Pixel Scroll 3/4/22 24 Views Of Mt. Tsundoku By Hokufile

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE. The “Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson” Kickstarter was almost at $22 million when I looked earlier today. It’s now the Most Funded Kickstarter in history.

Yesterday the New York Times talked to Sanderson about his success in “Fantasy Author Raises $15.4 Million in 24 Hours to Self-Publish”.

…“If Amazon’s grip on the industry is weakened, that’s good for the publishers — they are very much under Amazon’s thumb right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want to present this as ‘Brandon versus Amazon.’ Amazon’s great. But I think that in the long run, Amazon being a monopoly is actually bad for Amazon. If they don’t have competition, they will stop innovating.”

He also wanted to play around with bundling and upselling. Traditional publishers, he said, offer few products and few options. The array of packages on Kickstarter range from $40 for four e-books to $500 for the four books in all formats, plus eight boxes of “swag.”

“What I can do with the Kickstarter,” he said, “is I can say, ‘hey, if you really want to have more, we will give you more.’”

(2) FIRESIDE WILL STOP PUBLISHING IN 2022. Brian J. White, Executive Editor and Owner of Fireside, announced yesterday that the magazine will stop publishing later this year.

… When I stepped back in as owner last year, I had big hopes of taking Fireside forward for years to come. But unfortunately life had other ideas, between major increases last fall to my responsibilities at my day job and a series of difficult life events that have made it impossible for me to continue Fireside while maintaining any semblance of mental and physical health. Compounding that, even though we made progress in adding subscribers, Fireside is still losing a lot of money each month, and the circumstances described above also got in the way of implementing additional plans to bring in more funds.

This was a really difficult decision to make, but between the time and financial considerations, I can’t find a path forward. Fireside has an incredible legacy, and I don’t want that to be marred by a slow, struggling death. The best thing for the magazine is to allow it to close with grace and dignity once we’ve published all the stories and poems we currently have under contract, as well as two books that have been in the works for a long time….

…While Fireside Magazine will no longer be accepting submissions, we have enough content under contract to continue publishing into September, both through our usual ebooks and weekly stories released online. Everything we’ve published in the magazine will remain available online….

(3) LETTER FROM UKRAINE. Charles Stross posted an open letter from his Ukranian translator: “A letter from Ukrainian artists to the world artists”.

… We believe that not all Russian citizens are fans of Putin’s regime and not all of them justify this war. We know that plenty of Russians feel scared to use their voices and speak up against Putin’s regime. Many believe it is none of their business. Yet, there are also many who believe in the righteousness of Putin and his propaganda.

So, we plead with you — writers and visual content creators that have big audiences of readers and followers in Russia. To them, your opinion and your words matter. Your stand on the war in Ukraine matters. Please, stand by us as we fight for our values, our democracy, and our freedom. For the simple right to be Ukrainians and live in Ukraine. Your powerful voices can influence these Russian readers and followers. To encourage them to be brave, connect with their values, and take a stand on ending this ruthless war.

Please, take to your platforms and address your Russian and Ukrainian audiences. The first ones need your encouragement to believe in the power of their voices against Putin’s regime. The second ones are in desperate need of support and kindness….

(4) MEANWHILE, IN MOSCOW. Repression is ramping up in Moscow – and every other Idaho town. Boise State Public Radio reports “Idaho librarians could face jail time for lending “harmful” books”.

…House lawmakers could soon consider whether prosecutors could criminally charge librarians for allowing minors to check out sexually explicit materials.

Giving explicit material to kids has been a crime in Idaho since at least 1972, but public libraries, including those at colleges and universities, are exempted from that law.

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) wants to cut that exemption, meaning librarians could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine any time they lend explicit materials to someone under 18….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to eat enchiladas with Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Paul Tremblay in episode 166 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay is the author of the award-winning novels novels A Head Full of Ghosts (2015), which won the Bram Stoker Award and the Massachusetts Book Award, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (2016), which won the British Fantasy Award, and The Cabin at the End of the World (2018), which won the Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award. His most recent novel is Survivor Song, published in 2020, with The Pallbearer’s Club due out later this year. He’s also the author of the novels The Little SleepNo Sleep till WonderlandSwallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and writing as P. T,. Jones along with Stephen Graham Jones, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly. His short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories was published in 2019. He is the co-editor of four anthologies including Creatures: Thirty Years of Monster Stories (with John Langan), and is on the board of directors and is one of the jurors for the Shirley Jackson Awards.

We discussed his legendary hatred of pickles, what it was like writing a pandemic novel before a pandemic only to see it published in the middle of one, if reviewers would have reacted differently to his zombies had Survivor Song been published any other year, his feelings about the description of him as a postmodernist, our shared love of ambiguity in fiction, whether horror having a moment means horror will also have an end, the one passage in his most recent novel which caused an argument with his editor, what’s up with the movie adaptations of his books, and much more.

(6) THE CALCULATION IS IN. Mary Robinette Kowal’s gala commemorating the 70th Anniversary of The Meteor (the event which precipitates The Calculating Stars) did more than $8,000 in gross sales as part of her effort to support HIAS in Ukraine for the crisis response work that they are doing.

(7) GUARDIANS OF JUSTICE. BGR promises “Netflix’s new superhero show might be the weirdest thing you ever watch”.

…People have no definitive idea what to make of Netflix’s newly released superhero series, The Guardians of Justice. That’s the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that reviews and user reaction is absolutely all over the place — to say nothing of the fact that the trailer for this streaming series, which is about a group of superheroes who confront evil after “their fearless leader self-destructs” — left me utterly speechless. In an “I have no idea what to even think” or “what is going on here” sort of way.

First of all, the show switches between animation and live-action, which takes some getting used to. The voice cast includes Diamond Dallas Page, Sharni Vinson, Denise Richards, and RJ Mitte. And there’s a kind of Adult Swim aesthetic that people either love or can’t stand….

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and John C. Foster on March 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. This will be an in-person event at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, narrator and award-winning author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful, Eterna Files, Spectral City series and A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts. Featured on TV shows like Mysteries at the Museum and Beyond the Unknown discussing Victorian Spiritualism, Leanna lectures around the country on paranormal and 19th century subjects.

John C. Foster

John C. Foster is the author of the forthcoming horror novel, Leech, the recent crime thriller Rooster and four other horror novels, the most recent of which is Mister White. His stories have been collected in Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.

(9) FANAC.ORG FANHISTORY ZOOM PART 2. The LASFS family reunion continues in the second part of Fanac.org’s latest fanhistory Zoom: “Death Does Not Release You – LASFS (Pt 2 of 2)”.

In part 2 of this FANAC Fan History Zoom Session (Feb 2022), the LASFS family reunion continues. Craig Miller (TV writer and producer, Worldcon chair, and LASFS member), Ken Rudolph (filmmaker, fanzine editor, former LASFS officer), Tim Kirk (professional artist, awarded many Fan Artist and Professional Artist Hugo Awards), and Bobbi Armbruster (professional and fan meeting and convention organizer) continue their conversation. Despite some early audio problems, the talk ranges from other Los Angeles fan subgroups like the Bixel Street Irregulars (40s), the Petards (late 60s-80s) and the Blackguards (60s), to well-known fans and professionals of the Los Angeles area to untimely deaths. Tim Kirk tells the wonderful story of how his Master’s Thesis and a little luck resulted in his breaking through to the professional art field. There are even some convention stories, including the surprising origin of Loscon. If you’re interested in the first big Heinlein blood drive, plans for the Last Dangerous Visions, or how many people could fit in the clubhouse kitchen, settle back and enjoy the recording.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2011 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eleven years ago, The Adjustment Bureau film premiered. It is based off the Philip K. Dick “Adjustment Team” short story that was first published in Orbit Science Fiction (No. 4, September–October 1954). (It’s available in The Adjustment Team and Other Selected Stories from the usual suspects for just a buck ninety nine.)  

Written and directed by George Nolfi, who previously wrote the genre film Timeline, it had a lot of producers — Bill Carraro, Michael Hackett, Chris Moore, plus George Nolfi in his third role in the film. It had an absolutely amazing cast: Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp. 

It did exceedingly well at the box office making nearly one hundred thirty million against just fifty million in total costs. Rather great I’d say. 

