Pixel Scroll 12/18/18 Just One Pixel Of Scrolls Is Better Than A Lifetime Alone

(1) NOT THE DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. A nice placeholder, though. Io9 sets the frame: “Doctor Who Saves Christmas (Again) in This Adorable Holiday Short”:

Doctor Who’s Twitter account has shared a cute animated holiday short telling the story of how the Doctor (voiced by Whittaker) helped save Christmas once again this year. Narrated by Bradley Walsh (Graham), the Twas The Night Before Christmas-style tale is all about Santa getting stuck in a jam after his sleigh breaks down. Who can he possibly call to save the day? The Doctor, of course!

(2) HARD SF. James Davis Nicoll dares to tell us about “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction That Bypass the Gatekeepers” at Tor.com.

….Still, I think there’s a gap between hard SF defined so narrowly only Hal Clement could be said to have written it (if we ignore his FTL drives) and hard SF defined so broadly anything qualifies provided the author belongs to the right social circles … that this gap is large enough that examples do exist. Here are five examples of SF works  that are, to borrow Marissa Lingen’s definition:

playing with science.

and doing so with a verisimilitude that’s not just plot-enabling handwaving….

(3) MYTHCON 50. Introducing artist Sue Dawe’s logo for Mythcon 50, with the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” The convention will take place August 2-5 in San Diego – register here

(4) TAFF NEWS. Avail yourself of the official Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund news – click to retrieve the PDF file: 

(5) CODE OF CONDUCT GUIDANCE. Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner have made available as a free download their book on Code of Conduct enforcement for those who put on conventions and conferences: “Free code of conduct enforcement book available now”.

You can now download a free book detailing how to enforce a code of conduct, “How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports,” written by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner and edited by Annalee Flower Horne. This comprehensive guide includes:

  • Basic code of conduct theory
  • How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report
  • In-depth discussion of relevant topics
  • Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 7 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits.

(6) NOT GOING TO DUBLIN 2019? Then a clue as to what you’ll be missing from the Science GoH is contained in this 1/2 hour BBC interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell. “Of course, if you are going to Dublin, then don’t listen to this,” warns SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “as there are spoilers.”

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Jocelyn Bell Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science – in the days when it was unusual enough for women to work, let alone make a discovery in astrophysics that was worthy of a Nobel Prize. As a 24-year old PhD student, Jocelyn spotted an anomaly on a graph buried within 100 feet of printed data from a radio telescope. Her curiosity about such a tiny detail led to one of the most important discoveries in 20th century astronomy – the discovery of pulsars – those dense cores of collapsed stars. It’s a discovery which changed the way we see the universe, making the existence of black holes suddenly seem much more likely and providing further proof to Einstein’s theory of gravity.

(7) FILMS THAT BELONG ON YOUR LIST. Looper says these are “The Best Fantasy Movies Everyone Missed In 2018.”

With major blockbusters and huge franchises taking up most of our attention these days, it can be easy to lose track of all the great releases sneaking by under the radar but these 2018 fantasy movies are well worth seeking out…

(8) TV HISTORY. Echo Ishii revisits another sff TV classic, The Stone Tape:

The Stone Tape was a television play broadcast by the BBC in 1972.

The Stone Tape begins with a man named Peter who is head of a research team for an electronics company. Like many of the characters in Beasts, the protagonist is not a pleasant person. Peter Brock, though likely very skilled at his job, is arrogant, self-absorbed, sexist, and condescending. Whereas someof the sexism and the bigoted comments may be a representation of the realities of the the business world (and TV) at the time, you are clearly meant not to like Peter Brock as a person which only amps up the unease surrounding the main plot….

(9) HOW FAR IS IT? Far out. Like, literally Far Freekin’ Out. A newly announced minor planet is the most distant known object in the Solar System (Phys.org: “Outer solar system experts find ‘far out there’ dwarf planet”). The body’s official name is 2018 VG18, but it’s nicknamed “Farout” and it’s current orbital distance is about 120 AUs.

A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System. It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for its extremely distant location, is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System’s most-famous dwarf planet.

(10) COMING YOUR WAY. The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie’s new fantasy novel, arrives February 26, 2019. “My library’s already let me reserve it,” says Daniel Dern.

(11) THE WISDOM OF P.L. TRAVERS. The Washington Post’s Jerry Griswold profiles Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, whom he interviewed for the Paris Review, saying that Travers “was the wisest woman I’ve ever met,” a deep student of Zen, and the author of novels about Mary Poppins that are much darker than the movies. “Disney tried to erase ‘Mary Poppins’ creator P.L. Travers. She’s still more fascinating than fiction.”.

…Travers was the wisest woman I’ve ever met. She was the second Western woman to study Zen in Kyoto, part of the inner circle of the famous mystic G.I. Gurdjieff and did yoga daily (an exotic practice in the 1970s). One afternoon in her Manhattan apartment, we had a conversation that would later appear in Paris Review. She spoke about the meanings of Humpty Dumpty, how her book “Friend Monkey” had been inspired by the Hindu myth of Hanuman, the Zen expression “summoned not created,” the sacredness of names in aboriginal cultures and a spiritual understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son. And as for linking “this store of wisdom and our modern life,” she lead me step by step through parallels between the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the myth of Persephone. It was one of the richest afternoons of my life.

As she often did, Travers emphasized that she “never wrote for children” but remained “immensely grateful that children have included my books in their treasure trove.” She thought her books appealed to the young because she had never forgotten her own childhood: “I can, as it were, turn aside and consult it.”

(11) NASA POSTERS. Bored Panda is a bit skeptical — “Turns Out NASA Creates Posters For Every Space Mission And They’re Hilariously Awkward” – but Michael J. Walsh says, “Contrary to the headline, I think many of them are really good.”

…However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit. And what’s a better way to do that other than throwing in some pop culture references? Fair warning the results are quite cringy, making it hard to believe that these images are actually real.

First on the list:

(12) DINJOS OBIT. Nigerian sff writer Emeka Walter Dinjos has died. Future Science Fiction Digest editor Alex Shvartsman paid tribute in “RIP Emeka Walter Dinjos”:

It is with a heavy heart that I must share the news that Emeka Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian writer of science fiction and fantasy whose novelette “SisiMumu” is featured in our first issue, passed away at the age of thirty-four on Wednesday, December 12.

Walter was admitted to the hospital a little over aweek ago, on the eve of his birthday. In his last Facebook post he shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed, writing “I once swore I would never find myself in a place like this.” He was quick to point out, “It’s just fatigue.Will probably be out in a few days.” But unfortunately he succumbed to complications related to unmanaged diabetes. Walter is survived by his siblings and extended family, to whom I extend deepest condolences on behalf of everyone at Future SF and his many friends in the SF/F community….

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of theMoon. (Say “Cheese!”)
  • December 18, 1957The Monolith Monsters hit theatres.
  • December 18, 1968 — Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew into theaters.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He is best remembered for perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook— a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939Michael Moorcock, 79. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well. Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection, Mother London and The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 72. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film wasn’t great… He’d repeated that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed along a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe BFG is simply wonderful. Haven’t seen Ready Player One so I’ll leave that up to y’all to opine on. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober,65. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 49. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers movie. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3000, James K. Polkin, and — oh really Casper — the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Sequels short, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad film. 

(15) GOOD PLACE/BAD PLACE. At Vice, D. Patrick Rodgers believes, “The Best Thing on TV This Year Was: ‘The Good Place’.”

The unseen presence of one character has haunted The Good Place from the beginning, lingering like one of Bad Janet’s legendary farts since the very first moments of the very first episode: Doug Forcett.

