Pixel Scroll 10/18/17 You Can Get Anything You Want From Alice’s Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Excepting Neutrinos)

(1) JAILHOUSE ROCK. Brian Lee Durfee says “The First Ever in the History of the World Prison Comic Con Is in the Books!”:

James Dashner (Maze Runner) and I put on a fun event at the Utah State Prison last night. If two writers can make an auditorium full of felons laugh non-stop for one hour we know we did our job right. Mr. Dashner’s sense of humor and story-telling gifts were spot-on perfect. My favorite line of the night from Dashner, “My next book is about a serial killer…oh…um…are there any serial killers here tonight?” It brought down the house. He received a standing ovation.

And today, walking around the prison, I’ve received nothing but huge smiles and mega thanks from all the Inmates who attended. Gotta give a huge shout out to all who helped make it happen. Many publishers donated books and comics. Many writer friends donated signed books. Plus all the staff at the prison who got behind the project and helped out. I will post a link to the Dept of Corrections official event page w/photos when our public relations team makes it available.

PS I’ll try and make this an annual event bigger and better each year including the women’s unit, drug rehab, mental health, etc. One day I will have all the guards in Harley Quinn cosplay…

(2) THE VAST WASTELAND. Will no one rid him of this troublesome editor? The Traveler from Galactic Journey is stuck in 1962 with an editor of F&SF who’s driving him mad: “[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:…

(3) BURDEN LIFTED FROM CALIFORNIA BOOKSELLERS. Publishers Weekly carries more coverage about the legislative change: “California Rescinds Autograph Mandate for Booksellers”.

California’s controversial law that requires booksellers to obtain a certificate of authenticity before they could sell books autographed by authors has been rescinded.

The move follows a lawsuit filed in May by Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation that argued that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” The original law was enacted to require that store owners certify that any autographed item over $5 carry an authentic signature. The law was passed to fight against the sale of fake memorabilia, but included books.

Petrocelli, as well as other California booksellers, argued that the paperwork involved to meet the new law would make selling copies of autographed books too expensive. Book signings are an important part of booksellers’ business model, with Book Passage, for example, hosting more than 800 signings a year.

Faced with the lawsuit and opposition from booksellers, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that exempted books from the law, after which the PLF dropped its lawsuit.

(4) THE CURSE. Don Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal (in an article behind a paywall), notes that nearly all of the companies that paid for product placements in the original Blade Runner either no longer exist or are in severe financial trouble.

Atari began its downward spiral a year after the film’s 1982 release; Koss went bankrupt in 1984, and RCA and Bell Telephone received substantial screen  time and disappeared by the late 1980s. The last company Blade Runner promoted that failed was Pan Am, which folded in 1991.

(5) YOUR PERSONAL POP CULTURE SF RADAR. Daniel Dern sent these selected YA sci-fi references from contemporary TV shows:

This week’s episode of The Flash: Barry Allen is speed-binging all the shows he missed over the previous six months… “…wait, Jon Snow is dead [two seconds later] … wait, Jon Snow is alive?”

Unexpected music: In last week’s episode of Gotham, one scene opens to the sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.” No obvious direct plot or character reference, but it sonically made sense. (Vs the use of Led Zepp’s “Foreigner” for the upcoming Thor/Ragnarok trailer and theme, which also makes topical sense, along with being great.)


Ditto vs a mountainside of characters singing or otherwise mutilating Nirvana’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” in the 2015 movie Peter Pan.


(6) FAUX PHARMA. The Guardian lists “Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction”, most of them from sf.

Fictional drugs are miniature rocket ships: they take characters to places unknown and strange. The practice of drug invention goes back to the ancient Greeks (Moly, Lethe) and Shakespeare (Oberon’s love potion). Here are some modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights.

