Pixel Scroll 5/28/24 If Pixelscrolls Were All I File, I’d Rather Be Starstruck

(1) NEWITZ Q&A. In “’There’s No Way You Can Talk Back to a Gun’: On Psychological Warfare” at Happy Dancing Charlie Jane Anders interviews Annalee Newitz about Newitz’ book Stories Are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind

[ANDERS] So one really startling thing in your book is how much of psychological warfare comes out of real science, but kind of twisted sideways. Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays was an innovator of propaganda. Science fiction author Paul Linebarger, aka Cordwainer Smith, wrote a classic book about psychological war. How much of the roots of psyops come from pseudoscience?

[NEWITZ] One way that a psyop can be really effective is if it is crafted to give it the air of authority that comes from science. And of course, psychological warfare grows out of the field of psychology — it’s literally written on the tin. And a lot of these early psychological campaigns that you see in World War I and World War II really are pop psychology — they’re intended to play on people’s fears and neuroses, or their sexual anxities. Like one of the really popular psyops in World War II was telling the U.S. soldiers that bad guys were back home, stealing their women [while they were fighting overseas]. Very simplistic stuff. But remember, this is at the same time that advertising is also using these same techniques and saying, “Sex sells.”

But the other thing that is going on, is that a number of science fiction writers are contributing to propaganda efforts during both World War I and World War II, and up into the present. And what they bring to this project is an interest in how you create a story that’s really immersive and makes your audience feel like it’s real. Science fiction is really good at this because, like pop psychology, it often uses the language of science to bolster realism. Writers will describe faster-than-light ships in great detail, or depict an alien civilization in such concrete ways that you feel like an anthopologist standing there, looking at this alien world. 

(2) FURIOSA FLOPPARONI? BBC says the cash register isn’t ringing: “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga sees worst Memorial Day box office figures in almost 30 years”.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is off to a disappointing start at the US box office, bringing in $32m (£25m) over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Its takings make it the lowest box office figures for the holiday weekend since Casper debuted to $22.5m (£17.6m) in 1995.

Furiosa only narrowly beat its closest competitor, The Garfield Movie, which made $31.1m (£24.3m).

The figures for the 2024 weekend were significantly down from 2023, when Disney’s The Little Mermaid brought in $118m (£92.4m)….

(3) HISTORY OF SF IN 20 MINUTES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at Media Death Cult takes the brave step of recounting the key moments in the history of SF in a tad over 20 minutes. Some of this is shot on location at the Jodrell Bank radio telescope…(Don’t try this at home….) “The ‘Complete’ History Of Science Fiction”.

Much like the definition of Science Fiction I believe it will forever be impossible to pinpoint exactly when the genre was born it’s an art form that  spontaneously emerged from ancient human history the tales of Gilgamesh the epics of Homer and the musings of Aristophanes consider the concept of immortality and the idea of traveling to other Realms and meeting other life forms as far back as the second millennium BC… 

(4) CHAPTER ONE. James S.A. Corey — aka authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck – have a new book: “Expanse writers return with Mercy of Gods — read the first chapter now” – an invitation from Polygon. Here’s their intro:

The first in a new series, the Captive’s War trilogy, Corey’s The Mercy of Gods tells the story of an alien invasion, the enslavement of a human population, and a scientist’s assistant, Dafyd Alkhor, who stumbles into a deeper mystery. During a recent virtual event, Franck cheekily described the book as “the disappointing love child of Frank Herbert and Ursula Le Guin,” while Abraham said it was a total departure from the types of stories they were able to tell in the Expanse series. “It’s the story of living as a slave in a totalitarian regime,” he said via email. “How you stay true to — and even discover — yourself, how you compromise, how you serve the regime and how you can undermine it.”…

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

May 28, 1984 Max Gladstone, 40.  

By Paul Weimer. My greatest regret in reading Max Gladstone is that I didn’t start reading him sooner.  

Max Gladstone in 2022. Photo by Scott Edelman.

When Three Parts Dead, the first in his Craft Sequence novels came out, I was reading other things and left the book alone. I also got some wrong idea about what the book was about and so while Gladstone’s reputation started to grow from that one book, I had not picked up his work at the time. 

About a year-and-a-half later, when it was clear there were going to be more Craft books and that a number of people I trust considered him talented, I decided to pick it up. I was immediately struck by the strength of the prose, the complexity of the characters, and the logical and clever way Gladstone went about his worldbuilding. Even more than Tara Abernathy, the protagonist of the book, the other characters of the book, especially Elayne Kevarian, jumped off of the page at me. I began to read and acquire the rest of the Craft Sequence novels as they came out. His willingness to jump in time, focus on various events and characters speaks and sings to my worldbuilding heart, bringing a strong vision of what his world looks like from a variety of diverse perspectives, locales and characters. 