As we all know — at three seasons and 35 episodes in — the afterlife hinges on a cumulative point system, with good deeds adding to an individual’s point total and bad or selfish deeds subtracting. People with high enough point totals enter The Good Place, while those who don’t make the cut do the whole burn-for-eternity thing down in The Bad Place. Despite all the twists, developments, reveals, and red herrings of the uniquely sharp and wacky sitcom, one constant has remained: that only one mortal has figured out the system, and he did it while on a mushroom trip back in 1972.

“Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” opens with the song of the same name by the Mamas and the Papas’ “Mama” Cass Elliott, itself a 70s artifact that portends something darker than its sunny melody suggests —that life is short, and if we’re not careful, we’ll screw it up. We watch as some as-yet-unnamed character tends to a series of mundane tasks, his face hidden from view. But there’s something familiar about that grizzled-blond shock of hair we see only from behind. It belongs to someone we know. Turns out that’s doubly true, as the head we’re looking at is that of legendary comedic actor Michael McKean in character as the aforementioned Forcett, now several decades older and committed to obtaining the requisite number of Good Place points.

(16) MEMORIAL FOR A BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mashable brings us word that, “A delivery robot caught on fire at UC Berkeley, students then set up a vigil.” The KiwiBot was one of a fleet of over 100.

A KiwiBot, an automated food delivery robot which is present on UC Berkeley’s campus, caught fire on Friday afternoon.

In a post, the company explained the incident was due to a faulty battery which had been mistakenly installed instead of a functioning one. 

The errant battery started smoldering while the robot was idling, leading to smoke, then fire outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

“A member of the community acted swiftly toextinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher. Within moments ofthe incident occurring, it had already been contained,” the post read.

“The Berkeley Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to secure the scene, and doused the robot with foam ensuring there was no risk of re-ignition.”

Unsurprisingly, the fire was caught on both video and stills. Pics of the subsequent candlelight memorial also appeared online. Deliveries had been taking place by the bots since 2017 but were suspended following the fire. Since then, software has been updated to more closely monitor the battery state and the fleet is back in service.

(17) MOCKERY. This is the kind of promo I’d expect from JDA or Richard Paolinelli, except you’d have to take their books, too: “Popeyes is launching ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ for stressed travelers craving fried chicken”.

On Tuesday, the chicken chain announced that it is selling three-piece chicken-tenders meals packaged in “Emotional Support Chicken” carriers at Philadelphia International Airport. The special chicken will be available as supplies last starting Tuesday at the Popeyes location in Terminal C.

Emotional-support animals have been making headlines recently, as passengers have pushed for the ability to bring increasingly bizarre companions on flights.

The number of emotional-support animals traveling aboard commercial flights has jumped 74% from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017, according to trade group Airlines for America. In January, a woman tried to bring an emotional-support peacock on a United Airlines flight. And, in February, another woman said Spirit Airlines told her to flush her emotional-support hamster down the toilet.

(18) NICE TRY. Somehow the trash in the Pacific is moving faster than the catcher: “Creator Of Floating Garbage-Collector Struggling To Capture Plastic In Pacific”.

Slat’s system, a 10-foot skirt attached beneath an unmoored, 2000-foot-long plastic tube, takes advantage of the wind and waves to move through the Pacific Ocean. The system aims to collect plastic from the water’s surface, which would then be picked up every few months by a support vessel and transported back to land for recycling. The garbage trap uses solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas to communicate its position to Slat’s team and passerby vessels.

(19) MAYBE TOMORROW. “SpaceX And Blue Origin Scrub Rocket Launches, Dashing Hopes Of A 4-Launch Day” – NPR has the story.

Weather and other delays marred what had been anticipated as a banner day for space launches Tuesday, as both SpaceX and Blue Origin were forced to postpone launches that had been scheduled to take place within minutes of each other. Both companies say they will look at moving their launches to Wednesday morning.

(20) BANNED ARTWORK. The New York Times reports some work by international artists has been banned from a forthcoming exhibit at the Guangdong Museum of Art: “Their Art Raised Questions About Technology. Chinese Censors Had Their Own Answer.”

Artificial intelligence bots. 3-D printed human organs. Genomic sequencing.

These might seem to be natural topics of interest in a country determined to be the world’s leader in science and technology. But in China, where censors are known to take a heavy hand, several artworks that look closely at these breakthroughs have been deemed taboo by local cultural officials.

The works, which raise questions about the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, were abruptly pulled last weekend from the coming Guangzhou Triennial on the orders of cultural authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The artists, from Europe, Australia and the United States, were not given an official reason why their works were rejected for the show, which opens on Dec. 21 at the Guangdong Museum of Art. The pieces did not touch on the Tiananmen democracy crackdown of 1989, independence for Taiwan or Tibet or the private wealth of Chinese Communist Party leaders —topics that are widely known to be off-limits for public discussion in China.

As a result, some of the show’s curators and the affected artists havebeen left guessing as to why the works were banned. Their conclusion? The works were perhaps too timely, too relevant and therefore too discomforting for Chinese officials.

…The other banned works include “The Modular Body,” an online science fiction story about using human cells and artificial organs to create a living organism. Created by a Dutch artist, Floris Kaayk, the work is intended to raise questions about the potential for 3-D printing of human organs, about extending life with the help of technology and about the desire to design life from scratch.

(21) OUT OF THE BOT BUSINESS. Engadget reports “Sphero is done making licensed Disney bots like BB-8 and R2-D2”:

Say goodbye to Sphero’s cute BB-8 robot. In fact, say goodbye to all the company’s licensed products, including R2-D2, BB-9E and Cars’ Lighting McQueen. According to The Verge, Sphero plans to sell its remaining inventory of licensed toys, but it will no longer manufacture more once it runs out. Indeed, the products’ listings on Sphero’s website says “This is a legacy product and no longer in production.” The company isn’t just discontinuing the models, though: It’s ending its licensing partnerships completely, because it’s no longer worth dedicating resources for their production.

Sphero chief Paul Berberian explained that while the toys sold well when their tie-in movies were released, fewer and fewer people purchased them as the years went by. “When you launch a toy, your first year’s your biggest. Your second year’s way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny,” he said….

(22) ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS ASK. Rocco the parrot apparently knows how to get what he wants (BGR Media: “An intelligent parrot used Alexa to play music and order food from Amazon”).

An African grey parrot has made headlines recently for inadvertently making orders via his owner’s Amazon Echo. Originally reported via The Times of London [paywall], the parrot — whose name is Rocco — would mindlessly activate Alexa and have the virtual assistant tell jokes and play music. Rocco even tried to order a few items from Amazon, but the owner wisely had set up controls to prevent unauthorized purchases.

What makes the somewhat lighthearted story even more amusing is that Rocco previously had a stint living at the UK’s National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) but was kicked out — yes, kicked out — because he was swearing too much. As the old adage says, truth is stranger than fiction. Rocco was subsequently placed under the care of a NAWT employee named Marion Wischnewski whereupon he quickly started activating Alexa.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Elusis, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Vertlieb: Reflections On My Seventy-Third Birthday

By Steve Vertlieb:  As a writer, I’m seldom at a loss for words. As this bright and early Monday morning dawns and I patiently await the sunrise, however, I find that my emotions have somehow gotten the better of me. The past ten days have been comprised of a joyous whirlwind of activity, which I’ve happily shared with the two most important people in my life … my life long best friend and brother, Erwin, and my beloved, most adorable life partner and love, Rochelle Trust, or … as she is often, and most commonly referred to here … my sweet “Shelly Bear.” As many of you know, as evidenced, by the gentle, and generous flurry of activity and well wishes surrounding my seventy-third birthday this past Saturday, December 15th, I have wistfully grown yet another year older and, perhaps, wiser within these last memorable hours. During the annual celebration of this sadly irreversible process we visited New York City, and thrilled to the new Broadway musical based upon my favorite film, King Kong, and shared lots of hugs, kisses and tears … the latter experienced mere moments ago as I hugged my little brother and bid him adieu as he departed once more for his home in Los Angeles.