The first two are:

  1. Soma (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) Soma is used to calm and pacify, suspending people in a state of permanent bliss. The World State of Huxley’s dystopian novel issues the drug as a means of control, to quell rebellious feelings. This is a drug used as a political metaphor, a form of mass entertainment taken to its ultimate level, a replacement for religion. In contrast, Huxley’s own mescaline-induced journey through the “doors of perception” gave him a glimpse of the mystery of pure being. From which we can only conclude that he kept the best drugs for himself.
  2. Melange (Dune by Frank Herbert) The most famous drug in science fiction – and one of the most powerful – melange or “spice” is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, produced and guarded by giant sandworms. In small doses it brings on a perfect high and increases sensual awareness of the world around you. In large amounts it enables the user to travel through the folds of space. Wow. This property makes it highly desirable, and entire empires rise and fall in the struggle to control its procurement and distribution. This is drug as merchandise, and as a gateway to the stars.

I was wondering why Thiotimoline wasn’t in the list ‘til I refreshed my memory – it’s a chemical compound, not a drug.

(7) LEAVE ROOM ON YOUR HUGO BALLOT. Lois McMaster Bujold announced on Goodreads that a new Penric novella is upcoming – maybe in November.

I am pleased to report I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella, sequel to “Mira’s Last Dance”. Title is decided all but one vowel — I’ll add it when my aesthetic waffling concludes. About 44,980 words.

Later: Having spent the whole last day wrestling with one. dratted. vowel., title has finalized as: “The Prisoner of Limnos”

I plan to have cover art by Ron Miller again, of which I will post a sneak peek in due course.

…This e-publication thing is getting frighteningly fast, in part because a lot of little things which were baffling decisions or upward learning curves first round are now set templates which only need replicated.


Vincent Price’s grandfather invented baking powder.  (Source: Cooking Price-Wise)

(9) A CABELL CABAL. A link to a Crooked Timber of academic interest: “Robert A. Heinlein and James Branch Cabell” by John Holbo.

…I’m not going to quote pre-print stuff [from Farah Mendlesohn’s Heinlein book] but I’ll pass along one detail I never would have guessed. Heinlein was, apparently, a huge James Branch Cabell fan. He loved Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. I have just started rereading Jurgen myself, since I’m done with Dunsany. (I’m not making any systematic early 20th century fantasy circuit, mind you. We just shifted houses and, somehow, an old, long-unregarded 60’s paperback copy of Jurgen floated to the top. Perhaps this universe’s God is a Richard Thaler-type, giving me a nudge. Also, Mendlesohn is apparently not the first to note that Heinlein liked Cabell. Wikipedia knows. I am, apparently, last to know. But perhaps you have been in that sorry boat with me.)

This isn’t a major theme of her monograph, but Mendlesohn suggests Heinlein wanted to be a satirist in a Cabell-ish (and/or Swiftian, Twainian, Sinclairian, Kiplingesque) vein, in some of his works. But he didn’t really have it in him. He’s too earnest and convicted, albeit eccentrically so. He doesn’t do ironic equivocation. (I imagine if Cabell had tried to write Jurgen as a boy’s adventure book – Have Fine, Snug, Well-Fitting Garment With Curious Figures On It, Will Travel – he might have encountered equal and opposite stylistic incapacities in his soul.)

(10) HMMM. Does Luke do that?

(11) CLASS IS IN SESSION. “Pitches and Synopses Workshop with Jennifer Brozek” has been Storified for your edification from notes taken by Cat Rambo.

(12) KYELL GOLD IN STORYBUNDLE. Daniel Potter interviews Kyell Gold about his book in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. (This is a video in a public Facebook post.)

(13) A MORAL AUTHOR. Ann Leckie told this story in a Twitter thread that starts here.

It includes a moral:

(14) FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. Here are the links to all three four parts of the SFWA and indie series, in case you missed any:

(15) ARTS AND SCIENCES. Shades of Hedy Lamar — artist/model designs a better health monitor for ISS: “Meet the model changing the future of space medicine”.

Alex Sorina Moss is an artist and a model, but that’s just a side hustle for her main ambition – to design an ear piece that could transform medicine and space travel forever.

