Pixel Scroll 1/14/17 On A Cold And Gray Trisolarian Morning, A Baby Scroll Was Filed

(1) EYE EYE AYE. From r/Star Wars on Reddit: “Noticed this Mon Calamari who can’t find his monitor while re-watching Return of the Jedi” generated a vast set of amusing comments, half developing the joke, half creating headcanon to explain away the joke.

  • Fun fact: predators evolve to have eyes that are close together and face forward to improve depth perception and acuity in a narrow arc, whereas prey have eyes farther apart so that they have better peripheral coverage to spot threats. Apparently Mon Calamari are not natural predators, hence their keen ability to spot traps.
  • No the guy sitting just moved his desk to the right, you can see him snickering when the guy turn around and doesn’t see the monitor where it usually is.
  • He’s blind and on the wall is written in brail: “more to the right.” These ship are made like that; with brail instructions everywhere because if the percentage of mon-calamari individuals who devellop blindness in their late 30’s. Apparently this happens after they successfully mated the first time.
  • Simple: He has an eye on each side of his head. He can see the screen from that angle. He was actually looking at two things at once.

(2) INELIGIBILITY POST. Ruthless Culture’s Jonathan McCalmont, who thinks award eligibility posts are a bane, says: “Don’t Vote For Me”.

What this means in practice is that every year begins with an ungainly scramble for visibility as hundreds of aspiring authors try to get out their personal votes. These visibility campaigns may start on a bashful and self-deprecating note but the pitch soon rises, growing steadily more grasping and unpleasant until finally reaching the level of demented screaming in the run-up to the annual distribution of fish heads known as the Hugo Awards, at which point the voices collapse either into silence or disgruntled muttering before beginning afresh the following December.

The cycle begins in earnest with the opening of the Hugo nominations period but the year’s first tangible chunk of ego-boo is usually the shortlist for the awards handed out by the British Science Fiction Association. For reasons that doubtless made sense to someone at the time, the process for generating BSFA award shortlists has now changed meaning that people are now expected to nominate for a longlist as well as a shortlist. My piece on the history of the New Weird has made it onto the non-fiction longlist and while I am grateful to everyone who took the time to nominate my piece, I would be even more grateful if it progressed no further as I have decided to decline any and all future award nominations.

(3) A DEAD IDEA COMES BACK. Somebody thinks they’ve got a workable personal jetpack.

“Jetpacks will be part of future cities,” Peter Coker, vice-president of innovation at KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft Company’s major Chinese shareholder.

“I see it as being the Uber of the sky.”

Martin Aircraft Company, based in New Zealand, already has a working prototype that can fly at 2,800ft (850m) at 45km/h (27mph) for 28 minutes.

And Mr Coker says commuters will be able to hail an unmanned jetpack via a smartphone app.

He admits there will be “regulatory hurdles” to overcome and, if the airways become packed with jetpacks, a need for “automatic collision avoidance”.

(4) WHO’S ON FIRST? If you want to know the firms controlled by the Big 5 Publishers, this searchable graph will show you.

(5) DUTTON OBIT. What a great bookstore he had. “Dave Dutton, the landmark L.A. bookstore owner, dies at 79”. The North Hollywood location – only a couple of miles from the old LASFS Clubhouse – was gloriously stuffed with interesting books.

But he would never stray far from Dutton’s Books, a Los Angeles landmark with its overflowing shelves, hard-to-find titles and customers wondrously thumbing through their options. A “cultural museum,” Dutton once called the bookstore.

Dutton died Friday at his home in Valley Village, roughly a decade after he and his wife packed up the last 50,000 books and closed up the North Hollywood shop for the final time. Dutton was 79 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

…When Dutton and his wife packed up the North Hollywood shop, loading the remaining books into a 30-foot truck, Dutton reflected on the virtues of being an old-school bookseller in a market dominated by the Internet.

“The book business used to be a place where idealists and dreamers of a better world who perhaps didn’t like business, didn’t admire the business tactics generally necessary to survive, could find a happy compromise.”


  • January 14, 1954 — Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. (Honestly, no sff connection that I could think of. But a big blip on the pop culture screen.)