So now, as life continues as it inevitably must, I am faced with the prospect of living another year as best and most lovingly as I’m able. As I sit alone at my computer in the moments before darkness is swallowed by sunrise, I am humbled by an overwhelming sense of melancholy, realizing that, as Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein observed during a thoughtful moment in Citizen Kane, I am “nearer the end than the beginning,” Like many kindred spirits, I look back at nearly three-quarters of a century and recall moments of heartbreak, as well as moments of bliss, as I contemplate my future … the days, weeks, months, and all too increasingly precious years that may lie ahead … and wonder what experiences await me. I cherish the affection , happiness, and success that I’ve been fortunate enough to know, yet remember the loss, heartaches, and tragedies that have also helped to shape my destiny, as well as the admittedly flawed human being that I am and have become. I love my beautiful Shelly, and cherish the lifelong friendship of my brother, Erwin. I also revere the love of my many friends, both past and present, whose remarkable influence has ultimately transformed the poetic landscape that I have so gratefully shared these seventy-three years.

To those of you who have so graciously expressed your kindness and deeply appreciated affection toward this most unworthy soul upon the bittersweet occasion of my most recent birthday, I can only offer a deeply humble, and most profoundly grateful … Thank You. May we continue to share this roller coaster ride that is often, and most inadequately referred to as Life, and may we celebrate its wonders and infinite goodness together. Here’s to you.

Steve Vertlieb

Into the Spider-Verse

By John Hertz: 

     Sheem made one of us;

     Punning Robinson, for two;

     I can’t forget Tub;

     Descent had Niven and Barnes.

     Really, this is a marvel.


Acrostic (read down the first letters of each line) in unrhymed lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, something like Japanese tanka.  Sheem, The Witches of Karres ch. 7 (J. Schmitz,1966); Robinson, e.g. Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon (1977); Tubby Tompkins, see Icons of the American Comic Book v. 1 p. 453 (R. Duncan & M.Smith, 2013); The Descent of Anansi (L. Niven & S. Barnes, 1982); marvel, e.g. Amazing Fantasy 15 (August 1952).

Pixel Scroll 12/17/18 One Dream, One Soul, One File, One Scroll, One Pixeled Glance Of What Should Be

(1) NO ESCAPE CLAUS. John Scalzi reveals that when it comes to who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, litigation can play a role: “An Interview With Santa’s Lawyer”. There also are some surprising revelations about elvish labor law:

If elves don’t qualify as human under the law, what are they?

Under Canadian law, they’re technically animals.

Animals.

Yes. Just like reindeer. And technically, under Canadian law, Santa’s Workshop qualifies as a federally inspected farm, the oversight of which is handled by Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

So, technically, Santa’s elves have as many rights as veal.

I’m offended at this comparison, and also, yes.

 (2) IT’S MORTAL. Deadline saw the B.O. numbers and administered last rites — “‘Mortal Engines’ Conks Out At The B.O. And Is Poised To Lose At Least $100M+: Here’sWhy”.

There is nothing more daunting right now in the current franchise-obsessed box office marketplace than launching an original piece of sci-fi/fantasy. This weekend, we’re seeing the Peter Jackson-produced,$110M+ Mortal Engines a casualty of its own ambition to create a brand new world on screen, with a disastrous opening of $7.5M and a running worldwide total of $42.3M.

(3) THE ACADEMY AWARDS. Variety shares some preliminary 2019 Oscar nominee sorting — “Oscars: Film Academy Narrows the List of Contenders in Nine Categories”. Below are the contenders of genre interest. (Click on the link for the complete list.) The official nominations for the 91st annual Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 22, 2019.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Black Panther”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

“Annihilation”

“Avengers: Infinity War”

 “Black Panther”

 “Fantastic Beasts: TheCrimes of Grindelwald”

“First Man”

 “Isle of Dogs”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

 “Ready Player One”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

 “All The Stars” from“Black Panther”

 “The Place Where LostThings Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”

“Trip A Little Light Fantastic” from “Mary Poppins Returns”

 “A Place Called SlaughterRace” from “Ralph Breaks the Internet”

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

“Age of Sail”

“Animal Behaviour”

“Bao”

“Bilby”

“Bird Karma”

“Late Afternoon”

“Lost & Found”

“One Small Step”

“Pépé le Morse”

“Weekends”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Ant-Man and the Wasp”

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Black Panther”

“Christopher Robin”

“First Man”

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“Ready Player One”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

“Welcome to Marwen”

(4) LET THE YEAR’S BESTS BEGIN. Jonathan Strahan has announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 13 and Jason has added links to the contents as the start of Featured FuturesCollated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links).

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF,Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(5) HELLBOY ON THE WAY. IGN News has the scoop: “Hellboy: Check Out a Brand New Poster, Plus Trailer Debut Date – IGN Premiere”— 

Not only can you check out an exclusive new poster for the upcoming David Harbour-starring movie, but we can also confirm that — at long last! — the first trailer for Hellboy is coming this Thursday.

Additionally, IGN can confirm that Hellboy will be releasing in IMAX theatrically.

(6) PALEO ANKLEBITER. National Geographic, in “New species of incredible ‘living tank’ dinosaur unveiled”, assures readers, “Even fierce tyrannosaurs would have been afraid of Zuul, a club-tailed Cretaceous beast known as the ‘destroyer of shins.’”

On the second floor of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the skeleton of an older, ganglier cousin of Tyrannosaurusrex stands tall. But if the creature were alive today, it might be limping. More than 70 million years ago, this Gorgosauruswould have been an apex predator in what are now the badlands of Montana and western Canada. Apex doesn’t mean invincible, though. The animal’s right shin is a mess of broken bone that healed over in life.

What broke the poor tyrannosaur’s leg? Short of hopping in a time machine, researchers can’t be sure. But elsewhere in the same museum, visitors can get a glimpse of one of the best—and most exquisite—suspects in this Cretaceous cold case.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1945Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. I find it impressive that he attended every Worldcon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 64. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Space Balls, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough. He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot. Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon. He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in  Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 43. First genre appearence as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the forthcoming Hellboy

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Paging Col. Mustard. Col. Mustard please report immediately to Brewster Rockit aboard the R.U. Sirius.

(9) HOW TO TROLL FOR FUN AND PROFIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Somehow,when the title of the upcoming Avengers movie was announced, the studio had neglected to buy the domain names AvengersEndgame.com and AvengersEndgameMovie.com.That’s when Twitter user @AGuyInChair sprang into action, snapping up those domains and redirecting them… to the website for Once Upon a Deadpool. That, in turn, spurred Deadpool himself—well, OK, Ryan Reynolds—into action to send a reward to @AGuyInChair. CinemaBlend has the story (“Ryan Reynolds Sent The Coolest Gift To The Guy Who Redirected Endgame Domains To Deadpool”). Reynolds swag for@AGuyInChair was cool, and all, but not what the latter wanted.

So what did @AGuyInChair want? Why, a pair of tickets to the Avengers: Endgame premiere naturally. Apparently not having scored those, the two sites have since been re-redirected to “a video of Santa Claus (possibly the user himself?)addressing ‘that naughty boy’ [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige to trade the websites for those two golden tickets to Avengers: Endgame.”

