Pixel Scroll 6/27/18 What Has It Got In Its Retro Packet?

(1) ANAHEIM EVENT GOES DOWN THE TUBER. With dreams of rivaling VidCon, YouTuber Tana Mongeau tried to stage her own event in Anaheim. How did that go? New York Magazine titled its coverage “A Mouth to Hell Opened This Weekend at Tanacon, a Fyre Festival for the YouTube Set”.

Tana Mongeau wanted to throw an alt-VidCon. Instead, she threw a Fyre Festival redux.

Mongeau is a YouTuber. She has 3.5 million followers and her name might sound vaguely familiar if you’re at all versed in the surprisingly engaging world of vegan YouTube drama. VidCon is an annual YouTube-centric convention organized by brothers and YouTube royals Hank and John Green. Tanacon is the event that Mongeau organized — and named after herself — last week in California.

Tanacon was inspired by Mongeau’s self-professed dislike of VidCon. In a video you can watch if you have an hour and eighteen minutes to kill, Mongeau explained she would not be attending VidCon this year, citing drama over not being designated a featured creator at the event. And so, Tanacon was born. And, in a way, so Tanacon died. The event was barely six hours into its first day when it was shut down by officials for overcrowding, sending thousand of teens — many who had been waiting hours outside in the sun — into a tizzy. A dehydrated tizzy we can now recount for you to gleefully relive from the relative comfort of wherever you’re presently posted up. (We can only assume it’s not still the parking lot of the Anaheim Marriott Suites.)…

…The fan horde did not take well to the event cancellation. “After the lady said it was canceled, everyone started screaming, complaining, and cussing her out,” 13-year-old Alyssa, who bought a VIP ticket and waited six hours to be turned away empty-handed, said. “Everyone ran to the registration tent and threw the merch … pop sockets, Tanacon bags, stickers, Tanacon condoms, badges. This led to everyone destroying everything.”

Mongeau eventually came outside to calm the crowd. This, reader, will you believe … also did not end well, as evidenced by clips of screaming fans, phones raised above their heads with cameras at the ready, running through the parking lot to spy their queen….

 

(2) AND A BAD TRACK RECORD GETS WORSE. Louisville’s Fandomfest, which unaccountably did not go out of business last year after the loss of more than half its celebrity guests and a last-minute move to an old Macy’s store, (“Louisville’s Fandom Fest Shambles On”), has failed its attempt to relaunch in 2018. Co-promoter Myra Daniels announced on Facebook yesterday they’re “rescheduling” Fandomfest 2018 and plan to divide it into two more affordable events.

Hey Guys!!!

We are rescheduling Fandomfest 2018 this year.

A number of reasons why.

When we picked the date last year it was a different date range then we normally pick. It was the date closest to the previous few years of Fandomfest. The Omni is a great hotel and we wanted to have it there this year.

Unfortunately several things happened. The date we chose made it very difficult to get vendors and bigger named celebs for that date because there were 6 other big conventions on that date.

So many of our normal vendors had already paid and booked other shows for that date. That made it difficult to procure vendors which helps to pay for everything.

Another reason is the pre-sale tickets were at a lower rate then ever. The guests we have chosen to bring in to the event weren’t a big enough pre-ticket purchase draw for the fans.

Putting these shows on costs money. A lot of money. The idea is to have an idea of the excitement for your guest list and the pre-sales are a huge way for us to gauge that in our plan.

We worked with the great people at The Omni to try and find another date there at their beautiful facility but they are completely booked all the way into 2019.

So we are excited to announce that we are working to reschedule and instead of bringing one show in the summer we are going to bring 2 events to better serve you guys. We know we hear all the time how expensive the shows are getting with the autograph prices and the photo op prices as well as admission. We think the time is right to have shows that don’t cost the fans as much money.

All of us love meeting our favorites from our Superhero Movies or favorite TV Shows out there but lets face it, it can get expensive.

Daniels says they’ll “be refunding the few ticket purchases and vendor booths” starting on June 30.

(3) STILL EARTHBOUND. It was an open secret that the launch of James Webb Space Telescope would be delayed again; now it’s just plain open. The schedule now calls for a launch on March 30, 2021. Once launched, the JWST will be inserted into a solar orbit at the Earth-Sun L2 point.

