Pixel Scroll 6/8/16 A Wrinkle in Tingle

Loot Crate

(1) GEEK SERVICE. LA Times covers “Loot Crate”, a service that sends buyers a monthly package of mystery merchandise.

In a single town, there might not be enough sci-fi and comics fans to sustain a shop. But across the world, they’ve got plenty of buying power.

The pop-culture-themed T-shirts, dolls, posters, flashlights, magnets and other nicknacks that come stuffed in the Loot Crate box are sometimes available at other online shops. But Loot Crate has separated itself by cultivating relationships with major entertainment companies.

That’s enabled Loot Crate to curate the most interesting products and land at least one big-ticket or highly sought item in every goodie box. Those one-of-a-kind offerings, such as a special “The Walking Dead” comic, often sell for many times the price of the box on EBay.

Entertainment and toy companies sometimes provide Loot Crate with merchandise at a bulk discount and view inclusion in the box as a crucial marketing tactic. Since customers worldwide receive the box around the same date, cool products can spur a blast of social media chatter about, for example, a new movie.

“It’s a virtuous circle of content, commerce and experience with incredible potential for fans and creators alike,” Bettinelli wrote on his blog last week.

(2) STARTING YOUNG. Thoughts on child rearing by Elizabeth Cady in “Raising Your Young Geek” at Black Gate.

A few weeks ago, I was playing with my daughter, who is on the brink of turning four.

“Come here you little demon,” I said.

“I’m not a demon! You’re a demon!” she shrieked before pulling an imaginary sword and shouting “WINDSCAR!!!”

Yup. I got full on Inuyasha-ed by a four year old pixie child….

(3) THAI SCORE. In Episode 10 of Eating the Fantastic Scott Edelman and Mary Turzillo share great food and great conversation at a spot in Las Vegas once dubbed “the best Thai restaurant in America” by Gourmet magazine.

Mary Turzillo and Scott Edelman

Mary Turzillo and Scott Edelman

We talked about whether there’s a Venn Diagram overlap between her horror and science fiction readership, how her Cajun Sushi Hamsters from Hell writers workshop got its name, why she won’t be self-publishing her unpublished novels, what Gene Wolfe taught her about revising her fiction, and much more.

In podcasts to come: four-time Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Linda Addison … followed by Gene O’Neill, Fran Wilde, and Cecilia Tan.

(4) GHOSTBUSTERS WHEELS. The new Ecto-1 is the perfect vehicle for delivering your loved ones to the grave, and returning them to it when they come back to haunt you.

(5) WHO SPOILAGE: BEWARE. ScienceFiction.com has a reason for asking “’Doctor Who’: Will We See Clara Return In Season 10?”.

At the Washington Awesome Con this past weekend during a panel featuring both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, Capaldi was asked how the Doctor would be getting along now that his companion is gone:

Capaldi: “I’m not sure how successfully Clara was able to wipe his mind. In fact I just did a … I was about to tell you something I can’t tell you.”

Coleman: “I just noticed that. Good save. Good save. It’s something to look forward to.”

Trying to salvage his almost faux paux as well as give a little tease to the attendees, Capaldi added:

“I just shot something… Clara was still there.”

Here’s the video that inspired the article.

(6) WHO’S GOT THE MOST DOE? David Klaus recommends Bjorn Munson’s blog Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: “This man has done an excellent job of detailing all the issues involved in the CBS/Paramount v. Axanar lawsuit, along with timelines.” Munson’s latest post, 22nd in a series, is “Axanar Lawsuit: The Counterclaim and the Road Ahead”.

You’ll see we’re coming up to June 8th where additional defendants, known as “Does” will have to be named or be dropped from the lawsuit (this amounts to a card the Plaintiffs have to play or lose).

There is much speculation about which Does will be named and what their defense lawyers will do. We’ll also know what CBS/Paramount thinks of the counterclaim above by Monday, June 13th.

I’ll save further speculation and observations for others or when I get more information. For now, I mainly wanted to write this post for friends and fellow filmmakers who wanted to know the Axanar lawsuit timeline and how nigh impossible it will be for Axanar to win the case should it go to trial.

I know they’re not going to admit that. That’s playing a card they don’t have to. But they’re going to settle. It’s just a question of when.

(7) RECOVERING AT HOME. Unfortunately, George R.R. Martin came home from Balticon 50 with the con crud. Best wishes for a quick rebound.

I am back home again in Santa Fe, after two weeks on the road in Baltimore and New York City.

Great trip… but I seem to have brought the plague home with me.