The book of his that sings to me the most, however, is none of the Craft Sequence novels, and not the audacious Empress of Forever, but, rather, Last Exit.  Readers of this space are well aware of my love of Amber and all things multiversal, long before the multiverse became a thing.  Last Exit tells the story of a group of people who, when younger, discovered they could travel alternate worlds. Now, ten years after their last disastrous trip, they have to get the band back together.  It is a book that like Amber, or like Zelazny’s Roadmarks, is an ultimate road trip book across realities and worlds. It’s a book with enormous heart, something that is very much at the bottom of Gladstone’s work. 

Happy Birthday Max.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

(7) ONE AND DONE FOR. ScreenRant dares to rank the “10 Best Monsters From Standalone Sci-Fi Movies”. And they begin the list with three flavors of monster for the price of one.

10. Mimics (Edge of Tomorrow, 2014)

Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow follows Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), who finds himself drafted into humanity’s ongoing war against a seemingly unstoppable race of hostile aliens called Mimics. Cage is killed in combat, but wakes in a time loop, reliving the same battle day after day. Gradually, he realizes that if he teams up with the decorated war hero Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), he can exploit the time loop to defeat the Mimic army and save the human race. 

Edge of Tomorrow was a fantastic Tom Cruise sci-fi movie that blended intense military action with the repeating time-loop narrative structure of Groundhog Day and featured one of the most compelling movie monster species in the Mimics. These were an extraterrestrial species that came to Earth and waged war against humanity and, in Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise’s character of Major William Cage was tasked with facing them time and time again. As an alien race that operated with a hive mind, Mimics were able to rewind time when they were killed and create temporal loops.

Science fiction movies have had countless monsters that have enthralled and terrified filmgoers for generations. While many of the most famous sci-fi monsters, like the Xenomorph or Predator, have continued to appear in sequels and ongoing franchises, other terrifying creatures left their mark in standalone movies. The one-and-done nature of these creatures made them all the more horrifying as the impact of their initial reveal was never lessened by subsequent appearances in later films….

As incredibly large brooding creatures that were hugely agile and possessed numerous tentacles, Mimics would often camaflouge themselves only to emerge and take out their unsuspecting prey. With three connected castes known as Drones, Alpghas, and Omegas, the Mimic species was truly a force to be reckoned with. While plans for an Edge of Tomorrow sequel have been festering for the past 10 years, for now, Mimics stand as one of the best monsters from standalone sci-fi movies.

(8) WICKED SPLIT. With “Movies: Wicked the Musical”, Shelf Awareness leads into the trailer:

A trailer has been released for Jon M. Chu’s two-part film adaptation of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical Wicked, which was based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Ariana Grande “is returning to her child-star roots” to play Glinda the Good Witch, with Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba (later known as the Wicked Witch of the West), Jonathan Bailey as Prince Fiyero, and Jeff Goldblum as the Wizard, IndieWire reported. 

The cast also includes Michelle Yeoh, Bowen Yang, Peter Dinklage, Adam James, Keala Settle, Bronwyn James, Ethan Slater, and Colin Michael Carmichael. Wicked: Part One premieres November 27 in theaters, with a 2025 holiday season release anticipated for part two.

Chu (In the HeightsCrazy Rich Asians) directs the project, written by Tony nominee Winnie Holzman. “We decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one Wicked movie but two!” Chu noted. “With more space, we can tell the story of Wicked as it was meant to be told while bringing even more depth and surprise to the journeys for these beloved characters.”

(9) THE WIZARD OF FLAWS. 13th Dimension is kind of harsh in its evaluation of “The Oddball World of 1949’s BATMAN AND ROBIN” serial. Is it deserved?

…The Wizard is uncredited until the final chapter, since part of the “cliffhanger” aspect to this story is the Dynamic Duo trying to figure out who he really is. The initial suspect seems to be the uber-crotchety Professor Hammil (William Fawcett), who has invented a device that allows the user to remote control any vehicle in Gotham City. Not too long after confronting Hammil for the first time, the wheelchair-bound inventor calls our heroes “A pack of careless idiots.” See? Crotchety!

The Wizard steals the device, and starts using it in ever-larger doses to show Batman and the GCPD that he means business. The machine runs on diamonds, so that means he has to steal a lot of them to keep it running. He spends a lot — a lot — of time in his secret cave base flipping switches and turning dials, while letting his fedora-d henchmen do the heavy lifting.