NASA says

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable Webb to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

Quoting The Verge’s article “NASA’s next flagship space telescope is delayed again”:

NASA has again delayed the launch of its next-generation space observatory, known as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the space agency announced today. The telescope now has a new launch date of March 30th, 2021. It’s the second delay to the program’s timeline this year, and the third in the last nine months.

“We’re all disappointed that the culmination of Webb and its launch is taking longer than expected, but we’re creating something new here. We’re dealing with cutting-edge technology to perform an unprecedented mission, and I know that our teams are working hard and will successfully overcome the challenges,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video statement. “In space we always have to look at the long term, and sometimes the complexities of our missions don’t come together as soon as we wish. But we learn, we move ahead, and ultimately we succeed.”

(4) TAKE NOTE. The Guardian answers the question:  “Who is Segun Akinola? The composer reinventing the Doctor Who theme”.

Segun Akinola has been announced as the sci-fi show’s new composer, and he’s in for a challenge almost as significant as hers: reinventing one of TV’s best-known theme tunes. The British-Nigerian musician’s unveiling continues the trend for bringing in fresh blood all around for the show’s new era. Composer Murray Gold worked on all 10 series of the revived show, winning acclaim for his blockbustery orchestral scores – despite many fans complaining they became invasive and overbearing.

Akinola, an alumnus of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and part of 2017’s Bafta Breakthrough Brit programme, could prove an altogether different prospect for a remodelled show. Could fans look forward to hearing something a little more pared down, modern and minimalist?

…Yet his latest challenge sets the bar high. Composing soundtracks for all 10 episodes of Whittaker’s debut series might provide the lion’s share of his workload – but he is also tasked with providing a ‘fresh take’ on the show’s theme music. That’s one of the most iconic elements of Doctor Who – just like the show itself, it’s always changing while remaining, broadly, the same.

Composed by Ron Grainer, the eerie, warping titles first emerged in 1963 in an arrangement now synonymous with Doctor Who’s renegade spirit….

(5) TRAVEL BAN CONSEQUENCES URGED. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision upholding Trump’s travel ban, several leading sff figures voiced a new resolve to deprive the United States of future Worldcons. Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s Twitter thread starts here. Adam Roberts carried on the theme in his Twitter thread, and Paul Cornell ratified it.

(6) CHRISTOPHER STASHEFF REMEMBERED. The daughter of the late Christopher Stasheff gave an interview about the author to the Champaign, IL News-Gazette.

A daughter of the prolific author who brought literary depth to the science fiction and fantasy genres with books like “The Warlock in Spite of Himself” said he used the people of Champaign as his muse.

“He gained inspiration from the people around him,” said Eleanore Stasheff, whose father, Christopher Stasheff, died June 10 at age 74.

“He always believed home is where the heart is, which is Champaign,” she said. “He found beauty anywhere we were at, but to him, people were more important than nature.”

(7) HEART OBIT. Frank Heart (1929-2018), a U.S. engineer who led the team that built the Interface Message Processor, heart of internet precursor ARPAnet, died on June 24 aged 89. The New York Times recalls his achievements: “Frank Heart, Who Linked Computers Before the Internet, Dies at 89”.

Data networking was so new that Mr. Heart and his team had no choice but to invent technology as they went. For example, the Arpanet sent data over ordinary phone lines. Human ears tolerate low levels of extraneous noise on a phone line, but computers can get tripped up by the smallest hiss or pop, producing transmission errors. Mr. Heart and his team devised a way for the I.M.P.s (pronounced imps) to detect and correct errors as they occurred.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 27 – Tobey Maguire, 43. Spider-Man films of course.
  • Born June 27 — J.J. Abrams, 52. Executive Producer of Alias, Lost: Missing Pieces, Star Trek, Lost, Fringe, Star Trek Into Darkness, Almost Human… Well you get the idea.
  • Born June 27 – Samuel George Claflin, 32. Performer, the Hunger Games film series, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian spotted a Return of the Jedi joke in Brewster Rockit.

(10) KING KONG V GODZILLA. At Galactic Journey, The Young Traveler gives a blow-by-blow account of monstrous showdown: “[June 26, 1963] Double or Nothing (King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962))”.

Though the epic monster fight was the main spectacle of the movie, it also managed to have a plot too. Well, sort of. The movie follows a dying Pharmaceuticals company whose executive is trying to get business by gaining traction on TV. Obviously the best way to get TV viewership is to send two of your employees to a small exotic island in search of giant monsters you can exploit. So that’s just what they do, discovering King Kong in the process. An awesome fight breaks out between King Kong and a giant octopus, for some reason, and after a much too long “exotic” dance sequence from the island’s “natives” King Kong drinks some special juice and falls asleep.