So how was the reception for it? Mostly excellent really though a few reviewers I admit were really puzzled by it as romance and SF is a combination they don’t grok. The reviewer at the Washington Examiner said that it “is that rare thing, an intelligent romance” while 7M Pictures stated of it that is “a fantastic piece of science fiction told in the flavor of a classic Twilight Zone episode.” And the Examiner summed it up nicely this way: “It’s rare when a film is able to blend together two different genres so well, especially when they are two genres that you don’t normally see together, in this case, science-fiction and romance.”

It does not get that a great rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers garnering just sixty-seven percent. Not bad, but not overwhelming. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 4, 1905 Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. One of my favorite covers by him is for Derleth’s The Casebook of Solar Pons but then I like all of his Solar Pons covers and their obviously Holmesian riff. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 4, 1914 Ward Kimball. He was part of Walt Disney’s original team of animators, known as the Nine Old Men. Keep in mind that he did not create characters but animated them, which he did to great ability — Jiminy Cricket, the Mad Hatter, Mickey Mouse, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. He eventually became an animation director at Disney starting with Fantasia, and he worked on Mary Poppins. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Patrick Moore. He held the record as the presenter of the world’s longest-running television series with the same original presenter, BBC’s The Sky at Night.  He was a genre writer with six such novels to his name, one co-written, and a lot of related non-fiction, one that garnered him a Hugo nomination at Interaction, Futures: 50 Years in Space: The Challenge of the Stars, that was co-written with David A. Hardy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 57. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 56. Author of the comic strips The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC’s excellent Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. While a marketing executive at DC he created the DC Daily video series, now over four hundred and fifty episodes long. 
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 49. Producer or Director of the Underworld franchise. Director of the Total Recall remake. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department end of things. He is the Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote the pilot as well. (Is it worth watching? I’ve not seen any of it.) Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of the rebooted Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater probably should be spelled “Aaarggghyle” after this bad superhero-themed pun.
  • Bizarro makes an okay joke in the foreground, but studying the gags in the background is even more entertaining.  

(13) CLICK AND LEARN. What writer whose initials are Ray Bradbury helped inspire lyricist Bernie Taupin? Far Out Magazine knows: “The story behind Elton John song ‘Rocket Man’”.

…The opening lines, which read: “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9am. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then,” was conceived by Taupin while he was driving to his parents in Lincolnshire, England. Anxious that he’ll forget the lines, he drove some back roads as fast as he could to put it down on paper. Until he reached their house he had to “repeat it to himself for two hours,” which was “unfortunate” but also worthwhile given the magnanimous status the song achieved….

(14) AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER. SYFY Wire assures us that John DiMaggio will voice Bender in the forthcoming Futurama revival. A bit of closure to a “crisis” that might have gone completely unnoticed had it happened this week.

Good news… again… everyone! Bendergate is finally over. Actor John DiMaggio has officially settled his pay dispute with 20th Century Studios and will return as the voice of Bender for Hulu’s upcoming revival of Futurama. To quote the booze and cigar-loving robot specifically programed for bending girders (and partying): “It’s gonna be fun on a bun!”…

(15) CONREP IN THE WIND. SF2 Concatenation has just tweeted the link to an advance-post of a Windycon con report. This is ahead of their full seasonal edition slated for April 15 (but which may be held till April 20 if the Hugo short-lists are announced Easter weekend).

By Sue Burke: “The 2021 Windycon in Chicago, USA”.

In some ways, Windycon 47 unfolded normally, with panels, music, theatre, gaming, an anime track, art show, dealer’s room, and even the season’s first snowfall, right on time. It happened in the usual place, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. But the 47th annual Windycon should have taken place two years earlier in 2020. Instead, due to CoVID-19, a pared-down Zoom event 13th-15th November 2020, called Breezycon, offered a taste of the “family” feeling of the convention’s long history….

(16) BUSTED. Got to love the New York Times headline: “‘After Yang’ Review: Do Androids Dream of Sheep, Babysitting, Being?”

…Repairing Yang proves unsurprisingly more challenging than poking around under the hood of a car. Yang is a secondhand model, “certified refurbished,” yet used nevertheless. And while his warranty is still valid, the store where he was procured, Second Siblings, is out of business. “I told you we should have just bought a new one,” Kyra chides Jake with the old I-told-you-so sigh. In the future, men still take care of the big household chores; wives berate their husbands for making foolish decisions; and some families live in swoon-worthy houses with floor-to-ceiling windows and open-floor plans….

(17) THE NEXT BIG THING IS STILL PRETTY SMALL. “Two pillars of biological dogma upended by discovery of huge bacteria with nuclei”Daily Kos analyzes the impact.

…The proposed new species, Thiomargarita magnifica, is about 50 times larger than any other known bacterium, and it’s also the only bacterium we know of to keep its DNA inside a membrane-bound structure.  Either of those discoveries by itself would be very significant, so this double whammy really is a rare find.  Game changer!  Paradigm shift!  And all that jazz!  Microbiologists sure seem impressed

(18) MADAM I’M ADAM. A time-traveling pilot teams up with his younger self and his late father to come to terms with his past while saving the future. Comes to Netflix on March 11.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Superman and Batman kibitz in this latest video from How It Should Have Ended that dropped today. “How Spider-Man No Way Home Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/22 I Have No Internet And I Must Stream

(1) BREATHTAKING. Here’s a chance to admire Nalo Hopkinson’s magnificent SFWA Grand Master award.

(2) SILVER Q&A. Sea Lion Press’ Gary Oswald has a conversation with a co-founder of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History: “Interviewing the AH Community: Steven H Silver”.

In 2020, a Sea Lion Press story won a Sidewise Award for the first time. Most Sidewise winners are paper novels by major book publishers which sell in the thousands so it was exciting to us that an ebook by a minor publisher with more modest sales could win it. You’re obviously not the only judge but do you consider popularity or legitimacy at all or would you be happy to vote for a self published ebook with barely any sales if you felt the work was good enough?

I try to read each story or novel for the Sidewise Award pretending I know nothing of its provenance. I try to ignore who the author is, who published it, or the way it got to press. To me, it is about the story being told and the way it is told. I try to judge each book on two levels. Is it a good/interesting alternate history and is it a well written book. I’ve voted down books I like because they were strong in one of those two categories, but weak in the other. If the writing isn’t good, the concept doesn’t matter and if the writing is good but the alternate history is weak, it is hard to consider it a contender….

(3) WHO CAN RESIST CETACEANS? [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist JohannesVIII (@ViiiJohannes) did this piece of two humpback whales assimilated as Borg from Star Trek.

(4) FANHISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s next Fan History Project Zoom Series presentation is happening on February 26. To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

  • Death Does Not Release You – LASFS Through the Years with Craig Miller (M), Tim Kirk, Ken Rudolph and Bobbi Armbruster

Date: February 26, 2022
Time: 4pm EST, 1pm PST, 9PM London, 8AM Sunday AEDT (Melbourne)

LASFS is unique – in its history and impact on fandom. LASFS has a clubhouse, a long list of professional writers that have been members, and has had an incredibly active fan group over the decades. Los Angeles area fandom has produced innumerable fanzines, six Los Angeles Worldcons (and many other conventions). Join us for a session with our real world AND fannishly accomplished participants – convention runners (including a Worldcon chair), a noted fan and professional artist, and a fanzine editor, all past or present LASFS members – in conversation about Los Angeles fandom from the inside.

Upcoming Fanac.org fanhistory Zooms are:

  • March 19 — Traveling Ghiants, Fan Funds from the Days of Mimeo to the Days of Zoom

Geri Sullivan (m), Lesleigh Luttrell (DUFF), Justin Ackroyd (GUFF) and Suzle Tompkins (TAFF)

4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, 8pm London, 7am AEDT (Melbourne) – 

  • April 23 — Fandom From Both Sides

Joe Haldeman and Gay Haldeman

2pm EDT, 11am PDT, 7pm London – 

(5) OMICRON AT ANIME NYC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The CDC has published a study of what ABC News identifies as the 2021 Anime NYC COVID-19/Omicron outbreak. The function isn’t named in the study, but details that are given match that convention. “Omicron spread quickly at convention in New York City — but boosters helped at ABC News.

