Pixel Scroll 12/26/16 Yippee Ki-yay, Pixel-Scroller!

(1) ON THE SIDE OF THE HUNTERS. SF author Myke Cole will be taking a celebrity turn in the new CBS series Hunted  — “Meet The Command Center Investigators From Hunted”.


Myke Cole, Former Military Cyber Expert

Command Center Title: Cyber Analyst A self-proclaimed “hardcore nerd,” Myke Cole uses his passion in gaming and comic book culture to give him an edge as a highly skilled Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst for several military and law enforcement agencies.

(2) AWKWARD JUDGES NEEDED. Chuck Wendig asks readers to vote on their favorite of 43 photos posted in his The Awkward Author Photo Contest.

You will find a couple famous-faced authors in there, including Jeff VanderMeer, James Sutter, and Yvonne Navarro. Those cheeky little penmonkeys.

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to go through these photos, find your ONE TRUE FAVORITE, and then go into the comments below and put down the corresponding number. Write only the number, if you please. I need the number to be plainly visible and easy to tally.

Voting ends 12/27, noon EST.

(3) YOU’VE SEEN THE SHOW, NOW READ THE BOOK. Vanity Fair explained in this 2014 article why TV and movie novelizations still exist.

Novelizations may have made more sense before the advent of home video. Back then, films were released in the theater and often not heard from again. The best way to relive those original memories was to read them in book format (or to use your imagination). So, in an age of DVR and digital outlets, why do people continue to buy these books? It’s the same reason they read 5,000-word TV recaps every week. It’s a way for fans to feel more connected to a story or property they love. When you have a novelization, you get to remember at least a piece of that enthusiasm you experienced the first time around.

“People just see it as one other element of the entertainment experience,” says Katy Wild, the editorial director of Titan Publishing Group Ltd., which publishes movie novelizations, including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the soon-to-be-released Interstellar. “I think people who read movie novelizations are the people who go see those movies.”

Novelization authors are typically paid a flat fee in the low five-figure range to complete the work (if they’re lucky, they may get 1 to 2 percent royalties). The money, however, is only one reason writers sign up in the first place.

(4) THERE’S AN ARMY APP FOR THAT. In “How the smartphone became so smart”, the BBC’s chief observation is that all twelve of the key points started as government-sponsored or -supported research.

As for hard drives, lithium-ion batteries, liquid crystal displays and semiconductors themselves – there are similar stories to be told.

In each case, there was scientific brilliance and plenty of private sector entrepreneurship. But there were also wads of cash thrown at the problem by government agencies – usually US government agencies, and for that matter, usually some arm of the US military.

Silicon Valley itself owes a great debt to Fairchild Semiconductor – the company that developed the first commercially practical integrated circuits. And Fairchild Semiconductor, in its early days, depended on military procurement.

Of course, the US military didn’t make the iPhone. Cern did not create Facebook or Google. These technologies, that so many people rely on today, were honed and commercialised by the private sector. But it was government funding and government risk-taking that made all these things possible.

That’s a thought to hold on to as we ponder the technological challenges ahead in fields such energy and biotechnology.

(5) FAKE NEWS YOU CAN SEE COMING A MILE AWAY. The Onion has the story — “This Is The Golden Age Of Television,’ Claim Executives Who Have Not Yet Made Show About Robotic Wizards”.

Praising the expansive slate of high-quality fantasies, comedies, and period dramas currently in production while negligently overlooking a gaping hole in the entertainment landscape, cable and network executives reportedly continued to claim this week that we are living in a golden age of television despite having never made a show about robotic wizards. “The shows we’re seeing right now are incredibly smart and cinematic in scope—television has reached its pinnacle,” said profoundly ignorant HBO executive Julien Rhodes, who has yet to greenlight a show featuring an army of advanced cyborg warlocks who were created in a lab and armed with a full database of knowledge about the dark arts in order to fight evil spirits besieging our world. “You can turn on the TV any night of the week and find multiple complex, beautifully told stories on just about every subject [except robot wizards falling in love with one another, and occasionally their human creators, while fending off malevolent forces of untold power using hexes programmed into their hard drives]. We’re lucky to have access to such a breadth of exceptional programming.” Rhodes went on to assert that there was more diversity than ever on television despite the complete lack of pansexual android sorcerers named Aerio Zero.

