Pixel Scroll 12/25/18 The Little Pixel Boy

If you made it all the way through the season without hearing that tune, well, oops!

(1) SIX-PACK. Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach invites you to “Have Yourself a Cosmic Little Christmas with 6 Intergalactic Holiday Specials”.

Lots of shows decide they need a little Christmas come December, but they’re not quite sure how to do it. Do you talk about the big Jesus-shaped elephant in the room? Do you just focus on Santa? Do you, I don’t know, cast Juliana Hatfield as an angel or make miracles happen on Walker, Texas Ranger?

This late-December urge becomes extra fun when sci-fi shows try it—they don’t usually want to deal with the religious aspect of Christmas, but they still have to find a way to explain Santa and presents (and maybe just a dash of Christianity) to aliens who are already confused enough just trying to deal with humans. So most of them fall back on humans teaching aliens about “goodwill” or “being kind to others.” This leads to some amazing moments, as we’ll see.

(2) WHITE CHRISTMAS ON A RED PLANET? Inverse speculates “Why There Could Be Snow on Mars This Christmas”.  

Mars is clearly cold enough for snow. It has ice — the amount of which has varied significantly over time. When its axis is tilted at only a small angle relative to its orbit, its surface is ice-free except for the polar caps. This is the situation today, when its axial tilt is 25 degrees (similar to Earth’s 23-degree axial tilt). However, possibly because Mars lacks a large moon to stabilize its spin, there have been times when its spin axis was tipped over by up to 60 degrees — allowing the polar ice caps to spread, maybe even to the extent that there was abundant ice near the equator.

(3) HUNG BY THE HELICOPTER WITH CARE. There is, of course, a wide variety of Christmas season movie marathon fare – having almost nothing to do with Christmas — from the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies to Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels (which we George Clayton Johnson fans heartily recommend). Many prefer Die Hard, but I only just discovered that someone has turned the story into an illustrated book, and that book has been given the read-aloud video treatment: “Die Hard Christmas Book with Voice Actor Steve Blum – Presented by Sideshow & Insight Editions”

(4) THE ENVELOPE PLEASE. John Scalzi nominates —

(5) ANOTHER ONE YULE LIKE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] For all of you who just can’t get enough of the Yuletide “classic” I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, look to the skies. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tells us (“Holiday Asteroid Imaged with NASA Radar”) that a mile-long hippo passed Earth just 3 days before Christmas.

The December 2018 close approach by the large, near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 has provided astronomers an outstanding opportunity to obtain detailed radar images of the surface and shape of the object and to improve the understanding of its orbit.

The asteroid will fly safely past Earth on Saturday, Dec. 22, at a distance of about 1.8 million miles (2.9 million kilometers). This will be the asteroid’s closest approach in more than 400 years and the closest until 2070, when the asteroid will safely approach Earth slightly closer.

The radar images reveal an asteroid with a length of at least one mile (1.6 kilometers) and a shape similar to that of the exposed portion of a hippopotamus wading in a river. They were obtained Dec. 15-17 by coordinating the observations with NASA’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, the National Science Foundation’s 330-foot (100-meter) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot (305-meter) antenna in Puerto Rico. 

(6) CHRISTMAS CRIMESTOPPER.  In the days before Steve Fjeldsted became the Director of Library, Arts & Culture for the City of South Pasadena, and patron of things Bradburyesque, he was a county librarian in Northern California, an experience that furnished him with this unforgettable story: “Mrs. Santa vs. the Snake”.

Camille hadn’t noticed anything dangerous and counted out change into the hand of the customer paying for a lost book. While rushing out the door, I said I’d be right back. Moments later I had breathlessly arrived at the front counter at the Police Station. A detective was summoned and Sergeant Salvador nodded knowingly to my retelling of the threatening event at the library and the man I first encountered while driving to work that morning.

…“That’s Snake!” Officer Salazar exclaimed, “And he’s a violent bank robber who was recently released.”

… When I glanced toward the library entrance, I could see Snake slither inside the front door until he stood motionless in side the entryway with his head tilted down. Seconds later, right behind him entered Millie, a volunteer who was dressed up in her Mrs. Santa Claus costume. Each year she donned her festive homemade outfit to read holiday stories to kids in the Children’s Room….


