenient supernaturally gentle giant, what clever medieval assistive technologies have the household clergy dreamed up to help their lord get around Winterfell? (The handsome man at my elbow would like to point out that George R.R. Martin did rather thoughtfully line the walls of Bran’s bedroom with weight-bearing bars.) What does he think about in the moments when he’s pissing, or bathing or eating or scratching an itch? There’s gotta be whole hours where even Bran Stark doesn’t think about his broken back at all.

(18) MICRO SOLAR. BBC reports “‘Cyborg’ bacteria deliver green fuel source from sunlight”.

Scientists have created bacteria covered in tiny semiconductors that generate a potential fuel source from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water.

The so-called “cyborg” bugs produce acetic acid, a chemical that can then be turned into fuel and plastic.

In lab experiments, the bacteria proved much more efficient at harvesting sunlight than plants.

The work was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Washington.

Researchers have been attempting to artificially replicate photosynthesis for many years.

(19) BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE. Brian Merchant interviews William Gibson about his new novel for Motherboard.

On that note, in Archangel, present-day post-apocalyptic America has been brought about at least in part by a US president-cum-wannabe-dictator, who consolidated power in the wake of a nuclear tragedy. Any present-day through-lines you’d like to comment on there?

If you look at American science fiction from the Cold War, that’s not a novel scenario. It’s more like a meme. Using it in Archangel felt like resurrecting an American retro-future, which is what it is. But I never expected to be living, right now, in that American retro-future!

(20) ODIOUS,. Meanwhile, back in 2015… Adam-Troy Castro’s verse “Ode To That Signed Book by Him Who Chose To Block Me” is just as relevant to Facebook users today.

O that novel on my shelf
by him who chose to block me,
Who signed it o’er to my self,
in belief that it would rock me,
who called me friend and colleague then,…
in the hopes I’d write some praise,
with fine excerptable blurb,
that might his royalties raise.
But alas! Alack! That book
of Heinleinian flavor,
with ray gun blasts, I ne’er took
an afternoon to savor.
My author pal got online
with Hugo-baiting rancor
o’er books both poor and sublime,
with allies like a canker….

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Adam-Troy Castro, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]