Pixel Scroll 12/23 Baby it scrolls outside

(1) YULE LOVE IT. Camestros Felapton sends holiday greetings to the Filers in his video “The Christmas Tree.”

(2) SCHWARTZ YES. “Mel Brooks’ ‘Spaceballs’ sequel is a go – ‘The Schwartz Awakens’ posters spoof ‘The Force Awakens’” at Inquisitr.

The Spaceballs movie was notorious at spoofing the Star Wars franchise, and is at it again. With The Force Awakens having been released, it would make sense to spoof it. According to The Nerdist and to long time comedic genius Mel Brooks, it’s going to become a reality.

And there are posters:

(3) SCHWARTZ NO. Some doubt the Schwartz will really be with us, however — “Spaceballs 2 Hoping For 2016 Shoot” at Yahoo! News.

But there are also a few solid reasons why it’s still far from certain though. Mainly that ‘Spaceballs’ only grossed $38.1 million from its $22.7 million budget back in 1987, while as both John Candy and Joan Rivers have sadly died since its release and Moranis has retired, it would be a big ask to replicate the camaraderie of the original.

(4) GEOMETRIC LOGIC. John Scalzi has reasons — “How I Am Able to Forgive the Absolutely Appalling Science in the Most Recent (and Indeed Every) Star Wars Film” at Whatever.

As explained by me to my wife as we drove home last night from The Force Awakens:

Me: See, the reason the bad science in Star Wars films doesn’t really bother me is because the movies tell you right up front that they’re based on legends, right?…

(5) STICKS THE LANDING. “Elon Musk’s SpaceX Completes Historic Rocket Landing” at the Wall Street Journal. The story is behind a paywall. (Via Jerry Pournelle.)

Space Exploration Technology Corp. executed an impressive return to flight Monday by flawlessly launching an upgraded variant of its Falcon 9 rocket and then maneuvering a big part back to earth for a pinpoint, precedent-setting landing.

SpaceX, as the closely held Southern California company is known, achieved the dual goals in the wake of a high-profile launch explosion six months ago, which put all Falcon 9 flights on hold and prompted a broad reassessment of the booster’s design and inspection procedures.

After a trouble-free countdown and liftoff of the roughly 230-foot-tall booster from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, SpaceX delivered 11 commercial satellites into low-earth orbit, completing Orbcomm Inc. ’s planned constellation.

But the most daunting—and closely watched—portion of the mission occurred more than eight minutes after blastoff, once the spent first stage plummeted toward earth, used its thrusters to steadily slow and then touched down vertically—surrounded by a huge plume of exhaust—on a landing area in the same iconic space complex.

The gentle landing, after several failed attempts to return an identical section of the booster to a barge, marked the first time any large rocket has managed a controlled recovery after delivering a payload into orbit.

(6) GINGERBREAD FAN. “Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek gingerbread to geek up your holidays” from CNET.

One of my favorite geeky gingerbread creations has to be the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It’s considered the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, but when you re-create it with gingerbread it quickly becomes the tastiest ship that can make the Kessel Run to my stomach in less than 12 parsecs.


gingerbread TARDIS

(7) TEA WRECKS. Ann Leckie is trying out Yak Butter Tea.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before.

(8) Today In History

  • December 23, 1823 — A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.

(9) THE COUNTESS. Stephen Wolfram tries “Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace” at Backchannel.

Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago this month. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada.”

It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there’s a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.

But after quite a bit of research?—?including going to see many original documents?—?I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know Ada Lovelace, and gotten a grasp on her story. In some ways it’s an ennobling and inspiring story; in some ways it’s frustrating and tragic.

(10) LIST OF BEST COULD BE BETTER. The Guardian has published “Best books of 2015 – part one”. Not very much sf&f in the opening stanza. Two notable mentions — Patrick Ness plugs The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, and Sara Taylor lists The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

(11) NORTH SMUGGLES. Meanwhile, at The Book Smugglers, Claire North contributes “A Comic-Store Romance”.

