Pixel Scroll 3/25/19 Oh, The File At The Heart Of The Pixel, Wins More Rocketships Than Asimov Or Clarke

(1) NAME THAT FAHRENHEIT TEMP. “Chinese Govt. Burns Call of Cthulhu Supplement” claims Lovecraftian news site Yog-Sothoth. The main content is in the video at the link, but the intro sums up the problem this way:

For many years, various publishers in the Americas and Europe have had their books printed in China as a cost-saving measure (including many in the RPG field). Often the primary downside of this has simply been the time taken for the books to arrive, but it appears there can also be another problem, as the publishers of The Sassoon Files (a Cthulhu-based RPG supplement) have announced that all print copies of their book have been destroyed by the Chinese Government – for unspecified reasons.

The Sassoon Files is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos scenarios and campaign resources set in 1920s Shanghai (for both Call of Cthulhu and Gumshoe systems) and was Kickstarted back in September 2018, raising some $24,000 USD from more than 500 backers. The volume was due to ship from the printers very shortly. As a result of this recent turn of events, the publishers, Sons of the Singularity, have released a video statement. …

(2) SPOILERIFFIC DISSECTION.  Abigail Nussbaum analyzes Jordan Peele’s “Us” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…If Get Out was an arrow aimed straight for the heart, Us is firing in all directions. This doesn’t make it a bad film—it is, in fact, a rich and heady stew, anchored by a stunning double performance from Lupita Nyong’o. But it does make it messy, in a way that a director who wasn’t riding high off a genre-defining success like Get Out probably wouldn’t be able to get away with. I found myself thinking that Us might have worked better as a miniseries, not only to give its various storylines and characters room to breathe, but so that it could do more work to spin out and elaborate on the various symbols and recurring images it keeps dropping into the narrative.

(3) PACKAGING ISSUE EXPLAINED. Greg Machlin gives readers a good handle on the reasons for the current tension between Hollywood writers and agents. Thread starts here.

And Machlin got a shout-out from N.K. Jemisin:

Machlin calls David Simon’s “But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.” required reading.

…If, on the other hand, you are my brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

… Why bother to fight for 10 percent of a few dollars more for this story editor or that co-executive producer of some actor or director when to NOT do so means less freight on the operating budgets of the projects that you yourself hope to profit from?  Why serve your clients as representatives with a fiduciary responsibility and get the last possible dollar for them, when you stand to profit by splitting the proceeds of a production not with labor, but with management — the studios who are cutting you in on the back end?  Why put your client’s interest in direct opposition to your own?

No reason at all.

(4) SPFBO DROPS TIVENDALE. Facebook’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off group posted a “PSA: Concerning James Tivendale & his removal”.

This post is to inform everyone about James Tivendale’s removal as a blogger from Fantasy Book Review as well as from the SPFBO judging group. James has been accused by over a dozen people of harassment in several forms. This wasn’t something that was done spur of the moment but thanks to Esme Weatherwax & Book Wol’s efforts, several folks came forward to report James’ behavior (inappropriate touching, intimidation, etc.)”

SPFBO is Mark Lawrence’s contest to pick the top indie fantasy novel from 300 entrants based on ratings given by book bloggers. Fantasy Book Review is one of the 10 blogs, and Tivendale was one of its writers. The PSA continues:

Many of these folks didn’t want their names published as they feared reprisal for their books or careers. These accusations were sent to Lee David Sibbald (the owner of Fantasy Book Review) and special thanks to Ryan Lawler for helping coordinate these efforts. Ultimately Lee took this decision keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Mark Lawrence has also been alerted about this. For the remaining part of this SPFBO edition, Fantasy Book Review will be managed by Adam & Emma. For the future, the decision will be taken by Lee and the rest of the team.

I along with Esme, Wol, Lee & a few others wanted to make this public so everyone knows what happened exactly without any confusion or rumor-mongering. If you have ever been harrased by James in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact Esme or me. I want to reiterate that while James is a gifted blogger and I considered him my friend. His behavior wasn’t excusable and neither were his health issues. We all hope that he gets the help he needs. If you have any queries or wish to clarify anything. I’m more than happy to resolve them.

Tivendale has since shut down his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

(5) SHAZAM! The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck says the movie benefits from terrific performances: “‘Shazam!’: Film Review”.

