Pixel Scroll 4/2/21 Vorkosigan-Wagen, The Flying Car Of The Future

(1) BSFA AWARDS CEREMONY. The British Science Fiction Association will present the BSFA Awards in a live YouTube broadcast on Sunday, April 4 at 5 p.m. (9 a.m. Pacific). View here. (See the finalists on BSFA Awards 2020 Shortlist.)

(2) RETURN TO THOSE THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. First Fandom Experience is taking entries for the 2021 Cosmos Prize through July 31 – “Illustration Contest! $500 in Prizes!”

The 2020 Cosmos Prize generated a fair amount of interest and some entertaining results, so we’re re-upping with a very different challenge… a challenge from beyond.

This year’s contest seeks illustrations for the twin collaborative stories, “The Challenge From Beyond,” published in the September 1935 issue of Fantasy Magazine. 

 The prominent early fanzine convinced two sets of professional authors to each develop a story based only on the title — one in the science fiction genre, the other as “weird fantasy.” For the science fiction variant, the contributors were Stanley G. Weinbaum, Donald Wandrei, Edward E. Smith, Ph.D., Harl Vincent and Murray Leinster. The fantasy alternative was penned by C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long, Jr.

 Prizes

  1. One Grand Prize consisting of $300us in cash, as well as copies of FFE’s publications: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s; The Earliest Bradbury; Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective; and a full facsimile edition of Cosmos.
  2. One Second Prize consisting of $100us in cash, as well as copies of two FFE’s publication: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: Volume One: The 1930s and a full facsimile edition of Cosmos .
  3. Two Third Prizes, each consisting of $50us in cash, as well as copies of two FFE publications: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: Volume One: The 1930s and a full facsimile edition of Cosmos.

All prize winners will also receive an FFE lapel pin. Prize-winning submissions will be published on the FFE website and may also be included in future print and digital publications.

(3) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP (BEWARE SPOILERS). [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Riverdale this year, Archie and the gang graduated high school.  The show then jumped eight years, and we found out that Veronica is a venture capitalist, Betty is an FBI agent, and Archie is a veteran who served in combat (but not in any war on our timeline, because the show is set in an alternate-universe 1980s with VHS tapes and no internet).  Jughead Jones went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and became a hip novelist complete with groovy goatee.  But for reasons I’ll skip, he’s back in Riverdale teaching high school.

Jones gets a phone call from his agent, who looks like Dick Vitale.  The agent has placed an excerpt from his new novel with Pop Culture Weekly.  “I’ve taken Stephen King’s spot,” the agent says, “but you’ve got to write more like King and less like Raymond Carver.”  But Jughead hasn’t written anything on his novel because he’s got writer’s block.  What to do?

We learn that Jughead’s first novel was written with the aid of the potent mushrooms grown on Riverdale’s renowned maple trees.  These mushrooms are so potent that Jughead wrote a 500-page manuscript while stonkered on shrooms.  So Jughead decides to take the mushrooms again, but enlists a friend to help him out.

The friend shows up and turns the mushrooms into a sauce, which Jughead uses to garnish “the first psychedelic hamburger.”  So the friend promises to show up and check in on Jughead, but just to make sure he writes, she handcuffs him to his writing chair.  So Jughead starts writing, loaded on mushrooms and…

…Well, stay tuned, because Riverdale is off the air until May!

(4) LASKOWSKI CONNECTION SOUGHT. Guy H. Lillian III needs help getting fanzine reprint permission:

In hopes of reprinting some part of his terrific Ted Sturgeon issue of Lan’s Lantern (1991), I am searching for George “Lan” Laskowski’s survivors and for the contributors to that issue (#36). Any assistance will be met with credits in the next edition of my genzine, Challenger, and my effusive gratitude. Also, any directions towards published articles or anecdotes about Ted will likewise be greatly appreciated — as will your own memories or impressions of Sturgeon and/or his work. Help!

Email Guy at GHLIII@yahoo.com. Or phone: (318) 218-2345. Or write a letter: 1390 Holly Avenue, Merritt Island FL 32952.

(5) WOOKIEEPEDIA WINDUP. Io9’s James Whitbrook gives a detailed look back at the recent controversy: “Star Wars Wiki Wookieepedia Centered in Trans Deadname Debate”.

…Reaction to Eleven-ThirtyEight’s tweet was immediate, at Wookieepedia and in wider Star Wars circles. Votes supporting the decision to change the policy, as well as discussion around the controversial nature of the vote in the first place, flooded the page. Even prominent figures from the world of official Star Wars works began commenting on the vote, including writers Daniel José Older (currently working on Lucasfilm’s The High Republic publishing initiative) and E.K. Johnston (the writer of multiple Star Wars novels, including Ahsoka and the Padmé Amidala trilogy).

…Throughout the backlash, Wookieepedia’s social presence remained as it usually did—tweeting about Star Wars media highlights and fandom jokes, even as fans in their mentions decried the voting process, and other fandom hubs began to formally decry the site’s position. TheForce.Net’s forums temporarily banned links to Wookieepedia content while the vote was ongoing, and even fellow fan sites like the Transformers franchise wiki TFWiki (not operated by Fandom, Inc.) released statements pushing back against the vote and Wookieepedia’s response to the situation.

But silence from Wookieepedia couldn’t stop the controversy reaching the site’s owner, Fandom. The company’s response was swift, a direct intervention that closed the vote and overruled Wookieepedia’s naming policy to protect discrimination against trans and non-binary people, citing a 2020 addition to the company’s own Terms of Use to ban transphobic content.

