Pixel Scroll 4/18/18 Wanna Bees Pulling Gees Through The Trees

(1) LUKE SKYRANTER. Movie Banter brings you “10 minutes of Mark Hamill being HONEST about The Last Jedi.

No matter what you think of the film and the way Luke Skywalker was portrayed, thank goodness Mark isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He is sincere and cares about the franchise as much as he cares about the fandom.


(2) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Inverse explains that “Ewoks Are Coffee Farmers According to Star Wars Canon”.

The upcoming Han Solo movie will, no doubt, make all sorts of changes to Star Wars canon, but a just-released book about Han and Lando’s adventures quietly revealed that Ewoks are actually renown coffee farmers. Yep, those cute little Imperial-killing teddy bears are responsible for the best cup of java you’ll find outside of Dex’s Diner.

The book, Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel, came out earlier this week, and it follows the two coolest characters in the galaxy across three distinct time periods. In one of them, set after Return of the Jedi but well before The Force Awakens, baby Ben Solo kicks his dad in the face. Later in that scene, Han’s culinary droid, BX-778, brews up a mean cup of Endorian caf. (Coffee is called “caf” in the book because, well, that’s how Star Wars rolls).

(3) STURGEON ANALYSIS. At Rocket Stack Rank, Eric Wong’s analysis shows the Sturgeon Award nominees are highly correlated with other guides to outstanding short fiction: “Sturgeon Award Finalists Versus Other Top Stories of 2017”. Greg Hullender says:

Last year too, the Sturgeon Award Finalists were the most accurate guide to which stories would be broadly recommended (by serious reviewers, major anthologies, and prestigious awards). http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2018/01/2016-best-sff-short-fiction-guides.html

There’s definitely something special about this award. It should get more attention than it does.

(4) THESE POTATOES AIN’T GONNA PLANT THEMSELVES! Or will they? “All by Itself, the Humble Sweet Potato Colonized the World”.

Of all the plants that humanity has turned into crops, none is more puzzling than the sweet potato. Indigenous people of Central and South America grew it on farms for generations, and Europeans discovered it when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.

In the 18th century, however, Captain Cook stumbled across sweet potatoes again — over 4,000 miles away, on remote Polynesian islands. European explorers later found them elsewhere in the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Guinea.

The distribution of the plant baffled scientists. How could sweet potatoes arise from a wild ancestor and then wind up scattered across such a wide range? Was it possible that unknown explorers carried it from South America to countless Pacific islands?

An extensive analysis of sweet potato DNA, published on Thursday in Current Biology, comes to a controversial conclusion: Humans had nothing to do with it. The bulky sweet potato spread across the globe long before humans could have played a part — it’s a natural traveler.

Likewise, ArsTechnica says “Sweet potatoes may have reached Pacific Islands 100,000 years ahead of Polynesians.”

“This finding is likely to be controversial because it calls into question the alleged contacts between Polynesians and Americans in pre-European times,” Oxford University botanist Pablo Muñoz-Rodriguez, who led the study, told Ars Technica. “[The] sweet potato was the only remaining biological evidence of these contacts.”

Muñoz-Rodriguez and his team sampled DNA from 119 specimens of sweet potatoes and all of their wild relatives, including a sweet potato harvested in the Society Islands in 1769 by the Cook expedition. With those samples, Muñoz-Rodriguez and his colleagues built a phylogenetic tree: a family tree that shows evolutionary relationships among organisms based on the differences in their DNA. For plants, researchers often build two phylogenetic trees: one for the DNA stores in the nucleus of the plant’s cells and one for the chlorophyll-producing organelles called chloroplasts, which have their own DNA. Genetic material doesn’t always get passed on in the same way for both, so it’s sometimes useful to compare the two.

The team used the phylogenetic trees to estimate how long ago each branch of the tree split off from the others. It turned out that the Society Islands sweet potato hadn’t interbred with Central and South American lines for at least 111,500 years…

(5) TODAY’S JOB LOST TO ROBOTS. WIRED Magazine reports “A Robot Does the Impossible: Assembling an Ikea Chair Without Having a Meltdown”. I’m beginning to suspect Brian Aldiss wrote the wrong ending for “Who Can Replace A Man.”

