Pixel Scroll 5/21/18 And The Book Recs, They Grow Just Like Lava Flows

(1) IT’S ALIVE! The Hollywood Reporter says “‘The Expanse’ Revived for Season 4 at Amazon”.

Amazon Studios is in talks to revive one of CEO Jeff Bezos’ favorite properties.

The retailer and streaming outlet is near a deal to revive space drama The Expanse for a fourth season just 10 days after Syfy canceled the series. Amazon Studios declined comment as sources note the deal is not closed.

Starring Steven Strait and based on James S.A. Comedy’s [sic] best-selling book series of the same name, Syfy had only first-run linear rights in the U.S. to The Expanse. Amazon Studios had streaming rights to the first three seasons of the show. Sources say Bezos is a big fan of the book and was livid that the TV series went to NBCUniversal-owned Syfy. The move is said to have ignited Bezos’ demand that Amazon Studios brass find the company’s version of Game of Thrones.

(2) FLYNN STROKE. Author Michael Flynn is hospitalized. His daughter made the announcement on Facebook:

Hi. This is Mike’s daughter. He will be absent from the internet for a few days, as he has had a pontine stroke and is in the hospital. After that, he’ll be going to rehab for a few days. He’s doing very well, all things considered. He’s eating a sandwich right now and has previously cracked some ill-advised “dad jokes” with the doctors and nurses.

Pontine stroke, described:

Pontine stroke is a type of stroke that happens when the blood flow in the brain stem is disrupted. The stroke is caused by decrease blood supply to brain stem. The blood flow is restricted to brain stem because of either rupture of blood vessels causing bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke) or obstruction of blood flow because of blood clot within the artery resulting in obstruction of blood supply (ischemic stroke).

(3) SUPPORT FOR ANTIHARASSMENT POLICIES. The Utah-based Rock Canyon Writers group of YA authors calls on writers to sign their “Conference Harassment Pledge”.

It has become increasingly clear that we must face the problems of sexual harassment and other kinds of harassment (racial, disability, sexual/gender identity, religion, nationalism, and more) that are happening within our own children’s literature community. We acknowledge that this is a systemic problem, and that systems of power are very difficult to change. They are also difficult
to see, but we must start to see the ways in which we are all implicated in looking away from uncomfortable talk about those we have once looked up to within the community. We cannot change this problem until we see it and face it
plainly. We must start thinking differently, intervening more quickly, believing victims more easily, and allowing excuses less readily. We cannot allow harassers to continue to act freely and without consequence, nor can we allow victims to be ignored, revictimized, or minimized. Nor can we continue a “whisper network” of knowledge that only helps those who are “in the know.”

… We plead with writers to cosign this document and to pledge NOT to attend conferences where there is no policy in place or where stated policies have not been followed through on.

(4) DOGWHISTLES FOR AI. “Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t.” The New York Times has the story.

Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

The way Walter Jon Williams puts it is:

Of course you knew that when you installed Alexa, Siri, or Google’s Assistant in your home, you were installing a spy.  You just trusted that Amazon, Apple, or Google would use your information for good, or at least would not actively harm you.

What you may not have known is that these assistants aren’t just spies, they’re potential enemy saboteurs.

(5) FOCUS ON THE DONUT NOT THE HOLE. Scott Edelman calls on everyone to “Relive Nebula Awards weekends past and present in the third lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic”.

In 2016, Eating the Fantastic brought you the Readercon Donut Spectacular.

In 2017, you were invited to partake of the Balticon Donut Extravaganza.

And now, in Episode 67, it’s time to experience—the Nebula Awards Donut Jamboree!

That’s right—it’s time for another lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic as 15 guests devour a tasty dozen—this time from Pittsburgh’s Just Good Donuts— while recounting their favorite Nebula Awards memories.

During the Nebula Awards weekend which ended yesterday, I sat near registration with a dozen donuts and a sign offering a free one to any who’d come on the show to chat about their memories of this annual event, and waited to see what would happen.

Which is how I ended up listening as Michael Swanwick explained how his love of Isaac Asimov impelled him to walk out on guest speaker Newt Gingrich, David D. Levine remembered catching the penultimate Space Shuttle launch, Daryl Gregory recalled the compliment which caused him to get yelled at by Harlan Ellison, Barry Goldblatt revealed what cabdrivers do when they find out he’s an agent, Cat Rambo put in a pitch for SFFWA membership, Fran Wilde confessed a moment of squee which was also a moment of ooops, Steven H. Silver shared how he caused Anne McCaffrey to receive a Pern threadfall, Annalee Flower Horne told of the time John Hodgman stood up for her onstage during the awards banquet, and much, much more!


