Pixel Scroll 12/28/21 Journey To The Center Of The Ringworld

(1) LINDSAY ELLIS LEAVES TWITTER. Hugo-nominated video essayist and Astounding-nominated author Lindsay Ellis has announced her departure from Twitter as a result of dogpiling and other forms of internet abuse.

Newsweek connects some of the events leading up to this decision in “Lindsay Ellis ‘Omelas’ Meaning As Vlogger Quits YouTube Over ‘Raya’ Controversy”.

YouTuber Lindsay Ellis has quit social media months after she was at the center of a Twitter controversy over her criticism of the film, Raya and the Last Dragon.

On March 26 of this year, the film critic and content creator ignited a frenzy among movie fans when she compared the Pixar movie to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

A month after the controversy began Ellis discussed it in “Mask Off”.

Ellis explained her decision to leave Twitter in a post available to her Patreon subscribers. Newsweek has seen the post and says, “in it, Ellis discusses her difficult year following the Raya controversy and how she is exhausted by the barrage of criticism she faces online.”

While Ellis’ Patreon post is not for public quoting, one resource she repeatedly cites in it is Porpentine’s “Hot Allostatic Load” from 2015 at The New Inquiry, which is available online (excerpt below).

… This is in defense of the hyper-marginalized among the marginalized, the Omelas kids, the marked for death, those who came looking for safety and found something worse than anything they’d experienced before.

For years, queer/trans/feminist scenes have been processing an influx of trans fems, often impoverished, disabled, and/or from traumatic backgrounds. These scenes have been abusing them, using them as free labor, and sexually exploiting them. The leaders of these scenes exert undue influence over tastemaking, jobs, finance, access to conferences, access to spaces. If someone resists, they are disappeared, in the mundane, boring, horrible way that many trans people are susceptible to, through a trapdoor that can be activated at any time. Housing, community, reputation—gone. No one mourns them, no one asks questions. Everyone agrees that they must have been crazy and problematic and that is why they were gone.

I was one of these people….

Meredith also recommends reading Joreen’s 1976 article “Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood”.

… What is “trashing,” this colloquial term that expresses so much, yet explains so little? It is not disagreement; it is not conflict; it is not opposition. These are perfectly ordinary phenomena which, when engaged in mutually, honestly, and not excessively, are necessary to keep an organism or organization healthy and active. Trashing is a particularly vicious form of character assassination which amounts to psychological rape. It is manipulative, dishonest, and excessive. It is occasionally disguised by the rhetoric of honest conflict, or covered up by denying that any disapproval exists at all. But it is not done to expose disagreements or resolve differences. It is done to disparage and destroy….

Today Kiva tweeted a thread on the theme that “social media is inherently unjust.” Thread begins here.

(2) ON THE WAY. “The Bat and The Cat Trailer” dropped yesterday. The Batman comes to theaters March 4.

Vengeance equals justice for both the Bat and the Cat.

(3) SOCKET TO ME. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] “How the AIpocalypse begins” or “I Always Do What Teddy Says” updated: “Alexa tells 10-year-old girl to touch live plug with penny” at BBC News.

Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug.

The suggestion came after the girl asked Alexa for a “challenge to do”.

“Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” the smart speaker said.

Amazon said it fixed the error as soon as the company became aware of it.

The girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, described the incident on Twitter.

She said: “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”

That’s when the Echo speaker suggested partaking in the challenge that it had “found on the web”.

The dangerous activity, known as “the penny challenge”, began circulating on TikTok and other social media websites about a year ago….

(4) POWER POLL. Ursula Vernon polled Twitter readers about a question that may have been inspired by a discussion of editorial power making the rounds. (Or not!) There’s also plenty of comments from writers that follow this tweet.

(5) TWO-DIMENSIONAL SPACE. BoardGameGeek tells how you can “Bring Star Trek and Heroes of Might and Magic III to Your Tabletop” next year. Full game descriptions at the link.  These cards are from Missions.

U.S. publisher WizKids has been releasing Star Trek-themed games for years, and it will release two more such titles in 2022, both being themed editions of previously released games. Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball makes that connection clear right in the title…

Star Trek: Missions uses the same game engine as Bruce Glassco‘s Fantasy Realms, with players building a hand of cards that will score points based on the composition of that hand….

(6) TRIBUTES TO TWO SCIENTISTS. The New Yorker is “Honoring the Legacy of E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy”, two scientists who died very recently.

Over the weekend, two of the country’s leading naturalists, E. O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy, died a day apart. Wilson, who was perhaps best known for his work on ants, was a pioneer in the field of conservation biology; Lovejoy was one of the founders of the field. The two men were friends—part of an informal network that Wilson jokingly referred to as the “rain-forest mafia”—and there was something eerie about their nearly synchronous passing. “I’m trying very hard not to imagine a greater planetary message in the loss of these biodiversity pioneers right now,” Joel Clement, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, tweeted on Monday….

The Scientist ran this tribute to Wilson: “E.O. Wilson, Renowned Ant Researcher, Dies at 92”.