(11) READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP. BBC reports “Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft reaches cosmic ‘diamond'”.

A Japanese spacecraft has arrived at its target – an asteroid shaped like a diamond or, according to some, a spinning top.

Hayabusa 2 has been travelling toward the space rock Ryugu since launching from the Tanegashima spaceport in 2014.

It is on a quest to study the object close-up and deliver rocks and soil from Ryugu to Earth.

It will use explosives to propel a projectile into Ryugu, digging out a fresh sample from beneath the surface.

(12) HISTORY ONLINE. Did you know the BBC once sold a home computer? “BBC releases computer history archive”.

A slice of computing history has been made public, giving people the opportunity to delve into an archive that inspired a generation of coders.

The Computer Literacy Project led to the introduction of the BBC Micro alongside programmes which introduced viewers to the principles of computing.

It included interviews with innovators such as Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak.

The BBC hopes the 1980s archive will encourage today’s youngsters to become involved in computing.

With the release of the archive, viewers can now search and browse all of the programmes from the project.

They will be able to:

  • watch any of the 267 programmes
  • explore clips by topic or text search
  • run 166 BBC Micro programmes that were used on-screen
  • find out the history of the Computer Literacy Project

(13)  DRAGON CON LOSES POC PARTICIPANT. Gerald L. Coleman, who withdrew as a ConCarolinas guest, has decided Dragon Con isn’t suitable either.

Here’s a little thread I just sent. I still haven’t heard back from Cisca Small after emailing her twice this month about whether #DragonCon intends to invite John Ringo. According to Ringo he’s been invited. If that’s true I’ll be withdrawing my participation as an Attending Professional. I don’t have the luxury of pacifying, appeasing, or normalizing these decisions with my presence. I’m sure a number of authors who aren’t people of color or women will find all kinds of justifications for why it’s ok to attend but still call themselves “allies”. Just know I don’t buy it. I understand though, selling a few copies of your books is more important than letting a Con know that who they invite says everything about who they are.

Coleman also wrote a Twitter thread, which starts here.

(14) MANIFESTUNG. The Daily Dot’s Michelle Jaworski shows that “‘The Last Jedi’ backlash ‘campaign’ demands to be taken seriously “.

More than six months after the theatrical release of The Last Jedi, just about every aspect of the backlash against it has already been argued and debated to death. But that hasn’t stopped old arguments appearing in new formats.

Last week, we saw an almost certainly fake campaign “raise” millions of dollars to remake a film that earned more than $1.3 billion at the box office. This week, we’re seeing a “manifesto” written by “We the fans of Star Wars” go viral several weeks after it was originally posted. The emergence of the post, which didn’t get that much traction when it was first posted, is almost solely so people can mock it.

The creators of the manifesto believe that “those in charge of a Franchise derives its power as a creative force from the consent of the fandom of that Franchise.” The creators take umbrage with the direction that Lucasfilm has gone since being purchased by Disney and the perceived “misguided political agenda” that it’s pursuing with the new films. It includes grievances against The Last Jedi and the newer films as a whole, characterizing the films as desecrating the legacies of characters we’ve known for decades. And they certainly have an issue with people assuming that they’re racist, sexist, or part of the alt-right for disliking a movie.

“To these ends, we pledge our merchandise, our honor, and our wallets,” the manifesto stated in its final line.

These Star Wars fans, you see, demand to be taken seriously.

For the historians among us, this June 3 Twitter thread contains both the manifesto and a flag (complete with explanation of all its symbolism).

(15) A FORK IN THE ROAD. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews Laura Anne Gilman’s novel: “‘Red Waters Rising’ Leads Old Friends Into New Trouble”.

In the Devil’s West trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman has given us an imagined history of the United States — one that feels nearly as true as facts, both crazier and more reasoned than our Old West reality. Silver On The Road defined that world. One where the Devil — the actual Devil, smelling warmly of whiskey and tobacco, dressed in a prim cardsharp’s suit — holds dominion over everything in the United States west of the Mississippi, and defends it and its people from the predation and influence of Washington, Spain, the French and all of the East. From a town called Flood, he makes his deals and sends his chosen out into the world — one of them being Isobel, a teenaged girl, raised at the Devil’s knee and then sent forth (along with her mentor, Gabriel) into the Territory as his Left Hand. She is the Devil’s cold eye, final word and, when necessary, his justice.

