Pixel Scroll 7/7/17 Oh I Get Scrolled With A Little Help From My Friends

(1) BY KLONO’S BRAZEN BALLS. I remember how 30s space opera authors invented colorful gods for characters to swear by. Taking advantage of today’s freer speech, Book View Café’s Marie Brennan advises writers to give characters language to swear with: “New Worlds: Gestures of Contempt”.

In fiction, you can sell just about anything as contemptuous so long as the characters react to it appropriately. You can give it a cultural underpinning if you want; the story about longbows and the V-sign may not be true in reality, but in a story something along those lines could be a great touch of historical depth. In many cases, though, trying to explain why the gesture is offensive would probably turn into an unnecessary infodump. Instead it can just be like the line from Shakespeare: “Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?” We don’t need to know why biting the thumb is an insult for it to work in the scene. We just need to know whether this is a mild way of saying “screw you” or something to fight a duel over, whether it’s just vulgar or a sign that the other person is placing a curse. The intent and the reaction will tell us all that’s necessary.

(2) JOANN KAISER. The GoFundMe for JoAnn Kaiser has blown past its goal and has raised over $14,000 as of today. She is the widow of fan and bookdealer Dwain Kaiser, who was killed earlier this week.

(3) SMALL PRESS. The Washington Posts’s Michael Dirda says “These small presses can help you think big about summer reading”. He plugs the Haffner Press, and gives a shout-out to Darrell Schweitzer (even using his book cover as art.)

Haffner Press . If you have any interest in pulp fiction, this is the publisher for you. Stephen Haffner issues substantial hardback volumes devoted to the magazine stories of Edmond Hamilton (creator of Captain Future); the crime fiction of Fredric Brown; the early work of Leigh Brackett (whose later credits include the screenplay for “The Empire Strikes Back”); and the occult detective stories of Manly Wade Wellman. One recent title, “The Watcher at the Door,” is the second volume in an ongoing series devoted to the weird tales of the versatile Henry Kuttner. Its foreword is by Robert A. Madle, a Rockville, Md., book and magazine dealer, who may be the oldest living person to have attended the first World Science Fiction Convention, held in 1939…..

Wildside Press . While its books aren’t fancy, this Washington-area publisher maintains an enormous backlist of classic, contemporary and off-trail works of fantasy, science fiction, adventure and horror. Wildside also issues new works of criticism focused on these genres, most recently Darrell Schweitzer’s “The Threshold of Forever.” In these easygoing and astute essays, Schweitzer reflects on the comic side of Robert Bloch (best known for his novel “Psycho”), Randall Garrett’s “The Queen Bee,” often regarded as the most sexist short story in the history of science fiction, and the work of idiosyncratic horror writers such as James Hogg, William Beckford and Sarban.

(4) OH NOES. Gizmodo fears “Mars Might Not Be The Potato Utopia We Hoped”.

In Andy Weir’s novel-turned-Matt-Damon-movie The Martian, the protagonist endures the harsh terrain of Mars by using his own shit to grow potatoes. The idea isn’t that outlandish—over the last few years, a NASA-backed project has been attempting to simulate Martian potato farming by growing taters in the Peruvian desert. While early results were promising, new research suggests that survival of any life on Mars—much less potato-growing humans—might be more difficult than we thought. I blame Matt Damon.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh tested how the bacteria Bacillus subtilis would react to perchlorates, which were first discovered in Martian soil back in 2008. Perchlorates are naturally-occurring (and sometimes, man-made) chemicals that are toxic to humans, but they’re not always so bad for microbes. In fact, in the Atacama Desert in Chile, some microbes use perchlorates in the soil as an energy source. On Mars, perchlorates allow water to exist in a briny liquid form despite the planet’s low atmospheric pressure.

However, when the researchers put B. subtilis in a bath of magnesium perchlorate solution similar to the concentrations found on Mars, and exposed the microbes to similar levels of UV radiation, the bacteria died within 30 seconds.

(5) WAFFLE TEST PATTERN. Scott Edelman invites the internet to chow down on chicken and waffles with Nancy Holder in Episode 42 of Eating the Fantastic. The encounter was recorded during StokerCon weekend.

Luckily, my guest this episode was not a skeptic, and enthusiastically accompanied me for the greasy goodness. Five-time Bram Stoker Award winning-writer Nancy Holder had been the Toastmaster during the previous night’s ceremony, is the author of the young adult horror series Possessions, and has written many tie-in works set in such universes as Teen Wolf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, AngelSmallville, and Wonder Woman.