Some kind of con crud was going around at Balticon. My assistant Jo was stricken with it, as was my friend Lezli Robyn, though in both cases it did not manifest until after the con. Coughing, fever, headache, congestion, more coughing.

I got it too, albeit a milder case. And then my assistant Lenore was stricken. (So far Parris has been spared, knock wood).

(8) ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ELROND. Hampus Eckerman sent the link to a HowStuffWorks quiz

Can you spot the prescription drug names among Elf names from J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium? Test your Elven race IQ.

I scored very badly….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 8, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. The novel’s all-seeing leader, known as “Big Brother,” becomes a universal symbol for intrusive government and oppressive bureaucracy.
  • June 8, 1984 Ghostbusters was released.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.

(11) NO OCTARINE. Remember the petition to honor the late Terry Pratchett by giving element 117 the name Octarine — “the color of magic” from Pratchett’s fiction? Well, they didn’t. From SF Site News we get the link to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announcement:

octarine

Following earlier reports that the claims for discovery of these elements have been fulfilled [1, 2], the discoverers have been invited to propose names and the following are now disclosed for public review:

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113,
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115,
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117, and
  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118.

(12) CALLING YOU. Alexandra Erin is offering prizes: “De-Gendering Stories: A Challenge”

I’d love to see more writers exploring this kind of writing, so here we come to my challenge: write a story of any length with at least two characters and no references to their gender.

There are many ways to do this, none of them wrong. You can simply avoid using personal pronouns in the narration, as most of the stories I referenced above do. You can use a gender neutral pronoun. You can write it in first or second person, allowing one of the characters to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns such as I/me or you. The lack of gender can be part of the story (agender characters, distant characters communicating via text, a character whose identity is obscured and unknown) or it can be incidental. It can be a short vignette or dialogue, it can be a classic story with a beginning, middle, and end. It can be a story where the lack of gender is the point, or it can be a story where it’s incidental.

If you undertake this challenge and you post your story somewhere (your blog, Tumblr, a fic archive), please send a link to it to my email address blueauthor (Where? At…) alexandraerin (Neither Wakko nor Yakko, but Dot) com, with the subject heading “Gender Free Writing Challenge”. On August 1st, I’ll post a round-up of links to the stories I have received by that point.

To encourage participation, let’s make it interesting. I will award prizes of $25, $15, and $10 to the story I enjoy the most, second most, and third most, respectively. Depending on how many responses I receive, judging and award of the prizes may not happen until later in the month. As English is the only language in which I am a skilled enough reader to judge stories, I can only provide prizes to stories that are in English or have an English translation. I know there are languages in which the challenge portion of this challenge is trivial, but to be considered for the prize, the English version must also be gender neutral.

(13) OUT OF MY MIND. M.P. Xavier Dalke reviews John Brunner’s 1967 short story collection Out of My Mind at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature.

Out of My Mind, thankfully, doesn’t contain any of the chaff; nor does it, however, show any great ambition or artistry that Brunner later exhibited along the lines of Stand on Zanzibar (1968) or The Sheep Look Up (1972). The best stories in this collection, comparatively, soar far above such dreck as “No Other Gods But Me” (1966). At the same time, they have an aura of whim exuded by the author—many of them aren’t serious in nature, yet are cleverly based on the kernel of an idea that Brunner ran with. This doesn’t always translate well as it feels just like that: this is my seed of my idea (which may be good or bad, depending on the reader) and this is the roughly textured chaff that surrounds it (sometimes good, sometimes bad, too).

(14) ALL THE BIRDS. Camestros Felapton brings us “Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders”.

When we first meet Patricia Delfine she is a young child and her story slips very quickly from realism into fairy-tale with talking birds and unnecessarily cruel parents and sibling. It is unclear what is reality and what is simply the work of an over-active imagination but Charlie Jane Anders’s first novel doesn’t stop to discuss this. Instead she leaves the reader with a choice – to take Patricia’s story at face value (talking birds and magical trees amid the petty tyrannies of school and childhood) or to reject it just as her peers and the adults around her reject it.

Which takes us to Laurence. Anders presents us with a choice here as well, but rather than fairy tales Laurence’s apparent escape into fantasy is via science-fiction. He has built himself a two-second time machine and is using broken up bits of old games consoles to create a super-computer. …

Read the review for the verdict.

(15) ALL FELAPTON ALL THE TIME. Do we need File 770 when there are so many Felapton gems to reblog? “A Special Commission for Brian Z (based on an original idea by Dave F.)” – such artistry, Van Gogh would slice off his other ear from sheer envy.

