Philip K. Dick’s Life in Comics

PKD would have loved it — NBM Graphic Novels released Philip K. Dick, A Comics Biography on January 1.

Philip K. DICK: A Comics Biography

Laurent Queyssi, writer, Mauro Marchesi, art

One of the greatest writers in SF history, Philip K. Dick is mostly remembered for such works as Blade Runner, Minority Report and Total Recall. His dark fascinating work centered on alternate universes and shifting realities in worlds often governed by monopolistic corporations and authoritarian governments. His own life story seems a tussle with reality, going through five wives and becoming increasingly disjointed with fits of paranoia and hallucinations fueled by abuse of drugs meant to stabilize him. His dramatic story is presented unvarnished in this biography.

NBM has a sample page online where Dick is in conversation with Harlan Ellison about Dangerous Visions.

Pixel Scroll 1/19/19 Pixelation, Mr. AllScroll, Is What We Are Put In This File To Rise Above

(1) ARISIA. As of Friday at 11 p.m. Boston sff convention Arisia reported 2,873 members.

The Arisia 2019 Souvenir Book is available online, and includes Jenn Jumper’s heartwarming writeup about Fan GoH’s Bjo and John Trimble.

(2) DRESSING UP THE LOCATIONS IN GEORGIA. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has been scanning the media for news of Spielberg’s namesake TV show which is now in production.  He found this report in a in the Morgan County (GA) Citizen: “Hollywood sets eyes on Bostwick”

A new filming project is sweeping through Morgan County this week for a reboot television series of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi/horror “Amazing Stories,” with shooting locations in Rutledge, Bostwick and right outside of Madison. 

Filming begin on Monday, Jan 14 off Highway 83 outside of Madison and then moved to Bostwick, behind the Cotton Jin on Mayor John Bostwick’s farm. Downtown Rutledge is getting a full makeover this week for the filming project, which will shoot on Friday, Jan 18 and run into the wee hours of Saturday, Jan 19. Rutledge’s iconic gazebo underwent a paint job for the filming, and on Wednesday, Jan. 16, crews began covering the intersection of Fairplay Road and Main Street with dirt. 

(3) GETTING BETTER. The second story in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project has been posted — “Online Reunion” by Leigh Alexander.

As an alternative to the text, you can listen to the audio adaptation of “Online Reunion” at Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

The Verge also has “A Q&A with the author” where “Leigh Alexander discusses the world of ‘Online Reunion’ and the ‘compelling, fascinating, beautiful, terrifying car crash of humanity and technology.’”

In “Online Reunion,” author Leigh Alexander imagines a world in which a young journalist is struggling with a compulsive “time sickness,” so she sets out to write a tearjerker about a widow reconnecting with her dead husband’s e-pet — but she finds something very different waiting for her in the internet ether. A self-described “recovering journalist” with a decade of experience writing about video games and technology, Alexander has since branched out into fiction, including an official Netrunner book, Monitor, and narrative design work for games like Reigns: Her Majesty and Reigns: Game of Thrones.

The Verge spoke with Alexander about finding joy and connection online, preserving digital history, and seeing the mystical in the technological.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the series’ January 16 event.

Victor LaValle and Julie C. Day entertained a huge audience with their readings. Victor read from a new novella and Julie read two of her short stories.

(5) THE FIRST DOESN’T LAST. Critics say they made Mars boring: “‘The First’ Canceled at Hulu After One Season”.

In his review for Variety, Daniel D’Addario wrote:

“After the initial statement of purpose, though, the show falls victim to both pacing problems and a certain lopsidedness. A show like this, with title and premise centered around what it would mean to be a pioneer on a new planet, encourages an excited sort of stargazing; that quite so much of it is spent exploring Hagerty’s family crisis saps the energy and spirit from a show that should have both in spades.”

(6) BRADBURY OBIT. Bettina Bradbury, Ray Bradbury’s daughter, died January 13 at the age of 64 announced the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum on Facebook.

Her son, Danny Karapetian, wrote on Facebook 1/13/19, “It is my very sad duty to report that my Mom Bettina passed away this morning. “She was an indefatigable force of nature, a talented and decorated writer, and a loving mother, sister, and friend to everyone she knew. I know how much she cared about all of you, and how much you all loved her.”

