IHOP’s Name Change Tops This Week’s Internet News Roundup

Last week, tragically, was bookended with two high-profile suicides, making this tweet all the more crucial.

And the losses of both designer Kate Spade and chef/TV host Anthony Bourdain were just part of a very busy week that included Samantha Bee apologizing for her Ivanka Trump statements, former Senate Intelligence Committee security director James Wolfe being charged with lying to investigators, and former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort being accused of witness tampering in the special counsel investigation. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian convinced President Trump to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, and now he’s talking about pardoning Muhammad Ali even though Ali’s conviction was overturned in 1971. It really has been a week, people. Read on for more.

It’s Called the G7, Not the Gr8, Amirite?

What Happened: The G7 Summit has arrived in Canada, bringing with it the whirling dervish that is international diplomacy in the age of Donald Trump. The forecast? Cloudy with a chance of What the hell is even happening?

What Really Happened: This weekend marks the beginning of the 44th G7 Summit, a meeting of the leaders of seven of the largest advanced economies in the world. It’s being held in Quebec, Canada, which can only mean one thing: Canadian pride!

Well, that and also good old fashioned Canadian preparation for potentially violent protests.

Not to worry; the first night’s protests were mostly peaceful, despite some reports to the contrary. But still! It’s the G7 Summit! This is a big deal, especially considering the important subjects under discussion: a potential plastics charter and the looming trade war between participants. Still: diplomacy! Who isn’t excited by diplomacy?!

OK, but is there anyone not excited about diplomacy aside from the President of the United States, who apparently doesn’t like to visit Canada? Maybe not, but earlier in the week the president did try to portray himself as less grumpy about traveling north and more ready for a fight.

Still, surely the rest of the G7—that’s Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, for those who are curious—is going to bow to the United States’ whims on this, as on all things. After all, the US is the dominant world economy, right?

OK, sure; the summit looked set to push the US to the side of international diplomacy before it had even started, with Trump even going so far as to announce he would leave early, because … people weren’t being nice enough to him? This is all going swimmingly.

Don’t worry; President Trump had thought about that, as it turned out.

The Takeaway: This is a joke, and yet … maybe someone should actually take this approach when briefing the president right now?

Fly Like an Eagle…

What Happened: After their Super Bowl victory, the Philadelphia Eagles got into a surprise clash with the president, who didn’t come out looking better in the whole ordeal.

What Really Happened: It all started as plans got underway for the Super Bowl-winning Eagles to visit the White House.

This was entirely true, as it turned out.

The visit was cancelled by the administration because only two players—and the coach—wanted to attend, and that made it a “political stunt” as opposed to, you know, protest. (We’ll come back to this momentarily.) For some, this was simply fodder for comedy…

There was also the far less amusing replacement event—theoretically, a patriotic ceremony to listen to the National Anthem, of all things—to deal with.

But what a two minutes they turned out to be!

Oh, and the people in the crowd?

Well, maybe not all of them…

(Turns out, two people were kneeling during the anthem.)

The Takeaway: Now, ignoring for a second that no Eagles player actually knelt during the National Anthem—I know, it’s shocking that fact wasn’t shared by the administration, but it’s so true that Fox News had to apologize for suggesting otherwise—let’s return, for a brief second, to the idea of kneeling as protest and free speech, and what the US president thinks about free speech, shall we? Because if there’s one takeaway from this entire thing, it shouldn’t be that the President of the United States doesn’t know the words to “God Save America,” it should be this.

Meanwhile, in the World of Scott Pruitt…

What Happened: Just when you thought EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had done everything in his power to make his office look pointless and unnecessary, he stepped things up several notches this week.

What Really Happened: Let’s get away from what the president has been doing for a while and think about his appointees. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made news last week by announcing that a School Safety Commission won’t look into guns. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seemingly at war with the president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. Oh, and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt—he of the soundproof booth, tax-payer funded first class travel and suspicious housing situation—well, he had a hell of a week, and in the most unexpected manner. How unexpected? Well…

As if trying to buy a used mattress from a hotel owned by the President of the United States didn’t sound like the most suspect thing in the world already—really, it sounds like the start of a joke—that turned out to be just the start of Pruitt’s genuinely, impressively surreal week. To wit:

Oh, yes. His defense, amazingly, was that he and his wife “love Chick-fil-A as a franchise of faith and one of the best in the country,” adding, “we need more of them in Tulsa, we need more of them across the country.” Sadly, it was not to be.