(10) BLACK METAL HONORS. Summoning, a Tolkien-inspired Austrian black metal duo, has been recognized in “Bandcamp’s Best Metal Albums of 2018” for their latest album With Doom We Come:

Apart from maybe the Bible (the Satan parts, anyway), no work of literature has inspired more metal bands than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Middle-Earth has been the setting for all of the Austrian black metal duo Summoning’s albums, and their synth-driven, often minimalist songs truly sound like they could be echoing from an Uruk-hai cave. With Doom We Come is another superb entry in the band’s rock-solid discography. Guitarist Protector’s lo-fi tone is still straight out of the ’90s Second Wave, and he and bandmate Silenius have never sounded better as vocal foils for one another. Closing track “With Doom I Come” repurposes a verse of Tolkien’s poem Beren and Lúthien to create what’s arguably the catchiest vocal hook in Summoning’s career.

(11) THERE AND BACK AGAIN. This SJW Credential wasn’t named Bilbo, not quite, but Baloo did go There and Back Again. The Huffington Post has the story: “Cat Mistakenly Shipped More Than 700 Miles From Home After Sneaking Into Box.”

A curious cat named Baloo was mistakenly shipped more than 700 miles away from his home in Nova Scotia, Canada after crawling into a parcel destined for Alberta.

The tabby’s owner, Jacqueline Lake, told CTV News that the mischievous,1-year-old cat had secretly sneaked into the bottom of a package containing tire rims. The day after the parcel had been sent, Lake began searching for the missing family pet. 

“We knocked door-to-door, we searched the woods, we searched under decks, in garages, under steps … he was gone,” she said. 

Baloo was later discovered by a delivery driver in Montreal, 17-hours into his cross-country road trip. 

A local SPCA shelter managed to track down the feline stowaway’s owners using the parcel’s tracking code. 

Baloo returned to his family, safe and sound, on Saturday evening.

(12) MORE ABOUT CHRISTMAS DRAGONS. Diana Rowland’s “controversial” dragon lawn decorations reported in Sunday’s Pixel Scroll have attracted national attention (Vice: “These Dragon Christmas Decorations Are Tearing a Neighborhood Apart”).

A Louisiana woman’s unusual Christmas decorations have inadvertently ignited a beef on her street—because they’ve apparently got her boring-ass neighbors worried that she’s a member of a “demonic cult.”

Author Diana Rowland just wanted to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season by, naturally, setting up a bunch of inflatable dragons on her front yard. Of course, dragons are an appropriate and welcome addition to a lawn at any time of the year, bringing a nice Khaleesi vibe to an otherwise routine patch of grass—but one neighbor wasn’t having it. 

[…] “Your dragon display is only marginally acceptable at Halloween,” the note reads. “It is totally inappropriate at Christmas. It makes your neighbors wonder if you are involved in a demonic cult.”

[…] Thankfully, Rowland apparently did consider the true meaning of Christmas, and came to the conclusion that it meant “add more dragons to your lawn and give them halos for good measure,” because that’s exactly what she did

(13) LATE LOGGING IN. Just in time for Christmas Mike Kennedy discovered this… From 2016, but it’s news to me!

Do you need a Yule Log video to help lift everyone’s spirit when gathered for the family Christmas? Maybe this isn’t it. WarnerBros. Home Entertainment had helpfully(?) provided a 5-hour video of the “Eye of Sauron Yule Log” on YouTube, complete with the crackling noise one would expect from a nice(?) fire. There’s even a surprise(?) ending.

(14) PIXEL SCROLL ROCK. Camestros Felapton shared this instant classic in comments:

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll, pixel scroll rock
Pixel scrolls swing and pixel scrolls ring
Scrolling and linking up bushels of fan
Then the pixel hop had began

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll, pixel scroll rock
Pixel scrolls rhyme in pixel scroll time
Cosplaying and straying in pixel scroll land
To the sounds of the pixel scroll band

What a bright time, it’s the right time
To web surf the night away
Pixel scroll time is a swell time
To get caught up in a fandom array
Giddy-up pixel horse, pick up your feet
Scroll around the clock
Mix and a-mingle in the pixeling feet
That’s the pixel scroll,
That’s the pixel scroll,
That’s the pixel scroll, rock

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Strahan Reveals ToC for Best SFF Volume 13

Editor Jonathan Strahan has announced the table of contents for his Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 13 with stories from 2018. He said:

I could easily have added more stories – especially more novellas – but any book has to fit between a single set of covers and I’m very happy with these selections:

  • “Dreadful Young Ladies”, Kelly Barnhill (Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories)
  • “Okay, Glory”, Elizabeth Bear (Twelve Tomorrows)
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again”, Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, 11/31/18)
  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, P Djeli Clark (Fireside Magazine)
  • “Flint and Mirror”, John Crowley (The Book of Magic)
  • “An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
  • “The Bookcase Expedition”, Jeffrey Ford (Robots vs. Fairies)
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth”, Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)
  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine)
  • “You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You”, Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed,)
  • “When We Were Starless”, Simone Heller (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Woman Who Destroyed Us”, SL Huang (Twelve Tomorrows)
  • “Golgotha “, Dave Hutchinson (2001: An Odyssey in Words)
  • “The Storyteller’s Replacement”, N K Jemisin (How Long Till Black Future Month?)
  • “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny)
  • “Field Biology of the Wee Fairies”, Naomi Kritzer (Apex, 9/4/18)
  • “Meat and Salt and Sparks”, Rich Larson (Tor.com)
  • “Firelight”, Ursula K Le Guin (The Paris Review 225)
  • “The Starship and the Temple Cat”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “Quality Time”, Ken Liu (Robots vs. Fairies)
  • “A Brief and Fearful Star”, Carmen Maria Machado (Slate)
  • “The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto”, Annalee Newitz (Robots vs. Fairies)
  • “The Staff in the Stone”, Garth Nix (The Book of Magic)
  • “Blessings”, Naomi Novik (Uncanny)
  • “Mother Tongues”, S. Qiouyi Lu (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “Intervention”, Kelly Robson (Infinity’s End)
  • “Widdam”, Vandana Singh (F&SF)
  • “Yard Dog”, Tade Thompson (Fiyah #7)
  • “Olivia’s Table”, Alyssa Wong (A Thousand Beginnings and Endings)

The book, which will be out in April 2019, is available for pre-order. Note: Strahan says the cover has placeholder names on it but the ToC above is accurate.

[Thanks to Jason of Featured Futures for the story.]

2018 Parsec Awards

The winners of the 12th annual Parsec Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction Podcasting were announced December 17.  

Winners of the 2018 Parsec Awards

  • Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Short Form)

PodCastle

Jen R. Albert & Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

Six Jobs by Tim Pratt PodCastle  

  •  Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Long Form)

Shadow Publications: Derelict Tomb

Paul E. Cooley

Derelict: Tomb by Paul E. Cooley

  • Best Speculative Fiction Story: Large Cast (Short Form)

The Gray Area

Edward Champion

Buddies for Hire by Edward Champion

  • Best Speculative Fiction Audio Drama (Short Form)

The Axe & Crown

Eli McIlveen and Sean Howard

The Axe & Crown (12 episodes)
by Eli McIlveen and Sean Howard

  • Best Speculative Fiction Audio Drama (Long Form)

Uncanny County

Todd Faulkner

Uncanny County by Todd Faulkner, Alison Crane, William Franke, Nicole Greevy

  • Best Speculative Fiction Video Story

Active Radioactive Radio

Pendant Productions

Radioactive by Susan and Jeffrey Bridges

  • Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology Podcast

Escape Pod

Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya

  • Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team

The Phenomenon

Luciola Creative

  • Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast (Specific)

To The Journey!