We discussed her somewhat secret origin as a romance novelist, why her first horror convention made her burst into tears, how she got off on the wrong foot with acclaimed editor Charles L. Grant, what caused her Edgar Allan Poe obsession to begin, why she was a fan of DC Comics instead of Marvel as a kid, what Ed Bryant might have meant when he called her “the first splatterpunk to chew with her mouth closed,” and more.

(6) HAWKEYE BOO-BOO. Actor “Jeremy Renner Broke Both Arms in Stunt Accident on Set of ‘Tag'”.

Jeremy Renner has broken both his arms in a stunt that went wrong while filming, the actor, who is currently working on Avengers: Infinity War, said Friday.

Speaking before a Karlovy Vary film festival screening of Taylor Sheridan‘s Wind River, in which Renner plays a federal wildlife officer drafted to help solve a murder on a Native American reservation in Wyoming, Renner said the injuries would not affect his ability to do his job.

“It won’t stop things that I need to do. I heal fast and am doing everything I can to heal faster,” he said.

(7) MISSING IN ACTION. Massacres like this are usually reserved for Game of Thrones. Ben Lee of Digital Spy, in “Once Upon a Time season 7 adds five stars including this Poldark actor”, notes that season 7 of Once Upon a Time has started production and no less than seven members of the cast have been booted:  Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jack Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Emile de Raven, and Rebecca Mader.

(8) JOAN LEE OBIT. Deadline’s Patrick Hipes, in “Joan Lee Dies:  Wife of Comics Icon Was 93”,  notes her passing on July 4.  IMDB shows she had parts in X-Men Apocalypse and the TV versions of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Fantastic Four. She and Stan Lee had been married for 69 years.


Lon Chaney Jr. is the only actor to portray four major Universal Monsters; the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy (Kharis), and Count Dracula.


  • July 7, 1955 — The Science Fiction radio serial X Minus One aired “The Green Hills Of Earth.” As John King Tarpinian says, this probably wasn’t a coincidence.
  • July 7, 2006Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, an adventure film starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley


  • Born July 7, 1907 — Robert A. Heinlein

(12) MEDICAL NEWS. Spreading cancer caught on film.

The way in which every single cancer cell spreads around the body has been captured in videos by a team in Japan.

The normal body tissues show up as green, while the cancer comes out as intense red spots.

The team, at the University of Tokyo and the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center, says the technology will help explain the deadly process.

The research is on mice so far, but it is hoped the method could one day help with treatment too.

(13) NOT INCLUDED. Tesla to build the world’s largest battery.

The battery will protect South Australia from the kind of energy crisis which famously blacked out the state, Premier Jay Weatherill said.

Tesla boss Elon Musk confirmed a much-publicised promise to build it within 100 days, or do it for free.

The 100-megawatt (129 megawatt hour) battery should be ready this year.

“There is certainly some risk, because this will be largest battery installation in the world by a significant margin,” Mr Musk said in Adelaide on Friday.

He added that “the next biggest battery in the world is 30 megawatts”.

The Tesla-built battery, paired with a Neoen wind farm, will operate around the clock and be capable of providing additional power during emergencies, the government said.

(14) HUGO REVIEWS. Natalie Luhrs shares her evaluations in “2017 Hugo Reading: Novelettes”.

I think the novelette finalists are a bit more of a mixed bag. Some of them I think are outstanding, one fell flat for me, and then there’s that other one. You know the one….

This is her review of one she rates as outstanding:

“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld)

This novelette opens with Avery getting a call offering her a job transporting an alien from the DC area to St. Louis. The aliens had appeared overnight, large domes across the country and until this one decided they wanted a tour of the country, what they wanted and their motives for coming to Earth were unclear. Their motives are still not very clear at the outset of the journey, but by the end–well.

The alien comes aboard the bus in crates and is accompanied by his human translator, Lionel. Each alien has a human translator, someone who was abducted as a child from a family that didn’t care for them, a child no one would miss (how horrible is that?) Avery starts driving and as they make their way across the US, she gets to know Lionel and through Lionel, the alien.

