Pixel Scroll 10/31/19 The World of Scroll-A

(1) CUTTING CAPERS. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures picked a highly suitable day to announce they have added an important item to their collection.

(2) KNIVES OUT AT JPL. No gourd is safe when “NASA-JPL Holds Its Annual Pumpkin-Carving Contest”.

In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.

Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials – like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts – ahead of time….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour Cthulhu with World Horror Grandmaster Ramsey Campbell – serving is in progress in Episode 108 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ramsey published his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired first book of stories The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants in 1964 when he was only 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He’s a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a TWELVE-time winner of the British Fantasy Award. He’s also received lifetime achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and was named a World Horror Grandmaster. Previous guest of the podcast T. E. D. Klein called his collection Demons by Daylight “perhaps the most important book of horror fiction since Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others.” High praise indeed!

We got together on the final day of Worldcon, long after the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremonies had ended. So instead of traipsing around to the usual dead dog parties, we had dinner at Rosa Madre, which I found via Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Dublin restaurants — where at one point as I looked across the table, it seemed as if he was nibbling on Cthulhu! (And sure, I know it was only baby octopus, and not the the Great Old One … but we horror writers like to dream.)

We discussed his early relationship with Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth, who he might have been had he never discovered H. P. Lovecraft, how this master of unease is able to keep the sense of dread going for the length of a novel (hint: he’s not entirely sure himself), why he loves The Blair Witch Project, what it was like writing novels in the Universal monsters universe, how he felt when The Times listed The Doll That Ate its Mother as one of the silliest titles of 1987, how Twilight Zone editor T. E. D. Klein changed his life, our shared memories of the 1979 World Fantasy Convention, why he feels his attempts to write science fiction have been “clumsy,” the way he was made speechless on his first meeting with J. G. Ballard, why he admires Vladimir Nabokov, and much more.

(4) DO THE POSTER MASH. Space.com points to some free downloads: “‘Galaxy of Horrors!’ NASA Posters Highlight Spooky Alien Planets”.

This Halloween season, NASA wants to open your eyes to the glorious spookiness all around us in the Milky Way galaxy.

The space agency has just released two new “Galaxy of Horrors” posters, which highlight a few of the most bizarre and inhospitable alien planets that scientists have discovered. And NASA created a fun 2-minute video, styled like a trailer for a 1950s horror movie, to promote the posters. 

You can download the posters for free here.

(5) PAST TOMORROWS. Barbara Kiser’s book reviews for Nature touch on Sarah Cole’s study of H.G. Wells, Inventing Tomorrow.

H. G. Wells was, asserts scholar Sarah Cole, a pioneer adept at “rescaling the cosmos and humanity’s place in it”. He straddled the border between science and literature, but not all his complexities were benign: he both repudiated racism and for some time shamefully ascribed to ideas on eugenics. Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.

(6) GRADE INFLATION. Morning Consult attempts to answer the question: “Rotten Tomatoes Scores Continue to Freshen. What Does This Mean for Movies?”

In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe for the picking by movie marketers that want to tout a film’s high critics score from the website in their advertising. But as the Tomatometer’s average score continues to increase, experts are divided on why this is happening and how the industry will harvest Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings going forward.

David A. Gross, a movie consultant that runs Franchise Entertainment Research Inc., found that scores for wide-release films have been fluctuating since 1998’s recorded average of 46. However, averages have been increasing every year since 2014, with this year’s average coming in at 59.3, as of Oct. 28, 1.4 points higher than 2018’s 57.9.

(7) MORE REACTIONS TO SCORSESE, COPPOLA. Michael Ordoña asks “If comic-book movies aren’t emotional and psychological cinema, why are we crying?” in the Los Angeles Times.

… The director of “The Godfather” and “Captain EO” added: “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Andrea Letamendi, associate director of mental health training, intervention and response at UCLA, sees more in the best of these films than these giants of cinema do.

“Superhero films are giving us a way to practice and explore really important emotional processes that we may not be able to examine in our everyday lives. In ‘Endgame,’ the more fantastical, the better, because that gives us the supportive safety net to be open and vulnerable and curious about these things,” she says.

“Not to pat ourselves on the back,” says Christopher Markus, co-writer (with Stephen McFeely) of six MCU movies including the three-hour “Endgame,” “but we snuck an hourlong movie about loss and grief into the [start of the] biggest movie of all time. That’s a lot of people who sat with that issue in their heads for an hour.”

He says of villain Thanos’ cataclysmic action, “We wanted the Snap to be as profound as we could make it. The way to do that was to have all the characters sit with the impact, the unfixability of it, rather than scrambling around. We were interested in seeing what happens to these people whose sole purpose in life is solving problems, faced with a problem they did not solve.”

… Clinical psychologist Letamendi agrees. ”It’s a truly sophisticated portrayal. … How different characters cope with that loss really matters in terms of how we relate to them and how we might relate to our own losses.

“The term for that is ‘parasocial relationships’ — non-delusional emotional connections with fictional characters. I know Tony Stark isn’t real, but I’ve formed a long-lasting relationship with his character, so when we see him go through these difficult changes: the adversity, his self-doubt and, ultimately, his death, this is, in our world, difficult to deal with. The grief, the confusion, sometimes the anger — those feelings are real. I think there’s some value to that.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 31, 1962 First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and ask his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008. 
  • October 31, 1964 Doctor Who returned to BBC with the premiere of its second season.  The first arc was titled “Planet of Giants.” William Hartnell Was the First Doctor with three companions present: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). Episodes 3 and 4 are for the most part missing in the Great BBC Purge. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 31, 1936 Michael Landon. Tony Rivers inI Was a Teenage Werewolf. (That film made two million on an eighty thousand dollar budget. Nice.) That and playing the lead as Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven are I think his only genre roles. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 31, 1946 Stephen Rea, 73. An extensive genre history including V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Underworld Waking, The Werewolf Among Us and Counterpart.
  • Born October 31, 1950 John Candy. Best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs but he also played Wink Wilkinson in Frank Oz’s  Little Shop of Horrors, Kalishak in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, and was the narrator of the “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” of Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. (Died 1994.)
  • Born October 31, 1959 Neal Stephenson, 60. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that (which was good) and Snow Crash (equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. 
  • Born October 31, 1961 Peter Jackson, 58. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much. Now the Adventures of Tintin is quite nice indeed. 
  • Born October 31, 1979 Erica Cerra, 40. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention in roles such as Pretty Girl. 
  • Born October 31, 1993 Letitia Wright,  26. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda.  (Yes, she is in both Avengers films.) Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode. 
  • Born October 31, 1999 Danielle Russell, 20. She played Hope Mikaelson in The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Dairies. In something I’ve never seen before, she went on to portray that character in Legacies, a spin-off of The Originals which makes it a spin-off of a spin-off!  

(10) FAN FICTION BLOSSOMS. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles the horror fan fiction site Nosleep, whose alumni have sold novels and gotten writing gigs on the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House: “Inside the horror website that’s freaking out millions of people”.