  • Born January 14, 1943 — Astronaut Shannon Lucid


  • Born January 14, 1874 Thornton Burgess, author of Old Mother West Wind, whose array of anthropomorphics included a Peter Rabbit (intentionally using the same name as Beatrix Potter’s character). He wrote about animals and nature in his newspaper column, Bedtime Stories, and by the time he retired, had penned more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column.
  • Born January 14, 1924 – Guy Williams, who played Zorro and Professor John Robinson.

(9) ANOTHER VISIT TO THE SEVENTIES. Another tweet from 70s Sci-Fi Art.

(10) WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER GIBBONS? The name. BBC reports ”’Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species”.

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

(11) TWIN TITANS. I don’t doubt the misleading innuendo “Power Couples” gets more clicks, though it detracts from homage intended by the publication.

The Jewish Women’s Archive’s “Power Couples” project showcases pairs of extraordinary Jewish women from many different disciplines, matching an early female trailblazer with a modern woman at the top of her game. This project highlights the lives and accomplishments of important pioneers in various fields and the next generation of leaders and innovators, demonstrating the impact of women in the arts, sciences, fashion, athletics, business, and activism….

Fantasy Authors: Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky

In 2010, a Jewish Review of Books article asserting that Jewish authors don’t write fantasy precipitated an Internet uproar. Commentators named hundreds of Jewish authors who write about magic, mythical creatures, quests, and adventures—two of whom are Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky. Yolen has written almost 300 fantasy and fairytale-inspired books, and was recently named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an award honoring lifetime achievement. Swirsky has written more than 70 short stories and has twice won the prestigious Nebula Award. Both women expand the definition of the fantasy genre and use their work to espouse themes of social justice….

Actress-Scientists: Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik

You probably wouldn’t expect that we could have multiple entries in a category for actress/scientist. After all, we tend to think of people as being either/or. If you’re a scientist or inventor, you must be mono-focused, introverted, anti-social. If you’re an actor or celebrity, stereotypes suggest that you’re gorgeous but flighty, lacking intelligence or substance. Despite our knowledge that most women are multi-talented multitaskers, we insist on fitting them into narrow categories, denying their complexity. Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik challenge us to rethink our limiting assumptions and to recognize the creative range of women’s abilities.

(12) PRESUMPTIVE GUILT. It’s not quite a “have you stopped beating your wife” gotcha — Disney did already use Fisher’s digital image in Rogue One. In The Guardian, “Disney deny negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for rights to her digital image”.

Disney have denied they are negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for the rights to use the actor’s digital image in future Star Wars film, according to industry sources.

The BBC’s Newsnight programme had reported that, “with what might be regarded as unseemly haste, Star Wars studio Disney had opened with the actor’s estate over her continued appearance in the franchise.”

But in a statement the Walt Disney Company said: “Disney is not in conversations with the estate of Carrie Fisher at this time and any reports to the contrary are false.”

Fisher’s likeness as the young Princess Leia in the original 1977 Star Wars was digitally rendered and appeared in the final frames of prequel Rogue One – along with Peter Cushing’s. As filming occurred prior to Fisher’s death, her permission was presumably obtained. However, reports have emerged of discussions between the makers of Episodes VIII and IX, as Leia had been expected to play a significant part in both films. Apart from the technical challenge, a number of ethical considerations emerged in the wake of Cushing’s “resurrection” in Rogue One, 22 years after his death.

The BBC’s use of the words “continuing appearance” suggested the film-makers were considering using Fisher’s digital image in future films, although there are also other ancillary uses, such as video games.

(13) WHERE LIGHTSPEED SEEMS SLOW. Ty Franck answers questions about the existence of the internet in The Expanse.

Q: Why call them ‘hand terminals?’

A: Because they are not phones. In the universe of The Expanse, we are living in the true internet of things. Nearly every object more complex than a hair brush is a smart or semi-smart device connected to the network around it. The hand terminal is barely a device, on its own. It has little or no memory or processing power. It is literally just a dumb terminal to give the user access to the network and to the various devices around them. It is a portable UI for operating other things. Which is why when the networks go down, the hand terminals become bricks. You can’t even play that game of angry birds classic you downloaded with your google store coupon.

(14) YOU CAN’T STOP IT, YOU CAN ONLY WATCH IT HAPPEN. Something for you to put on your calendar – “In 2022 we’ll be able to watch an 1,800-year old star collision”.