(16) LUKE CAGE. The Orlando Sentinel interviews “’Luke Cage’ showrunner on its controversial killing”.

Before Cheo Hodari Coker began plotting Season 2 of Netflix‘s “Luke Cage,” he had to address the elephant in the room.

Actually, it was more like a snake in the room. A Cottonmouth to be specific.

Coker, a director, writer and producer who can frequently be found on social media answering both positive and negative questions and comments from viewers of his works, had frequently seen comments online saying that the killing of Season 1 villain Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) was a huge mistake.

There was a method to Coker’s perceived madness. One reason he gleefully accepted working on “Luke Cage” in the first place was his love of superhero comics. Coker still remembers vividly how he felt the moment he read the 12th issue of “Alpha Flight” (published by Marvel Comics in 1983), when legendary comics scribe and artist John Byrne killed the character Guardian.

“When (Bryne) killed Guardian I was verklempt,” Coker told The Washington Post. “I wanted to bring that kind of thing to Marvel television. I wanted to kind of do what Hitchcock did with ‘Psycho,’ because it was a big deal to kill Janet Leigh. And so, that was the thing. Cottomouth in that structure was always going to die. Even though people liked him a lot.”

(17) NIGHTFLYERS. Syfy Wire was terrified: “Nightflyers: George R.R. Martin goes ‘Psycho’ in new teaser”.

In the latest intense and unnerving teaser for George R.R. Martin’s upcoming sci-fi/horror series, Nightflyers, a young girl seems to recite some sort of incantation while we’re treated (if that’s the right word) to brief flashes of the rest of the cast in tight, dark spaces looking concerned, being set on fire, being dragged across the floor by some unseen force, and running for their lives. It’s all pretty terrifying, to tell the truth.

 

[Thanks to Jim Meadows, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, JJ, IanP, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Rev. Bob, Nickpheas, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/16 Crosseyed and Pixelless

(1) A TERRAN ECLIPSE. Click to see the Astronomy Picture of the Day for March 11

This snapshot from deep space captures planet Earth on March 9. The shadow of its large moon is falling on the planet’s sunlit hemisphere. Tracking toward the east (left to right) across the ocean-covered world the moon shadow moved quickly in the direction of the planet’s rotation. Of course, denizens of Earth located close to the shadow track centerline saw this lunar shadow transit as a brief, total eclipse of the Sun. From a spacebased perspective between Earth and Sun, the view of this shadow transit was provided by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC).

(2) GROKKING THE FULLNESS. In “Fandom Needs to Change to Insure Its Future Survival”, Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson devotes 3,500 words to thinking outside his box on the subject of Worldcons.  (The newer ideas are in the last half of the piece.)

Fandom is growing.  It’s growing tremendously.  Unfortunately, the major percentage of that growth is taking place under the auspices of institutions and organizations that are not themselves fannish (or are fannish so long as being so is in service to making a profit).

As fans, we like to say that we’re not in “competition” with events such as SDCC or Dragoncon.  Not only do we dismiss Anime conventions and multi-media cons as doing something that we’re not doing, we discount the experience that attendees and staff gain from these events.  In our minds there is a difference between the conventions that are connected to fan history and largely follow fannish traditions (you buy a membership, not a ticket;  we don’t pay guest to appear;  we’re focused on the literature; those aren’t real conventions) and those that aren’t.  We go to great pains to try and distinguish the bona fides of small ‘f’ fans and large ‘F’ fans.

But here’s the problem:  the non-traditional conventions are offering the vast majority of “fannish experiences” these days.  Traditional conventions have such a small footprint in national awareness that so far as most potential fans are concerned, non-traditional events ARE fandom.

In short, it is non-traditional events that are educating the public about what fandom is and what it’s all about.  Not traditional fandom.

(3) INCOMING. Neil Clarke analyzed the “2015 Clarkesworld Submissions Stats”, complete with beautiful graphs.

In 2015, we received submissions from 109 different countries. In the above chart, the blue bar represents the percentage of total submissions for that country. The green bar indicates the percentage of all acceptances. (Reminder: The Chinese translations are handled by a separate process and not included in these numbers.)

Note: If you feel inclined to proclaim that this data indicates that I have a bias towards international submissions, perhaps you should read this editorial. That said, it pleases me that Clarkesworld has a more global representation of science fiction. There’s a lot of great work written beyond our shores.