  • Lise Andreasen says Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s “Responsible” makes it clear: “We’re doomed.”

(7) COMIC-CON LITIGATION. Bryan Brandenburg, of the now-renamed FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, told Facebook readers about the con’s next legal move:

If the San Diego Comic Convention vs Salt Lake Comic Con jury trial was the Empire Strikes Back, this marks Act I of Return of the Jedi. Dan Farr Productions has filed a motion for a new trial, which will likely lead to our appeal with the U.S. Court Of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

(8) HITTING THE BRICKS. Newsweek has pictures: “Lego Superheroes: Batman, Superman and Other DC Comics Characters Made of Over Two Million Bricks”.

American artist Nathan Sawaya’s captivates crowds around the world with his life-size sculptures of DC Comics’ most famous characters, building them with Lego bricks. His latest exhibition features over 100 sculptures, with some taking as long as two or three weeks to make. Besides patience, they require a lot of Lego. His recreation of the Batmobile is 18 feet long and uses around half a million bricks.

Sawaya was originally working as a corporate lawyer when he decided to turn to Lego as his creative outlet. “Some people go to the gym or go running at the end of the day; for me, I needed to create something,” he explained in a recent interview. Now he owns an art studio in Los Angeles housing over 7 million bricks.

(9) CAN YOU DIG IT? James Davis Nicoll is out to save the world: “Tugging on Superman’s Cape: Simple Suggestions for Avoiding World-Destroying Disaster. Or Not.”

There are, I think, a few basic safety rules which, if consistently ignored, will almost always provide would-be adventurers with sufficient diversion to create an exciting plot.

Rule number one: do not engage in archaeology. Do not fund archaeology. Above all, do not free that which has been carefully entombed. In most SF and fantasy settings, there were good reasons for entombment…and they still hold.

Indiana Jones did not manage to keep the Nazis from grabbing the Ark of the Covenant. No, the Ark protected itself. As you can see…

(10) THE THRILLING POO OF YESTERYEAR. NPR has the story: “DNA Analysis Of Ancient Excrement Reveals The Diets Of Centuries Past”.

When it comes to the nitty, gritty details, life in antiquity was pretty stinky – in a literal sense. Without high food and personal hygienic standards, most people probably contracted an intestinal worm at some point or another, says veterinary scientist Martin Søe. “I think it’s fair to say it was very, very common. In places with low hygienic standards, you still have a lot of whipworm and round worm.”

That also means lots of parasitic eggs dumped into latrines through the years. In a scientist like Søe’s eyes, that’s a historical record of what people ate and what ailed their guts. So he and his colleagues at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University began exhuming ancient excrement from toilets of yore to reconstruct snapshots of food and health in bygone centuries.

(11) CROWDED NEIGHBORHOOD. At the time E.E. Smith wrote the Lensman series, the odds against this were supposed to be, ah, astronomical: “‘Ground-breaking’ galaxy collision detected”.

Star nurseries

Known as starburst galaxies, the objects are extremely bright as they are forming stars at a high rate – up to 1,000 times as fast as the Milky Way.

Professor Caitlin Casey, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as “extremely unusual.”

“We often get excited when we find just two galaxies like this grouped together, because each one is already quite unusual and rare compared to ‘normal galaxies’, forming stars several hundreds or thousands of times faster than the Milky Way. To find fourteen such starbursts all grouped together is unheard of,” the University of Texas at Austin researcher commented.

(12) ARTFUL POSER. Science Alert finds “The Official Picard Facepalm Bust Makes Daily Life Less Futile”. ThinkGeek has produced a $65 limited-edition 6-inch Picard facepalm bust, with only 1602 said to be available. Bad news – the ThinkGeek website already shows it as Out of Stock.

ThinkGeek has the perfect salve for every Trekkies effort to resist the workplace grind. An official 6-inch bust of Jean-Luc Picard in his notorious, glorious facepalm pose.

There are so many moments in life where a glance toward Picard would be just what you need to take the edge off life’s less than stellar moments.

But, here’s the bad news. It’s a limited edition. Only 1602 people will be able to get their hands on this official merchandise.

…At US$64.99 it’s a little more than joke gift territory, but ThinkGeek has limited the bust to two per customer, so they know this thing will sell out fast.

Make it so. Before it’s too late.