…According to convention rules, attendees were required to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and wear masks indoors.

The first case was reported to the CDC by the Minnesota Department of Health on Dec. 2 in a man — called Patient A — who had flown to New York City for the convention, the report said.

For the report, the CDC teamed up with the MDH and state and local departments across the country interviewing Patient A, and 23 of his 29 close contacts from 13 states who also attended the convention.

Patient A had traveled to New York City on November 18. He was fully vaccinated and received a booster shot earlier in November, according to the authors.

However, he developed symptoms on Nov. 22 and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, after which he notified all his close contacts, the report said.

Of the 23 attendees contacted, 16 tested positive for the virus, equating to an attack rate of 70%.

All the contacts were fully vaccinated, but only 11 had received a booster dose before going to the convention, according to the report. The authors indicate that having a booster dose lowered the odds of testing positive for COVID-19.

Ten of the 12 people, or 83%, who didn’t receive a booster tested positive for the virus while six of the 11 people, 55%, who tested positive were boosted, meaning there were 1.5 times fewer infections in boosted individuals….

(6) TEXMOOT CALL FOR PAPERS. Signum University is hosting a hybrid event, TexMoot 2022, whose theme is “Starships, Stewards, and Storytellers: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care for This One”. It takes place in Austin, TX on March 26. Registration costs $50 for on-site participants, $25 for online attendees, and $15 for students in either mode. To register, click here. The complete call for papers is here.

In 2022, Signum University’s Annual Texas Language and Literature Symposium (TexMoot) invites you to join us as we consider the ethical turn in speculative fiction: How do imaginary worlds teach us to care for this one?

From ecological concerns to social commentary, science fiction and fantasy offer readers a mirror through which to view our own world. For example, the struggles of a terraforming planet may remind us how precious and fragile is the one we live on. The real-world conflict between nature and technology comes to life on the page when trees march to war. We may find insights into how to interact with people around us by spending time with characters in a fellowship—or on a starship. 

At TexMoot 2022, you will explore questions like: How do we relate to the Other—the “monsters” and “aliens” beyond the bulkhead door? What roles can technology play in preserving nature or reinforcing what makes us human? Do humans change the nonhuman environment, or are they inevitably changed by it? Is there really a clear line between the human and the nonhuman, anyway? And whose responsibility is it to preserve “civilization” and transmit its legacy to future generations?

TexMoot 2022 will also investigate the ways authors convey these commentaries. What literary techniques best serve the message; at what point does a work cross the line into propaganda? When does the message serve the story, and when does the story serve the message?

The TexMoot Team is looking for both traditional academic papers (of about 15 minutes) and shorter discussion prompts in which the presenter talks for 5 minutes and ends with a provocative question to start a roundtable discussion. Presentations and discussion topics can be more academic or popular, according to your preference and experience. 

(7) STRANGER THINGS GETS FIFTH SEASON. The airdates for the fourth season of Stranger Things have been announced, as has the greenlit fifth and last season. Deadline has the story, and a gallery of promotional posters. “’Stranger Things’ Renewed For Fifth And Final Season, Gets Premiere Dates For Split Season 4 On Netflix”.

Stranger Things, a signature show for Netflix since its premiere in 2016, has been renewed for a fifth and final season.

In addition to the climactic renewal, the company said the long-awaited Season 4 of the show will premiere in two “volumes,” the first on May 27 and the second on July 1. In an open letter to fans (read it in full below), co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer said the split season resulted from the season’s nine episodes having a total running time twice as long as that of any previous season.

The Duffer Bros noted that the full arc was expected to be “four or five” seasons when they first envisioned the show, so the end is not a surprise. Plus, it won’t be the end of the franchise, they promised.

“There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things: new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes,” they wrote. “But first we hope you stay with us as we finish this tale.”

(8) IT HAPPENED TO JANE. You may not be able to watch Natalie Portman gear up as Thor just yet, but you can pre-order an action figure of her. Gizmodo offers “Thor Love and Thunder Natalie Portman as Thor First Look”, but it comes with a spoiler warning.

While movie studios like Marvel like to keep all details about their films under complete wraps, there’s one truth they simply cannot get around: It takes a long time to make merchandise, especially action figures. That’s why they’re often the first looks at movie outfits and characters, and it’s why we’re getting this first look at Natalie Portman as Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. In related news, she’s awesome—as regular Thor’s new movie outfit, which you can also see here!…

(9) RIDE WITH THE SPACE COWBOY. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast episode 48 is live, featuring short stories by F.J. Bergmann and Toshiya Kamei with original soundtracks by Phog Masheen and RedBlueBlackSilver. “Simultaneous Times Ep.48 – F.J. Bergmann & Toshiya Kamei”. Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(10) FAREN MILLER (1950-2022). Faren Miller, a Locus staffer and contributor for 37 years, died February 15 at the age of 71 reports Locus Online. Miller was hired by Locus in 1981, and her last review column for the magazine was in 2018. Her only published novel, The Illusionists (1991), was a finalist for the William Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-three years ago, the first film of what would become the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, premiered on this day. It was directed by Stephen Herek as written by Chris Matheson, son of author Richard Matheson, and Ed Solomon, writer of the first Men in Black film, who would write all three of these films. 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, of course, stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin. (I met the latter many years ago. A rather nice gentleman he was.) Two out of the three had successful careers after this, one really didn’t. 

It was a box office triumph earning back forty million against a modest budget of just ten million.

Critics generally hated it. The New York Times in reviewing it flatly stated that it was a “painfully inept comedy”. And the Los Angeles Times said that it was an “unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake”. Dissenting from this unrelenting hostility, the Radio Times cheerfully said ir was a “flawless, purpose-built junk movie”. 

So how do audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes view it now? Well, they give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1913 David Duncan. A screenwriter and novelist who was nominated twice for Hugos, first for being writing the screenplay for The Time Machine at Seacon, and for the same work on Fantastic Voyage at NyCon 3. He also wrote Time Machine: The Journey Back sequel to The Time Machine. And he wrote The Outer Limits’ “The Human Factor” episode. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 17, 1939 Kathy Keeton. Founder and publisher of the now defunct Omni. It was founded by her and her partner and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of the also defunct Penthouse. It would publish a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata”, Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic” and George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” to name a few of the stories that appeared there. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 68. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person.
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 51. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. A few years later she’ll be Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She played Victoria Dare in Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1975 Jerry O’Connell, 47. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind-the-broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League DarkThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent.

(13) SUBSCRIBERS MUST SQUINT. According to Polygon, “recent updates have made it harder to read, shop, and publish on the U.S.’s most popular digital comics platform” — “Amazon’s big Comixology changes ignite concern from comic book creators, fans”.

This week Amazon, launched a new app for its digital comics platform, Comixology, and a new Amazon-native online storefront that will eventually replace Comixology’s browser-based store and reader. But the new changes have alarmed both users and creators.

Long-time Comixology users have taken to social media to list all the ways the new web and app user experience represents a step backward from what they’re used to. Chief among the many complaints is a new web reader that doesn’t display double page spreads correctly, has removed creator credits from book listings on the storefront, and lacks both panel-by-panel and zoom functions, rendering most comics in illegibly small images….

(14) MISSING A PART OF THE FUTURE. Voice acting veterans Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Kari Wahlgren, and Charlie Adler call out Hulu, which is reviving Futurama but hasn’t been willing to meet the terms of Bender’s voice John DiMaggio: “Futurama Hulu revival: Actors supporting John DiMaggio” at SYFY Wire.

A number of established Hollywood veterans have come to the side of John DiMaggio as the actor continues to clash with Hulu and 20th Century Studios over proper compensation for the streamer’s upcoming revival of Futurama.

The official announcement of the beloved series’ return from co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen was slightly marred by the fact that DiMaggio (who voices foul-mouthed robot Bender and a plethora of supporting characters) was the only member of the original cast who had not signed on for the revival. It was soon reported that the show would recast Bender in the wake of contract negotiations stalling out. If talks have ended for good between both parties, some fans say they won’t be tuning in if DiMaggio isn’t brought back for the 20 additional episodes slated to premiere sometime next year (production kicks off this month)….