…Druga is the top administrator on Nosleep, whose indistinguishable mixture of the real and merely realistic (weighed heavily toward the latter, most likely) has helped it grow into the Internet’s main source of amateur horror stories — with more than 13 million subscribers and hundreds of thousands of posts along the lines of “My neighbor has been mowing his lawn for 12 hours straight” and “My granddad used to come to my room at night wearing a mask. Now I know why.”

(11) MORE JEOPARDY! WRONGNESS. Andrew Porter would hate for you to miss another fabulously bad guess by a Jeopardy! contestant.

Category: Fictional Flags Flying.

Answer: After arriving by submarine, this character claims the South Pole with a black flag baring a gold “N”.

Wrong question: “Who is Bugs Bunny?”

Right question: “Who is Nemo?”

(12) THE DEATH OF FRANCHISES? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Dueling articles in today’s Guardian offer arguments against two major franchises, as Ben Child argues that it’s no longer possible to make a ‘good’ Star Wars movie, and Stuart Heritage proclaims bluntly that Game of Thrones should die. While each of them makes some good points about the flaws that seem to be plaguing the subjects of their respective ire, they might go a little far. 

Ben Child challenges: “Spent force: why is making a good Star Wars film so hard?”  

Star Wars’s directors must feel like the Hollywood equivalent of all those unfortunate Imperial admirals in the original trilogy. One misplaced Rebel fleet and it’s instant death by studio chokehold.

Stuart Heritage says “It’s time for the Game of Thrones universe to die”.  

Television is littered with the corpses of unnecessary spinoffs, from Caprica to AfterMASH, Baywatch Nights to Joey. … At this point, with a tainted brand, an irritated fanbase and a pilot that’s proved a colossal waste of effort,perhaps the sensible thing would be for HBO to ditch Game of Thrones altogether.

Overall, the articles do beg the question: under what circumstances should a franchise be left to die, or at least be abandoned to lie fallow before they can be rediscovered by a new generation? It’s a question that’s worth discussing in an era of nonstop franchise maintenance. 

(13) ION STORM AHEAD CAPTAIN. Nature tells of “A 100-kiloparsec wind feeding the circumgalactic medium of a massive compact galaxy”. From the abstract —

…Theory points to galactic winds as the primary source of the enriched and massive circumgalactic medium3,4,5,6. Winds from compact starbursts have been observed to flow to distances somewhat greater than ten kiloparsecs7,8,9,10, but the circumgalactic medium typically extends beyond a hundred kiloparsecs3,4. Here are observations of the massive but compact galaxy SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 of a 100-kiloparsec wind.

(14) JAVA IN WESTEROS. BBC delves into “Game of Thrones’ coffee cup and 6 other TV and film bloopers”.

Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has revealed who was responsible for the show’s infamous coffee cup scene.

In one episode of the eighth season, eagle-eyed viewers spotted a coffee cup on the table in the great hall, as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen sat, more appropriately, with goblet in hand.

Now, Clarke has revealed her co-star Conleth Hill, who portrayed master of spies Lord Varys, admitted to being responsible for the error during a pre-awards show party in September.

(15) DEAD PERFECT. Google Nest was holding auditions for its Nest doorbell, you see….

She was born to die to play this role. Obvi. It wasn’t easy, but we found an actual ghost to record spooky, Halloween sounds for the Nest Hello doorbell.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Spinrad Deplatformed

Asimov’s took down Norman Spinrad’s “On Books” column (linked in the October 29 Scroll) and will make an explanation later: (The text is still available at Pastebin.)

Reportedly, one of Spinrad’s posts SFWA’s private forums was also deleted not long ago.

Some who commented on the Spinrad “On Books” column said what they especially objected to are these last lines, coming after extended praise of Campbellian science fiction and a severe critique of the latest SFWA Nebula Anthology:

[Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon] is a science fiction novel for sophisticated adults, a gamble by Kim Stanley Robinson that there are enough of them within the genre to keep such fiction economically viable and writers such as Robinson unashamed to admit membership in SFWA.

Compare this with what has been awarded Nebulas by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and what Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 reveals all too clearly as the current state of its membership and the state of their art. The literary inheritors of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name, and novels like Red Moon.

Which side are you on?

Others focused on his comments about China, or what he said about David Levine’s fiction. 

An example of the Twitter conversation is Karen Osborne’s thread, which starts here.

Rondon Arraigned

Luis Rondon, former king of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was arraigned in Orange County (NY) on October 25, charged with second degree murder for the fatal beating of a New Windsor, NY woman. The judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

The victim, Deborah Waldinger, was also active in the SCA, as well as in the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia. Police believe Waldinger died October 7 of blunt force trauma. A maintenance worker found the body inside her apartment two days later.

By then, Rondon had traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA. On October 11, Taft (CA) police arrested him at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

The SCA expelled Rondon following his arrest.

[Rondon’s attorney] asked that the jail hold Rondon in protective custody because he is an officer with the MTA Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority. The only words Rondon spoke during arraignment were to tell the judge he is a peace officer, and to confirm the agency’s name with “yes, your honor.”

The judge said he would make a note about the request on the commitment paperwork.

Waldinger’s family told a reporter that she met Rondon several years ago through their mutual interest in medieval groups, and had moved to New Windsor from Long Island about two years ago to be near him.

Dream Foundry Short Story Contest Finalists

Dream Foundry announced the finalists of its inaugural writing contest for writers of speculative fiction on October 29. 

The contest was open to anyone with a completed short story who had not yet been professionally paid for their work.

The top three winners will be announced on November 15, 2019, and the first place winner will receive a $500 cash prize. All three of the top winners will receive critiques and feedback from professional writers working in the field.

William Ledbetter was the contest coordinator.  Charles Coleman Finlay, editor of Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Lisa Rodgers, agent at JABberwocky, are serving as judges for this year’s contest.

The finalists are:

  • S Rain Lawrence – Minnesota
  • Douglas Wu – Connecticut
  • Steven Berger – Texas
  • Jamie Adams – Minnesota
  • Sam Tovey, United Kingdom
  • Tiffany Smith – Texas
  • Andrew J. Savage – Japan
  • Rose Wachowski – Virginia
  • Samantha Lynne Sargent – Canada
  • Claire Whitmore – Wisconsin 

Dream Foundry is a registered 501(c) non-profit dedicated to bolstering the careers of nascent professionals working with the speculative arts.  You can join their community at forum.dreamfoundry.org, find weekly content at dreamfoundry.org/blog.

[Based on a press release.]

Clarke Award Opens for Submissions

The Arthur C. Clarke Award administrators have announced they are taking submissions for the 34th presentation of the award in 2020.

The prize is open to science fiction novels that received their first UK publication in 2019, written in English by an author of any nationality.

Although the novel’s first UK publication must fall within these dates, it is still eligible if it was previously published in other territories or has been translated into English for the first time in the judging year.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is also open to submissions from authors publishing their work independently.