Quoting Jonathan Eller, Ph.D., Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, “Bettina was herself a successful writer, achieving great success on daytime TV dramas Santa Barbara (1987-1993), All My Children (1995-2003), Days of Our Lives (2007), and others. She won several Emmy Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards, and earned yet more nominations.”

SoapHub paid tribute: “Longtime Soap Opera Scribe Dies At 64”.

…Daughter of famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, known mostly for his stunning novel Fahrenheit 451, and Marguerite McClure, Bradbury proved that the writing gene can be passed down. She studied Film/History at USC School of Cinematic Arts

NBC’s Santa Barbara was her first soap writing team in the early 1990s. She also wrote for both All My Children (and won three Daytime Emmys) and One Life to Live on ABC and later worked on Days of Our Lives, also for NBC.

(7) DAVIES OBIT. [By Steve Green.] Windsor Davies (1930-2019): British actor, died January 17, aged 88. Genre appearances include The Corridor People (one episode, 1966), Adam Adamant Lives! (one episode, 1967), Doctor Who (three episodes, 1967),  Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), UFO (one episode, 1970), The Guardians (one episode, 1971), The Donation Conspiracy (two episodes, 1973), Alice in Wonderland (one episode, 1985), Terrahawks (voice role, 39 episodes, 1983-86), Rupert and the Frog Song (1985), Gormenghast (two episodes, 2000).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1809Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve got several several sources that cite him as a early root of SF. Anyone care to figure that out? Be that as it may, he certainly wrote some damn scary horror — ones that I still remember are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” (Died 1849.)
  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 89. Melanie Daniels In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s HarvestTales from the DarksideThe Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 87. Director best known for his 1980s Superman films. He’s got a number of other genre films including the exceedingly silly The Mouse on the MoonRobin and Marian which may be my favorite Robin Hood film ever, and an entire excellent series of Musketeers films. He also directed Royal Flash based on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel of that name. 
  • Born January 19, 1981Bitsie Tulloch, 38. Her main role of interest to us was as Juliette Silverton/Eve in Grimm. She also has played Lois Lane in the recent Elseworlds episodes of this Arrowverse season. However I also found her in R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, a fan made film that use fake interviews, fake archive photos, film clips, and behind-the-scenes footage to tell early life of that droid. You can see it and her in it here.

(9) DRAWN TO POE. Crimereads celebrates the author’s birthday with “The 25 Most Terrifyingly Beautiful Edgar Allan Poe Illustrations”. Harry Clarke and Gustav Doré are heavily represented.

Since it’s the season for basking in all things dreadful, we decided to round up twenty-five of the greatest illustrations ever made for Poe’s work. Some are more terrifying, others more beautiful, but all fall somewhere on the spectrum of terrifyingly beautiful, and we can’t stop looking at them, just as we can’t stop reading the works of the great Edgar Allan Poe.

(10) FAUX POES. Emily Temple undertakes “A Brief and Incomplete Survey of Edgar Allan Poes in Pop Culture” for LitHub readers.

What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think of Edgar Allan Poe? Is it this ubiquitous one? Maybe it’s that snapshot of your old roommate from Halloween 2011, when she tied a fake bird to her arm and knocked everyone’s champagne glasses over with it. (Just me?) Or is it an image of Poe in one of his many pop culture incarnations? You wouldn’t be alone.

After all, Poe pops up frequently in contemporary culture—somewhat more frequently than you might expect for someone who, during his lifetime, was mostly known as a caustic literary critic, even if he did turn out to be massively influential. I mean, it’s not like you see a ton of Miltons or Eliots running around. So today, on the 210th anniversary of Poe’s birth, I have compiled a brief and wildly incomplete selection of these appearances. Note that I’ve eliminated adaptations of Poe’s works, and focused on cameos and what we’ll call “faux Poes.” Turns out it isn’t just my old roommate—lots of people really love to dress up as Edgar Allan Poe.

