Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

43 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

  1. (4) Gatekeeping at its finest. /s
    (Write however much you feel like. Don’t worry about the word count, unless you have a deadline to meet. Even then, don’t worry any more than absolutely necessary, because it’s going to get in the way of the writing.)

  2. 4) I don’t see a problem with a group making that a requirement for members, if that’s the kind of group they want to be. It’s the language they have used that’s problematic.

    15) My subjective impression is that there used to be a lot more world ending through plague fiction out there. Now there is a lot more meteor strikes. And when there is a plague, it often involves zombies, just regular illness doesn’t seem to cut it. Maybe that’ll change?

  3. An oh shit moment: The Porterville, CA, public library is on fire. One wing and the circulation area are basically a total loss. The fire isn’t out yet.

  4. @Lis Carey – no, but an online acquaintance is a county librarian and lives there. (You can imagine how he feels about it.)

  5. Rob Thornton: 13) Reminds me of Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance

    If I say it doesn’t remind me of that (which it doesn’t) there will be an avalanche of comments from people who say it DOES remind THEM of that, but if I don’t say so, there won’t be. Talk about a paradox.

  6. I was introduced to paradoxes by Allan Sherman’s “One Hippopotami” (to the tune of “What Kind of Fool Am I”) on his 1963 LP My Son the Nut, with orchestral accompaniment, which my dad and I bought together when it was new:

    “And when Ben Casey meets Kildare, they call it … a pair o’docs!”

    Simultaneously a paradoxical situation and a great pun. (I was lucky to have first heard the whole LP at a tender age. But of course it wasn’t until years later that I knew what all the songs’ original lyrics were.)

  7. @9: I loved the movie version of Chicago but am wondering what Travolta’s involvement was the obvious sources don’t cite him, but may have left off producer credits.

    @13: nice zinger.

    @14: all but #5 seem plausible, and that depends on what they think they mean by “serious relationship”.

  8. P J Evans: It’s also worth mentioning that the toll in the Porterville fire also includes (so far) one firefighter confirmed dead, and a second one missing and probably dead.

    I haven’t been back to Porterville (or indeed Tulare County) in decades, but it’s where Mom attended later grade school and high school, and the home of her parents (my maternal grandparents). I remember that library with great fondness.

  9. 3) Do not surround yourself with Tillinghast resonators unless you’re really, really sure you know what you’re doing.

    9) Another great (???) Palance role was as cult leader Kaleel in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode “Planet of the Slave Girls”. Beedeebeedeebeedee!

  10. 4) Sorry, but I think that requirement’s just plain silly. Even leaving aside things like work and family commitments, writers work in different ways. Some people like the slow, careful approach, and requiring some minimum guaranteed wordcount will only hinder them. Goodness knows it’s easy enough to think of people who are not prolific, but are still writers – in some cases, great writers.

  11. @ Steve Wright:

    Indeed. Although of the two things mentioned, that being “the word quota” and “the labeling as ‘pretend writer'”, I find the word quota just weird, while I find the labeling to be beyond the pale.

  12. 13) I tried to visit the webpage for the convention, but my work firewall thinks it had suspicous content.

  13. (4) A number of other writers, including Oor Wombat and Scalzi, chimed in to mention that they, apparently, were “pretend writers” as well. Oh, and Rhianna Pratchett mentioned that apparently her father was as well.

    I agree that a group having a quota is fine, if that’s what they want to do, but the name calling is petty. And for new, aspiring writers, probably borders on gaslighting.

  14. Big Yellow Spaceship?

    13) Tick Collar. Heh.

    So I broke my own rule and went to MHN and found this comment from Brad

    “that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

    Proud to have been of service, sir! ?”

    Well, then. That says it all.

  15. Juan Sanmiguel

    13) What con was it?

    I am guessing Life The Universe And Everything. It’s a Utah symposium I’d never heard of. And one suspects, of dubious IP validity. But it was over the last weekend, so making it current news.

  16. @gottacook: Great album. At one point I think I had it memorized (the Hippotami song ends “With someone you adore, if you should find romance, you’ll pant, and pant once more – and that’s a pair of pants”).

  17. 9) Most of us probably became familiar with Gahan Wilson through his many years of monthly cartoons in F&SF.