The DC Comics universe has definitely taken to heart the criticism that its movies have been too dark and foreboding. The more lighthearted approach worked beautifully with Wonder Woman and was carried to a wackier level with Aquaman. Now comes their latest effort, based on a relatively little-known comic book character, that proves so determinedly ebullient you begin to think they’re pumping laughing gas into the auditorium. The most kid-friendly DC movie so far, Shazam! is thoroughly entertaining. But much like its central character, a 14-year-old boy able to transform himself into a superhero by uttering the titular incantation, often the pic gives the impression of a kid playing in the adult leagues.

(6) HANG UP FOREVER. Charles Stross was quoted in a Washington Post piece by Avi Selk about the increasing problem of spam phone calls: “Spam has taken over our phones. Will we ever want to answer them again?”

The sci-fi author Charlie Stross once posited a future in which spam becomes so good at mimicking human interaction it becomes self-aware –the ‘Spamularity.’  Is that what awaits us if the phones don’t shut up?

(7) ANIME BUZZ. Petréa Mitchell covers 14 shows in her “Spring 2019 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories:

Welcome once again to the oncoming wave that is a new season of anime barrelling in our direction. It’s smaller than usual, owing to a drop in the overall number of new shows and an unusually low percentage of them being sf. (If you’re wondering what hot trends you’re missing out on, they’re baseball shows and comedies about high school students who are bad at studying.) As always, click on the titles to go to the official sites to see promo videos and more!

(8) IMMERSIVE PLAY. It’s called Escape Hunt.

Escape Hunt noun Def: The name given to 60 minutes of pure, unadulterated excitement, during which you and your teammates lose yourselves in an incredible experience, working together to follow a series of fiendishly clever clues and escape a locked room.

The pressure’s on, the clock’s ticking, the adrenaline’s pumping. Escape Hunt isn’t something you watch, it’s something you experience from the heart of the action. After the buzz of Escape Hunt, other entertainment just feels flat.

And there’s a Doctor Who themed version at six cities in the UK:

The Doctor needs you: a tear in space and time has been detected, and the Cybermen are about to break through!

Step into the future. Enter the offices of ChronosCorp HQ, where eccentric billionaire Alastair Montague’s efforts to develop commercial time travel have caused a tear in the fabric of space and time. The Cybermen are ready to take advantage and attack Earth.

You, the Doctor’s friends, must investigate the incident. The remains of Montague, his prototype time engine and the extensive collection of time-related artefacts acquired over the course of his experiments, are all that you have to work with.

(9) PALLADINI OBIT.  Artist David Palladini (1946-2019) died March 13. Jane Yolen wrote on Facebook:

I have just heard that David Palladini, that brilliant artist who illustrated my first three fairy tale collections, has died. RIP dear David. He also did many record jackets, Stephen King’s only middle grade novel, a tarot deck much prized by many who love them. RIP dear David.

The death notice in the New York Times begins:

David Palladini, widely renowned artist and illustrator, and regarded as one of the country’s most recognized astrological art illustrators, passed away on March 13, 2019 after a long illness at his home in Corona Del Mar, California at the age of 72. Some of his most widely held work includes the illustrations from Stephen King’s best-selling book, “Eyes of the Dragon”, and numerous children’s books, including the Jane Yolen series. His iconic astrological Aquarian & Palladini Tarot card art decks remain the most frequently preferred tarot card decks worldwide.


  • March 25, 1989 Quantum Leap premiered.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 25, 1916 Jean Rogers. Rogers is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the science fiction serials Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, both released in the Thirties. Kage Baker would’ve have loved them as she was a great fan of such cinema and wrote a series of essays for Tor.com that turned into  Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen. (Link for review of Ancient Rockets.) (Rogers died 1991.)
  • Born March 25, 1920 Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor of who I’ll confess I’m not the most ardent fan of. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before preceding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Tellie wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and on The Feathered Serpent. This is children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico and starring Patrick Troughton as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 25, 1939 D. C. Fontana, 80. Though best known for her work on the first Trek series, she was a story editor and associate producer on the animated series as well. During the 70s, she was staff for such series as Six Million Dollar ManLogan’s Run and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She later wrote for the fanfic Star Trek: New Voyages series.
  • Born March 25, 1947 Elton John, 72. He appeared in Tommy, UK version as the Pinball Wizard, a perfect role for him. I see he appeared on The Muppet Show as the guest of the week and showed in Kingsman: The Golden Circle as himself.
  • Born March 25, 1950 Robert O’Reilly, 69. Best known I’d say for his appearance in the Trek franchise for a decade in his recurring role on Next Gen and DS9 as Chancellor Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire.  He made one further appearance in the Trek verse as Kago-Darr in the Enterprise “Bounty” episode. Other genre series he appeared in include Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, Incredible Hulk, MacGyver, Max Headroom and the first version of The Flash. I’ll let y’all tell me your favorite films with him as cast. 
  • Born March 25, 1964 Kate DiCamillo, 55. She is just being one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, noting the wonderfulness of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. The first I’ve encountered, the tale of a swords mouse in making, the latter I’ve not. Her Mercy Watson series is about the adventures of a fictional pig, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