But it gets weirder…

Yes, that’s right, it really said lotion.

And then there was this, which almost seemed mundane in contrast.

I mean, sure. Protein bars, who cares about those when there are used mattresses and lotion in the mix? People were at a loss when trying to put all this together in their heads.

Of course, things are actually worse than they seem.

Yeah, that’s right; turns out that, while Pruitt is distracting everyone by being strange, he’s also letting his really important agency fall apart and potentially poison the world. What did President Trump think of all this? When asked about Pruitt, Trump told reporters Friday that he was “doing a great job.”

The Takeaway: Perhaps folks are being too harsh on Scott Pruitt, though. Maybe he’s trying his best and following the teachings of those important to him. That’s … that’s possible, right?

The Return of Melania Trump

What Happened: After more than three weeks in seclusion, prompting all manner of concern, the First Lady made her triumphant return to the public eye last week.

What Really Happened: Hey, remember a while back when we mentioned people were beginning to wonder where the First Lady had disappeared to? Turns out, that became a thing last week—but we got an answer. Kind of. The renewed focus on where Melania Trump was hiding started when, two days after she didn’t go to Camp David, her spokesperson revealed she also wouldn’t be accompanying the president on other trips as well.

This got more people wondering where she was. And then, lo and behold, she re-emerged.

Sure, there was suspicion over the fact that her return would happen in a private event closed to press, but a return is a return, right? Especially considering that people were genuinely beginning to get a little worried about her health.

As it turned out, people wondering if the whole thing was going to be a bait-and-switch had nothing to worry about; it really was Melania who appeared before the crowd, and not some lookalike to fool the rubes.

Of course, the media was ready with responses to the happy news. And, as it transpired, once she was back, she was back … at least on Twitter.

I mean, sure; she’s not writing these tweets herself, but at least someone’s realized the value of actually using her social media presence as proof of life. But was the internet happy about this?

…Well, apparently not. Look, she’s alive! Doesn’t that count for something? (For what it’s worth, the president said Friday that FLOTUS is staying on the down-low on doctor’s orders, but, you know, consider the source.)

The Takeaway: Just because Melania Trump is back in the public eye doesn’t mean she’s not still the wife of a many who doesn’t know how to spell her name.

International House of … Breakfast? Bacon? Befuddlement?

What Happened: Just when you thought it was safe to go and have a breakfast meal at a diner chain, IHOP promised to change the game—well, OK, its name—last week, and everyone freaked out at the possibility.

What Really Happened: It’s been a long week. Let’s end with a bit of a snack.

Yes, as of Monday, it’ll be IHOP no more as the company changes its name … or, at least, teases the change via Twitter. (After all, who’s to say this isn’t all one big practical joke?) As might be expected, everyone on social media had ideas of just what that B in the new acronym could … well … be.

As might be expected, the guesses—even as ridiculous as they were—became a story on their own, meaning that the marketing plan was working wonders. Really, when was the last time anyone talked about IHOP this much? Most people are assuming it’s going to be International House of Breakfast, but perhaps there’s still a chance for an unexpected surprise twist.

The Takeaway: As a marketing plan, this campaign has worked impressively well. There’s just one problem with the whole thing in the long term, though.

… Yeah, OK, that’s fair.


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CGI ‘Influencers’ love Lil Miquela Are About to Flood Your Feed

It does not get more 2018 than this: In mid-April, a Trump-supporting Instagram influencer named Bermuda hacked the account of fellow influencer Lil Miquela, who may have over a million supporters. Wait, no, there’s more: Bermuda refused to return the account unless Miquela promised to “tell the planet the reality”—the truth being that Miquela isn’t person. Plus in situation you haven’t caught on yet, neither is Bermuda. Both are CGI creations.

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Lil Miquela has become a source of fascination for most on Instagram since soon after the woman account launched in April 2016, but also for her first couple of years of existence, no body could definitively state who or the thing that was behind the operation. The Bermuda hack-slash-PR-stunt solved at the very least the main mystery, connecting Miquela to Brud, a Los Angeles-based startup that focuses on “robotics, synthetic intelligence and their applications to media companies”—but the whole saga stays a master class in postmodern performance art, with Miquela announcing that she had been “no longer dealing with [her] supervisors at Brud.” (if you are interested in learning the nitty-gritty, The Cut features a good tick-tock of exactly how the hack and subsequent “reveals” played away.)