You all know the place. The walls are lined with posters. Originals from 1980s B-movies, tentacled monsters from the deep. Signed pictures of space-wandering heroines and time-travelling adventurers. Shelves of action figures, some DVDs – the odd blockbuster, but more manga, obscure tales of zombie spacemen and daft vampire romps.

Then there’s the books, classic, revered titles, then the comics.

And then, there’s the people….

  • A man, black leather jacket, crucifix, star of David and Wiccan pentagram slung round his neck; owns all the works of Alan Moore, including unwrapped editions kept sacred, and the more crinkled editions which as a child he read, naughty, under the blankets of the bed, eyes wide and mind reeling as the world was changed forever….

(12) ON THE BALL. “Relive all the costumed shenanigans of 2015 with the 8 best mascot moments of the year” at Major League Basball’s Cut 4. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I sent you the post from Major League Baseball because of the Phillie Phanatic dancing with the Star Wars cast.” The other sf/f selections involve a dancing dino, and astronauts slipping on a banana peel.

(13) SET YOUR DVR. The Defiant Ones (1958) will air on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday the  29th at 12:00 midnight Eastern, Lon Chaney as Big Sam, starring with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, his last role for director Stanley Kramer.

(14) MILD SPOILER ALERT. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Fact-Checked The New ‘Star Wars’ Movie – And fans were quick to accuse him of ruining the fun” reports Huffington Post.

(15) NO IDEA IF IT NEEDS A SPOILER ALERT. I’m not reading reviews yet because I still haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t tell you whether Abigail Nussbaum’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens”  needs a warning label.

(16) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Tasmin Silver asks “What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?” at Magical Words.

WE ALL GET STUCK…even the authors you look up to. So don’t ever think less of yourself for hitting the ball into the sand trap. You’ll find your way out and the next story you do, you’ll be a better writer because of it. Whatever you do, don’t quit. Sure, you might have to put it aside for awhile to clear your head…but do go back, trust me, it makes a big difference in your confidence as a writer to go back.

(17) FORTY-NINER. The 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair takes place February 12-14, 2016 in Pasadena, CA.

Come to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair and take part in an incredible opportunity to browse and buy books from over 200 booksellers from around the world.

“Even if you are not a collector, if you have ever read a book, it’s a place to go to find out what you haven’t read, or just what you haven’t seen or didn’t know exists.” – Tony Bill, Actor, Director, Producer, Book Collector

(18) GEEKY TRUTHS. Eric Christensen reviews Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt at Fantasy Faction.

I know that if I say Luke Skywalker Can’t Read has something for every species of sci-fi and fantasy nerd, that this implies a sort of lowest-common-denominator writing. But that is not the case here. I mean that he covers so many topics that a glance at the table of contents is enough to hook just about any reader. For example, Britt writes about why we shouldn’t get upset about rapid-fire reboots of superheroes, why Tolkien was just as big a revisionist as George Lucas (although maybe better at it), why the Back to the Future movies are built on fake nostalgia and paradoxes (why is Biff Tannen’s family tree missing every other generation?), or why Sherlock Holmes lives at the heart of pop culture. And of course there is the eponymous essay that argues that everyone in the Star Wars world is functionally illiterate (which does put lines about “hokey religions and ancient weapons” in a very new light).

(19) MATHEMATICAL PROOF. These are all YA but not all sf/f – “Top Ten of 2015: Book Boyfriends” at Dark Faerie Tales. Anyway, a Top 10 has two fifths, so it must belong in the Scroll.

  1. John from The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I was instantly drawn to John’s goodness and kind heart. He is an amazing healer but he is totally humble about it.  Then to top it, he is tall, dark, and handsome! What’s not to love???

(20) DOUBLE DOWN ON FIVE. Pornokitsch has its own way of scoring two fifths — “Five for 2015: 5 Great Games of the Year”.