(13) SING ME A SONG. Rev. Bob broke out a filk to wide applause in today’s comments:

The File 770 Rag

It’s file o’clock on a Caturday
My mailbox just sounded a chime
Mike’s news for fans is awaiting me
Today’s Pixel Scroll’s here right on time!

There’s a dozen or two short news items there
Plus a couple of odd videos
A comic or two and a birthday or three
And maybe some blog links – who knows?

Pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

Now Meredith’s cruising an ebook site
To tell us which books are priced right
But it seems that her dragon
Is blockin’ my wagon
So I’ll probably be here all night

I see movement – there, in a dark corner
They’re probably the shy lurker type
Far away, I may hear puppies baying now
But I’m not buying into their hype.

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Well, Kendall scored fifth ‘fore I hit the end
With Hampus in second-fifth place
Sometime Soon Lee will appear
Followed by Paul Weimer
As Stoic and Chip up the pace.

Damn, I can’t read this verse for the life o’ me
But not ’cause I’m blind, drunk or mean
No, JJ said it was too spoilery
And encoded it in ROT13.

Fpebyy hf fbzr cvkryf, Frira-Friragl
Freir hc gur arjf gbavtug
Lbh’er gur cynpr gung jr tb gb or “va gur xabj”
Naq gur pbzzragf jvyy ebyy va nyy avtug

The discussion’s still rolling on Caturday
Camestros and Tim just arrived
Lis, Jon, Andrew, Ctein,
James, Bruce, others most fine,
Ding! A new Pixel Scroll just arrived!

And the book recs, they grow just like lava flows
As Mt. Tsundoku’s slopes reach the skies
And my bank account weeps as my rent money creeps
Into publishers’ pockets – b’bye!

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Lise Andreasen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

71 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/21/18 And The Book Recs, They Grow Just Like Lava Flows

  1. Sorry to read that about Michael Flynn. In The Country of the Blind is one I always remember.

  2. (13) SING ME A SONG. OMG awesome, @Rev. Bob! How’d I miss this? Gah, I’m behind on yesterday’s comments. ::blush::

    Very well done! A favorite song crossed with a favorite web site – an unholy union that came out wonderfully. 😀

  3. Pre-fifth, not to be confused with free fifth, which reminds me: I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.

  4. I read “pontine stroke” and I thought “oh f*ck”. (That’s what got my father. But not the first time it happened to him.)
    Like BravoLimaPoppa, “In the Country of the Blind” is one book I remember.

  5. FanX is determined to fight battles on all fronts at once, aren’t they? Sheesh.

  6. (1) That title’s a bit of clickbait. It’s not a done deal yet, so please, everybody, watch this week’s episode, and keep tweeting to show Amazon The Expanse will have a ready-made and profitable audience. (Which shouldn’t be hard, as last week’s episode was fantastic.)

    On the reading front, I’ve finished City of Stairs and now see why everybody was raving about it. Currently, Moon and Shara are fighting for the #1 spot on my Best Series ballot, and I’m not at all sure who will win.

  7. I hope Michael Flynn recovers fully, and I hope Bezos makes Amazon pick up The Expanse!

    I have no idea what Bonnie is referring to by “Moon” and “Shara”.

  8. (1) Woooooooo! Maybe. Tentatively.

    (2) Sounds like he’s doing well — hope it continues.
    I first read that as “poutine stroke” and thought “probably, but how can they tell?” Mr. Flynn may feel free to tell that to his nurses as a dad joke.

    (4) Duh?

    (7) He can’t be claiming to be a good guy after this month’s fiasco. Comic-Con Int’l can certainly use his debacle to argue that he shouldn’t be allowed to use those words, since he’s bringing disrepute onto the name.

    (13) I’m off to feed the credentials and then go to bed, with this in my head.

  9. I also hope Michael F. Flynn recovers fully. The Firestar books are definitely underrated.

  10. Thanks. I’m embarrassed that I read the first 3 Raksura novels in the last week or so and didn’t make the connection. I’m using the excuse that’s it’s way past my bedtime.

  11. Rev Bob: I also missed this yesterday, it’s amazing! I especially laughed at the ROT-13.

    Fingers massively crossed for the Expanse – current series isn’t getting a UK release for a few months yet so I can’t do anything to boost legal viewership but I encourage anyone who can to do so.

    Recent Hugo reading has been limited but I did finish Words of Radiance, which I found significantly more enjoyable than its predecessor – the characters are in more interesting situations, engaging in problems where the stakes feel higher, and actually interacting with each other (although some of those interactions involve absurdly childish dialogue…). I can see what others enjoy in this series now and I might pick up the third at some point, although probably not during the voting period. The rest of the ballot is too strong for me to rank it high, and it’s still also Shara or Moon at the top for me, with Lady Trent close behind.