The whole charade will likely continue on for a while, if you don’t indefinitely, while the exact operational logistics behind Lil Miquela’s account may never be clear. What is clear, but is Miquela’s influence—and the truth that in terms of confusing encounters with hyper-realistic CGI people, she’s simply the tip associated with iceberg.

The Increase of Brandfluencatars

Miquela isn’t merely a flashy stunt: she’s got severe money-making potential. Already, the digital influencer has partnered with Giphy and Prada and posed putting on Diesel and Moncler. In February, Miquela stated she had never been compensated to model a bit of fashion on her behalf feed, but which could change at any moment. (Lil Miquela’s PR representatives would not respond to inquiries about whether she has published any sponsored content since that declaration.)

The demand from brands is obviously here. Just look at exactly what happened to Shudu, a CGI “supermodel” created by fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson. The woman account went viral whenever Fenty Beauty reposted a “photo” of Shudu “wearing” the brand’s Mattemoiselle lipstick; since that time, Wilson states, he’s gotten provides from the bounty of brands in the fashion and technology worlds, all hoping to work with the CGI model.

But digital models and influencers like Lil Miquela and Shudu raise thorny questions. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission updated its recommendation guides to need influencers to disclose their marketing relationships and recognize paid articles with a hashtag like #ad or #sponsored—but it’s unclear exactly how those rules would affect influencers thatn’t individual, and whose backers, like Lil Miquela’s, are shrouding by themselves in mystery. “If this influencer doesn’t disclose a post is bought, that is the FTC likely to go after?” asks Adam Rivietz, cofounder and CEO of the influencer advertising company #paid.

Beyond that, Rivietz claims, digital influencers like Lil Miquela raise other concerns. After all, why should followers trust the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t exist? “Virtual influencers aren’t trying for a clothes brand,” Rivietz highlights. “They can’t let you know, ‘This shirt is softer than another which’s among the reasons you should purchase it.’ They’re not real people, so they really can’t give a totally authentic endorsement.” (However, according to Ryan Detert, CEO associated with the influencer marketplace Influential, those will be the very traits that produce digital influencers therefore appealing to organizations: “They’re much easier to control.”)

In the future, Rivietz thinks, a lot of companies may begin building unique digital influencers, mainly because it’s an even more efficient way of managing the message that reaches their target audiences. Individual influencers, too, might start adopting CGI change egos to safeguard their relationships along with their existing sponsors “They might make a duplicate version where it’s like, ‘This is my real-life feed in which we post certain things, but right here’s my avatar of myself where perhaps we utilize different brands or do more risqué things,’” Rivietz says.

Wilson, the creator of Shudu, suspects that digital doppelgangers will expand beyond perhaps the world of influencers, and views Shudu in part as a means of acclimating a mainstream audience to your idea of digital people. “i believe it’s only normal that we will have avatars of ourselves ultimately, or characters,” he says. “The reason i wish to get individuals engrossed now is because that will explode.”

More Human Being Versus Human

There are already many startups working on commercial applications for what they call “digital” or “virtual” humans. Some, such as the brand new Zealand-based Soul Machines, are focusing on using these digital humans for customer care applications; currently, the business has partnered utilizing the pc software company Autodesk, Daimler Financial solutions, and National Westminster Bank to generate hyper-lifelike digital assistants. Other people, like 8i and Quantum Capture, work on producing digital humans for virtual, augmented, and blended truth applications.

And people startups’ technologies, though still inside their first stages, make Lil Miquela and her cohort appearance definitely low-res. “[Lil Miquela] is simply scraping the outer lining of just what these digital humans may do and that can be,” says Quantum Capture CEO and president Morgan younger. “It’s pre-rendered, computer-generated snapshots—images that look great, but that’s about so far as it is planning to go, as far as I can tell, making use of their tech. We’re centering on a top degree of visual quality as well as on making these characters come to life.”

Quantum Capture is focused on VR and AR, but the Toronto-based company can be mindful that people might see reasonably sluggish adoption—and so it’s presently leveraging its 3D-scanning and motion-capture technologies for real-world applications today. The startup is currently piloting one usage instance for the luxury hotel, the place where a “virtual human” concierge greets guests into the lobby using a touchscreen or kiosk helping them check in; visitors are able to access that same digital individual concierge from their rooms and have for any such thing from restaurant tips to simply help adjusting the illumination or starting the curtains.

A typical example of Quantum Capture’s interactive, photo-real humans, that are powered by chatbots and AI.