First on the list:

1949: Ray Bradbury, “The Exiles,” published in The Illustrated Man

As you probably know, Poe’s work has been massively influential on American literature. In a 1909 speech at the Author’s Club in London, Arthur Conan Doyle observed that “his tales were one of the great landmarks and starting points in the literature of the last century . . . each is a root from which a whole literature has developed. . . Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” But it’s not just his work—Poe as a figure has infiltrated a number of literary works, including this early Bradbury story, in which Poe (along with Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare) is living on Mars, and slowly withering away as humans on Earth burn his books. The symbolism isn’t exactly subtle, but hey.

(11) SHUFFLING OFF THIS MORTAL COIL. Here’s something to play on a cold winter’s night — Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

The boundaries between worlds have drawn perilously thin…

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game® set amid a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. As the Ancient Ones seek entry to our world, one to two investigators (or up to four with two Core Sets) work to unravel arcane mysteries and conspiracies.

Their efforts determine not only the course of your game, but carry forward throughout whole campaigns, challenging them to overcome their personal demons even as Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the distinction between the card game and roleplaying experiences.

(12) NO APRIL FOOLIN’. There’s a trailer out for Paramount’s Pet Sematary remake —

Sometimes dead is better…. In theatres April 5, 2019. Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.

(13) 1943 RETRO HUGO ADVICE. DB has written a post on works by Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis, and Charles WIlliams eligible for the Retros this year. It begins with an illustration —

This is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, as drawn by Mervyn Peake. Vivid, isn’t it? Peake’s illustrated edition of the Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was published by Chatto and Windus in 1943, and is the first reason you should consider nominating Peake for Best Professional Artist of 1943,1 for the Retro-Hugos 1944 (works of 1943) are being presented by this year’s World SF Convention in Dublin. (The book might also be eligible for the special category of Best Art Book, for while it’s not completely a collection of visual art, the illustrations were the point of this new edition of the classic poem.)

Though remembered now mostly for his Gormenghast novels, Peake was primarily an artist. He had in fact 3 illustrated books published in 1943, and all three of them were arguably fantasy or sf.2

(14) F&SF FICTION TO LOVE. Standback took to Twitter to cheer on F&SF with a round-up of his favorite stories from the magazine in 2018. The thread starts here.

(15) RARE BOOKS LA. Collectors will swarm to Pasadena on February 1-2 for this event —

Rare Books LA is a book fair that features more than 100 leading specialists in rare books, fine prints, photography, ephemera, maps, and more from throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. This prestigious event takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Exhibitors

Rare Books LA will compromise of numerous exhibitors. There will be 60+ exhibitors that come from around the world to showcase their rare books. Expect to discover exhibitors who also showcase photography and fine prints. To view the list of exhibitors, click here.

(16) ORIGINAL SWINGERS. CNN reports “‘Missing link’ in human history confirmed after long debate”.

Early humans were still swinging from trees two million years ago, scientists have said, after confirming a set of contentious fossils represents a “missing link” in humanity’s family tree.

The fossils of Australopithecus sediba have fueled scientific debate since they were found at the Malapa Fossil Site in South Africa 10 years ago.

And now researchers have established that they are closely linked to the Homo genus, representing a bridging species between early humans and their predecessors, proving that early humans were still swinging from trees 2 million years ago.

(17) MOON PICTURES. The Farmer’s Almanac will show you “The Oldest Moon Photo”.

On the night of September 1, 1849, the nearly full Moon appeared over the town of Canandaigua, New York. At 10:30 P.M., Samuel D. Humphrey slid a highly polished, silver-plated copper sheet measuring 2–¾x1–¾ inches into his camera, which was pointed at the Moon.

Humphrey then exposed the light-sensitive plate to the shining Moon nine times, varying the length of exposure from 0.5 seconds to 2 minutes. After developing the plate with mercury vapor, he sent his daguerreotype to Harvard College.

Louis Daguerre, the Frenchman who explained the secret of the world’s first photographic technique in 1839, had daguerreotyped a faint image of the Moon, but the plate was soon lost in a fire. John W. Draper of New York City is credited with making the first clear daguerreotype of the Moon in March 1840, but this also was destroyed in a fire.

(18) THE LONG AND GRINDING ROAD. In “NASA eyes gaping holes in Mars Curiosity wheel” Cnet shares the images.

The rough and rocky landscape of Mars continues to take a toll on the wheels of NASA’s Curiosity rover. As part of a routine checkup, Curiosity snapped some new images of its wheels this week. 