Destiny: The Taken King

This odd hybrid of first-person sci-fi shooter and ‘massively multiplayer online’ game had a bumpy first year. People expected greatness from developer Bungie – the people behind the beloved Halo series of games – but Destiny’s initial release was met with a chorus of ‘meh’.  It wasn’t a bad game, but it was hampered by a damp squib of a main storyline and a shallowness of content. The latter was an especially big problem: Destiny was designed as a game to be lived in, a game to return to time and time again. If there wasn’t enough to do, enough material to keep people occupied, then it could hardly be considered a success on its own terms. Two small expansions helped patch things up, but it wasn’t until this year’s grand new phase of content, released effectively as its own game, that Destiny finally hit its stride.

(21) WIKI WAG. Mark Lawrence asks “Is Grimdark a thing?” but how can he say no when he is one of its leading exponents?

I was impressed to discover that there’s a definition (of sorts) of Grimdark on Wikipedia … and I’m on it!

Cited on the page with me as examples (presumably prime) of Grimdark authors are Joe Abercrombie and Richard K Morgan, neither of whom I’ve read, and George RR Martin, who I have read.

The key ingredients of Grimdark appear to be:

Nihilism, Violence, Darkness, Dystopian, Moral ambiguity / Lack of moral certainty

Now, I can’t claim an overview – I haven’t even read two thirds of my fellow examples! But if I constitute one of the four pillars of the alleged sub-genre (even as the least and last) then it might be instructive to see how these key ingredients apply to my work….

[Thanks to Will R., Amy Sterling Casil, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

149 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/23 Baby it scrolls outside

  1. > “2016 Books SF/F Editors Want You To Read, from Barnes & Noble.”

    The new Laura Lam, Sarah Beth Durst, and Martha Wells just got added to The List (some, like the Bujold, were already on it.)

  2. Peace: Yes, Hardware Wars and George Lucas in Love are my favourites too.

    And Dude Wars.

  3. George Clayton Johnson is still alive reports his son, Paul, in an FB post made about two minutes ago.

  4. Talking of terrible fantasy movies, has anyone seen the trailer for God’s Of Egypt?
    That looks terrible.

    There’s a scene with a shaggy-haired guy with an eyepatch, with enough resemblance to Kurt Russell that I thought “y’know, Snake Plissken vs the Goa’uld could be kind of fun”. Snake vs snakes, as it were. This movie, however, couldn’t possibly live up to that.

  5. Kurt Busiek:

    I think what we have here is a Schrödinger’s George Clayton Johnson.

    Inside the refrigerator Durk Pearson wanted to build…

  6. I’ve never seen “Battle Beyond the Stars” all the way through. I always fell asleep. And no offense to young Mr. Cameron, who I understand has done better since then, but that damn ship is basically John-Boy’s Flying Uterus.

    I too recommend the original “Hardware Wars” over the special edition. We have the video that contained Hardware Wars and the spoofs of Close Encounters and Apocalypse Now, and quote from them to this day. Highly recommended, although you have to buy them now separately at a huge price compared to the cheap price the VHS was. Might need to digitize ye olde VHS.

    I saw “Spaceballs” in the theater, but meh to a sequel. It has several brilliant bits (and some that aren’t, but are funny), but doesn’t hold together as a movie.

    Someone should re-release “Ladyhawke” with a generic fantasy soundtrack so These Kids Today will stop dissing it. And the screenwriter whose work got so soundly tossed aside by the marketing department appreciated Harlan sticking up for him. It was a completely original idea — although there WAS an eclipse in that time and place, which was hard to find in those pre-Internet days.

    “Gwendoline/YikYak” was indeed terrible, as was something about Women in an Avocado Jungle (might have been cannibals involved), and Ator. Really, if you had HBO in the 80’s, you were guaranteed to see crappy fantasy movies whether you wanted to or not. Yor, Krull, all the classic baddies.

    Partway through the preview for “Gods of Egypt”, I turned to the husband and said, “Man, all those people are…” “Really super-white.” And we speak as people who are so white as to be translucent.