(6) BROADER BAND. Chip Hitchcock forwards a news item about “A topic dear to many fans’ hearts: A British farmer builds a local broadband network — and it runs much faster than the UK standard. Especially grating to me, as Verizon has been busily running FiOS in the suburbs but has just signed an agreement to go into Boston proper where the potential users are much closer together.”

Her DIY solution to a neighbour’s internet connectivity problems in 2009 has evolved into B4RN, an internet service provider offering fast one gigabit per second broadband speeds to the parishes which nestle in the picturesque Lune Valley.

That is 35 times faster than the 28.9 Mbps average UK speed internet connection according to Ofcom.

It all began when the trees which separated Chris’s neighbouring farm from its nearest wireless mast – their only connection to the internet, provided by Lancaster University – grew too tall.

Something more robust was required, and no alternatives were available in the area, so Chris decided to take matters into her own hands.

She purchased a kilometre of fibre-optic cable and commandeered her farm tractor to dig a trench.

After lighting the cable, the two farms were connected, with hers feeding the one behind the trees.

“We dug it ourselves and we lit [the cable] ourselves and we proved that ordinary people could do it,” she says.

“It wasn’t rocket science. It was three days of hard work.”

Her motto, which she repeats often in conversation, is JFDI. Three of those letters stand for Just Do It. The fourth you can work out for yourself.

(7) PETER DAVID BACK. After being immobilized by a medical problem, Peter David is on the move again.

This time around, even a week later, I am still a bit uncertain as to what happened. First my left ankle was wracked with pain, and then my right, and then I could no longer stand up. It was as if I was going dead from the waist down, but this time the work of some virus rather than my brain turning against me. Seven days and a buttload of antibiotics later, I am now able to stand up and walk with the aid of a walker that I’ve nicknamed Imperial because really what else are you going to call a walker?

(8) GOLDEN GOOSE HUSBANDRY. The Washington Post’s Brian Fung says “The thing that ruined superhero movies could easily hurt Star Wars, too”. Rogue One has convinced Disney that the Star Wars franchise can go beyond the main sequence of films amid fears that audiences will suffer “superhero fatigue” as the number of superhero movies continue to grow.

Now, Disney faces an even greater challenge: developing Star Wars at a pace that won’t exhaust audiences, or the source material, too quickly as executives seek to grow the sci-fi franchise into the size of a small moon. Under Disney’s stewardship, Star Wars is already being compared to the Marvel universe, a sprawling media empire also owned by Disney that has contributed to what some experts call “superhero fatigue.” Although superhero movies still make loads of money, a persistent critique of the genre is their formulaic homogeneity and a relentless firehose of content. And it’s a trap that Star Wars would do well to avoid.


  • December 26, 1973 The Exorcist makes its debut in theaters.


  • December 26, 1933 — Caroll Spinney, Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.


  • December 24, 1910 – Fritz Leiber
  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(12) ELF AND 8 TINY REINDEER TO BEAM UP. Santa left Mary Anne Mohanraj a Star Trek The Original Series Sticky Notes Booklet.


(13) ON THE TOY TRAIL. John King Tarpinian shares a marketing discovery —

A buddy of mine is from Port Arthur, TX (next door to Beaumont where Charles Beaumont took his name and where Janis Joplin grew up).  Anyway he collects all the Star Wars junk buying two of everything, one for him and one for his nephew.  When hunting down stuff around L.A. he often has to go to multiple places.  When he goes home-for-the-holidays he can find all that crap first try.  He believes that dealers will buy up dozens of an item at once for resale at places such as Frank & Sons, at four-fold markups.

(14) FORMERLY NOTABLE. If you ever wondered whether there is a Wikipedia article about Crystal Huff  – today she pointed out that there used to be one but there isn’t anymore. The deletionists did not approve an “NN person whose sole claim to fame is that she chairs science fiction conventions.”


(15) ON THE ROAD. Ken Liu announced his confirmed appearances for the first three months of 2017:

  • “Translation as Performance—Dual Creativities in Chinese and English” — roundtable/reading with Canaan Morse, Eleanor Goodman, and Eric Abrahamsen, part of “Asia: Past, Present, Future,” by the New England Association for Asian Studies, January 29, 10:40-12:50, Boston College.
  • Guggenheim Museum, speaker at the special exhibit, “Tales of Our Time.” Afternoon of Friday, 2/17, 2017, NYC.
  • Perth Writers Festival 2017, 2/23-26, Perth, Australia.
  • Writefest 2017, 3/10-12, Houston, TX.
  • AnomalyCon 2017, 3/17-19, Denver, CO.