Moss’s idea has already shot her team to stardom, winning a 2016 Nasa prize for the Best Use of Hardware.  But what’s more, it signals an uplifting new direction for wearable tech.

Canaria is a small cuff worn on the ear which measures vital bodily statistics, as well as other metrics such as levels of certain gases in the air around the wearer. Where other well-known biometric wearables target consumers looking to keep fit, Canaria is being prepped as a medical grade instrument.

(16) DECONTAMINATION. Cleaning up after the Fukushima disaster — “The robots going where no human can”. (Video at the link.)

Robots have become central to the cleaning-up operation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, six years after the tsunami that triggered the nuclear meltdown.

It is estimated that around 600 tonnes of toxic fuel may have leaked out of the reactor during the incident.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is using a variety of robots to explore areas too dangerous for people to go near.

BBC Click was given rare access to the site to see how the decontamination work was progressing.

(17) IN TIMES TO COME. EPCOT for real? “‘Future city’ to be built in Canada by Alphabet company”.

Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is to build a digital city in Toronto.

It aims to turn a waterfront area into a working laboratory for a range of “smart” technology.

It is likely to feature fast wi-fi availability, millions of sensors, sustainable energy and autonomous cars.

Technology companies are touting their hardware and software to cities, as urban planners tackle issues such as congestion, pollution and overcrowding.

(18) FANHISTORY HELP WANTED. Do you recognize the artist?

(19) REMEMBERING THE AEROSPACE RACE. The BBC looks back on “The Soviet Union’s flawed rival to Concorde”.

It is December 1968, and a truly ground-breaking airliner is about to take its first flight.

It resembles a giant white dart, as futuristic an object as anything humanity has made in the 1960s. The aircraft is super streamlined to be able to fly at the speed of a rifle bullet – once thought too fast for a passenger-carrying aircraft.

The distinctive, needle-nosed front of the aircraft looks like the business end of something rocket-powered from a Flash Gordon serial; when the aircraft approaches the runway, the whole nose is designed to slide down, giving the pilots a better view of the ground. The effect makes the aircraft look like a giant bird about to land.

It sounds like a description of the Anglo-French Concorde, the plane that will cross the Atlantic in little more than three hours – but it’s not. The spaceship-styled jet sports the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union on its giant tailfin. It is the Tupolev Tu-144, the communist Concorde, and the first passenger aircraft to fly more than twice the speed of sound….

(20) HEARTBREAKER. Steven Soderbergh tweeted what he says is “a rejection from Lucasfilm” from 1984 — but which is actually a standard Hollywood release saying that they won’t consider unsolicited material.

(21) COMING TO NETFLIX, Bright Official Trailer #3.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sputnik-2, or Laika, Our Hero” is a video from Popular Science about the 50th anniversary of Laika’s journey into space aboard Sputnik 2.

When the international press reported that the Soviets sent a dog into orbit, the public freaked. Not because communism was beating democracy in the space race, but because how could anyone send a dog—alone—into space. If there’s one global commonality, it’s this: everyone loves dogs. So, the Soviets spun the story. Laika, the space dog, became a national hero. Yes, she died on her one way mission. But, she gloriously orbited Earth for over a week until her eventual, peaceful death. And, because of Laika’s sacrifice, the Soviet space program was now years ahead of the Americans…

But, none of that was true.

Based on declassified Soviet space program documents as well as primary source archive from back in the day, this is a revised version of Laika’s one way trip. In her words. That is, approximately her words. She was a dog, after all.


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

45 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/18/17 You Can Get Anything You Want From Alice’s Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Excepting Neutrinos)

  1. (9) I can’t remember when I learned that Heinlein was into Cabell (certainly the references in “Job” are a give-away); someone suggested that Cabell’s tendency to connect his stories led to the late Heinlein pan-universal crossovers, but I don’t remember who that was either.

    “Scroll: A Comedy of Pixels”

  2. (5) You mean “White Rabbit”? That was also used in The Handmaid’s Tale, in ep. 8, “Jezebels.”

