Pixel Scroll 2/23/18 In The Unlikely Event Of A Pixel Landing, Scrolls May Be Used For Flotation Devices

(1) EL-MOHTAR LAUNCHES. This week Amal El-Mohtar took up her duties as sff reviewer for the New York Times “Otherworldly” column: “The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

…Del and Sofia Samatar are siblings, and MONSTER PORTRAITS (Rose Metal, paper, $14.95) is a dialogue between Del’s art and Sofia’s words that is equal parts exploration, investigation and meditation about monsters and monstrosity. From the title I expected something like a bestiary, where the text would build fictions out of the art to pen (as it were) the creatures into a mythology — but this book is nothing so simple or straightforward; it is, if anything, an anti-bestiary, organized around the systems that produce bestiaries. Most of the portraits describe an author’s encounters with the creatures depicted, encounters that spark real-world musings on race and diaspora, framing the often contradictory ways in which we represent, consume or reject monstrosity. It’s a book of discomfort, of itching beneath the skin — which dovetails beautifully with the fact that Del Samatar works as a tattoo artist, and that many of the images in this book are easily imagined inked onto bodies….

(2) ARE THEY NEEDED? Rafia Zakaria speaks “In Praise of Negative Reviews” at The Baffler.

“Startlingly smart,” “remarkable,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it.

(3) FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Scott Edelman invites Eating the Fantastic listeners to “Gobble fried green tomatoes with Thomas F. Monteleone”.

I don’t know which meal you’re getting ready for wherever you happen to be, but here at Eating the Fantastic world headquarters, it’s time for lunch at the Mountain Branch Grille & Pub with Thomas F. Monteleone, a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, who’s published more than 100 stories since his first one appeared in Amazing back in 1972.

My first fictional encounter with him, though, wasn’t until 1975, when his first novel, Seeds of Change, became the debut title for the famed (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Laser Books science fiction line, and in this episode you’ll get to hear all about the serendipity which made that sale happen.

He’s accomplished so much since those early sales that last year, the Horror Writers Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s also a highly opinionated guy, as is proven by his ongoing no-holds-barred column The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association, a collection of which won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction …and is also proven by this episode.

We discussed the tricks he teaches to transform writers at his famed Borderlands Bootcamp, the 200+ rejections he received before he finally made his first fiction sale, how Theodore Sturgeon helped him realize it was possible for him to become a writer, why he ended up as a horror icon after his big start in science fiction, which horror writers you want on your team when you’re choosing sides for softball, the reason his live readings have become legendary, how Peter Straub reacted when Tom put him on his list of most overrated writers, how a challenge from Damon Knight changed his life, and much more.

(4) ADAPTATION AND ANNIHLATION. At Lit Hub, Jeff VanderMeer and Christina Sibul talk about “What’s It Really Like to Have Your Book Made Into a Movie”.

JV:  . . . But with regard to the monster [in Annihilation], I think what I was after in the books was to destabilize the usual reveal. The reason it’s gradual is to kind of acclimate you so when you actually finally see it you notice more than just the horror and surprise of it but the beauty and the strangeness of it as well. And I think Garland [the director of the Annihilation adaptation] gets there a different way. He’s still thinking about the same things, and in many ways, it’s a very loose translation of the book. But you can see many points where he is translating, where he is reacting to something in the book, and so I do think that in the third act of the movie where you do see the crawler—and you don’t see it before that—he somehow manages visually to get the horror and beauty of it by being very precise.

The thing I found fascinating is on the set visit they had what I would call a three-act structure of the visual imagination. Like, literally on the walls all around this building they had just pasted photographs and pictures, some of which they found and some of which they created as, like, what is the tone and texture of this part. And for the third act, several of the images they had that were inspiration for the monster were the same things that I’d come up with during my research, but we had not communicated about this. They had just come to it through parallel evolution. So, I think that the depiction of the crawler is very accurate in some ways. And very horrific and beautiful at the same time. There’s another monster too in there because there’s the moaning creature in the books, and the moaning creature he translated into this strange bear that also combines aspects of the boar that’s in the book. So, there’s another translation of the monster where someone may see it and say, “That’s not from the book,” but in actual fact it kind of is, you know


  • John King Tarpinian and I are old enough to get the visual references in Heathcliff. Maybe you are, too.
  • And this Dracula joke in Speedbump is pretty dumb, but I laughed.