    That B&N list. It will be trouble for me, as I plan on buying as many of those as I can afford and a couple more. And I like the trend of more pirates (it’s the only way to fight global warming, rAmen). FINALLY the end of Temeraire is revealed, “Everfair” sounds cool as does “New Pompeii”, “Borderline”, and “Steal the Sky”.
    But oh dear… those Baen blurbs are “special” indeed. I mean, I’m still getting Bujold and Liaden, but only because I know them from years before. The description of that last YA novel appears to be in English, but more like the Mad Lib version of it, with random adjectives abounding.

    I am promised vast amounts of ham tomorrow.

    Best of thoughts to the Johnson family for the least painful outcome.

  7. Someone should re-release “Ladyhawke” with a generic fantasy soundtrack so These Kids Today will stop dissing it.

    Wouldn’t help. It’s a terribly badly structured movie with a great cast. There’s no sense of urgency. Flee the city. Wander around with no sense of place or direction. Go back to the city.

    It needs a rewrite to go with the new score, but unfortunately that cast isn’t available any more…

  8. Regarding Star Wars parodies – I have a sneaking fondness for Ice Pirates. (Someone said it wasn’t meant to be a parody? But Space Herpe?!) And it had Angelica Huston as a pirate cutting off a guy’s head in a barroom brawl. What’s not to like? (Yes, I know. Many, many things).

    Happy holidays,all.

  9. I found “Ice Pirates” amusing. Probably watched it 2-3 times. The important thing is they INTENDED to make a comedy, so it was all wink-wink. Unlike so many of the bad movies that thought they were srs bzness and instead became “that stuff you watch at 2 AM when you’re completely drunk”.

    Not that I had a lot of drunk 2 AM weekends with other fen in the early 80’s. No sirree bob, and we weren’t pirating VHS tapes either.

  10. Ladyhawke still has one of my favorite lines in it.

    “I talk to God all the time, and, no offense, but He never mentioned you”

    Used that to great effect one Thanksgiving at my born-again brother-in-law’s house when he was holding forth at length about knowing God’s Will, and how it applied to brown people, immigrants, non-Christians, liberals… Best of all, it was several years before my wife let me go to another such gathering.

  11. Here in the far NW corner of the US, it’s just dark enough to be Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas one and all.

    My favorite good/bad SF movie will probably always be Zardoz and not because of Sean Connery’s costume.

  12. So far, despite occasional bursts of actual parenting duties, I have spent Christmas Eve snuggled up drinking tea and reading Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail. Later, I will read at the Christmas Eve service, and sing with the congregation, but alas not with the choir, though I may be hard pressed to stop myself on some of the more familiar offerings… I miss being in the choir.

    Still, that’s a GOOD Christmas Eve.

    May you all have one as pleasant.

  13. And I am baking a pecan pie and watching Adventure Time (as one does), and will shortly sit down to watch men from Hong Kong do violent things to each other. (Still debating whether it’ll be of the shooty variety or the stabby variety.)

    Merry Christmas!

  14. We’ve spent the day preparing for family dinner tomorrow and chatting about the new “Star Wars” film. Various younger family members have made cookies and hot chocolate. Latest episodes of “Have I Got News For You” and the “Q.I.” Christmas episode are queued up. Visions of sugarplums etc. etc.

    Merry Christmas, all.

  15. @Lenora Rose: Just got back from Christmas Eve service and there was much singing. I’m not in the choir either. Considering how close I came to not being able to sing at all in 2014, I teared up a couple of times at the sheer joy of it.

  16. Favorite cheesy sff movies are great and all but it’s December 24’th, 25 minuites till it’s time to watch RENT.

  17. Taking a break from Christmas baking – 3 cakes, 2 pies, brownies, a trifle, and that’s not counting the meat & side dishes cooking for tomorrow — to wish all Filers good holidays.

  18. @ The Other Nigel – Now that’s a good use of a line!