(15) STORYLIVING BY DISNEY. Love Disney parks so much you’d want to live in one?  Now you can (sort of). “Disney is developing planned communities for fans who never want to leave its clutches”The Verge will fill you in.

Disney has launched a new business for fans who can’t bear to leave the pristine, family-friendly world the corporation has nurtured through its theme parks and media ventures.

“Storyliving by Disney” will operate as part of the company’s theme parks division, developing a series of master-planned communities for residential living, designed by Disney’s creative staff and offering the same pampered tranquility found in its resorts.

“Picture an energetic community with the warmth and charm of a small town and the beauty of a resort,” said Disney Parks, Experiences and Products exec Helen Pak in a promotional video.

Only one location has been announced so far: a community of 1,900 housing units named Cotino that will be built in the city of Rancho Mirage in California’s Coachella Valley (a location where Walt Disney himself once lived)….

(16) SPLISH SPLASH, YOU’LL BE TAKIN’ A BATH. [Item by Michael Toman.] I can’t be the only Filer who would be interested in reading this Kim Stanley Robinson nightmare scenario, with or without fires and earthquakes. What will California’s coast look like in 100 years? “We’re Kind of Built on This Knife’s Edge” at Alta.

Eighteen thousand years ago, give or take, the continental shelf 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco was exposed as a wide, flat coastal plain with an extensive system of dunes and river valleys connecting the Farallon Islands to the continental United States, which didn’t go by that name. Farther north, salt waters from the Pacific Ocean stretched all the way inland to present-day Sacramento.

Rising sea levels have continued to erode the shoreline ever since, as human beings established a society they would eventually call California. Some of our biggest cities were built in this 10 miles of dynamic coastline.

“We often think of the California coast as this high-relief terrain with active tectonics, which it is, but we’ve put millions of people in the lowest parts of the entire state, like the San Diego Bay, the San Francisco Bay, and the Los Angeles Basin,” says Patrick Barnard, the research director of the climate impacts and coastal processes team at USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz….

(17) YAKKITY-YAK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not satisfied with something commonplace like a robotic dog, China is going for a robotic yak. They are said to be essentially ready for troop support, but Popular Mechanics isn’t buying it. “China’s New ‘Robotic Yak’ Will Support Ground Troops, But It’s Not as Capable as It Seems”.

Chinese engineers are developing a large, four-legged robotic “yak,” supposedly capable of hauling as much cargo as two real yaks. The unnamed robot—which seems destined for military use—is similar to the robo-dog concept that Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics has popularized over the last decade. But a careful reading of the video shows that it may just be a bunch of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

Supported by its four spindly legs and barrel-shaped body, the robot is topped off with a cargo-carrying metal rack. Global Times, a Chinese tabloid with links to the Chinese government, claims it can carry up to 160 kilograms (352 pounds) and travel at up to 6.21 miles per hour. It cites the Chinese Communist Party news site People’s Daily as saying the robot was “the world’s largest, heaviest and most off-road-capable of its kind.”…

…. Robo-yak isn’t going anywhere anytime soon for the same reasons the Marines never pursued LS3: robots run on batteries and once the batteries run down, it takes hours—at a place with abundant power to spare, which is not exactly the desert—to recharge them. 

(18) THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. “Homelander’s Vought Origin Story Shown In The Boys Diabolical Trailer”Screen Rant sets the frame:

Set within the same universe as its parent series, The Boys: Diabolical acts as an eight-part collection of animated short films exploring a range of stories related to the corrupt superhero world that fans of The Boys have come to know and love. Each episode will run between 12 and 14 minutes and feature a unique animation style

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: It Takes Two,” Fandom Games says the gimmick of this game is that you’re supposed to play it with your partner and preserve your marriage.  But the narrator says a better test is to “Play Cuphead with your wife, because if your marriage can survive that, it can survive anything!”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Steven H Silver, Chris Barkley, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 2/9/22 I Have Tasted The Pixels In The Scroll Of The Universe, And I Was Not Offended

(1) TRIPLE TIP. What he tells you three times is true: “Hand Holding” by Mark Lawrence.

This is a blog-post about hand holding. The previous sentence was hand-holding, since the title and the image below make it obvious what the blog-post is about. 

Fantasy stories can be complicated beasts. They’re potentially confusing even if we forget all the technicalities and twistiness of battles, wars, duels, mysteries, espionage, lies etc that might well bedevil other genres….

…And the question through all of this is how much hand-holding the author does. Does the writer put the pieces of the puzzle in front of the reader and assume they’ll put them together? Does the writer put the pieces together for them then repeat the answer for the reader three times in three different ways?

Before I was published I used to share short stories on the now vanished Yahoo Groups. During that time I developed through observation and experience, what I called The Rule of Three.

The Rule of Three: If you want 90% of your readership to take onboard an important fact then you need to repeat it three times in the text….

(2) IAFA’S NEW LEADER. Dr. Pawel Frelik is the next President of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.

A two-term Division Head of the IAFA, Pawe? Frelik is Associate Professor and the Leader of Speculative Texts and Media Research Group at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw, Poland. His teaching and research interests include science fiction, speculative visualities, and video games. He has published widely in these fields, serves on the boards of Science Fiction Studies (USA), Extrapolation (USA/UK), and Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds (UK), and is the co- editor of the New Dimensions in Science Fiction book series at the University of Wales Press. In 2013-2014, he was President of the Science Fiction Research Association, the first in the organization’s history from outside North America. In 2017, he was the first non-Anglophone recipient of the Thomas D. Clareson Award. Within IAFA, he has served as Science Fiction Division Head since 2017. Dr. Frelik will assume the presidency at the end of the 43rd ICFA in March.

(3) DISCUSS RING SHOUT. The Gunn Center for Science Fiction Virtual Book Club will meet February 25 and Director Giselle Anatol invites you to the meeting.

(4) WIDE LOAD. Reddit’s r/printSF raised the question, “Are sci-fi books much longer than they used to be? If so, any idea why?” John Scalzi contributed a detailed reply which begins:

Novel lengths in science fiction and fantasy are essentially dictated by methods of publication *and* distribution.

For example, during the “golden age” of science fiction, the main publishing action of SF/F was in the short fiction arena, with novels (many of which were “fix-ups” of previously published shorter work) largely printed as cheap paperbacks which were fitted into racks at drug stores, groceries and other such places. Because distributors (and publishers!) wanted to fit a larger number of books into each rack, novel lengths were commensurately shorter — 40,000 to 60,000 words on average….

(5) BACK TO THE FUTURAMA. “’Futurama’ Revived at Hulu”The Hollywood Reporter says they’ve lined up the creators and the cast.

Nearly 10 years after it signed off, Futurama has been revived for a 20-episode run on Hulu, the third platform for the animated comedy from creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.

The series that aired its first five seasons on Fox before being revived for three more at Comedy Central will return to production this month for a 2023 premiere. Following an extended deal-making period, original stars Billy West (Fry) and Katey Sagal (Leela) along with ensemble players who voiced multiple characters Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr and David Herman will all return. John DiMaggio, who provided the voice behind the wise-cracking robot with the “shiny metal ass” Bender, is finalizing a deal to return as well though a deal has not yet closed.

(6) SCIENCE PLUS. The National Book Foundation Science + Literature Program “identifies three books annually, steered by a committee of scientific and literary experts, to deepen readers’ understanding of science and technology with a focus on work that highlights the diversity of voices in scientific writing. The selected titles will act as a catalyst to create discourse, understanding, and engagement with science for communities across the country.” Authors will receive a $10,000 prize. The inaugural winners are:

(7) IMAGINARY PAPERS 9. The latest issue of Imaginary Papers, ASU’s quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination, features an essay by science fiction and global futures scholar Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay on the oft-forgotten science fiction docudramas of the filmmaker George Haggerty, and CSI staffer Bob Beard on Richard Linklater’s 2006 PKD adaptation A Scanner Darkly and the dramas of self-presentation. There’s also a writeup of the “Speculating the Future” essay series from the Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures. “Imaginary Papers, Issue 9”.