(6) THE GOODBYE BATGIRL. Yesterday I read somewhere “Joss Whedon Drops Out of Batgirl”. Adam-Troy Castro won’t miss him: “Joss Whedon Quit the BATGIRL Movie For All The Right Reasons”.

Joss Whedon has stepped down from scripting duties on a proposed BATGIRL movie, saying he just couldn’t come up with a story.

I suspect he had some other reasons, some of which speak well of him and some of which don’t, but that’s a boring subject. (So is whether there should be a Batgirl movie, period. Let’s just say that my personal enthusiasm at this point, is limited. We have more than enough movies in this genre, thank you.)

But let us talk of his stated reason for having so much trouble with the character: paraphrased, he couldn’t think of a reason why this girl’s head would be so messed up she would start doing this thing.

And instantly you know that he doesn’t get the character at all and that stepping away was a good thing.

You see, the premise that a person’s head must be “messed up” in some way to become a hero in this genre is based on only a very few examples.

(7) DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR. Jane Foster’s time as The Mighty Thor may be coming to an end. And in this case I don’t think that’s a spoiler.

For more than three years, Jason Aaron has been building Jane Foster’s story to its epic conclusion – and it all comes together in Mighty Thor #705! This March, don’t miss the final chapter of Thor’s journey, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Russell Dauterman, as Mangog’s rampage threatens to bring about the end of Asgard as we know it – and the Goddess of Thunder herself.


(8) COMICS BUYER. Daniel P. Dern sends a link to io9’s “Ordering Physical Comics Books Is About to Get Slightly Easier”, which says Diamond’s new Pullbox will simplify (pre)ordering your hardcopy comics from your comic store.

It’s not completely digital—you still have to go and physically collect your orders from your local store, after all, so if you’re looking to avoid the potentially intimidating act of heading into a comics store, Pullbox isn’t the solution.

Dern comments: “I’d like to think that not all comic stores are intimidating, e.g., certainly not <shoutout>The Outer Limits, in Waltham MA</shoutout> (where I’ve been a customer since it opened back in 1983). A larger concern, I’d guess, would be the decreasing # of comic shops, as in, (not) having one near (enough). Yeah, you can mail-order, but not the same experience.

“I’m happy that it sounds like this new service isn’t trying to disintermediate the stores, but rather work with and within them.”

(9) CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND BLACK PANTHER. Calgary comic book scholar Michael Hoskin offers a roundup of all the comic book creators who had a hand in the Black Panther movie. He makes a compelling case that Christopher Priest (the first full-time black writer at Marvel comics) should be getting more credit for what was seen on screen: “Black Panther (2018) creator credits”.

(10) EXPANSE. Syfy dropped The Expanse Season 3 teaser trailer.

(11) GONE FISHING. The industry has a surprising amount of coverage: “New Maps Reveal Global Fishing’s ‘Vast Scope Of Exploitation Of The Ocean'”.

The maps show the most intense fishing activity along the coasts of heavily populated areas like Europe and China. But fishing also covers much of the high seas. According to the researchers, commercial fishing operations covered at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans. That area, it calculates, is four times larger than the area devoted to agriculture on land.

The researchers also were able to distinguish between fishing vessels from different countries. According to the study, five countries — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea — accounted for 85 percent of all high-seas fishing.

The BBC also has a summary.

(12) TOUGH TO KILL Jurassic Dead is coming to theaters. Run away!

PLOT: A cracked scientist aligns with the Axis of Evil to bring down the US of A with EMP blasts, toxic zombification gas and an unleashing of the ultimate undead killing monstrosity — the Z-REX. When a hot-wired militia squad and a crew of college hipsters are thrown together to do something about it, chaotic Predator-Thunder action runs amok.