Researchers report today in Science Robotics that they’ve used entirely off-the-shelf parts—two industrial robot arms with force sensors and a 3-D camera—to piece together one of those Stefan Ikea chairs we all had in college before it collapsed after two months of use. From planning to execution, it only took 20 minutes, compared to the human average of a lifetime of misery. It may all seem trivial, but this is in fact a big deal for robots, which struggle mightily to manipulate objects in a world built for human hands.

(6) ALL IN A DAY. Initially, Patrick Nielsen Hayden made his feelings clear about a new book coming out which has the same title as an Emma Bull novel. (Jump on the thread here.)

Later he apologized. (Thread begins here)

(7) DOG DUTY. The New York Times inquires: “Do You Know Which Dog Breeds Are in a Mutt? Scientists Want to Find Out”.

One of the favorite pastimes of dog people is guessing a mutt’s ancestry.

Is that scruffy little guy in the dog park a mix of Afghan hound and Catahoula leopard dog? Is the beast that bit someone really a pit bull, or a cocker spaniel-beagle potpourri? And how about your aunt’s yippy pillow on paws — Maltese/poodle/peke?

If you’re wondering about your own dog you can, of course, get a DNA test. But there’s a lot of open territory for that familiar figure in the canine world, the dog guesser. You know who I mean, they’re like dog whisperers, but louder.

Now all self-proclaimed experts have a chance to prove their mettle or meet their comeuppance. The MuttMix survey debuted on Monday. It is citizen science for people who are willing to be proven terribly wrong, a dog quiz that tests how good you are at figuring out what a mutt is made of.

The survey is being run by the Darwin’s Dogs program at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., a center for genome studies, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Fellow dog guessers (yes, I confess) proceed at the risk of your exceedingly high self-regard….

(8) THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. Mary Shelley biopic opening in theaters May 25.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, Douglas Booth, Joanne Froggatt & Stephen Dillane She will forever be remembered as the writer who gave the world Frankenstein. But the real life story of Mary Shelley—and the creation of her immortal monster—is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork. Imbued with the imaginative spirit of its heroine, Mary Shelley brings to life the world of a trailblazing woman who defied convention and channeled her innermost demons into a legend for the ages.


(9) NEXT ON HIS AGENDER. Jon Del Arroz, worried there might still be a few people he hasn’t alienated this week, announced he is “Coming Out As A Woman” [Internet Archive link] – which is to say, adopting a pseudonym.

After serious deliberations, I will be only submitting short fiction to professional markets from a new female pen name. I’ve come up with the name, I’ve got the email address, it’s ready to go. I will be, for all intents and purposes, a female author. It’s the only way to get ahead in the business, and the smart thing to do. I won’t be broadcasting the name here in case of any inadvertent discrimination, but I will keep you informed as to how reactions change based on having a female name. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

(10) PRELUDE TO SPACE. NPR tells about “Antarctic Veggies: Practice For Growing Plants On Other Planets”.

…Now, the greenhouse project, called EDEN ISS, is fully operational. Bamsey’s colleagues in Antarctica harvested their first salads last week.

And while growing greens in Antarctica is exciting — for much of the year there’s no fresh produce at Neumayer Station III — Bamsey says the end goal of this project is much farther away. EDEN ISS is a practice round for cultivating food in space.

The eight-nation team of EDEN ISS researchers chose to grow “high-water-content, pick-and-eat-plants,” Bamsey says, “things that can’t normally be stored for long periods of time.” The crops include lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, swiss chard, and herbs — basil, chives, cilantro and mint. One-tenth of the yield will become research data, while the rest will help feed Neumayer Station III’s crew….

(11) SPACE DIAMONDS. “Inter Jovem et Martem”? “Meteorite diamonds ‘came from lost planet'”.

A diamond-bearing space rock that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere in 2008 was part of a lost planet from the early Solar System, a study suggests.

The parent “proto-planet” would have existed billions of years ago before breaking up in a collision and was about as large as Mercury or Mars.

A team has published their results in the journal Nature Communications.

They argue that the pressures necessary to produce diamonds of this kind could only occur in planet of this size.

Using three different types of microscopy, the researchers characterised the mineral and chemical make-up of the diamond-bearing rocks. The fragments were scattered across the Nubian desert of northern Sudan after the asteroid 2008 TC3 exploded 37km above the ground on 7 October 2008.