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. Best remembered for The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA Town Has Turned to DustUFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. (Died 1975.)
  • Born December 25, 1928 Dick Miller, 90. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Dante. You’ve seen him in both GremlinsThe Little Shop of Horrors, Terminator, The Howling, Small SoldiersTwilight Zone: The MovieAmazon Women on the MoonBatman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in an “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited
  • Born December 25, 1952 CCH Pounder, 66. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had an recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well. She’s also been in X-FilesQuantum LeapWhite Dwarf (horrid series), Gargoyles, MillenniumHouse of Frankenstein, Outer LimitsW.I.T.C.H. and The Lion Guard. Film wise, she shows up in Robocop 3Tales from the Crypt presents Demon KnightAladdin and the King of ThievesFace/OffNetForceThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films.

(8) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Petrea Mitchell administers the “Winter 2019 Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories.  First on the list:

Bermuda Triangle ~Colorful Pastrale~

The premise: Mermaids have everyday problems.

Derivative factor: Spinoff vaguely related to videogame

The buzz: Mermaids are cool, but everyone hates the art for one reason or another.

Premiere: January 12

(9) SPACECRIME. Investigators say it was an inside job reports the AP: “Russia: Hole drilled from inside International Space Station capsule”.

A Russian cosmonaut who explored a mysterious hole in a capsule docked to the International Space Station said Monday that the opening was drilled from inside the spacecraft and Russian law enforcement agencies are investigating what caused it.

Sergei Prokopyev said investigators were looking at samples he and crewmate Oleg Kononenko collected during a Dec. 12 spacewalk. Prokopyev and two other astronauts returned to Earth last week from a 197-day space station mission.

(10) TROPE-A-DOPE. In “Tradition”, Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer uses the holiday to warn everyone who doesn’t plan to spend the coming year writing what he likes:

So here is my short Christmas Eve point: ignoring traditions may get you a lump of coal in your stocking and rotten sales to boot. Using them to add to your work, to build on – whether we’re talking the traditional (and very popular) tropes – be it a fantasy collect-the-tokens, or Bug-Eyed Monsters invading Earth remains more popular than following new attempts at ‘traditions’ (like yet another Handmaiden’s Tail clone) that are not popular. Using the language and style of the genre at least won’t lose you the established readers…

(11) PULP FRICTION. No matter what kind of story you’re telling, here’s some news published writers hated to hear: “Bottleneck at Printers Has Derailed Some Holiday Book Sales”. The New York Times has the story.

Several of this year’s most critically acclaimed novels, including Lisa Halliday’s “Asymmetry,” Richard Powers’s “The Overstory” and Rebecca Makkai’s “The Great Believers,” were listed as out of stock on Amazon the week before Christmas after inventory ran low because publishers could not to reprint copies quickly enough. Best-selling and critically lauded nonfiction titles like David W. Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass, Samin Nosrat’s cookbook “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” and Ben Reiter’s “Astroball” were also unavailable on Amazon, with some titles showing shipping dates of two to four weeks from now.

The industrywide paper jam has been building for months — a result of shrinking and consolidation among printing companies, the collapse of one of the major printers this summer, global paper shortages and a tightening job market that’s made it difficult for printers to hire additional seasonal workers. But it has become increasingly acute and visible at the industry’s peak sales season, when consumers are shopping for must-read titles to give as gifts, and finding that Amazon’s virtual shelves are bare.

(12) POMPEII DISCOVERY. BBC reports about a “Pompeii horse found still wearing harness”.

The remains of a horse still in its harness have been discovered at a villa outside the walls of Pompeii, in what archaeologists are hailing as a find of “rare importance”.

The horse was saddled up and ready to go, possibly to help rescue Pompeians fleeing the AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the town in ashes.

It was found with the remains of other horses at the Villa of the Mysteries.

The villa belonged to a Roman general or high-ranking military magistrate.

Archaeologists at the luxurious Villa of Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri) overlooking the sea have already found wine presses, ovens and extraordinary frescoes.

(13) WILD ASS CHASE. It could result in “Bringing ‘Asia’s zebras’ back to the steppe”.

“Do you see them?” the radio crackled in the old Russian 4×4.