Avery’s a sympathetic narrator and she is genuinely curious about the aliens and willing to acquiesce to most of Lionel’s requests on the alien’s behalf. There is a lot about what it means to have consciousness—the aliens are not conscious—and what value, if any, that brings to existence. I found the ending to be both a surprise and quite endearing. Gilman is an easy prose stylist and Avery’s conversational and self-reflective voice is exactly what this story requires.

(15) ANOTHER TAKE. Speaking of “the one,” it’s given an actual review as part of Doris V. Sutherland’s “2017 Hugo Reviews: Novelettes” at Women Write About Comics.

Alien Stripper Boned From Behind by the T-Rex is, of course, the Rabid Puppy pick for Best Novelette. It is here as a result of Vox Day rather lazily repeating his prank from last year when he got Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion on the ballot as a dig at Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.”

Some have dismissed Stix Hiscock (who, despite her masculine choice of pseudonym, is a woman) as a mere Chuck Tingle imitator. This would be unfair. After all, Chuck Tingle was not the first author to write weird dinosaur erotica, and Ms. Hiscock has as much right as he does to try her hand at the genre.

Taken on its own terms, Alien Stripper Boned From Behind by the T-Rex is a solid but undistinguished specimen of its kind….

(16) SUMMER TV. Glenn Garvin on reason.com reviews Salvation, an end-of-the-world show in the vein of When Worlds Collide coming to CBS starting on July 12: “Salvation Will Have You Hoping for the World’s End”.

He concludes that “Salvation strongly resembles recent congressional budget debates, punctuated by occasional kidnappings, car chases, and gunplay by an unidentified gang of thugs that want the world to end.”

(17) MORE THAN A MEMORY. Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson, in “Review of The Mindwarpers by Eric Frank Russell”, revisits the work of someone once regarded as among sf’s more thought-provoking writers.

One of the interesting aspects of science fiction is that it is a form sometimes used to criticize science, or more precisely the application of science, rather than glorify it.  From Barry Malzberg to J.G. Ballard, Ray Bradbury to Pat Cadigan, Tom McCarthy to James Morrow—these and other writers in the field have in some way expressed a wariness at technological change and its impact, intended and unintended, on people and society.  The quantity of such fiction dropping since the days vast and quick technological change first threatened, change has almost become the norm.  Getting more outdated with each day, Eric Frank Russell’s 1965 The Mindwarpers is one such book.  Republished as an ebook in 2017 by Dover Publications, the message at its heart, however, transcends time.

(18) MANY A TRUTH IS SAID IN TWEET. Wax on. Wax off.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isotype from Henning M. Lederer is a soothing kaleidoscope-type animation with music from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

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79 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/7/17 Oh I Get Scrolled With A Little Help From My Friends

  1. But it’s not out of the question for the original story. And just as Ditko’s ideas of fashion and hairstyle were a throwback to the 1950s, Stan’s idea of family life among the Gentiles seems to have largely come from movies and radio plays of the 1930s and 1940s, when elderly aunts were stock characters.

    OK, well that does make sense.

  2. Does anyone have recommendations for a program that monitors when a page changes at a given URL?

    Ideally it would send me an email notification. (And would not be an app, designed for a phone.)

    This would solve the problem of how to keep an eye on a few items where they’re rather desultory about their press releases.

  3. And of course, although I already own Libriomancer, the fact that the first book was on sale inspired me to buy the subsequent three at full price because, um …

    And I picked up Galactic Empires, although I kind of wish it had been the Aldiss anthology of the same name.

    It occurs to me (and I think it’s a shame) that that’s the sort of thing we’re least likely to ever see reprinted electronically — big, multi-author anthologies from the 70s & 80s & earlier; I expect the rights issues would be a nightmare and a half.

  4. I’m looking forward to the movie, despite feeling like they really need to stop redoing origin stories goddammitplease.

    Though it’s definitely the early days of Spider-Man, the film takes everything that’s part of the basic origin story as read. Which is the right idea here.

  5. Joe H. on July 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm said:
    And of course, although I already own Libriomancer, the fact that the first book was on sale inspired me to buy the subsequent three at full price because, um …

    As one does

  6. Hugo reading update – I’m working through the second book in the Craft sequence and enjoying it. It usually takes me a bit to get into a series book set in an entirely different locale, at a different time, with different characters, but I’m not having this problem.