(16) UNTURNED PAGES. The Book Smugglers’ Ana Grilo has another genius idea for a post — “Books I Shoved Into My Friends Faces But They Didn’t Read Anyway Smugglivus List”.

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

When my friends ask me what they should read next, they immediately complete their sentences with “EXCEPT BINTI, I KNOW”. It was the first book (I can call anything with an ISBN a book and it counts towards my GR challenge, ok?) I read in 2016 and probably the best. Nnedi Okorafor’s descriptions of scenes, people and movements are so vivid that all I could think about while I was reading it was that I really wished I had the ability to draw because she was creating a whole animation in my mind with her words. I’ve felt SO MANY THINGS with this novella that when I try to form a cohesive argument about why people should read it I become a little pile of guttural sounds and my last appeal usually is “but it’s only 96 pages!”. I’m really, really happy that Binti: Home is on its way, but reading Binti was a whole experience in itself, and I really think you should read it as well.

(17) MORE CHRISTMAS LOOT. Matt Kordelski showing off the C3P0 leg lamp:

Seems like the “major award” from toy story. Except its C3P0 and R2-D2 from Star Wars!


(18) TOO SOON? That’s the Serenity, done in gingerbread.


(19) AN EARLY START ON NEXT CHRISTMAS. A piece by Robert Evans called “The Secret, True History of ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’” appeared on Cracked last year, but it’s still worth linking to as Evans traces the roots of this Jingle Bells parody deep into the 19th century.

(20) BEST COMICS OF 2016. We previously posted the link to another NPR best of list – here’s the link to NPR’s selection of the best comics and graphic novels of 2016.

(21) DOCTOR APPROACHING. The Doctor Who Season 10 trailer was released ahead of last night’s Christmas special.

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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73 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/26/16 Yippee Ki-yay, Pixel-Scroller!

  1. @Robert Whitaker Sirignano

    That has been my first thought with some of these departures. In those parts of the world where life expectancy is in the 75-80 year range, putting down a 90+ year marker is a pretty good sign of a life well lived.

    I’m not happy to see the passing of any of these folks, but none of them will make/break 2016 for me.


  2. The best way to handle time zones in software is to treat is as a display property (like whether to have commas in a decimal number) and not as part of the time itself. So the computer should store all times in the same format, e.g. Greenwich Mean Time (or just a count of seconds from a date in the distant past). When it needs to display a time to a user, it uses the user’s profile to figure out which time zone to use.

    That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Just as 1000 and 1,000 are both the same number, 8:00 AM PST and 11:00 AM EST are the same time.

    Not sure how to make WordPress do that, though.

  3. @Robert Whitaker Sirignano
    Well, I do freeze sometimes, but I can’t not think when I’m playing the piano, and I can’t spend more than a fraction of a second thinking of things that have nothing to do with the task at hand.

    It’s like acting: I have to simultaneously believe in the character and what he’s doing, and at the same time be outside looking at what I’m doing and making sure that certain tasks are carried out.

    When I’m playing, I’m often sequencing subroutines that I have practiced to the point of their being automatic, but letting them be fully automatic risks destroying the ‘acting’ part of making music. It can’t be wholly automatic, nor can I surrender completely to the joy of hearing what comes out, or I will be rudely surprised in the next measure or so.

    Perhaps one of the fastest things I play is “Bumble Boogie.” I do not think about each note separately, but see them as handfuls to be played one after the other. These handfuls must still be assembled in the right order, and each must lead into the next. Been doing the piece nearly forty years now, and some day I’ll have it down pat, honest.

    ps: This page has some more Smith articles that may not be collected anywhere. Note that in the Colliers pieces, two of them have only the first page. Click the magazine cover at the side and find another article that contains those pages, and there’s the rest. The one about lightning is illustrated by Virgil Partch! (VIP also worked on some Disney cartoons—DUCK PIMPLES even has some onscreen moments of characters who show a clear resemblance to his cartoon drawings.)

  4. All this blame for people dying to the year 2016 is kind of silly.

    Correlation is not causation but it’s handy for anthropomorphisation.

  5. I have no intention of bothering with the sequel to Binti. The first one was extremely over-rated, I think. It contained some potentially interesting vignettes, but is not just a case of the whole being less than the sum of the parts: there were major parts missing that I expect to find in a competently written story, much less an award-winning one.