    @ Lenora Rose – So glad you enjoyed it!

    We have engaged in the traditional sacrament of my people–Chinese food and a solemn invocation that NEXT year, we will do Midnight Mass–and now I’m fiddling around on my interactive fiction game Cryptic Stitching, which will get done one of these centuries.

  19. @Bruce Arthurs:

    What kind of a trifle do you make? Our family traditional Christmas trifle has evolved a good bit as it adjusts to family members’ tastes, until it is now made with a honey mead poundcake spread with homemade raspberry-strawberry jam and moistened with apple cider, layered with cups of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and homegrown sour pie cherries frozen from last summer, all bathed in a vanilla egg custard sauce and smothered in whipped cream with fresh berries on top.

  20. Thanks to whoever suggested it earlier, I have just made Aebleskivers – just the basic no-filling version. They turned out great and my mom loved them. She likes pancakes but I’ve never gotten the hang of when to turn them over.

  21. In this little corner of the universe, it’s being odd and a little surreal to watch Christmas Eve flitting across the face of my electronic life. I’m still spending the week thoroughly immersed in my self-imposed Alpennia Writing Retreat. I’m a couple of paragraphs short of completing chapter 29 (out of 32) of Mother of Souls, and having the most delicious fun doing terrible things to a beloved character.

  22. RedWombat: So glad you enjoyed it!

    It is not the sort of book I usually read. At all.

    I loved it. 😀

  23. @Jim: It gives me great delight to know you were able to take part in Christmas Eve singing. Great delight.

  24. My grandmother’s approach to trifle is largely dictated by her indifference to it as a dessert: She serves bowls of sherry with perhaps some cream, sponge and jelly floating in it, and the more sherry the better as far as she’s concerned. 🙂

    The church local to me has aisles narrow enough that it’s claustrophobic in a wheelchair even without being crowded so I’m not at the Christmas services, more’s the pity. Perhaps next year I will try and visit my parents and go to my mother’s church instead. I miss the music.

    @Jim Henley

    I’m very happy for you. 🙂

  25. Mike, I went back to the Dec. 19th Scroll looking for this. I didn’t see it, unless someone posted it in comments and I missed it. I think it deserves its own spot in the Scroll–it’s a terrific alien-invasion short film.


  26. I would like to eat Meredith’s grandmother’s trifle.

    However the only traditional British Christmas thing we’re doing tomorrow is watching “Doctor Who” after dinner.

    Am going to mix European things by smearing lemon curd on panettone for breakfast. Sadly, I didn’t get out to stores to get traditional Christmas Eve tamales and was forced to whomp up a chicken stir fry, having all those ingredients in the freezer.

  27. lurkertype: I would like to eat Meredith’s grandmother’s trifle.

    I would like to drink Meredith’s grandmother’s trifle. 😉

  28. @ Emma
    Thanks for the link to 2016 books. I now have several more books added to my TBR (after buying) pile, including a new Raksura novel by Wells! SQUEEEEEEE!!
    And a new Liad Universe book, too.

    But then there’s Baen’s copy. And Baen’s covers. Is that really the best they could do for Bujold (copy and cover), who has to be one of their top sellers? The other covers are only barely better than that atrocious DNA…thing. All the copy reads like a HS sophomore writing book synopses for their English homework assignment – and doing a terrible job. There’s no enthusiasm, no sense of liking or excitement, no attempt to elicit interest from a reader. Gah! And I’ll still end up giving them money for the Miller and Lee book (I already bought the Bujold eARC.)


    @ Jonathon Edelstein – Great short story. Thanks for the link.

    Happy holidays to all.

  29. @junego:

    This is all industry gossip, so take it with a grain of salt.

    The folks at Baen appear to be perfectly aware of how their book covers look. From things said on panels and other discussions I get the impression that this is deliberate. It is reported that those at Baen claim that their marketing found that their sales remain steady no matter what their covers look like. It is reported that to some of their hardcore fans those covers are a distinctive visual cue to the publisher.