Before their collision the two stars were too dim to be seen without the aid of an extremely powerful telescope but astronomers expect the collision to increase the brightness of the pair ten thousand fold, making it one of the brightest stars in the heaven for a time. The explosion, known as a Red Nova, will then dissipate and the star will remain visible as a single bright, but duller, dot.

The prediction is based on a study of the two stars, which are orbiting each other in ever decreasing circles and appear to be on course for a collision. Assuming they are correct, it would be the first time such an event was predicted by scientists.

(15) BITE YE. The Santa Clarita Diet, for people with good taste… and people who taste good. Drew Barrymore teases a series coming to Netflix in February. There’s also a gag website: http://santaclaritadiet.com/

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Gregory N. Hullender, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester, with an assist from Bonnie McDaniel.]

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55 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/14/17 On A Cold And Gray Trisolarian Morning, A Baby Scroll Was Filed

  1. 3) It’s not the collision avoidance I’m worried about, it’s the being-fallen-on-by-some-jerk avoidance. (Or having hir coffee dumped on my head from 20′ up….

    First? FIRST!

  2. What happened was that they tried a prototype of Princess Leia, but all it would do was say, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope.”

    Beulah, scroll me a pixel!

  3. (3) He admits there will be “regulatory hurdles” to overcome and, if the airways become packed with jetpacks, a need for “automatic collision avoidance”.

    I would also hope they would come with parachutes….

  4. My proposal for how to deal with Leia’s appearance in Episode 9, in particular, where there’s (rumored) supposed to be a big confrontation between Kylo Ren and Leia:

    Spend some of that $50-60M insurance payout on Doing It Right:

    Have the role of Leia played by Natalie Portman. Give her billing and a paycheck as is her due. Digitally morph her face and voice to be that of 60-y.o. Carrie Fisher. Give *her* billing, too.

    Yes, it’s expensive, but that’s what the life insurance on Fisher was *for*.

  5. Just finished re-watching “Mystery Men.”

    I always cackle at Ricky Jay’s line “I’m a publicist, not a magician.”

  6. Have the role of Leia played by Natalie Portman. Give her billing and a paycheck as is her due. Digitally morph her face and voice to be that of 60-y.o. Carrie Fisher. Give *her* billing, too.

    I’m not sure what having Portman do it, and then covering her up, would gain.

    They credited (and paid) the actors who played Leia and Tarkin in ROGUE ONE, and they gave acknowledgement to Fisher and Cushing. I’m not sure the unions would allow them to credit an actor who didn’t actually act in the movie as if they were in the cast.

    Doing it right doesn’t necessarily involve hiring famous people to play the physical role; it should involve hiring people who’ll do the job well. Hiring Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila wasn’t “doing it wrong,” any more than hiring David Prowse and Peter Mayhew was, even though they were all covered up and had dubbed-in voices, too.

  7. I’m not saying cover Portman up, I’m saying morph her features. Tie the Fisher-face more closely to hers.

    CGI!Tarkin managed to avoid the uncanny valley (for me, at least), but he didn’t look or respond like a good actor who was actually present.

    The point of using Portman as the base would be to have a first-rate actor doing the work, and also to bring out their supposed relatedness. Portman doesn’t have to imitate Fisher, she can bring her own emotion to the work — but then morphing her features to look like Fisher’s, and you’d get that relatedness feeling to make it believable. Not to mention resonant, because the money scene would be the confrontation with her son.

  8. (1) EYE EYE AYE

    The life of an extra must be hard, no-one notices you unless you mess up.


    I guess that’s showing the courage of his convictions or something.


    And Mr Coker says commuters will be able to hail an unmanned jetpack via a smartphone app.

    …and there’s no way that could possibly go wrong.


    The cynic in me hears a “yet” at the end of that statement.

  9. (3) Despite what people say: People generally dont like to die or being mangled and it would surprise me if you can get the jetpacks safe as a car (which is not even a high bar).

    Yeah, Title editor!

    Im a boxticker, Jim, not a pixel!

  10. @Doctor Science
    I am kind of reminded, by your proposal, of Looper. I was not entirely sold, in that movie, of the “blending” of Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt.

    But yeah, the Force Awakens does suggest that Leia and her son SHOULD have their confrontation in movie IX.

  11. Paul Weimer on January 15, 2017 at 5:51 am said:

    But yeah, the Force Awakens does suggest that Leia and her son SHOULD have their confrontation in movie IX.