  6. It’s tempting to say (as I did earlier in the year), “Say, 2016. You’ve been working pretty hard. Why not just take the rest of the year off?”

    Somehow, though, I’m not anxious for 2017 to arrive. It’ll be here soon enough, so I’ll just keep on as I have been:

    Left foot.
    Right foot.
    If not there yet, repeat.

  7. @JeffWarner:

    A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure. [Segal’s_law]

    And with three watches, you can generally reach consensus.

  8. It’s tempting to say (as I did earlier in the year), “Say, 2016. You’ve been working pretty hard. Why not just take the rest of the year off?”

    Over on Facebook I’ve suggested that we treat Lemmy as being the first victim of 2016, which makes tonight New Years Eve. Let’s not take the chance on another 4 days…

  9. There is a wordpress plugin that shows the time of the user’s timezone, rather than the timezone configured in wordpress.

    File770’s server being 7 minutes off is likely due to the hosting provider not having set up NTP to keep the server synced up.

    I thought Binti was over-rated, as well, though I enjoyed it despite its weaknesses. It was one of those works that I loved immediately upon finishing it, but then it slowly fell apart as my subconscious mind chewed on it.

    Currently reading Leiber’s “Gather, Darkness.” I would really have loved this as a kid.

  10. Wikipedia is very frustrating if you’re trying to correct false information on a page. Charles de Lint was listed in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy as having a bonnie bunch of pen names that were actually characters in his works. So I correct it to list only actual pen name, Samuel M. Key, a play off the little toy money that graced his writing area.

    Within hours, it had the other names back. So I did it again. And yes it was returned to its former state once again. It even got a lock on it to prevent ‘further vandalism’ from, err, me. I gave up and went to get a Guinness at my favorite Irish bar, the Brian Boru.

  11. I felt that the biggest issue with Binti is that the finale is… exactly what you expect based on the build-up, with no shock or suspense. Which makes it unsatisfying.

    There is a reason I used it as my example a few threads ago of a story I felt was weak plotted but worth reading for the new cultural perspective (versus a story with a perfect plot but the bog-standard same-old same-old characters)


    I totally understand (and thus have been participating in) the anthropomorphization of 2016 as evil. And yes, some losses, like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Richard Adams, are a good run and a long life and not deeply painful. But others have not been and the impression certainly is that there are more than usual.

  12. The post-WW2 generation (boomers) are now getting up there in age… Writers and performers of that generation are going to continue to die off.

    (stating the obvious I know)

  13. @Soon Lee — that is funny because he’s got a great sense of how to build. (I know a lot of musicians who couldn’t manage an 8-minute crescendo.) But it’s also a test of software-engineering smarts: how quickly does the viewer invoke the seven deadly sins of programming and realize that the solution (ultimately given) is Sloth?

  14. @ Cat: The best thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. The worst thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it.

    And it’s not what you don’t know, it’s what you know that ain’t so.

  15. @Soon Lee: I almost fell over watching that time zone video when I hit the part about Samoa skipping a day. Dude! Not cool!

  16. @Cat: Sounds typical. :-/

    Reverting an edit is super easy – and often, eliminating “good-looking” content looks like vandalism. So it’s easy for me to imagine that kind of a change raising flags, being reverted, and eventually leading to a lock.

    I’m quite certain there’s a mechanism for actually explaining your change and providing a reference, but you’d need to go hunt and figure out what it was.

    I think that’s part of why the notability criteria are actually really important. If you had a massive influx of Wikipedia articles… about real individual people… about whom very little public material is available… that’s a recipe for disaster. There’s no way to moderate that effectively. If you think the Wikipedia’s *current* error rate is bad, this would enable it to be absolutely hellish.

  17. I became burned out on superhero movies before the whole “Marvel Cinematic Universe” thing started. Out of the 14 movies listed on the Wikipedia page, I’ve seen 2–Guardians of the Galaxy because all of the hype (my review: “meh.”) and Thor because Natalie Portman. I can say pretty much the same thing about the DC and non-Disney Marvel movies. (I started watching The Wolverene last week, but gave up within half an hour and switched over to some rerun or another.)

    Those original reports were not very heartening, and I had an idea that “stable” still meant “critical”.

    I think that very often “stable” means “dead, but we’ll mechanically keep the body breathing until the family is finally willing to admit what is obvious to the medical professionals.”

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