I couldn’t manage a direct pastiche of John Harris’s covers but why not just have a cover based on the core idea of an army of tea drinking, AI-controlled zombie ancillary walruses?

(16) AFTERLIFE AUTOGRAPH SESSION. Paul Davids will read from his new hardcover about Forrest J Ackerman’s posthumous, paranormal adventures An Atheist in Heaven: the Ultimate Evidence of Life After Death? at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale on June 11 from 2-4 p.m. (The book is co-authored by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D.) Davids says, “Forry friends, living or dead, please come!!”

Paul Davids ad5 556 KB

 

Davids other works will be available, too, DVDs of The Life After Death Project and The Sci-Fi Boys.

Cover artist L.J. Dopp will be signing the hardcover and his prints, and reading from his upcoming, satiric fantasy-genre comic book, Tales of The Donald: The Billion-Dollar Time Machine.

Mystery & Imagination is at 238 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203.

(17) COLLECTIBLE COMICS RULE. And mothers world-wide tossed them out…. “High-value comic books are outperforming traditional investments” reports Yahoo! Finance.

Gocompare.com collected information on comic books to determine those that have appreciated the most in price since 2008 compared to the S&P 500’s performance. The top performer was DC’s Batman Adventures #12, first published in 1993. The original cost of the issue was $1.25, and in the last eight years, it has appreciated in price to $800, making a 26,567% return.

“We saw it really take off in terms of rising in value on news that a Suicide Squad spin-off might be in the cards. Then it really rocketed when the producer signed up in 2014, and it was confirmed. That particular comic features Harley Quinn, who we know is going to be one of the main characters in Suicide Squad,” said Nilsson. Suicide Squad will be released in August.

(18) BUSINESS IS BOOMING. Future War Stories lists the Top 10 Critical Elements of Good Military Sci-Fi.

1. An Convincing Enemy

In the real-world, wars and conflicts are fought between groups that have their own philosophies, society, culture, strategies, and point-of-view on the conflict. Rarely, are the parties involved in armed conflict irregular and loosely aligned..even street gangs, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS have their own interior culture and strategies. However, the same cannot be said of the “enemies” seen in science fiction. At times, they are paper-thin antagonists and merely targets for our heroes to shoot at. Creators will forge their protagonist and their side of the conflict in lavish loving detail, but nearly ignore the antagonist side of the conflict. In works like Enemy Mind, Footfall, ROBOTECH, HALO, Killzone, and even Star Trek we see well-developed antagonist to an conflict with the audience seeing more as a fully formed part of the work’s interior universe. This only adds layers to your military sci-fi, making it more memorable and enduring.

However, we have works like Destiny, GI Joe, Armor, Starship Troopers, Edge of Tomorrow, and Oblivion; where we see that the story is mostly centered around the protagonist(s) and their side of the conflict. While Destiny answered some of the questions over the Darkness, the Fallen, the Vex, the Hive, and the space turtle Cabal via Gilmore Cards, they lack any real substance in the actual game besides being targets. And this lack of development leads to a less convincing setting for our military sci-fi universe and for the audience.

There are times, when the story is more about the “good” guys of the story than the enemy, like my book Endangered Species, but I still developed the enemy enough via my characters experiences with them, like the crew of the Nostromo in ALIEN. There has to be a careful balancing act in those kinds of stories. This can also be applied to stories and settings where the enemy is largely unknown for plot and dramatic purposes, like Space: Above and Beyond, ALIENS, and Predator. These types of stories allow the audience a sense of good mystery and wonder about the antagonists, allowing for the work to endure in the minds of the audience. This is the way I felt about the Xenomorphs, the Yautja (Predators), the Skinnies from SST, and the Chigs; I wanted to know more about them and that was compelling, making these enemies more convincing to the fictional universe. Also, an convincing enemy can say more about your protagonist and our fictional universe than you original thought.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, David K.M. Klaus, Andrew Porter, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

147 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/8/16 A Wrinkle in Tingle

  1. I was aiming for editor of the day creds on that “An Convincing Enemy”, but it’s in the original. Twitch. At least mark it with a “sic”?

  2. And wow, that drug/elf quiz. I was happy when it booted me at 22, I only had 13 correct guesses.

  3. 23/30 on the elf drug quiz, more due to pattern recognition than actual knowledge of Tolkien…

    (Accidental fifth!)

  4. (18) BUSINESS IS BOOMING. Honestly, as a peacenik I should be completely down with this argument, but I only sort of agree. Yes, it can be a Big Problem when stories habituate us to esteeming the slaughter of a faceless Other. Even when, because SF, the premise is that the enemy is in “fact” a faceless Other, the way stories splash back on life means it can be problematic.

