Pixel Scroll 7/30/18 There Have Been Rumors About This Strange Scroll, Frightening Rumors About Hapennings Way Beyond The Laws of Nature

(1) FREE ELIZABETH BEAR BOOK. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager, Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University wants Filers to know they recently published We Have Always Died in the Castle, a free ebook featuring a near-future story about virtual reality by Elizabeth Bear. It also features a couple of stunning original illustrations by Melissa Gay.

Virtual reality technology is no longer confined to computer-science labs and high-tech theme parks. Today, head-mounted goggles, sensors, and haptic control systems are tools for immersive journalism, professional development, and clinical therapy. In this novella, award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Elizabeth Bear and artist Melissa Gay imagine a near future informed by visceral VR simulations to catalyze positive change.

We Have Always Died in the Castle is the first story in the Crowd Futures project from Arizona State University. An experiment in collaborative storytelling, Crowd Futures brings authors and illustrators into dialogue with members of an intellectually curious public to participate in the creative process by proposing scenarios, sharing ideas, weighing options, and navigating the uncertainties of our looming scientific and technological discoveries.

(2) ON THE RADIO. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie tells Filers when to tune in to BBC Radio 4.

Cowie says, “A slight shame this was not broadcast a couple of weekends ago as that would have been compensation for those of us who did not go to the Eurocon in Amiens, the home of Jules Verne”

  • Radio 4 Extra (a separate BBC radio channel supplementing Radio 4) will shortly see a programme on the comic Eagle [Wikipedia]. (But I don’t think they – BBC – have a web page for this prog yet). This was a mainstay for kids aged 8 to 12 in the 1960s wit a few SF related strips.  The most famous of which was Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future [Wikipedia].
  • The channel will also broadcast a related programme, a drama adaptation of the Dan Dare adventure Voyage to Venus (there is a page for it).

(3) ATTENTION ALL FILERS WHO HAVE $100K THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH. A rare Magic: The Gathering card (“Black Lotus from the original [Alpha] release”) has sold on eBay for $87,672 — not counting shipping of $125  There were “exactly 1,100 copies printed of every ‘rare’ card in the Alpha set” (Kotaku.com: “Rare Alpha Black Lotus Sells For $87,000”) and ghis one was graded as a 9.5/10. At this writing, another copy (graded 9/10) is listed on eBay for $100,000.

(4) ORDER A NORSE COURSE. Francesca Strait, in “Channel Your Inner Thor At This Viking Restaurant in Australia” on CNN.com, says that if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne, you can have a Viking feast at Mjølner restaurant, named after Thor’s hammer.

It might be thousands of miles from Scandinavia, but this Viking-themed restaurant offers a contemporary interpretation of Norse traditions Down Under.

Mjølner restaurant first originated in Sydney and there’s a recently opened outpost in Melbourne, named after Thor’s famous hammer.

Of course, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, is a proud Aussie and featured in a recent Crocodile Dundee-themed tourism ad for Australia, so it’s only fitting the feasting halls of Asgard are being recreated in Oz.

(5) SEMI-FORGOTTEN HARD SCIENCE. James Davis Nicoll remembers when “When Ramjets Ruled Science Fiction”.

The classic Bussard ramjet novel is, of course, Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero. What was for other authors a convenient prop was one of the centerpieces of Anderson’s novel. The Leonora Christina sets out for Beta Virginis, a nearby star. A mid-trip mishap robs the ship of its ability to slow down. Repairs are impossible unless they shut down the ramjet, but if the crew did that, they would instantly be exposed to lethal radiation. There’s no choice but to keep accelerating and hope that the ship will eventually encounter a region in the intergalactic depths with a sufficiently hard vacuum so that the ramjet could be safely shut down. Even if they did find such a region, the crew is still committed to a journey of many millions of light years, one that will forever distance them from their own time.

Even before Tau Zero, Bussard ramjets were everywhere. Larry Niven’s A Gift From Earth feature an egregiously hierarchical society that is toppled thanks to a package delivered by robotic ramship. Jo Walton’s review of that novel is here.

(James Davis Nicoll also proudly notes, “I got name-checked in the Guardian” — “The English language reigns now, but look at the fate of Latin”.

The point is made graphically by a famous description attributed to James Nicoll: “We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary”.


  • Born July 30 – Arnold Schwarzenegger, 71. Terminator franchise of courses as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, Tales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots.
  • Born July 30 – Christopher Nolan, 48. Writer, producer and often director as well of the Batman film franchise, The Prestige, Interstellar, Inception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work.

(7) HINTING UNDINTING. An utterly brilliant challenge on Reddit: In limerick form (AABBA), and without saying its name, what is your favorite movie?