(12) A LITTLE TINGLE. Chuck Tingle has expanded his repertoire to short videos.

His non-moving pictures are still funny, too:

(13) WORTH THE EFFORT. Pippa reviews A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine” at Fantasy-Faction.

…Arkady Martine gives us an impressive sci-fi debut, with intricate worldbuilding and a compelling plot. Court intrigue and political manoeuvring play a large role and Martine writes these elements very well. You never fully know who to trust and the way Martine slowly unveils information creates a wonderfully suspenseful atmosphere. It does take a little while for the story to get going but stick with it as it does pick up after a couple of chapters. Once I was fully invested, I didn’t want to put it down.

(14) THAT CAT MUST BE SKY HIGH. Camestros Felapton presents “Tim’s Signs of the Zodiac”.

December 21 to January 21: You are Aqua-Goat! The very quickly cancelled 1980’s cartoon superhero who was a wise-cracking sea goat who solved sea-mysteries with his gang of friends who lived on a boat. Your friends were a cheap knock-off of the Scooby gang and the Archies. Your catchphrase was ‘Time to solve this sea mystery Aqua-Goat style!’ That sounds a bit sad but unlike all these other signs at least you HAVE friends even if one of them is a badly drawn version of Jughead mixed with Shaggy.

(15) TOMORROW’S NOT THAT FAR AWAY. CW released its midseason trailer for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

The Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. When Nate, the grandson of J.S.A. member Commander Steel, unexpectedly finds himself with powers, he must overcome his own insecurities and find the hero within himself. Ultimately, the Legends will clash with foes both past and present, to save the world from a mysterious new threat.

(16) CRANIAL RETENTIVE. BBC reports research that shows “New brain cells made throughout life”.

People keep making new brain cells throughout their lives (well at least until the age of 97), according to a study on human brains.

The idea has been fiercely debated, and it used to be thought we were born with all the brain cells we will ever have.

The researchers at the University of Madrid also showed that the number of new brain cells tailed off with age.

And it falls dramatically in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – giving new ideas for treating the dementia.

Most of our neurons – brain cells that send electrical signals – are indeed in place by the time we are born.

Studies on other mammals have found new brains cells forming later in life, but the extent of “neurogenesis” in the human brain is still a source of debate.

(17) MILESTONE. “The first all-female spacewalk” — story is item #4 at the link.

Two astronauts, Christina Koch and Anne McClain, will conduct a spacewalk to replace batteries powering the International Space Station on Friday. It’s expected to last for about seven hours.

Nasa says they didn’t deliberately set out to pair Ms Koch and Ms McClain on the spacewalk, since missions are determined by scheduling issues and ability.

But of all the people who have been in space, fewer than 11% are women – so this mission is seen as a significant moment for women in space.

(18) HAVE A GUINNESS. “Harry Potter: Tonna fan bags memorabilia world record” – BBC has the story.

A Harry Potter superfan has managed to “Slytherin” to the record books after collecting thousands of pieces of memorabilia.

Victoria Maclean, of Tonna, Neath Port Talbot, has 3,686 individual JK Rowling-related items.

This earned her the Wizarding World Collection world record – which includes the Fantastic Beasts series.

YouTuber Mrs Maclean, 38, said: “I screamed a lot – it was so incredible after all these months.”

She was presented with her world record certificate by Guinness World Records on Wednesday.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Man Sitting Next To You” on Vimeo, Ali Ali tells us why going to the movies can be a nightmare.

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

61 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/25/19 Oh, The File At The Heart Of The Pixel, Wins More Rocketships Than Asimov Or Clarke

  1. Jeff Smith: I’m thinking that JJ’s opinion is that it’s not a good relationship novel. I thought it was. But both opinions are valid.