(4) AND A DEAFENING REPORT. James H. Burns had a blinding insight.

Hanging out at Joe Koch’s comics warehouse the other day, it suddenly occured to me, that if Barry West was Catholic, he would have no problem with Lent.

(Or, if he were Jewish, no problem with Yom Kippur.)

Why?

Because the Flash is the FASTEST man alive.

(5) SILENT SPRING AHEAD. Matt Novak has a clever question – “What Time Is The End of The Daylight?”

What time is the end of the daylight? The sun is expected to die in roughly 5 billion years. But humans—provided we survive any number of ecological, nuclear, or alien-based disasters—are only expected to last about another 1 billion years on Earth.

So technically the “daylight” will be over for humanity in 1 billion years, which is again, predicated upon the absurd assumption that we make it that long anyway.

(6) YA WORLDBUILDING. Alwyn Hamilton picks “The Top 10 invented worlds in teen books” for The Guardian.

8) Crown & Court Series by Sherwood Smith

I have recently been led to understand that the world in Sherwood Smith’s brilliant duology is supposed to be ours, set far in the future on a distant planet, where the magic is alien science. This would certainly explain why they share many touchstones with our world, while also having two moons for the characters to gaze up at and trees willing to exact revenge. But the true magic in these books for me is in the complexities of the ballroom. Smith has created a complete court to rival Versailles in intrigue, with fan language, complicated symbolism woven covertly into jewelry, long lineage that gives you the feeling every character does have a twisting family tree, and old traditions so tangible you’re sure they must have been in fashion once in our world too.

(7) CHICKENS, NOT POTATOES. This week’s The Simpsons has a Bradbury-esque title: “The Marge-ian Chronicles.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1971 The Andromeda Strain opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY.

  • Born March 12, 1923 – Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra.

(10) UNCORK NO ALIEN BEFORE ITS TIME. Io9 will hook you up: “Orson Welles Hosted a NASA Documentary About Aliens in the ’70s and It Is Amazing”

It is damn near impossible to explain the joy that comes from watching Who’s Out There, a documentary on aliens made by NASA in 1975 starring real scientists, regular people, and then Orson Welles, pontificating into the camera. I cannot emphasize this enough: Spend half an hour watching this.

(11) FEARSOME. “11 Books That Scared The Master of Horror, Stephen King, And Will Terrify You, Too” from Bustle.com.

King obviously has a way with words, and his Twitter is no exception. Full of hilarious thoughts and weekly answers to reader questions, it’s always entertaining. He alternates between adorable tweets featuring his dog, Molly (aka The Thing of Evil), and recommending the books he’s reading. Being the master of horror that he is, I consider him an authority on recommendations in that genre. You could make an entire reading list based on Stephen King recommendations, and be set for a long time.

Here are 11 books that scared the unshakable Stephen King, and so are pretty much guaranteed to keep you up at night and/or give you nightmares. But hey, that’s the fun part!

(12) RAGE SHORTAGE. Lela E. Buis dropped a post about J.K. Rowling into the well of the internet but never heard it splash —  “No comments on cultural appropriation?”

Since I’ve not gotten any comments on this question at all, I’m going to assume either 1) it’s Saturday and everyone is out enjoying the spring weather or 2) there’s not much interest in what J. K. Rowling publishes on her Website.

Besides this, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of concern about cultural appropriation except as a tool to attack people who are perceived as targets in some way. I expect Native Americans are fairly used to being abused, so another semi-fictional essay on skinwalkers isn’t going to affect their social outlook one way or the other.

(13) THE LONG VIEW. “11 Amazing Discoveries By the Mars Orbiter”  at Mashable.

4. Fresh craters

The MRO has also treated scientists to views of relatively fresh craters on Mars.

One crater — which appeared in photos in 2010 — was not in images taken in 2008, meaning that whatever impact created the crater happened in between those years.

(14) THE ZERO LIFE. “Fukushima’s ground zero: No place for man or robot” from Reuters.

The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors have “died”; a subterranean “ice wall” around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t know how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.

(15) BATMAN SINGS. In the episode of The Hollywood Palace originally aired October 8, 1966 Adam West sings “The Orange Colored Sky” and “The Summer Wind.”

(16) IT’S GOT CHARACTER. “Ed Wood’s ‘Plan 9’ Studio To Be Preserved” says LA Weekly.