Most of the photos don’t look too alarming, but one in particular shows some dramatic holes and cracks in the aluminum. 

(19) GLASS EXIT. If you left the theater in a haze, Looper wants to help you out:

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

Fire on the Mountain

By John Hertz:

It isn’t too late, fans, to know

”What Happened to August Clarot?”

Eisenberg – wrote about him –

Has died.  Let’s not flout him.

Instead, to the bookstores!  Let’s go!

At the moment I’m on a hand-me-down chain for The New York Times, which I don’t see regularly, in full, or soon..  So I just read the December 27, 2018, obituary (p. B12) for Larry Eisenberg, who died on the 25th a few days after his 99th birthday, a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, a director of the Rockefeller University electronics laboratory, a co-developer of a battery-operated cardiac pacemaker when earlier models were, well, wired.

His name meant iron mountain.  No, not “Lawrence”; that’s laurel, “used by the ancient Greeks to crown the victors in the Pythian games….  Later, a crown of laurel was used to indicate academic honors.”  No, that’s not from the Times, it’s Webster’s Second (I have the 3-vol. ed’n of 1949, among other dictionaries), accept no substitutes.

Dr. Eisenberg published fifty stories in our field, about Clarot in Dangerous Visions (1967), which the Times duly acknowledged “the noted anthology edited by Harlan Ellison”; and in Amazing, Asimov’s, Fantastic, Galaxy, If, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Venture, Vertex, Worlds of Tomorrow.

He contributed 13,000 comments to <nytimes.com>, “verse – mostly limericks – perfectly rhymed, (usually) metrically impeccable and always germane to whatever recent news item had caught his eye”, earning renown in the “lively, atomized, fiercely opinionated parallel universe of The New York Times’ online commenters.”

Parallel universe!  There we are again!

The Times, wanting to end with one of his limericks, unfortunately quoted him in a six-letter expression that would not have helped Ellison’s lit fuse.

I shan’t end there.  On paper his obituary was headed “Larry Eisenberg, 99; His Well of Limericks Never Ran Dry”.  That’s good.  But the electronic version has “Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read”.  I bow.

2019 Lefty Award Nominees

Members of Left Coast Crime have selected the 2019 Lefty Award Nominees

The Lefty awards will be voted on at the Left Coast Crime convention and presented at the Awards Banquet on March 30 in Vancouver, BC.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel

  • Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
  • Nighttown by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime)
  • Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst (Crooked Lane Books)
  • The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
  • Scott Free by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial) for books covering events before 1960

  • Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Berkeley Prime Crime)
  • The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday by David Corbett (Black Opal Books)
  • Island of the Mad by Laurie R King (Bantam Books)
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)
  • A Dying Note by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
  • It Begins in Betrayal by Iona Whishaw (Touchwood Editions)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel

  • Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)
  • Cobra Clutch by A J Devlin (NeWest Press)
  • The Woman in the Window by A J Finn (William Morrow)
  • A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Books)
  • What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
  • Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell (Level Best Books)
  • Give Out Creek by J G Toews (Mosaic Press)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel

  • November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
  • Wrong Light by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
  • Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
  • Under a Dark Sky by Lori-Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)
  • A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)
  • A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

To be eligible, titles must have been published for the first time in the United States or Canada during 2018, in book or ebook format. (If published in other countries before 2018, a book is still eligible if it meets the US or Canadian publication requirement.)

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Help Pick the 33rd Annual Asimov’s Readers’ Awards

Voting is open in the 33rd Annual Asimov’s Readers’ Awards. You have until February 1 to complete your online ballot.

Editor Sheila Williams’ overview of the eligible work, “Our Year in Review” begins —  

I’ve enjoyed every story that ran in Asimov’s is this past year. What makes a story special is often obvious, but sometimes the gems are hidden. That’s why I’m once again reflecting on the 33 short stories, 22 novelettes, and 11 novellas that appeared in our pages (or on our electronic devices) in 2018. It’s a coincidence that each of those categories contains repeating integers, but the high-entertainment value of each tale is not coincidental. Since we’re doing at least one podcast per issue, you’ll find links to these recordings as well. A word of warning: this is a highly opinionated and spoiler-filled essay. e0a1b

Baen Short Story Contest Deadline 2/1

Entries in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award writing contest are being accepted through February 1, 2019. See rules and specifications at the site.