  30. Peace Is My Middle Name asked “What kind of trifle do you make?”

    The nice thing about trifle is that it’s very flexible. I’ve made trifles with a variety of ingredients, from the standard pound cake & strawberry to more exotic combinations with bananas, peaches, etc. (I should probably try a pavlova version one of these days.) The usual Christmas trifle here is chocolate-raspberry (chocolate cake moistened with raspberry liqueur and layered with raspberries, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream). I’m not a big chocolate fan, and the chocolate-raspberry version is a little overkill for me, but the rest of the household likes it. (Besides Christmas, we tend to have trifles for birthdays and other special occasions.)

    I discovered trifle when old time fan Frank Denton enthused about it in his fanzine, lo these many years ago.

  31. Peace Is My Middle Name,

    That sounds very like the one where they apparently decided it was a waste of time and money to edit David Weber. The only problem with that sort of thinking is it leads to a lowering of standards(an old fashioned notion, I know).

  32. Emma on December 24, 2015 at 11:19 am said:
    2016 Books SF/F Editors Want You To Read, from Barnes & Noble. Some exciting stuff there (Nisi Shawl’s Everfair needs to be in my hands RIGHT NOW), though that Baen section certainly is . . . special.

    Sonia Orin Lyris has another book coming out!?!

    That’s terrific news! I loved her first book, a “Magic: The Gathering” tie-in that was pretty darned good, for all that WOTC almost immediately retconned its story out of existence.

  33. Peace Is My Middle Name said:

    It is reported that those at Baen claim that their marketing found that their sales remain steady no matter what their covers look like. It is reported that to some of their hardcore fans those covers are a distinctive visual cue to the publisher.

    Well, there has been an instance where the hardcore fans were so unhappy with a cover that bore no resemblance to anything in the book that they got together and paid the commission for a new cover. (Yellow Eyes by John Ringo and TK, IIRC.)

  34. Well, the Cathedral bells have tolled for the end of the first day of Christmas, but we always celebrate the historically accurate twelve days; why settle for one when you can have another eleven? And nowadays there’s the added reason that my daughter’s fiancé is director of music at the Cathedral, and by the time the Christmas Day services finish he bears a strong resemblance to a benevolent zombie; it takes a while to relax and catch up on sleep. I hope that everyone has had, or is still having, a wonderful day.

    Jim: I’m really, really glad that you could sing; I have some idea of how devastating it is for musicians to lose their ability to play their instruments, but a singer’s instrument is his or her voice. I think that makes it even harder because the voice is so integral to the body and the brain; it’s tough. You’ve got at least some of it back, and I am happy for you.

  35. @Stevie: Thank you so much. The worst thing was, the initial treatment plan for my recurrence called for them to use a strip of muscle from my left wrist for passive tongue bulk after the partial glossectomy. At that point I asked, “Wait. Does that mean I’m also not going to be able to play the piano*?” They actually didn’t know; it hadn’t come up before. One more reason why I seized the opportunity to go with a chemorad-centered treatment when U. Chicago presented it. 🙂

    * This pretends you can call what I do to the piano “playing.”

  36. @Jim:

    I hope you got good treatment there. I know some people there and I would like to think it was a good place for you.

  37. @Emma: Thanks for the B&N link; I read B&N’s SFF blog, but I’m out of town and out of sync with my feed reading. A lot of interesting-sounding things listed there!

    @Hampus Eckerman: LOL! I’ve never heard of “Dude Wars” – that was great! Especially Chewbacca. I’ll have to watch the rest of the segments after I finish reading the Pixel Scroll.

    @Jim Henley: Hoping all the best for future well-being and singing!

  38. @Peace: Oh I got such great care at U. Chicago I still marvel. I was on 10W in CCD for half the time from July through September 2014 and couldn’t get over the uniform excellence of everyone: doctors, PAs, nurses, techs, even Transportation.

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