… In other work, Wilson performed a mass extinction study by removing insects from six mangrove islands in Florida via fumigation and documenting species recolonization and repopulation over two years. The observations, published in Ecology in 1970, provided insights into species extinction and conservation science.

Wilson is also credited with developing the field of sociobiology, which addresses the biological underpinnings of animal behavior, according to the Post. When he extended this thinking to humans in his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, which argues that people’s behavior is genetically determined, he incited much controversy, reports Reuters.

In the 1980s, Wilson pivoted his efforts to conservation biology, continuing to travel around the world and arguing that only by preserving half the Earth as wild will biodiversity be saved and mass extinction avoided, according to the Times…. 

(7) ANDREW VACHSS. The Official Website of Andrew Vachss reports he has died: “The loss cannot be measured and the debts can only be paid forward.” Vachss’ genre work includes some supernatural noir, the Cross series, and a Batman story.

Some of his most important work (non-sff) included writing about the realities about CASAs (“Court Appointed Special Advocate” volunteers), a program that wants to be “the child’s voice in court.”

Joe R. Lansdale mourned the death of Vachss, who felt like a brother to him. Lansdale linked to a published conversation they had about writing:

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty years ago, K-9 And Company: A Girl’s Best Friend first aired. It was a pilot for a proposed spin-off of Doctor Who. It features former Who series performers Sarah Jane Smith, an investigative journalist played by Elisabeth Sladen, and K9, a robotic dog voiced by John Leeson. Both characters had been companions of the Fourth Doctor, but they had not appeared together before. 

It was broadcast by BBC1 as a Christmas special long before the traditional Doctor Who Christmas specials which didn’t start until the Tenth Doctor, and it did not become a continuing series. It was created by John Nathan-Turner as written by Terence Dudley who had the Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” and three stories for the Fifth Doctor. 

Despite not being picked up as a series, it had very good ratings as eight point four million viewers watched it. Under a different production team some twenty-six years later, the overall concept of a Sarah Jane and K9 series did eventually come to be as The Sarah Jane Adventures which would last five seasons. Though K9 would be used sparingly in the new series.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story. (My opinion of course, yours may differ.)  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island which he was largely uncredited for. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in a way that DC isn’t thought of as having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards and he won a Hugo at Anticipation for Iron Man. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 89. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon.
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 87. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films.
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 79. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a WisCon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 76. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. 
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 51. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am, yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later is Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 40. The Baroness in one of the endless G.I. Joe films I’ve no attention ever of seeing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to be precise. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SKY FIE. “Elon Musk sparks China fury as space station takes emergency measures to avoid collision” reports the UK publication Express.

SPACEX CEO Elon Musk faced the ire of Chinese citizens online after their space station was reportedly forced to take evasive actions to avoid collision with satellites.

Chinese citizens lashed out against the tech billionaire’s space ambitions on Monday after satellites from Starlink Internet Services, a division of Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company, had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station. According to a document submitted by China to the UN space agency, the incidents occurred on July 1 and October 21.

In the papers, Beijing complained about how the near-miss incident “constituted dangers to the life or health of astronauts aboard the China Space Station”.

It said: “During this period, Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of the United States of America have had two close encounters with the China Space Station.

 “For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control on 1 July and 21 October 2021, respectively.

“For safety reasons, the China Space Station took the initiative to conduct an evasive manoeuvre in the evening of that day to avoid a potential collision between the two spacecraft.”…

(12) HE LOOKED. John Scalzi’s “Brief Review: Don’t Look Up” is at Whatever. Just quoting the first line here – don’t want my excerpt to bogart the post.

I liked it a lot, which is not surprising as it combines two of my favorite things — astronomy and satire — into one movie, and then also gives me an excellent cast and a pretty good script…. 

(13) ALTERNATE APOLLO. Jeff Foust reviews Chris Hadfield’s alternate-history novel: “Review: The Apollo Murders” at The Space Review.

… Such a book could easily go disastrously bad, but Hadfield pulls it off. He manages to find a balance between the narrative tension involved in a thriller, with multiple characters and plot lines coming together for the climax, with the technical details space enthusiasts will be looking for. Hadfield offers plenty of such details, whether it’s flying a Cessna or a high-performance jet or a lunar lander. He also mixes in actual historical figures among the fictional ones, like Gene Kranz, Alan Shepard, Sam Phillips, and Vladimir Chelomei (an author’s note at the end lists those actual figures.) Hadfield pays great attention to such details and others throughout the book; it might be overlooked or simply underappreciated by some readers, who simply want to get on to the next part of the plot, but such details never really drag the pace of the action….

(14) GILGAMESH GOES HOME. “Ancient Gilgamesh tablet returned to Iraqi National Museum”The National News has the story.

A rare antique clay tablet that bears a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh was returned to Iraq from the US on Tuesday in a victory for the war-torn nation in its long-running struggle to repatriate stolen artefacts.

The 127mm by 152mm fragment dates back 3,500 to 4,000 years. It was part of a group of more than 17,000 artefacts smuggled from Iraq decades ago and illegally imported to nations around the world. The tablets and other objects were seized from the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby company.