Kay Shaw,  Suzanne Williamson, Zachary Fruhling

  • Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast (General)

Kalanadi

Rachael (Kalanadi)

General interest science fiction reviews by Rachael

  • Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation

Under The Puppet

Saturday Morning Media, Grant Baciocco

  • Best Fact Behind the Fiction Podcast

Astronomy Cast

Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain

  • Best Speculative Fiction Comedy/Parody Podcast

Robotz of the Company

Dream Realm Enterprises

Robotz of the Company by Jonithan Patrick  Russell

Update 12/17/2018: The Parsec Awards committee subsequently added the following statement (which does not identify the winner at issue):

In the last 24 hours the Parsec Awards Steering Committee has been made aware that a podcast creator for one of the podcasts that was announced in the previous email as an award winner has a history of extremely disturbing behavior.

To the best of our knowledge, no one on this committee was aware of this nor had any direct contact with this person.

Before going on, we want to make it clear that in no way do we wish to condone, enable or ignore patterns of threatening, abusive or hateful behavior on line or in person. From the very beginning the Parsecs have striven to be fair, unbiased and inclusive.

Our process is necessarily blind. We vet nominations for accuracy and submissions for relation to category and duration. Judging is done solely on the basis of the audio file presented.  That is to say we are presenting awards to the podcast solely on the basis of the content and production value. Some members of the committee and judges are in the podcast community. Therefore, they may know nominees and exclude themselves from directly influencing the processing of those submissions.

We have tried to create an award that is based on merit and is free from popularity, politics or prejudice. As you will note from our qualifications, there is no mention of the podcast creators only the podcast.

It is from this basis that we find ourselves where we are now without a policy to address this situation nor a ready made recourse. 

Things are happening very fast and we are not organized to be rapidly responsive. The committee has not had a chance to meet to determine what response is appropriate. 

We beg your patience while we figure this out.

The Parsec Awards Steering Committee

Pixel Scroll 12/16/18 Cold-Hearted Scroll That Rules The File, Removes The Pixels From Our Pile

(1) ROLL ELEVEN. Nicholas Whyte reviews “Doctor Who, Series 11 (or 37), 2018”, beginning with an overview, followed by comments on individual episodes:

…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….

(2) SON’S MEMORIES OF LE GUIN. “Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin” in The Guardian.

One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.

Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.

(3) A WINNER. Seeing the movie prompted John Scalzi to have many “Thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.

2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.

(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!

(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES. SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:

GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street
BAD: The Santa Clause
WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

GOOD: Rise of the Guardians
BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night
WEIRD: The Polar Express

GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas
BAD: Santa’s Slay
WEIRD: Fred Claus

GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas
BAD: The Christmas Chronicles
WEIRD: Christmas Evil

(6) SPLATTERPUNK IN ITALY.At the Horror Writers Association blog: “Revelations on the New Horror Renaissance – an Interview with Italian Author/Editor/Translator/Poet Alessandro Manzetti”.

Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?

A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.

(7) RAMBO ACADEMY. Sign up for Seanan McGuire’s workshop: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Your Own Worlds”.

Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.

This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.

Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.

(8) THEY’REDEAD(POOL), JIM. Aw, Jeez, he’s at it again (HuffPost:Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Is Even Better When Everyone Is Deadpool”).

So much Deadpool. Truly a maximum effort.

And we thought the last “Avengers” trailer was better when every character was Deadpool.

Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth. 

(9) WHALE TALE. ASLE-Brasil (Association of Literature and the Environment) interviewed Craig Russell about Fragment: “Craig Russell – Literature and Ecocriticism / Literatura e Ecocrítica”:

2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?

C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive. 

Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • December 16, 1927Randall Garrett. Ahhh Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. OK, confession time. I’m not a fan of his work so the only acquaintance I’ve with him is the first Bladerunner film which I’ve watched in its various forms many times. (Died 1982.)
  • December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)

(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”

In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.

(12) BUNNY TIME. Tim Goodman supplies “‘Watership Down’: TV Review” for The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.

On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.

Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.

(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —

Jenny

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.

(14) FREE READ. Vice’s Motherboard “imprint” has posted a free short story, “The Bonus,” by Liz Maier.

Two hundred extra hours of life per month, and only a few would have to be dedicated to the Company. Who would say no to not sleeping, to the bonus?

(15) APPROACHING GENRE. An NPR interview: “Lin-Manuel Miranda On ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ And Writing His Way Onstage”.

Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda: [Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.

I mean, that’s a little strong.

Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.

If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.

Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”

That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.

“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.

(16) MYTH REFURBISHED. Paul Weimer’s latest contribution to Nerds of a Feather is “Microreview [book]: In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard”.

The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.

(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

(18) SNL. The New York Times coverage of the most recent Saturday Night Live includes two skits of genre interest.  

Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.

In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.

As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”

She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.

[Thanks to rcade, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Craig Russell, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/18 Here Comes A Pixel To Light You To Bed, Here Comes A Scroller To Scroll Off Your Head

(1) AWFUL COMIC BOOK MOVIES. Comicbook.com calls these “The 36 Worst Comic Book Movies of All Time”. How many of these stinkers have you sniffed?

…But when you look back at comic book movie history, the genre has had more than its share of critical stinkers and box-office bombs….

32. Watchmen

Based on the DC Comics series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is set in an alternate version of the year 1985, where heroes exist and Nixon is still president. The comic gained acclaim, but movie critics were more divided.

(2) FRESH PEANUTS. The Hollywood Reporter predicts you’ll get Peanuts from Apple in the future: “Apple Lands Rights to Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Co. in New Peanuts Deal”.

DHX Media will produce the new content based on Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic characters.

Goodgrief. After what’s being described as a highly competitive bidding situation, Apple and its forthcoming originals operation has landed the rights to new Peanuts content.

The tech giant, which has not-so-quietly been amassing a strong roster of talent and original productions that is said to start rolling out in 2019, has completed a deal with DHX Media to create series, specials and shorts featuring iconic Charles M. Schulz characters such as Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang. DHX, the Canadian-based kids programming giant that acquired a stake in the Peanuts franchise in 2017, will produce all of the projects.

As part of the partnership, DHX Media is also going to produce original short-form STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content that will be exclusive to Apple and feature astronaut Snoopy. DHX Media will be working closely with subsidiary Peanuts Worldwide on all efforts.

(3) WHICH WHO IS NEW WHO? It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re dealing with the Doctor. Here Season 11 has just ended, while for Galactic Journey, tracking in 1963, Season 1 has barely begun! (And I mean the first Season 1….) “[December15, 1963] Our First Outing Into Time And Space (Dr. Who: THE FIREMAKERS)”.

So, after the first installment I was rather looking forward to this one. I curled up with a nice cup of tea and a guinea pig – the best viewing partner.

The episode picks up where it left off in An Unearthly Child, with the shot of a shadow looming over the T.A.R.D.I.S. We cut away, and get to see who’s casting the shadow: a rather grubby looking chap in desperate need of a good haircut. This is Kal, a Palaeolithic man, and contender for the leader of his tribe. Winter is fast approaching, their old firemaker is dead, and his son, Za, has no more idea of how to make a fire than any of the others. Control of the tribe will go to whomever becomes the new firemaker.

(4) THROUGH KILLYBEGS, KILKERRY, AND KILDARE. The Irish Times lists the 35 best independent bookshops in Ireland – something of interest to anyone bound for Dublin 2019 next year — “35 of the best independent bookshops in Ireland”. Cora Buhlert sent the link with a note, “I was surprised that Hodges Figgis in Dublin, which was even mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses, isn’t on the list, but turns out they’re owned by Waterstone’s these days and no longer independent.”