The driver tried to steer away from pits and ravines that he could barely see in the dark. The lights of another car flashed in the distance. After a prolonged silence came the answer. “No.”

The two drivers navigating around a national park in the dead of the night are Kazakh rangers trying to capture Asiatic wild ass, known locally as kulans.

It is a part of the operation to reintroduce these animals to the steppes of central Kazakhstan, where they disappeared a century ago.

Kulans are the zebras of Asia. They used to roam on a massive territory stretching from Syria to Mongolia but today their populations are fragmented and vulnerable. Kulans in Central Asia are in particular danger.

(14) GRIM REAPER’S STOCKING STUFFER. Here is Jordan Peele’s gift for all: “‘Us’ trailer: Gory first trailer for new Jordan Peele film drops on Christmas Day”.

First things first, Happy Christmas! And if you haven’t unwrapped your surprise present from Get Out director Jordan Peele yet, you can watch the trailer for his new film Us below.

The timing of the trailer drop was very much planned by Peele. “The trailer going out on Christmas day is very exciting to me,” the director says. “Because, as families are gathered around the fireplace to celebrate the holidays, hopefully they can look on their phone, see this trailer and I’ll scare the pants off them.”

(15) TOP 10 GAMING CONTROVERSIES OF THE YEAR. And if you’re looking for a few more kerfuffles to tide you over til 2019, try these —  

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

36 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/25/18 The Little Pixel Boy

  1. In re (13), an interesting cultural note is that in Mongolia at least, kulan, or more precisely the Mongolian form ????? khulang, is a common woman’s name, as they are considered graceful animals. It’s the basis of one of my wife’s nicknames, for example, and the given name of at least two of our nieces and grandnieces. I have heard that this naming custom horrifies many Russians with Mongolian relatives by marriage, as they tend to have the same prejudice against donkeys that many Americans do.

  2. Did Freer mean that as a dig at The Power? Because I’m very very sure that sold pretty well. I’ve been seeing that book on rec lists everywhere, including ones that have no particular genre focus.

  3. @7: Serling worked on Seven Days in May? Wow — from the supernatural to the all-too-possible in one easy step….

    @10: Using the language and style of the genre at least won’t lose you the established readers… for sufficiently small values of “established” — especially if the author also sticks to Puppy-preferred themes and structures, thus making it unlikely that genre readers outside those preferences will read the books. Also, he should learn the titles of works he’s slamming.

  4. (10) Dave Freer remains a bore.

    I have the bestest alternative feline, who accepted gracefully a few pieces of popcorn, then dozed quietly on my lap while I watched Spiderman. She awakened just in time to impress the people to our right with how well-behaved she is.

  5. @Meredith

    Did Freer mean that as a dig at The Power? Because I’m very very sure that sold pretty well. I’ve been seeing that book on rec lists everywhere, including ones that have no particular genre focus.

    He might also be referring to Red Clocks, Vox or any other feminist dystopia. All of which sell very well, including outside the genre readership, and like outsold anything Dave Freer has published this year.

    But real readers (TM) only want traditional SF where men are men, women are women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. Yeah, right.

  6. Chip Hitchcock says Serling worked on Seven Days in May? Wow — from the supernatural to the all-too-possible in one easy step….

    Yes he did. I included that work as it’s at least genre tangent but he also wrote the Award winning Requiem for a Heavyweight and quite a few other films of a mainstream nature.

  7. Problem with Freers argument is that British style boarding schools have never been a “staple tradition” here in Sweden, and still the Potter books sold very well.

  8. (1) A Cosmic Christmas is required viewing in our household every year. It’s available on YouTube. All of Nelvana’s TV specials are great, and The Devil and Daniel Mouse was the inspiration for their full-length animated film Rock & Rule, featuring the singing voice of Lou Reed.

  9. One would think that if there are enough HMT ‘clone’s to call for saying ‘yet another’ that would itself be some kind of popularity. (And it’s been 33 years, when HMT came out it was closer to Sputnik than it is to today, one wonders what the cutoff is for it to be a tradition).

  10. Well, that Die Hard video was a big warm bowl of sump tin, wasn’t it? I thought it was pretty funny.

  11. (7) Writer Quentin Crisp, who lived an openly gay life from 12/25/1908 to 11/21/1999, much of it at times and places where homosexuality was criminalized. He wrote a couple of genre-ish pieces, and acted in a couple more (The Bride [of Frankenstein], 1985; and played Elizabeth I in 1992 Orlando.)