The chain of arts and crafts shops was forced by the US government to relinquish the items in 2017 and fined $3 million for failing to act on expert advice that the objects may have been looted or to declare their provenance to the authorities….

(15) RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. “Dave Eggers Created the Google-Amazon Mash-Up of Your Nightmares” – the New York Times’ Kara Swisher interviews the author of The Every.

kara swisher: One thing about this book, which is — it’s a little funnier than “The Circle,” which was a slightly more malevolent and menacing, although it’s the same company. Right? You seem to have gotten a little more of a sense of humor about it. One of the quotes was, “You’re disobedient and we strive to be too. Disobedient was a recently favored word replacing mutinous, which had replaced insurgent, which had replaced disruption, disruptor, which is, of course, the one they use now.”

david eggers: Yeah, I love the language of Silicon Valley. There’s always a word that is the word of the month or the word — and I can’t believe “disruption” is still out there. It’s been there for six, seven years or something and people are still using it. And everything for that period of time is measured against that word. Is it disruptive or is it not disruptive? Is this taco that I’m ordering, is that disruptive? I don’t know. And so — I had a lot of fun trying to think of not just the words that exist now but what would they invent or use in the future. And if you’re on the bleeding edge of that next word, the next “disruption,” you are seen as, I guess, a visionary in some way. But the words are kind of, they’re always — nouns used as verbs is always an easy thing to go for. But they’re always kind of awkward words. A little bit muscular but awkward and ungainly. And so it makes conversations so clunky and strange, almost like you’re talking in a second language in translation. Because so often you’re like, well, that word doesn’t at all belong there. It never meant that before, but here we are using it….

(16) THUMBS DOWN. Of course you want to know: “5 Worst Sci-Fi Movies Of 2021 (According To Rotten Tomatoes)”.

… Looking back at the 2021 releases, there were plenty of new sci-fi features released to keep audiences entertained. While some fantastic movies were offering fresh and fun takes on robot uprisings, anti-hero carnage, and anime endings, many fell short of the mark. This list looks back at the 5 worst sci-fi releases of the year according to Rotten Tomatoes featuring lackluster demonic possessions, bored Bruce Willis, and contrived romances….

Bliss (28%)

Directed by Mike Cahill and starring Owen Wilson as Greg and Salma Hayek as Isabel, Bliss follows recently divorced, Greg who happens to meet the strange and enigmatic Isabel at a bar. Isabel seems to know Greg and believes that the world they inhabit is a simulation. What follows is a messy mix of attempted mind-bending as Greg and Isabel begin to lose sight of what is real and what is fantasy. Bliss misses the mark with both its sci-fi and romance elements, leaving viewers wishing for an escape back to reality….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Matrix Resurrections Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, had the writer say that the first three Matrix movies told a story that “was over.  It was done with.”  So in the fourth film,  Keanu Reeves plays a video game developer who has told the story of the Matrix in three video games and is forced to make a fourth one.  The film basically retells the story of the first Matrix movies with additions that are so confusing that the producer asks at the end of the pitch, “What was that about?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Meredith, Todd Mason, amk, Jeffrey Jones, Anne Marble, Andrew (not Werdna), 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/19 It’s A Beautiful Scroll In The Pixelhood

(1) MUNROE DOCTRINE. “Moon dust may not burn you, but it’s no picnic.” In his debut “Good Question” column for The New York Times, “If I Touched the Moon, What Would It Feel Like?”, science author Randall Munroe explores what would happen if a person directly touched the moon.

(2) SKYWALKER PROMO. Complex supplies an introduction as “Disney Shares First Clip From ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'”.

Set on a Tatooine-like planet complete with speeder bike-style vehicles, the clip shows the trio alongside Chewbacca, C3PO, and BB-8 as they escape enroaching stormtroopers. Director and co-writer J.J Abrams recently teased that the ambition for the first entry of the sequel trilogy is at an all-time high. “What we set out to do was far more challenging,” he told Entertainment Weekly of the movie, which he admitted they had more “story adjustments” on than the previous entry he worked on, The Force Awakens.

(3) ICONIC SIXTIES COSTUMES ON THE BLOCK. Profiles in History will auction the Azarian Collection  on December 17. Genre stuff galore!

John Azarian is the founder and curator of the Azarian Collection, which you can see at theazariancollection.com. As a child of the 60s and a fan of nostalgia, John began collecting iconic items from the shows and movies he loved in his youth. Some of his favorite childhood memories include the superb television shows of the 1960s, like his favorite TV show, Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

…The highlight of the collection just so happens to be the first items he ever purchased, coincidentally, from Profiles in History.