    It may be a good relationship novel; I don’t feel that I’m necessarily the person to judge that. But I’m not wanting to read a relationship novel, I’m wanting to read a good SFF novel with inventive worldbuilding, interesting plot, and well-developed characters who make me want to know more about them. If two of those things are quite strong, I’m often willing to roll with the third one being weak.

    This is why I’ve been disappointed in the Kim Stanley Robinson novels I have read. His worldbuilding is often interesting, but his plots generally seem to consist of “what sort of plot will service the message I want write on politics / economics / climate change?” and his characters tend to be two-dimensional and uninteresting to me.

    With AtBitS and TCitMotN, I feel that the characters are immature, annoying as hell, and fixated on obsessing over their relationships to the exclusion of actually becoming interesting to me as fleshed-out beings (human or otherwise).

    In other words, I think that Anders wants to write about relationships (which is absolutely fine), but what I want to read about with regard to people is their personalities and their adventures. If there are one or more relationships (as distinct from character interactions) thrown in there, I’m good with that — but having the relationship(s) be the main focus is not what I’m looking for in a novel.

    A good example of a novel which includes a relationship which worked well for me was Elizabeth Bonesteel’s The Cold Between. The relationship between two characters is absolutely an integral part of the story, but it’s not the focus of the story*. And there’s no whining, and very little pining — just some introspection about the nature of the relationship.

    *Apart from a detailed sex scene in the first chapter which is easily skipped, if you’re not interested in reading that.

  2. (15) For any who didn’t know, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has become delightfully weird. I stumbled upon it by accident with very low expectations resulting from mind-numbing encounters with The CW’s other Arrowverse shows, and was very pleasantly surprised: Fourth-wall breaking, running gags with continuing significance, sly takedowns of sister shows, and lots of meta-humour raise it (IMO) well above average.

    After the current (S4) season’s hilarious pre-hiatus episode, ‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’, I sought out prior seasons: One sees a slow ramping up of whimsy and creativity, as the writers give themselves permission to go bonkers. S3’s finale, ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly’ was a particular highlight.

    (‘Ware suckage in occasional crossovers. Don’t expect high art.)

  3. Wow, I didn’t see The City in the Middle of the Night as a “relationship novel” at all! I thought it was an adventure novel: surviving in an alien wilderness, fighting off pirates, trying to steal treasures from a temple, starting a war, and learning to communicate with bizarre and interesting aliens. The relationship stuff just seemed like background to all of that to me.

    I mean, I can see struggling with it if you genuinely didn’t like the characters. But I found them personable enough. A bit young-and-dumb, but hey, I was a bit young-and-dumb myself once.

    On the other hand, I think JJ nailed what I don’t like about KSR. But Anders doesn’t remind me at all of KSR. Which, I guess, just goes to show that we’re not all the same. 🙂

    (But I have to say that the idea of a relationship novel which is also SFF doesn’t bother me any more than the idea of an adventure novel which is also SFF. I don’t see one being any more inherently SFFnal than the other, even if the latter was more common during the pulp era. Not that I think think City… was a relationship novel. I just don’t see what would have been wrong with that if it were.)

  4. Xtifr: On the other hand, I think JJ nailed what I don’t like about KSR. But Anders doesn’t remind me at all of KSR. Which, I guess, just goes to show that we’re not all the same.

    I wasn’t saying that Anders’ and KSR’s writing are similar. While their themes have some commonalities (politics and environment), I don’t think that their writing is similar.

    I was explaining how the three things — plot, worldbuilding, and character — are all quite important to what makes a book good for me, and if an author falls down badly on one or more of those things, I tend not to enjoy their work.

    At the halfway point, I think that TCitMotN has really interesting worldbuilding. But the plot, rather than actually being a specific story, seems to be a combination of “let’s have a bunch of angst over these peoples’ relationship difficulties without creating fully-fleshed human beings out of them” (for which I don’t have much appreciation), and “how do I show off the different geographical locations and political systems of the world I’ve built?” (for which I have considerably more appreciation).

  5. Xtifr: I didn’t say that doing a relationship novel in sf would be a bad thing (in that immensely long post I wrote earlier, showing why my fanzines back in the 70s were 60 page things). I just felt, while I was reading it (I was thinking about it while driving; I even remember what road I was on while thinking about it), that Anders had put the four people in the foreground, and the rest of it was stuff they had to deal with — as opposed to the type of novel where the writer creates a plot line and then comes up with people to do the things in the plot.