A storied Hollywood building once used by late pulp film director Ed Wood will be preserved by its new owners, said the sellers’ agent, Kay Sasatomi of Silver Commercial Inc.

That’s good news for fans of the low-budget auteur and for fans of the low-budget building.

The 13,650-square-foot Ed Wood structure on a seedy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood is said to have also been used as rehearsal space by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Guns N’ Roses.

The director housed his Quality Studios at the address, and classics including Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda were filmed there, according to Silver Commercial.

The building features a ground-floor dive bar, Gold Diggers, that plays home to Thai bikini dancers.

The residential hotel next door is a flophouse made famous when a suspect in the Beverly Hills murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen committed suicide as police descended upon the block.

There’s a lot of character here.

(17) STICKING IN HIS TWO CENTS WORTH. Spider-Man appears in the last seconds of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman at the Three Legends event in 2008.

Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman at the Three Legends event in 2008.

Visual effects genius Ray Harryhausen, who brought the fantastic alive using stop-motion animation, died May 7 in London at the age of 92.

Between 1949 and 1981 he created effects for Mighty Joe Young, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (partly based on a short story, “The Fog Horn,” by Ray Bradbury), It Came from Beneath the Sea, The Animal World, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts, First Men in the Moon, One Million Years B.C., The Valley of Gwangi, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Clash of the Titans.

Harryhausen’s fascination with special effects began in 1933 when he saw King Kong, the handiwork of pioneering animator Willis O’Brien. (They would eventually work together on Mighty Joe Young). Harryhausen’s devotion to King Kong also led to his lifelong friendships with Forrest J Ackerman and Ray Bradbury. He went to a revival of the movie in the early 1940s and saw some stills on display he wanted to copy. The theater employee he asked was Roy Test Jr., co-founder of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy League, who knew the owner of the photos, Forry Ackerman and put them in touch.

Six decades later, as part of the British Film Institute’s celebration of Harryhausen’s 90th birthday, Ray Bradbury described on video their first meeting at Ackerman’s house, when they talked about what they wanted to do with their lives, Harryhausen confessing that he wanted to make movies and Bradbury nervously admitting that he wanted to be a writer….

An important part of Harryhausen’s success was his new ideas. The New York Times explains:

The heart of his technique was a process he developed called Dynamation. It involved photographing a miniature — of a dinosaur, say — against a rear-projection screen through a partly masked pane of glass. The masked portion would then be re-exposed to insert foreground elements from the live footage. The effect was to make the creature appear to move in the midst of live action. It could now be seen walking behind a live tree, or viewed in the middle distance over the shoulder of a live actor — effects difficult to achieve before.

As for the famous skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, Harryhausen wrote in 2003 that:

Each of the model skeletons was about eight to 10 inches high, and six of the seven were made for the sequence. The remaining one was a veteran from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, slightly repainted to match the new members of the family. When all the skeletons have manifested themselves to Jason and his men, they are commanded by Acetes to ‘Kill, kill, kill them all,’ and we hear an unearthly scream. What follows is a sequence of which I am very proud. I had three men fighting seven skeletons, and each skeleton had five appendages to move in each separate frame of film. This meant at least 35 animation movements, each synchronised to the actors’ movements. Some days I was producing less than one second of screen time; in the end the whole sequence took a record four and a half months.

His innovations were honored in 1992 with a career Academy Award for technical achievement. At the Oscar ceremony, Tom Hanks told the audience that he thought the greatest movie of all time was not Citizen Kane or Casablanca but Jason and the Argonauts. Which is quite a reversal of fortunes when you consider that Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, a 1959 Hugo nominee, lost to No Award.

Science fiction fandom did eventually become more appreciative. Harryhausen was a Worldcon Guest of Honor in 1987 at Brighton. And he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005.

His filmmaking colleagues also found ways to acknowledge him, dropping in references to his name in animated movies, such as Harryhausen’s restaurant in Monsters, Inc., and giving him live cameos in Beverly Hills Cop III (1994, Bar Patron) and Mighty Joe Young (1998, Gentleman at Party).

Harryhausen’s last feature was Clash of the Titans in 1981. A proposed follow-up, Force of the Trojans, never got a green light. He also came to believe that the movie industry had changed for the worse:

The thing that finally persuaded me to quit was that I saw that the nature of the hero was changing. When I was growing up we had heroes such as Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and David Niven, real gentlemen on the screen. Now, all you have is Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and all those people who solve problems with their fists. It’s a different world and I sometimes feel I’m not part of it. Say what you like about Hollywood in my time, but they were in the business of happy endings, of escapism. Now, you have to sit through two hours of people dying, you know. Today, everything’s so graphic it’s rather unnerving.

