Pixel Scroll 1/28/17 The More You Hive, The Less Pixelated You Are

(1) CORTANA’S WRITERS. The Financial Times’ Emma Jacobs, in “Robots replacing our jobs? Microsoft’s Cortana is creating them”, interviewed Joanthan Foster, principal content publishing manager for Microsoft’s Cortana, who oversees a staff of 28 (including a children’s novelist and a playwright) tasked with giving this personal digital assistant a personality.

“Why, for example, does Cortana have to have a favourite movie? ‘Because people are asking that,’ says Mr Foster.  For a while, her favourite film was ET (she skews to science fiction) but today it swings between Star Wars and Star Trek films.  Her favourite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Another sf reference:  Cortana’s name “is a reference to a buxom character clothed in a transparent sheath in the video game Halo.”

How to access this article – Look it up on Google and you will be able to click through to read it. If you use the link above directly, you will hit a paywall.

(2) ASTRONAUT FASHIONS. Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport, in “A first look at the path NASA astronauts will walk when the U.S. launches humans into space again”, has an overview of activities at Cape Canaveral, with reports on activities by Boeing, Blue Origin, Moon Express, and SpaceX.  But the news here is about the Boeing spacesuits.

Then there’s the sleek new blue Boeing spacesuit that, at 20 pounds, weighs 10 pounds less than the one worn by shuttle astronauts. It comes with gloves that work on touch screens and lightweight boots designed by Reebok that feel like slippers. Instead of having a huge fishbowl bubble helmet, as the shuttle astronauts’ suits did, the new suit’s helmet slips over the head like a hood.


(3) MOVING POSTERS. Disney released a collection of motion posters featuring the cast of the upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. UPI has the story.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On February 15 the hosts of the reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, will present Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann. Begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Cisco is the author of several novels, including The Divinity StudentThe NarratorThe Great Lover, Animal Money, The Wretch of the Sun, and a short story collection, Secret Hours.  His fiction has appeared in The WeirdLovecraft Unbound, and Black Wings (among others). His scholarly work has appeared in Lovecraft StudiesThe Weird Fiction ReviewIranian Studies, and Lovecraft and Influence. He lives and teaches in New York City.

Nicholas Kaufmann’s work has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, a Thriller Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Dying is My Business from St. Martin’s Press was selected for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Book Gift Guide, and the sequel, Die and Stay Dead, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. His latest novel is In the Shadow of the Axe, out now from Crossroad Press with an introduction by Laird Barron.

(5) STICK A FORK IN IT. Write On by Kindle, Amazon’s attempt at a Wattpad competitor, is closing down March 22, a year after leaving beta testing. Users have been advised:

Your Amazon.com account will not be affected by the closure of Write On. If you don’t have any content you wish to save, no further action is required on your part.

If you do have content you wish to save, we encourage you to download your posted and drafted stories by March 22.

(6) HURT OBIT. Actor John Hurt died January 25 at the age of 77. The Vanity Fair tribute listed some of his many genre credits –

The cause of death was not immediately reported; Hurt was diagnosed in 2015 with pancreatic cancer, but in October of that year announced that he was “thrilled” to have had his final scan, “and it‘s all gone brilliantly.”

… He earned his first BAFTA award in 1976, for playing gay author and ranconteur Quentin Crisp in the TV film The Naked Civil Servant; that same year, he played notorious Roman emperor Caligula in the TV film classic I, Claudius.

As a trained actor with a resonant voice and an unmistakable screen presence, Hurt could be a leading man—as in the 1984 version of George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man—but may be more familiar to audiences as a supporting player, from the first, unlucky victim of the chestburster in 1979’s Alien to 2016’s Jackie, in which he plays a priest who has the ear of a mourning Jacqueline Kennedy. He earned Oscar nominations for his roles in 1979‘s Midnight Express, as a heroin addict doing time in a Turkish prison, and in The Elephant Man. He’ll also be remembered by a generation of children as the mysterious Mr. Ollivander, wand salesman, from the Harry Potter films. And thanks to a 2013 appearance as the War Doctor on Doctor Who, he will also forever belong to a legion of fans.