The Films of George Haggerty, Parts 1 and 2 (1975-1994)

What exactly counts as a “forgotten future”? One can google George Haggerty, the director, whose six docufiction films are presented in two anthology DVDs, released in 2017 by Screen Edge and MVDvisual. All six films—Hamburger Hamlet (1975), Mall Time (1988), Robotopia (1990), Home on Wheels (1992), LA Requiem (1993), and Cyberville (1994)—were produced by Mike Wallington, but searching that reveals little about the director or the films. It was the sleeve descriptions, which make Haggerty appear a maverick outsider figure, that first drew my attention to these anthologies. The films are unreservedly about the future, even as they operate at the interstices of the vanishing past and present. As a documentary producer and SF researcher, there is something disconcerting about finding a set of films that one is unable to locate easily in the developing history of the medium. (Drew Barrymore even appears in one of the films, but the title is absent from her IMDb profile.)…

(8) PEEK EXPERIENCE. Leonard Maltin says this was “Douglas Trumbull’s greatest visual effect” in “Remembering Douglas Trumbull” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

Sometime in the late 1980s my wife and I were invited to a warehouse-type building in Marina del Rey for a demonstration of Douglas Trumbull’s Showscan. A new film format from the man who was largely responsible for the incredible look of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and the modern era of visual effects? The same guy who directed Silent Running? Who could turn down an invitation like that? …

(9) MAKING TIME. GQ is convinced that “The Lazarus Project is your next sci-fi TV obsession” – at least for those in the UK who can access Sky.

Archie recruits him for the clandestine Lazarus Project: an organisation composed of people with the same vanishingly rare ability with which George finds himself stuck. They harness the time-bending power to prevent global catastrophes and apocalyptic scenarios (as a famous philosopher once said: “With great power, comes great…”) But when Sarah, the love of George’s life, is involved in a car accident, the ethics of such an extraordinary gift take centre stage — and what is George willing to sacrifice?

(10) TOM DUPREE (1949-2022). Writer, critic, and editor Tom Dupree died February 7. He was employed as the line editor for Star Wars novels with Bantam Spectra from 1992-1997. He was charged with handling the X-Wing series of novels. The character names “Dupas Thomree” (in Assault at Selonia and Showdown at Centerpoint by Roger MacBride Allen) and “Ree Duptom” (in Hard Merchandise by K.W. Jeter) are playful nods to him.

He had around a dozen published short stories. “With a Smile” (from Mob Magic, 1998) received an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best.

He co-wrote John Maxwell’s critically acclaimed one-man show based on the life of William Faulkner (filmed in 2006).

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-six years ago this evening, the thrilling sight of Lost In Space’s “War Of The Robots” first happened. In one corner of this fight, we have Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet.   And in the other corner of the ring (metaphorically speaking), we have B-9 from Lost in Space

Aired as the twentieth episode of the first season, the story is that while returning from a fishing trip, Will and B-9 find a deactivated Robotoid. Against the wishes of B-9, Will proceeds to repair and restore the Robotoid which apparently becomes a humble servant of the Robinson family. Sure.

The best part of this episode is the slow motion rock ‘em, sock ‘em battle between the robots. And yes it’s a very, very silly battle indeed as you can see from the image below. 

Lost in Space is available to stream on Hulu and Netflix.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1928 Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he painted were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did overly muscular barbarians very well! Oh, and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party? and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1935 R. L. Fanthorpe, 87. He was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of small rural library. He’d be perfect for the usual suspects I’d say.
  • Born February 9, 1936 Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968). Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in “A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James).Then he’s Ecto, whoever that character is, in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 9, 1940 David Webb Peoples, 82. Screenwriter of Blade RunnerLadyhawkeLeviathan, and Twelve Monkeys which is not a full listing. He’s also been writing for the Twelve Monkeys series .
  • Born February 9, 1942 Marianna Hill, 80. Doctor Helen Noel in the excellent “Dagger of The Mind” episode of the original Trek. (This episode introduces the Vulcan mind meld.) She also had roles on Outer Limits (in the Eando Binder’s “I Robot“ story which predates Asimov’s story of that name), Batman (twice as Cleo Patrick), I-SpyThe Wild Wild WestMission: Impossible and Kung Fu (ok, the last one has to be least genre adjacent, isn’t it?). 
  • Born February 9, 1951 Justin Gustainis, 71. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series? 
  • Born February 9, 1956 Timothy Truman, 66. Writer and artist best remembered in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, volumes one and two. For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve now overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 41. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home illustrates a friend who doesn’t quite get it.
  • Tom Gauld free associates.

(14) VERBATIM. The Comics Journal has posted the “Transcript of the McMinn County Board of Education’s Removal of Maus”. It’s been extensively discussed here in comments, but may still be news for others.

On January 10, 2022, the McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee voted unanimously to remove Art Spiegelman’s Maus from its eighth-grade language arts curriculum, citing its use of profanity and depictions of nudity. This public document represents the unedited minutes of that Board’s meeting, presented as a service to all impacted parties.

(15) DAY-OLD NEWS. Someone – probably Upstream Review’s Michael Gallagher in “A Whitewashed Tomb: SFWA’s Best Can’t Sell Books” – got what you get when you poke the bear.

(16) POKÉMON TIME TRIP. “Pokémon Legends: Arceus review: breathing new life into Pokémon” promises The Verge.

…Which is what makes Pokémon Legends: Arceus so refreshing: it’s genuinely surprising. It does this by shifting the timeline back to long before the modern games in the series, during a period when pokémon were still barely understood. Instead of a world where humans and pokémon live in harmony, and anyone can buy an electronic device full of information on hundreds of species, players are thrust into a wild, untamed region where people are just doing their best to survive while surrounded by largely unknown and seemingly dangerous creatures….

(17) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. If you’re sensitive to robotic (and other violence), do not watch the trailer for the game Atomic Heart. No, no, no.

(18) LONG MEMORY. Beckett’s “History of the Obscene 1977 Topps Star Wars 207 C-3PO” includes the interesting note that unlike most collectibles that have to be withdrawn, it’s easier to find the original version of this trading card than the censored replacement edition.

“C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)” is about a mundane caption as you can get.

To those working on the set at Topps and the licensor, nothing seemed to stand out.

Once the cards were out there, it didn’t take long for people to notice that something definitely was.

(19) BLOWN AWAY. BBC News reports “SpaceX loses 40 satellites to geomagnetic storm a day after launch”.

SpaceX has lost dozens of satellites after they were hit by a geomagnetic storm a day after launch, causing them to fall from orbit and burn up.

Such solar “storms” are caused by powerful explosions on the sun’s surface, which spit out plasma and magnetic fields that can hit the Earth.

The company, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, said up to 40 of 49 satellites from last week’s launch were hit.

They had been due to join its Starlink satellite internet project.

Starlink is Mr Musk’s bid to provide high-speed internet using thousands of orbiting satellites….

(20) ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK. “Asteroid sharing Earth’s orbit discovered – could it help future space missions?” asks The Conversation.

Research has shown that the Earth trails an asteroid barely a kilometre across in its orbit about the Sun – only the second such body to have ever been spotted. It goes round the Sun on average two months ahead of the Earth, dancing around in front like an excited herald of our coming.

This object, known as 2020 XL?, was first spotted in December 2020 using Pan-STARRS telescopes on the summit of Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui. But determination of its orbit required follow-up observations using the 4.1-metre SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) telescope in Chile….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Arcane:League of Legends,” the Screen Junkies find an animated series based on a video game that “taught your 13-year-old cousin all his favorite slurs” is actually pretty good.  The series features “cyberpunk, steampunk. skatepunk, and Punky Brewster” and is in a world where “magic is like science, and science is like Crossfit.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, BravoLimaPoppa, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Flaneur.]

Pixel Scroll 7/10/17 Humor Is A Thing With Feathers, Or Maybe Pixels

(1) HEATING UP AND COOLING OFF. The current edition of WNYC’s On the Media talks extensively on SF and climate change:

Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

  1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogyand Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.
  2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevayetalks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest.
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there’s hope.
  4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlaneon new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!

(2) ECONOMIC IMPACT. Some businessman are paying attention: “How climate change will transform business and the workforce”.

Right now, the top 10 most-desired skills for getting hired, according to LinkedIn’s data analysis, all have to do with tech: think cloud computing, SEO marketing and web architecture. In the same way tech has transformed today’s workforce, some say that climate change could transform tomorrow’s.