As you can see from the first chapter, where poor Bats has to tilt his head up so he can see through the eye-slits of his dime-store cowl, Batman and Robin is a cheap, cheap affair. Brought to you by the same team that would work on Atom Man vs. Superman, director Spencer Bennet and producer Sam “Eh, Good Enough” Katzman, this 15-chapter adventure has our heroes fighting almost exclusively during the day, which does Batman no favors. Most of the time, he and Robin just look completely ridiculous as they stand around regular citizens, and everyone pretends this is a totally normal set of affairs….

(10) FIDOUGHBOY. “China’s military shows off rifle-toting robot dogs”CNN has the story.

It looks like something out of the dystopian show “Black Mirror,” but it’s just the latest adaptation of robotics for the modern battlefield.

During recent military drills with Cambodia, China’s military showed off a robot dog with an automatic rifle mounted on its back, essentially turning man’s best (electronic) friend into a killing machine.

“It can serve as a new member in our urban combat operations, replacing our (human) members to conduct reconnaissance and identify (the) enemy and strike the target,” a soldier identified as Chen Wei says in a video from state broadcaster CCTV.

The two-minute video made during the China-Cambodia “Golden Dragon 2024” exercise also shows the robot dog walking, hopping, lying down and moving backwards under the control of a remote operator….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George experiences what it’s like “When Your Algorithm Starts Judging You”.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Jackson, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]


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19 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/28/24 If Pixelscrolls Were All I File, I’d Rather Be Starstruck

  1. First!

    I’m listening to Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet. I really can’t remember if I’ve listened to it before regardless of that but it’s quite excellent with a fascinating story and an excellent narrator in Rachael Delude.

  2. It has been noted that the Trailers for “Wicked” seem to go out of their way to avoid the fact that it is in fact a Musical

  3. I am reading Hugo Finalists. Started with the short stories and I’m just reaching the novellas. So far, even the ones I don’t like, it’s more “this isn’t for me” than “how did this get nominated.”

  4. (1) What, and no mention of Russel’s The Space Willies?
    (3) That was good. I really liked it. And if there was some way to contact him, given what he says he likes, I’d love to send him ARCs of both my books.
    Comics: Corman. Y’all know how I feel about him. And how could it not mention Battle Beyond the Stars?
    (9) Budget? What’s a budget? But there is one complete error: he should have said “a pair of careless idiots”, not a pack. Two is not a pack.
    (10) It looked to me as though they’ll be used the way police use robots to deal with explosives.

  5. 1) “Nothing But Gingerbread Left” –Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
    “Left! Left!
    Left a wife and seventeen children
    In starving condition and
    Nothing but gingerbread left! Left!”
    Almost as awful an earworm as Bester’s “Tenser, said the tensor!”

  6. (10) Not to worry, they’ll be programmed to follow the Three Laws of Robotics, right, guys? Guys?

  7. 1) No mention of “The Space Willies”/“Next of Kin” because they’re not talking about a plucky trickster spinning tall tales.

    It’s interesting to think about psychological warfare in Cordwainer Smith’s “The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal” though. The message crafted to ensnare “a normal pilot from Old Earth”, but also the way the narration shifts between “this isn’t true” and “everybody knows this” and “this may disturb you – don’t read” in a very calculated way that can be read as coming from the narrator, or from the author, or both. And of course the homophobia and transphobia at the heart of it that we’re invited not to pay too much attention to for the sake of a good story

  8. Thanks for the Title Credit! Feeling a little under the weather this morning.

    @Jeanne Jackson: Gingerbread Left is more effective on Gerrman-speakers (just as the weaponized joke in Monty Python was).

  9. @Jeanne Jackson, the way I learned it when I was a little girl fifty years ago was,
    Left! Left!
    Left my wife and forty-eight children
    Home in the kitchen in starving condition
    With nothing but gingerbread
    Left!

    I want to say that my grandfather, who was born in 1898, taught it to me, but after fifty years I’m not positive…

    It was a marching chant; left foot on Left (obviously), Wife, FORty, CHILdren, Home, KITchen, STARving, conDItion, NOthing, GINgerbread, Left

    It’s the only marching chant I know of that includes dactyls…

  10. Too late to edit; my grandfather was in training to be a pilot for WWI but thankfully the war ended before he finished; pilots had a very short lifespan in that war….

  11. Just in case this hasn’t been done already: “Tinker, Taylor, Pixel, Scroll”

  12. Sophie Jane – he is not a “plucky trickster spinning tall tales”, he’s waging psychological warfare on his captors.

  13. @mark

    I don’t think the one precludes the other. I see him as a trickster first because that’s how he comes across in the first half of the book before he’s captured, but it’s psychological warfare right enough.

    What I was really trying to get at is that it’s a very different kind of psychological warfare from the culture wars Annalee Newitz is talking about, in tone and in purpose.

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