In the last decade of his career alone, Hurt worked with some of the world’s most fascinating directors, from Guillermo del Toro in the Hellboy series to Steven Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Lars von Trier on Melancholia to Joon-ho Bong on Snowpiercer.

— To which we can add The War Doctor in Doctor Who, the voices of Aragorn and Hazel (the rabbit) in the animated Lord of the Rings and Watership Down respectively, and still be guilty of leaving some out.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

(7) GARRAY OBIT. Artist Pascal Garray (1965-2017), a prolific Smurfs creator, passed away January 17.

During his career of 26 years, he also participated in the creation of 17 albums of ‘The Smurfs’ (‘Les Schtroumpfs’), and was the lead artist on at least six albums since 2002. The other regular Smurfs artists are Ludo Borecki, Jeroen de Coninck and Miguel Díaz Vizoso, while most of the writing is done by Thierry Culliford, Alain Jost and Luc Parthoens. Garray had just finished drawing the 35th Smurfs album (‘Les Schtroumpfs et les Haricots Mauves’, about bad eating habits), when he passed away on 17 January 2017.


  • Born January 28, 1981 — Elijah Wood (actor)

(9) RSR’S GUIDE TO SHORT FORM EDITORS. Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank introduces its recently-posted guide to those eligible for the Best Editor Hugo – Short Form category.

With luck, this won’t be as controversial as it was last year. We’ve made it clearer that you’re supposed to use this data to vet a list of editors of works you’ve read—not to construct a slate of people whose publications you’ve never read (or even heard of).

Since people are more likely to know works than editors, we start by helping them find the editors who produced different publications. It’s a lot of work to figure out who’s qualified, so we’ve done that too.

Then, like last year, we show how much work each editor produced and how well that work was reviewed—both in terms of word count and percentage, which we encourage people to use to see how the editors in their list stack up.

New this year is a chart showing how much fiction from new writers each editor published, since this was the commonest thing people asked for last year. There are also sortable tables with the raw data so people don’t need to stare at charts to try to guess which editors were in the top four or five.

As ever, we’d love to hear ideas for what would make this easier to do.

(10) SEMIPROZINE HUGO. Neil Clarke’s Semiprozine.org announced last month they are “Currently updating directory”, which hopefully will happen soon because I need an authoritative answer to settle a difference of opinion!

We are currently updating the directory to reflect any changes in eligibility for the year ending December 31, 2016. Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions.

(11) COACHING. George R.R. Martin reminds everyone how TV shows can be eligible for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo – Long Form, whether you want them to or not.

This is truly the Golden Age for science fiction and fantasy on television, with more interesting series than ever before… most of them serial dramas. WESTWORLD, for instance. Terrific show. But the entire season is one story. To me, it makes no sense to pick an episode at random and nominate it in Short Form, when every episode depended so much on what had come before and what was to follow. I will be nominating WESTWORLD season one in Long Form, and I urge other WESTWORLD fans to do the same. Then we have STRANGER THINGS, recent Golden Globe nominee, another cool new genre show… I loved the series, but looking back, did I love one episode? No, I loved the whole story, so I’d nominate STRANGER THINGS, season one. Ditto for PENNY DREADFUL, the final season, which wrapped up in fine style last year. You could also make a case for MR. ROBOT, if you consider that sf.

And, of course, there’s GAME OF THRONES. Our sixth season won an unprecedented number of Emmys, setting an all-time record. And there are individual episodes that won Emmy acclaim: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for writing for “Battle of the Bastards,” Miguel Sapochnik took the directing Emmy for the same episode, and “The Door” also earned a directing nomination for Jack Bender. But it was the season as a whole that won for Best Drama, and for me, at least, it makes the most sense to nominate GAME OF THRONES, season six, in Long Form.

(12) GREATEST ANIMATOR. Brian Phillips on MTV.com has an article called “The Little Gray Wolf Will Come”, a profile of Yuri Norstein, whose short films “Tale of Tales” and “Hedgehog in the Fog” are regarded as among the greatest pieces of Soviet animation but who has been stuck for 40 years working on a full-length version of Gogol’s The Overcoat that he may never finish.