  • The only known pair of complete costumes from The Dynamic Duo, Adam West’s “Batman” and Burt Ward’s “Robin” from the original 1960s TV series, Batman.
  • Adam West’s “Bruce Wayne” Shakespeare bust with hidden switch that opens the entrance to the Batcave from Batman.
  • Adam West’s “Batman” hero working Batmobile Batphone from Batman.
  • William Shatner’s “Captain James T. Kirk” wraparound tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • William Shatner’s “Alternate Universe Cpt. James T. Kirk” tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series, episode “Mirror, Mirror”.
  • Leonard Nimoy’s “Evil Spock” tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series, episode: “Mirror, Mirror”.
  • The I Dream of Jeannie signature Genie bottle.
  • “Jupiter 2” spaceship filming miniature from Lost in Space.
  • “Space Pod” filming miniature Lost in Space.
  • Henry Winkler’s “Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli” signature leather jacket from Happy Days.
  • Jeff Conaway’s “Kenicki” signature “T-Birds” jacket from the “Greased Lightnin’” musical number in Grease
  • Lynda Carter’s “Wonder Woman” signature superhero ensemble from Wonder Woman.
  • Barbara Eden’s “Jeannie” signature pink harem costume from I Dream of Jeannie.

(4) LOADING THE CANON. Library of America interviews editor Gary K. Wolfe about his selections for American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s The High Crusade, Poul Anderson; Way Station, Clifford D. Simak; Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes;  . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal], Roger Zelazny; Past Master, R. A. Lafferty; Picnic on Paradise, Joanna Russ; Nova, Samuel R. Delany; and Emphyrio, Jack Vance. “Gary K. Wolfe: Reinvention and revolution in 1960s science fiction”.

LOA: Appreciations of Delany’s Nova regularly note that it has roots in old-fashioned space opera, and in the next sentence mention how it anticipates cyberpunk. How does Nova simultaneously evoke science fiction’s past and anticipate its future?

 Wolfe: As his own critical and autobiographical works make clear, Delany was a sophisticated and critical reader of science fiction from an early age, so it’s not surprising he would make use of his knowledge of the genre’s classic space opera tropes, just as he had made use of the post-nuclear apocalypse theme in The Jewels of Aptor or the generation starship theme in The Ballad of Beta-2. So while the huge planet-hopping canvas and the economic and corporate rivalries suggest classic space opera, the characters are quite different. While there are human-machine interfaces and implants in Nova, I think the more important way in which it anticipates cyberpunk has to do with these characters: racially diverse, often alienated outsiders like The Mouse or drifters like Dan.

Nova is set in a much more distant future—the thirty-second century—than novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, set in the reasonably near future, probably sometime in the twenty-first century. And while Nova does touch upon themes like body modifications and virtual reality, it’s less concerned with information technology, urbanization, and other earmarks of cyberpunk. But I’ve always felt that, despite the remarkable futuristic insights of Gibson, Sterling, Rucker, and others, the “punk” aspect of cyberpunk is what really gave rise to all the later variations like steampunk, dieselpunk, etc.—and that streetwise “punk” sensibility was certainly prefigured by Nova, along with a few other important works of the ’50s through the ’70s.

(5) LIVE FOREVER. The New Yorker’s Joan Acocella critiques a new book’s strategies for “How to Read ‘Gilgamesh’”.

… The poet and scholar Michael Schmidt has just published a wonderful book, “Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem” (Princeton), which is a kind of journey through the work, an account of its origins and discovery, of the fragmentary state of the text, and of the many scholars and translators who have grappled with its meaning. Schmidt encourages us to see “Gilgamesh” not as a finished, polished composition—a literary epic, like the Aeneid, which is what many people would like it to be—but, rather, something more like life, untidy, ambiguous. Only by reading it that way, he thinks, will we get close to its hard, nubbly heart.

(6) REFERENCE OF THE DAY. Now that you mention it….

(7) JURY DUTY. The Australian Science Fiction Foundation has put out a call for jurors for the 2020 Norma K Hemming Award – “eminent individuals in the Australian speculative fiction field.”

The award is designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work. Jury members are generally appointed for a two year period, and no juror may judge the same category for more than four years. Expressions of interest are to be submitted via the online form by COB Friday December 6, 2019.

(8) DOUBLE TAKE. A DCU streamer will get a second airing on a network: “DC Universe’s ‘Stargirl’ to Air on The CW” – details in The Hollywood Reporter.

In a rare streaming-to-linear deal, the Greg Berlanti-produced superhero drama will air on The CW the day after episodes debut on WarnerMedia-backed subscription service DC Universe. Additionally, the Brec Bassinger-led drama will also be available to stream on The CW’s free digital platforms the day after their linear debut. The series will launch on DC Universe in the second quarter of 2020 with new episodes released weekly.

This is the latest effort to give a signal boost to a scripted original from the nice streaming service. In July, DC Universe renewed drama Doom Patrol for a second season with the sophomore order set to run on both DCU and WarnerMedia’s forthcoming subscription streaming service, HBO Max.