(6) FINDING THE PATH TO THE FUTURE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna asked four Asian-American cartoonists to recommend graphic novels that “speak well to anti-Asian and anti-AAPI racism.”  Works recommended include books by Thi Bui, Adrian Tomine, and George Takei with three collaborators. “Four graphic novels that illuminate anti-Asian racism through personal experience”.

Gene Luen Yang slept fitfully the night of March 16 — the day that six Asian women were among the eight people killed in the Atlanta spa shootings. The next morning, he saw that #AsiansAreHuman was trending — a hashtag that felt “disturbingly familiar.”

So Yang did what he has devoted much of his career to: writing and drawing art that promotes empathy and understanding.The Bay Area author created a short-form comic, he said this week, because he was “trying to make sense of what’s happening in America right now” amid a national spike in anti-Asian violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic.

“We’re not jokes to make you laugh. We’re not props for the background of your selfie. We’re not punching bags for when you’re angry about a virus,” says Yang’s comic avatar.

Yang, a two-time National Book Award finalist, for “American Born Chinese” and “Boxers & Saints,” posted the comic to his Instagram and Facebook accounts on March 17, drawing thousands of likes and shares.

“People from all over, of all different backgrounds, reached out to me to express solidarity,” Yang says. “I felt understood and that there is a path leading to the future. It exists — we just have to find it.”….

(7) AUTHOR WITH VISION LOSS. [Item by rcade.] The Fantasy-Faction blog has an interview with indie SF/F author Scott Kaelen in which he discusses the challenges of writing with a visual impairment: “Scott Kaelen Interview – The Nameless and the Fallen”.

…The technical side is a problem on several levels. Thankfully, shortly after I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa back in 2001, I took a touch-typing course (not knowing at the time how much I’d benefit from it years later as a writer). So, the writing part is maybe the least of the visual difficulties. What’s harder is when it comes time to do the full revision of a manuscript, painstakingly battling to focus on each word. …

 The creative difficulties are much more interesting. When describing what something looks like, I often have to put trust in my memory from when I had better eyesight. Nowadays, even people’s facial expressions are usually lost on me. Hell, I haven’t been able to see my own face well enough to recognize it for years. The hardest part isn’t describing what my point-of-view character is seeing, it’s knowing whether they “should” be able to see it, be it in the darkness, bright light, the corner of their eye, at varying distances, and so on. I’m completely night-blind, and I have tunnel vision, daylight sensitivity, colour blindness, blurry central vision, and distortions. That doesn’t make it easy to write a “normal-sighted” character.

Kaelen’s first novel, The Blighted City, was a semifinalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). He wrote a personal essay on the Before We Go blog about being discharged from the military when he was diagnosed, going through a “dark decade” and having a surgery 10 years ago that made things much worse:

… I allowed German eye doctors to slice my eyeballs open, take out my lenses and replace them with plastic ones. …

I had comparatively been coping with the night blindness and tunnel vision, but my central vision quickly deteriorated and my depth perception was affected. A room now looked like a faded painting. The smaller details had gone and I could no longer recognise people as easily. I seethed over what the doctors had done to me, how they hadn’t taken into account and told me about the higher chance of complications from such operations for people with my condition. And so, there I was: living in a foreign land, able to converse on a basic level but ultimately unemployable, with extreme difficulties on public transport and in crowded areas, miserable and directionless. I asked myself what I could do to put some purpose into my life. The answer came quickly and stunned me with its apparent simplicity.
I would become a writer…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 2, 2005 — On this day in 2005, The Quatermass Experiment premiered.  It was a live television event remake of the 1953 television series of the same name by Nigel Kneale. It was written by Richard Fell and directed by Sam Miller. It starred Jason Flemyng was cast as Quatermass, with long-time Kneale admirer Mark Gatiss as Paterson, Andrew Tiernan as Carroon, Indira Varma as his wife Judith, David Tennant as Briscoe, Adrian Bower as Fullalove and Adrian Dunbar as Lomax.  The critics really liked it and it became BBC Four’s fourth-highest-rated program of all time. It’s not that popular at Rotten Tomatoes where the audience reviewers give it only a 47% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 2, 1805 – Hans Christian Andersen. Novels, plays, poems, travelogues. He gave us a hundred fifty fairy tales, e.g. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, “Thumbelina”, “The Ugly Duckling”; fantasy for sure, but some amount to science fiction: “The Wicked Prince” (1840) has a ship that can sail through the air, guns that fire a thousand bullets.  (Died 1875) [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1847 – Flora Annie Steel.  Author-collector, lived a score of years in British India.  One novel, fifty shorter stories for us; Tales of the Punjab illustrated by John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard; English Fairy Tales; ten other novels, half a dozen other books of shorter stories, a cookbook, history, memoirs, The Woman Question.  (Died 1929) [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1914 Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!)  That’s it for filmed genre roles but theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth at Sheffield. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1921 – Redd Boggs.  Minneapolis and Los Angeles fan; big name in the 1940s and 1950s.  Fanzines Discord (and Discard), Sky HookSpirochete.  N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) Laureate Award as Best Fanwriter.  See a 1983 letter from him in Izzard here.  More here.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1933 Murray Tinkelman. Illustrator who provided numerous book covers for paperback of genre novels for Ballantine Books in the Seventies. He’s particularly known for his work on the paperback editions of Brunner novels such as The Shockwave Rider which you can see here and Stand on Zanzibar that you can see over here. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born April 2, 1939 Elliot K. Shorter. He began attending cons in the early Sixties and was a major figure in fandom through the Seventies. Some of the zines he worked on were Engram, the Heicon Flyer and Niekas. He was the TAFF winner at Heicon, the 28th Worldcon, in Heidelberg Germany. And he helped Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. Mike has a detailed obituary here. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1945 Linda Hunt, 76. Her first film role was Mrs. Holly Oxheart In Popeye. (Anyone here who’s disputing that’s genre?) She goes on to be Shadout Mapes in Lynch’s Dune. (Very weird film.) Next up is Dragonfly, a Kevin Costner fronted horror film as Sister Madeline. And in a quirky role, she voices Lady Proxima, the fearsome Grindalid matriarch of the White Worms, in Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born April 2, 1948 Joan D. Vinge, 73. Best known I think for The Snow Queen which won a well-deserved Hugo at Denvention Two and its sequels, her most excellent series about the young telepath named Cat, and her Heaven’s Chronicles, the latter which I’ve not read. Her first new book in almost a decade after her serious car accident was the 2011 novelization of Cowboys & Aliens. And I find it really neat that she wrote the anime and manga reviews for The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies. (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1948 – Teny Zuber, age 73.  Widow of Bernie Zuber (fanartist and original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society, d. 2005).  Active in and near L.A. in 1970s and 1980s (and BZ much earlier); they promoted the 1978 Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings film.  [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1953 – Anne Mazer, age 68.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  One Booklist Editor’s Choice, one American Lib’y Ass’n Notable book.  Likes Hugh Lofting’s Twilight of Magic, the only HL book illustrated by another (Lois Lenski).  [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1978 Scott Lynch, 41. His only Award to date is a BFA for Best Newcomer. Author of Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is now at three, and he’s stated that it’ll eventually be seven books in length. And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors? (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1984 – David Dalglish, age 37.  Two dozen books, a dozen shorter stories.  Has read Sense and SensibilityFahrenheit 451The Great GatsbyFrankensteinFoundation.  Recommends King’s On Writing.  [JH]