(5) BRUBAKER INTERVIEW. Alex Segura on “Tales of Junkies. Fade-outs, Super-heroes, and Criminals” on Crimereads, profiles Ed Brubaker, because “when you think crime comics, Brubaker is the one of the first ones that come to mind,” not only for his work on Captain America and Batman, but also his own projects, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Kill Or Be Killed.

..Aside from sheer creative control, can you talk a bit about the differences that come with writing your own characters and those that are owned by Marvel or DC, and the pros and cons of either approach?

I mean, the con is they can take something you co-create, like the Winter Soldier, and make hundreds of millions of dollars on toys and hoodies and cartoons and movies, and basically give you nothing—or nothing’s next door neighbor, if you’re lucky.

The pro is that you can have fun and make a good living as a writer while you’re doing it.

I worked really hard on stuff like DD and Cap, and I’m really proud of what me and my collaborators accomplished on those books. Stuff like Gotham Central and Catwoman was where I built some of my readership, by doing crime comics with superhero stuff in them, but ultimately, I always wanted to just write my own stories, I think, regardless of the fucked-up contracts in the superhero field.

(6) 3BELOW TRAILER. Guillermo del Toro’s 3Below:Tales of Arcadia launches on Netflix December 21.

From visionary director Guillermo del Toro and the team behind DreamWorks Trollhunters comes an epic, hilarious tale of alien royalty who must escape intergalactic bounty hunters by blending in on a primitive junk heap known as Earth.

(7) LIPPI OBIT. Urania editor Giuseppi Lippi (1953-2018) died December 14. Silvio Sosio of Delos Digital kindly granted his permission for File 770 to reproduce in English the appreciation he wrote for Italian sff site Fanascienza:

Giuseppi Lippi

Giuseppe Lippi, editor of the famous Italian magazine Urania, passed Friday, December 14. He had been hospitalized since the end of November for respiratory problems. A few days ago he was transferred in a bigger hospital in Pavia; Friday his condition worsened, and he died in the night.

Lippi was 65. Born in Stella Cilento, near Salerno, grew up in Naples. Then he studied in Trieste, where he worked with the local fandom. Later he went in Milan to work in the staff of the magazine Robot with Vittorio Curtoni.

In 1990 Mondadori hired him as editor of Urania, the monthly magazine published since 1952. He kept that position until the first months of 2018. He also wrote books and articles about the history of Urania.

He was a fine translator (notably of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard). He recently edited complete collections of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith stories. He never stopped writing columns for Robot since the first issue of the new series (2003). 

He is survived by his wife Sebastiana. The funeral ceremony will be held in Pavia December 17.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 15, 1958 Frankenstein’s Daughter showed up at your local drive-in…if you lived somewhere you wouldn’t freeze to death in the cold weather.
  • December 15, 1961The Twilight Zone aired “Once Upon A Time,” which featured the legendary Buster Keaton.
  • December 15, 1978 — Alexander Salkind’s Superman – The Movie flew into theatres.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923Freeman Dyson, 95. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use,” with first coming up with the concept. 
  • Born December 15, 1953Alex Cox, 65. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. No, what interests me is that he’s listed as directing a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just four years ago! Anyone know anything about this?
  • Born December 15, 1963Helen Slater, 55. She was Supergirl in the film of that name,  and returned to the 2015 TV series of the same name as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghulin in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in  DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville…And Eliza Danvers on the Supergirl series. Me? I’m not obsessed at all by the DC Universe… other genre appearance include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and Agent X.
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 48. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the vey long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromedaand there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega SnakeEurekaSanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium.

(10) WAIT WAIT. On this episode of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,The Captain arrives around the 30-minute mark: “‘Wait Wait’ For Dec. 15, 2018 With Not My Job Guest William Shatner”.

Recorded in Chicago with Not My Job guest William Shatner and panelists Roy Blount Jr., Helen Hong and Luke Burbank.

One of the greatest moments in all of cinema is William Shatner yelling “KHAAN!” in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan… so we’ve invited him to answer three questions about a different Cannes …the Cannes Film Festival.

Click the audio link above to find out how he does. (Or read the transcript, since there is one.)

(11) PERFECT HINDSIGHT. IndieWire recalls the reboot got a cool reception: “‘Battlestar Galactica’ Is Now a Classic — 15 Years Ago, Fans Thought It Was a Mistake”.

In 2003, the San Diego Comic-Con was a much less intense event than it is today, but networks and studios still saw the value of promoting new TV shows to fans. So, a few months before the premiere of the miniseries that re-launched “Battlestar Galactica,” creator Ronald D. Moore and cast members Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff, sat on a raised platform in one of the venue’s smaller conference rooms.

They screened the trailer. And then they ate a lot of crap. Although the original “Battlestar Galactica” premiered in 1978 for just one season, the audience was rooted in debating the old version, and why the Sci-Fi Channel (as it was then known) wanted to reboot the show.

The mood did lighten a bit when Sackhoff, cast as the gender-swapped character of Starbuck, addressed how much her role would resemble the one originally played by Dirk Benedict as a womanizing, gambling, and hard-drinking rascal. She said her Starbuck was definitely not afraid of drinking, gambling, or rebelling — and, when it came to the last thing, “as long as I’m involved in the casting…” It went better than another panel held at a “Galactica” fan convention where Moore was booed.

(12) SUGGESTED REVISIONS. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold expressed his dissatisfaction with an unnamed encyclopedia’s coverage of his career:

…That encyclopedia — well, hell, the ISFDB database will list what an author has written and that’s the original purpose of an encyclopedia, to provide facts — but the aforementioned encyclopedia is a collation of opinions, and opinions are … well, subjective.

There’s no encyclopedic entry that has the necessary understanding of an author’s process, not his mindset, not his history, not his personal experience. There’s no encyclopedia that mentions that [REDACTED] was a drunk, that [REDACTED] was an unlikable bully, that [REDACTED] was a sexual libertine who broke up marriages, that [REDACTED] was wildly inappropriate with women, that [REDACTED] was somewhere on the spectrum … etc. etc.

See, if an encyclopedic effort is supposed to be truly encyclopedic, then it should be an in-depth article about the individual as well as a survey of the work — and the survey of the work should provide more than just a casual description, it should be an attempt to discover recurring themes and ideas.

For instance, one could possibly annotate such an article with the observation that “the influence of Star Trek on Gerrold’s work is evident in that the Star Wolf trilogy can be seen as an anti-Trek, with a more recognizable military construction” or one can say, “the Dingilliad trilogy is Gerrold’s attempt to write a Heinlein juvenile, but going places that Heinlein couldn’t,” or one can say, “The Man Who Folded Himself” (still in print 45 years later) is a reworking of multiple time-travel ideas.” Therefore, “one can get the sense that Gerrold is reworking classic SF themes, updating them so he can explore the deeper possibilities.” See, that would be insightful enough to be useful to a reader trying to understand the writer as well as the work….