    Hello. My Name is Leia Organa. You killed my husband. Prepare to die.

  12. @Mark: You keep using that word… 😉

    I’m most of the way through Hugh Howey’s Wool, at 78%. Oddly, I can’t find a copyright page in the ebook to tell me which edition this is. At any rate, it reminds me in odd ways of, variously, Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, Weir’s The Martian, and a police procedural. The second book, Silo, looks like a prequel – I know a little of that story, just enough to be insanely curious about how/if an apparent conflict is going to be handled. (I don’t want to spoil that piece for anyone else, so I’m being deliberately vague.)

  13. @Rev. Bob If you’re reading a short story you need to move to the next one in WOOL, there’s an omibus. If you’re reading the omnibus then Shift is next followed by Dust.

  14. @Iphinome:

    I’ve got all three omnibus volumes; that’s why I referred to the prequel as the second book. I just slipped up and called it Silo (the series name) instead of Shift (the second omnibus’s title).

  15. Gotcha, just wanted to be sure. They’re not a bad read.

    Doubtful that anyone would be interested in what I’m reading but I just, a half hour ago, finished Kris Longknife’s Replacement, which is about par for the course for the Kris Longknife books. A bit shorter than the others, it covers the problems of someone who had to step into Kris’s shoes and deal with her messes after she leaves for a different assignment.

    For people who haven’t read any of them. It’s a medium level scifi, nothing challenging, they ships have no artificial gravity, accelerate for gravity, stations spin, and FTL is accomplished through jump points that just happen to have been left behind by aliens. You get space battles, a little politics, a snarky computer, and a female protagonist in the space navy. Some have compared it to Honor Harrington books but I don’t think that’s fair. These are, if not light-hearted, at least more so than Webber’s books. I wouldn’t call them nutty nuggets, but they are closer to popcorn movie than make you wake up in the middle of the night to think about what you just read.

  16. Iphinome :

    Hello. My Name is Leia Organa. You killed my husband. Prepare to die.


    I was going for a Star Wars pun myself, but it felt Forced

  17. @Peer Sylvester

    Forced sounds like something John Scalzi would do to follow up on Redshirts.

  18. @Iphinome:

    I’m woefully behind on the Longknife books; I hadn’t even realized that one was out… nor that a new Jump Point (prequel series) book has been slated for March. Both added to the ever-growing wishlists.

  19. The Longknife book which isn’t actually about Longknife has only been out for a few days, there were problems getting the full file live on amazon. It’s shorter than the others, it’s also only $5 so *shrug*

    I just got around to binging the Kris Longknife and Viki Peterwald books recently. A lot of sitting with the kindle in one hand and petting a sick cat with the other and needing something not requiring my full brainpower to keep me amused. That little cat was a fighter but she was also old enough to vote (I live in Chicago so for all I know, she did vote) and I lost her two days ago.

    Grief means I still need books that don’t require my full brain. so when I saw this new one yesterday I grabbed it, read most, and then this morning finished it. I’m already past my book budget for the next half-year but needs-must. It beats screaming and crying.

  20. Iphinome
    It hurts to lose a beloved pet, and especially one who’s been around that long. As someone else said, they leave a hole much larger than themselves. I’m glad books help.

  21. Iphinome: Condolences on your loss. I’ve been there wuth a beloved ill pet.

    And yes, the right books help.

  22. @Iphinome

    So sorry to hear that. My condolences. Take comfort in the fact that you gave her a good life.

  23. Liz Rob Dawn Bonnie thank you. I gave her as good as I could, she never asked much. A window to nap in, some cat food, some cardboard to claw up and that I clean her box. Not like those ancient Egyptian cats at took their humans into the afterlife with them. (I know all about those human mummies found alongside the cat ones.)

  24. 2) Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

    3) If that photo is of the prototype, it’s as large as a SmartCar, which doesn’t fit my mental image of a “jetpack”; you might as well get a motorcycle and be done with it. Plus a 28-minute range between refuels is… less than impressive. And they’re still going to have the “downdraft interferes with people below you” problem.

    Of course, as the thing is probably going to cost more than a Bugatti Veyron, it will remain a rich-man’s toy and you won’t actually have that many of them buzzing around.