(12) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. Another Instant Classic by Matthew Johnson:

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Well you tell by the way I use my spear
I’m a murder bear, I got no fear
Speeder bikes and Empire goons, I’ve been kicked around
My forest moon
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
I’ve got stormtroopers to slay
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star hangin’ in the sky

Whether you’re a Jedi or just a little yeti
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the walkers breakin’, this tree trunk is a-shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive

Well you might think I’m a teddy bear
My god’s a droid in a wooden chair
I may just have stone age tools
But I’m the end of those Empire fools
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
There’ll be some fireworks this day
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star fallin’ from the sky

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ al-i-i-i-ve…

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day A.G. Carpenter, Ingvar and Cassy B.]

172 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/18/18 Wanna Bees Pulling Gees Through The Trees

  1. What I find more surprising, is that there were two books (in English) titled Taltos. Brust and Rice, If I recall correctly.

  2. @Ctein: Thanks for the detailed info. I liked “Saturn Run” by the way.

    I forgot about the two different “Night Watch” – the Pratchett one is primary for me. On the TV listings when I see “Defending Your Life” I’m always disappointed to see that it’s a religious program, not the Albert Brooks movie, which I love.

  3. @Chip

    Same number of queries to agents sent out under each name. George got 17 requests for the full manuscript and Catherine got 2.

  4. @David Shallcross – just coming here to say that. It was before Brust had made it into hardcover yet, so I’d keep seeing it out of the corner of my eye and thinking “oh, good, he’s hit the big leagues” and then being disappointed again.

  5. There are certainly titles that should be avoided, unless you can really stand up to comparison. Dune would be one for example. Though that’s often qualified as Frank Herbert’s Dune in adaptations.

    As far as I know in the UK you can call yourself whatever you want so long as it is not with intent to defraud. Changing your legal name takes a bit more effort, but not much (the process varies across the UK)

    Foreigner was, to me, meh at best. Rimrunners on the other hand I loved in my teens from the library. I’d love to know where my copy of Hellburners ended up, and if Cherryh wrote any more about Morgaine and Vanye I’d be all over that.

  6. Sadly I don’t think there’s been any new Morgaine since Exile’s Gate back in the late 1980s; otherwise I’d be all over it too.

  7. In the US, also, you can call yourself anything you want, as long as it’s not for fraudulent purposes. The level of difficulty in legally changing your name may vary from state to state, as is true if many things, bt in my own state of Massachusetts, it’s pretty easy and straightforward.

  8. I personally rather dislike reusing novel titles within the same field. But I know it can be hard not to since a lot of the good titles have already been used and it is easy to reuse one from a book you did not even know existed. On the other hand if you want to use Night Raid as a SF title but find several romance novels, a couple of WWII novels,and a Civil War one that would not bother me at all.

    It seems to me that I remember at least one case of two different novels with the same title by the same author being released years apart but I can not think of the author’s name at the moment.

  9. @IanP —

    Foreigner was, to me, meh at best. Rimrunners on the other hand I loved in my teens from the library. I’d love to know where my copy of Hellburners ended up, and if Cherryh wrote any more about Morgaine and Vanye I’d be all over that.

    I liked the first Foreigner book very much — the second and third were to me only okay. I haven’t read beyond that so far.

    I loved the Faded Sun books back in high school — I need to do a reread of those. Also loved Downbelow Station and Pride of Chanur, both of which I’ve reread recently — they fought off the suck fairy just fine. I’ve got Gate of Ivrel on Mt. TBR, though I was not wild about her fantasy Rusalka book way back when.

  10. @Laura: I got that ratio; notice the “8.5x” in my comment. The smell-test failure was for the agents’ behavior, not for the experiment. She does note that the novel was on a topic that might not have been equally interesting to all genders — but politely doesn’t speculate on why the agents thought a man writing such a work would be more interesting than a woman.

  11. @Kurt Busiek
    Edith Pilaf, maybe?

    Laughed so hard, it pushed me out from behind the lurker curtain. Now I can’t help of thinking of more (Raye Bulger, perhaps?), but none are as good as this.

  12. Having two books named Taltos isn’t that surprising; it’s a common term from Hungarian fairy tales. Basically, a supernatural creature that looks human but is able to do superhuman feats, like chopping down an entire forest in a single hour.

  13. Still haven’t finished the last Saunders (it’s so good, but soooo dense), but I just bought the current one. Which is even more ridiculous when considering I broke down and bought my supporting membership for Worldcon 76. Been paralyzed with indecision about buying in since I’m hoping to actually attend this year.

    Thanks for the heads-up, Ghostbird!