Stargirl follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Bassinger), who inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. The project reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in a fun, exciting and unpredictable series. Geoff Johns and Lee Moder created the character, who was named after the former’s sister, Courtney, who died in the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800. The character made her first appearance in July 1999’s Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #1.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 25, 1915 — Albert Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity.
  • November 25, 1964 Voyage To The End Of The Universe premiered. The feature starred Zdenek Stepánek and Frantisek Smolík. It’s actually a 1963 Czechoslovak called Ikarie XB-1 is and  directed by Jind?ich Polák. The Americanized version has a very different end that the Czech version does.
  • November 25, 1983 I predatori di Atlantide (The Atlantis Interceptors) premiered in Italy. Starring Tony King,  Christopher Connelly, Gioia Scola, Michele Soavi and George Hilton. Directed by Ruggero Deodato who also directed the widely banned Cannibal Holocaust and Phantom of Death. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 25, 1920 Ricardo Montalbán. Khan Noonien Singh and Mr. Rourke. Armando and Grandpa Valentin Avellan. I’m picking those as four most memorable roles he’s played and they just happen to all be genre in nature. Oh, and is Khan Noonien Singh the only occurrence of a non-crew character carrying over from the original series into the films? I suspect not but I can’t think of anyone other. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Poul Anderson. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise for the mix of personal scale story with his usual grand political stories, and all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories. I also enjoy his Time Patrol stories as well, and the two Operation Luna are quite fun. He was quite honored with seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 25, 1926 Jeffrey Hunter. Best known for his role as Capt. Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that material in “The Menagerie” episode.  Other genre work included Dimension 5, A Witch Without A Broom, Strange Portrait (never released, no print is known to exists), Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Journey into Fear and The Green Hornet. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 25, 1941 Sandra Miesel, 78. She has described herself as “the world’s greatest expert” on Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson. She’s written such works as Against Time’s Arrow: The High Crusade of Poul Anderson on Borgo Books and she’s written the front and back matter for many of their books. Oh, and she started out as a serious fan being nominated thrice for Hugos for her writing in zines such as Yandro and Granfalloon. She co-authored The Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children’s Fantasy with Catholic journalist and canon lawyer Pete Vere. 
  • Born November 25, 1947 John Larroquette, 72. I think his best genre role is Jenkins in The Librarians. He’s also had one-offs in Almost Human, The Twilight Zone, Chuck, Batman: The Animated Series and Fantasy Island.  He’s uncredited but present in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, Doing voice acting in Green Lantern: First Flight, the Klingon Maltz in The Search for Spock and the oddly named K.K.K. in Twilight Zone: The Movie. Did you know he was the narrator of two Texas Chainsaw Massacre films? 
  • Born November 25, 1951 Charlaine Harris, 68. She is best known for the Southern Vampire series starring Sookie Stackhouse which was adapted as True Blood. I know I’ve read several of this series and enjoyed them. She has two other series, nether genre or genre adjacent, the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard series. 
  • Born November 25, 1953 Mark Frost, 66. He’s best known as a writer for Hill Street Blues (I know it’s not genre but superb nonetheless) and as the co-creator with David Lynch of Twin Peaks in which he’s been involved with in other roles as well. He had a hand in writing both of the Fantastic Four films. He was also one of the Executive Producers of the very short lived All Souls series.
  • Born November 25, 1968 Jill Hennessy, 51. Best known for being Dr. Marie Lazarus in RoboCop 3 which did not star Peter Weller despite my not noticing this for several viewings. She pops up elsewhere such as twice in the War of The Worlds series playing two different characters which she also foes in The Hitchhiker series, and amazingly being on Friday the 13th: The Series in four different roles!
  • Born November 25, 1974 Sarah Monette, 45. Under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor which garnered  the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”. Her first two novels Mélusine and The Virtu are quite wonderful and I highly recommend her Iskryne series that she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld has tapped into a theme that brings to mind Lafferty’s “Slow Tuesday Night.”

(12) TURN ON THE BAT FRIGHT. “Bruce Wayne warns wealth tax on billionaires could result in fewer crimes foiled via jet-powered cars” – a facetious headline in The Beaverton.

Gotham’s leading philanthropist has joined other billionaires, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg and hedge-fund billionaire Leon Cooperman, in opposing [Elizabeth] Warren. Wayne has even gone one step further, insisting a wealth tax could curb private spending on items such as hang glider capes, personally-branded boomerangs, and rodent-themed flood lights that illuminate the night sky.

(13) AU REVOIR? French sff news site ActuSF tweeted about the recent conference in China —

“On November 24, Asian science fiction writers announced at the 5th International Science Fiction Conference in China that more international cooperation is expected in the Asian FS sector.”

— Prompting a despairing comment from Olivier Pacquet to another French SF writer, Sylvie Denis:

“We can say goodbye to a Worldcon in France in 2023.”

(14) THEY SLEIGH ME. Trader Joe is selling Grinch-inspired Grump trees for your Yuletide pleasure —

(15) HAPPI CAMPER. Mothership is there when “Pope dons traditional coat with anime image of his face to greet the Japanese”.

Pope Francis was in Japan for a four-day visit on Saturday, Nov. 23 — his second papal visit to the country.

While greeting Catholics and the media on Monday, Nov. 25, the Pope, known for his unconventional background and unorthodox methods and comments, wore a Japanese coat called a “happi”.

…Words in different languages, such as Japanese and Spanish, can be seen on the “happi” as well.

Some of the Japanese phrases read “gratitude”, “let’s pray together”, “may there be peace”, “what can be done to give disaster victims hope”, and “we are glad that you’re the pope”.