    14) Funny how reading “in 2022” still feels like it’s a long time in the future until I actually stop to think about it…

    @ lphinome: Condolences on your loss. We have a couple of cats who are getting to that point, and it’s painful to contemplate even though they both seem in very good health right now — I know just how quickly that can change.

  25. I’m not saying cover Portman up, I’m saying morph her features. Tie the Fisher-face more closely to hers.

    If you’re going to make her look and sound like 60-year-old Fisher, that’s covering her up. If what you mean is to use her performance as the physical foundation for the digitized performance, that’s what they did in ROGUE ONE.

    So it would seem to me that the solution is to do it better, not do it with a more famous actor underneath.

  26. Perhaps what’s needed is a combination of approaches that have worked in the past. I say, portray her with a heavily made up (there was a phaser accident!) Muppet version of Dick Sargent.

  27. Iphinome, I’m so sorry about the loss of your beloved companion. May your books and good memories keep you going until you’re ready to get a new SJW credential.

  28. @Iphinome — I’m sorry for your loss — I’ve been in a similar place myself.

    Reading-wise, I’m continuing with novellas. Every Heart a Doorway was great and is definitely making the ballot. Marie Brennan’s (which I always keep wanting to correct to Maire Brennan, the singer from the Irish group Clannad) Cold-Forged Flame was fun. And I’ve just started Emily Foster’s Drowning Eyes, which I’m liking a lot.

  29. Just finished Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. I was impressed. Quick and light, yes, but not wholly predictable – I didn’t feel there were a lot of wasted scenes or words. I liked the characters I was meant to like.

    Also finished A Stranger in Olondria, which I feel like I admired more but enjoyed less. Don’t mistake this as “I didn’t enjoy reading”, it’s a pleasure to read, it just made me work harder, but it achieved its own, more ambitious, goals about as smoothly.

    Started on An Accident of Stars, which feels clunkier than both so far, though readable, but I am barely in. (our heroine just had her first sight of the riding beasties)

    I am feeling sorely behind on 2016 reading (especially shot fiction), but also not regretting it terribly hard…

  30. “Jetpacks will be part of future cities,” Peter Coker, vice-president of innovation at KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft Company’s major Chinese shareholder.

    “I see it as being the Uber of the sky.”

    People have brought up the typical fan lament “Where is my flying car?”, and my response is “Consider traffic jams in three dimensions, and be careful what you wish for.”

    Something like this simply introduces more problems. While experiments on autonomous vehicles are proceeding, I think the missing part of the puzzle is a smart network. You get into the car, and tell it where you want to go. The network plots the route to get there and tells the car where to go, and provides real-time updates as required by changing conditions.. You sit back and enjoy the ride, because you aren’t driving the car. You’re a passenger.

    To really make this work, I think you need to take the human out of the control loop. That’s a political matter that will be a far greater challenge then the technology.

  31. “That little cat was a fighter but she was also old enough to vote (I live in Chicago so for all I know, she did vote) and I lost her two days ago.”

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Still trying to get over loosing my own dear.

  32. @DMcCunney: 3D traffic would be complex, but not as dense; you’d need more horizontal separation but could have dozens of vertical layers. But I figure you’re right that these couldn’t be human-piloted safely in bulk.

    @Lee: 28 minutes range is a lot more than the versions that were first demo’d half a century ago — and if it’s used in the city, that’s plenty of time for something that should only take a minute to refuel (unlike, e.g., an electric car). I can’t say how far without seeing specs, but there’s certainly a limit on how far downdraft will impact people underneath; finding a clear landing spot will be the hard part. (Possibly they’d have to launch from building tops.) But I suspect you’re right about these “packs” never being cheap enough for mass use; there’s just so much cost added by having to be supported by a jet instead of the ground. We’ll see.

    @Iphinome: sorry for your loss. You had a long time — but no time is long enough.

    @me: I could have sworn I had not just corrected my post but also hit the right button. Oh well.

  33. My problem with vertical lanes is that the failure mode of up is down. When you’re in horizontal lanes, a failure in one lane is less likely to impact every lane in one direction from it, and a failure in any lane would be just about 100% likely to have an impact on those of us down here, walking or driving or standing around, in Lane Zero.

  34. On a mostly unrelated note, and for reasons I can’t entirely explain, I decided this would be a good night to rewatch the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast.

    And I’m starting to think the books may need to be part of this year’s queue.

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