Quantum Capture

Down the road, Quantum Capture’s younger believes that, in the same way it may become prevalent for Instagram influencers to possess CGI alter egos, a-listers may begin producing electronic doubles. “There’s an extremely interesting income model built around that, wherein you will possibly not access the talent by themselves, however may get access to their electronic avatar, and the real person makes cash off the usage of their avatar,” says Young.

If that latter type of usage case been there as well, it is since it’s the plot of 2013 film The Congress, which Robin Wright, playing by herself, agrees to sell off the film liberties to her digital image. Because film, things get predictably and dystopically wrong—and indeed, younger states he does not see 3D-scanned celebrity doppelgangers removing until concerns around liberties management is securely locked straight down.

But it’s not hard to view a dystopian tinge even in today’s increasing ranks of virtual people. Lil Miquela commands a following of 1.1 million followers—more than increase the quantity she boasted in December—and although influencer has used her energy for good, motivating her supporters (called “Miquelites”) to contribute to Black Girls Code and become better allies to transgender people, it is easy to assume another CGI account using its impact to distribute hate or governmental discord. it is very easy to eye-roll at a headline about two feuding CGI celebs. But they won’t be the last—and their successors may not be therefore instantly simple to spot as fakes.

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‘Avengers: Infinity War’: We Need to Talk About That Ending

Last weekend Avengers: Infinity War made more than $640 million at the global box office—and at least $258 million of that came from domestic theaters, a number that easily bests previous record holder Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is relevant for two reasons: One, holy crap that’s a lot of money. Two, it means we can finally talk about this movie freely since pretty much anyone who wanted to see it has now done so, apparently.

That’s good; there’s a lot to discuss. It was pretty much inevitable, considering the 18 previous movies it had to tie together, that Infinity War was going to be the most jam-packed Marvel Cinematic Universe film ever. And it was. From the remains of Asgard to the borders of Wakanda to the Collector’s museum on Knowhere, it traversed the entire MCU and managed to not be a total mess. (Not an easy feat.) It also had some great guest appearances and more than a few surprisingly touching moments.

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And OMG that ending. Most fans expected this movie to have some twists and shocks, but it’s unlikely all of them expected Infinity War to end the way it did. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Now that the movie’s big opening weekend is over, WIRED assembled its own Avengers—writers and editors Justice Namaste, Jason Parham, Adam Rogers, and Angela Watercutter—to hash out the ups and downs of the latest movie to come out of the MCU. Grab your Infinity Gauntlet and join us, won’t you?

Angela Watercutter: Alright gang. I kinda want to jump right into this one, so I’d love to hear from each of you whether or not you enjoyed Infinity War and what you thought of that ending.

I already subjected Jason to my ramblings on Slack, so I’ll keep my piece short. I thought Infinity War was a good time. I simultaneously had high hopes and the expectation that the movie would be a letdown. I was pleasantly surprised when I enjoyed all of it—it didn’t feel too busy and I genuinely got choked up at least twice. As for that ending, damn, I really wasn’t expecting all that carnage and bleakness. (By my count nearly a dozen heroes were turned to ash, right?) Then again, I remembered about five minutes after I left the theater that this is a movie based on comics, where no one ever really dies. I already have my theories about Avengers: Infinity War Part II (coming next May! probably!), but I’ll get to that later. What about you guys?

Adam Rogers: In general I’m pretty good at maintaining the cognitive dissonance of a viewer who stays in the emotional moment and a cynical sometimes-culture journalist who knows that the economic incentive of a Black Panther sequel will trump any death, especially one that comes at the end of a movie but in the middle of a story (what with Avengers: Even More Infinite War due next year). So I had a real good time. But would you like to know who is not that cynical? My 12-year-old and my 8-year-old, who were super bummed. Like, subdued, mournful, and in full-on, two-thirds-of-the-way-to-crying “Papa, is Groot … dead?” mode. So I hope it’s not too twisted of me to say: That’s a good movie. Because it made my family feel things. Processing the fact that the genocidal, insane Thanos (Josh Brolin) gets to look happily into the sunset at the end was a big deal.

And then I spent half an hour telling them who Captain Marvel is.

Jason Parham: I was speaking with a friend over the weekend and he raised an interesting point I hadn’t considered. Of all the Marvel movies, I told him how Infinity War struggled the most with what exactly it wanted to be. That for me the movie was just OK. Ten years, 18 films, and essentially two dozen leading actors is a lot to cram into a single epic. Still, it felt too much like a film consumed with its own legend—one that was trying too hard to prove something to itself. (It definitely wouldn’t rank it among my personal top five MCU movies.) Does that mean it wasn’t enjoyable? Of course not. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) were probably standouts for me. It’s expected by now, but the fight sequences were also a true treat (especially when Thor and Rocket join the battle in Wakanda). There were even occasional flourishes when Thanos felt unexpectedly human.