    On the other hand, sometimes your story doesn’t have thematic room for developing the full personhood and social context of the enemies. I haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow, but I gather it’s using the setting as a vehicle to look at Groundhog Day-like issues of habit and growth. Painting a detailed portrait of the enemy forces is extraneous to that.

    Starship Troopers is a harder call. It’s about the psychology of recruitment and committing to military life on one level, and that doesn’t necessarily change based on who the enemy happens to be. On another level, though, it’s an apologia for militarism, and in that context, abstracting away the personhood of the antagonists feels like cheating.

  5. The Vegas Thai restaurant in that Eating the Fantastic, Lotus of Siam, is indeed excellent. Requires the ability to go several miles off-Strip to get to it however, as it’s in a mildly sketchy strip mall (no particular problems I’ve heard about going to LoS at any hour, but it’s not a neighborhood I’d wander around on foot).

    My personal element name disappointment is that the Japanese-named one didn’t turn out to be Godzillium.

  6. 26 of 30 on the quiz. Some of the elf names I remembered, some of the drug names had letter combinations that Tolkien never would have used. (“Qvar”? Really?)

  7. Thanks for the link. Sounds like although today is the deadline for naming Does, we mere mortals waiting to see it appear in public records and such may not know for a few days… or will even have to wait until the complaint is amended. (Man, I’m learning more about legal minutiae than I ever thought I would… all for Star Trek).

  8. Finally fixed Stylish to get it to whiteout the handful of File 770 trolls. Had to recopy all of the code to get it to take. The level of stupidity in the comments was reduced by quite a bit now that Brian Z’s contributions have been whited out.

  9. 27/30. I am ashamed. I think in all cases it was elves I classed as drugs.

    Finished Universe, which was fun, finished Penric’s Demon in something close to one sitting, and am now starting Binti.

  10. I totally bombed the elf/drug quiz. And you’d think I’d do reasonably well, given that I work in pharmaceuticals. I was doing worse than random chance.

  11. PJ Evans: I dropped out of the drug/elf quiz. I was getting less than half of them.

    Stunning, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe how badly I was doing.

  12. (18) Regarding “A convincing enemy”, I was pleasantly surprised by the “Pandora’s Star” and “Judas Unchained” stories by Peter Hamilton when we finally got to see the perspective of the faceless alien invader. The reasons given for MorningLightMountain’s genocidal push against humanity were, within its own context, clear, logical and sensible – and also showed that there was no way to compromise with it.

  13. (8) ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ELROND

    19/30, and much kicking of myself.

    (11) NO OCTARINE

    So no Lemmium either? Sorry, Hampus.

    Looks like they all went for geographical references, or the name of the team leader.

  14. “So no Lemmium either? Sorry, Hampus.”

    This is a great loss for humanity. 🙁

  15. (6) I backtracked to the link that blog based their report on (The G&T Show), which is a page-by-page analysis of the counterclaim by a lawyer, and wow. It looks just as bad as thought. Page 9 and 10 made me snicker, as did Page 19-21.

  16. Re: #8
    I got 26 out of 30. And my husband and I have said for years that Lysinopril, his blood pressure med, would be a lovely RPG chararacter name. He is an elf, who pilots a giant robot named Lipitor.

  17. And my husband and I have said for years that Lysinopril, his blood pressure med, would be a lovely RPG chararacter name. He is an elf, who pilots a giant robot named Lipitor.

    I’m glad to hear that your husband’s allowed to pilot giant robots despite blood pressure issues.

  18. I haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow, but I gather it’s using the setting as a vehicle to look at Groundhog Day-like issues of habit and growth

    Pretty much. The original light novel All You Need is Kill, though it’s different enough that it can’t really be used as a supplement to the movie, spells out that the invaders are biological xenoforming units.

  19. 26 out of 30. Both Celeborn and Celebrian were in there, so there were a few obvious ones. Most of the drugs I didn’t recognize.

  20. Re: The Quiz. 24. Shoulda had more caffeine first.

    But it IS amusing to think as a GM that I could populate my NPCs/GMCs with drug names…

  21. How challenging is it to write a gender-neutral story?

    “It puts the lotion in the bucket”, I said.

    Done.

  22. ” In works like Enemy Mind, Footfall, ROBOTECH, HALO, Killzone, and even Star Trek we see well-developed antagonist…”

    Footfall!?! Baby elephants with two tusks and elevator shoes!?! Well developed….