    There’s a listing of the songs used in each of the episodes here.

  3. @Bonnie: ninja’d! (OTOH, making sure there was no other possible song of that title led me to send Google a note that their answer to “Who were the original members of JA?” was wrong.)

  4. (7) Is this some sort of time traveling post? Mira’s Last Dance has been out for at /least/ 8 months. I bought it from Amazon last March.

    Edit: Never mind. I missed that it’s a sequel.

  5. rochrist on October 18, 2017 at 8:46 pm said:
    sequel to “Mira’s Last Dance”, it says.

  6. (6) Hmm, as far as fictional drugs by Phil Dick go, I’d probably choose Chew-Z and Can-D from The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, with their shared hallucinations, over the one from Scanner Darkly. Or, if you want to stretch the definition of “drug”, possibly beyond the breaking point, maybe Ubik, from the novel of the same name.

    Another notable example from SF that springs to mind is the “Reality Pill” from shamefully hard-to-get 1968 Hugo Nominee The Butterfly Kid.

  7. I just found out about this 2-day auction by Authors, Editors and Publishers, to raise money for U.S. Virgin Islands, and unfortunately it closes at 9pm ET (around 20 hours from now).

    The website is regrettably designed, in that it’s slow-loading and image-intensive and involves massive numbers of pages, and there’s no text-only list of all items which can be quickly scanned. Nevertheless, those interested in books and ARCs, or writers’ services in coaching, editing, or publishing, may find something of interest on which to bid.

  8. (5) Nitpicking here, but isn’t it rather “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin in the Thor trailer?

    (6) I think Kallocain (in the book of the same name by Karin Boye) belongs on the list as well.

    (7) Yay! Though I do think Bujold is a better author in a longer format, I’ll happily read her shorter stuff as well.

  9. @Xtifr. When I saw that list, yeah, I thought Substance D was not the most interesting choice if you were going to include a PKD.

  10. 6) I nominated Kallocain, and gave it my second preference!

    7) 44,980 is *just* under the wire for Best Novella as it currently stands. I proposed an amendment at Helsinki which would raise the limit to 48,000 words, but of course it still needs to be ratified in San Jose, which would be too late for anything published this year.

  11. 20: When I first read that, I thought it was Steven Spielberg. Which would have been funnier–he sent a tape to his pal George, got it sent back to him by some intern who had never heard of him.

  12. 6. all drugs are chemical compounds. Some chemical compounds are isolated from various biological processes, but they’re all, in the end, “chemical compounds”.

    In fact, I was quite shocked to learn about the development process (my father was a psychopharmacologist, working for two of the top two intl drug firms, ultimately heading up human trials for one of them – NO, I was NOT a subject – they didn’t accept family members….); the company identifies a disorder, illness, whatever that it thinks they can profitably develop a drug for. The malady is investigated on a molecular level and the “shape” of the desired compound is determined. Chemists then go to work attempting to replicate that “shape”, several compounds are chosen for further testing. It wasn’t uncommon for the chemists to do their own fiddling around and present compounds they thought might be useful. On one memorable occasion, one of the chemists presented a molecule. “What’s it supposed to do?” “Oh, its a euphoric”. “And…?” “That’s all, just a euphoric…that’s really cheap to produce, gets completely metabolized by the body and looks to be non-addictive…it’s like the perfect recreational drug.” That chemical compound went into the safe and, so far as I know, could be found there today. (this process was used for developing drugs designed to affect the brain)

    @Xtifr – The Butterfly Kid – great story and yes, far too unavailable. There are several up on sale at ABE, for outrageous prices….

    Heinlein & Cabell…I’ve always known that…I vaguely recall some articles on the subject in…Science Fiction Review? Alien Critic? from the 70s….it prompted me to read JBC….