Not that anyone is unaware he’s speaking of John Clute’s entry about “Gerrold, David” in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

…In the 1980s – a decade during which he did extensive work for television – Gerrold’s writings lost some of their freshness, and his dependency on earlier sf models for inspiration became more burdensome. The War Against the Chtorr sequence – A Matter for Men (1983; rev 1989), A Day for Damnation (1984; exp 1989), A Rage for Revenge (1989) and A Season for Slaughter (1992), with the first versions of the first two titles assembled as The War Against the Chtorr: Invasion (omni 1984) – mixes countercultural personal empowerment riffs à la Robert A Heinlein with violent action scenes as the worm-like Chtorr continue to assault Earth, with no end in sight; the Starsiders/Chigger sequence – comprising Jumping Off the Planet (2000), Bouncing Off the Moon (2001) and Leaping to the Stars (2002), all three assembled as The Far Side of the Sky (omni 2002) – is a Young Adult Space Opera whose young sibling protagonists have issues with their mysterious father, which are resolved excitedly. Other novels, like The Galactic Whirlpool (1980) and Enemy Mine (1985) with Barry B Longyear – the novelization of Enemy Mine, a film based on a Longyear story – show a rapid-fire competence but are not innovative. Chess with a Dragon (1987) is an amusing but conceptually flimsy juvenile. There is a growing sense that Gerrold might never write the major novel he once seemed capable of – not because he has lost the knack, but because he is disinclined to take the fantastic very seriously….

(13) KEVIN SMITH EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. From WIRED, “Every Spider-Man in Film & TV Explained.”

Kevin Smith takes us through the history of Spider-Man in film and television, from 1978’s “Spider-Man Strikes Back” to 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, CatE ldridge, JJ. Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/18 Good King Pixelslas Looked Out On The File Of Seven

(1) WRITING SPACE. In “Why I Write in Cafes”, Rachel Swirsky unpacks all of her reasons.

I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others…

I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.

Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’twork, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.

(2) BRING PLENTY OF NAPKINS. Scott Edelman will be at the microphone while you slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski in Episode 84 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This time around you’ll sit in on my meal at Noodle Charm with horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski.

At least I think we ate at Noodle Charm. I’m not really sure. (Give a listen to the episode to find out the reason for my uncertainty.)

Kozeniewski is the author of such gonzo novels as Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus, and The Ghoul Archipelago. He’s also been part of the writers room for Silverwood: The Door, a 10-episode prose follow-up to Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV series Silverwood, which was released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats.

We discussed how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.

(3) BROKE-DOWN ENGINE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins is frank: “‘Mortal Engines’ Internally Combusts”.

…That’s just a cursory account of Mortal Engines, which would have benefited from losing a few supporting characters, several flashbacks and at least one subplot. Yet the movie’s major weakness is not story, but characterization.

The only actor who holds the screen is Weaving, and even he suffers from a cardboard role and plywood dialogue. Hilmar, Natsworthy and Jihae are all as bland as their parts, lacking charm, swagger and humor. The disastrous absence of the last quality can partly be blamed on the script, which hazards a joke about every 45 minutes.

(4) CAUGHT UP INTHE WEB. Meanwhile, Chris Klimek writes at NPR that “‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Is A Fun, Warm-Hearted Treat”.

It’s hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.

Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher’s “Ultimate” line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that…

…you know what? Don’t worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated oydssey called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Anyone can wear the mask.”

(5) STELLAR POPPINS.The BBC’s Nicholas Barber finds many defects compared to the original, but gives 4 stars to Mary Poppins Returns.

Sensibly, Blunt doesn’t impersonate Andrews. Less sensibly, she impersonates Maggie Smith: her haughty, upper-crust Mary would be right at home in Downtown Abbey. But otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is so similar to its predecessor as to be almost identical. There are no revelations, no unexpected locations, no hints at what Mary gets up to when she isn’t looking after the Banks children – although we’ll probably get a prequel set in nanny-training college in a few years’ time. The only significant difference is that the story has been moved on from 1910 to the 1930s, so it’s Mary Poppins: The Next Generation.

(6) BORDER TOWN DROPPED. “DC Cancels Hit Comic Book Series ‘Border Town’ After Abuse Claims”says The Hollywood Reporter.

The publisher is immediately ending the critically acclaimed series, amid accusations of sexual abuse by writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

DC Entertainmentimprint DC Vertigo has canceled comic book series Border Town effective immediately, with all orders for the unreleased issues 5 and 6 being canceled, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Those issues will not be published, and all issues already released are also being made returnable, according to the publisher.

The publisher has not commented on the reasons for the title’s cancellation, but it coincides with the release of a statement by toy designer Cynthia Naugle in which she wrote about being “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” by an unnamed figure later identified on social media — and seemingly confirmed by Naugle via retweets — as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

Since Naugle’s statement went live, both Border Town artist Ramon Villalobos and color artist Tamra Bonvillain released statements via Twitter on the subject, distancing themselves from the project.

(7) HUGO VOTING STRATEGY TRUE OR FALSE. Karl-Johan Norén warns, “The meme that one should not ‘dilute’ ones Hugo nomination power under EPH is going around again, and I wrote a quick refutation.”

…As a voter and nominator for the Hugos, it is in your best interest to nominate as many works as you find worthy as you can.

I will illustrate it using two cases. The first is that if every single nominator in a Hugo category nominates only a single work, EPH will default back to a simple first past the post selection with six finalists — exactly the system that we had before EPH, but with much less input! …

(8) THE POINTY THRONE. This cover for the March issue of Amazing Spider-Man resonates with a certain TV show you may have seen….

(9) BLACK SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY. Three excerpts from Terrence Francis’ 1992 documentary Black Sci-Fi, originally broadcast on BBC2 as part of the Birthrights series.

The documentary focuses on Black science fiction in literature, film and television and features interviews with Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent, Steven Barnes and Nichelle Nichols.

In this extract, Octavia Butler discusses how her interest in science fiction developed and the genre’s potential for exploring new ideas and ways of being.

In this section Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent and Steven Barnes discuss the stereotypical portrayal of black characters in science fiction literature and cinema, including the predictable fate of Paul Winfield in films like Damnation Alley, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Terminator.

In this section, Nichelle Nichols discusses the significance of her character, Uhura, in Star Trek; Steven Barnes and Mike Sargent consider how attitudes towards race and skin colour might develop in the (far) future.

(10) VAULT OF THE BEAST. Robert Weinberg interviewed A.E. Van Vogt in 1980 – now posted at Sevagram.

Weinberg: How did you first get interested in science fiction, and in particular, how did you come to write a science fiction story?

Van Vogt: I first read science fiction in the old British Chum annual when I was about 12 years old. Chum was a British boy’s weekly which, at the end of the year was bound into a single huge book; and the following Christmas parents bought it as Christmas presents for male children. The science fiction in these stories was simple. Somebody built a spaceship in his tool shop (in his backyard) and when he left earth he took along all the neighborhood twelve-year-olds without the parents seeming to object.

Later, at age 14, I saw the November 1926 Amazing and promptly purchased it, read it avidly until Hugo Gernsbach lost control and it got awful under the next editor, T. O’Connor Sloane. So I had my background when I picked up the July, 1938 issue of Astounding and read “Who Goes There?” It was one of the great SF stories; and it stimulated me to send Campbell, the editor, a one paragraph outline of what later became “Vault of the Beast. “If he hadn’t answered, that would probably have been the end of my SF career. But I learned later he answered all query letters either favorably or with helpful advice. The helpful advice he gave me was to suggest that I write with a lot of atmosphere. To me that meant a lot of imagery, and verbs other than “to be” or “to have.”

(11) ANDERSON OBIT. Author Paul Dale Anderson (1944-2018) has died, the president of the Horror Writers Association Is reporting. Biographical details from hiswebsite —

Paul Dale Anderson has written more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. Paul has also written contemporary romances, mysteries, and westerns. Paul is an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, and he was elected a Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association in 1987.  Paul is also a member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, and MWA.