Here he is, an old man, onstage at the Dom Kino. Cinephiles of Moscow, your evening’s entertainment: Yuri Norstein, 74, white-bearded, small, stout, urbane, rumpled, and mischievous. Sitting in front of a pale gold curtain, with a bump on his nose the size of a pistachio shell. Considered by many to be a great, if tragically self-defeating, Russian artist. Considered by many to be the finest animator in the world.

He did not move to Moscow last week; he knows what they say about him. How he sabotaged his own career at what should have been its peak. How he has not managed to release a new film in 37 years. How he made Hedgehog in the Fog, a movie every Russian child knows by heart, and then Tale of Tales, which international juries have more than once named the greatest animated picture ever made. How he threw it all away to chase an absurd, unattainable ideal, an animated adaptation of Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat” that he has toiled at for nearly 40 years and has never been able to finish. He takes questions at events like this, and the sequence is always the same. First a few respectful queries about his past work, his process, his inspirations. Then, when some brink of nerve has been crossed: When will you finish The Overcoat? Do you think you ever will?

(13) TIMEY-WIMEY STUFF. Science Alert says “Scientists have confirmed a brand new form of matter: time crystals”.

First predicted by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.

Usually when a material is in ground state, also known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible, because that would require it to expend energy.

But Wilczek predicted that this might not actually be the case for time crystals.

Normal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space – just like the carbon lattice of a diamond. But, just like a ruby or a diamond, they’re motionless because they’re in equilibrium in their ground state.

But time crystals have a structure that repeats in time, not just in space. And it keep oscillating in its ground state.

Imagine it like jelly – when you tap it, it repeatedly jiggles. The same thing happens in time crystals, but the big difference here is that the motion occurs without any energy.

A time crystal is like constantly oscillating jelly in its natural, ground state, and that’s what makes it a whole new form of matter – non-equilibrium matter. It’s incapable of sitting still.

(14) WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS. David Tennant told The Last Leg viewers it’s all going to be okay:

[Thanks to Dawn Incoognito, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day J-Grizz.]

34 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/28/17 The More You Hive, The Less Pixelated You Are

  1. Tee hee “Incoognito” 😉

    I’ve watched that David Tennant clip several times over. His voice and accent are like a warm cozy blanket. And considering Mythbusters made me cry last night (the Chinese water torture one) I’ll take all the cozy I can get.

  2. 12) For anyone interested, here’s a link to “Hedgehog In the Fog”. I love Norstein’s work.


    As with the Professional Artist listing, I am unhappy with the unbalanced way that this is presented as being representative of the editor options available to nominators, and as representative of the work of the editors who are listed.

    For example, Ian Whates edited 6 anthologies last year, but only 2 of them have been included. The “Editors Rated By Quantity” chart is meaningless.

    The presentation would be fine on its own, if it were stated exactly what it is and what it is not — but it’s not, and additionally when these posts are repeatedly promoted on Twitter as somehow being representative of work for nomination purposes, it is patently unfair and unbalanced, and is likely to unfairly skew nominating.

  4. Stoic Cynic: Hurt also of course reprised his chest burster role at least once

    I loved him so much for that self-referential piece of satire. Almost as good as the one Shatner did in Airplane II:

  5. @JJ
    Thanks for the feedback. The article is clear that this is based only on the 813 stories that we read and reviewed last year.

    We paid close attention to what the other “prolific reviewers” (people who write critical reviews of at least 500 stories per year) were reviewing, and we made a point of reading those anthologies in their entirety. For example, if Rich Horton reviewed just one story from an anthology, we read the whole thing anyway. We feel this gave us a comprehensive look at the key anthologies. It’s humanly impossible to read them all, nor is that necessary.

    In the case of Ian Whates, not a single story from any of those other anthologies showed up in reviews by the top reviewers nor did any of them make it into any of the “world’s best” anthologies.

  6. Stoic Cynic
    That scene singlehandedly justified the existence of SPACEBALLS and ALIEN.

    Great scroll title: I chuckled. And, proceeding from an entirely different reference, I can only reply:

    The scroller you tick, the pixeler you get.

  7. Greg Hullender: Thanks for the feedback. The article is clear that this is based only on the 813 stories that we read and reviewed last year.

    I’ve read it 3 times now. The article is not at all clear that what is being presented is a rather limited subset of what is out there.