Here we categorize independently publishing authors as a UK publishing company of one in their own right and authors must be either a UK citizen or resident in the UK to be eligible and are subject to the same fees and levies for entry as other publishing imprints.

The last date for receipt of submissions is December 31, 2019.

For submission guidelines or any other queries please contact the administrators at clarkeaward@gmail.com

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is administered by the Serendip Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to coordinate the yearly prize, positively promote science fiction and honor the memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

Pixel Scroll 10/30/19 Pixels And Gatherings Of Pixels, File Beyond File Without End, The Light

(1) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. Vaught Contemporary Ballet once again will perform Dune, The Ballet on November 2 at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, which is outside Baltimore.

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism, and ecology against an interstellar backdrop, allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice – the desire for melange.

Join us as we interpret this classic science fiction story through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

The Baltimore Sun previewed another performance this summer:

…Katie Vaught of Vaught Contemporary Ballet has choreographed a piece that follows Paul through his many tribulations. It will feature parts of the soundtrack from David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation scored by Toto, as well as tracks from 2013 documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune.” Though it is meant to stand alone as a ballet and to be accessible to anyone, those who have read the novel will understand the plotline clearly and pick up on references to the book.

(2) NEOLOGOS. Slate’s Laura Spinney, in “Tongue Twisters”, shows why “Invented languages—or conlangs—have a scientific and cultural impact far beyond Klingon.”

The recent proliferation of conlangs has been driven by the internet, as resources became more accessible and people who were initially ashamed of a nerdy pastime discovered like-minded others and came together in online communities. That in turn meant that producers of sci-fi movies and TV series knew where to turn when they wanted a now obligatory alien-sounding conlang built, and some conlangers—like David Peterson, the inventor of Game of Thrones’ Dothraki—have turned professional. There is another category of conlangers, however, who couple their love of linguistic creativity with serious scientific investigation.

(3) ROANHORSE WRITES STAR WARS. USA Today talks to the author: “Exclusive excerpt: New ‘Star Wars’ novel rallies the good guys before ‘Rise of Skywalker'”.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” left Rey, Finn, General Leia Organa and the rest of the scrappy, rag-tag Resistance with a win against the evil First Order but far, far away from having a legit army.

The highly anticipated movie “The Rise of Skywalker” (in theaters Dec. 20) promises major battles between good guys and bad, but before that the new novel “Resistance Reborn” (Del Rey Books, out Nov. 5) acts as an important bridge between films. It picks up immediately after “Last Jedi.” Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac in the movies) has been tasked to reunite with his Black Squadron, while Leia is aboard the Millennium Falcon trying desperately to reach their allies.

Writing Leia “was an honor and a gift,” says author Rebecca Roanhorse, adding that the late Carrie Fisher‘s heroine “was really my way into the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Her continued leadership and strength in the face of loss and grief was a great inspiration for understanding not only her character but Poe, Finn and Rey, as well.

“I remember the first time I wrote, ‘Leia said’ or ‘Leia laughed.’ I definitely got a bit choked up. That’s when this fantastic journey all became real.”…

Andrew Liptak provides a thorough rundown about the book at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn Sets the Stage for a Galactic Final Showdown with the First Order”.

While many Expanded Universe novels exist at the edges of the Star Wars galaxy, Resistance Reborn feels like a vital next step in the saga. While the Resistance’s dire position was made patently obvious at the end of The Last Jedi, Roanhorse hammers the point home: the movement is down to its last people, and if they’re found, they’ll be snuffed out completely by the First Order’s stormtroopers. While the odds are certainly against them, the narrative feels like an inherently optimistic one, despite it all. (You know how these rebels react to being told the odds.) It feels particularly pressingly relevant in our world of 2019, a time when mass protests against oppressive governments are raging in the streets of Chile and Hong Kong.

(4) CHARACTER REFERENCE. Deborah J. Ross helps authors understand their wayward characters in “Auntie Deborah’s Autumn Writing Advice Column” at Book View Café.

Dear Auntie Deborah: Help! My characters have gone amok and won’t follow the plot of my book! What can I do to whip them into shape?

— A Frustrated Author

Dear Frustrated: The short (but brutal) answer is that your characters behave the way you created them. Their histories, personalities, goals, and motivations are all part of that creation. So if you — like so many of us! — find your characters resisting the demands of the plot or going off on their own adventures, it’s time to take a step back and delve deeper into what’s on the page and what’s in your creative imagination that isn’t explicit but nonetheless exerts a powerful influence over the character’s behavior….

(5) RAMBO’S VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR. T. Kent Writes hosts today’s stop on the Carpe Glitter blog tour with “10 Things I Have Learned From Writing by Cat Rambo”. Number One is:

If you binge read or watch something, it will seep into the writing you are producing at the moment, which may or may not be a good thing.

 Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo was released by Meerkat Press on October 29.

What do you do when someone else’s past forces itself on your own life? Sorting through the piles left behind by a grandmother who was both a stage magician and a hoarder, Persephone Aim finds a magical artifact from World War II that has shaped her family history. Faced with her mother’s desperate attempt to take the artifact for herself, Persephone must decide whether to hold onto the past—or use it to reshape her future.

(6) JOE HILL. Andrew Liptak interviews “Joe Hill on Full Throttle, Netflix Adaptations, and Working With His Dad” for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

[AL]: My favorite one so far is “Late Returns”.

[JH]: “Late Returns” is sort of a soft, sentimental fantasy, and I think that’s probably my favorite in the collection too, that and “You Are Released.”

I do think I think you’re right that there’s a wider, wider range of genres. I was actually surprised at how much Bradbury is in the book. I didn’t realize it until I was writing the introduction and going through the stories. But “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” feels a little bit like a rip on Bradbury’s classic tale “The Fog Horn,” about a prehistoric monster falling in love with a lighthouse. “Faun” is about men who go to a farmhouse in Maine who slip through a tiny door and enter a Narnia-like world called Palomino, full of orcs and trolls and fauns. They’ve gone their ton to shoot Fauns and to shoot orcs, and bring home ahead, you know, a trophy head for the wall. That story has a little bit of C.S. Lewis and a little bit of Hemingway in it. But a lot of Bradbury, a lot of “Sound of Thunder.” 

Joe Hill meets Ray Bradbury for the first time at 2009 Comic-Con. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(7) RIVERS OF LONDON GRAPHIC NOVEL. Titan Comics will release Rivers of London: Action at a Distance, a 112-page graphic novel, on November 13. Authors: Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch; Artists: Brian Williamson, Stefani Renne; Cover artist: Anna Dittmann.

A new story in the bestselling cops-and-wizards series Rivers Of London, from chart-topping author Ben Aaronovitch! Uncover the secret World War II history of Peter Grant’s fan-favorite mentor, the mysterious Nightingale. When a serial killer with strange powers arrives on the streets of London, an old soldier remembers the man who mastered the occult at the height of World War II!