(10) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. James Davis Nicoll leads Tor.com readers “In Search of the Classic Hollywood-Style Asteroid Belt”.

If you’re anything like me, you might have enhanced your friends’ enjoyment of space adventure films by pointing out at great length and in fascinating detail just why the crowded asteroid belts backgrounds that appear in so many of these films are implausible and inaccurate! Our solar system asteroids are far from crowded. If you were to find yourself on the surface of a typical asteroid, you probably wouldn’t be able to see your closest rocky neighbour with a naked eye.

Are there situations in which these visuals wouldn’t be misleading? Can we imagine places where we could expect what appears to be an impending Kessler Syndrome on a solar scale?

(11) GOING APE. Camestros Felapton verifies that Greater Sydney is still there and comes home with a movie review: “I Went to an Actual Cinema and Watched Godzilla v King Kong”. It doesn’t seem to me there are any spoilers here, just the same, BEWARE SPOILERS, because how do I know what it takes to spoil your fun?

…It was a big cinema theatre and not very busy. I was the only person I noticed wearing a mask but I had about eight rows to myself. I figured that if I was going to watch a very big ape hit a very big lizard, I should do so in front of a very big screen and as close as possible. This was a wise choice.

Of all the US versions of Godzilla I’ve seen, this one was the most in tune with the Japanese Toho movies. I’ve seen many of the Japanese Godzilla films but only a fraction of the total and often I was drunk or half asleep (because it was late, not because the film was boring), so I won’t claim to be a Godzilla expert. The key for a true Godzilla movie is the plot shouldn’t matter but it should be crammed with weird ideas that flow easily across sci-fi and fantasy tropes. Godzilla v Kong delivers that in sufficient quantity…

(12) TANNED, RESTED, AND READY. “Arnold Schwarzenegger Suited To Deal With Alien Invasion, Per UK Poll” reports Deadline.

Have you ever wondered which public figure would be most fit to lead the world, in the event of an alien invasion? Today, a U.K. poll of 2000 British adults found that the answer is Arnold Schwarzenegger….

On the list of 20 celebrities “who would best deal with an alien invasion,” Independence Day star Will Smith came in second. Interestingly, former President Donald Trump appeared on the list in eighth place, besting current President Joe Biden (in last place) and Vice President Kamala Harris (in 19th). Other celebs that made the list include Sir David Attenborough, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Gillian Anderson, and others…. 

(13) YOU HAVEN’T COMPLETELY MISSED IT. [Item by Danny Sichel.] SIGBOVIK 2021 was held yesterday and is rewatchable on YouTube.

In science, there are serious questions and silly questions, and serious methods and silly methods. Normal scientific conferences explore serious questions via serious methods. This leaves three whole quadrants of research unexamined. SIGBOVIK, organized by Carnegie Mellon University’s Association for Computational Heresy, fills this much-needed gap.

SIGBOVIK 2021 is the fifteenth edition of this esteemed conference series, which was formed in 2007 to celebrate the inestimable and variegated work of Harry Quarter-dollar Bovik. We especially welcome the three neglected quadrants of research: joke realizations of joke ideas, joke realizations of serious ideas, and serious realizations of joke ideas. (In other words: SIGBOVIK is an evening of tongue-in-cheek academic presentations, a venue for silly ideas and/or executions.)