    Artist Burne Hogarth (12/25/1911 – 1/28/1996) Probably best known for picking up the Tarzan newspaper strip in 1937 immediately after the great Hal Foster, and surpassing his work there. His style was very strong in anatomy, and he wrote several books on drawing the human body. He founded what later became the School of Visual Arts in New York, where many cartoonists, animators and other artists taught and were trained (some of Hogarth’s students included Bernie Krigstein, Wally Wood, Gil Kane, Al Williamson). A good overview of his life.

    Believe it or not, Robert Ripley was born on 12/25/1890.

  12. I hope I am doing this right:

    MEREDITH MOMENT (Hi Meredith!) – Ursula K. LeGuin’s POWERS (Annals of the Western Shore Series #3) is $1.99 today at those fine online retailers you may frequent.

    I actually checked my Early Bird Books email this morning, is where this comes from.

  13. The Handmaid’s Tale is newfangled? I thought it was part of a tradition of science-fictional dystopias that dates back to H. G. Wells, passing through such luminaries as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Robert Heinlein along the way. Not that any of them were ever popular. 🙂

  14. #11 – Michelle Obama’s Becoming has been completely unobtainable for dealers in Milwaukee for about a month now, from the chains to independents. Distributors insist they just don’t have any; I know one indie who’s ordered the large-print edition on the theory that they for some reason are available, and at least some customers will buy that if it’s the only version they can find.

  15. (10) Well sticking to this formula is obviously making Dave very content with the progress of his career and left him happy and sanguine with the trajectory of writing as a profession. It’s being right so often that has made him so at ease with the world.

    (14) That trailer was more than sufficiently scary for me.

  16. So, somehow I’d imagined that my title would be used for the December 24th scroll (unless it was a duplicate). I’ve forgotten the line that Andrew added, but I’ve come up with another:

    Mister Pixel was a filer from a scroll in the Midwest.
    He ticked the box of Godstalk and he made his fifth the best.

    Anyway, more happy holidays.

  17. @Jeff Jones:

    Mister Pixel was a filer from a scroll in the Midwest.
    He ticked the box of Godstalk and he made his fifth the best.


    “Scroll, they told me, P-P-Pixel-rum-pum”

  18. Hey, babe, take a scroll on the file side.

    (And all the pixels sing: Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo)

  19. @Andrew: Thanks! I think I got most of the key words in but I haven’t figured out how to fit in “credential”–for either tune (“The ox and credential kept time” doesn’t work very well.)

  20. @Jeff: That makes me think of this, from the Cat in the House:

    “Scroll-Covered Three-Pixeled Family Crendential”

  21. The hectograph needs a fresh stencil,
    so the annish is more than ‘potential’,
    But more vital still,
    We say with a will,
    is a furry and friendly credential.

    (I put this in the wrong Pixel Scroll, and am copying to this one now)

  22. @ Hampus Eckerman: Specifically, I can think of only three boarding schools in Sweden. And checking up on facts, it seems one of them might’ve closed as early as 1986.

  23. Anna Nimmhaus suggests, changing the tune and possibly offending OGH’s modesty —

    > We the First and Fifth Filers are.
    > With credentials we comment far.
    > Scrolling pixels,
    > Scrolling pixels,
    > OGH is our star.

  24. Credentials we’ve heard on high,
    Loudly yowling o’er the plain.
    And the cat-trees, in reply
    Echoing their shrill refrain:
    (Why’s my food dish empty…)

  25. Filers, why this jubilee?
    Why their whinesome strains prolong?
    Hey, stop scratching at my knee!
    Your dish was full all along!
    [repeat chorus]

  26. @JJ
    We usually fixed the food-dish problem by shaking the dish so the crunchies were back in the bottom, instead of pushed to the sides. (We call it “my dish is too white!” in cat-speak.)

  27. @P J: Or as I translate from the cat: “I can see the bottom! I’m starving!”

  28. @Patrick
    Yeah, that’s what the cat was saying. (Cats in the family from before I was born: cat is a familiar language.)

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