    (Related: massive shout out to this place called “the library” which I get to visit now that I’m in a country where I speak the dominant language and the legacy of censorship is minimal! They had New York 2140 too, which is now sitting in all its intimidating majesty on my immediate TBR shelf.)

  12. @Camestros: Be sure to convey my apologies to Timothy for shortening his name. As I mentioned in yesterday’s comments, I figured it was better than implying that you’d leave him at home… 😉

    @Lurkertype: Feel free to have a kip on the sofa over there if you like. That’s why we keep that corner dark. 😉

  13. 1) It’d be nice. I really do want many more seasons of The Expanse.

    2) Best wishes for Michael Flynn. I recall emailing Michael and chatting with him online back in the day, discussing Firestar, it’s sequels and its characters.

    General: The high quality of the ballot makes it HARD this year to come up with a satisfactory decision in a number of categories. (Truthfully I’d rather have this problem than 4 items of Puppy Poo and one non Puppy Poo candidate to vote for by default).

  14. 2) Good luck to Mr. Flynn. His Spiral Arm Series books are at the top of my most-re-read pile.

    8) The Lego Joker looks like Plastic Man trying to look like a Lego version of the Joker.

  15. Best wishes for Michael Flynn – I’ve read (and enjoyed) many of his works.

  16. @Kip W: It’s okay; the sofa’s in Australia.

    (The book I’m currently reading involves an unspecified Catastrophe which has apparently left Melbourne as the only remaining city. Food is scarce and the government is practically a police state, yet apparently there’s sufficient infrastructure for a sophisticated VR setting. Sounds rather like Ready Player One when I describe it that way, but it’s really not. Anyway, the writing is full of Aussie slang.)

  17. Sad to hear about Michael Flynn. Hopefully he’ll recover soon.


  18. 1 – Yay! Hopefully it works out. I thought Amazon would end up being the home for it, Netflix has a lot of SciFi originals right now and while The Expanse is better than most or all of them that’s a crowded space, while Amazon appears to be looking for content exactly like The Expanse.

    Now hopefully one of them pick up Hap and Leonard as well.

  19. Meredith Moment for anyone who doesn’t want to wait for the Hugo packet — Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks & Bones is $2.99.

  20. Okay, Filers… is there an eye doctor in the house? (Nothing’s wrong!)

    I’m trying to evaluate an SF idea to see if the anatomy involved makes sense, and I don’t have the medical chops to properly check it myself.

    In a nutshell, here’s the concept. Self-propelled nanites, either self-guided or controlled by some outside device, are suspended in a solution as eye drops, such that the patient can apply them at home. Once dropped onto the eye, the nanites “swim” from the outer surface around to the back of the eye, traveling up the optic nerves to reach the brain. From there, once enough are present, they are deployed for whatever specific purpose is needed – such as finding and destroying a traditionally inoperable brain tumor.

    From the anatomical details I can find, it looks plausible – but I’m well aware that looking at random sources online generally results in a simplified understanding which could omit crucial details.


  21. @Kip W

    Ummm, yeah, TOTALLY what Rev Bob said. NOT a cookbook. No such thing as Kip a l’orange…

    ***clumsily hides utensils behind back***

  22. Rev. Bob, the problem I can see is, how do they get inside the eyeball?

  23. (1): Keeping my fingers crossed. At least on Amazon I assume they won’t be censoring all of Avasarala’s F-bombs.

    (2): Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Michael Flynn.

  24. @PJ Evans: They don’t. Far as I can tell, climbing around/over the surface should suffice.

    Of couse, “far as I can tell” carries significant unknowns, hence the question.

  25. 2) Best wishes for a full recovery for Mr. Flynn. I love his work and had the pleasure of meeting him at ConFrancisco (Lord, that’s almost 25 ago). He’s a funny, engaging man.

    I’ll have to dig out some of his novels and revisit them. In the Country of the Blind is due for a re-read in any case. I also have Captive Dreams in Mt. TBR and it’s getting bumped to the top.

  26. @Rev Bob

    In a nutshell, here’s the concept. Self-propelled nanites, either self-guided or controlled by some outside device, are suspended in a solution as eye drops, such that the patient can apply them at home. Once dropped onto the eye, the nanites “swim” from the outer surface around to the back of the eye, traveling up the optic nerves to reach the brain. From there, once enough are present, they are deployed for whatever specific purpose is needed – such as finding and destroying a traditionally inoperable brain tumor.