  14. #9 “After serious deliberations, I will be only submitting short fiction to professional markets from a new female pen name.”

    Not just a harasser, but a not-very-good writer, too: his declaration is sloppy to the point of incoherence. Presumably he means something more like:

    After serious consideration, I will be submitting my short fiction only under a female name.

    or even

    I shall be submitting my short fiction only under a female name.

    [So many problems in one sentence…. I could belabor all the issues here, but he couldn’t afford my editing rates. Let’s just say that his inability to write a coherent sentence actively discourages me from trying his fiction.

  15. Just finished The Human Dress by Graydon Saunders. It was dense, and chewy, and skaldic. It felt like a fantastical Norse epic, with feathered dinosaurs and magic and a certain amount of chemistry (once you realize that “soot-stuff” is carbon and “breath-stuff” is oxygen and so forth….

    I enjoyed it, but it’s NOT a quick read. It’s currently on my Hugo longlist, but it’s early days yet…

  16. “I forgot about the two different “Night Watch” – the Pratchett one is primary for me.”

    He, for me it has always been the one by Sergei Lukyanenko.

  17. Andrew: I forgot about the two different “Night Watch” – the Pratchett one is primary for me.

    Hampus Eckerman: He, for me it has always been the one by Sergei Lukyanenko.

    Huh, for me it’s the one by Van Rijn. 😉

  18. Well, when I finally complete my epic novel “Emperor Joshua Norton, Sasquatch Puncher: A Love Story” I have every confidence that no other book has gone by that title.

  19. Finder’s such a strange title to flip out over. It’s extremely generic, and the Bull book is not exactly high-profile.

  20. *quietly schemes to release novel name of Emperor Joshua Norton, Sasquatch Puncher: A Love Story 24 hours before Schnookums Von Fancypants* — also under the name Schnookums Von Fancierpants since I firmly believe that people are discriminated against in publishing in favour of pants-based lifeforms.

  21. @tavella,

    Indeed; one might wonder why that particular book title gets a guardian of a sort – a “Finder‘s Keeper” if you will …

  22. Sorry just an edit to my dastardly plot: that should be Yeti Kicker – see it’s a totally different book. That just happens to have almost the same title. And be by an author with a suspiciously similar name. It’s totally not an attempt to cash in on someone else’s credibility, nuh-uh.

  23. Dear Doire,

    Only if their name were misspelled.


    Dear Lurker,

    Thank you so much for appreciating the historical reference, and have we really known each other for 30 years?!



    Dear John,

    It’s common in the romance business for writers to work under pseudonyms. Sometimes several. Many of them, for various reasons, are quite strict about not letting their readers know of any other names for themselves except the one on the book cover. Although I don’t know firsthand, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of them also firewall their editors/publishers.

    A fairly well known fan here in the Bay Area who is a friend of mine is a very successful romance writer. I don’t know exactly how successful, because she absolutely refuses to divulge her romance-novelist name(s). But she owns a house and maintains a decent middle-to-upper-middle-class lifestyle, which means she’s doing pretty damned well.


    Dear Andrew and Rob,

    Oh, why thank you very much! A bit of unexpected ego boo. I will take it.

    John and I had a lot of fun writing with each other — it’s quite possible we will collaborate again in the future.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

  24. @ Contrarius
    I loved the Foreigner series, primarily because the hero is a translator, and his derring-do primarily consists of talking. I still snicker over Jase’s inadvertent pun, “Incandescent!” And Deana Hanks’ mistranslations. I also like the stress on where all the clean clothes and nice food come from.
    Rimrunners and Chanur remain favorites, but, like you, I never cared for Rusalka et al. Cherryh said she wrote them in a period of personal turmoil, and revised them. I might check out the new versions.
    And I can’t wait for the new Alliance book!

  25. @Ctein: Well, I’ve known you for 30 years or so; whether it’s the same for your side of things, I dunno! 🙂

  26. @Ctein

    How does one pronounce that then? The same as the large German beer glass?


    I’ve got the omnibus copy of Faded Sun in the TBR pile. I read both Rusalka and the sequel but they certainly aren’t her best, I would put Morgaine far above those for sure.

  27. @Chip
    Gotcha. I thought you were wondering about the number itself. But yes, 8.5x as many positive responses is very eye-opening. And even the negative responses for “George” were more encouraging.