(13) THE REAL FUTURE OF AI. On the Nextnature blog, Menno Gutfeld and Koort van Mensvoort interview Bruce Sterling about how bodies will become mechancially augmented in the future and when artificial intelligence will become sentient: “Interview: Bruce Sterling on the Convergence of Humans and Machines”.

 Lots of people are actually talking about and also investing a lot of money in this idea of convergence of the machine and humans. What are your thoughts on this?

That convergence will not happen, because the ambition is basically metaphysical. It will recede over the horizon like a heat mirage.  We are never going to get there. It works like this: first, far-fetched metaphysical propositions. Then an academic computer scientist will try and build one in the lab. Some aspect of that can actually be commercialized, distributed and sold.

This is the history of artificial intelligence. We do not have Artificial Intelligence today, but we do have other stuff like computer vision systems, robotic abilities to move around, gripper systems. We have bits and pieces of the grand idea,  but those pieces are big industries. They do not fit together to form one super thing. Siri can talk, but she cannot grip things. There are machines that grip and manipulate, but they do not talk. You end up with this unbundling of the metaphysical ideas and their replacement by actual products and services. Those products exist in the marketplace like most other artifacts that we have: like potato chips, bags, shoes, Hollywood products, games.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The (End) of History Illusion)–Miu Miu Women’s Tales” on Vimeo, Celia Rowlson-Hall describes the fabulous future after atomic attack, where you can live in a bunker wearing swell clothes from the 1950s and eat all the canned carrots you want!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

55 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/23/18 In The Unlikely Event Of A Pixel Landing, Scrolls May Be Used For Flotation Devices

  1. 1) Cool

    7) Sad, but inevitable, all things considered. Achilles’ Choice, to mix my mythology.

    Zombie T-Rex? eep. I remember there is one of these in the Chult sandbox D&D book, and it showed up in a D&D game stream from that book. Nasty!

    Currently watching Gregory A Wilson on twitch do character creation for a RPG session, with a bunch of people including Cat Rambo


  2. (3) Ohhh, yeah. When I was managing a store for Mile High in ’75–6, it seemed like copies of Seeds of Change came into existence spontaneously, or that the ones we had mated and produced identical offspring. Yet despite its ready availability, or because of it, I never dipped into it.

    Now I can look at Mr. Monteleone and all his credits and say, “Glad you made it, pal.”

    (8) Comic ordering. What a perilous job that was! On the small budget we had (still talking ’75–6 here), we had two sources: Columbine, the local distributor, whose comics were returnable (and had a stripe marked on their page edges), and Bud Plant, who got everything earlier, and was therefore more useful in our competitive field, but at the price of not being returnable! There were also two different prices, but I don’t even remember the details of that now. Just glad to be out of retail, to be honest.

  3. Sacrificial fourth.

    ETA. From year-909. First time noticing I’ve time travelled.

    EETA. To the past I mean I time travel to the future all the time, like now … and now. Ok stopping it.

  4. Tired me. Tired alternative cat. Dora is so much better, but we’re both still adjusting to our new routine.

    A pleasant tired, unlike the unhappy exhaustion of much of the past week.

    Posted from 1385. Another reason I’m tired?

  5. @5.1: cute — especially since I’m now in the middle of Cullen Murphy’s book about his father John C. M. (best known for taking over artwork for Prince Valiant) and the rest of the SW Connecticut cartoonists’ circle. (A fun book with lots of pictures, including a meeting between Otto Soglow and someone in a pretty good Little King costume.

    @6: Does Whedon fail to get superheroing, or does Castro fail to get that the Bat-verse can evolve? I get his listing of outright supers, but there’s a difference between an ordinary human mentored by a major-leaguer (all those Robins) and one who has made themself over into an independent force to be reckoned with. What does it take for someone to remake themselves that way — and succeed? Kick-Ass(sp?) suggested that a mortal who goes heroing as a lark will end up in pieces; I find Castro’s version of Gordon-Batgirl’s backstory less than convincing, even if it was canonical.