  13. No fictional drugs list is complete without mention of Brass Eye’s Cake (it’s a made-up drug!) Which affects an area of the brain called “Shatner’s Bassoon” with side effects including a swollen neck (the tablets are the size of your fist)

    Chris Morris’s brutal satire even managed to get an MP asking questions on Cake in parliament.

  14. (5) As Karl-Johan already noted, that’s ‘Immigrant Song’ in the Thor trailer.

    (19) The Tu-144 was sarcastically referred to as the Concordeski by Soviet citizens. It was reputedly so loud in flight that the person sitting across the aisle from you literally could not scream loud enough for you to hear them.

  15. (6) I am disappointed not to see Fast Penta on that list.

    Karl-Johan Norén on October 19, 2017 at 12:23 am said:

    (7) Yay! Though I do think Bujold is a better author in a longer format, I’ll happily read her shorter stuff as well.

    44,980 is a novel by Hugo standards. So a longer-than-normal Penric work.

  16. 5) As others have said, two of those song titles are incorrect. It’s “White Rabbit” and “Immigrant Song”.

    13) I feel lucky that I was never involved in stories like that when I worked those kinds of jobs.

    17) Please do not bring this corporate-controlled smart city b*llsh*t to my city. That Richard Florida is in favour of this is by itself reason for concern. One of the reason “Quayside” is underdeveloped here is because there’s a giant expressway running right next to it, and I have my doubts that dumping a bunch of sensors into an area plagued by poor planning is going to solve the city’s problems, or even that neighbourhoods. Say it with me: looking to technical solutions for social problems is a bad idea. Looking for them from an advertising company is even worse.

  17. @Steve Wright: how much are we actually told about thionite’s properties? ISTR that it’s just another heroin (without requiring additional chemical reactions) — dangerous but boring. The ones cited are consciousness-expanders, not just stunners. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read the Lensman books, so I’ll be interested to hear corrections.

    @PhilRM: the article refers to Tu-144 passengers passing notes due to the noise, and suggests that “Concordski” was also a semi-slander of westerners who couldn’t believe the USSR had done anything original.

    @August: I was wondering whether this was too hyped to be true; interesting to hear a local perspective. There’s always a question of whether something really will be helpful, or is more likely to be a massive fail overall — cf the attempts to bring the summer Olympics to dense Boston or to run a (Formula 1?) car race on the grid of streets in one of the not-that-underdeveloped sections of the city. (The latter happened around the time I saw Monaco, where the stands were already going up — but the guidebook quoted a racer as saying it was like driving around one’s kitchen.)

    @Andrew Porter — I was similarly iffy; the lines aren’t nearly as clean as I recalled, but I don’t know his earliest work.

  18. @Chip Hitchcock: I’m deeply suspicious of “smart city” projects in general. They have historically been a) massive white elephant boondoggles that don’t work even remotely like promised, b) have only benefited corporate/private interests while massively compromising citizen privacy/undermining existing civic functions/corroding public trust and other social goods, c) are obsolete before they’re even off the ground, or d) all of the above, with d) being the most common result. Toronto city counsel has a history of making bad planning decisions because somebody dangles something shiny in front of them, and I have yet to see anything concrete that makes me think this is an exception.

  19. Bah. Toronto city council, not counsel. I’ve been working on law materials for months now and I’ve had to correct “council” to read “counsel” so many times it’s just automatic now.

  20. @Chip Hitchcock – we get a subjective description of the thionite experience in First Lensman when Virgil Samms has to take a dose (to prove his commitment to the drug gang he’s trying to infiltrate). It’s a bit more than just a euphoric… it creates a sort of visionary state in which every desire the user has ever had, however fleeting, is satisfied. Potentially, it’s a way to confront one’s own character – even in a goody-two-shoes like Samms, his vision includes a lot of stuff that Smith says is too horrible to describe.

    The stuff’s also an important plot driver for the “Lensman” series, as it’s one of the more insidious weapons with which the Evil Eddorians seek to Bring Civilization To Its Knees. Much more important, I think, than a simple recreational chemical like Moloko Plus.