    You’ve already posted your justifications, and I and several other people — including GRRM — have pointed out that not only is what you are presenting limited to a subset of works and artists (as well as, in the case of Artist, presenting many ineligible works), the way it is presented (and the tweets you’ve posted on Twitter promoting your posts) is not at all clear about how limited a view of the field you are presenting.

    You’ve made the choice not to fix it. Fine. But I would appreciate you not insulting the intelligence of people like me by continually posting “justifications” insisting that your posts are fairly presented, because they are not. :-/

  8. The John Hurt Spaceballs scene made me laugh harder in a theater than any other movie I’ve ever seen.

  9. @JJ : I think RSR is as clear as they possibly can be, given that these posts of theirs are catering explicitly to the data wonks among us.

    The very first line explaining what the list is, says:

    we’ve analyzed all the recommendations by six prolific reviewers of 813 original works of short fiction from the top publications of 2016, and we’ve distilled a list of editors, verified that they’re qualified, and included charts making it easy to compare the work they did last year.

    Six reviewers, 813 works, from top publications. That’s pretty self-evidently not the same as “all reviewers, all works, all publications.”

    Now, I don’t imagine that I’ll be using RSR as a guide for Best Editor; seeing as I am not a prolific reader or reviewer, I’ve got the few editors I know I’ve read a substantial amount from, and can judge them on merit. And I’m not going to be judging other editors, because I have no way to. At best, this could maybe point me to some anthologies (and that’s better done with the individual anthology reviews than the big editor summary).

    But my point is, RSR has done work compiling what data exists, which is never an easy task to do in a meaningful or intuitive manner. They explain what they’re doing; they explain where the data’s coming from, and why that’s the data they’ve chosen.

    I understand your points of criticism — but really, there are limits to what data presentation can do. If nobody reviewed Ian Whates’ “Ten Tall Tales and Twisted Limericks” and therefore there’s zero data on it, or if “Celebrating 10 Years of NewCon Press” is hard to represent because RSR is trying to show the state of the field in new fiction rather than reprints… then you’re correct, the overview isn’t 100% accurate. But it’s simplified for usability and clarity, rather than capturing every nuance. That’s not an unreasonable call to make. You can argue that it’s the wrong call, but it’s hardly an attempt to mislead the public.

  10. @Doctor Science: Thanks for mentioning The Lost City of the Monkey God the other day! I started it yesterday afternoon and am currently just under 50% of the way through it. I’ve already recommended it to a bunch of people too.

  11. @JJ & Greg

    I have my reservations also – especially with the graphs that are related to “quality” (I do think it adds a bit too much weight to one set of opinions, or, rather, presents things in a manner that could be interpreted by some as “authoritative”), but

    on the other hand, RSR, while doing a good round-up and some useful analysis, is not meant to be the “list of all things eligible” presented in “a completely unbiased manner”.

    More useful than critiquing RSR, I think, would be working towards providing the latter. I know there is a Google spreadsheet somewhere touting that purpose.

    On the third tentacle: far too many people and websites are edging closer and closer to outright campaigning and/or “influence making”.

    If we really, really, really want to curtail such activity, I think it is our individual responsibilities to be overt about it: we need to very carefully review what we are going to publish AND we need to state, every time that we do, that the community that nominates and votes frowns on campaigning, strongly urges voters to be familiar with the works they consider and does not look kindly on efforts to fix/influence the vote.

    Otherwise, we’re going to be doing the puppy’s work for them.

  12. I had forgotten the John Hurt Spaceballs scene. That was a laugh very much appreciated.

  13. That brings a question I had about Riptide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child to mind. And this might be a good place to ask it.

    I was trapped at the hospital with a dead phone battery(dead not just drained) the other day. Luckily they had some books, unluckily Riptide was the only one that looked interesting. I liked the first half with all the treasure hunting set up. However I figured out what was going in the first third of the book and thought it was blatantly obvious by the end of the first half. And the fact that several boatloads of trained professionals overlooked it just so things could spin out of control at the end of the book kind of destroyed the story for me.