But my friend’s argument was that Infinity War was essentially the most comic book-y movie Marvel has made to date. That watching it felt like actually reading a comic. From its pacing to its narrative construction, jumping from New York City to Titan to Knowhere, as if one was scanning from panel to panel on the page. Maybe he’s right. Maybe where I saw disconnect and carelessness he saw directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s craftier ambition: Giving the movie the texture of its source material. It became the very thing it was.

There are a ton of layers we can peel off this thing. Justice, what were the most shocking and rewarding parts of the film for you?

Justice Namaste: I’m not going to lie—I had pretty low expectations for Infinity War. Kind of similar to Angela, but without the high hopes. [Eds. Note: LOL.] Coherently weaving together so many narrative threads while not reducing characters down to caricatures is a tall order, but Marvel managed to deliver. And the interactions between characters from different storylines were, unsurprisingly, the most enjoyable part of the movie. It’s a known fact that audiences eat up crossovers, and the first hour and a half of Infinity War was just chock-full of overlapping storylines and witty, mid-battle introductions. My favorite plotline was probably the journey that Thor, Rocket (who the Asgardian re-named ‘Rabbit’), and Groot (logically called ‘Tree’) took to find a Thanos-killing weapon. It was Thor at his best, Rocket at his most endearing, and a lanky, teenaged Groot whose eyes were glued to his videogame. And of course, who can resist more banter between the ever-eager Peter Parker and the reluctantly protective Tony Stark.

It’s a testament to the strength of the characters that even once it became clear that all two and a half hours were building to Thanos “winning” (and therefore leaving all of us in an unpleasant limbo for another year), I didn’t find the movie any less compelling. But there’s been no shortage of criticism of Infinity War, in particular surrounding its narrative busyness.

Watercutter: Justice, totally! And to really quickly to go back to what Adam and Jason were saying, I definitely feel like Infinity War had a comics-esque narrative structure. That’s why, to Adam’s point, I felt a little better about watching so many heroes disintegrate in those final 30 minutes. Somehow these heroes will come back, because comics. My current theory is that because we didn’t see what became of Wong in the end—actually, we didn’t see what Wong (Benedict Wong) was doing for most of the second and third acts—he’ll show up in the sequel, pull a Cher, and turn back time. (I mean, Doctor Strange saw all 14,000,605 possible outcomes and knows which one works, surely he told his buddy, right?) Hopefully, he’ll have the help of Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)—and, of course, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), whom Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) paged (paged!) in the post-credits scene.

But! That’s beside the point. I have another question for y’all. What were your favorite surprises? Or maybe just favorite moments? Like, I legit yelped and got a little teary-eyed when Thor landed in Wakanda with his new fancy axe thing and just started slaying. I was similarly charmed by Peter Dinklage showing up as Eitri. I only vaguely remember hearing the rumors about who he was going to play and was genuinely delighted when he showed up. Also, seeing Okoye (Danai Gurira), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) all fight together was really fun. I could go on and on. What’d you guys like?

Rogers: “Pull a Cher!” Nice. Yeah, I’m feeling reasonably good about our heroes’ being not dead (they’re just resting!) given the fact that the MacGuffin is an object that can literally alter time, rewrite reality, and control the soul.

The little moments really did add up, didn’t they? I loved Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord trying to affect a deeper voice and an accent to compete with Hemsworth’s preternatural beauty as Thor (so … many … men … named … Chris), and worrying about his weight—an IRL Easter egg, because of Pratt’s pre-Guardians weight loss and buffing-out. Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes/War Machine tricking Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner into bowing to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was fun. (How do you say “faux pas” in Xhosa?) Red Skull showing up as the guardian of the Soul Gem was delightfully weird, and as a comedy writer pal of mine said, who’dathunk that Rocket’s fetish for stealing body parts would become a classic bit? Totally agree about Thor, too. Seriously, I was no great fan of the first two Thor movies, but Ragnarok and this movie turned him into one of my favorite Marvel characters.