The proceedings of the past several years of SIGBOVIK are available as free PDFs.

(14) THE NEW NUMBER 2. Jon Del Arroz doesn’t rank anywhere on the poll of public figures who’ll be called on to lead the world in case of alien invasion, so he was understandably pleased with the consolation prize.

(15) NEVER MIND. A NASA press release called “NASA Analysis: Earth Is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for 100-Plus Years” says that NASA, who previously warned that asteroid Apophis could crash into the Earth in 2029, has done recalculations and now says the Earth is safe both in 2029 and in 2068 from an Apophis impact.

Estimated to be about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across, Apophis quickly gained notoriety as an asteroid that could pose a serious threat to Earth when astronomers predicted that it would come uncomfortably close in 2029. Thanks to additional observations of the near-Earth object (NEO), the risk of an impact in 2029 was later ruled out, as was the potential impact risk posed by another close approach in 2036. Until this month, however, a small chance of impact in 2068 still remained.

When Apophis made a distant flyby of Earth around March 5, astronomers took the opportunity to use powerful radar observations to refine the estimate of its orbit around the Sun with extreme precision, enabling them to confidently rule out any impact risk in 2068 and long after.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Watch the pilot episode of Interforce: Seoul, an animated superhero sci-fi actioner with English subtitles

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, rcade, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Danny Sichel, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/16 Scroll Songs of an Old Pixel

(1) WHO NEXT. From The Guardian, “Doctor Who showrunner says there was going to be a black Doctor”.

The starring role in BBC1’s Doctor Who was offered to a black actor but it “didn’t work out” according to the series showrunner, Steven Moffat.

Moffat said it would be “amazing” to have two non-white leads after Pearl Mackie, whose father is from the West Indies, was cast as the Doctor’s companion earlier this year.

He said the producers took a conscious decision to cast a non-white actor as the companion “because we need to do better on that. We just have to”.

Moffat said the show had tried to go one further by casting the first non-white Doctor, but the choice later fell through….

Moffat said Doctor Who had “no excuse” not to feature a diverse cast of black, Asian and minority ethnic actors. “Sometimes the nature of a particular show – historical dramas, for instance – makes diversity more of a challenge, but Doctor Who has absolutely nowhere to hide on this,” he said.

“Young people watching have to know that they have a place in the future. That really matters. You have to care profoundly what children’s shows in particular say about where you’re going to be.

“And we’ve kind of got to tell a lie: we’ll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn’t have been, and we won’t dwell on that. We’ll say, ‘To hell with it, this is the imaginary, better version of the world. By believing in it, we’ll summon it forth.’

“And, outside of the fiction, it’s about anyone feeling that they can be involved in this industry as an actor, a director, a writer … It’s hugely important, and it’s not good when we fail on that. We must do better.”

(2) ‘MASS EFFECT. Mark-kitteh is excited that “Quatermass will return to television in a new series on BBC America”.

Quatermass is returning to television – over a decade since the character last visited the small-screen.

Created by legendary writer Nigel Kneale, Professor Bernard Quatermass is a genius scientist who battles alien forces.

First appearing in the BBC’s 1953 serial The Quatermass Experiment, the character has gone on to feature in numerous TV and film projects.

Now, BBC America is revisiting the character for a new series written by The League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson, reports Variety.

(3) TEA AND JOCULARITY. Rachel Swirsky did an interview with Ann Leckie, or rather a “Silly Interview with Anncillary Leckie, Yes I said That, I’ll Be Here All Night”. Includes photos of Leckie’s bead jewelry.

RS: I’ve been reading your Raadchai stories for eleven years now (Yeah, eleven years. Let that sink in.) and I know the gloves and tea were in them by the time I started reading. Were they part of the initial germ of the Raadch, or if not, how did they evolve?

They weren’t part of the initial germ, but they got into the mix pretty soon after that. And I’m not sure where they came from or why they stuck–it just kind of worked for me somehow.

Which is how a lot of things are when I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll see someone say, like, “Oh, and this detail here, this is obviously Leckie doing this profound intentional thematic thing” and I’m like, no, actually, it was shiny, or else it made the story work the way I wanted it to, but I am  not going to speak up and spoil the impression that I was actually doing this very sophisticated thing!

(4) SILLY SYMPHONIES. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra features LACO @ the Movies, an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies on Saturday, June 4 @ 7 pm The Orpheum Theatre.

Experience movie magic! Conducted by six-time Emmy® Award-winning conductor and composer Mark Watters, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs the score live for an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies. These classic shorts, Walt Disney’s earliest experiments in animation, set timeless fables and fantastical scenes against a backdrop of lively classical music. With LACO providing the accompaniment live in the theatre, it’s an evening that’s sure to exhilarate your senses!

There’s no better setting for this night of classic cartoons than The Orpheum Theatre, one of LA’s most opulent and lovingly restored movie palaces in the historic downtown Broadway District. Bring the whole family and enjoy the show.

projecting on the silver screen a curated selection of landmark animated shorts including the first commercial short produced in Technicolor and five Academy Award winners!

  • The Skeleton Dance (1929)
  • Flowers and Trees (1932)
  • Three Little Pigs (1933)
  • The Old Mill (1937)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1939)
  • The Country Cousin (1936)
  • Music Land (1935)

(5) A SPAGHETTI EASTERN. Aaron Pound reports on Balticon 50 in The Tale of the Good, the Bad, and the Shoe-Cop.