    No editor for stuff in his own name, but the female name is for submissions to the pro short fiction market. Where his questionable math has led him to believe that women are much, much more likely to be published than men.

  28. I heard Cherryh read the first chapter(s) of Rusalka before it came out, and was excited to buy it. I was dreadfully disappointed to find that reading the final book was a much less interesting experience. I don’t know if it was revised badly, or if it’s a book that needs a storyteller.

    I loved the Alliance-Union books, including the Chanur books, which are theoretically connected. I haven’t read the Cyteen sequel yet, though – I get through very few non-previously-read novels these days. I haven’t read any of the Foreigner books, either. I did read, and recommend, Paladin, which feels like a fantasy but contains no fantastic elements other than being set in what seems to be an alternate China.

  29. “soot-stuff” is carbon and “breath-stuff” is oxygen

    Uncleftish Beholding – now there’s a title you aren’t likely to accidentally reuse.

  30. Jamoche, there’s also a creature that is recognizably a hadrosaur; it’s a vegetarian very large feathered creature which hoots using its skull as a resonance chamber. Which is why I assume most of the “three-toed” are dinosaurian, but I’m not enough of a paleontologist to identify them.

    I can’t recall the name offhand that Saunders gives the hadrosaurs, and my book is at home. Not that I would *ever* post from work….


  31. @kip
    Darn! You are always one pixel ahead of me!

    @all: The Foreigner series is the one with „Cold as Ice“ and „Urgent“, yes?

  32. Peer, Cherryh’s “Foreigner” novels all have one-word titles. The first three books are Foreigner, Invader, and Inheritor. There are currently 19 books in the series.

    I’m unfamiliar with “Cold as Ice” or “Urgent”. Are they short stories? If the protagonist is named Bren or there is any mention of Atevi (tall, black-skinned aliens) then they are set in that universe.

  33. @Oneiros

    Sorry just an edit to my dastardly plot: that should be Yeti Kicker – see it’s a totally different book. That just happens to have almost the same title. And be by an author with a suspiciously similar name. It’s totally not an attempt to cash in on someone else’s credibility, nuh-uh.

    Whoa whoa whoa right there. Lets back this up right now!
    You’re saying *I* have credibility? When did this happen? I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility! I

  34. @Peer and @Nicole J. LeBoeff-Little <facepalm> Ok, now I get it.

    I blame my substandard pop-music education.

  35. @Cassy B and @Peer and @Nicole —

    Ohhhhhhhh, grooooooooaaaaaannn. I am SO dense — I didn’t catch on til Cassy’s post!


  36. “Cold as Ice” was the name of a Charles Sheffield novel I think, but I don’t think he ever wrote one called “Feels like the First Time” – “Starrider” would be a good novel title though.

  37. Dear Lurker,

    Beats me, I am really crappy at time-binding. Could be a lot more than 30 years, could be a lot less! Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, y’know.


    Dear Ian,

    Well, rhymes with that…

    It is pronounced “kuh-TINE”.

    pax /Ctein

  38. Ctein: It is pronounced “kuh-TINE”.

    That’s still not clear to me. Is it “kuh-tyne”, like valentine, or “kuh-teen”, like guillotine?

  39. Dear JJ,

    Phonetic spellings are generally supposed to be read the most ordinary, non-exceptional way.

    pax / youknowwho

  40. Ctein: Phonetic spellings are generally supposed to be read the most ordinary, non-exceptional way.

    It’s possibly because of where I was raised geographically, or possibly because of my French degree, but when I see “-tine”, the non-exceptional pronunciation for me is “-teen”.

  41. @JJ: it rhymes with the pointy thing on the eating end of a fork.

    @Ctein: I hope you aren’t in danger of falling into the ocean any time soon!

  42. @Cassy B: I blame my substandard pop-music education. No such animal, just different experiences. (I quit paying attention when I realized I was never going to be a good enough bassist to be in a band but was a good-enough chorister to sing on some major stages — then picked up some random bits when oldies stations started getting serious in Boston 33 years ago and I was on the road enough that classical was chancy. Now they’ve faded again, from a peak of 6 to 2.)

  43. Hey, Chip — How ’bout that Luisa Miller? Just saw it for the first time on Wednesday night on the Met Live in HD encore broadcast, and boy did Piotr Beczala chew some tasty scenery! I wanted to slap his character upside the head for being such an idiot, but boy was the singing great! 🙂

Comments are closed.