  6. 10) the uploader has not made the video available in your country.


    Had to abort a trip to cinema for Black Panther as I’ve failed to get over this blasted cold, even having worked from home all week and marinated in Lemsip.

  7. @IanP and everybody else outside the US:

    Here is a version of The Expanse trailer that works internationally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LpCrlcodKQ

    That said, why would you region block a bloody trailer? It’s advertising and even if some of the people who watch it don’t live in the country where the show is broadcast, a trailer will still get them excited for the time when the show reaches their country.

    Though international distribution of The Expanse is bad in general. In Germany, season 1 came out on DVD only in December 2017. Before that, Netflix was hogging the rights.

  8. Cora says Though international distribution of The Expanse is bad in general. In Germany, season 1 came out on DVD only in December 2017. Before that, Netflix was hogging the rights.

    IIRC Netflix paid for the production costs so they can hog it as they’ve got first call on broadcast rights. Farscape was more complex in its broadcast rights as the Sci-fi channel only paid for a portion of its production rights with rights for different countries broken up among a bunch of networks.

    DVD rights are oft times negotiated separately in the same manner that audiobook rights arent held by the same publishing House that does the printed book.

  9. Cheers Cora, that works.

    Did have a look earlier but my broadband has had the yips all day. Given I had no dial tone on the phone I’m passing surprised it was up at all.

  10. @Cora: “That said, why would you region block a bloody trailer?”

    Agreed! I put it down to incompetence on the part of big studios/channels, just setting everything to locked by default and not even thinking it through. I doubt someone at a meeting said, “Let’s block everyone outside the U.S. from seeing this contentless teaser that uses last-season footage and a boring voiceover!” 😉

  11. (13) Very nice to see an SF author who sees the truth about AI, or the current and foreseeable state of it, anyway.

    There will not be a Singularity. I think that artificial intelligence is a bad metaphor. It is not the right way to talk about what is happening.

    If we look very far into the future, it’s impossible to be so definite, of course. But almost everyone who really understands what’s being developed today agrees wholeheartedly.

    You make this point that cognition and computation should be separate. Why do you think these two separate concepts gets mixed up so much?

    They cannot get their heads around the idea that computation is not thinking.

    This! Very much this! I can’t think how many times I’ve tried to reason with people who’re convinced that machines are going to “take over,” and the conversation founders on their insistence that machines will “want to” do something or other.

    There are lots of ways one can imagine AI systems causing great harm (e.g. the armed robots programmed to prevent school shootings that accomplish this by poisoning all the students instead–or, more mundanely, simply don’t allow any students into the school in the first place) but it’s not going to happen because they acted like human beings or from human motivations. It’ll be because someone who couldn’t get his/her head around the fact that computation isn’t cognition insisted on giving an AI more power than was sensible to do.

  12. @Chip Hitchcock
    I thought the same. The backstory would be hard to put into a movie, and the question is, why does she not just become a cop? My guess is not that Wheadon dorsnt have an idea, but that he doesnt have an idea that is interesting, fits the character and is different enough from all the other super hero movies and seperates her from Batman.

    I am just a poor scroll, my pixels seldom filed…

  13. I am just a pixel
    Though my story’s seldom scrolled
    I have clicked all the boxes
    For a pocket full of mumbles, known as “comments”
    All lies and jests
    Still a man reads what he wants to read
    And disregards the rest

    When I left my home and my family
    I was no more than a boy
    In the company of filers
    In the quiet of Perido Street Station
    Running out,
    Reading more, seeking out the fifth season
    Where the Hugo- people go
    Looking for the books
    Only they would know

  14. @Peer

    @Cat Eldridge
    I don’t mind Netflix having a period of exclusivity, if they co-produced the show or bought the rights. However, previous Netflix shows such as Daredevil or Jessica Jones showed up on DVD within a much more reasonable timeframe than The Expanse.