The Good: There was a lot that went right at Balticon 50. This was a unique event, as Balticon invited all of its previous guests of honor back to celebrate the fiftieth time this convention had been held. As a result, the lineup of guests was quite impressive for a relatively small regional convention, and a similar event is probably not going to happen outside of a Worldcon for at least a few years….

The Bad: Balticon 50 had a lot of issues. Some were beyond the control of the convention staff. The following problems, however, are pretty much squarely on them.

One glaring problem was that programming was a mess, and apparently so from the beginning of the convention. Balticon provided both a large convention book containing a schedule and a pocket guide that also had a schedule. The first problem was that these schedules were incompatible with one another, each listing events at different times – they diverged by a half an hour, which unsurprisingly served to make it difficult to figure out when an event was supposed to take place. The second problem was that many program participants had schedules that were, as Mur Lafferty described it, “temporally impossible”, with many participants double-booked for two events at one time, or booked with back-to-back events separated by several hotel floors…..

And the Shoe-Cop story? I musn’t lift all of Aaron’s material. Go read the post.

(6) LAW WEST OF THE AMAZON. “Amazon sues sellers for buying fake reviews”: TechCrunch has the story.

As part of its effort to combat fake reviews on its platform, Amazon sued three of its sellers today for using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. Amazon has been aggressively pursuing reviewers it does not consider genuine over the last year, often using lawsuits to discourage the buying and selling of reviews, but this is the first time it has sued the sellers themselves.

Today’s suits are against sellers who Amazon claims used fake accounts to leave positive reviews on their own products. The fake reviews spanned from 30 to 45 percent of the sellers’ total reviews. The defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

(7) BYRON PREISS BACK IN THE NEWS. The late publisher’s clues have yet to be fully deciphered, as Vice explains in “The 35-Year Long Hunt to Find a Fantasy Author’s Hidden Treasure”.

There is a treasure buried somewhere in Milwaukee. Not just in Milwaukee, but in nine other North American locations, including (possibly) New York, San Francisco, and Montreal. And it’s not so much “treasure” as hunks of ceramic encased in Plexiglas. But one man’s trash is another man’s marketing strategy.

The treasures were hidden in 1981 by publisher Byron Preiss, as part of his plan to promote his new book, The Secret. Preiss’s fantasy paperback (which predated the identically titled self-help book by a quarter of a century) included a series of puzzles in the form of cryptic verses with matching images. If solved, they’d lead readers to a real-life ceramic bin, or “casque,” containing a key to a safe-deposit box, which held a gem worth roughly $1,000….

The next puzzle wasn’t solved until 2004, when an attorney named Brian Zinn tracked down a casque in Cleveland from a verse that mentioned Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles (all three names are etched into a pylon at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens). After four hours of digging holes, he found the casque buried next to a wall marking the perimeter of the gardens.

To date, the Cleveland casque is the last known resolved puzzle. “Byron Preiss, according to family and friends, figured all of them would be found upon publication. I don’t think he realized how difficult the poems were,” said James Renner, an author and filmmaker who’s working on a documentary about the book.

Preiss died in a 2005 car crash at age 52, and never disclosed the locations of the remaining casques. His publishing house went bankrupt and was acquired by a rival press. Many people viewed the sale as the last chance to redeem the gems, suggesting now, there may only be empty bins.

But 35 years later, people are still searching….

As for the gems, which were believed to be confiscated in bankruptcy proceeding after Preiss’s death, Preiss’s widow Sandi Mendelson told VICE they’re safely in her possession and will be available to the first people to recover the remaining casques.

“If somebody would find something, yes,” said Mendelson. “I haven’t done anything with them, so they’re still around.”

(8) FAN WRITER. Kate Paulk resumes her study – “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fan Writer”.  She frankly concludes, “At least one of the nominees probably should be there…”

(9) HEMSTREET’S WAVE. Ray McKenzie reviews The God Wave at Fantasy Literature.

Like The Martian before it, it is the science in The God Wave that makes for such an engrossing and convincing tale. The story feels utterly believable and meticulously researched, whilst not being overbearing; the novel will please hard- and soft-sci-fi fans alike. Hemstreet uses plenty of familiar tropes throughout, and you’ll recognise scenes reminiscent of Alien and Star Trek.

(10) VICTORIAN GAZING DRAGON. Hampus Eckerman said, “Seeing the nice posable dragon in the last pixel scroll reminded me of this dragon illusion.”

Hollow Face Illusion Dragon

Ever seen those illusions where there is a face that seems to turn toward you? I’ve seen it in theme parks and museums like the Exploratorium, and the Disneyland Haunted House thing. But, now you can make your own. All you need is a printer and some scissors!

 

(11) SEEING REALITY. Kameron Hurley asks “Is Living Worth It?”.

Being that close to death all the time changes the way you think about life. It’s why I feel such an affinity for other people who’ve been through it, or who are going through it. My spouse is a cancer survivor. He had just finished the last of his radiation a few months before we met. We understood life in a way that only people who’ve stared at death really do.  You appreciate the little things a lot more. You constantly feel like you’re running on borrowed time.

Most of all, you get how precious life is, and you do your damnedest to hold onto it.

In reading this post from Steven Spohn over at Wendig’s site, I was reminded of this again. I may have all the appearances of being able-bodied, but when people talk about tossing out people for being defective, I can tell you that somewhere on there, no matter how far down, I am on that list. I know that because before I got sick, I put people like me on that list. I believed in “survival of the fittest.” What I didn’t realize is that “fittest” is a lie. The “fittest” don’t survive. There are some truly ridiculous animals out there (pandas??? Narwhales??). Those who survive are the most adapted to their particular niche. That is all. They are not stronger or smarter or cooler or better built or more logical.