    An interesting delivery method, but the eye socket doesn’t have any more of a direct connection to the nervous system than many other bodily locations. The optic nerve is contained within various membranes and structures which your nanites would have to penetrate to reach nerve tissue. And if they can penetrate those membranes, then they could just as easily penetrate others, e.g., injected into the bloodstream and then crossing through capillary membranes directly to brain tissue.

  27. On the reading front, I’ve finished City of Stairs and now see why everybody was raving about it.

    I know right? The Year of the Demented Puppy* was certainly a very strong year, and Divine Cities was robbed worse than TGE.

    *Guess what I’m currently reading?

  28. Just read the first Murderbot books back to back and now I hope there will be a TV series.
    Its difficult to pull off -you would have to hit the right spot between humor and suspense, but if Dirk Gently could do it (with a much more bonkers premise), this should be possible as well.
    Meanwhile I really look forward to the sequel.

    (FWIW I think the second story was a wee bit weaker on plot, but it still was entertaining for sure)

    Who can take a full blast (who can take a full blast)
    Or get eaten by a grue (get eaten by a grue)
    Get covered in blood or a limb or two
    The Murderbot (the murderbot)
    Oh, the Murder bot can (the Murderbot can)
    The Murderbotcan
    ‘Cause he is disinterested in humans
    And watches soap operas (watches soap operas)

  29. Dear Hive Mind, can anyone recommend a good version of retellings of Celtic myths and legends? I’m primarily interested in readability.

  30. I was going to suggest the Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton, but that’s actually Welsh.

  31. @Mark

    Short form or long form? Intended audience?

    Probably not what you’re looking for but I always enjoyed the novels of Morgan Llywelyn and the poetry of Lady Gregory. (ob SFF: Sturgeon used, in a short story, a modified version, via Yeats, of a poem she collected. That variant is one of my favorite poems). I have some short retellings of Irish myths at home but the collection titles aren’t coming to me at all.

  32. @Mark:

    It’s been a number of years since I read it, but The Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats might fit what you’re looking for. You can probably find it at Project Gutenberg.

  33. So for context, my daughter found my copy of The Greek Myths by Graves and declared it was wonderful, so I’m looking for similar books for different traditions. I’ve ordered the Gaiman Norse Mythology as she liked the sound of that too, and now I’m thinking Celtic versions. So I think short versions for preference, but I’m open to all suggestions.

    (Also, ones with handsome paper editions preferred over ebooks in this particular instance)

  34. @Mark – Tangential, but The Book of Kells, by R.A. MacAvoy may interest someone looking for a tie-in with mythic history. It may seem dated or be too adult-oriented for a kid, though.

  35. @Mark

    Considering Graves is of interest, Lady Gregory might actually work. Here’s a Project Gutenberg link for

    Gods and Fighting Men

    If the text looks promising, she’s still in print and has a number of other books available.

  36. @Rev. Bob: Naps are one of my favorite things! Thanks! But, um… Kip and I are pals, no thanks. JUST pals. And not cannibals.

  37. @Mark,
    The High Deeds of Finn MacCool by Rosemary Sutcliffe was a big favourite in my house when I was a kid (although that’s strictly Gaelic legends rather than Celtic Myths)

    Marie Heaney’s “Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends” is good but for an older audience. Again Irish rather than Welsh but has the classic invasions of Ireland by all sorts including the Tuatha DeDannan who have cross overs with Welsh myth.

    When I was a teenager I devoured the Penguin Classic translation of Geoffrey of Monomouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. I thought it was very readable at the time but I was an odd kid.

    Or for a bit of fiction Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is what made me want to read the Mabinogion (but I don’t know of a good translation of the Mabinogion) …also The Owl Service freaked me out as a kid.

  38. For something Irish/Celtic but a bit older, maybe the Joseph Jacobs Celtic/Irish Fairy Tales collections? Dover did some nice, illustrated editions along the lines of the Lang Colored Fairy Tale books. (Which might also be worth a look?)

    (Also, my favorite Greek & North remain the D’Aulaire books, if those aren’t pitched at too young an audience.)

  39. The Return of the Revenge of the Son of the House of the Bride of the Night of the Living Pixel Scroll

  40. Oh oh and I haven’t read Gaiman’s Norse myths but Kevin Crossley Holland’s version is great – and Joanne Harris’s more fictional take on Loki is also great.

    Everything is great.

    Books are great.


  41. Thanks for all the suggestions, I’ll have to take some time to look them all up and see which one(s) will work best.

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