There once was a man with a dream:
“Put a dream in a dream!” He would scream.
There’s a top at the end,
And we all pretend
That we definitely know what it means.

Two rockers were failing a class,
so they telephoned back to the past.
They escaped awful fates
with some help from Socrates,
and the speech by Abe Lincoln kicked ass.

(One commenter says the choice to rhyme fates and Socrates was excellent.)

It’s a tale that’s a bit unbelievable:
A princess is now irretrievable.
When a man all in black
Catches up from the back
The kidnapper says, “Inconceivable!”

(8) ARTIFICIAL STUPIDITY? “IBM’s Watson supercomputer recommended ‘unsafe and incorrect’ cancer treatments, internal documents show”STAT News has the story – behind a paywall, unfortunately.

Internal IBM documents show that its Watson supercomputer often spit out erroneous cancer treatment advice and that company medical specialists and customers identified “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations” as IBM was promoting the product to hospitals and physicians around the world.

The documents — slide decks presented last summer by IBM Watson Health’s deputy chief health officer — largely blame the problems on the training of Watson by IBM engineers and doctors at the renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


  • July 30, 1958War Of The Colossal Beast enjoyed its New York theatrical premiere


  • Monty illustrates one of the downsides of a writer using a coffee shop as free office space.
  • Non Sequitur explains when to accept defeat.
  • Would you admit your worst fear? — Candorville.


(12) POLITICAL DISCOURSE. One small step for man, one giant bleep for mankind. From the Washington Post — “Perspective What is Bigfoot erotica? A Virginia congressional candidate accused her opponent of being into it.”

Our weird political era just got a little hairier. For the first time, millions of Americans are asking, “What is Bigfoot erotica?”

That question has been inspired by Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat who’s running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District. On Twitter this Sunday, Cockburn accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica.” Her tweet included a crudely drawn image of Bigfoot — with the monster’s genitalia obscured — taken from Riggleman’s Instagram account. She added, “This is not what we need on Capitol Hill.”

…Chuck Tingle, the pseudonym of an author of comically absurd erotica, is perhaps the most well-known creator of monster porn, including about 10 books featuring encounters with Sasquatch. Reached via email, Tingle said he understands why Bigfoot monsters are so attractive as romantic heroes: “They are natural outdoorsmen .?.?. which I think is nice, and, even though it seems like they could have a bad-boy way, they are actually very kind.” He imagines his readers think, “Wow, he could protect me in a big fight, and he could also take me on a walk in nature and show me which are the best plants to kiss or to eat in a stew.”

“Such stories, he said, “prove love is real for all.”

Whether the voters of Virginia’s 5th District will agree is not clear

(13) A FUTURE TO AVOID. Ian Allen’s opinion piece “Inside the World of Racist Science Fiction” in the New York Times says “To understand why white supremacists back the president, we have to understand the books that define their worldview.” Andrew Porter sent the link with a note, “The article has a horrible title, bound to sow confusion. Absolutely nothing at all to do with professionally published science fiction, or SF fandom.” Just the same, I’m surprised I  never heard of any of these authors before.

Two years later — after Richard Spencer, after Charlottesville — the public has heard a lot about white supremacist culture. But I’d argue that we haven’t quite heard enough. To understand their ideologies and why they support this president so strongly, we need to examine their literature…..

Most of the books are self-published. Others are distributed by small, activist imprints or the publishing arms of white nationalist organizations. They are sold online, at gun shows or person to person. This scattershot distribution system makes it hard to track sales, but the more popular titles are estimated to have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. I acquired some out-of-print titles from rare book dealers.
They are dog-eared, annotated and often inscribed.

… White supremacists seem convinced that the novels’ “white genocide” is coming to life, and are petitioning Mr. Trump for help. This past spring, Andrew Anglin, the deeply sinister and darkly clever force behind Daily Stormer, the most Millennial-y neo-Nazi site on the web, started to spread the news of a “migrant caravan” that was moving through Central America, toward the United States-Mexico border. It was a protest march, organized by the Central American pro-immigration activist group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. The march has taken place every year since 2010 without ever getting much traction in the press.

But Mr. Anglin saw an opportunity in the implication of a literal enactment of [Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel] “The Camp of the Saints.” He rallied his troll army to petition Mr. Trump to use the word “caravans” publicly, and on April 1, he did. In fact, he and Vice President Mike Pence used the word multiple times, then issued an order to send the National Guard to the border. The story dominated the news cycle for days, and Mr. Anglin took a well-deserved victory lap, bragging that “the media was not talking about this, only the alt-right was, and Trump is posting about it — so he does hear us.”