(12) THE DARK SIDE. Smash Dragons  interviews horror writer Hank Schwaeble.

What is it about horror and dark fiction that appeals to you the most? 

The peek behind the curtain.  Not necessarily a peek at something real, but a peek at the sort of things that we might wonder about that we don’t understand.  Few of us believe there really are goblins in the shadows, but what if there were?   That’s the nature of shadows—you don’t really know what’s in there.  What we do know, however, is that there is a dark side to life, to human nature.  Horrors and atrocities are real, so exploring them in fictional ways allows us to deal with them intellectually and philosophically.  I don’t believe it’s just morbid curiosity, either.  Our brains are wired to sense things about the world, about our environment.  We are driven to explore, to discover, to learn.  We enjoy so many creature comforts, so many sources of entertainment, so many colors and sights and recreations, I think many of us are drawn to seek out the opposite as a way of reminding ourselves of how good things can be.  It’s like listening to the blues.  People don’t play Muddy Waters to be depressed, they listen to him to be reminded of struggles, of adversity, of our common humanity.  People like me, I believe, like dark fiction because a part of ourselves like to swim in deep waters, to be reminded that we can be afraid, intrigued, mystified.  When we lift ourselves from the pages, the world seems a much brighter place.

(13) SPEND MORE MONEY. Disney and Lucasfilm are getting their prop makers into the retail business.

Propshop, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, is now making official prop replicas of its work from The Force Awakens available to collectors in a new line called Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition. Wave one is a treasure trove of memorable gear from the film: FN-2187 (i.e., Finn) Stormtrooper Helmet (with blood streaks!), Kylo Ren Helmet, Poe Dameron X-wing Helmet, Darth Vader Helmet (Melted), Rey Staff, Chewbacca Bowcaster, Kylo Ren Lightsaber Hilt, and Rey Lightsaber Hilt. Propshop is making them the same exact way it made the original props: 3D prints of the final output made for the film, all hand-painted by the original prop makers.

For example, the melted Darth Vader helmet (a limited edition of 500) goes for $3,750.

(14) IS LONGER BETTER? There will be an R-rated extended edition of Batman v. Superman available for digital purchase on June 28 and on disc July 19 says CinemaBlend.

Although Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was especially intense for a PG-13 movie, the “Ultimate Edition” is including extended or brand new action scenes that are more comfortable nestled in rated-R territory. So if you liked the original version’s fights, get ready for even more bombastic throw-downs. Along with these sequences, this cut is also including 30 minutes worth of scenes cut from the theatrical release, taking the runtime to over three hours. This includes one (or several) featuring Hunger Games star Jena Malone. Several months ago, it was rumored that she was playing Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl/Oracle. However, in this trailer, she’s seen with blonde hair and looks like she’s working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s still not Barbara. Maybe this version dyed her hair and took a job at the Planet to separate herself from the Bat-Family. Still, this is peculiar.

 

(15) HOWDY STRANGER. The Space Between Us comes to theaters August 19.

In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing.

While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa. When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere.

Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe.

 

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/16 You’re on Canid Camera

(1) SUPERGIRLS. Carrie Goldman writes “An Open Letter To Supergirl Stars Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh, From An Adoptive Mom” in Chicago Now.

Her relationship with her younger sisters is complicated. They are our biological daughters, and this creates deep and unavoidable conflict for her. No matter how much we reassure her that we love her the same as the younger girls, she tests us.

During the scenes in Supergirl where Alex and Kara explore the painful aspects of their relationship as sisters through adoption, our whole family absorbs every word, every expression, because seeing this dynamic on mainstream television makes our family feel less alone.  The fact that both Alex and Kara are kickass, strong, smart, flawed, beautiful women who work hard, cry, laugh, yell, fight, and make mistakes has been an incredible model for all of our girls.

(2) READING RESOURCES. The 1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide database includes several sf/f titles.

[From Marley’s Welcome.] Welcome to the #1000blackgirlbooks Resource Guide. I started this campaign because I wanted to read more books where black girls are the main characters. With your help we have collected over 4000 books; many of them are have the same title, but we do have lots of unique ones as well. This guide includes 700 of those books and more is coming.

I believe black girl books are really important because when you are young you want to read lots of books, but you especially like to read books with people that look like you. While I have books at home about black girls, the books at school were not diverse. Children do most of their reading in schools or because of schools. Teachers assign books that you must read. If those books are not diverse and do not show different people’s experiences then kids are going to believe that there is only one type of experience that matters. Also, if books are not diverse then kids will not learn about the experiences of other members in their community.

(3) BELGIUM CALLING. Nicholas Whyte checks in from Brussels, in “Losers” at From the Heart of Europe.

I finally made it to the office at 1022, those last two kilometres having taken me 90 minutes to drive, to find most of my colleagues gathered ashen-faced in the lobby, greeting me tearfully – I was the only person who was unaccounted for, due to my phone being out of order – and giving me the headlines of what had happened. It’s nice to feel appreciated, still more so when I logged on and saw many concerned messages from friends and family, and even more so when people responded to my posts confirming that I was safe. One of the great things about the interconnectedness of today’s world is that we can often catch up with our friends quickly – Facebook’s check-in system in particular is a source of reassurance.