  18. 4.) 15k a month? Shoot, when I’m in drafting mode on a book, I’m doing close to that a week. However, that’s true for only about, lessee, maybe six months out of the year (figure that a rough draft usually but not always takes me three months, ideally two books a year). The rest of the time is…well, not quite as big a word count.

    (Yeah, I used to be one of the writers who joined the late Jay Lake during his coffee shop writing days and kind of picked up a few of Jay’s writing habits. 2000-2500 words a day is pretty doable for me, though more than that and I start gibbering and tweeting and am pretty much useless the rest of the day. It also depends on the book and how much of a scene-by-scene outline I have.)

    Nonetheless, classifying writers as “real” or not based on word count is bogus. For one thing, it doesn’t take into account research time, worldbuilding time, and the much-needed down time if you’re racking up big word counts when drafting. Plus short stories do not flow as fast as novels. And now I feel like going over to my blog and being ranty about word count.

  19. #4: In my case, the decision would be which Hugo to use to work the calculator. The 1974 one has the least awkward base to hold upside down. Mike, you have way more choice than I ever did.

    #7: I had a booth in the Small Press Area at ABA for two years in the 1970s, selling Algol/Starship into bookstores. I signed up a whole bunch of stores to carry the mag, but then the majority never paid me (and once I turned my back and someone swiped an entire stack of issues from the booth).

    When Ingram bought small press distributor Prairie News, which distributed small press magazines, everything changed. Unscrupulous store owners could rip off individual publishers, but if you tried to cheat Ingram Periodicals, as Prairie News became, you’d be in serious financial and legal trouble.

  20. @Rick Moen
    I saw that in an update. Haven’t checked the news yet today.
    (I have some idea what it’s like – the branch library near us had a fire one afternoon. Electrical, in their attic. Most of the books were saved – the local fire station was literally two blocks down the street, having gotten a new station some time before we moved to that area (it had originally been in half the library’s building).

  21. nickpheas says I am guessing Life The Universe And Everything. It’s a Utah symposium I’d never heard of. And one suspects, of dubious IP validity. But it was over the last weekend, so making it current news.

    He was indeed the author guest of honor. Our OGH might’ve been there since I see his wife is listed as being one of the special guests who was there.

  22. @P J Evans: The latest news from Porterville is particularly grim in one area: Two 13-year-old boys seen running away from the fire’s place of origin at the library have now been arrested and are being held in Tulare County Jail, on arson, conspiracy, and manslaughter charges.

    So, yet more lives ruined, more loss, more families blighted.

  23. Cat Eldridge:Our OGH might’ve been there

    No, I wasn’t. My wife didn’t tell me she was going, either. (We’ve been separated since 2012.)

  24. Usually there’s a need to mention The Devil’s Rain whenever one of its cast members, such as young John Travolta, celebrates a birthday.

    I think he procured the pig’s blood in Carrie.

    Travolta was also in Face/Off which is kinda genre. Also Pulp Fiction which may be genre depending on what was in the briefcase.

    Pixel White Scrolls in Hell or Carrie Pixel Scrolls in Hell? Or something.

  25. I loved Gahan Wilson in sixth grade for his grotesque single-panel magazine cartoons and his illustrations on the Matthew Looney science fiction series. I was going to say he wrote them, but a web search reminds me that Jerome Beatty Jr. did. All my book reports were on Looney for an entire school year. There were masks and dioramas. It was perhaps my greatest contribution to the arts.

    Wilson also designed the Lovecraft bust that was the World Fantasy Award for decades until its rightful retirement.

  26. Lately I’ve been messing around with a little game that lets you make pots (pottery type pots) recently and it got me thinking about what I associate with stuff, so I’m curious: What would you all think of if you were considering a visual representation of File770? (I got as far as “books, rockets, and mysterious year-tracking clocks”. Maybe forehead cloths.)

  27. @Meredith: A cat climbing a mountain of books, chased by a shoggoth of Hugo nomination deadlines.

  28. (13) the most baffling thing I discovered digging into where would be stupid enough to give this chump GoH is that he was on a panel about professionalism. The guy who ran a year-long harassment campaign and continues, to this day, to whine and make up insulting terms for the enemies he’s invented in his head. That guy, he’s an authority on professionalism.

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