…It is unlikely that Mr. Trump has read any of these books. But members of his staff undoubtedly have. His former aide Steve Bannon is a fan of “The Camp of the Saints” and refers to it often — in knowing, offhand ways that betray both his familiarity with racist literature and his awareness of his target audience’s reading habits. Another administration official, Julie Kirchner, was named ombudsman at the Customs and Border Protection after spending 10 years as the executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. That organization, which Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group, was founded by John Tanton, who runs The Social Contract Press, which is the current publisher of “The Camp of the Saints.”

The point is not that there is a direct line between, say, “The Turner Diaries” and the Oval Office. Rather, it’s that the tropes that define the Trump administration’s rhetoric and policies — apocalyptic xenophobia, anti-Semitic conspiracies, racist fear-mongering — are also the tropes that define white-supremacist literature.

(14) EMISSION QUITE POSSIBLE. James Corden looks like he might lose it before they even get him on the plane —

[Thanks to JJ, Rick Moen, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern,Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

83 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/30/18 There Have Been Rumors About This Strange Scroll, Frightening Rumors About Hapennings Way Beyond The Laws of Nature

  1. I simply cannot abide all of these geological puns. You ask me, I think you’ve all gotten stoned – but far be it from me to set loose a screed against that. I’ll just hunker down and wait for the avalanche to subside, while you talc amongst yourselves.

  2. 10) Well, they do say you should write what you know…

    @ Rick: Much the same can be said about English food prior to the days of the British Empire.

    Re quiz: I looked at the list of authors, thought “they want me to pick ONE by each of these, and it has to be the same one they picked?” and noped out. Not. Even.

  3. The quiz is a lot easier once you find out that the titles are in alphabetical order (with a lot clustered in the T’s, under The) and that it accepts series titles. Still, I think the Lovecraft selection is rigged.

  4. Well, I have my ballot signed, sealed and delivered.

    [holds aching head]

    Mike, are we going to have a thread for our ballots after voting closes? I’ll be interested to see how other Filers voted.

  5. @Rev Bob: I realized that just after finishing; I used to be better at seeing the wood for the trees. I got 62, but I’d argue with some of the must-readness of the list (but who wouldn’t?). Did anyone else find this eating their system? It added a gig to one browser process, which (thanks to excessive numbers of open tabs) meant my system ran out of memory and wedged. gah.

  6. I tried to finish voting and it says voting is closed. That was at 7pm PST, which is NOT 11:59pm PST. Grrr.

  7. Ita, I’d write them, pronto.

    ETA: I just saw elsewhere that the page is down and they are aware and working on it. I hope they will be back up shortly.

  8. I did. The site is back up but not really working. I think 5000 people like me are putting the finishing touches on their voting.

  9. They say it’s up again now. Do try again, and if it’s still acting up let them know.

    I expect you’re right about the stress on the system tonight!

  10. I couldn’t vote using Chrome, but I could on my phone. All is well. I’m done! Whew.

  11. @Lee: I can’t speak definitively to British cuisine before the Empire (am old but…), yet remember well its state around accession to the EEC (1973), having been a Londoner during part of the 1970s. Let me just say, to put the best face on it, that modern British cuisine is glorious in its freshness and variety, and also that I felt lucky to live in Southwark near where the big cluster of Indian restaurants were, around Elephant and Castle. If you get my drift. Because there was a time when far too many local cooks loved boiling innocent foodstuffs, and so on.

    Finished my Hugo ballot revisions in time. (I’m sure the Web server is itself reaching a full boil, about now.) Some shout-outs to reviewers I found particularly helpful in refining and reshuffling my own thoughts, in no particular order:

    Nicholas Whyte
    Obsidian Wings
    Camestros Felapton

    Thank you, one and all.

  12. @Charon D.: A wise man might have said: ‘Go not to Chris Garcia for counsel about Da Kine Island Grill, for he will say both no and yes.’

    Or rather, and to be fairer, Chris generously gave his assessment saying Da Kine is ‘not a bad choice, actually’ and mentioning a couple of other possibles:

    Cafe Stritch, upstairs room only (quieter)
    Kukar’s House of Pizza

    My offhand impressions (as mailed back to Chris) from online comments, my having not scoped out the suggestions in person, yet:

    Cafe Stritch: Opens 5pm, live jazz just about every evening, brick and wood walls (probably reverberant). But Yelp says noise level = average. A Filer gathering drowned out by good jazz would not suck as badly as one drowned in karaoke, but still is to be avoided, ergo live-music scheduling matters. (Yelp also says ‘Liked by Vegans Yes’. I should probably care more about Vegans’ tender feelings than I do, but I wonder what they eat back home on Vega.) Fabulously convenient location.