One industry that already shows some of that evolution is energy. According to data provided by job listings search engine Indeed, in the first quarter of 2014 in the UK, job postings in the renewable energy sector – made up of bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind – accounted for a third (32.9%) of all energy-sector job postings in the first quarter of 2014. In 2017, that had risen to over half of all energy sector job postings, or 51.5%.

(3) MORE ON BUTLER MUSEUM EXHIBIT. In “Octavia Butler: Writing Herself Into The Story”, NPR goes behind the scenes of the Butler exhibit at the Huntington.

“Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” is an exhibit currently at the Huntington Library, in the Pasadena suburb of San Marino, Calif. Curator Natalie Russell went through some “8,000 manuscripts, letters and photographs, and an additional 80 boxes of ephemera” to create an exhibition that shows, in chronological order, how Butler’s career was born and evolved, and what influenced her.

Large glass cases hold early notebooks and drawings, report cards from her days at Pasadena City College and notes to herself about character development. Early copies of her first editions are here. So is the one-page letter from the MacArthur Foundation notifying Butler she’d been chosen as a fellow in 1995.

…She often made them up while sitting on the porch at her grandmother’s chicken farm, in the High Desert town of Victorville, Calif., where she dreamed about animals. The drawings of horses that illustrated one of her early stories are on the walls at the Huntington. After Devil Girl, though, Butler switched to science fiction, determined to make that her career.

Creating her own path

That was astonishing, because the world was not full of well-paid science fiction writers, and with very few exceptions, all of those were male and white. No one like Butler existed in the genre. And that didn’t seem to hold Butler back one bit. “I don’t recall every having wanted desperately to be a black woman fiction writer,” she told Rose. “I wanted to be a writer.”

(4) SHUFFLING INTO HISTORY. Here’s what Magic fans can look forward to at San Diego Comic-Con: “Magic the Gathering Reveal Their SDCC Exclusive”.

  • “Magic: The Gathering 2017 Planeswalker Pack”  – $180.00

Includes a 24” x 36” screen print of Nicol Bolas illustrated by Brandon Holt. Produced in collaboration with Mondo. Printed by D&L on Magic: The Gathering card stock. Nicol Bolas is an iconic Magic character who first made an appearance in the game in 1994 and has been a powerful fan favorite since.

  • 6 Planeswalker cards with exclusive artwork by illustrator, Vincent Proce

Characters include Gideon Jura™, Jace Beleren®, Liliana Vess®, Chandra Nalaar®, Nissa Revane™ & Nicol Bolas™

 

(5) FUTURAMA GAME. SyFy beats everyone to the story: “Neat! Futurama returns as a game and we’ve got the scoop”.

It’s been a painfully long four years since the last original Futurama episode graced our screens (insert Kif shudder), but good news everyone, the Planet Express-less universe is no more with the launch of the Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow game available now on iOS and Android.

 

(6) WANTING MORE. At The Book Smugglers, Thea James advises readers “Where to Start with the Star Wars Expanded Universe”.

Star Wars inspires passion. Everyone has a different experience with the franchise, especially when it comes to opinions regarding touchy subjects like the prequel era, and the subsequent novels and shows to come out of said era.

My experience with Star Wars is probably very similar to many others of my generation: I grew up watching the original trilogy, which I loved very dearly. I watched the prequels when they were released in theaters starting with The Phantom Menace when I was fifteen, and… I enjoyed them. Sure, the writing was horrible and the acting not much better, but I ate it all up because it was more Star Wars. I bought into the prequel era, even as I felt it was falwed and lacking the emotional gravitas I so desperately wanted. I collected Pepsi bottles featuring different members of the galactic senate and other key characters, I obsessively played Rogue Squadron and, yes, Episode I: Racer, among others.

I bought into all of this because I was hungry for more of the universe I loved, and I wanted answers. I wanted to learn more about Dooku’s fall from grace and the rise of the Sith. I wanted to understand the corruption in the Senate beyond a cursory few scenes across three movies; I wanted to feel the cameraderie between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and understand how the Jedi could have been so blind to Palpatine’s machinations.

(7) ON TOP OF THE PILE. Nerds of a Feather finds out what the author is reading in “6 Books with Yoon Ha Lee”.

Yoon Ha Lee’s first novel NINEFOX GAMBIT was shortlisted for the Nebula, Hugo, and Clarke awards. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.   Today he shares his 6 books with us…

What book are you currently reading? 

I’m rereading John Wick’s PLAY DIRTY 2, which is by a game designer and features a collection of tips for tabletop roleplaying and game masters. I find a lot of the narrative tricks and discussions really useful for thinking about how to construct a narrative even in a non-game format. I don’t always agree with Wick, but he’s thought-provoking, intelligent, and interesting.

(8) BEASTLY TV. Echo Ishii excavates another ancient TV series in “SF/Horror Obscure: Beasts”.

Beasts is a short run anthology horror show by Nigel Kneale, the creator of Qatermass.

(If you don’t know Qatermass it was one of the first serious SF TV serials and inspired Doctor Who among other things.) Nigel Kneale has a long and distinguished career in SF and horror.

Beasts originally ran in 1976 on ITV, as six episodes (50min). They are connected by a loose them of strange creatures and horrific circumstances, but the real power lies in the often unsympathetic but completely compelling characters. There are many recognizable actors in the series including Martin Shaw (Inspector George Gently!!!) and Micheal Kitchen (Inspector Foyle!!). I’m a huge fan of British TV mysteries-I’ve watched more of Midsomer Murders than is healthy.

(9) J.K. ROWLING’S LOST MANUSCRIPT. In an interview with CNN, Rowling revealed that she has written yet another fairy tale — but this one may never be published.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I read that you were considering writing a political book for children, young people?

J.K. ROWLING: Oh, that was a fairy tale …

But I — I will tell you this. On my 50th — the theme of my 50th birthday, which I held at Halloween, even though that’s not really my birthday, was come as your own private nightmare. And I went as a lost manuscript. And I wrote over a dress most of that book. So that book, I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but it’s actually hanging in a wardrobe currently.

(10) MORE REVELATIONS. In “The Potter Family” on Pottermore J.K. Rowling looks at the history of the Potter family going back to the 12th century and reveals that Harry Potter is actually the second person in his family named “Harry Potter” since his great-grandfather also had the same name.

Potter is a not uncommon Muggle surname, and the family did not make the so-called ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’ for this reason; the anonymous compiler of that supposedly definitive list of pure-bloods suspected that they had sprung from what he considered to be tainted blood. The wizarding Potter family had illustrious beginnings, however, some of which was hinted at in Deathly Hallows.

In the Muggle world ‘Potter’ is an occupational surname, meaning a man who creates pottery. The wizarding family of Potters descends from the twelfth-century wizard Linfred of Stinchcombe, a locally well-beloved and eccentric man, whose nickname, ‘the Potterer’, became corrupted in time to ‘Potter’. Linfred was a vague and absent-minded fellow whose Muggle neighbours often called upon his medicinal services. None of them realised that Linfred’s wonderful cures for pox and ague were magical; they all thought him a harmless and lovable old chap, pottering about in his garden with all his funny plants.

(11) MAGIC IS TURNING MUGGLES INTO MONEY. Behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Emma Jacobs has a lot more info about Rowling’s business activities.  The news includes:

  • If you try to find Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station, you won’t find the Hogwarts Express, but there is a Potter gift shop and Potter fans from around the world
  • One of the rules Rowling has imposed is that there are to be no Harry Potter tie ins with fast food.
  • “The challenge is to stretch the franchise without breaking it.”  Jacobs spoke to children’s marketing consultant Gary Pope, who says the Toklien movies–particularly the three Hobbit films– was a franchise “that got too complicated and grown up, and you can’t sell merchandising to adults.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 10, 1981 — John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered.
  • July 10, 1985 Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome opened in theatres.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr., of The Twilight Zone (“You Drive”) and The Waltons.
  • Born July 10, 1926 — Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster).
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson

(14) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends Brevity’s “cool” Star Wars joke.

(15) SCALZI COLLECTION. Subterranean Press has announced a new collection of John Scalzi’s nonfiction, Don’t Live For Your Obituary.