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 30, 1938 — The broadcast of Orson Welles’ radio drama, War of the Worlds, caused a national panic.
  • October 30, 1974 Invasion From Inner Earth premiered. The film, also known as Hell Fire and They, starred Paul Bentzen and Debbi Pick. It has an audience rating of 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1896 Ruth Gordon. You’ll likely best remember her as Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby. (Trust me, you don’t need to see Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.) she’s quite excellent as Cecilia Weiss in The Great Houdini, and that pretty much sums up her genre work save Voyage of the Rock Aliens which keeps giving the giggles. Serious giggles. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek, he was Trelane and in “The Trouble With Tribbles”, he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He had one-offs in the Six-Million Dollar Man, Wild Wild West and The Next Step Beyond. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 47. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nature” and “ The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and “Drop Dead” episodes.
  • Born October 30, 1980 Sarah Carter, 39. She’s known for her recurring role as Alicia Baker in Smallville, and Maggie in Falling Skies. She was on The Flash in a recurring role as Grace Gibbons who was The Cicada.
  • Born October 30, 1981 Fiona Dourif, 37. Her longest running SFF role is as Bart Curlish in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She’s played Nica Pierce in two of the Chucky horror films, and she’s Good Leader Tavis on The Purge, an ongoing horror series.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FRIGHTENING IN ANY CASE. CrimeReads’ Zach Vasquez picks “20 Essential Films That Blur the Line Between Horror and Noir”.

Targets (1968)

In his debut feature (made for Roger Corman’s American International Pictures), Peter Bogdanovich brilliantly cast Boris Karloff (who owed Corman two days of shooting from a previous project) as a worn-out horror film icon only a few steps removed from his real life persona. He then split the narrative with a seemingly unrelated story about a clean-cut young man (inspired by real life mass murderer Charles Whitman) who randomly embarks upon a mass shooting spree. Eventually, the dual narratives do intersect, resulting in a profoundly disturbing statement about the nature of idealized horror versus the banality of the real thing. In the decades since, Targets has grown even more prescient and unnerving.

(12) WHAT JOKER MASK SIGNIFIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] CNN is reporting that “Some Hong Kong protesters are adopting the Joker as their own. Others are horrified”.

Halloween is just days away — and with “Joker” smashing box-office records, it seems inevitable that throngs of film fans will dress as killer clowns for the festivities that await.

But in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy, anti-government protests have stretched on for four months, the mask of the Joker holds greater weight — and reveals a divide between some protesters who see themselves reflected in him, and others who are horrified at the comparison.

[…] Viewers on social media point out that both Gotham and Hong Kong are home to groups of discontented people who feel abandoned by their government and a rich elite. In the movie, Gotham citizens and police officers fight in a subway station, an eerie echo of such scuffles in Hong Kong’s own stations. At the end of the film, rioters vandalize parts of the city, with what appears to be smoke or gas drifting through the air — similar to the tear gas, graffiti and smashed glass that have become routine in Hong Kong.

[…] Despite their best efforts, however, these Joker fans are not making headway within the protest movement — rather, many more are trying to distance themselves from the film. Posts that draw these comparisons are often heavily downvoted, with comments urging the community not to aspire towards the Joker.

[…] “Please don’t make the Joker into a leader of the resistance,” the post read. “(The movie) is really good. But at this moment, it is dangerous, and the danger lies in the fact that people may interpret it intentionally or unintentionally into the current situation in Hong Kong.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Chelsea Eckert’s post “On Writing Anthropomorphic Animal Characters (For Adults)” includes this advice:

…Unless you’re specifically looking to write an allegory, you have to actively avoid making your species and characters allegorical or symbols or stand-ins for something. It’s rather patronizing at best and can get offensive at worst. (FYI, we’re not dealing with allegory in this post.)

(14) MILESTONE. Right on schedule…

(15) GETTING READY FOR THE HOLIDAY. Jeff VanderMeer is crowdsourcing costume ideas.

(16) HALLOWEEN DÉCOR. Lots of pictures in BBC’s post “Day of the Dead: Giant skeleton ‘crawls out’ of Mexico street”.

A giant skeleton has “emerged” from a street in the Tlahuac neighbourhood of Mexico City.

Much to the delight of local children, the sculpture has been placed in the city street ahead of the Day of the Dead celebrations on 1 and 2 November.

(17) DO YOU GET THESE REFERENCES? Seventeen has collected “27 Best Harry Potter Costume Ideas That Only True Fans Will Get”.

Now, you’ve probably already dressed as Harry, Ron, and/or Hermione for at least one Halloween celebration, so it’s time to really up your fandom game. As a lifelong Potterhead and Seventeen‘s official HP expert, I am uniquely qualified to help you on this magical Halloween-related journey.  

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Riddikulus! #boggart #snape #harrypotterhalloween

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(18) INSIDE AND TRYING TO GET OUT. Buzzfeed invites you to take the quiz: “Everyone Has A Stephen King Character Who Matches Their Personality — Here’s Yours”. Mine is – Carrie.

On the outside, you’re an absolute introvert, but when people get to know you, they realize there’s some ~fire~ in there.

(19) ANCESTRAL HOME. BBC reports “Origin of modern humans ‘traced to Botswana'”.

Scientists have pinpointed the homeland of all humans alive today to a region south of the Zambezi River.

The area is now dominated by salt pans, but was once home to an enormous lake, which may have been our ancestral heartland 200,000 years ago.

Our ancestors settled for 70,000 years, until the local climate changed, researchers have proposed.

They began to move on as fertile green corridors opened up, paving the way for future migrations out of Africa.

“It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago,” said Prof Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

“What has been long debated is the exact location of this emergence and subsequent dispersal of our earliest ancestors.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/29/19 Neither Wind Nor Fire Nor Darkness Shall Prevent The Pixels From Scrolling

(1) WOKE 100. Essence has named two well-known sff authors to its 2019 Woke 100.

This year’s list includes women who exemplify the true meaning of being change agents and power players. Working in areas from social justice to politics to entertainment, they inspire not only us here but also others around the world….

24

Tananarive Due

American Book Award winner Due is a leading voice in American Black speculative fiction. The author, professor and filmmaker teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA….

28

N.K. Jemisin

One of the best fantasy writers in the world is a Black woman. The three-time Hugo Award winner is the author of ten novels, and her latest How Long ’til Black Future Month?, which has been hailed as “marvelous and wide-ranging” by the Los Angeles Times.

(2) ‘THRONES’ PRODUCERS LEAVE STAR WARS. Deadline says the duo will be devoting their waking hours to Netflix programs: “‘Star Wars’ Setback: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Duo David Benioff & D.B. Weiss Exit Trilogy”.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the duo who in 2011 launched the singular screen sensation known as Game of Thrones, have walked away from their much-publicized deal with Disney’s Lucasfilm to launch a feature film trilogy in 2022.

Benioff and Weiss were supposed to usher in the post-Skywalker era of the Star Wars brand with a 2022 new-start story that would stake out a new frontier for the era-defining cinema brand created by George Lucas. The Emmy-winning pair cited their historic deal with Netflix. They said their enthusiasm for Star Wars remains boundless but, regrettably, their schedule is full.

…Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has plenty of other Star Wars projects in the hopper — The Rise of Skywalker on December 20, The Mandalorian in 15 days on Disney+ and the ramping up of the Ewan McGregor series, to name just three — so it’s unclear how much of a setback the now-nixed trilogy presents. There’s also no shortage of upcoming collaborators lined up, among them Rian Johnson and Kevin Feige.

…“There are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects,” the GoT pair said in a statement to Deadline. “So we are regretfully stepping away.”

(3) THRONES PREQUEL AXED. In an move reminiscent of the show’s own unexpected deaths, Deadline also reports HBO has killed one of its several Game of Thrones projects: “‘Game Of Thrones’ Prequel Pilot Starring Naomi Watts Not Going Forward At HBO”.

HBO has more Game of Thrones in the pipeline, but the prequel written by Jane Goldman and starring Naomi Watts is no longer happening.

Showrunner Goldman has been emailing the cast and crew of the project to tell them that the pilot is dead, we hear. The development has not been confirmed by HBO.

The prequel, created by the Kingsman scribe and George R. R. Martin, takes place thousands of years before the wars, romances and dragons of the Emilia Clarke- and Kit Harington-led GoT, which wrapped up its blockbuster eight-season run in May. Weaving in issues of race, power, intrigue and White Walkers, the Goldman-run prequel was given the pilot green light back in June 2018.

HBO hastened to publicize one of the surviving projects:

House Of The Dragon, a Game of Thrones prequel is coming to HBO.

The series is co-created by George RR Martin and Ryan Condal. Miguel Sapochnik will partner with Condal as showrunner and will direct the pilot and additional episodes. Condal will be writing the series.

(4) THROWING, ER, PASSING THE TORCH. Norman Spinrad’s peppery “On Books” column in the current issue of Asimov’s opines about Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee, and Nebula Awards Showcase 2018, edited by Jane Yolen, and Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson. [Note: Link has been updated to Pastebin, following Asimov’s removal of the column, with a statement to follow.]

Spinrad finds much to admire about the historianship of Nevala-Lee, but his positive critique is followed by the author’s own ideas about “how it really was.”  

…Nevala-Lee’s Astounding reads somewhat strangely to someone like me, who was involved with the main characters toward the ends of their literary stories and the beginning of mine, and probably would to anyone involved with the fannish history of science fiction, let alone readers of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Which is to say, to an insider one way or another. Nevala-Lee, at least to judge by what he has written, is not.

This has its strengths and its weaknesses. His research is admirably academically exhaustive, except when it comes to Hubbard—a notorious bullshit artist and outright liar—and on such a level is about as definitive as a full complex history of science fiction history up until the 1960s can get.

The strength of this is that Nevala-Lee writes all this from a certain emotional and neutral distance, as one might write a similar history of the nineteenth-century American union movement or the early twentieth-century history of the Hollywood film industry if these events occurred before you were born. The book would be entirely from the record. Nevala-Lee therefore has no personal axes to grind and sticks to the facts….

Then, Spinrad deconstructs the latest SFWA Nebula Awards anthology, doubting the benefit of excerpting novels and novellas, finding fault with many of the winners and runners-up represented in the book, and above all, expressing profoundly unhappy feelings about the condition of the genre:

So what does Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 tell us about the state of what the membership of SFWA is writing, and what is the state of their art in the present and likely into the future?

It tells us that fantasy has long since come to dominate SF. It tells us that many or perhaps even a majority of these SF writers do not have the education or indeed the inclination to learn the difference between science fiction and fantasy and to dish the result out to a populace that has more than enough confusion about the difference between reality and magic already.

(5) INDISTINGUISHABLE. Having encountered Spinrad’s column and Mark Lawrence’s recent post “The magic of science” on the same day, I wished for a panel discussion between the two writers — that would be highly interesting,

I’ve blogged several times on the dead and over-beaten horse of science vs magic. Today, rather than point out yet again that these two things are in fact the same, I’m going to point out an important difference.

This is not to contradict my earlier thoughts. Magic truly is science – but it’s generally presented in a manner that means it is radically different to the kind of science we encounter in the real world.

This difference has political echoes and doubtless would have political consequences if we were to encounter the most commonly imagined forms of “magic”.

In short, magic is typically presented in much the same way that superheroes are. To use magic you need to be specially gifted.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

…A graduate student named Charley Kline sat at an ITT Teletype terminal and sent the first digital data transmission to Bill Duvall, a scientist who was sitting at another computer at the Stanford Research Institute (now known as SRI International) on the other side of California. It was the beginning of ARPANET, the small network of academic computers that was the precursor to the internet.

  • October 29, 2012  — In Canada, Primeval: New World first aired. A spin-off of Primeval, it starred Niall Matter (Zane Donovan on Eureka) and Sara Canning. It was canceled after the first season of thirteen episodes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1926 Margaret Sheridan. She’s best remembered as Nikki Nicholson in The Thing from Another World. It was her first acting role and she’d be done acting a little over a decade later in the early Sixties. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Jack Donner. He’s no doubt best known for his role of Romulan Subcommander Tal in the Trek episode “The Enterprise Incident”. He would later return as a Vulcan priest in the “Kir’Shara” and “Home” episodes on Enterprise. He’d also show up in other genre shows including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission Impossible (eleven episodes which is the most by any guest star) and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr. He play the Gill-man in the land takes in Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ricou Browning did the water takes. His only other genre appearance was in Jungle Moon Men, a Johnny Weissmuller film. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 ?Sheila Finch, 84. She’s best known for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists which are quite excellent. The Golden Gryphon collection The Guild of Xenolinguists is well worth seeking out.
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 81. Started as low level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a talking cat.  Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World
  • Born October 29, 1941 Hal W. Hall, 78. Bibliographer responsible for the Science Fiction Book Review Index (1970 – 1985) and the Science Fiction Research Index (1981 – 1922). He also did a number of reviews including three of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books showing he had excellent taste in fiction.
  • Born October 29, 1947 Richard Dreyfuss, 72. Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And The Player in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Not to mention the voice of Mister Centipede in James and the Giant Peach
  • Born October 29, 1971 Winona Ryder, 48. Beetlejuice of course but also Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not to mention Alien Resurrection and Star Trek. Which brings me to Being John Malkovich which might be the coolest genre film of all time. 
  • Born October 29, 1979 Andrew Lee Potts, 40. He is best known as Connor Temple on Primeval and the spinoff Primeval: New World. He was also Tim Larson in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series. Yes, it’s that Stan Lee.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows why computer dating is out of the question for these fantastic beings.
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comic for Halloween. (Apologies for a duplication of one panel – WordPress insists on showing pairs of tweets when they are internal to the thread.)

(9) MARVEL’S QUESADA. The Society of Illustrators is hosting “Highlights from The Marvel Art of Joe Quesada: Selected by Joe Quesada” through November 23. They’re located at 128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY.

Featuring a one-of-a-kind selection of rare original Joe Quesada drawings assembled from the personal collection of award-winning artist and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada.