    But my question of anyone else who has read it is ” How was the MacGuffin made in the first place?”. It seems to me that you would have had to have a stream of people going in working for fifteen or twenty minutes dying then being replaced for no real purpose. Not to mention that eventually they would have even less working time since they would have to spend part of it moving the pile of dead bodies so they would have space to work.

  14. (11) – Stranger Things was excellent. But I agree that no one episode drove the series and it was the impact of the combined episodes.

  15. @JJ / Greg

    Greg describes what they did. It was a lot of work. Greg tries to get people to use the data base. So what?

    JJ – you seem to be upset about a lot of things. You are always welcome to put your work out there to correct what you think are flaws.

  16. Standback: if “Celebrating 10 Years of NewCon Press” is hard to represent because RSR is trying to show the state of the field in new fiction rather than reprints

    Just a side note, that anthology is all new works commissioned to celebrate the anniversary — and several of them, including Genevieve Cogman’s “The Final Path”, are excellent.

  17. airboy: JJ – you seem to be upset about a lot of things.

    You seem to be unable to distinguish between “upset” and “concerned about unfairly skewing Hugo nomination results”.

    airboy: You are always welcome to put your work out there to correct what you think are flaws.

    Why, thank you for the suggestion to do what I have already been doing for months now — a huge amount of work on both the Hugo Nominations 2017 Wikia and Renay’s 2017 Hugo Nominations spreadsheet, to try to make them as fair and complete as possible. I guess I’d be lost if I didn’t have you making helpful suggestions to me. 🙄

  18. Is the spreadsheet meant to be a complete resource? I’ve only been adding things I really enjoyed and wanted to remember come nomination time. I just read and enjoyed “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard, and notice it’s not included. (Yet.)

    If it’s intended more as a complete list of what’s been released, I’ll be updating a lot more.

  19. Dawn Incognito: Is the spreadsheet meant to be a complete resource? I’ve only been adding things I really enjoyed and wanted to remember come nomination time.

    Both the spreadsheet and the Wikia are intended to be representations of what people feel are excellent and worth nominating, rather than just everything which is eligible.

    Apart from adding the works and people I feel are nomination-worthy, a lot of what I’ve been doing is adding to very basic entries other people have put in which mostly consisted of a name or title: for the artists, I’ve been finding out their eligible artwork and uploading images; for fiction, I’ve been adding synopses, excerpt or full text links, review links, and cover images; for editors, I’ve been adding lists of works which were edited by those people. Mark-kitteh and Vasha have done a huge amount of work on that, too.

  20. @ Dawn Incognito
    Me, too, sigh.

    @ JJ, Mark-kitten and Vasha
    Thanks for your work and the spreadsheet and Wikia. One who reads less widely than you is very grateful!

  21. @Standback
    Thanks for the kind words.

    For the record, we did review “Now We Are Ten: Celebrating the First Ten Years of NewCon Press.” It does indeed contain “The Final Path,” by Genevieve Cogman, and it is, in fact, an excellent story. I gave it five stars.

    The key point is that it isn’t necessary to read and review every story in 500 anthologies and 100 magazines to be able to identify who the best editors are. You’d get more names in the list if you doubled the number of magazines and anthologies, but the same people would still be at the top by almost any rational measure.

  22. “…but the same people would still most likely be at the top by almost any rational measure.”

    Edited it for you.

  23. Woo-Hoo! CEotD!

    The Hive is growing dim Timothy. I know a life of Godstalking has led me to this sorry scroll, and yet, I blame Glyer. Glyer made me what I am.

    Only a Hiver gets pixelled for a scroll.

  24. @MSB

    Thanks for the thanks. I’ll mention that the creator of the wiki is Didi Chanoch, and the spreadsheet is from Renay of Ladybusiness.
    Both depend on fans contributions – just title and author is all you need. Like JJ I’ve tried to contribute to keeping the wiki looking good by adding details to the barer pages, plus looking out for obvious errors such as forgetting to put it in a category. (JJ is much more thorough than I am though!)

  25. I find the spreadsheet much easier to process than the wiki, but they’re both great resources. Thanks to JJ, Mark-kitteh, Vasha, and everyone else who updates these and keeps them tidy and accurate. Special shoutouts to Didi Chanoch and Renay!

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