    Da Kine Island Grill: Opens 11:30am Near side of San Pedro Square area. Yelps says ‘Noise Level Average’. It’s a live-music venue (again, possibility of drowning out conversation). One reviewer mentions attending to ‘watch a UFC fight’, which suggests the dread blaring-TV problem might apply. Or not. (Yr. humble servant thinks blaring TVs in bars are a plague suggesting the need for some remedial head-chopping.)

    Kukar’s House of Pizza: Opens 10:30am, fabulously convenient location, just south of McEnery. ‘Noise Level Loud’. Reviewer says that parties over 20 people are now asked to leave(?). Further clarification on a different review says this applies only on Fri/Sat/Sun, and that they put out a sign to that effect. This review also says that a party much all be present before any of the party will be seated (which would be bad for Filers, I think). Another reviewer said that (otherwise) it’s a big place and convenient for big groups. Any type of food you want, as long as it’s pizza and beer.

    (Nobody says boo about wheelchair accessibility. But if I were a restaurant owner, given litigation risk, I might be that way, too.)

    Bottom line: I guess I need to wear out some shoe-leather casing da joints. And, the even better news is: There are many other good possibilities, too. San Jose is pretty good, these days, even by big-city standards.

  13. @Cora, you’re one up on me, in having heard of The Camp of the Saints before. After Murrah went boom, I did skim-read The Turner Diaries to try to figure out what the hell McVeigh & Nichols were thinking, but hadn’t searched out Raspail’s novel until just after submitting item (13) for OGH’s consideration, last night: Turns out, you can find the entire text of the English translation (103 pp) as a PDF online, pretty easily. (I also just found online the français original, Le Camp des Saints, troisième edition, 365 pp., PDF format, but haven’t looked at it.)

    Here are my comments last night, based on a quick skim only, to an unrelated mailing list (a skeptic movement forum):

    It’s predictably dreadfully badly written. Nobody’s motivation makes even a tiny bit of sense, nor does the logistics, which is difficult to forgive after the entire plot hinges on that. The migrants are completely without personality and utterly depraved, explained by their being alien, I guess. French society reacts to the challenge by rolling over and dying in ways that make no sense at all except that the author required it.

    I don’t want to demean cartoons by calling it cartoonish.

    Seriously makes me wonder if the people supposedly taking inspiration from these texts actually read them, or just imagine having done so. Reading-for-symbolism as opposed to reading, basically.

  14. I scored 50/100 on the quiz in the 15 minutes without noticing the alphabetical order thing. I recognised another ~25 as things I should have known, but didn’t guess in time.

  15. 58 on the quiz. It strikes me as quite a good list, not of the best works, to be sure, but of one’s that reveal the genre in all its variety.

    Now, name a Russian composer.

    (Allusion to a story told by Peter Ustinov, if you don’t know it.)

  16. Having had a frustrating time only even trying half of that list, I got the list out and just typed it in to see if the time limit was a problem.

    It took me 10 minutes with the list in front of me to type in the 100, and the timer is only sixteen minutes.

    So, at least at my typing speed, that was basically impossible. I got 26 but I only attempted about half the questions, so I don’t feel too bad.

  17. @Rick Moen You’re welcome 🙂

    I got 79 on that quiz, although figuring out the alphabetical order trick was a pretty big contributing factor to that score… also I did have a few spelling dramas, notably (ROT-13) Naavuvyngvba. Embarrassingly, there were also two books that I’ve read but then didn’t recognise the author’s name without the title attached.

  18. I just spent 5 days in London, and it seemed very easy to get tasty food that wasn’t super-expensive, either. Stereotypes about English food are well out of date.

    86 on the quiz, although I had already seen Rev. Bob’s spoiler about alphabetical order and that made a BIG difference. I liked that it accepted series titles, so I could type “Qentbaevqref bs Crea” instead of having to guess “Qentbasyvtug”.

    Didn’t that list get posted earlier, btw? I think having seen it also helped.

  19. @David Goldfarb

    British food, or at least food in Britain, has definitely improved dramatically, and London is always ahead of the curve.

  20. Andrew M: today I am among the 10,000 (although that stone is still well east of Sasquatch’s range…).

  21. Rick Moen: Some shout-outs to reviewers I found particularly helpful in refining and reshuffling my own thoughts, in no particular order:
    Nicholas Whyte
    Obsidian Wings
    Camestros Felapton

    Best Fan Writer shortlist, 2019?

    (Actually, of course, that would be a natural slate, so it’s not likely they would all be nominated under EPH: but they would all deserve to be on it.)

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