Between 2008 and 2017, author John Scalzi wrote fifteen books, became a New York Times bestselling author, and won numerous awards, including the Hugo, the Locus and the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio. He also had book deals crater, lost more awards than he won, worried about his mortgage and health insurance, flubbed a few deadlines, tried to be a decent parent and husband, and got into some arguments on the Internet, because, after all, that’s what the Internet is for.

Scalzi wrote about it all—the highs and lows in the life of a working writer—and gave his readers, and other writers, a glimpse of the day-to-day business of navigating a writing life in today’s world. Sometimes these essays offered advice. Sometimes they commented on the practical business of publishing and selling books. Sometimes they focused on the writing issues, arguments and personalities of the day. And sometimes, Scalzi reflected on his own writing life and career, and what both meant in the larger scheme of things….

(16) CONVERGENCE PLAUDITS. Here’s a couple of highly complimentary threads about the just completed CONvergence:

As Standback says, “It’s really nice to see people highlighting a convention that knocks it out of the park.”

(17) THE FELAPTON FILE. Here’s Camestros Felapton’s take on the Hugo-nominated novellas:

  1. Every Heart a Doorway: Weird – I didn’t think this would be my number one when I read it. It has sort of got the spot by default. The novellas were a struggle between the familiar and the experimental and sometimes a struggle with making the experimental familiar or making the familiar experimental. None of them quite manged the achievements of the others but Every Heart came closest.

(18) HUGO REVIEWS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has reached the short stuff: “Hugos 2017 — Short Stories”.  They say Wong and Wright are at the bottom of their ballot.

The most perplexing nominee — A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong — is a frenetic time-hopping story about a girl and her sister who have magical (electrical?) powers. The story may be about suicide, or it may be about the end of the world. There’s very little overall narrative thread to hold onto. In portions of the text, it feels like Wong is stringing words together into paragraphs without the traditional intermediary step of sentences. We can appreciate the artfulness of this style of writing, but it is not to our tastes…..

An Unimaginable Light is probably the best John C. Wright story that we’ve read — in no small part because it’s based around a couple of interesting notions about the ability of robots to interpret Asimov’s Three Laws in ways that their creators never intended. Although the ‘twist’ ending seems to come out of nowhere, that ending is at least built around an interesting idea concerning what it means to be human.

That being said, Wright’s slightly didactic prose and aggressive thesaurus use isn’t to our taste, nor is the way he seems to delight in the sexual degradation of one of the characters. This won’t be at the top of our ballot, but we can understand why some fans chose to nominate it.

(19) SPINE OUT OF ALIGNMENT. I wonder how often this happens? The collaboration by Larry Correia and John Ringo titled Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge came out this month, unfortunately, on the spine it read: “Larry Correia – Monster Hunter Nemesis.” B&N College HQ distributed a warning: “Simon & Schuster has issued a “return in place” for the following book due to a production error – the spine has a different title listed than the front cover of the book. Ooops! Please destroy all inventory as soon as possible.”

Correia also blogged about it: “Monster Hunter Grunge came out while I was away. Apparently the cover and interior are fine, but they had the spine of Monster Hunter Nemesis. Publishing screw ups happen, so this print run is being destroyed and replaced.”

(20) CORREIA RECUSAL. The same post also reminded people to vote for the Dragon Awards, with this request:

So please, participate, go an nominate whatever you think was awesome. Except don’t nominate me for anything. I won one last year, so I’m recusing myself from now on. Share the love!

(21) GRACE HOPPER COLLEGE GETS SUITABLE ARMS. Following up the Scroll item some months ago about one of Yale’s colleges replacing John C. Calhoun’s name with a modern one: “Grace Hopper coat of arms”.

The Grace Hopper College coat of arms became official on July 1, 2017.

Grace Murray Hopper’s accomplishments and qualities of character offer rich opportunities for visualization, and for representing the College’s transformation. The blue of the shield reflects the colors of Yale and of the U.S. Navy, where Hopper rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. The dolphin – thought of in the early days of heraldry as the ‘sovereign’ and ‘guiding light of the sea’ – represents Hopper’s exemplary personal and professional record of leadership. The ‘semé’ of white circles and vertical rectangles – evoking zeros and ones in this case – recognizes her contributions to mathematics and computer science. The scalloped bar at the top of the design gestures at waves or horizon, and links the College’s visual history to the patterns and colors of a new time.

(22) STORMS AHEAD. BBC News has been highlighting the images the Juno probe has been taking of Jupiter. The images of the polar regions showing a multitude of storms, each larger than Earth, all pressed up against each other are spectacular.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival 2017 Trailer previews, in two minutes, 19 animated films that will be shown at the SIGGRAPH convention in Los Angeles later this month.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Bill Burns, Dann Todd, Harold Osler, IanP, Michael J. Walsh, Chip Hitchcock, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day lauowolf.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/17 No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll

(1) ALIEN HECK. Yahoo! Movies has the latest Alien: Covenant poster: “’Alien: Covenant’: Third Poster Welcomes Moviegoers to Extraterrestrial Hell”.

After decades away from the franchise that he began back in 1979, director Ridley Scott has become unbelievably gung-ho about the Alien series, promising that he’s got perhaps another half-dozen sequels already planned out for the near future. Before he can get to those, however, he’ll first deliver the follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which by the looks of its recent trailer, is going to be a no-holds-barred descent into extraterrestrial madness. And now, its third theatrical poster (see it below) makes plain that its action won’t just be otherworldly; it’ll be downright hellish.

(2) BRAGGING ON BATMAN. Is this claim big enough for you? Why “Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995” is far better than any other incarnation before or since.

(3) EVIDENCE OF GENIUS. Up for auction the next six days — “Remarkable Letter Signed by Albert Einstein, Along With His Initialed Drawings”. Minimum bid is $15,000.

Albert Einstein letter signed with his hand drawings, elegantly explaining his electrostatic theory of special relativity to a physics teacher struggling to reconcile it with experiments he was conducting. In addition to the letter, which is new to the market, Einstein generously replies to a series of questions the teacher asks him on a questionnaire, providing additional drawings and calculations, initialed ”A.E.” at the conclusion. Dated 4 September 1953 on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, Einstein writes to Arthur L. Converse, the teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, in part, ”There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…” Also included is Einstein’s original mailing envelope from ”Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study, postmarked 7 September 1953 from Princeton. Folds and very light toning to letter, otherwise near fine. Questionnaire has folds, light toning and staple mark, otherwise near fine with bold handwriting by Einstein. With an LOA from the nephew of Arthur Converse and new to the market.

(4) PROFESSIONAL FAKE REVIEW. As announced in comments, Theakers Quarterly have posted their fake review of There Will Be Walrus. They’re doing these as a fundraiser for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. This is the first of four paragraphs in the review:

Military science fiction is a part of the genre that does not always get the attention it deserves, but thank goodness Cattimothy House is on the case, producing an anthology of stories and essays that ranks with the very best sf being produced in the world. Overrated social justice writerers such as John Scalesy and Jim B. Hinds might knock this kind of stuff and despise the fans who love it, but us real fans know the real deal when we see it, and here we do!

(5) NEW TAFF REPORT. Jacqueline Monahan published her TAFF trip report and earned a $500 bounty for the fund from the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests. More details when I find out how fans can get a copy.

(6) SALLY RIDE. At UC San Diego, where Ride served as a professor, a new graduate fellowship — the Sally Ride Fellowship for Women in Physics – has been established in her name to inspire future generations of boundary-breaking physicists who will contribute to the public good.

The pioneering astronaut Sally Ride was a beloved professor at UC San Diego for years. Brian Keating, professor of physics and Associate Director of the Clarke Center, and his wife, Sarah, recently provided the lead gift to fund the Sally Ride Graduate Fellowship for the Advancement of Women in Physics. “We thought this would be a great way to honor Sally Ride’s accomplishments and at the same time, motivate young scientists,” said Brian. “We hope that UC San Diego students will be inspired by her contributions to science and society.”

(7) STATISTICAL ACCURACY. Lately Cecily Kane has tweeted more than once about File 770 not linking to the Fireside Report

File 770 has linked to the Fireside Report. Before that it was discussed last September in comments. The thing I have never done is written an article about it, as I recently did with the FIYAH Magazine Black SFF Writer Survey.