    I’m not just working through Gladstone, though – I’ve also been checking out the Semiprozine nominees. I very much dig Beneath Ceaseless Skies – think I’ll pick up a subscription (or however they do it). Uncanny Magazine is what I remember – the more experimental/literary stuff (Puppy repellent). A lot of that stuff leaves me cold, or seems like another go at subverting the dominant paradigm, but then occasionally something awesome pops up. Cirsova is about what I’d expect. I read the first two stories, and am debating whether to continue, as the first story (about space pirates) is so ridiculously poorly set – even I am rolling my eyes at the inaccuracies – that it needs some sort of meta framework (maybe the story is a dream an actual sea pirate is having, about being a space pirate?) to make it rise above participation medal quality. The Strange Horizons issue is promising, so far (a story and a couple poems into it).

    @Mike Glyer – It looks like VisualPing might be worth checking out. I haven’t used a service like that in a long time – around when everyone went to dynamic content and the sidebars on sites would change daily. I think I had a Mozilla or Firefox plugin at the time. I hadn’t checked on that sort of thing in years, but it makes sense that they’d have evolved to work with today’s websites by now.

    It’s a chrome app (so, not phone-based, but still browser-dependent), and sends email notifications:

  7. For the next hourish, books 2, 3, and 4 of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series are part of Amazon UK’s Kindle Daily Deal.

  8. 2017 reading: just picked up The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad. He can be a mixed bag, but when he’s on, he’s great. Not sure about this one yet, since I’ve just started, but it looks to have some promise. It’s set in an increasingly damp New Orleans, and opens with a cop who is instructed to deliver an eviction notice…to himself!

    After all the trouble he had getting Osama the Gun published in the US, I’m very happy to see that this was picked up by Tor. Although I’m hoping he didn’t have to tone down his screw-the-establishment attitude too much for this to happen. 🙂

  9. The Hugo Awards e-mail I got today was a little silly in one part, IMHO – the header below – but FYI for anyone who cares and missed the e-mail (or isn’t a Worldcon member).

    Change to John W. Campbell Ballot

    When the final ballot for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer was first announced, Sarah Gailey was incorrectly listed as being in her first year of eligibility. In fact she is in her second year of eligibility. The online list of finalists, online ballot and downloadable ballot papers have all been changed. Any votes already cast for Sarah Gailey remain valid and will be counted, and mailed/emailed votes using the old printed ballot paper will also be accepted.

    Our apologies to Sarah Gailey and to Hugo voters for this mistake.

    From the dramatic header, I expected someone would be added/removed from the ballot! Yes, yes, thanks for updating us, Worldcon, but nothing meaningful actually changed – just the eligibility year info. She’s still on the ballot, etc. ::minor eyeroll::

    I’d be surprised if this changed how anyone voted, though stranger things* have happened. I mean, it’s not like we suddenly found out she was a pen name for (insert your favorite author here) or something wacky like that.

    * Now I can’t use this phrase without thinking of the TV show. Whose logo makes me think of Doctor Strange from the comic books.


  10. @Kendell, some folks use “will they be eligible again next year or is this their last chance” as a tie-breaker, if they can’t otherwise decide the relative ranking of two authors. (I know I do.)

  11. What Cassy B said. It has certainly influenced my ranking in the past and might have this year if I weren’t still reading that category. It’s unfortunate it took until now to clear that up, but I don’t think there are a lot of people voting via paper ballots and the rest of us still have a week.

  12. I must admit, I was expecting something a little more dramatic myself. “Laurie Penny discovered to be a stack of mallards working a human suit!” “Ada Palmer exposed as the reanimated carcase of E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith!” But, well, I suppose they have to pass along the correction, and I can’t actually think of a better way they might have phrased it….

    I’ve done a first play-through of one of the Craft Sequence games (adopting, as far as I could, the persona of Jason King to do it, which seems to fit in a weird sort of way), and would say it’s kind of fun. Won’t affect my rankings any, though.

  13. I would definitely move someone up the ballot if it turned out they were really a stack of mallards. Ducks are terrible at working together, it would be very impressive for them to finish a whole book. Plus, I bet it would be hard to type with wings and webbed feet. Probably even harder than it is for eagles.

  14. A belated Meredith Moment:

    Travellers In Magic by Lisa Goldstein and The Compleat Traveller In Black by John Brunner are on sale at Amazon for $1.99 apiece. I meant to get in here earlier and post this, but the day got away from me and I just now remembered them.

    I’ll go back to the corner now.