Wikipedia amplifies:

happi is a traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat. They are usually worn only during festivals. Originally these represented the crest of a family, as happi were worn by house servantsFirefighters in the past also used to wear happi; the symbol on their backs referred to the group with which they were associated.

 (16) LET NOTHING STAND IN YOUR WAY. This is wonderfully over the top. A Foot Locker commercial asks people how desperately do they want this shoe? “Would you do whatever it takes to get to the Week of Greatness and get the drop? Even if aliens attacked Earth during a zombie epidemic and a global meteor storm?”

[Thanks to John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, our neighbor Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/16 All True Scrollaroos Meeting At Worldcon Hinder Pixelman Agenda

(1) HOPEFULLY INCURABLE. Rhianna Pratchett reacted to the news item that also inspired #12 in yesterday’s Scroll (“Nailsworth teacher claims Harry Potter books cause mental illness”):

(2) CRAZY EX RATED. On NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, “Not My Job: Actress Rachel Bloom Gets Quizzed On Crazy Ex-Boyfriends”.

Since she’s the expert on crazy ex-girlfriends we’ve decided to ask her three questions about some well-known crazy ex-boyfriends in a game called “No! Really! This time I’ll change!”

She mentions Ray Bradbury, subject of her 2011 Hugo-nominated song.

Rachel Bloom meets Ray Bradbury in 2010. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Rachel Bloom meets Ray Bradbury in 2010. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(3) GO AHEAD AND JUMP. David K.M. Klaus predicts, “Someday some Harry Potter fan is going to invent a practical personal jet pack or anti-gravity belt, just so he or she can play Quidditch.” ‘Til then we’ll make do with these skydiving Quidditch players from a Colombian phone commercial.

(4) PARTLY IMMORTAL. Fantasy Faction reposts “Foundations of Fantasy: The Epic of Gilgamesh”.

More than any other genre, fantasy tends to examine ancient epics. Whether it’s the study of archetypes and ectypes, or a historical understanding of narrative itself, or simply a desire to experience myths and legends that have lived for ages, these books remain alive to us. This series of posts will be about some of the more important mythic texts in history, and how they relate to modern fantasy.

The Story Behind the Story

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest books we have on record. Original stories regarding the character date back as early as the eighteenth century BCE. The primary text was written between the 13th and tenth century BCE, in cuneiform on stone tablets. Then, it was lost for thousands of years, until it was rediscovered in 1850 in the excavation of Nineveh. Even then, it took decades to be translated into English.

Translations are tricky when dealing with situations like these. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was one of the first people to read it translated. John Gardner (who also wrote the fantastic novel Grendel, a retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s point of view, and The Art of Fiction: Notes on the Craft for Young Authors) made a much more accurate, yet difficult to read translation, making certain to note each place the actual text was missing. Penguin Classics put out a two-volume translation by Andrew George which has received considerable acclaim. For a more poetic, if less rigorous version, Stephen Mitchell’s translation is quite readable, and uses inferences and the aforementioned earlier stories of Gilgamesh to fill in the missing gaps….

(5) GOOD STUFF. See Rachel Swirsky’s recommendation, “Friday read! ‘Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters’ by Alice Sola Kim”.

One man watches the world evolve as he passes, sleep by sleep, into the future, trailing after his generations of descendants….

Hwang’s Bilion Brilliant Daughters” by Alice Sola Kim…

(6) THE MARQUIS OF TENTACLE RULES. Is the beer as good as the label? Octopus Wants To Fight IPA from Great Lakes Beer.

Octopus-Wants-to-Fight_can_label

It pours a beautiful burnt gold edging into a dull orange, like a orange creamsicle complete with a tight white head. As you can imagine, lots of tropical fruits abound from the glass with the first whiffs, followed by a walk in the woods as pine, evergreen and some herbaceous notes are picked up. The first sip provides some sweetness, some dank grass combined with pine needles and then onto “juicy fruit”.  Soft body with some middle mouthfeel bitterness that tastes like another.

The Story “Our pet octopus is a bit of a jerk. He’s that guy who has a couple then either tells you how much he loves you or threatens to fight you. So we brewed this IPA, with 8 varieties of hops and 8 types of malt. We targeted 88 IBU and 8.8% to appease him. Sadly, when he found out that we’d fabricated all of the above info, it only made him more volatile. We are starting to realize that Octopus was a poor choice for a pet.”

Food pairing recommendations

Calamari…

(7) DRAGONSCALE. Mark Yon has a fine review of Joe Hill’s The Fireman at SFFWorld.

The arrival of the latest book by Joe Hill has generally been seen as one of the highlights of the publishing year, and has been much anticipated here at SFFWorld.

Joe has said that The Fireman is his take on his father’s masterwork The Stand. I can see what he means, though the end-results are clearly different. Whereas The Stand begins with the spread of a killer flu germ (‘Captain Trips’), The Fireman begins with the dispersal of a 21st century equivalent – a spore named Dragonscale, of unknown origin, possibly weaponised, that has spread to the general public. The symptoms occur suddenly and are quite striking – a strange dark tattoo, interlaced with gold, appears on the body,  often followed by spontaneous combustion of the person infected….