Judging will be by Baen Books editors Hank Davis, Jim Minz, Tony Daniel, David Afsharirad, and Baen author David Drake.

Ten finalists will be announced no later than March 8, 2019.

  • The GRAND PRIZE winner will be published as the featured story on the Baen Books main website and paid at the normal paying rates for professional story submittals, currently .07/word. The author will also receive an engraved award, free entry into the 2019 International Space Development Conference, a year’s membership in the National Space Society and a prize package containing various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise.
  • SECOND and THIRD place winners will receive free entry into the 2019 International Space Development Conference, a year’s membership in the National Space Society and a prize package containing various Baen Books and National Space Society merchandise.

The three winners will be announced and notified no later than March 22, 2019. The winners will be honored at the 2019 International Space Development Conference in Arlington, VA, June 6-9 2019.

Vote for Analog’s Analytical Laboratory Readers’ Award

Analog has opened voting for the 2018 Analytical Laboratory Readers’ Award and is taking online ballots until February 1.  

The AnLab ballot comes pre-loaded with all the eligible works.

From short stories and novellas to novelettes and poems – and even best covers! – let us know your Analog Science Fiction and Fact favorites this year.  Winners join the pantheon of Analog authors who represent the Who’s Who of science fiction writers over the past thirty years.

Pixel Scroll 1/17/19 While I Just Sit At Home And Pixelate

(1) RECONCILIATION AT ARISIA. When Arisia, the controversy-plagued Boston convention, takes place this weekend they plan to face up to their troubles with a Reconciliation track of 15 program items —

Arisia 2019 will offer a special Programming track called “Reconciliation”. These sessions will provide attendees opportunities to communicate about recent events involving the Arisia community, the convention itself, and Arisia, Inc. (our parent corporation).

Sessions use several approaches, allowing space for our community’s diversity. These methods range from silent work an attendee can do with trained facilitators, to town-hall discussions allowing community members to share their feelings, reactions and desire for change. We will also have a set of “chill out” programming for people who want to decompress after this kind of emotional labor as well as training and workshops for people who want to contribute to making change happen and being part of rebuilding our community.

Arisia will be collecting all feedback given by attendees at the sessions listed below, and will attempt to address salient items at the State of Arisia Community Update on Monday. Arisia Leadership from both the Convention and Corporation will be in Feedback sessions to provide our community the opportunity to talk directly with them.

You can learn about the backstory by reading File 770’s posts tagged “Arisia”.  

(2) RSR’S POLL INFO RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong has created a central place to find ballots for SF/F awards that are open to all or open to members (of associations or conventions). It has links to ballots, shows due dates, links to RSR resources to help with voting such as longlists with story blurbs and scores and covers. http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/2018-best-sff.html

Here are the ones currently open for voting.

Open to All

Coming soon are Clarkesworld, Apex, and the Locus Awards.

Open to Members

The info will be updated as ballots for some awards close and others open.

Also of interest to fans is the Best SF/F section (below the SF/F Ballots), which if you expand it, shows the progress of the various award finalists + winners, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers recommendations that contribute to the score of each story. Currently, the scores are 32% complete, based on 0/26 awards announced, 1/7 year’s best anthologies TOCs shared, and 14/14 reviewers posted. The table shows expected dates for each award and year’s best, and the story scores will be updated with each release. Clicking on a completed award/year’s best/reviewer link will highlight the stories whose score was increased by that award/year’s best/reviewer.

(3) A SWING AND A MISS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Glass’ Is Leaden”.

Again and again, in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass — the sequel to 2016’s Split, which was itself a stealth sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable — there are moments that should, by any reasonable measure, work. In the language of superhero films, they’re now-familiar turns of phrase that can be depended upon — and often have been depended upon — to elicit a jolt of adrenaline in the eager viewer.