Before becoming Marvel’s Editor-in Chief in 2000 and the company’s Chief Creative Officer in 2010, Joe Quesada made his mark as one of the most accomplished artists working in the comics medium. His groundbreaking work on series like Marvel’s X-FACTOR, DC’s THE RAY, Valiant’s NINJAK, and his own creation, ASH led to critical acclaim and an offer from Marvel to co-found the MARVEL KNIGHTS imprint. That line was an immediate success thanks to Quesada’s standout work on DAREDEVIL (with writer Kevin Smith) and later projects like WOLVERINE: ORIGIN and DAREDEVIL: FATHER (which he also wrote), cementing his reputation as one of the most important illustrators of his generation. Drawn from the pages of the career retrospective book, THE MARVEL ART OF JOE QUESADA, this exhibit features key pieces from all of those series as well as a number unique media inspired images created by Quesada during his tenure as Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer.

(10) BIG NAMES HELM FILM BASED ON STAÅLENHAG ART. ScreenRant reports “Endgame Writers Confirm Electric State Movie is Still Happening”

Avengers: Endgame writers confirm The Electric State movie is still happening. It’s no easy task following up a hit as big as this summer’s Avengers: Endgame, but it appears that the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is more than willing to try.

AMC Theatres has tweeted out an image from a panel confirming The Electric State will be the next project from the blockbuster duo. The film is based on an art book by Swedish author/illustrator Simon Stålenhag, which utilized a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2017 to get it off the ground. Previous reports have stated that Markus and McFeely would be working to adapt the project, with IT director Andy Muschietti on board to direct.

The Verge adds:

That film isn’t the only project based on Stålenhag’s works. Amazon Prime Video picked up Tales from the Loop for a TV series, which the artist confirmed was currently in production.

(11) WESTEROS FOR THE REST OF US. Despite Inverse’s headline — “Newly surfaced GRRM interview has a promising ‘Winds of Winter’ update” – while you learn several interesting things about what George R.R. Martin is working on, you come out knowing very little more about Winds of Winter than you knew going in.

His most interesting tidbit on Winds came in an update on his long-running series of Dunk & Egg short stories that take place within the world of Westeros. When asked if we may see more of the titular characters soon, Martin offered something of a tentative publication schedule for the next few Westeros titles.

“But first I have this book The Winds of Winter,” he said. “I have to finish that, and then I can write another Dunk and Egg story, and then I write A Dream of Spring, and then I write another Dunk and Egg story. At some point in there, I have to write the second part of Fire and Blood, so I have my work cut out for me.”

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants getting stumped again.

Category: Gargoyles

Answer: Paisley Abbey in Scotland added a new gargoyle likely inspired by this 1979 horror film.

No one got the question, “What is Alien?”

(13) HAUNTED HOME ECONOMICS. The Washington Post’s Emily Heil says nothing says Halloween like a hearty round of “feetloaf.”  It’s meatloaf–but shaped like feet!  With onions for bones and Brazil nuts for toenails.  It’s also known as “Feet of Meat.” — “It’s almost Halloween, and ‘feetloaf’ is already giving us nightmares”.

… Perhaps you have stopped reading right here and are clicking around somewhere else looking for videos of baby animals in the hopes of purging this image from your mind’s eye. No one could blame you. This is grade-A sickening stuff….

(14) STOLEN ROBOT CLOTHES RETURNED. Gabrielle Russon, in “NBA player Robin Lopez unknowingly bought stolen Disney World items, records show” in the Orlando Sentinel, says that police are investigating rare Disney items acquired by Milwaukee Bucks player Robin Lopez, including Buzzy, an animatronic robot that was part of the Cranium Command exhibit retired from Epcot in 2007.  Police say Lopez is a victim or a crime ring operated by former Disney employee Patrick Spikes, who they charge with an accomplice routinely stole retired Disney exhibits and then sold them through intermediaries to high-dollar Disney collectors.

Milwaukee Bucks player Robin Lopez confirmed Tuesday he gave back the clothes from Buzzy, a Disney World animatronic that authorities said had been stolen before they were sent to the company’s archives in California….

(15) FRESH BITES. A trailer for BBC’s Dracula, which also will stream on BBC’s iPlayer.

From the makers of Sherlock, Claes Bang stars as Dracula in this brand new mini-series inspired by Bram Stoker’s classic novel.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day bookworm1398.]

Roddenberry Jr. and Daley Discuss Star Trek and Human Destiny in LA on 11/2

Tad Daley will be live on stage in conversation with Gene Roddenberry Jr. — son of the legendary creator of Star Trek – on November 2.

Daley explains, “We’re NOT going to discuss whether warp drives and phasers-on-stun and ‘beam me up Scotty’ are real world possibilities. Our topic instead is how Star Trek, and many other non-dystopian works of science fiction page and screen, have portrayed a healthy and sustainable planet, the abolition of war, and the political unification of humankind.”

The event happens Saturday, November 2, from 4-6 pm at the Anagnos Peace Center, 3916 Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City, CA.

Get your free tickets through Eventbrite.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 31 Launches 11/5

The 31st issue of four-time Hugo winner Uncanny Magazine, which also won a 2019 British Fantasy Award this month, will be available on November 5.

Hugo Award-winning Publishers Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are proud to present the 31st issue of their four-time Hugo Award-winning online science fiction and fantasy magazine, Uncanny Magazine. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. As always, Uncanny features passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture, along with a Parsec Award-winning monthly podcast featuring a story, poem, and interview from that issue. 

All of Uncanny Magazine’s content will be available in eBook versions on the day of release from Weightless Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Subscriptions are always available through Amazon Kindle and Weightless Books. The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on December 3. 

Uncanny Magazine Issue 31 Table of Contents

Cover: La Palma by John Picacio

Editorial

  • “The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • “So Long, and Thanks for All the Space Unicorns” by Michi Trota

Fiction

  • “A Time to Reap” by Elizabeth Bear (11/5)
  • “Nutrition Facts” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires (11/5)
  • “Black Flowers Blossom” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (12/3)
  • “Peridot and Rain” by Laura Anne Gilman (12/3)
  • “A Mindreader’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy” by Jenn Reese (12/3)

Nonfiction

  • “The Page and the Panel: Writing Between Prose and Comics” by G. Willow Wilson (11/5)
  • “The Science, Fiction, and Fantasy of Genre” by Alexandra Erin (11/5)
  • “If You’ve Heard This One Before” by Brandon O’Brien (11/5)
  • “As You Know, Bob…” by Jeannette Ng (12/3)
  • “Confessions of an Adjacent Geek” by Keidra Chaney (12/3)

Poetry

  • “Without Prayer or the Place in the Forest” by Sonya Taaffe (11/5)
  • “fear cat” by Hal Y. Zhang (11/5)
  • “The Wooden Box” by Annie Neugebauer (12/3)
  • “Manananggal” by Sylvia Santiago (12/3)

Interview

  • Elizabeth Bear interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (11/5)
  • Jenn Reese interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (12/3)

Podcasts

Uncanny Magazine Podcast #31A (11/5)

  • “Nutrition Facts” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires, as read by Joy Piedmont
  • “Without Prayer or the Place in the Forest” by Sonya Taaffe, as read by Erika Ensign
  • Lynne M. Thomas Interviews D.A. Xiaolin Spires

Uncanny Magazine Podcast #32A (12/3)

  • “Black Flowers Blossom” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, as read by Joy Piedmont
  • “The Wooden Box” by Annie Neugebauer, as read by Erika Ensign
  • Lynne M. Thomas Interviews Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Pixel Scroll 10/28/19 I Robot
— R U Robot?