The horror has hit very close to home. I have flown out of Brussels airport in the morning five times this year, and was originally due to do so again on Friday to go to Eastercon in Manchester (in fact my plans have changed and I’ll take the Eurostar to London for work tomorrow and travel on up by train). My wife was flew out on Monday for a funeral in England and was due to fly back last night; her flight was cancelled and she will now return by Eurostar this evening. Maelbeek metro station (the four-pointed star on my map) is in the heart of the EU quarter, and I go past it almost every day and through it several times a month; a former colleague was actually on the train that was bombed, but fortunately escaped without injury; another former staffer (from before my time) was in the departure hall of the airport, and is recovering well from minor injuries.

… This happened because they [the terror movement] are losing. Less than a week ago, a major figure in the terror movement was arrested in Brussels; perhaps yesterday was revenge for his arrest, perhaps it was rushed into because they were afraid he would start talking (or knew that he already had). On the ground, their allies and sponsors are losing territory and resources in Syria and Iraq. I wrote a week ago about violence as story-telling, in the Irish context. This is an attempt to write a story about the weakness of our interconnected world, attacking places where people travel and meet, where many nationalities and cultures join together and build together.

It is a narrative that must not and will not win…

(4) MIND MELD. SF Signal’s current Mind Meld, curated by Andrea Johnson, asks —

Q: What non-mainstream Scifi/fantasy Graphic Novels do you recommend?

The answers come from: Matthew Ciarvella, Sharlene Tan, Taneka Stotts (Full Circle), Stacey Filak, Carl Doherty, Myisha Haynes (The Substitutes), Pipedreamergrey, Christa Seeley (Women Write About Comics), Martin Cahill, Larry Gent, and Jacob Stokes.

(5) VERICON. Ann Leckie has captioned a set of photos of Ancillary cosplayers from Vericon.

It’s obvious what’s going on here, right? That’s Hamilton/Breq in the middle, and she’s recruited Agent Carter, Lieutenant Peepsarwat, and Translator Zeiat in her search for the Presger gun. That case Agent Carter is carrying?

(6) INHUMAN PASSENGERS. “More ancient viruses lurk in our DNA than we thought” reports Phys Org.

Think your DNA is all human? Think again. And a new discovery suggests it’s even less human than scientists previously thought.

Nineteen new pieces of non-human DNA—left by viruses that first infected our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago—have just been found, lurking between our own genes.

And one stretch of newfound DNA, found in about 50 of the 2,500 people studied, contains an intact, full genetic recipe for an entire virus, say the scientists who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Whether or not it can replicate, or reproduce, it isn’t yet known. But other studies of ancient virus DNA have shown it can affect the humans who carry it.

In addition to finding these new stretches, the scientists also confirmed 17 other pieces of virus DNA found in human genomes by other scientists in recent years…

(7) LUNAR POLE DANCING. “Earth’s Moon wandered off axis billions of years ago, study finds” at Phys Org.

A new study published today in Nature reports discovery of a rare event—that Earth’s moon slowly moved from its original axis roughly 3 billion years ago.

Planetary scientist Matt Siegler at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and colleagues made the discovery while examining NASA data known to indicate lunar polar hydrogen. The hydrogen, detected by orbital instruments, is presumed to be in the form of ice hidden from the sun in craters surrounding the moon’s north and south poles. Exposure to direct sunlight causes ice to boil off into space, so this ice—perhaps billions of years old—is a very sensitive marker of the moon’s past orientation….

“The moon has a single region of the crust, a large basaltic plain called Procellarum, where radioactive elements ended up as the moon was forming,” Siegler said. “This radioactive crust acted like an oven broiler heating the mantle below.”

Some of the material melted, forming the dark patches we see at night, which are ancient lava, he said.

“This giant blob of hot mantle was lighter than cold mantle elsewhere,” Siegler said. “This change in mass caused Procellarum—and the whole moon—to move.”

The moon likely relocated its axis starting about 3 billion years ago or more, slowly moving over the course of a billion years, Siegler said, etching a path in its ice.

(8) INDICATION OF TOR. John C. Wright still has one last book on the way from Tor – The Vindication of Man. Rather a dim-looking cover on the preorder page. The release date for the hardcover is November 22.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 23, 1952 — Kim Stanley Robinson. The other great sf writer born in Waukegan!

(10) HE WRITES ABOUT THEY. Although John Scalzi’s post about gender-neutral pronouns is interesting, I found his personal demonstration in the comments even more so:

Also, for the record, my stance on pronouns, as they regard me:

He/him/his: My preferred set. Please use them in all things involving me.

They/them/their: Not my preferred set, but I don’t mind them being used for me.

It/it/its: This is a non-gender construction but generally isn’t used for individual humans (excepting, from time to time, infants), and is mostly used for animals and objects. Please don’t use them for me; if you do I’ll wonder why you are, and also wonder if you see me as an object, which would make me wonder if you’re a sociopath of some sort.

She/her/her: Not my gender! Be aware that in my experience when someone uses these for me, they’re usually trying to insult me in one way or another. So unless you want my default impression of you to be that you’re a sexist twit, please don’t use this set for me.

Other constructions: Really, no. “He” or “They” is fine. Thanks.

(11) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY? Claire Rousseau’s series of tweets ends on a rather optimistic note, considering the 2016 Hugo ballot isn’t out yet.

(12) GEOMETRIC LOGIC.