Take the moment, late in the film, when a character heralds his return to super-form by finding a singular component of his old costume. Everything about the shot is set up to punch our buttons: The figure stands in stark silhouette. It’s filmed from a low, Spielbergian angle. The costume component in question unfurls with a dramatic snap and rustle painstakingly engineered by some hardworking Foley artist somewhere in Burbank, probably. The music swells to an insistent crescendo.

And yet … nothing.

Or the scene where another character dramatically intones his comic-book codename, then employs a [SOMETHING] to [ACT UPON] someone; and then — in case we missed it (we didn’t), we cut back to that previous shot of said character pronouncing his comic-book codename, which … oh, ha ha ha … we now realize, cheekily references the [SOMETHING]. (No spoilers.)

In any other film, that moment would provide the proceedings with a sardonic punch. Here, it’s just flat seltzer.

(4) YOLEN WINS AWARD. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators today announced the 2019 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards, and sff author Jane Yolen was one of the winners. [Via Locus Online.]

Young Adult Fiction:

Jane Yolen – MAPPING THE BONES (Philomel)

Influenced by Dr. Mengele’s sadistic experimentations, this story follows twins as they travel from the Lodz ghetto, to the partisans in the forest, to a horrific concentration camp where they lose everything but each other.

(5) MOVIE ABOUT JRR COMING TO THEATERS. From SYFY Wire we learn “Tolkien getting summer release”:

Tolkien, the biopic about The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, has had everything lined up as fans continue to buzz about the upcoming Amazon series based on his Lord of the Rings series. Now fans can mark on their calendars that director Dome Karukoski’s biopic will hit screens this summer on May 10.

(6) GARCIA PODCAST. Chris Garcia’s film journal “Klaus at Gunpoint” has a new podcast out — “Fantasy Film 101 – Willow”.

(7) IT’S A JOLLY HOLIDAY WITH MARY. This is too effing much – Mary Poppins: Post-Brexit from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

A spoonful of sugar helps the withdrawal from the European Union go down.

(8) ABANDONED. James Davis Nicoll discusses “SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths” at Tor.com.

Space colonization stories are a subgenre of SF. Space colonization stories in which the Earth has become a backwater world, cut off from thriving colony planets, are a thriving sub-subgenre.

At first glance, this seems odd. Earth is rich in resources and offers humans a shirt-sleeve environment . Why wouldn’t it continue to be the leader of the pack?

Sometimes it’s because we have trashed the Earth, rendering it uninhabitable….

(9) BARRETT OBIT. New Zealand fan Mervyn Barrett died January 16 in Wellington. At various times Barrett was active in the Melbourne MSFC, London, and New Zealand fandoms. He’s credited with organizing the first New Zealand sf convention. He was 86. One of his claims to fame was this article  about the night the Melbourne club almost burned down (from the 1975 Aussiecon program book).

…Anyhow, it was because of the activities of the film group that the Melbourne Science Fiction Club almost burnt down. I’d started the group and used to run it: hustling films and running the little Ampro 16mm projector. When I left, Paul Stevens took over the group and did all sorts of enterprising things like renting proper cinemas so that 35 mm films could be shown and stuff like that. Then, some time later, when an enthusiast who happened to own a couple of 35 mm film projectors joined the club, they installed these in the clubroom and started showing classic old movies – some of them on nitrate film. Mervyn Binns had complete confidence in the projectionist and the equipment. “This guy really knew what he was doing.” He told me, but the introduction of nitrate film into the clubroom was just too much for one of the members, who had the clubroom inspected by the Health Department and closed down as a fire hazard. Admittedly nitrate film has one or two unfortunate characteristics like becoming unstable with age and being just plain highly inflammable and becoming downright explosive. But even when this is coupled with the fact that the clubroom was on the top floor of a 90-year-old brick building with wooden floors, roof, ceilings and staircases, that it had no fire escape and that its only entrance was through a narrow wooden staircase (which McGill’s grudgingly allowed to be used when the lift was finally taken out of commission when the Melbourne Water Board decided it was no longer an economical proposition to go to the trouble of supplying compressed water for it) one still has difficulty seeing the reason for his excessive nervousness….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 — The Ray Bradbury-penned “The Electric Grandmother” premiered on television.
  • January 17, 1992Freejack premiered in theaters with Mick Jagger as the bad guy.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix,  the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes.(Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 88. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in the role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you the the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 70. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming”  in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000.
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 57. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler, then there’s the The Truman Show which has stretches genre boundaries I think, may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?, and is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind genre?,  who’s seen Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events?, Horton Hears a Who!  (FUN!), A Christmas Carol  of which I know nothing, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (well it sounds cute) and, I’m not you, Sonic the Hedgehog. Busy, isn’t he?
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 49. Russian-American animator, director, producer, screenwriter, storyboard artist, comic book writer and artist. Yeah he really is. Hell he created Star Wars: Clone Wars! And let me list some of the many other things he’s involved in: Batman: The Animated SeriesIron Man 2Hotel TransylvaniaDuck DodgersThe Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Luke Cage series as Cage! and the Dexter’s Laboratory series as well.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 30. Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX. She also voices the character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She was the first woman of color to be cast in a leading role in the Star Wars franchise, something she should be proud of.