Parham: As “endings” go, this might be Marvel’s most ambitious. I understand these are comic book characters we’re talking about, so no one is ever really dead—as you guys mentioned—but still. I remember being upset when I first saw it. It’s not that I didn’t think Thanos would ultimately win, I just didn’t think more than half of the cast would be killed off. And it wasn’t even that I thought it was cruel, it just felt … dumb. A few days removed from it, I actually don’t mind. With half the cast “gone,” it allows for an interesting, even more ambitious part two. Wong, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man are sure to be back. Plus all new characters—Captain Marvel and, fingers crossed Angela, Valkyrie! And maybe even some characters who haven’t been introduced into MCU yet. With Disney’s pending merger with Fox, it could mean a handful of characters from the X-Men Universe could find their way into subsequent films.

All that said, I think the next film has to take a risk this one didn’t—and actually kill off major characters. If it were up to me, Captain America and Iron Man wouldn’t make it out alive (Chris Evans wants out of his contract anyways, so it’s possible). It’d give Marvel an opportunity, one that it doesn’t necessarily need but should take, to start those franchises with fresh eyes and new talent.

Watercutter: Yeah, Jason, I agree. Some of the heroes should probably be gone and stay gone. Also, some folks have been saying if the franchise loses Tony Stark then that would make room to introduce the Riri Williams/Ironheart storyline from the comics—a concept I find very exciting. And Adam, I fully chortled when Rocket said “I’m gonna get that arm…” after Bucky (Sebastian Stan) told him it wasn’t for sale. Classic Rocket.

I think we’ve just about said all that needs to be said (or at least all that we can say in the decidedly finite space of this website), but I have one parting thought, if I may. The timeline leading up to Infinity War is kinda crazy, right? Like, when Thanos was all “I’ve had a really long day” (or something to that effect) it reminded me that the entire movie Infinity War takes place in the span of, what, 24 hours? 48? Also, considering where the movie started, was Ragnarok (aka the end of Asgard) basically yesterday? Maybe a couple days before? It’s possible that Killmonger’s (Michael B. Jordan) attempt to dethrone T’Challa could’ve happened a few weeks or months before the events of Infinity War, but considering Black Panther picked up pretty quickly after the events of Captain America: Civil War and showed Bucky in pretty much the same condition that he’s in at the start of this film, it seems unlikely a ton of time has passed. Bottom line: It’s been 10 years and 18 films, but is it possible the present-day timeline of these films (you know, the parts that aren’t Captain America-esque flashbacks) have taken place in the span of a few months or maybe a year? If so, this war is far from infinite.

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What If Aliens Were Totally Obsessed With Us?

Mercurio D. Rivera is the author of dozens of science fiction tales, many of which are collected in his book Across the Event Horizon. His stories cover an array of topics, but it wasn’t until recently that he discovered—thanks to a comment from someone at a convention—one of his main preoccupations is weird and disturbing aliens.

“I sat down and looked at my work and realized, ‘Holy cow, he’s right, probably 90 percent of the stories involve aliens of some sort or another,’” Rivera says in Episode 305 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “So I think I do have a particular interest in that.”

One of his creations is an alien race called the Wergen, which is one of the most interesting alien species to appear in science fiction in recent years. Through a quirk of fate, Wergens are biologically constituted to find human beings unbelievably attractive.

“They call it love,” Rivera says. “Once they make first contact with humanity, they want to be around humans, they want to help humans, they want to just look at humans. The catch is that humans find the Wergens viscerally repulsive.”

Such a mismatch of agendas and expectations leads to plenty of conflict, which Rivera mines in stories that explore the many varieties of love, from maternal love to love for one’s pets. He thinks that even the most conceptually daring science fiction story needs a foundation of relatable emotional truth. “I love the idea of the Wergens as a symbol for unrequited love,” he says. “I think that’s a feeling that’s universal to all of us.”

Rivera has collected many of the Wergen stories into a book titled The Love War, which he’s currently shopping around to publishers, and he plans to keep writing new Wergen stories for years to come.

“The relationship between humanity and the Wergens is like a big romantic relationship,” he says. “You get to see the courtship, they get together, they get married, they have some tiffs, they divorce, and then maybe they reconcile and maybe they don’t. I haven’t figured out my ending yet.”