  15. @Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag
    (13) I welcome the day when batteries can smooth the power grid enough to avoid outages. The tech just cannot develop fast enough for me.

    A low-tech solution has been in existence for a long time. Raccoon Mountain came on line in 1977. It pumps water to a lake on top of a mountain during off-peak generation hours, and discharges through turbines during high-demand hours. 1.6 GW for 22 hours (compared to the battery of 100 MW for 1.3 hours).

  16. I have to admit I also expected something more dramatic, since I went, “Wait, you can’t replace a finalists this late in the game. My Campbell ballot is already set.”

  17. @Bill

    Yes but that takes a handy large high place or an ocean if that underwater compressed air energy storage ever works out.

  18. @Bill:

    Raccoon Mountain also has neat recreational attractions, although the Alpine Slide of my youth is gone.

  19. (19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.

    The imagery in this video is a digital Phenakistoscope, a version of the 150-year-old entertainment device that consisted of a paper disc which, when spun, produced an effect of animated images.

    There’s a good background article here, and a Tumblr of digitized animated gifs of old Phenakistoscopes here.

    They’re really fascinating — especially when you consider how cleverly-done the originals were, without access to any of the imaging technology we have today which makes creating one fairly simple and easy.

  20. Re: Campbell eligibility

    While I can understand why some people might take the year of eligibility into consideration, I tend to put it into the context of how many perfectly worthy authors expend their eligibility on the basis of a single short story in an obscure publication and never have any chance for consideration in the first place. When it comes down to it, the Campbell isn’t really an award for “best new writer” but for “best new writer who has benefitted from a specific shape of career path and who probably came into eligibility with a significant pre-existing fanbase.” This isn’t meant as a slight to anyone who has ever won or or been shortlisted for a Campbell, just a reminder not to put too much weight of significance on a specific award.

  21. @Bill, sadly, that’s impractical in many places.

    I worked in the power industry for a few years and saw a number of problems that technology could have solved – if only so many of the players in the market weren’t always trying to maximize profits to the detriment of everything else. We’d have a much more robust grid and a lot more solar if companies had been willing to take a number of small risks on the future in the early 1990s instead of buckling down and saying “NO! We won’t change! Wahhh!” whenever a new idea came up.

    Right now we have an aging power grid with patchwork control that’s extremely vulnerable to all kinds of problems, from natural disasters to terrorism. Heck, a local city lost all power for nearly 12 hours this spring because of a squirrel that liked the taste of a power cable too much. If a squirrel can take out the entire productivity of a city for a full work day, imagine how much damage someone who *wanted* to cause a problem could do. Or worse, a whole lot of squirrels that suddenly decided power lines were tasty.

  22. @Cassy B: Thanks, I hadn’t quite made the little jump from what I was thinking (which I hoped people don’t do, but probably someone does) to what you said (which makes more sense to me – tie-breaker stuff, though it’s probably not how I’d break a tie??? not sure). I guess I’m not generally on the fence enough with Best New Writer that this type of tie-breaking piece of info occurred to me.

    @Robert Reynolds: ‘Tis a day for travellers, eh? 😉

    @JJ: Cool stuff and very trippy! I’m more impressed by that, come to think of it – as you say, very clever how they did it without modern tech! I believe I’ve seen some of those before (maybe a past link by you or someone else to a set of these).

  23. @James Moar, @Cat Eldridge, & @Camestros Felapton: I unexpectedly saw “Spider-Man: Homecoming” tonight. It was a lot of fun! Very well done. I was confused in my earlier comment; James is right, of course – it’s not an origin story, just early days. Yay! Also, amusing credit cookies.

    Also, Michael Keaton did a good job and I liked the plot around him as a bad guy (with one minor exception that was still okay).

  24. Why haven’t any ducks ever won a Hugo or Campbell? It’s because their writing is just too fowl. They rarely sell enough to pay the bills. They do better when they stick to comedy; that can really quack me up.

  25. “Be kind to your scroll-footed friends, for a duck may be somebo-o-dy’s pixel!”

  26. Mike,

    I just started using an add-on for Chrome called “Distill” and it seems to work pretty good at keeping me up-to-date on changes for pages. I waited until I’d used it a few days before reporting on it, but so far, so good, so I thought I’d pass it along (regarding your request for something that would alert you to changes in pages that aren’t good with the press releases).

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