  21. Mmm, fast penta is really just another entry in the long list of fictional “truth” serums. A little more realistic than many, but other than that, it doesn’t seem particularly original or exceptional.

    Now Miles’ idiosyncratic reaction to fast penta, on the other hand–that was original and quite entertaining. 🙂

  22. Maybe not top ten worthy, but @Xtifr makes me wonder what Miles would be like on Focus from A Deepness In The Sky. It makes people with hyperfocus look like slackers.

    IIRC, when we were discussing that back in the days of Usenet, Vinge himself showed up to express dismay at the number of people who sympathized with the characters who chose to keep using it on a lower dose.

  23. Martin Wooster on October 18, 2017 at 7:36 pm said:

    Isn’t the 2015 Peter Pan pastiche simply PAN (not “Peter Pan”)?

    Yes, that’s the movie title, but the YouTube clip said “Peter Pan.”

    The 2003 movie was titled Peter Pan (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316396/). I liked this one, and the DVD (or BR) included nice wireframes of some of the ending (or alternate ending?). This one probably would have done better (in the box office) if another pirate movie didn’t come out about the same time, with this then-new pirate guy located in the Caribbean…

    Then there was HOOK, with Robin Williams. (I thought they were simultaneously filming its sequel, but so far, nutthin.)

    At least I didn’t call them Jefferson Biplane…

    What we really need is a fresh version, like, say, THE PIRATES OF PAN-ZANCE. heh!

    BTW, Mike, have I tied or broken any records for “most comment-corrected mistakes in a post” yet? 😐

  24. I see Hugo potential. “Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber & Sara Saab, Clarkesworld, Sept 2017.

    I was very impressed by this story’s combination of world-building (centered around efforts to restore/refresh a future Earth damaged by ecological and climactic change, supplemented by a society with better support systems for emotional and intellectual growth/stability), and how it also tells a very human story. It deals with longing, and love, and the difficult choices we still have to make, even in a better future.

    I was also struck that this story didn’t rely on dramatic cliches or violence for plot development. No bombs, no killings, no sinister villains lurking in the wings. It tells a story of the heart, rather than a story of the fist or gun.

    And, per usual, I enjoyed Kate Baker’s narration of the audio version.

  25. (6) I would add Trank and/or Rejuv from Cherryh’s A/U books, whole economies revolve around them.
    I searched for a reference in Andre Norton for Krax Seeds (sp) but came up with a mention of fash-smoke.

  26. @Daniel: At least I didn’t call them Jefferson Biplane…. That’s good, because the one representation (on the cover of After Bathing at Baxter’s) is a triplane.

  27. I would say Substance D is deliberately uninteresting, which is in itself an interesting choice. Unlike almost all SF drugs, Dick never describes its desirable effects at all; as a result, you get the impression that even though this thing is tremendously important to all these people, they’re just sort of taking it because it’s there.

    Another deliberately against-the-grain SF drug is morbehanine, from Disch’s 334. It doesn’t seem to be very addictive, and the effect of its pure form is something so subtle and hard to describe that most people aren’t into it (basically it helps you feel more involved in LARPing), but it happens to make a good mixer for every other kind of drug.

  28. @Steve Wright: I had forgotten that item (not surprising, as I reread the middle books but not the early or last); it does sound interesting enough to make the list. It’s not clear how much they were choosing drugs with interesting effects rather than drugs that were substantial in the plot; some on that list are both, but ISTM that the destroying-civilization line is a bit passé (cf Reefer Madness) — a claim made by the equivalents of J. Edgar Hoover for something not nearly as effective-in-the-story as soma. Noon may also have picked books he thought were worth pointing people to — although I wouldn’t bet on him having heard of the Lensman books….

  29. Re #9> I was unaware that Heinlein was a Cabell fan till JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE. Sort of a big hint.

  30. I wonder if Niven’s use of Cabellian names (in the Leshy circuit stories) arose independently or via Heinlein?

Comments are closed.