Listen to the complete interview with Mercurio D. Rivera in Episode 305 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Mercurio D. Rivera on the New York writers’ group Altered Fluid:

“Jim Freund had asked us to do a live critiquing session on his radio show Hour of the Wolf, and a few of us volunteered. We did a drawing to see which of us would be the fortunate one—or unfortunate one, depending on your point of view—to be critiqued, and I won, so I wrote a story called ‘The Fifth Daniel,’ and we went on the show, and I read the story on the show, out loud, over the air. … And then we did our usual bit which is we went around the room, everybody took three or four minutes to give their critiques, and then afterward we had an open discussion. And all of this took place live on the radio. And then we took questions from callers, which was bizarre. We had some really strange callers. Somebody called up and said, ‘I liked the story but it didn’t have trolls in it.’”

Mercurio D. Rivera on his story “The Scent of Their Arrival”:

“When I wrote the story, I submitted it to Interzone, and the assistant editor at the time, Jetse de Vries, came back to me with some comments. He was worried that I was referring to the creatures as ‘vampires.’ He thought at the time that there were too many vampire stories that were being written, and he suggested I just not refer to them as vampires, and keep it strange, although anybody reading the story would realize these are vampires. … I’ve often tried writing fantasy stories and I wind up turning them into science fiction stories, and in this case I think I started writing a horror story and turned it into a science fiction story. But I like that, I like giving it a scientific approach and having the protagonist looking at it from a scientific perspective.”

Mercurio D. Rivera on his story “Naked Weekend”:

“I wanted to write about the fact that we live in such a highly medicated world these days. So many people are on antidepressants and other drugs that control their emotions, and I just wanted to take that idea to an extreme, and create a society where literally every emotion is regulated, and you’re only allowed to feel a certain amount of anger, or a certain amount of any particular emotion. … And this couple goes ‘naked’ for a weekend, to feel their real emotions, and I try to keep it a little bit ambiguous, actually. I thought the easy ending to the story would have been to say, ‘Hey, this is all wrong, emotions are good.’ But I wanted to make it a little bit more ambiguous, and point out the fact that a lot of times the worst things that happen in the world are due to negative emotions.”

Mercurio D. Rivera on his story “Missionairies”:

“I wanted to explore the concept of faith in that story, but I didn’t want to do a religion-bashing story. That was my worry, and the first few drafts of this I thought were kind of leaning that way, and luckily my writers’ group pointed that out to me, so I decided to try a whole different tack. I decided to take my protagonist—who you’re relating to the most—and move her on a path toward faith and toward religion. And I thought that that way it wouldn’t look like I was religion-bashing, because I really wasn’t—I wanted to just explore how little difference there is when you talk about physics and you talk about religion, there are a lot of similarities when you talk about concepts like the Big Bang and things like that. And I wanted to explore that in the story without necessarily being pro or con as to religion itself.”

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The Stormy Daniels Saga Tops recently’s online News Roundup

Another week, another tale of tumult online. Be it Fox News host Laura Ingraham having to apologize after mocking one of many Parkland pupils or the growing pushback against FOSTA/SESTA, everything a week ago felt fraught. And people are simply two associated with the stories that had individuals speaking on social media marketing. Need to know more? Right here you go.

Pardon Me Personally?

Just what occurred: After months of this matter humming within the back ground, last week had been another big one in ongoing Special research into Potential Russian Collusion.

Exactly what actually Happened: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe got another added twist the other day, therefore had beenn’t that Joe diGenova wouldn’t be joining President Trump’s legal group after being announced as an addition. (their state of Trump’s appropriate team was much talked about throughout the last few days, though.) Nope, the latest curveball came courtesy of the most recent court filing from Mueller.

It in fact was a filing that received a lot of attention through the news, it is this actually an issue?

…So that will evidently be described as a yes, then. It turned out, but that wasn’t the sole Mueller investigation news to come away during the last seven days, because this dropped pretty much each and every day after the Rick Gates story:

Yes, now-departed lawyer John Dowd apparently suggested Trump give consideration to pardoning two people in the centre associated with Mueller investigation.

Naturally, the White House is denying the reports, because why would anyone think in a different way? But, before anyone got too caught up because of the pardons from it all, the week finished where it began, with the revelation that Mueller wanted Gates because he views him as a link between Trump and Russia. That one, friends, will run and run.

The Takeaway: This is like a substantial understatement…

The Stormy Daniels Front Continues to Roll In

Just what took place: Meanwhile, President Trump’s other controversy—you understand, the Stormy Daniels one—continued unabated.

Exactly what Really occurred: Speaking of stories which can be set to run and run, Stormy Daniels has received a significant week previously a week. It began early a week ago with her much-anticipated 60 Minutes meeting—

—which, it turns out, numerous people (and far associated with the media, for instance) saw.