(8) FELLOW ARTISTS. Rudy Rucker blogs about recent visits to SF MOMA and other cultural events, accompanied by plenty of photos and wry commentary.

I was happy to see they have Arneson’s “California Artist” on display, wearing shades whose lenses are holes revealing, oho, that he has an empty head, California artist that he is. I first saw this sculpture when we moved to California in 1986, and I was, like, yeah, I’m a California artist too. I just didn’t realize that before. It’s high time I got here. Solidarität!

(9) FREE WEIRD. From Europa SF I learned about the English-language magazine Finnish Weird:

Finnish Weird is a free magazine published by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society. It introduces the concept of “Finnish Weird”, showcases a few writers and also includes short stories by Johanna Sinisalo, Anne Leinonen, Helena Waris, Leena Likitalo and Magdalena Hai. The printed version will be available on select occasions (come and look for the Finnish party at Worldcon!), but you can also read the zine online or get an electronic version, either as a pdf or an ebook (epub).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 7, 2010 — The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets its first sequel in Iron Man 2.

(9) LET IT RAIN. The Kickstarter for Quench seeks $20,312 to fund the creation of a computer game that allows players to control the weather and help herds of animals restore their home. Coming to PC & Mac in 2016.

Controlling the Weather

Using your divine powers over the weather, you will provide for your herds, help them as they take up their great pilgrimage, and ultimately restore the world.

Summon rain to bring life to withered plants, quench fires and calm enraged spirits.

Create gusts of wind to hurry your animals along, confuse attackers, and shift great dunes of sand.

Quake the earth to break open chasms and fountains, stun smokebeasts, and clear boulders blocking the way.

Strike lightning to start fires, revive fallen animals and obliterate foes. But don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature!

There’s also an option for people to vote yes to greenlight the game on Steam.

(10) MORE ABOUT BLACK GATE. Rich Horton’s thoughts about the impact on fiction categories comes before this excerpt in his Black Gate post The Hugo Nominations, 2016; or, Sigh …”.

Of course Black Gate was nominated as Best Fanzine last year, due to Rabid Puppies support, and John O’Neill quite rightly withdrew its nomination. This year we again were (unwillingly) on the Rabid slate, and again John has decided to withdraw.

We discussed what to do – though the choice was always John’s – and there was a definite split. Many of us – myself included – at first inclined to the notion that perhaps we should stay on the ballot. I had four reasons for this: 1) I am certain that Black Gate got a good amount of support from non-Rabid nominators (but we have no way, for now, of knowing how much); 2) I though perhaps the point had been made last year; 3) I felt that withdrawing was ceding even more influence to Vox Day, and also was to an extent disenfranchising the non-Rabid nominators; and 4) I really do think Black Gate is a worthy choice.

But John made two very strong arguments in favor of withdrawing, arguments that now have swayed me so that I believe his decision is correct. First, and most important, by withdrawing it is guaranteed that there will be an entry on the Final Ballot not chosen by Vox Day. Second, in John’s estimation, it is likely that Black Gate wouldn’t have won anyway. I don’t think that’s nearly as important – but it’s probably true. (Alas, the very possible win for whoever replace Black Gate will be somewhat tainted as well if it’s perceived that it won as a default choice.)

(11) CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Rachel Swirsky said if her Patreon reached $100 by the end of May she would write and send “If You Were a Butt, My Butt” to everyone who subscribes. Well, soon after this tweet, it did, and donations are still coming in. The funds will be given to Lyon-Martin health services.

(12) OF TWO MINDS. Damien G. Walter’s vlog, titled “Why is writing hard?”, never mentions Chuck Tingle, missing a golden opportunity. He previews the actual topic on his blog —

“Damien gets passionate about writing, and talks about the thing that makes it hard, the clash of two very different sides of our personality, the conscious mind and the subconscious imagination. OR. The crazy old hippy VS the corporate middle manager in all of us.”

 

(13) THREE GOLDEN MINUTES. Kendall turned us on to the amazing 2012 short film “The Device.”

[Thanks to Sunhawk, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, ULTRAGOTHA, Kendall, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26 10 Things I Slate About You

(1) Pablo Vazquez has identified himself as another San Juan in 2017 NASFiC bid committee member — he is one of the bid chairs — so you can add his name to the list.

The formal launch is at ContraFlow/DSC in New Orleans next weekend. There is a Facebook page – San Juan in 2017.

(2) A great read about trying to make a game based on Lovecraft that wasn’t so dismal as to be unplayable – “Lovecraft on the Tabletop”.

The story of the development of this tabletop RPG of Lovecraftian horror, soon to be renamed Call of Cthulhu, is one of the more fascinating and inspiring case studies in the annals of gaming history. The end result reverberates to this day not only through the world of tabletop gaming but also through its digital parallel.