Harryhausen is survived by his wife, Diana Livingstone Bruce, who he married in 1963. Said Bradbury, “He found just the right woman at just the right time, and it worked out terrifically.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Howell Wins Hugo Base Competition

Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, has selected Dave Howell’s design for the 2009 Hugo Award statue base. Howell is an artist and fan based in Seattle. He will receive a full attending membership in Anticipation.

The competition called for designers to incorporate an aspect relating to Montreal or Canada. Howell’s winning Hugo base design will be unveiled at Anticipation’s Hugo Awards Ceremony on August 8.

Snapshots 11

Five developments of interest to fans:

(1) I found Robert J. Sawyer’s answer to critics of “product placement” in his Hugo-nominated novel Rollback very enlightening. It’s now available online in the October 17 issue of MT Void.

(2) Luke Skywalker’s light saber sold for more than £130,000 at an auction of Hollywood props and memorabilia.

(3) Patricia Marand, who portrayed Lois Lane on Broadway in It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!, has passed away at 74.

(4) Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, is accepting online registration with payment processing via PayPal.

(5) The Crotchety Old Fan has interviewed Billy Gray, probably the best known (and maybe only) surviving actor from the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. (Did Crotchety make a mistake by passing on a chance to ask whether Klaatu or Father knows best?)

[Includes links provided by David Klaus.]

Reno Wants the 2011 Worldcon, Too

Patty Wells has declared a bid to hold the 2011 Worldcon in Reno, Nevada.

Other committee members listed on the newly-unveiled website are: Aaron Curtis, Vincent Docherty, Don Glover, Mark Herrup, Rick Lindsley, Tammy Lindsley, John Lorentz, Jim Mann, Laurie Mann, Ruth Sachter, Larry Sanderson, Heidi Schaub, Joe Siclari, Edie Stern, Ian Stockdale, Geri Sullivan, Marc Wells and Ben Yalow. Proposed dates are August 17-21, 2011.

Patty and several other members of the bid have hosted regional conventions in their hometown, Portland, however, running a Worldcon there isn’t an option. “Portland doesn’t have the bedrooms, but I found a place that had such good, friendly facilities and is so pretty that I almost feel disloyal to Portland for liking Reno so much,” she wrote on the Smofs list. “For those of you who’ve worked with me on worldcons before, I hope you remember the experience as a positive one, and consider the experience of me and my committee, as well as the advantages of Reno as a site, when you vote next year.”

With site selection voting for 2011 a little over a year away, this would be what Ben Yalow calls a “sprint bid,” against a Seattle in 2011 committee that announced in 2006 and began actively campaigning at Nippon 2007. Seattle’s meeting facility would be the Washington State Convention and Trade Center located in Downtown Seattle. They would hold the con in August, too, according to a bid flyer, but I have never seen a specific date proposed.

Reno in 2011’s complete press release is behind the cut.

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Sing a Song of Worldcon

Denvention 3 is sponsoring a song-writing contest. What do you think would make a good theme song for a Worldcon — “Rocket Man”? “Hijack the Starship”? “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”? 

Well, none of those songs are eligible. No wonder they need your help! Can you write them a terrific song?

Entries must fit Denvention 3’s theme, “A Mile Closer to the Stars.” They may be original music and lyrics, or new lyrics set to existing music.   Here are the official rules: You can enter the contest in one of two ways: 

  • Send lyrics and an MP3 of your song to filk@denvention.org.
  • Mail lyrics and a CD or cassette tape to Blind Lemming, c/o Short Planet Productions, PO Box 13092, Denver, CO 80201 

Other rules: The contest deadline is May 31, 2008.   The winning song will be performed at the convention. Songs will be judged on how well they fit the theme, quality of writing, and how well the music fits the song. Submissions may be original music and lyrics, or new lyrics set to existing music. Submissions won’t be returned.  Supporting or attending members of Denvention may submit a song.  The winner may, if unable to perform the song at the convention, select an attending member to perform the song. Submission allows Denvention 3 the right to publish the lyrics and perform the song at the convention. Copyright reverts to author. If you have any questions about the contest, please E-mail filk@denvention.org.