This latest tweet came after I quoted Lela E. Buis in yesterday’s Scroll. That wasn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever posted and the comments section is open — it’s a shame to think we’ve been stuck reading Vox Day’s ridiculous attacks when we might be hearing something useful from Cecily Kane.

(8) SCRIMSHAW. We Hunted The Mammoth understands what’s happening — “Vox Day publishes book with near-identical cover to John Scalzi’s latest, declares victory”.

Beale’s master plan here, evidently, is to convince enough of his supporters to buy Kindle copies of the ersatz book out of spite so that it outranks Scalzi’s book in Kindle sales, a somewhat meaningless metric given that Beale’s books is priced at $4.99, compared to Scalzi’s $12.99, and that Scalzi is also selling actual paper copies of his book, while Beale’s is only available as an ebook. (Beale’s book has been taken down from Amazon several times already in the brief time it’s been out, apparently because, you know, it looks almost identical to Scalzi’s book, but at the moment it’s up on the site.)….

Beale, for all of his many defects, does seem to understand the art of the publicity stunt.

(9) THE LINE STARTS HERE. Can it be true that Kelly Freas and Pablo Picasso agreed about how nude women look? Go ahead, look at this Freas abstract now up for bid and tell me I’m wrong.

(10) DOUBLE UP. Rich Horton takes a lighthearted look back at “A Forgotten Ace Double: Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike”.

The covers are by probably the two leading SF illustrators of that time: Jack Gaughan (in a more psychedelic than usual mode for him), and Kelly Freas. So, I spent a fair amount of time on the background of these writers. Could it be that the novels themselves are not so interesting? Well — yes, it could.

Rackham, as I have said before, was a pretty reliably producer of competent middle-range SF adventure. And that describes Flower of Doradil fairly well. Claire Harper is an agent of Earth’s Special Service, come to the planet Safari to investigate some mysterious activity on the proscribed continent Adil. Safari is mostly devoted to hunting, but Adil is occupied by the humanoid (completely human, it actually seems) natives. But some plants with tremendous medical properties are being smuggled out, and the agents sent to investigate have disappeared.

(11) POETRY OF PHYSICS. In advance of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s upcoming event, “Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics”, they have produced a bonus episode of their podcast: a conversation between poet Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating.

The event takes place April 13 at UC San Diego. Armantrout, Keating, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser will discuss how Rae’s poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 24, 1874 – Harry Houdini
  • Born March 24, 1901 – Disney animator Ub Iwerks.

(13) TEN MYTHS. Carl Slaughter, recommending “10 Sci-Fi Movie Myths That Drive Scientists Crazy” from CBR, says “Instead of discussing science movie by movie, this debunk video is organized by topics.  I would add lasers, but more about laser myths another time.”

Outer space is vast and holds a multitude of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But for some reason, the mysteries we have solved are still be represented incorrectly by Hollywood today. We understand these movies are all fiction, but with our growing knowledge of the universe it’s hard to ignore the glaring mistakes made in movies that make them less realistic. Here are 10 space facts movies ALWAYS get wrong.

The video covers: gravity, no helmet, black holes, sound, explosions, speed, time, distance, dogfights, and Mars.

(14) THEY DELIVER. According to the maker of “Futurama:  Authentic Science, Sophisticated Comedy, Cultural Commentary,” their video takes “A look at the show that brought humor and emotion into the sterile world of science and arithmetic.”

(15) FINNISH WEIRD. Europa SF reports that the latest issue of Finnish Weird is available.

This is a fanzine from Finland that features stories on speculative fiction, this time from Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa and Viivi Hyvönen.

The text includes an English translation. The issue is available as a free download here.

(16) FIVE STAR TREK CAPTAINS AND ONE DOCTOR WHO CAPTAIN. Another Carl Slaughter pick: “There are so many delightful memories and insightful comments during this discussion with 5 Star Trek captains, I can’t even begin to list them.  Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer were all on stage in London in 2012.  To top it off, the discussion is hosted by yet another captain, Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who/Torchwood fame.”

(17) BOMB OR NO BOMB? Digital Antiquarian tries to answer the question “What’s the Matter with Covert Action?”, game designer Sid Meier’s biggest disappointment – mostly to Sid himself.

But there are also other, less scandalous cases of notable failure to which some of us continually return for reasons other than schadenfreude. One such case is that of Covert Action, Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley’s 1990 game of espionage. Covert Action, while not a great or even a terribly good game, wasn’t an awful game either. And, while it wasn’t a big hit, nor was it a major commercial disaster. By all rights it should have passed into history unremarked, like thousands of similarly middling titles before and after it. The fact that it has remained a staple of discussion among game designers for some twenty years now in the context of how not to make a game is due largely to Sid Meier himself, a very un-middling designer who has never quite been able to get Covert Action, one his few disappointing games, out of his craw. Indeed, he dwells on it to such an extent that the game and its real or perceived problems still tends to rear its head every time he delivers a lecture on the art of game design. The question of just what’s the matter with Covert Action — the question of why it’s not more fun — continues to be asked and answered over and over, in the form of Meier’s own design lectures, extrapolations on Meier’s thesis by others, and even the occasional contrarian apology telling us that, no, actually, nothing‘s wrong with Covert Action.

(18) UNEARTHLY VISIONS. In Jaroslav Kalfar’s A Spaceman of Bohemia, “A Czech Astronaut’s Earthly Troubles Come Along for the Ride”: a New York Times review by Hari Kunzru.

The reason the Czech Republic is launching a manned spacecraft is the arrival of a strange comet that has “swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust.” A cloud, named Chopra by its Indian discoverers, now floats between Earth and Venus, turning the night sky purple. Unmanned probes sent out to take samples have returned mysteriously empty. Likewise a German chimpanzee has returned to Earth with no information save the evidence that survival is possible. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese show no sign of wishing to risk their citizens, so the Czechs have stepped up, with a rocket named for the Protestant reformer and national hero Jan Hus. At many points in the novel, Kalfar sketches key moments in Czech history, and the very premise of a Czech space mission is clearly a satire on the nationalist pretensions of a small post-Communist nation. Financed by local corporations whose branding is placed on his equipment, Jakub is the epitome of the scrappy underdog, grasping for fame by doing something too crazy or dangerous for the major players.

(19) NO GORILLA. The Verge interviews visual-effects supervisor Jeff White about “How Industrial Light & Magic built a better Kong for Skull Island”.

When you have a featured character like this, how do you determine what techniques you’ll use to realize him? Particularly when it comes to performance — do you go through different approaches as to whether to use pure motion-capture, or pure animation?

We definitely did. We were very fortunate to work with [actor] Terry Notary, who I’d worked with before on Warcraft. He did a lot of body performance work. We had a couple days in mo-cap where Jordan could iterate very quickly with Terry to work through different scenes, then also try different gaits. And try things like, “Give us 10 chest pounds.” So he’d try different cadences. Is it three, is it alternating hands, is it hands together? Just trying to give us a nice library of things to pull from.

Then I would say the same is true of the face. We had a day of capture with Toby Kebbell (A Monster Calls, Warcraft), where he works through some of the scenes — particularly the less action-heavy scenes, where you really have a lot of time to look at Kong’s eyes, and the movement of the face. There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed. I think that was actually important to do, especially when trying to sell that Kong was 100 feet tall. Because even weighted down and moving slower, anyone that’s six feet tall is going to be able to change direction and move much faster than Kong would ever be able to.

It’s not even just a matter of saying, “Let’s take that and slow it down by 25 percent.” Once the arm gets moving, it can actually be pretty fast. But then when he needs to change direction, you need to have that appropriate, physically accurate process of getting this massive arm to move a different direction. With the animation in particular, it was a real challenge between making sure Kong felt slow enough where he was huge, but at the same time not letting the shots drag on so long that it no longer became an action movie.

(20) AN ALTERNATE INTERPRETATION. Carl Slaughter explains:

“Chain of Command” is usually included in lists of Star Trek’s best episodes.  This is the one with “There are 4 lights !”  The antagonist in this two-parter is Captain Jellico, who clashes with the Enterprise’s crew and even deliberately endangers Picard’s life. This video essay depicts Jellico as the protagonist who made all the right decisions for all the right reasons.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Michael J. Walsh, Iphinome, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]