(1) JUST LET ME GO NATURALLY. Naomi Booth gives an overview of eco-horror in her essay “For Some Horror Writers, Nothing Is Scarier Than a Changing Planet” in the New York Times.

“Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world?” asked the novelist Amitav Ghosh, writing in The Guardian in 2016. “Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”

…Yet the idea of a world in crisis is fundamental to horror, a genre historically devalued by the gatekeepers of high culture as, well, outlandish and unserious. Horror has always sought to amplify fear. It works against false comfort, complacency and euphemism, against attempts to repress or sanitize that which disturbs us. Inevitably, the climate crisis has given rise to a burgeoning horror subgenre: eco-horror. Eco-horror reworks horror in order to portray the damage done to the world by people, and the ways the world might damage or even destroy us in turn. In eco-horror, the “natural” world is both under threat and threatening.

The best-known work of eco-horror might be Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (2014), about a beautiful and deadly exclusion zone known as Area X. The first book, “Annihilation,” which was made into a Hollywood film last year, is narrated by a biologist on a mission to explore the area. She records her initial impressions of the abandoned landscape, including a “low, powerful moaning” audible at dusk. Her team discovers a structure in the earth, an inverted tower. The biologist is lowered into it. There is a smell like rotting honey. The walls are covered with words, the writing system of some kind of fruiting body. She hears a heartbeat. The structure turns out to be a living organism, a “horror show of … beauty and biodiversity.” The biologist leans in close and is sprayed with golden spores — infected….

(2) A LOT OF GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. The Hugo Book Club, an unofficial blog about its namesake, has tweeted a long, thoughtful thread about the Best Fan Writer Hugo category, probing how meaningful it is — or isn’t — that any given fan has previously heard of all the finalists. Thread starts here.

(3) IT’S MONEY THEY HAVE. Got $30,000? Then you could make the required minimum bid on this “Apollo 11 Flown and Crew-Signed Beta Cloth Mission Insignia Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Signed and Certified”, a lot coming up in Heritage Auctions’ Armstrong Family Collection IV sale November 14-16.

(4) PUBLISHING NEWS. This year’s Hugo-winning Best Editor – Long Form, Navah Wolfe, is surprisingly available after a shakeup at Saga Press.

(5) GOVERNMENT FIGURE KNOWS GENRE. France’s new EU Commissioner is a science fiction fan and author according to Politico’s summary “4 things to know about Thierry Breton”.

He’s into sci-fi

Back in 1984, Breton co-wrote a science fiction novel called “Softwar” based around the National Software Agency (which in no way resembles the U.S. National Security Agency). Billed as a “technology thriller,” the novel’s plot is centered on an American cyberattack on Soviet computers. “At the time no one was speaking about viruses, the word didn’t exist,” Breton said, according to Liberation.

However, his co-author Denis Beneich later claimed Breton “never wrote a word of this novel” although “he had the idea for it.”

Breton, whose Commission portfolio would include the space industry, wrote two other novels in the mid to late 1980s — “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all three of his books are worth checking out, if only for the cover art).

His love of sci-fi doesn’t stop with books, however. Breton also helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just north of Poitiers in western France. Its tag-line is “Expect the unexpected,” which sounds like good advice ahead of a hearing before the European Parliament.

(6) MILFORD. The New York Times reintroduces people to Milford, PA’s publishing and film history in “A Cabin With a Literary Pedigree”.

Charlie Chaplin slept here. So did Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Franz Liszt, Warren Harding, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Wolfe, Cloris Leachman and Arlene Dahl. Likewise, D.W. Griffith, who, in 1912, shot two movies — “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills” and “The Informer” — in this dot of a town in the foothills of the Poconos.

Josh Sapan has slept here too — as often as his schedule permits. But 33 years ago, when Mr. Sapan learned of Milford’s many charms from a friend, he knew nothing about the town’s past. Still, he was sufficiently captivated to buy a waterfront cabin.

It was enough that he could look out his windows after dark and see no illumination but the moon, enough that the Delaware rolled along mere steps from his door. “I just love houses on rivers and I really love this house,” said Mr. Sapan, 67, the president and chief executive of AMC Networks, a Manhattan-based company that owns and operates cable channels including AMC, BBC America and SundanceTV. “I don’t know what it is. I find it quite magical, if that’s the right word.”

Mr. Sapan had yet to learn that the novelist Stephen Crane had camped out for a summer in Milford with friends, and published a satirical newspaper during his stay, that Milford was the birthplace of the conservation movement, and that in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the red hot center of the science fiction writers’ universe, even figuring in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” because several big names in the genre, notably the literary agent Virginia Kidd, had settled in town….

Andrew Porter left a comment there filling in more of the “big names” only alluded to in the article:

Milford is associated with many science fiction writers. Authors Damon Knight, James Blish and Judy Merrill also lived there. It was the setting for the annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference for many years, starting in the 1950s, which spun off other “Milford” conferences, most notably in the UK and Seattle, as well as the “New Wave” in SF in the mid-1960s. Also in Milford, the foundations were laid for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an active organization which presents the annual Nebula Awards. For more information about how Milford looms so large in the science fictional universe, see the Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Writer’s_Workshop

(7) EVANS OBIT. “Robert Evans, colorful Paramount boss behind Rosemary’s Baby, dies at 89” reports SYFY Wire.

…Given the reins of Paramount Pictures with little experience in 1966 thanks to a friendship with corporate owner Gulf & Western’s Charles Bluhdorn, Evans turned the company around thanks to a string of critical darlings that would eventually become classics. During his tenure as production VP, he oversaw genre fare like Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Moving on from leading the studio, Evans personally produced movies like the adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman), Popeye (with Robin Williams), and early comic book film The Phantom. Some hit higher highs than others, but Evans was a constant presence in the industry.

(8) BRETT OBIT. “Robin Brett, NASA scientist who studied ‘moon rocks,’ dies at 84” – the Washington Post has the story.

Robin Brett, a NASA scientist who 50 years ago was among the first to study and direct research on lunar samples — popularly known as ‘‘moon rocks’’ — from the Apollo space missions, died Sept. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 84.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Jill Brett.

From 1969 to 1974, Dr. Brett was chief of the geochemistry branch at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 1969, he was among a select four scientists present for the opening of a sealed box containing the first moon rocks from the initial Apollo lunar mission.