(13) A SELECTED QUOTE. Sarah A. Hoyt takes time out from moving to post at Mad Genius Club.

And after being selectively quoted by Jim Hines who pretended I was calling anyone not with the puppies worse than those who abetted the holocaust and the holodomor, by cutting out the part where I addressed those who destroy lives and reputations for a plastic rocket, we have at least established what Jim Hines is.  He’s not duped by those destroying reputations and lives.  He’s one of the principals.  I have only one question for him: But for Wales, Jim?

(14) PUPPYING WITHOUT UMLAUTS. Some of Declan Finn’s days are better than others. “The Evil of the Puppy Kickers” at A Pius Geek.

But last time I checked, Vox Day has really never dismissed his enemies as being subhuman. Nor has he suggested murdering any of them. Not even NK Jemisen, who has her own little war with Vox going that stretches back at least two years. He’ll still debate, or reason, or scream right back at her, but he’ll at least reply to whatever is thrown his way.

You may not like what he says, but he at least acknowledges that she’s someone worth having a fight with.

Can’t say that for the Puppy Kickers. They like being the ubermensch of their own little Reich, and it’s getting tiresome, really. The ones who are really in charge rarely, if ever, acknowledge any argument outside of their own little echo chamber.

(15) KEEP BANGING ON. Michael Bane, the producer of Outdoor Channel’s Gun Stories hosted by Joe Mantegna, announced Larry Correia will appear in an episode.

Did I mention that the MAIN MONSTER HUNTER HIMSELF, LARRY CORREIA, will be joining us on GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA this season? The MONSTER HUNTER books are modern classics. I just finished reading SON OF THE BLACK SWORD, the first book in his newest series, and it was excellent.

(16) CROWDFUNDED CON. The Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC is running a Kickstarter appeal to fund guests for Escape Velocity, a convention it plans to hold July 1-3. At this writing, people have pledged $14,348 toward the $18,000 goal.

Something special is coming to National Harbor, Maryland – a science fiction convention on a mission. This July 1st to 3rd, the Museum of Science Fiction will be launching ESCAPE VELOCITY, a micro futuristic world’s fair where STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) and science fiction will collide to create a geeky-fun, educational, and above all, fascinating spectacle for kids and adults alike!

A couple of the guests they expect to have are —

Rod Roddenberry, recently announced executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series for 2017 will make a keynote presentation to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary and discuss his work with the Roddenberry Foundation.

Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, is coming to Escape Velocity to discuss his father’s legacy and his new documentary film, For the Love of Spock.

In addition to screening parts of the documentary, Nimoy will join Rod Roddenberry on an Escape Velocity discussion panel moderated by screenwriter and Museum of Science Fiction advisory board member, Morgan Gendel, who wrote the Hugo Award-winning Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light.” “I’ve known both Adam and Rod for years and it’s fascinating to see how each has found a way to celebrate the work of their famous fathers,” said Gendel. “I expect the panel to be a very insightful look into the lives and legacies of two Trek icons.”

(17) BALLARD REMEMBERED. Malcolm Edwards will guest on The Guardian’s live webchat about JG Ballard on March 25 at noon (UK time).

Malcolm Edwards was JG Ballard’s editor for several years and worked with him on Empire of The Sun, among other classics. He should be able to give invaluable insights into Ballard’s working methods and the wonderful books he produced – and so is uniquely placed to talk about this month’s Reading Group choice, High-Rise, not to mention the recently released film.

(18) NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY’RE NOT WRITTEN ON? Max Florschutz takes a deep dive into the value of ebooks at Unusual Things.

You don’t see articles from music sites talking about how MP3 downloads are worthless and shouldn’t cost more than ten cents. You don’t see game review sites asking how dare Steam or Origin have a digital game on launch day cost the same as its physical compatriots.

So why in the book industry is this such a problem? Why is it that a person will look at a digital MP3 download from their favorite artist and buy it without a second of remorse, but then look at a digital book from their favorite author and send them an angry message about how that ebook shouldn’t be more than a dollar?

I don’t actually have an answer to this question. All I have are theories based on what I’m reading and hearing from other people around the internet. Maybe you’ll agree with some of these, maybe you won’t. But all of these are things I’ve heard expressed in one way or another….

1A- Physical books have physical difficulties that imply value to their purchasers. Yes, this much is true. While the story inside the pages remains the same, the trick with an ebook is that it’s hard to compete with an observation of value when looking at one. A physical book? Well, for one, you can pick it up and feel the weight of it, which, to most people, does imply a value. But you can also flip through it, jostle it, check a few pages, see how long it is.

You know what’s interesting? We can do all these things with an ebook. You can flip through it and read a sample. You can see how many pages there are. You can even check reviews—something you can’t do at a bookstore.

And yet … people don’t value that either. And why? Because it’s easy. It’s fast.

(19) GOTHIC INSPIRATION. Paul Cornell starts watching all the Hammer movies in order: “My Hammer Journey #1”.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

The first thing that strikes one is how much of a Val Guest movie this is, and how much, therefore, as a director, Val Guest establishes the Hammer ethos.  Guest’s forte is a kind of poetic modernist postwar British craft, a deceptive air of understated hard work that nevertheless not only gets everything right, but elevates, through the little details, the whole thing into art.  (Again, that reminds one of the best years of Hammer all in all.) ….

(20) FURY FURIOUS. This was new to me, although it has been making the rounds for several years…

[Thanks to James H. Burns, DMS, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]