(12) CHOOSE YOUR OWN BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE. Physics professor Gaurav Khanna advises Daily Beast readers: “Traveling to Another Dimension? Choose Your Black Hole Wisely.”

One of the most cherished science fiction scenarios is using a black hole as a portal to another dimension or time or universe. That fantasy may be closer to reality than previously imagined.

My team at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a colleague at Georgia Gwinnett College have shown that all black holes are not created equal. If the black hole like Sagittarius A*, located at the center of our own galaxy, is large and rotating, then the outlook for a spacecraft changes dramatically. That’s because the singularity that a spacecraft would have to contend with is very gentle and could allow for a very peaceful passage.

(13) BREW TWO. What if the world can’t wake up in the morning? “World’s coffee under threat, say experts”.

The first full assessment of risks to the world’s coffee plants shows that 60% of 124 known species are on the edge of extinction.

More than 100 types of coffee tree grow naturally in forests, including two used for the coffee we drink.

Scientists say the figure is “worrying”, as wild coffee is critical for sustaining the global coffee crop.

About one in five of the world’s plants is threatened with extinction, and the 60% figure is an “extremely high” one.

“If it wasn’t for wild species we wouldn’t have as much coffee to drink in the world today,” said Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable.”

(14) ONE STEP AT A TIME. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The article title very much overstates the state of the art (Wired: “Bio-Printers Are Churning out Living Fixes to Broken Spines”; partial paywall), but it does appear that an incremental advance has been made toward that goal. In one experiment, partial mobility was restored to a rat’s paralyzed hindquarters after a multistep boiprinted device was inserted into a severed section of spinal cord.

For doctors and medical researchers repairing the human body, a 3D printer has become almost as valuable as an x-ray machine, microscope, or a sharp scalpel. Bioengineers are using 3D printers to make more durable hip and knee joints, prosthetic limbs and, recently, to produce living tissue attached to a scaffold of printed material.

Researchers say that bio-printed tissue can be used to test the effects of drug treatments, for example, with an eventual goal of printing entire organs that can be grown and then transplanted into a patient. The latest step toward 3D-printed replacements of failed human parts comes from a team at UC San Diego. It has bio-printed a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

[…] Bio-printers use a computer-guided pipette to layer living cells, referred to as bio-ink, on top of one another to create artificial living tissue in a laboratory. Most bio-printers can only print down to 200 microns, but this group developed a method of producing tissue down to 1 micron, Chen says. This higher resolution meant they were able to more accurately reconstruct the mixture of gray and white matter that makes up the spinal cord.

(15) AS TIME GOES BY. At Factor Daily, Gautham Shenoy takes an overview of the history of sff in China in “Telling the China Story: The Rise and Rise of Chinese Science Fiction”

It wasn’t until the 1950s – after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 – that science fiction would see a resurgence, albeit for a brief period. And then too written primarily for children, or to popularise science, as a vehicle for propaganda, and with a lot of translations of Russian books and influenced heavily by science fiction from the Soviet Union before the relationship soured. Notable works of Chinese science fiction by Chinese authors from this period are A Tour of the Solar System  by Zhang Ren and the adventure tale of three Chinese children stealing a spaceship to go off on an adventure, From Earth to Mars as also the space-colonisation story,  Builders of Mars by Zheng Wenguang, an author who would fall out of favour with the establishment during the Cultural Revolution and exiled, much like the genre itself, with anything remotely suspected of bearing a similarity to ‘western culture’, not least capitalism, being regarded as harmful.