(3) An archaeological find has added 20 lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh:

The new T.1447 tablet, according to the article Back to the Cedar Forest: The beginning and end of Tablet V of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgameš published in June, 2014 is:

  • The revised reconstruction of Tablet V yields text that is nearly twenty lines longer than previously known.
  • The obverse (columns i-ii) duplicates the Neo-Assyrian fragments which means the Epic tablet can be placed in order and used to fill in the gaps between them. It also shows the recension on Tablet V was in Babylonia, as well as Assyria and that “izziz?ma inappat? qišta” is the same phrase that other tablets being with.
  • The reverse (columns v-vi) duplicates parts of the reverse (columns iv-vi) of the late Babylonian tablet excavated at Uruk that begins with the inscription “Humb?ba pâšu ?pušma iqabbi izakkara ana Gilg?meš”.
  • The most interesting piece of information provided by this new source is the continuation of the description of the Cedar Forest:
  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu saw ‘monkeys’ as part of the exotic and noisy fauna of the Cedar Forest; this was not mentioned in other versions of the Epic.
  • Humbaba emerges, not as a barbarian ogre, and but as a foreign ruler entertained with exotic music at court in the manner of Babylonian kings. The chatter of monkeys, chorus of cicada, and squawking of many kinds of birds formed a symphony (or cacophony) that daily entertained the forest’s guardian, Humbaba.
  • The aftermath of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s slaying of Humbaba is now better preserved.
  • The passages are consistent with other versions and confirm what was already known. For example, Enkidu had spent some time with Humbaba in his youth.

(4) Sigourney Weaver is in the Ghostbusters reboot – a cameo, presumably, but nobody has revealed whether she’s reprising her original character.

(5) “Bing Watney Home!” is not a File 770 typo, though you could be pardoned for thinking so.

Bing Maps is doing “real time” tracking of Astronaut Mark Watney’s journey across Mars to the Schiaparelli Basin, a stage in the effort to rescue and bring him back to Earth.

And Microsoft is promoting itself and The Martian movie with a contest called “Hacking Mars”.

It’s the year 2035. Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. The best minds on Earth are joining together to help him survive. What would you do? One small, unmanned spacecraft will carry the winning solution to Mars.

Check out how to #HackMars and bring Watney home. Submit your design for a chance to win $25,000 and a trip to Microsoft to experience HoloLens. Deadline for submissions is October 13, 2015, 11:59PM EST.

There are three challenge categories. The first is —

Stay alive

A primal human motivation is survival. We all have physiological needs like air, water, and food.

Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars. He has no way to contact Earth or his crew. It’ll be four years before a manned mission can reach him. Watney doesn’t have nearly enough food to last that long. He has to make a decision, survive on Mars or perish.

Mars is incredibly cold, unpredictable, and has many ways that it threatens human life. If an emergency comes up Watney must either solve it or die.

For this challenge, design a solution that helps Watney sustain the basic things that every human being needs to survive. This could include ways to grow food, filter air, and produce water.

(6) Back in the dismal real world, claims are being made that the bones of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa have been discovered.

Historical records suggest that Gherardini, who spent her last years in the Sant’Orsola convent in Florence, was laid to rest at the site. On Thursday, researchers announced that carbon-14 dating showed the bones they found in the convent date from around the time that Gherardini died, in 1542, when she was 63.

“I’m convinced it is her,” Silvano Vinceti, an art historian who led the research team, told The Telegraph.

The next stages of the investigation will prove highly challenging. Some scholars say that as dozens of bodies were buried beneath the convent over several decades, the remains could belong to someone else. So, DNA samples will need to be taken from the bone fragments and compared with DNA extracted from the remains of two of Gherardini’s children. Those remains have been badly damaged by flooding in the tomb in the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.

And even if the bones are proved to belong to Gherardini, scholars are divided over whether she really was the model for the “Mona Lisa.” The absence of a skull has also thwarted efforts to reconstruct the face of the noblewoman, making it nearly impossible to compare it to the painting.

Your mileage may vary, but I find this to be nothing more than a grotesque job of grave robbing. The notion of finding a skull to reconstruct in order to compare it with the face in the painting seems a pretty dim piece of scientific wishfulness – as if the reconstruction could surpass the work of a painter who had the living subject available.

(7) Amanda S. Green devotes a whole post on Mad Genius Club disputing John Scalzi’s analysis of the Author Earnings Report but refuses to link to his post, drawing all her Scalzi quotes from Chris Meadows’ TeleRead article instead. Is this some kind of pretentious purity ritual? Like people who will only quote Vox Day based on what’s transcribed here? I’m not a big fan of laundered quotes. If you want to reference the person, link the primary source. You’ve quoted the guy – his words are in your head. You get no credit for cooties avoidance.

(8) The National Endowment for the Arts blog has listed “Our Top Ten Ray Bradbury Quotes”.

  • “‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.’”
  • “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
  • “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
  • “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”
  • “I spent three days a week for ten years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of ten years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
  • “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
  • “I’m never going to go to Mars, but I’ve helped inspire, thank goodness, the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars.”
  • “Don’t worry about things. Don’t push. Just do your work and you’ll survive. The important thing is to have a ball, to be joyful, to be loving and to be explosive. Out of that comes everything and you grow.”
  • “I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”
  • “You’ve been put on the world to love the act of being alive.”

[Thanks to Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]