    After reading the book, I read an interview with Anders where she said she spent years building the world and then had to figure out what story to tell there, so I know that came first. And obviously the story had to build to the third city.

    But I did feel that the handling of the story elements was distinctly different from the plot-first novels that I’d started out reading when I discovered sf in the first place. I think that if somehow this book had been published back in the 70s, it would have been criticized for not being enough like an adventure novel.

  6. 11) I love the idea that Elton John gets onto a sci birthday list by….basically being himself. He is our very own weird, wonderful, alien Earthling.

  7. @Paul Weimer:
    Well, the original super-cat was Streaky (who I think was actually an earth cat exposed to a particular form of X-Kryptonite that granted powers temporarily, or something like that).

    And as to:

    Baker (who seemed he was sometimes playing stupid but you could always see the gears turning)

    Wonderful, now you’ve got me imagining Tom Baker playing an English version of Columbo. It might actually work.

  8. @JJ: I’d add a few things to your list of three, such as atmosphere and wordcrafting. (There’s a few authors I enjoy almost entirely because of the way they use words.) And I don’t insist that a work or author show mastery of all of them. Extremely high quality in one or two can easily make up for some flaws in another.

    I think City did really well at both world-building and atmosphere. And I didn’t dislike the characters as much as you seem to. (I’m a gregarious guy, and I’ve noticed that I often get along with people–both in fiction and in real life–that others struggle with.) But I certainly admit that not liking the characters can be a hard thing to get past. The plot was definitely meandering, but I thought it pulled together pretty well in the end.

    I think my biggest problem with Anders is a simple case of what I call editor-turned-writer-syndrome. The main symptoms of which are an over-reliance on the style book, which can occasionally result in somewhat stilted prose, and a bit too much focus on tropes–either exaggeratedly avoiding them, or exaggeratedly embracing them–instead of putting the story first and letting the tropes fall out naturally. But Anders doesn’t seem to have it as bad as some–possibly because she wasn’t a fiction editor.

    @Jeff Smith: The seventies that gave us things like Dhalgren and the Illuminatus trilogy? Is that the seventies you think it would have been too weird for? 😀

  9. I finally forced myself to finish The City in the Middle of the Night. And this is what I can say about it.

    Do not be taken in by the blurbs which claim that the author is “this generation’s Le Guin”; doing so will only result in bitter disappointment.

    There is obviously a market for this sort of book. Just as obviously, I am not that market. This isn’t grimdark fiction. This is fatallystupiddark fiction.

    The worldbuilding and the aliens in this book are really interesting. Unfortunately, they merely serve as a background for the interminable soap opera of the characters’ stupidity and self-destructiveness.

    People who enjoy reading about other people engaging in deeply stupid and self-destructive behaviors — especially in the context of romantic relationships — because it makes them feel much better about themselves by comparison, will find much to appreciate in this book. This book doesn’t just feature a cast of characters who persistently behave in incredibly stupid and self-destructive ways, it actually wallows in stupidity and self-destructiveness. Perhaps the author finds this cathartic. I find it deeply unpleasant, and more than a bit masochistic.

    The author repeatedly misrepresents “immature infatuation with an imaginary person who bears very little resemblance to the actual person” as “love”. This by itself is a great annoyance to me, but when coupled with a cast of characters for whom egregious stupidity and self-destructiveness are just standard operating procedure — throughout the entire book — it turned The Eight Deadly Words “I Don’t Care What Happens To These People” into “I Am Ready To Shoot These People Myself”.

    The first 60 pages (~18%) or so of the book are pretty interesting. After that, it goes downhill really fast. I recommend to anyone who starts the book and has the same reaction I did to skip to the chapter starting on page 292 (~79.8%) and read to the end of the chapter on page 331 (90%) and then call it a day. The rest of the book is just unbridled, unmitigated stupidity and self-destructiveness.

    I’m sad for what this book might have been. But I’m sure that there will be people who love it for what it is. 😐

  10. Well, that’s one book off my TBR; I have some patience with characters who make mistakes because they’re learning (and then learn from their mistakes), but this sounds like a level of … stupidity … I can’t cope with. I will remember that variation of the eight fatal words just in case I wind up reading something that needs it.

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