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 – John Carpenter’s Starman premiered on this day.
  • December 14, 1984 – For better or worse – Dune debuted in theaters.
  • December 14, 2007 – Will Smith’s I Am Legend opened.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction —has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which  involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1949 David A. Cherry, 69. Illustrator working mostly in the genre. Amazingly he has been nominated eleven times for Hugo Awards, and eighteen times for Chesley Awards with an astonishing eight wins! He is a past president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.
  • Oh and he’s is the brother of the science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh (“Cherry” is the original spelling of the last name of the family) so you won’t be surprised that he’s painted cover art for some of her books as well as books for Robert Asprin, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey and Piers Anthony to name but a few of his contracts.
  • Born December 14, 1966Sarah Zettel, 52. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 14, 1968 Kelley Armstrong, 50. Canadian writer, primarily of fantasy novels since the early party of the century. She has published thirty-one fantasy novels to date, thirteen in her Women of the Otherworld series, another five in her Cainsville series. I’m wracking my brain to think what I’ve read of hers as I know I’ve read something. Ahhhh I’m reasonably sure I listened to the Cainsville series and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

(14) SAVE THE PICKLE! Has your deli warned of a shortage? Chip Hitchcock says, “Famous fan stop Rein’s, near Hartford, had a problem a few years ago.” From NPR : “Scientists Are Fighting For The Stricken Pickle Against This Tricky Disease”.

With failed harvests, fewer growers are taking a chance on cucumbers. According to USDA records, pickling cucumber acreage declined nearly 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Globally, downy mildew threatens fields as far flung as India, Israel, Mexico and China.

“This is the number one threat to the pickle industry,” says vegetable pathologist Lina Quesada-Ocampo of North Carolina State University. The growers, she says, lose money on failed crops and pricey fungicides. “It is a really bad double whammy.”

Fortunately for pickle lovers, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek of Cornell University is close to releasing varieties that resist downy mildew. “It’s been one of our proudest David and Goliath stories,” he says. But his success hinges on funding at a time when public support of agricultural research is declining.

(15) HEVELIN PHOTOS SOUGHT. Bruce Hevelin is looking for photos of his father, James “Rusty” Hevelin. If you have any scanned in or in digital form, please send them to him at: <bruce911@sonic.net>

(16) WOODEN FRIED CHICKEN. Forget about making this one of your last-minute gift purchases – The Takeout says “KFC fried chicken-scented firelog sold out in hours ¯\_(?)_/’”:

Update, December 14: Oh, you actually were interested in that chicken-scented log, eh? Sorry for those who didn’t snatch theirs up early, as the logs reportedly sold out within hours yesterday.

Original story, December 13:

“Back in my day,” your grandpa begins wheezily, “If we wanted fried chicken-smellin’ fires, we had to throw the chicken on the flames ourselves.”

He’s right, friends, but that hardship ends today, as KFC introduces a firelog that smells like the Colonel’s 11-herbs-and-spices fried chicken, made in partnership with Enviro-Log.

(17) NOT SOLD OUT.This is still available. No wonder! It will cost a heck of a lot more than a log! The Houdini Seance at LA’s Magic Castle.

The séance is held for a private group of ten to twelve guests in our historic Houdini Séance Chamber. Decorated in the High Victorian style, it is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open.

…You will experience remarkable things you might not fully understand. Don’t feel alone. It’s that way for all of us.

Your party begins its experience with a four-course gourmet meal at 6:30 p.m. with bottomless red and white house wine during the dining portion of your evening — all created by your own private chef and served by your own private butler.

A medium will then join you who will open the veil between this world and the next. Your medium will begin with fascinating experiments in the power of the unseen and then, forming a magic circle, will summon the spirits and allow them to demonstrate their awesome ability to manifest in our physical world.

(18) THE SECRET IS NOT TO BANG THE ROCKS TOGETHER. BBC asks “What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?”

It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa’s next rover mission.

The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.

It will be searching for clues in rocks that are perhaps 3.9 billion years old.

Confirming life on Earth at that age is tough enough, but Mars may have better preservation, say the researchers.

It comes down to the dynamic processes on our home world that constantly churn and recycle rocks – processes that can erase life’s traces but which shut down on the Red Planet early in its history.

“We don’t believe, for example, that Mars had plate tectonics in the way Earth has had for most of its history,” said Ken Williford from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“Most of Earth’s rock record has been destroyed by subduction under the ocean crust. But even the rock left at the surface is heated and squeezed in ways it might not have been on Mars.”

(19) BEFORE THE STORY WAS TRAPPED IN AMBER. BBC tells about “The Jurassic Park film that was never made”.

The structure is so ancient that it feels almost prehistoric. Some people take a trip to a remote island, they see some dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs try to have them for lunch. It’s what happened in Jurassic Park in 1993, and by the time the first sequel came out in 1997, the screenplay was already poking fun at how formulaic it was. “‘Ooh, aah’, that’s how it always starts,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. “Then later there’s running and screaming.” How right he was. But this self-knowledge didn’t stop the makers of Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015) sticking to the formula, and it wasn’t until the second half of this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the series found somewhere else to go.

How different things might have been. Back in 2004, John Sayles (the writer-director of Passion Fish and Lone Star) wrote a half-crazy half-brilliant screenplay for Jurassic Park 4 that took the story all over the planet, and which pioneered several radical ideas that are only just being incorporated into the franchise now. Steven Spielberg, the series’ producer and its original director was keen at first, and it’s easy to see why: Sayles’ rollicking script is sprinkled with quintessentially Spielberg-y moments. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see why Spielberg cooled off on the project. A movie about a globe-trotting A-Team of genetically modified, crime-busting Deinonychuses might have strayed just a little too far from the Jurassic Park films that audiences knew and loved.

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

Titans 1×11 “Dick Grayson” Season 1 Episode 11 Promo (Season Finale) – Robin faces off against Batman when Dick takes a dark journey back to Gotham in the first season finale of Titans.

(21) YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD BAGGAGE PROBLEMS. “Southwest Airlines flight turns back after human heart discovery” – BBC has the story.

A US passenger plane travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn back hours into its flight because a human heart had been left on board.

Southwest Airlines says the organ was flown to Seattle from California, where it was to be processed at a hospital to have a valve recovered for future use.

But it was never unloaded and its absence was not noticed until the plane was almost half-way to Dallas.

The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.

(22) WHERE TO FIND YOUR DOOM, AND WHAT TO DRINK ON THE WAY. Another thing for Worldcon travelers to check out: “In Ireland, a taste of the underworld”

Oweynagat cave is a placeof both birth and death. An unimposing gash in the ancient misty hills of north-western Ireland, it is said to be the entrance to the underworld where fairies and demons lure mortals to their doom, and the sacred birthplace of a warrior queen. For thousands of years, the Irish have regarded Oweynagat as a site of awe-inspiring magic, weaving a rich tapestry of mythology around it.

…For millennia, Queen Medb has remained the most intoxicating thing to come out of the cave. However, just this year that changed with the creation of a beer made from wild yeast cultivated from the walls of Oweynagat. Called Underworld Savage Ale for the mythic place that it was conceived, this beer is the first of its kind, with a backstory strange enough to fit within the cave’s fantastic mythology

(23) FROM THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Rachel Swirsky discovered a reference to File 770 in a 1981 copy of Fandom Directory.  The zine was only three years old at the time.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mother of All Demos Hosted by Douglas Englebart” on YouTube is a video (recorded by Stewart Brand) of the December 1968 demonstration where Douglas Englebart introduced the world to videoconferencing, hypertext, and the computer mouse.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Rachel Swirsky, and Andrew Porter for some oft hese stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkleman.]