…When the lunar samples were first brought to Earth, they were kept for a period in a quarantined and sterile environment, lest they contain or exude a noxious substance that might be harmful in earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Brett doubted the necessity of this precaution, which he demonstrated, he said, by becoming the first man on Earth to lick a moon rock.

What did it taste like?

‘‘A dirty potato,’’ he answered.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Zombieland: Double Tap, which delivers if you want a pretty gory zombie movie with many good jokes.  Early in the film the four main characters are hiding out in the ruins of the White House.  They exchange Christmas presents even though it’s November 17 because they don’t have anything else to do.  Emma Stone gives Jesse Eisenberg a copy of the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.  (We don’t know why the White House has first editions of Tolkien.

“Why thank you,” Eisenberg says, “and look, you’ve ruined the book by scribbling on the first page.”

Of course, it isn’t really a Tolkien book but they did fake the original cover…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 28, 1951 — The Out There series premiered. It was one of the first SF anthology series. It lasted a mere twelve episodes. Some of the SF writers it adapted were Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury,  Bissell and Long. Heinlein in particular was a favorite source for them. 
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, critics intensely hated it, and it rated 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. It of course spawned Stargate SG-1 series franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Ray Bradbury originally wrote “Merry Christmas 2116” to be performed by Lanchester and her husband Charles Laughton. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 68. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep is a American comedy horror film starting Bruce Campbell is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 67. Janine Melnitz in the still-best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She is listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters 2020 which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 61. Writer of four novels in a decade twenty years ago including Virtual Girl which won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1958 Kristin Landon. Though she was working on a fourth novel in the series at the time of her death, the published novels will comprise the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 57. Her very first was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labelled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare Classics, Batman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 52. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
  • Born October 28, 1974 Joaquin Phoenix, 45. Currently The Joker. He hasn’t done much genre acting setting aside being Max in SpaceCamp when he was twelve, and being Billy Hercules in the “Little Hercules” episode of Superboy. Well he did a Shyamalan film but I refuse to consider them genre. 
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 37. The Eleventh Doctor, also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. Nor likely will. He’s also Jim in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.

(12) EL-MOHTAR REVIEWS. Amal El-Mohtar, in a book review column for the NYT, “Dark Books for Dark Times”, opines about His Hideous Heart, a collection edited by Dahlia Adler, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga, and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

… Conceptually “The Future of Another Timeline” is breathtakingly brilliant, and part of a constellation of time-travel stories this year that wed present-day activism to a willingness to change the past. But as I read, I found myself far more affected by the smaller, fiercer story of Tess and Beth’s early years — the story of feral friendships formed in extreme circumstances, of surviving abuse and finding the power to seek revenge or walk away from it. Everything about that story clutched at my heart, while the broader time-travel stakes and narrative diminished in effect; I became less concerned with the overarching conceit than with the story of these young women arguing over what love and honesty demand. But time travel creates the space for that story to happen — and Newitz’s book is, more than anything else, about the importance of fighting for such spaces. In that, it’s entirely successful.

(13) POWER OFF. Californian Abraham Lustgarten addressed the New York Times about the state’s power shutdowns: “Letter of Recommendation: Mandatory Blackouts” .

…The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record.

In fact, cutting power can exacerbate some fire risks. In a blackout, more people rely on home generators, many of which have been installed without permits and might be no less faulty than the utility’s own equipment. Detours and gridlock force more cars into vulnerable places. (Sparks off roadways are another top cause of wildfire.) The blackout makes it harder for the public to respond to fire emergencies even as it does little to prevent all the other factors that cause them — from careless barbecues to tossed-out cigarette butts to plain old arson. One of the state’s most serious fires so far this year was ignited by burning garbage.

But a mandatory blackout does have one radically positive effect. By suddenly withdrawing electrical power — the invisible lifeblood of our unsustainable economic order — PG&E has made the apocalyptic future of the climate crisis immediate and visceral for some of the nation’s most comfortable people. It is easy to ignore climate change in the bosom of the developed world. But you can’t fail to notice when the lights go out.

…In the American West, our climate will only get hotter and drier, our wildfires worse. Every year more places are going to burn, and we will, repeatedly, be horrified by the losses. But we should not be shocked by them. The blackouts have laid bare the uncomfortable fact that the infrastructure we’ve built and maintained over the course of many decades isn’t matched to the threats we face in our rapidly unfolding climate emergency….

(14) THAT HAWAIIAN BURGER JOINT. Eater: Los Angeles says this non-genre yet irresistible film reference will come to life on October 30 and 31 (only): “Big Kahuna Burger From ‘Pulp Fiction’ Pops Up in Hollywood Next Week”

Fat Sal’s, the overstuffed sandwich makers in Hollywood, have gotten into the mix before, and now for Halloween the group is transforming its corner address off Highland into a Big Kahuna Burger from the movie Pulp Fiction.

Much like in years past, Fat Sal’s plans to its dining area to fit the new temporary theme. Expect a grassy Hawaiian-tinged awning and overt nods to the 1994 film everywhere, including slogans (“Now that is a tasty burger” or “That’s that Hawaiian burger joint”) and an image of Jules Winnfield, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino flick. A separate area will be turned into the pawn shop from the film as well, and diners will be able to check out merchandise in that space…

Fat Sal’s Hollywood. 1300 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.

(15) ANOTHER TRIUMPH. BBC finds thumbs up all over: “Seven Worlds, One Planet: ‘Gorgeous’ nature series gets five-star reviews”.

Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature series has received five-star reviews from critics, one of whom says it may be the BBC’s “best wildlife show ever”.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, the Mail’s Christopher Stevens says, is “visually magnificent” and has photography that is “almost abstract in its beauty”.

The show, says the Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, is “another landmark series” from “the indefatigable Sir David”.

(16) IPO. “Virgin Galactic: Branson’s space firm set for stock market launch”.

Virgin Galactic, the space venture backed by Sir Richard Branson, is ready to launch – not into space but on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Shares in Virgin Galactic are set to start trading on Monday, a first for a space tourism company.

The move follows Virgin’s merger with publicly-listed Silicon Valley holding firm Social Capital Hedosophia.

That deal brought $800m (£624m) to Virgin as it rushes to meet its goal of sending customers to space in 2020.

Taking the firm public will “open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts,” Sir Richard said at the time.

…The company, founded in 2004, has spent more than $1bn developing its programme, which is years behind schedule and took a hit after a fatal accident in 2014.

However, Virgin has told investors it hopes to make 16 trips to space with customers as soon as next year.

In a presentation, it predicts that revenue will skyrocket as the number of flights increases.

In 2023, the expects to make 270 trips to space, bringing in nearly $600m and generating profit of more than $430m.

About 600 people, including pop star Justin Bieber, have already put down deposits for the 90-minute experience at a price of about $250,000 per ticket, according to the company.

(17) AROUND THE WORLD IN A LOT OF DAYS. NPR takes note when “Secret Air Force Space Plane Lands After More Than 2 Years In Orbit”.

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.

Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”

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