    Cough*splutter*wipe coffee off the keyboard.

    OK. Now, do I read the whole thing or just walk away…?

  23. Populating works with drug names:

    Theatre critic Ken Tyan wrote of how the incessantly invoked multisyllabic foreign/historical names such as Mycetes, Celebinus, Usumcasane, Theridamas and Callipine in Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine the Great” got blurred in his mind “rather as if they were a horde of pills and wonder drugs bent on decimating one another:

    Young Streptomycin, take a thousand horse
    And storm the gates of Sulphacetamide!
    But who comes here? The currish Pentathol
    Doth spur his steed across the grassy plain
    With Formalin and mighty Dexamyl.
    Beard’st thou me here, thou bold Barbiturate?
    Sirrah, thy grandam’s dead – old Nembutal.
    The spangled stars shall weep for Nembutal,
    As Jove himself did cry for Chlorophyll.
    She’ll serve thy turn, and that of Ephedrine.
    Is it not passing brave to be a king,
    Aureomycin and Formaldehyde,
    Is it not passing brave to be a king,
    And ride in triumph through Amphetamine?”

  24. Aaron, please check your sin bin for an e-mail from me.

    I got the e-mail, and thank you. That will be extremely helpful.

  25. Well, I read it. It inverts the entire focus: stories are about people; the military/warfare/etc., is just a setting for those people to do stuff in.

    And, ummm, last time I checked, logistics was important too, whether you quote Clausewitz or not…and ummm, yes, the military does things with teams, but those teams are carefully constructed to receive a lot of damage and continue to function, and ummm, there are plenty of military circumstances that feature loners (coast watchers, anyone?) and, ummm, I think the TRENCH is a far more iconic feature of WWI than the Mark IV (male or female?) tank….

    Who was it wrote that piece, maybe a week ago, suggesting that SF was splintering into separate disciplines…?

  26. (Vid: A busy streetside scene outside a medical clinic. Adult daughter in polished red SUV. Grey-haired FATHER ambles out of clinic, using cane.)

    (FATHER gets into the car. A beat.)

    DAUGHTER: Well?

    FATHER: (resolute) I asked my doctor about Lipizorg.

    DAUGHTER: So what did he say?

    FATHER: (with increasing intensity) He said that Lipizorg is A GIANT ROBOT MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE!

    DAUGHTER: (screams)

    FATHER: AND HE’S HEADED THIS WAY! FLOOR IT, STEFFIE!

    To see how this turns out, go here and scroll down about 3/4 of the way to the bottom–or ctrl-F for “lipizorg”.

  27. “…and, ummm, I think the TRENCH is a far more iconic feature of WWI than the Mark IV (male or female?) tank….”

    True, but Mark IV showed how efficient it was against thrench warfare in the Battle of Cambrai. It is an interesting example on how new technology changes the necessary tactics in the war.

  28. Jim Henley: Is it Nobel Prize season already?

    What, the Puppies have been slating the Nobels, too?

  29. 29/30 on the drug/elf quiz, but some of those elves were … obscure.

  30. But I do not really agree with the post about Military SF. I mean, this sentence:

    “But, we humans seem to crave the opportunity of combat, and this has fueled thousands of years of war stories across all media forms and likely always will. “

    I would say that most people want to avoid combat. Crave peace. They rage and rage against those total idiots that drag them into war again and again. They might be willing to send others to war, but most people will absolutely try to avoid being sent there themselves. And hate the war.

    As such, I find the most interesting Military SF being that where people want to survive, to avoid combat. I mean look at two of the greates books ever written about the military: Catch 22 and The Good Soldier Švejk. How much combat is it in them? None at all if I remember correctly. It was only about people being dragged into a strange military beauraucracy against their will.

    I have no problems with there being combat in Military SF. But it bores me if there is too much of it or if the protagonists are being glib about it (looking at you, Butcher).

  31. “What, the Puppies have been slating the Nobels, too?”

    They’ve had a lot of undue influence on the Peace Prize.

  32. Hampus: as I’m sure you know, barbed wire and the Maxim were perhaps the most effective weapons deployed during that war.

    The “tank”, from France’s cute little Renault to Germany’s ridiculous A7V were deployed and saw action, and quite a few started out for battle at Cambrai, but by the second day far more than half were sitting metal ducks. The initial success did offer a potential end to the stalemate on the Hindenburg Line, but tank people were still talking about “land cruisers” after the war had ended….

    (No A7V’s at Cambrai of course, but they were abysmal…)

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