  15. In other news, this year’s Berlin film festival concluded tonight with one winner of genre interest: Wes Anderson won the Silver Bear for best director for Isle of Dogs, which as far as I know is the first time ever an animated film was honoured at the Berlin film festival.

    The full list of winners is here.

  16. @Greg @Peer huh. I have no idea how that song got stuck in my head last night but now I think I must have skimmed through the scroll comments without consciously reading and somehow internalised your posts. Now it’s in my head again, but with all the “lie la lie”s replaces with “five fa five”…


    Current reading: Phosphorus by Liz Williams. This is the first thing I’ve read by the author, so I can’t speak to how much the plot follows directly from her previous novels in this world, but so far it stands alone well – the two main characters are introduced in media res but we get adequate backstory as to who they are and what they’re doing, and I’m particularly intrigued by the alien life on this alternate version of Mars.

  17. @Kip W: feeling our age, are we? I remember mocking teenage death songs in a Boskone musical 41 years ago, and they were old hat then. Or maybe I’m just grumpy because I only recognized 2-3 of 6 lyrics on today’s Sez You — although some of the hints were so differently sung as to be anti-useful….

  18. Chip Hitchcock:
    Huh. I thought this must be the thread where I was talking about my lower back at first.

    Teenage death songs. You know what? I’m actually shocked that I can’t find my favorite one on YouTube so I can link it here. Forget Patches. Forget Strange Things Happen In This World. Forget Teen Angel, Nightmare, and Leader of the Pack! We were on a family drive in the 60s and heard this, and it’s been a favorite ever since: Jimmy Horton’s “I Want My Baby Back.”

    This is the true, ultimate teenage death song (about 2/3 spoken), starting with that fateful night (“She was so full of life!”), describing the horrible car crash in graphic detail, with sound effects, and concluding with, well, the sickest happy ending of all time: “Hot dang! Pay dirt!”

    Further, deponent sayeth not.


    “Like stars in my pocket, these are… The Scrolls of our Files!”

  19. Thank you!
    Here is a another verse:

    In the clearing stands a Filer
    And a writer by his trade
    And he carries the remainders
    Of every snipe that laid him down
    And cut him till he cried out
    In his anger and his shame
    “I am writing, I am writing
    But the writer still remains

  20. Thanks, Magewolf! Not only from me, but on behalf of everybody who can now listen to this deathless gem! (Also: Oops! No wonder it didn’t turn up.)

    John A Arkansawyer: The majority of that album also qualifies as teenage death songs. I should have mentioned them when I was listing ’em.

  21. Kip W:
    Oh, that one! (I remember it also. And I grew up in a town that had, at one point, a “Deadman’s Curve” where a main road had two 90-degree turns not very far apart – long since realigned to something safer. And a straight road, elsewhere, with several hills on it, regraded to something far safer after a rather horrific accident that killed several people.)

  22. The best Teenage Death Song I can remember hearing was at a filksing some thirty years ago; I remember exactly one line from it (that had the whole room giggling or laughing outright); the teenagers had been making out, the crash had happened, the car had caught fire with the teenagers inside — “You could smell the rubber burning… / you could also smell the tires / in that goddamn wreck out there on the highway…”

    I want to say the song was called something like “Teenage Heaven Highway”, but, as I said, it’s been thirty years. No idea who sang it. A google search turns up nothing.

  23. I’ve been John-Campbell’d and nearly quelled
    by a half-Vulcanian’s mind-meld (that’s the meld you use… well, never mind)

  24. John A Arkansawyer – Thanks for the National Lampoon link. Found this teenage death song by the Ramones while searching for more info:


    If you haven’t heard it, “The KKK Took My Baby Away” (also by the Ramones) is excellent. Not quite a teenage death song, more of a teenager kidnapped by the KKK song.

  25. There’s also “Timothy” and DOA’s “Bloodrock,” but I can’t help feeling I’m getting far afield of the original topic. “Dead Babies” by Alice Cooper used to creep me the hell out.

    What was it you were looking for, upon that fateful night?
    They say they found my pixel scroll clutched in your fingers tight.

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