(16) ROBOTS CANNED. SYFY Wire can hardly believe it, but “Countless robots have been ‘fired’ by a Japanese hotel that is largely run by them”.

One might think that robots would have some measure of job security, especially when they work in a robot hotel. It would seem that this is not the case — even in a robot hotel, robots, replicants, and androids can be “retired.” 

According to The Verge, the Henn-na “Strange” Hotel in Japan has “laid off” half of the 243 robots that maintained the hotel because they created more problems than they ended up solving. In trying to substitute robots for human workers, the hotel ended up creating more work for humans. As advanced as the hotel’s robot velociraptors that worked the check-in desk were, they couldn’t figure out how to properly photocopy a passport. Nothing in the previous sentence was a joke. 

On the list for early retirement is Churi, a robot doll assistant that was placed in each room. Churi was meant to be a kind of Siri/Alexa hybrid, but proved incapable of answering any questions…

(17) THE MARTIAN OENOPHILES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Georgia—no, not the American state—is looking for grape varieties that might survive on Mars. Because, you know, colonists will want to relax with some wine (Smithsonian: “Why the Nation of Georgia Wants to Make Wine on Mars”). I mean, potatoes alone just aren’t going to cut it.

“Researchers there are looking for grape varieties that can grow in Martian soil and survive high radiation and carbon monoxide.”

When and if humanity establishes a colony on Mars, it’s likely someone will want to kick back after a hard day of terraforming with a nice glass of Chardonnay. Luckily, the nation of Georgia has them covered. Amie Ferris-Rotman at The Washington Post reports the nation is funding a research project to develop varieties of wine grapes that can survive on the Red Planet.

So why is a small country in the Caucasus spending its resources on space wine? The most recent archaeological evidence suggests that the oldest known wine making in the world took place in the region 8,000 years ago, pegging Georgia as the birthplace of vino. Logically so, Georgia wants to keep that title on other planets as well.

“If we’re going to live on Mars one day, Georgia needs to contribute,” Nikoloz Doborjginidze, founder of Georgia’s Space Research Agency, part of the wine project tells Ferris-Rotman. “Our ancestors brought wine to Earth, so we can do the same to Mars.”

(18) NEW SFF SATIRE. Space Force: Steve Carell will star in a new Netflix series from The Office’s Greg Daniels lampooning Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force. (Via io9.)

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

2019 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award Contest

The sixth annual Baen Fantasy Adventure Award contest opens this month. Entries will be accepted from January 21 to April 30.

We’re looking for compelling storytelling with heroes you want to root for and villains you love to hate. Whether your heroes win the day with swords or sorcery, fireballs or flamethrowers—or even by their wits alone—all are welcome. Modern, medieval, and otherworldly settings are all acceptable, as long as you tell a rip-roaring good tale with a fantastical element!

“I can hardly believe it’s been more than five years since we first created the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award. And we’re very excited to announce that this year, we’ll be presenting the winners at SpikeCon in Layton, Utah,” said Baen executive editor Jim Minz. “Not only is SpikeCon this year’s Westercon, it’s also the NASFiC, not to mention the 1632 minicon. It’s the perfect event to showcase the award.”

The contest opens for submissions January 21, 2019 and all entries must be received by midnight on April 30, 2019.  Each entry is limited to an original short story in the English language of no more than 8,000 words, and only one entry per author. Complete guidelines here. Entries will be judged by Baen editors and the award will be presented at the  SpikeCon, which will be held July 4-7, 2019, in Layton, UT.

  • The GRAND PRIZE winner will be published as the featured story on the Baen Books main website and paid at industry-standard rates for professional story submittals. The author will also receive an engraved award and a prize package containing $500 of free Baen Books.
  • SECOND place winner will receive a prize package containing $500 of free Baen Books.
  • THIRD place winner will receive a prize package containing $300 of free Baen Books.

Finalists will be announced no later than June 14, 2019

Winners will be notified no later than June 17, 2019.

Since its beginning the contest has received thousands of entries of fantasy stories from all over the globe.