But which was simply the beginning! While individuals wondered why Trump had beenn’t responding publicly toward story—although he’s apparently telling individuals privately that she’s not his type, an undeniable fact disproven by looking at almost everyone he’s ever had a relationship with—the next stage of the Stormy plan moved into action. Therefore ended up being surprise one.

That definitely doesn’t seem advantageous to Michael Cohen. But at the least all focus is on Cohen these times, and never on his employer, the President of United States. Wait, what’s that?

OK, certain; this appears even worse than it did at first. Fortunately, there’s no opportunity your appropriate teams for either Trump or Cohen would do anything to harm themselves.

It was the move that prompted the headline “Michael Cohen’s Attorney can be a Worse Lawyer Than he could be,” which appeared like an understatement, as others pointed out. But clearly he learned his tutorial and wouldn’t duplicate the blunder the very following day…

Oh.

The Takeaway: If absolutely nothing else, this lawsuit might be going to be really entertaining to view.

Julian Assange Unplugged

Exactly what occurred: What happens each time a guy who has develop into a creature of the internet instantly has no internet access? What’s the sound of 1 hand clapping?

Just what Really occurred: It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but there’s grounds for that. Or, at least, there is a week ago.

As reported far and wide, Assange no longer has internet access after the Ecuadorian authorities got bored of his Twitter tirades. Well, maybe it was a bit more severe than that.

As may be anticipated, not everybody thought it was reasonable.

In the course of time a hashtag popped up supporting Assange’s directly to the online world: #ReconnectJulian.

Obviously, some one must come up with a plan to ensure that Assange can still … do whatever he really does on the web.

Perhaps not that plan, though.

The Takeaway: We think this treats the complete subject with all the seriousness it deserves…

Like The Apprentice, But on Twitter

What Happened: President Trump fired someone on Twitter. Once Again.

Just what actually occurred: Remember all of the hassle as soon as the president replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson via Twitter? It in fact was a move that received so much comment and disapproval there was almost certainly no chance that he’d do it—oh, wait. Never ever mind.

On one hand, it had beenn’t the greatest surprise that Shulkin was ousted, great deal of thought had been revealed simply final month he (and their staff) misled ethics officials over travel costs, claimed which he had been pushed from his work before saying he wouldn’t keep, after which declared that he had White home backing to purge the department of Veterans Affairs. Those aren’t precisely signs that he would stay static in the career for extended. Nevertheless, his ousting—and the option of replacement—raised a few eyebrows on the web. If nothing else, everyone was quick to answer Ronny Jackson’s nomination whilst the brand new guy in control of the VA.

Still, certainly Trump had his reasons as he opted for Jackson.

Yeah, that appears about right. With the individuals amazed by the nomination, it should be noted that Jackson had been one of these, in line with the Washington Post, which stated that he had been “taken aback by their nomination” and “hesitated to just take such a big task.” The interview procedure, which people suspect didn’t even happen, ended up being described by the Post as “informal,” which seems a great option to place it. Meanwhile, as Jackson was taking into consideration the future, so ended up being their predecessor; it ended up, David Shulkin had been working on his or her own going away present.

Unsurprisingly, this made headlines across the media, and likely made Jackson even more stressed about using the job. There’s probably nevertheless time and energy to say no, Ronny.

The Takeaway: Nevertheless, let’s take into account the future, shall we?

Adnan Syed’s Brand New Trial

Exactly what Happened: For longtime fans of popular podcasts, recently supplied an unexpected piece of very good news.

What Really Happened: Fans of the first season of podcast phenomenon Serial got a surprise enhance towards story of Adnan Syed on Thursday.

Those who haven’t been following Rabia Chaudry’s Twitter feed—and that have perhaps not held with Syed’s tries to overturn a murder conviction that relied upon evidence that has been not entirely convincing—that tweet could be some vague, but fortunately, other people were and details soon enough.

This is, never to put it moderately, a problem, as news coveragesuggested. Chaudry, an attorney and writer whom advocated for Syed’s case years before Serial (and whom continued to work about it after ward, not least included in the Undisclosed podcast group), was understandably elated.

Chaudry’s Undisclosed co-hosts also stepped directly into comment.

Of course, this won’t suggest Syed will soon be found innocent this time around around—but Chaudry is confident about this outcome.

Although that may need your assistance, because it works out…

The Takeaway: as well as for all those feeling as though Serial didn’t execute a adequate work of presenting Syed’s innocence, here’s a special message: