Pixel Scroll 1/18/18 It’s Pixels All the Way Down!

(1) ADAPTING L’ENGLE. “Realizing A Wrinkle in Time” behind-the-scenes featurette. Opens in theatres on March 9.

From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.


(2) TITANCON GOH. TitanCon 2018, to be held August 24-26 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has announced its first guest of honour – Kit Cox.

Memberships will be on sale soon! If you’d like to find out more about the venue, dates and Guest of Honour, please click the link below to our website.

Kit Cox is known to most as the author of the Union-verse novels but this move to the written word came after many years of working in illustration, concept design and fine art.

A regular cartoonist for national papers; as well as a prolific illustrator in many RPGs, magazines and periodicals, Kit is one of the many creative names who goes silently hand in hand with more public figures. Always happy to place pencil to paper and try new things, Kit’s love of horror movies led him to the film industry working on many concepts for screen monsters and makeup designs; aided by a long academic study of casualty simulation and anatomy for that added realism.

(3) HAYDEN PLANETARIUM. Upcoming programs at New York’s Hayden Planetarium include —

January 22 – Spend an evening with Neil deGrasse Tyson as he reviews headline stories in the Universe, drawn from breaking news in 2017.

February 5 – Join astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker as she discusses the structures and features of exoplanets, and their potential for harboring life.

(4) WISH UPON A STAR. Paul Gilster discusses interstellar travel without getting lost in “Pulsar Navigation: Mining Our Datasets” at Centauri Dreams.

Visualizing a Pulsar Navigation Network

Using millisecond X-ray pulsars (MSPs) for galaxy-spanning navigation raises more than a few questions, especially when we try to predict what an artificial pulsar navigation system might look like to outside observers. If we are willing to posit for a moment a Kardashev II-level civilization moving between stars at relativistic velocities, then we would make as one of our predictions that such a system would be suitable for navigation at such speeds. In following the predictive model of Vidal’s paper, we would then check through our voluminous pulsar data to see how such a prediction fares. The answer, in other words, is in our datasets, and demands analyzing the viability of pulsar navigation at high fractions of c.

To my knowledge, no one has yet done this, making Vidal’s paper a spur to such research. The key here is to make predictions to see which can be falsified. But a quick recap for those just coming in on the discussion. What Vidal (Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) offers is an examination of millisecond X-ray pulsars as navigational aids, of the sort we’re already beginning to exploit through experiments via NASA, Chinese efforts and studies at the European Space Agency.

(5) AN UNASSUMING AWARD. Mark Hepworth calls the judges of the Subjective Chaos (Kind of) Awards, “A group of book bloggers with an entirely trophy-free award but looks kinda fun anyway. I particularly like the ‘blurring the boundaries’ award.”

The writer of Bethan May Books introduces these sff awards with the admission, “Not really an award. There is no prize. Or a ceremony. I will be drinking though.”

Once upon a time, there was a book blogger, struggling to work out instagram and keep up with threads on twitter.

‘Just like me’ you may be thinking, ‘Who is Chuck Wendig anyway?’ right?

One day this hapless book blogger found herself invited to take part in an adventure of alarmingly increasing proportion.

The Wise Sage from The Middle Shelf declared ‘Come! Join us on our quest to discover the Best Books Released in 2017! There will be nominating, there will be shortlists, there will be endless twitter notifications the likes of which you’ve never seen before. But there will also be companionship, reknown, and most importantly; new books to read!’

And so our brave book blogger ventured forth into this new, daring fellowship. What perils await them as they forge through C’s categories? Will they conquer the towering mountains of books? And will their bonds prove strong enough to reach an agreement in the end?

These are The Subjective Chaos (Kind Of) Awards*

Do you dare follow the adventure?

Follow the link to their shortlist – your Mount TBR may grow!

(6) KEEPS ON TICKING. It’s awfully hard to get rid of them you know — “Amazon’s ‘The Tick’ Renewed for Second Season”.

The new season of 10 more episodes of the half-hour superhero series will premiere in 2019.

Amazon Studios has handed out a renewal to The Tick for a second season.

The new season of 10 more episodes of the half-hour superhero series will begin production in 2018 and is set to bow in 2019 exclusively on Prime Video in over 200 countries. The Tick is based on the acclaimed comic about an accountant who realizes his city is owned by a global supervillain long thought to be dead. He falls in with a strange blue superhero as he uncovers the conspiracy.


  • January 18, 1644 — John Winthrop documented the first known unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in North America.
  • January 18, 2008Cloverfield premiered. An Easter egg in the movie is a picture of the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in a side view mirror of a car.


  • Born January 18, 1882 — A.A. Milne


(10) COMMUNITY BUILDING. Chuck Wendig calls these “Assorted Thoughts On Impostor Syndrome, Gathered In A Bouquet”.

…When I got there, arriving a bit early for the event, I went into the green room and I was alone.

Except for Neil Gaiman.

Neil Fucking Gaiman. Good Omens! Sandman! The Ocean at the End of the Lane! Stardust and Coraline and American Gods and Neverwhere and…

(C’mon. Dark poet, elegantly mussed hair, you know him, you love him.)

And I stood there for a moment, utterly frozen. He was, if I recall, looking at his phone.

And I said: “I can go.”

Because I thought, I should leave him alone! I don’t belong here. THIS IS RARE AIR AND I DO NOT DESERVE TO BREATHE IT.

And then he Tasered me and called security.

*checks notes*

Wait, no.

He smiled warmly and invited me in and was friendly and delightful and made me feel like I belonged. The other authors welcomed me too and it was awesome, even if I (even now!) still feel like a stowaway on that boat.

As writers we so often have the feeling like we are a Scooby-Doo monster about to be unmasked. I don’t think you ever really lose that.

BUT — and here is a vital part of the lesson — you can help diminish that feeling in other writers by making them feel welcome and a part of the tribe.

Recognize other writers feel like impostors too — and you can combat the feeling in yourself by helping them combat it when you welcome them. In this, community blooms.

You’ll never lose it. But you can help others feel like they belong. And when community grows you feel less alone

(11) THE JOY OF PULP. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler wishes Betty White a happy 41st birthday (for no particular reason at all) before taking up the latest F&SF — “[January 17, 1963] Things of Beauty (February 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

One entity that has not stopped aging, and whose aging I have whinged upon quite frequently, is Fantasy and Science Fiction, a magazine now in its 14th year and third editor.  Editor Avram Davidson has given me a decent issue this time around, for which I am grateful.  See if you enjoy the February 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction as much as I did…

Counter Security, by James White

Ah, now this is what I read sf for.  This largely autobiographical piece features a young, underemployed night watchman in a British department store who must solve the mystery of (what appears to be) a spiteful, peppermint chewing, floor-spitting, Black-hating skulker before the staff quit en masse from worry and fear.  I finished this novelette in one sitting on the beach at Waimea as the sun rose, and I’m not sure a more perfect half hour was ever spent.  Five stars.

(12) SAY CHEESE. Pictures of “DNA in action”: “Chemistry ‘Van Gogh’ could help with cancer”.

Human DNA contains the genetic instructions for building and running the human body.

It is RNA polymerase III’s job to come along and read the genetic instruction manual.

The team at the Institute of Cancer Research used a technique called cryo-electron microscopy, which won the 2017 Nobel Prize for chemistry for revolutionising biochemistry.

They purified RNA polymerase III, immersed it in water and then rapidly froze it.

This preserves the microscopic structure of objects and even captures them mid-movement.

A beam of electrons is then used to take images from lots of angles, which are then built up into a detailed 3D image.

Dr Alessandro Vannini, who published the findings in the journal Nature, told the BBC: “You don’t get the structure all at once, you just see individual strokes and it takes a while to see the big picture.

“It was definitely a Van Gogh.”

The researchers caught the molecular machinery binding to DNA, unzipping it and reading the information in the genetic code.

(13) FIRST SCAN. Neither snow, nor ice, nor gloom of night will keep these satellites from their appointed rounds — “ICEYE’s ‘suitcase space radar’ returns first image”. Works through clouds and at night, and is cheap enough that they could put up large numbers of satellites, allowing the same area to be photographed several times a day.

Finnish start-up ICEYE has released a “first light” image from its novel radar satellite, which was launched to orbit last Friday.

The picture depicts a region of Alaska incorporating Noatak National Preserve.

ICEYE is taking a radical new approach to satellite radar, shrinking the size of what have traditionally been big, power-hungry spacecraft into a volume similar to that of a suitcase.

The Helsinki-based firm plans to launch a large network of these platforms.

This will enable multiple radar images a day to be acquired over the same location on Earth – a service that has not previously been available.

(14) QUEASINE. And you thought crottled greeps sounded strange—the BBC reports “In Iceland, food is a challenge, not a meal”. Warning for graphic food descriptions!

Bringing people up-close to the source of their food is admirably rational, but that rotten fish seemed anything but. And as I ate my way down to and across capital city Reykjavik, eating more rotten, sour and dung-smoked foods, it occurred to me that Icelandic food culture was not only odd, but possibly unique. Though eating cheaper and often less-obviously appetizing parts of animals and plants is common, every other national cuisine I’d tried took pride in how good they were able to make their calf stomach (Bulgarian shkembe), sheep’s brain (Moroccan mokh mchermel) or cows’ tails (Jamaican oxtail stew). But Icelanders like Gísli, it seems, revel in how bad their traditional food is.

(15) IMPERVIOUS DIGESTIONS. New Tiptree Fellow Ineke Chen-Meyer is noted for nonfiction pieces like this one from 2016 — “Which Secret Superpower Do All Historical Fantasy Heroes Have?”

Nope, the most freakish physical attribute of the historical fantasy protagonist isn’t their catlike vertical leap or ability to absorb multiple blows to the head without CTE. It’s their immunity to death by diarrhoea. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly okay with trading historicity for a compelling story. It’s just that… well, if you specialise in killing off vast numbers of named characters, I’m surprised none of them have ever suddenly died of a communicable disease, throwing a spanner into the works of whatever elaborately engineered plan the rest of their faction had come up with. I know, it’s not as dramatic as a stabbing. But it’s also a rich, mostly-untapped source of dramatic irony: you can be the best in every aspect it’s possible for a person to control—the perfect warrior, the cleverest sage—and still get undone in the most unglamorous, most human of ways.

(16) PLUTOCRAT’S PICKS. From CNBC: “Bitcoin backer Cameron Winklevoss shares his 2 favorite science fiction books”. Not these two —

When a Reddit user asked if Winklevoss has read two other science fiction novels, “Cryptonomicon” or “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, Winklevoss responded he’s checked those off of his list too.

(17) SUIT UP. Marvel says you’re invited to the Wedding of the Century – X-Men Gold.

(18) TOMB RAIDER. MGM has released Tomb Raider – Official Trailer #2.

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared. From Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Tomb Raider is the story that will set a young and resolute Lara Croft on a path toward becoming a global hero. The film stars Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl) in the lead role, under the direction of Roar Uthaug (The Wave), with Oscar-winner Graham King (The Departed) producing under his GK Films banner. The film¹s production begins on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the wildly popular videogame franchise from Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal.


[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Will R. and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/18 The Man Who Scrolled Christopher Columbus Ashore

(1) THE FIRE THIS TIME. The Paris Review tells about “Staging Octavia Butler in Abu Dhabi”. This really is the best article about the opera I’ve seen so far.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, opened in November after years of delay and a cost rumored to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The same weekend as LAD’s grand opening, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center hosted the world premiere of Parable of the Sower, an opera composed by the singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon, a queer Brooklyn-based activist, and based on the prophetic novel by Octavia Butler. At first glance, it seems unlikely that a “starchitect” museum in Abu Dhabi, where gas is cheap and water is expensive, would stage an opera about a fiery, drought-ridden apocalypse. And yet, taken together, the museum and the opera initiate a set of conversations—about art and culture and change—that upend stereotypes about the Gulf.

The book Parable of the Sower (1993) was intended as the first of a trilogy. It’s set in a world where California is burning, rivers have dried up, and the president sells entire towns to the highest corporate bidder. Violence is everywhere, and not even houses of worship are safe. In the second book, Parable of the Talents (1998), a president is elected who promises to “make America great again.” The third book was never published. Given Butler’s prescience about America’s worst impulses, perhaps it’s best that the third book never came out: Do any of us really want to know how bad things might become?

The teenage heroine of the story, Lauren Olamina, flees her town on the outskirts of Los Angeles after the neighborhood is burned and looted by “pyros,” people addicted to a drug that makes fires better than sex. Along with two other survivors from the neighborhood massacre, Lauren decides to walk north, perhaps to Canada or to anywhere where “water doesn’t cost more than food.”

(2) COSMOS RENEWED. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak told readers that “Fox has renewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos for a second season”.

The networks made the announcement today during the Television Critics Association winter press tour, and deGrasse Tyson and producer Seth McFarland confirmed the news on Twitter, saying that the season will air in Spring 2019 on Fox and the National Geographic channel.

(3) SHARPENING CRITICS. Britain’s Science Fiction Foundation is taking applications for the “2018 Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism”.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism. The 2018 Masterclass, the Eleventh, will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July. This year we will be at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Three days of extremely enjoyable discussion and exchange of ideas in the delightful environment of the city of Cambridge, the Masterclass is highly valued by past students.

The 2018 Class Leaders are:

Nick Hubble (Brunel University) – Nick is co-editor of the Science Fiction Handbook (2013) and London in Contemporary British Fiction (2016)

John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) – John is co-editor of the mummy anthology Unearthed, his introduction for which was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction.

Stephanie Saulter (author) – Stephanie is the author of Gemsigns and its sequels

(4) PKD SERIES CALLED WEAK. James Poniewozik of the New York Times finds the new series disappointing: “Review: In ‘Electric Dreams,’ the Future Seems Outdated”.

I can’t blame the weaknesses of “Electric Dreams,” whose first season arrives on Amazon on Friday, on the source material: The episodes’ writers had great leeway to stray from the originals. (The same happened with Amazon’s Dick adaptation “The Man in the High Castle.”)

Nor is a lack of star power at fault. The credits of the 10 self-contained episodes include Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston (one of 14 — 14! — executive producers) and Janelle Monáe (the actress-singer who recorded “The ArchAndroid” plays an arch android).

But this license and talent, plus the lavish scale of production, add up to little that feels freshly imagined or newly provocative.

(5) BUT CONTRARIWISE. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han takes the opposite view: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Showcases the Best of What Sci-Fi Can Offer”.

…That said, if Black Mirror is a nightmare, then Electric Dreams is… well, a gorgeous dream.

There’s plenty of darkness in Amazon’s new series, but it’s fundamentally geared toward the light. Like every anthology series, it’s a bit of a grab bag, but there’s something special to be found in each episode, and the heights reached by the best installments are more than worth the patience required to get through the less coherent entries.

(6) SMUGGLERS TREASURE. The Book Smugglers have a new volume out: “Announcing Gods and Monsters: The Anthology (and a Giveaway)”. They’re giving away three copies – see the post for details.

From a thief and a stolen goddess, to twin sisters more different than their fathers ever could have imagined. From a priestess fighting gods incarnate, to a cursed artifact and journal concealing a great evil. From a young boy discovering his godly lineage and power, to two trans boys falling in love and summoning demons. Gods and Monsters collects six tales of great and terrible powers, including:

  • “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” by Alison Tam
  • “The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson
  • “A Question of Faith” by Tonya Liburd
  • “It Came Back” by Samantha Lienhard
  • “Duck Duck God” by José Iriarte
  • “Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb

All stories originally edited and published by The Book Smugglers.

(7) HAPPY FAIL SAFE DAY. This was a push-notice to every cellphone in Hawaii. It took them 38 minutes to push a notice of false alarm. No matter what they said, today will not be the day before the Day After after all.

(8) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series — “Birthday Reviews: Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Maze of Maal Dweb”.

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893 and died on August 14, 1961. Along with H.P. Lovecraft, he was one of the major authors at Weird Tales, writing stories which were similar to the dark fantasies Lovecraft wrote.

Smith maintained a correspondence with Lovecraft for the last 15 years of Lovecraft’s life. While Lovecraft wrote about Cthulhu, Smith wrote about the far future Zothique. Smith was named the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner in 2015.

(9) WEIRDER STILL. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent the link to this anecdote about E. Hoffman Price with the note: “Today we explore one of the more unexpected consequences of smoking. If this had happened to Kipling it’s possible that line about a good cigar being a Smoke might not have been written.” — Smoking, more dangerous than you ever knew..

So. Everybody has heard of Howard Philips Lovecraft I presume? Well of course you have, even Xbox playing preteens can tell you that Lovecraft is Cthulhu’s agent. How about Robert E. Howard then? Well of course you have, even Netflix watching preteens can tell you Howard is Conan’s agent. (Though you can confuse them by asking which Conan does he represent?)

So what about E. Hoffman Price? Hah, got you there, you thought I was going to ask about Clarke Ashton Smith next, didn’t you? No, Smith is for another day when I’m feeling a little more eldritch. Not that E. Hoffman Price couldn’t write a pretty effective weird story when he was in the mood. He started selling weird shorts back in the 1920s and didn’t stop until not long before he passed away in the 1980s. I doubt anybody keeps selling that long if they don’t have the knack for it….

(10) CHECK IT OUT. The ACME Corporation has an admirer:

(11) EMBERG OBIT. Bella Emberg (1937-2018): British actress, died 12 January, aged 80. Television work includes Doomwatch (two episodes, 1970-71), Doctor Who (three episodes, in 1970, 1974 and 2006), The Tomorrow People (one episode, 1977).


  • January 13, 1888 — National Geographic Society founded.
  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee
  • January 13, 2008 — The Terminator franchise premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.


  • Chip Hitchcock calls it “misapplying the supernatural” in this installment of Bizarro.
  • John King Tarpinian notes in Close to Home that one person’s sci-fi is another’s biography.

(14) BEWARE THE PEAR. Here’s a tweet of some RedWombat-inspired cosplay –

Know Your Meme’s explanation of “LOLWUT” includes this RedWombat reference —

The surrealist painting of the laughing fruit, titled The Biting Pear of Salamanca[1], was posted to deviantART on February 27th, 2006 by Ursula Vernon. Inspired by pop surrealism, she wrote that the pear “lives off low-flying birds, hand-outs, and the occasional unwary sightseer.”

(15) COMING TO VIDEO. The Hellraiser series continues on video:

Experience a terrifying new chapter in the legendary Hellraiser series when Hellraiser: Judgment arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, Digital, and On Demand February 13 from Lionsgate. The tenth film in the classic horror series tells the story of three detectives as they struggle to solve a horrifying murder, but instead find themselves thrust into the depths of Pinhead’s hellacious landscape. Including horror icon Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), it was written and directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Hansel & Gretel).


(16) SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON. Apparently, January 31 brings four lunar events for the price of one. The Crescenta Valley Weekly covers that, JPL’s 60th anniversary, and tells about a forthcoming mission, in “Inspired by Past, JPL Looks to the Future”.

On Jan. 31, there are several things happening. That night will see a full moon, a super moon (when the Moon is full at its closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), and a lunar eclipse blood moon (when the earth passes between the sun and moon, blocking out all of the light for a short while and giving the moon a reddish hue before and after). It’s a super blue blood moon. In addition, it is the 60th anniversary of the veritable birth of JPL.

“After Sputnik in 1957, the U.S. was just completely freaking out because the Soviets were the first into space. You’ve got this thing flying a couple hundred miles overhead beeping and it is a symbol of Soviet space technology and dominance. What people don’t realize is the U.S. response to Sputnik came from Caltech.

“The first satellite was Explorer I. So this Jan. 31 will be the 60th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I. It was designed, built and operated by Caltech and what would become JPL,” Gallagher said. “Our most iconic photo [at JPL] is of William Pickering, who ended up being the first director of JPL, James Van Allen, who discovered the Van Allen radiation belt that was named after him, and Wernher Von Braun. [The three] are standing at the National Academy of Science holding Explorer I over their heads. It is an amazing picture. And that is the birth of JPL, and how we got started. We are very excited about that.”

Moving further into the year there are missions that will look to explore space, but also those meant to look back at our home planet, to better understand our world’s behavior and our relationship to it.

“In spring 2018, there is something called GRACE Follow-On, or GFO, that will launch as an Earth Science mission. GRACE stands for Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment, so it is a follow-on to the first GRACE and it is going to continue that work,” Gallagher said.

GRACE operated for 15 years and eventually died long past its expected lifetime. It consisted of two spacecraft that made highly accurate measurements of the variation of Earth’s gravity. This provided all types of information about what was going on under the Earth’s surface in drought areas or big areas of subsidence that opened up. GRACE tracks changes caused by additional water in the ocean, because this all affects gravity.

“It’s something that has a lot of practical benefits to society,” said Gallagher. “There is also a smaller instrument that is going to be launched called Eco Stress in June 2018. That’s also an Earth Science mission.”

(17) EVEN OLDER. The “Rocket Research Institute, founded in Glendale, celebrates 75 years”.

When the Glendale Rocket Society was founded by students at Clark Junior High— the current site of Crescenta Valley High — the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II had just commenced and Dwight D. Eisenhower had not yet taken command of the Allied Forces in Europe.

The organization’s leader, George James, 14 years old at the time, brought the society to Glendale High, where it gained a small but devoted membership of students interested in the study of rockets.

“We have carefully avoided inviting those who have no other interest in the subject beyond idle curiosity,” James told the Glendale News-Press in 1946. “All of our members contribute something to the project.”

Now, 75 years later, the group has survived as the Rocket Research Institute, a nonprofit educational group staffed by engineering, space and safety professionals who contribute toward space- and rocket-education advocacy.

Originally inspired by a Buck Rodgers comic strip, James’ interest in rocketry during high school secured him a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an assistant testing mechanic when the facility employed about 300 people.

(18) FIRSTS. Syfy Wire digs into the history of The Twilight Zone: “Firsts: The first episode of The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959”.

Syracuse, New York native and World War II combat veteran Rod Serling had been working as a freelance scriptwriter in radio and television for years, scoring his big breakthrough in 1955 with “Patterns,” broadcast live on Kraft Television Theatre. That led to more work and a string of acclaimed teleplays such as “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), “The Comedian” (1957) and “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (1958).

But Serling, an activist at heart who dealt with many of his social and political concerns in his writing, had been increasingly frustrated with corporate censorship by small screen sponsors that continually forced him to change his scripts. He reckoned that a series in which he could hide commentary on the contemporary world inside science fiction and fantasy tales would get the censors off his back.

CBS gave Serling the green light to move forward with his idea for a half-hour science fiction anthology series, which he dubbed The Twilight Zone, after the success of “The Time Element,” a sci-fi script he sold to CBS for The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958. “The Time Element” was originally conceived as a pilot script for the program.

(19) BE THE ART. Good Show, Sir reports Lee Moyer, artist, designer and illustrator, has created a gallery of sci-fi cover recreations on his website. For example –

(20)  DUCK TECH. Cat Eldridge sent the link with the warning, “This is heart-wrenching.”

My Special Aflac DuckTM, part of Aflac’s ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer CampaignTM and developed by Sproutel, is an innovative, smart robotic companion that features naturalistic movements, joyful play and interactive technology to help comfort children coping with cancer. With a year of child-centered research behind it, My Special Aflac Duck is a part of Aflac’s 22-year commitment to providing care and support for children who have cancer. Aflac’s goal is to distribute this smart companion to the nearly 16,000 children in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with cancers each year, free of charge.


(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Einstein-Rosen —

Summer of 1982. Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him – at least not for now.

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/17 Don’t Crush That Scroll, Hand Me The Pixels

(1) THE CLOCK IS DRIPPING. Mary Anne Mohanraj reminds everyone today’s the last day for becoming a founding sponsor of the Speculative Literature Foundation on Drip. Minimum is a buck a month.

The Speculative Literature Foundation encourages promising new writers, assists established writers, supports magazines and presses, and develops a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction.

(2) ANNUAL ASIMOV DEBATE. You have until December 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern to enter the lottery for the right to purchase tickets to the 2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. It takes place at the Hayden Planetarium in New York on Tuesday, February 13, beginning at 7 p.m.

Each year, the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate brings the finest minds in the world to the Museum to debate pressing questions on the frontier of scientific discovery. Join host and moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, for the 2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

There is no purchase necessary, and no cost to enter the lottery. The lottery is randomized, and the order of entry has no effect on your chances of winning. …A full description of terms and conditions can be found here.

(3) NICOTINE OVERDOSE ON MARS. James Davis Nicoll turned the crew loose on Piper’s classic “Omnilingual” at Young People Read Old SFF. They took no prisoners!

H. Beam Piper’s career was cut short when, believing himself a failure and his career effectively over, he shot himself1. One of John W. Campbell’s stable of writers, he stands out as one of the few in that crowd willing to give women agency, even if he did not often feature one as a protagonist. Omnilingual is one of the few Piper stories with a woman lead, something I hope will distract from Piper’s stylistic quirks—the cocktail parties, the endless smoking—that tie the story’s creation to the early sixties. Presumably the people who suggested it had similar hopes. But what did my Young People think?

(4) CANADA’S ILLEGAL ALIENS. Echo Ishii’s series about old genre TV shows continues with “SF Obscure: First Wave”.

First Wave was a Canadian action/Adventure SF series that ran from 1998-2001. It ran for three seasons on the Space Channel in Canada. Yay Canada!

The plot centers around Cade Foster who’s framed for his wife’s murder and is on the run to uncover a vast alien conspiracy. From what I gathered-it took a bit to put the pieces together-the aliens kidnapped him and made him part of an experiment to test emotions or responses or something. Anyway, Foster doesn’t become their pawn and goes on the run. He is helped along by Eddie, a guy who ran a paranormal magazine and does all the computer nerd stuff. They are later joined in their quest to stop the aliens by an alien assassin turned ally named Joshua.

(5) HISTORIC ROCKET. Lookie what appears in “To Boldly Go,” the 11th and final episode of webseries Star Trek Continues (screenshot from around 44:00m) —

JJ explains:

It’s the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation won by “The Menagerie” (it’s the lucite rocket used in 1967, see screenshot). Rod Roddenberry was a big supporter of this webseries and was an extra in one of the episodes; I’m guessing that he lent it to the show as an Easter egg for fans.

As far as a prop, it’s a rocket and that’s the desk of an Admiral in a space force. I’m sure that lots of people at NASA have / had rocket and spaceship-related trinkets on their desks, too. And if you start at 44:00 and play forward, Robert Sawyer’s model display of all the starships Enterprise also appears in the Admiral’s office. (Sawyer co-wrote some of the ST:C episodes, including this one, and also appears as an extra.)

(6) THE TYPO FROM HELL. Adweek makes sure you don’t miss out when “Anomaly Goes to Hell This Holiday With Diabolical ‘Dear Satan’ Film Narrated by Patrick Stewart”. Video at the link.

Satan—the original Heat Miser!—reduces Santa Claus to a pile of ash, but ultimately saves Christmas, sort of, in this fiendishly farcical animated holiday film from Anomaly London.

The heavenly voiced Patrick Stewart narrates “Dear Satan,” portraying various characters with impressive wit and charm. Dude’s on fire throughout, basically.

… The new six-minute film begins with a little girl named Hope mistakenly asking Satan, rather than Santa, for a puppy at Christmastime. (She makes an unfortunate typo in her letter, and on the envelope, you see.) Naturally, her note goes straight to hell. And if you’re thinking the plot takes an infernal turn at that point, you’re getting warmer. Much warmer.

(7) OSCAR-WORTHY SHORTS. The Hollywood Reporter offers “Oscars: Breaking Down the 10 Animated Short Contenders”. Very little explicit sff content, however, there is a fannish tendency to think all animation is fantasy so that may not be a problem.

Revolting Rhymes

In celebration of what would be the 100th birthday of author Roald Dahl, Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer adapted his poetry collection based on classic fairy tales. Dominic West, Rose Leslie and Gemma Chan lend their voices to the likes of the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White.

(8) FEELING BETTER. Mike Kennedy recommends a video at Gizmodo, “An Undead Outbreak Summons a Stealth, Ruthless Response in Chilling Short The Plague.

It’s an otherwise quiet night when a woman hears a noise—and discovers her elderly father has wandered from his nursing home for an unannounced visit. Things then take a turn for the decidedly insane in Guillermo Carbonell’s short The Plague. Zombies are involved… but not how you’d expect.

(9) DON’T SAY HE CAN’TERBURY. The artist known as Chaucer hath some lofty ambitions:

(10) WEHRLE OBIT. Fan, artist, writer Joe Wehrle, Jr. died December 10. The Larque Press Blog has numerous examples of his work:

Joe Wehrle, Jr. is a writer and artist. His stories and artwork have appeared in the Cauliflower Catnip Pearls of Peril, Menomonee Falls Gazette, 1971 Clarion Anthology, Vampirella, Two-Gun Raconteur, Worlds of If, Galaxy and many other publications.

The family obituary is here:

Joseph J. Wehrle, Jr., 76, Punxsutawney, died Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh. Joseph was a self-employed artist working for The Digest Enthusiast. He was an illustrator, cartoonist and writer.  He enjoyed collecting comic books, original comic art and science fiction and fantasy genre books. Joseph loved jazz and blues music and loved playing the guitar and saxophone. He also loved his cat, Khufu. He is survived by a daughter, Jillian Rouse and husband Jim of Punxsutawney. Services will be private for family and are under the direction of the Deeley Funeral Home, Punxsutawney.


  • December 14, 1984 Dune premiered.
  • December 14, 1984 Starman opened in theaters.
  • December 14, 1990 – Marvel’s Captain America (but not the movie you’re thinking of) was released in the UK. This iteration didn’t make it to the U.S. for two years, then went direct-to-video.
  • December 14, 2007 — Another film adaptation of version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend was released. Matheson famously wondered why studios kept optioning his novel because they never once made a movie that followed the book.

(12) TIME CAPSULE. It’s not easy for humorists to keep ahead of reality.

(13) MOUSE EATS FOX. The Verge tries to figure out “What does Disney’s acquisition of Fox mean for the MCU?”

Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox’s film and TV studios in a landmark $52 billion deal. This means that the door is open for Disney to incorporate the Marvel properties previously controlled by Fox — including X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool — into its Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In its statement, Disney says the agreement will allow it to reunite these characters “with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love.” Marvel is already planning to overhaul the MCU after the studio’s “Phase Three” arc. That will finish with a fourth and supposed final Avengers film in 2019, which will end the Infinity War story. “There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after,” Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, has previously said.

(14) CHEAPER BY THE HUNDRED. Here’s a diagram showing who owns what Marvel characters after the Disney/Fox merger.

(15) BLUNDER DOWN UNDER. Michael J. Walsh gifted Filers with this link to the recipe for Vegemite Icy Poles, a sweet treat that violates the Geneva Convention. The instructions begin –

COMBINE in a saucepan the sugar, cocoa, honey, VEGEMITE, corn flour and milk.

(16) SURVIVOR. The BBC profiles the plesiosaur: “Sea reptile fossil gives clues to life in ancient oceans”.

A new fossil is shedding light on the murky past of the sea reptiles that swam at the time of the dinosaurs.

With tiny heads on long necks and four pointed flippers, plesiosaurs have been likened to Scotland’s mythical Loch Ness monster.

The German discovery proves that these sea creatures were alive more than 200 million years ago during the Triassic.

The fossilised bones give clues to how the animal survived a mass extinction that wiped out most living things….

By being warm-blooded, plesiosaurs were able to roam the open seas in late Triassic times.

”Warm-bloodedness probably was the key to both their long reign and their survival of a major crisis in the history of life, the extinction events at the end of the Triassic,” said Prof Sander.

Plesiosaurs were not as hard hit by the extinction as shallow water and coastal animals. Their fossils have been found all over the world in Cretaceous and Jurassic rocks.

(17) ACCIDENTAL FANFIC. People are loving it — “Harry Potter gets a weird new chapter from a computer”.

Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash is a new story created by a predictive keyboard.

“He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family,” runs one line from the ridiculous – and funny – tale.

It was created by the team at Botnik, who fed all seven books through their computer programme.

(18) ROBOCRIMINAL. Jackie Chan fights somebody who looks vaguely like the lovechild of Voldemort and the Terminator in this Bleeding Steel trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/17 Blue, Blue Pixels Behind The Stars, Yellow Scroll On The Rise

(1) TRAINING WHEELS. Travel from Chicago to next year’s San Jose Worldcon as part of Traincon 4. The organizers now have a FaceBook page.  Here’s the URL.

Janice Murphy forwarded the basic info posted by Bill Thomasson, saying the cost is around $400 one way.

We’ll be taking sleeper cars as a group To Worldcon 76 From Chicago’s Union Station.  We’ll be riding Amtrak to San Jose and back via the Chief, the Zephyr and the Coastal, but that means we have to reserve roomettes as a group for the discount, and we have to do it before November 21 — THIS year.  Roomettes have two beds, two person occupancy. A note on the down payment from Bill:

“I am asking everybody who signs up to pay me the basic fare up front. For the outbound trip that is $214.20 for adults and $202.30 for seniors (62+). For the return trip, it is $171 for adults and $161.50 for seniors. As previously mentioned, Amtrak’s roomette prices go up as you add more rooms, so the average price — which is what Traincon members will be asked to pay — will depend on the number we ultimately take. This won’t be known until the final payment is made, so I won’t be asking for roomette payment until then.”

Janice Murphy adds this pitch:

True, you could fly for less BUT — ALL meals are included with the fare, plus Amtrak has a VERY liberal luggage policy.  No need to mail those signed books home from the Convention.  You can take an empty suitcase out and bring it back filled with memories.

Frankly, this is about as close as some of us are going to get to traveling cross-continent on a train, and I’m not going to miss it.

We’ve got enough folks going out to make the sleeper reservations, though there is room for more so we are encouraging folks to get on board.  We definitely need more folks to take the trains back to Chicago in order to meet the minimum 15 bodies.

…So the thing is, if you would like to take advantage of the fact that you can have a couple of large bags to haul stuff back from the Con, just taking the trip back would be a hell of a lot of fun.

Because it’s a convention on the rails.

(2) THE ROAD TO LUNA. Newsweek says “India Is Going to Beat Us Back to the Moon—Here’s Their Plan”. And the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) is going to do it for less than a billion dollars. However, it’s not a manned mission.

And without an atmosphere on the Moon to keep the dust in check, it gets everywhere. So a key piece of Chandrayaan-2’s mission is to study the force that moves the dust around, an envelope of highly charged particles circling the Moon’s surface. Other tasks include taking the Moon’s temperature near its poles. The mission is also developing a new way to land more softly on the Moon’s surface. The entire project is supposed to cost just $93 million. Yes, with an M.

Although many Americans likely don’t think of India as a spacefaring nation since it doesn’t take part in the International Space Station, ISRO was established in 1969, less than a month after the first astronauts walked on the Moon.

(3) CHEKHOV’S LGBTQ. (A phrase invented here, by the way.) Chuck Wendig unpacks why “Not Being Inclusive Is Also A Political Choice” at Terrible Minds.

My response was:

  1. everything is forced in a story because they’re not magic
  2. stories are not a natural state and so nothing occurs naturally within them, nor can they “call for” anything
  3. inclusivity is part of good storytelling
  4. not being inclusive is also a political choice

This person deleted his tweet and went on to clarify that he in fact totally supported a pairing like, say, Finn/Poe, but he wanted it to have a purpose in the story and not simply be included for political purposes. Abstractly, what he’s saying is, he’s not a bigot, not a homophobe, he just cares about storytelling. Which is fine, in theory, and I’m not suggesting this person is worthy of excoriation. I’m sure he means well. But I think it’s really worth shining a big, bright-ass light on this, because I think there’s a soft, unacknowledged prejudice at work.

It assumes that there exists a default in storytelling — and that default is one way, and not the other. The default is straight relationships, or cisgendered characters, or able-bodied white dudes, or whatever. One of the criticisms Aftermath received was this very special kind of softball phobia, right? “I don’t mind LGBT characters, but these were forced into the narrative for a political agenda,” assuming that the characters are somehow not characters at all, but rather protest signs or billboards advertising THE WONDERS OF GAYNESS or THE FABULOSITY OF THE NON-BINARY SPACE PIRATE LIFE. The complaint then becomes that these characters are political levers, identified as such because their natures (be it LGBT characters like Sinjir Rath Velus and Eleodie Maracavanya, or a character of color like Admiral Rae Sloane, or women characters like Norra Wexley and Jas Emari) do not somehow factor into the plot. Like, Sinjir’s homosexuality is not a plot point. He doesn’t shoot gayness out of his eyes to blow up the Third Death Star, oh no, he’s only there as a commercial for GAY PEOPLE EXISTING.

(4) WHERE THE MERCURY’S HIGHEST. Look for the launch of the ‘Orson Welles on the Air’ website at Indiana University tomorrow.

Indiana University will launch its highly anticipated new website, Orson Welles on the Air: Radio Recordings and Scripts, 1938-1946, on Thursday evening, October 26, at  https://orsonwelles.indiana.edu/

The university is very excited to finally be sharing the new audio files with the world, said Erika Dowell, Associate Director & Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Lilly Library.

… In May 2016, Indiana University Libraries announced receipt of a $25,000 grant from the National Recording Preservation Foundation, which would be used to preserve original Welles recordings and establish a website where users could stream audio, search Welles’ radio scripts and access expert commentary on the broadcasts.

Mike Casey, the university’s director of technical operations for the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, has said the grant would be used toward the preservation of 324 master sound recordings in the form of lacquer discs and about 100 accompanying paper scripts. The script pages show tangible evidence of Welles’ creative process in their dramatic deletions and seemingly last-minute rewrites.

(5) SCIENCE’S COMPATABILITY WITH POETRY. SPECPO, blog of the SF and Fantasy Poetry Association, brings us “Atoms and Imagination: An Interview with Magdalena Ball”.

Some people think themes of science don’t go well with poetry, but you’ve written several books demonstrating a tremendous intersection between these and the imagination, including Sublime Planet, Repulsion Thrust, and Quark Soup. How do you explain your approach to poetics to others surprised at these possibilities?

I’ve always been poetically charged by science – even as a child (and I’m afraid I spent rather too much time in the Haydn Planetarium).  It’s probably as much due to my lack of mathematical capability as to anything else.  I’m able, for example, to look at a formula – let’s say Euler’s Prime, and see the visual beauty without having a clue how it’s applied or what might be created from it.  I can read about the collision of two neutron stars (!), and feel like something is opening up in me – a sense of possibilities and ways of seeing and perceiving and exploring both human emotion and the broadest picture of what we’re all made of, without being able to map the process in any experimental sense.  So it’s possible that my poetry is a kind of limitation spurred by not quite understanding.  That said, I do feel that all science is spurred on by not quite understanding and that many hypotheses have their basis in poetic wonderment.  I wrote about 10 poems through my reading of A Brief History of Time.  I usually get at least one poem from each issue of New Scientist.  I mean, and again, this is partly just my ignorance and playing with the semantics rather than accurate meanings of words, but how exciting and visceral is the idea of quarks having “flavours” (just one example).

(6) REDROBE. Sci-Fi Design would love to sell you one of these “Star Trek TNG Robes”. Are people brave enough to order the red ones?)

Step out of the shower and into the future when you wear this Star Trek TNG Robe. That way you can go straight from the shower and onto the bridge and not look too out of place. You can choose Blue (Science), Gold (Operations), or Red (Command). These robes are super soft and comfy and no worries, they are Starfleet regulation, I’m sure.

(7) LEACH OBIT. Rosemary Leach (1935-2017): British actress; died 21 October, aged 81. Genre appearances include Worlds Beyond (one episode, 1987), The Tomorrow People (five episodes, 1995), Chiller (one episode, 1995), Frighteners (one episode, 1997), Afterlife (one episode, 2005), The Great Ghost Rescue (2011), May I Kill U? (2012). Received the 1983 ‘best actress’ Olivier Award for her performance in ’84 Charing Cross Road’.


  • JJ finds that ancient puns are the best ones.

(9) THERE WILL BE A QUIZ. According to Motherboard, “The Most Scientifically Accurate Animation of a Sperm Cell Is in a ‘Star Wars’ Parody”.

As detailed in a paper published today in ACS Nano, Don Ingber and Charles Reilly, the founding director and a staff microbiologist at the Wyss Institute, respectively, teamed up to create a scientific animated short film called The Beginning. The film details the journey of a sperm cell to an egg, framed as a parody of Star Wars. While this might sound like the recipe for a trying-too-hard-to-connect-to-the-kids cutaway in a middle school sex education video, it actually led to a scientific discovery. In this case, it showed how energy is distributed through a sperm cell at the molecular level to propel the cell toward an egg.


(10) ALL GLORY IS FLEETING. Editors at Vox Day’s Infogalactic are continually at work reshaping the mirrored Wikipedia content – or making up for its absence. For example, Wikipedia has no article about Jon Del Arroz, but Infogalactic does. The only flaw is that the article’s link to JDA’s entry on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database takes you to John C. Wright’s entry instead.

Here’s a copy of the article at the Internet Archive — https://web.archive.org/web/20171025183844/https://infogalactic.com/info/Jon_Del_Arroz

(11) GIVES ME GAS. Atlas Obscura runs down “The Brief, Wondrous, High-Flying Era of Zeppelin Dining”.  S.M. Stirling’s Peshawar Lancers also has a nice riff on this.

Zeppelins flew so much lower than modern planes do that they did not have the same cold, dry, pressurized cabin air that dulls taste and smell today. Airship food would therefore have been much more flavorful than what we eat aloft today — even if the menu didn’t include fattened duckling with champagne cabbage. No expense was spared. In The Great Dirigibles: Their Triumphs and Disasters, John Toland describes the Hindenburg’s larder: turkeys, live lobsters, gallons of ice-cream, crates of all kinds of fruits, cases of American whiskey, and hundreds of bottles of German beer. The Graf Zeppelin allowed for 7.5 pounds of victuals per passenger, per day, whether fresh or in specially prepared cans, with labels hand-affixed by the chef’s sister.

(12) SO LET IT BE WRITTEN. Beyond embedded ID: “How a graphene tattoo could monitor your health” (BBC video).

A graphene-based tattoo that could function as a wearable electronic device to monitor health has been developed at the University of Texas.

Gold is often used in electronic components, but graphene is more conductive, can be hundreds of times thinner and allows the tattoo to wrinkle naturally with skin.

It is hoped that as the cost of graphene falls, such tattoos will become affordable for medical use.

(13) IT’S SUPPOSED TO PAY TO BE A GENIUS. Collection craze: “Albert Einstein’s happiness note sold for $1.6m”.

Einstein gave the note to a courier in Tokyo in 1922 instead of a tip.

He had just heard that he had won the coveted Nobel prize for physics and told the messenger that, if he was lucky, the notes would become valuable.

Einstein suggested in the note that achieving a long-dreamt goal did not necessarily guarantee happiness.

The German-born physicist had won the Nobel and was in Japan on a lecture tour.

When the courier came to his room to make a delivery, he did not have any money to reward him.

(14) MAGIC DIRT. Using satellites to search for rare-earth elements: “An eco-friendly wat to make smartphones”.

A team of researchers at Cambridge may have found a safer way to extract rare earth elements (REEs) – the vital material in our smartphones – that could end up saving the planet.

When you think about where your smartphone comes from, the first thing that comes to mind is normally the shop that you bought it from, the stranger who sold it to you online, or maybe even the lovingly wrapped present you received from a doting relative last year.

But in tech terms, that’s the equivalent of thinking that you came into the world because a stork flew to your parents’ house and delivered you straight to their door. The reality is a lot more complicated.

The truth is that the fundamental material your smartphone is made of probably came from one mine in China. The Bayan Obo mine produces more than 95% of the world’s rare earth elements; the uniquely multivalent metals that make your phone ‘smart’. Lanthanum, for example, gives smartphone screens their smoothness and colour pop; neodymium’s super-high magnetism puts microphones, speakers and vibration units all in the palm of our hands. But to have such a luxury has come at a heavy environmental cost.

(15) STOP WASTING TIME. “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new viral video is straight-up scientific fire.” The video is on Facebook here.

Most of all, though, Tyson is done — completely and utterly done — messing around when it comes to people who don’t take science seriously.

There are solutions. Take climate change, for instance. We could fight climate change with a carbon tax, or increased regulations, or more nuclear power plants, or solar energy plants. Heck, we could do all of the above! But nooooo, instead we have a Congress that literally throws snowballs around.

You can just hear in his voice how sick and tired he is of it.

“Every minute one is in denial, you are delaying the political solution that should have been established years ago,” says Tyson.

(16) THE HORROR. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog wants to add a few books to your TBR pile: “10 Hair-Raising Horror Novels Not Written by Stephen King”.

Every October, blogs near and far give the horror genre a bit of extra love, and that’s fantastic—but one can get the impression the genre suffered an unceremonious death two decades back as one list after another trots out the same (undeniably worthy) names. Sure, Stoker, Shelly, Shirley Jackson, and Lovecraft’s books are considered classics for a reason. And no, you can never go wrong with Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, or William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, or Stephen King’s [insert ’80s King novel here].

But as times change, so too do the things that unsettle us. Horror is all about readers taking an unflinching look into a dark reflection of the world around them. These 10 contemporary horror novels offer a great introduction to a genre that’s never truly left us—and find more terrifying reads on our list of 2016’s best horror novels.

First on their list —

Occultation, by Laird Barron Technically, Occultation is not a novel, but a short story collection. Before you head for the hills, know that this is widely considered one of the best horror collections since Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Barron is a modern master of the New Weird genre and plays with the best bits of Lovecraft’s mythos: dark, cosmic forces punching their way into our reality and reminding humans just how puny they are. An Alaskan native, Barron infuses many of his stories—like the award-winning “Mysterium Tremendum”—with wilderness settings that host profound dangers, bone-deep isolation, and an inevitable violence that blots out even the smallest spark of certainty or hope. It’s heady, horrible, and a voice that’s oft-imitated by less skilled storytellers.

(17) BACK SO SOON? The Beyond Official Trailer. The movie is coming January 9, 2018.

Set in 2019, The Beyond chronicles the groundbreaking mission which sent astronauts – modified with advanced robotics, through a newly discovered wormhole known as the Void. When the mission returns unexpectedly, the space agency races to discover what the astronauts encountered on their first of its kind interstellar space journey.


(18) ARM’S LENGTH TRANSACTION. Could it be…bad breath? The Verge warns, “Radius starts with an unbeatable science fantasy premise, then gets weird”.

And then along comes something unheralded, under-the-radar, and authentically strange, like the Canadian movie Radius. Suddenly the audience is on a fast-paced trip into the unknown, with no idea where this premise could possibly lead. And Radius, the latest collaboration between married writer-director team Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard, does start with an unbeatable premise that feels like a solid Stephen King horror story. A man wakes up in a wrecked truck and goes looking for help. His memory is completely gone. He can’t even remember his name. And slowly, he starts to realize that anything that comes within a certain radius of him — animals or people — instantly drops dead….

Radius will have a limited theatrical release on November 9th, and will appear on VOD services and Netflix on the same day.


(19) WINDOWS. Adweek comments on a PSA that, coincidentally, shows lots off SJW credentials — “See What’s Hiding in This Video About Putting Your Damn Phone Down”.

How do you get 18- to 24-year-olds to put their phones down while driving? Maybe not with the supernatural. But who doesn’t love cats and music?

For the Department of Transport, London agency AMV BBDO created “Pink Kittens.” Directed by We Are From LA, it feels more like a pop-oriented lifestyle shoot than a public service announcement.

At its start, a busy city scene scrolls by from a driver’s perspective (assuming you’re looking out your side window … which, incidentally, is another thing you shouldn’t really be doing).

Then comes the question: Did you see the pink kitten? Look again.


(20) FLEET SCHOOL SERIES. Orson Scott Card returns to the Enderverse in his new Fleet School series. The first book, Children of the Fleet, came out October 10.

Children of the Fleet is a new angle on Card’s bestselling series, telling the story of the Fleet in space, parallel to the story on Earth told in the Ender’s Shadow series.

Ender Wiggin won the Third Formic war, ending the alien threat to Earth. Afterwards, all the terraformed Formic worlds were open to settlement by humans, and the International Fleet became the arm of the Ministry of Colonization, run by Hirum Graff. MinCol now runs Fleet School on the old Battle School station, and still recruits very smart kids to train as leaders of colony ships, and colonies.

Dabeet Ochoa is a very smart kid. Top of his class in every school. But he doesn’t think he has a chance at Fleet School, because he has no connections to the Fleet. That he knows of. At least until the day that Colonel Graff arrives at his school for an interview.

(21) THE MAITRE’D RECOMMENDS. This year’s Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte feels enough time has passed that it’s safe for him to tell us where he ranked “The 2017 Hugo Best Novel finalists” on his own ballot. Hmmm. So he voted the winner in practically last place? Talk about marching to the beat of a different drummer! However, there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with his first-place choice —

My first vote went very clearly to All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The first week of school, Patricia smuggled an oak leaf in her skirt pocket—the nearest thing she had to a talisman, which she touched until it broke into crumbs. All through Math and English, her two classes with views of the east, she watched the stub of forest. And wished she could escape there and go fulfill her destiny as a witch, instead of sitting and memorizing old speeches by Rutherford B. Hayes. Her skin crawled under her brand-new training bra, stiff sweater, and school jumper, while around her kids texted and chattered: Is Casey Hamilton going to ask Traci Burt out? Who tried what over the summer? Patricia rocked her chair up and down, up and down, until it struck the floor with a clang that startled everyone at her group table.

I really loved this from the first chapter on, a sort of Jo Walton / Neil Gaiman mashup which really worked for me. It was the first of the Hugo finalists that I got (I was given an ARC in late 2015) but in fact the last that I read. Interestingly it has by far the most owners on both Goodreads and LibraryThing, but also the lowest ratings on both. It missed winning the award by 43 votes, the second closest of any result on the night, and won second place.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Steve Green, Martin Morse Wooster, Janice Murphy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, who will be along shortly to explain it.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/17 Three Times Pixel Filer Dreamed Of The Marvellous Scroll

(1) CORE FOR RAVENCLAWS. At BookRiot, Rachel Brittain offers “A Hogwarts House Reading List: 20 Books for Ravenclaws”.

It’s also about creativity and individuality, originality and acceptance. All Ravenclaws value learning and curiosity, but not all Ravenclaws are traditionally book smart or love school. Like all the houses, Ravenclaw is home to a wide and diverse group of students. Admittedly, most of them have aced arithmancy, potions, transfiguration, care of magical creatures, DADA, and received OWLs so good it made Professor Flitwick cry, but still. No two Ravenclaws are alike. Except in one thing: Ravenclaws. Love. Books.

So set down your Self-Spelling Quill and your charms homework for just a moment, friends, and check out these twenty books for Ravenclaws that are sure to spark your imagination and make you a little smarter along the way.

Two of the books on the list are:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

About: the letters written between Juliet Ashton and a group of friends from Guernsey who survived the German occupation by concocting a fake book club after being caught breaking curfew.

Because: it’s all about books and the friends you can make because of them, even in the midst of chaos and crisis.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

About: Naoki Higashida, who describes what it’s like to be autistic in his own words.

Because: learning how other people think and process the world around them is something you find endlessly fascinating and important.

(2) STAR CROSSED (OUT). Slate’s “Browbeat” blog tells how Kirkus Reviews changed their review after fierce criticism – from people who can’t have read the book yet: “YA Novel About ‘Mob Mentalities’ Punished After Online Backlash”.

American Heart won’t be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online YA readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as “culture cops.” To them, it was an irredeemable problem that Moriarty’s novel, which was inspired in part by Huckleberry Finn, centers on a white teenager who gradually—too gradually—comes to terms with the racism around her. On Goodreads, the book’s top “community review,” posted in September, begins, “fuck your white savior narratives”; other early commenters on Goodreads accused Moriarty of “profiting off people’s pain” and said “a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it.”

The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted “starred review,” which influences purchases by bookstores and libraries. Kirkus’ anonymous reviewer called the book “by turns terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching,” and praised its “frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.” The book’s critics were not pleased with the commendation.

Author Laura Moriarty commented on Facebook:

Dear friends, I write this with a heavy but hopeful heart. If and when you have time, I would appreciate your thoughts on this (longer than average) post. And feel free to share.

My new novel, American Heart, is a crossover novel (for both older teens and adults) that imagines a United States where American Muslims are deported to “safety zones” in Nevada. The main character is a young non-Muslim who believes the deportations are necessary until she meets an American Muslim headed to freedom. You may or may not have noticed, but even though the book isn’t due out until 1/30/18, it already has a very low rating on Goodreads. This is because a group, profiled in Kat Rosenfield’s “The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter” for Vulture, has been bombarding American Heart with one-star reviews because they don’t approve of the idea of the book and because they are assuming it is a white-savior narrative. (Actually the main character realizes, accurately, that she alone can’t save anyone, but you would only know that if you’d read the book.) Most of reviewers on Goodreads openly admit to not having read the book.

I was encouraged last week when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a starred review (starred as in ‘this is great!’ not one star like the mad people on Goodreads), calling it a “moving portrait of an American girl discovering her society in crisis, desperate to show a disillusioned immigrant the true spirit of America.” The Kirkus reviewer, an observant Muslim and a woman of color, called the book “sensible, thought-provoking, and touching . . and so rich that a few coincidences of plot are easily forgiven.” (Okay, okay, fine, I’ll take it.)

As one may have predicted, the book’s very vocal critics (again, this group is made up almost entirely of people who have not read the book) were outraged by the starred review. That’s fine. That’s their right to free speech. What has both surprised and disturbed me, and what I think would be surprising and disturbing to anyone concerned about censorship and free speech, was that this morning, Kirkus announced it was: retracting American Heart’s starred review.

Kirkus offered this explanation in “A Note From The Editor In Chief”.

It is a policy of Kirkus Reviews that books with diverse subject matter and protagonists are assigned to Own Voices reviewers—writers who can draw upon lived experience when evaluating texts. Our assignment of the review of American Heart was no exception to this rule and was reviewed by an observant Muslim person of color (facts shared with her permission). Our reviewer is an expert in children’s & YA literature and well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives. She found that American Heart offers a useful warning about the direction we’re headed in as far as racial enmity is concerned.

The issue of diversity in children’s and teen literature is of paramount importance to Kirkus, and we appreciate the power language wields in discussion of the problems. As a result, we’ve removed the starred review from kirkus.com after determining that, while we believe our reviewer’s opinion is worthy and valid, some of the wording fell short of meeting our standards for clarity and sensitivity, and we failed to make the thoughtful edits our readers deserve. The editors are evaluating the review and will make a determination about correction or retraction after careful consideration in collaboration with the reviewer.

(3) INDIE. SFWA President Cat Rambo completes her series about what the organization has to offer indie writers: “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part Four: What Lies Down the Road”

Going forward, I expect more and more indies to enter the organization as it proves that it’s giving them solid valid for their membership in the form of:

  • Community
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Publications like the Bulletin and the Singularity
  • Chances attend and sell books at places like Baltimore Bookfest, ALA, and other book-related events
  • Marketing opportunities for themselves such as the Speakers Bureau
  • Promotional opportunities for their work such as the New Release Newsletter
  • Reading material (there’s a lot on those internal forums)
  • The wealth of networking and information available via the SFWA Nebula Conference
  • Existing programs like Griefcom, the Emergency Medical Fund, and the Legal Fund

(4) CHECKMATE. A recent episode of The Post Atomic Horror Podcast, which appeals to fans with an interest in filking and other poetic diversions, featured a guest who summarized the Enterprise’s episode “A Night In Sickbay” to the tune “One Night in Bangkok”. The summary begins about 2 minutes into the episode and proceeds for roughly 4 minutes.

Come for the filk, stay for the commentary!

(5) VIEW FROM A GANTRY. Rocket Stack Rank’s October 2017 ratings are live, and Jeremiah Tolbert’s novella The Dragon of Dread Peak was the highest-rated story.

(6) REMODELING COMPLETE. Locus Online’s lovely redesigned website went live today.

(7) HOT OFF THE PRESS. An institute for design in Holland has come up with an experimental edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 which requires you to nearly burn the book to read it: “Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: This edition can be read only if you apply heat to the pages”. See it in action —


  • October 16, 1995 Candyman was released in theaters in the U.S.

(9) EYE SPY. At Fantasy Book Critic, Tom Doyle considers “The Unreliability of Magical Surveillance”.

In my American Craftsmen trilogy, psychic spies (farseers) can view intel across the distances of time and space (farsight). Their visions guide the missions of magical and mundane soldiers, and they play against the farseers of hostile powers. I want to look briefly at some of the popular stories of magical surveillance. The use of magical or psychic means to view across space and time is an old idea. Yet few of the stories that come immediately to mind view such power as an unambiguous good for the wielder. In the story of Snow White, the evil queen uses a magic mirror for scrying. Like many such devices, the mirror is a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, the mirror demonstrates what powerful surveillance can accomplish; for example, the attempt of Snow White and the huntsman to fake her death fails because of it. On the other hand, the mirror seems to be driving the queen to her eventual destruction by doling out only as much information as she requests and no more. In The Lord of the Rings, we have the Mirror of Galadriel, the palantíri, and the Ring itself. All of these are in their own way unreliable. The Mirror of Galadriel shows Sam a vision of an industrializing Shire that momentarily discourages him from his mission, when his mission is the one hope of Middle Earth. Denethor’s palantir gives him true intel, but only what Sauron wants him to see, and so he goes mad with despair. In turn, Aragorn is able to use Saruman’s palantir to nudge Sauron into rushing his attack. The Ring seems to serve as a sort of tracking device, but only when Frodo puts it on does it work well enough to zero in on him….

(10) SPEAKING UP. AudioFile is campaigning to get a Grammy Award nomination for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Those eligible to vote will do so between October 16-19.

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and bestselling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in digestible chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

(11) BALLS. Motherboard takes readers “Inside the Most Exclusive High-Powered Rocketry Event in America”.

“We might be digging a hole to get at this thing, man,” Joshua Allen told me as we barreled across Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in the back of a covered pickup truck.

Allen and his peers from Oregon State University had just launched their homemade rocket at Big Ass Load Lifting Suckers (BALLS), an annual gathering of rocketeers that showcases the most powerful amateur rockets in the US. It was their first time at the event, held late in September, and they hoped that their two-stage rocket would fly to 100,000 feet, about one-third of the way to space proper. The Oregon State students, many of whom graduated in May, had spent the last year designing, building, and testing the rocket we were hunting from a pickup. Allen estimated that it contained over $20,000 of purchased and donated materials—and after a malfunction during its flight, he wasn’t sure they would recover it in one piece, if at all.

Every September for the last 27 years, the Tripoli Rocketry Association—one of the two amateur rocketry groups in the US—has hosted BALLS as a showcase of the rockets built by people like Allen that are too powerful to be safely flown anywhere but the middle of the desert. Black Rock is a well-worn stomping ground for amateur rocketry due to its expansive, barren lake bed that lacks any signs of life or flammable materials. This was the location that the first civilian team launched a rocket into space in 2004 and is frequented throughout the year by local high-powered rocketry groups in the southwest.

In order to bring hundreds of rocketeers together for a weekend of punching holes in the sky, Tripoli must obtain a flight waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the organization to fly over 100,000 feet. It’s the highest flight waiver granted to amateur rocketeers by a federal administration anywhere in the world.

(12) TOURIST ATTRACTION. Just how many tourists will be attracted is the question “A Giant Concrete Orb in Northern Iceland Moves With the Arctic Circle”. (Say what you like, it looks like Rover from The Prisoner to me.)

On Grímsey, a remote island 25 miles off the northern coast of Iceland, sits a massive orb of concrete that marks the Arctic Circle. The artwork, called Orbis & Globus (“Circle & Sphere”), weighs 8 metric tons (almost 9 tons US), and will be physically moved a short distance each year because the Arctic Circle is moving, too.

“The Arctic Circle marks a point where the Sun never sets in the summer and never rises in the winter,” Steve Christer, a partner with Studio Granda, which created the work in a partnership with artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson, told me over the phone from Reykjavik. “It isn’t just a point on a map.” At 66.5 °N, the Arctic Circle moves a little bit each year as the Earth travels through space, shifting on its axis. (Earth’s axial tilt can vary by about 2° over the course of a 40,000-year cycle.) This giant orb will have to be repositioned every year by an average of 14.5 meters. Christer told me they’ll hire a contractor to do it.

The orb was commissioned by the nearby town of Akureyri, which was seeking “a symbol for the Arctic Circle on the island of Grímsey,” he said. Getting the work there was no easy feat.

(13) HALLOWEEN REVIVALS. Joel Ryan, in the Yahoo! TV piece “TV’s Lost Halloween Classics:  Six Specials From Beyond The Grave”,  introduces a new generation to “Mad Monster Party,” “Halloween is Grinch Night,” and the Cartoon Network adaptation of “The Halloween Tree.”

  1. The Worst Witch The Tim Curry Halloween movie for the whole family, about a boarding school for aspiring broomstick types, also boasts the fabulous Diana Rigg, Fairuza Balk (The Craft), the post-Facts of Life Charlotte Rae, and production design that screams HBO in the mid-1980s. (Yes, we know The Worst Witch was a British coproduction, but then again, that’s what HBO originals looked like in the mid-1980s: things that were not quite of Hollywood.) In any case, the movie is a charming reminder of those simple days before the Hogwarts Express rolled into the creative space.

(14) GULLIVER’S CREATOR. Nature’s Greg Lynall, in “In Retrospect: Gulliver’s Travels”, looks at the science in Gulliver’s Travels, in a piece commemorating the 350th anniversary of Jonathan Swift’s birth. (Apologies – I can’t make my computer pick up excerpted text.)

(15) HAMIT SCRIPT RACKS UP ANOTHER AWARD. Francis Hamit has won a third screenwriting contest with his screenplay for the forthcoming feature film Christopher Marlowe.

The Elizabethan-era historical thriller is slated to be produced primarily in the United Kingdom by famed Producer Gary Kurtz. On September 16, 2017 the screenplay won the “Best Thriller Screenplay” prize at the GO International Independent Film Festival in Washington, DC. Hamit’s previous awards for this work were at the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival and the 2017 New Renaissance Film Festival in London.

(16) WOKE-O-METER. Motherboard offers a solution: “Want More Diverse Entertainment? A New Site Has You Covered”

When it comes to movie reviews, there are plenty of resources that can tell you the most critically-acclaimed films and popular flicks. But what about when it comes to how woke they are?

Enter Mediaversity, a website that reviews TV and movies based on how well they represent diverse gender, race, and LGBTQ characters and stories, created by Li Lai, a graphic designer from New York.

“What really solidified this idea for me was last year when I was watching Oscar nominees and critically-acclaimed TV shows,” Lai told me over the phone. “Right in a row I watched Narcos, Game of Thrones, and The Revenant. All of them had awful portrayals of women.”

She was surprised that all of these highly-praised works were so tone deaf. Lai hopped online to look up reviews that might elucidate this aspect of media, as well as diverse representations of race and LGBTQ characters and stories. But she realized there was a dearth of information. There are plenty of resources if you want to know how entertaining a movie is, or how artistic, or how clever the dialogue is. But it’s a lot harder to find out whether or not the only time women appear onscreen is in rape scenes.

So, nine months ago, Lai decided to create Mediaversity, a labor of love which she said she currently has no plans to monetize. Though, like all reviews, the ratings are subjective, Mediaversity has a guideline for how Lai and her fellow reviewers—a diverse team of friends and bloggers—measure a show’s representation success, and uses a letter grading system from A+ to F.

(17) ANOTHER HALLOWED BREW. A gigantic “monster” IPA with just the right balance to bring palates back from the dead: “Stone Brewing’s Concoctions Go Wild and Dr. FrankenStone’s Monster IPA is Born”.

Late one evening, into the deepest vaults of Dr Frankenstone’s steaming lab – a monster IPA was born. This morbid creation was the result of our brewers pushing the hop limits (most of which are successful) to an insane level that would unleash an IPA like none other from the brewery. It was a creature that haunted our brewers for many nights, as this beaker-buster was something they could not explain, yet was such a balanced delight to taste. Unbeknownst to our brewers, the horrific beast of a beer was a result of their blending sessions that got out of hand! After the first taste of the fresh liquid, our brewing team of mad scientists knew they had to re-create this experiment for October only in draft form.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Harold Osier, John A Arkansawyer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

One Fan’s Take on Salvation’s First Episode

By Martin Morse Wooster: Here is what I learned from last night’s premiere episode of Salvation.

(1) The science fiction writer’s profession was revealed because she carries around a notebook with an inspiring quote by Isaac Asimov on the cover. She falls in love with the brilliant astrophysics graduate student, and reveals that she has sold a short story to “a publisher.”

“What’s it about?”  the grad student asks.


(2) If you are a brilliant tech billionaire and a Defense Department contractor you can eliminate all security protocols and admit anyone you want into the Pentagon by handwaving. This includes access to the really secret underground bunker in the basement of the Pentagon whose existence is only known to 40 people.

(3) The showrunners for Salvation realized that naming the asteroid that will crash into the earth in 186 days “XJ42” is not scary. So the asteroid is code-named “Samson.”

(4) The brilliant tech billionaire has a spaceship ready to be tested that has room for 180 people, because some theory—I think it’s called “Maximum Plot Stupidity”—says that you can repopulate the earth is you save 180 people.

(5) Should I be delighted or terrified that Neil deGrasse Tyson is a recurring character on Salvation?

Pixel Scroll 6/17/17 Fiery The Pixels Fell. Deep Thunder Scrolled Around Their Shoulders

(1) DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE. Decided this weekend, the 2019 Eurocon will be hosted by TitanCon 2019 in Belfast, NI. The con is scheduled to complement the dates of the expected Dublin Worldcon.

Our proposed dates are Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 August 2019. That is the weekend after the proposed WorldCon (currently being bid for and running unopposed) to be held in Dublin, Ireland on Thursday 15 to Monday 19 August 2019.

We will also be running our traditional TitanCon Coach Tour on Sunday 25 August visiting beautiful locations around Northern Ireland that have been used as filming locations in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

(2) PHONE CALL FROM THE PAST. Today Galactic Journey had its inaugural video conference call from 1962. Sartorially splendid in his white dress shirt and narrow black tie, The Traveler, Gideon Marcus, shared the split screen with Janice Marcus (his editor), and Professor Elliott (whose blog promises to “Document the obscure”).

He started with a recap of significant genre news, including the new issue of F&SF with Truman Capote and Zenna Henderson on the cover, and developments in film, music, and gaming, like Avalon Hill’s recently released Waterloo.

The Traveler masterfully rolled clips like the technical director in those control booth scenes from My Favorite Year, showing us a performance by the band The Shadows (some of them smoking onscreen) and the trailer for Journey to the Seventh Planet (which surprisingly did not end John Agar’s movie career on the spot).

The trio also took questions from the audience — there were about 18 of us on the call — and gave us 1962’s perspective on dogs in space and something called the Radar Range.

If you’d like to take your own trip 55 years back in time, the session was recorded — here’s the link.

(3) FAUX DINO. The Nerdist admires Neil deGrasse Tyson despite his earnestness about certain topics. “GODZILLA Gets Debunked by Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

But, let’s face it, sometimes the good Dr. Tyson is kind of a killjoy. Especially when it comes to debunking the scientific possibility of your favorite science-fiction franchises. He loves to be that guy, the one to tell you how Superman couldn’t really exist, or how this or that sci-fi movie got it wrong, etc. He loves to be Captain Buzzkill sometimes.

The latest example of Neil deGrasse Tyson telling us how one of our favorite science fiction icons simply could never be real happened on his Star Talk radio podcast. According to Tyson, beloved kaiju Godzilla simply could not exist in the real world, because the laws of physics could not allow for it to happen. A giant creature the size of Godzilla would be way too heavy for his limbs, and would therefore collapse under his own weight. Tyson kills your dreams of Godzilla ever emerging from the oceans in this clip from his Star Talk Radio podcast, which you can watch down below….

(4) MIND IN A VACUUM. Or maybe we would find a little of Tyson’s earnestness useful here — “Is the Universe Conscious?”

For centuries, modern science has been shrinking the gap between humans and the rest of the universe, from Isaac Newton showing that one set of laws applies equally to falling apples and orbiting moons to Carl Sagan intoning that “we are made of star stuff” — that the atoms of our bodies were literally forged in the nuclear furnaces of other stars.

Even in that context, Gregory Matloff’s ideas are shocking. The veteran physicist at New York City College of Technology recently published a paper arguing that humans may be like the rest of the universe in substance and in spirit. A “proto-consciousness field” could extend through all of space, he argues. Stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their paths. Put more bluntly, the entire cosmos may be self-aware.

The notion of a conscious universe sounds more like the stuff of late night TV than academic journals. Called by its formal academic name, though, “panpsychism” turns out to have prominent supporters in a variety of fields

(5) WTF? That was my first thought upon reading in Variety that YouTube personality Lilly Singh has been cast in HBO’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.

Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel of the same name, the show depicts a future where media is an opiate, history is outlawed, and “firemen” burn books — Montag, a young fireman, forsakes his world, battles his mentor, and struggles to regain his humanity.

Singh will play Raven, a tabloid vlogger who works with the fire department to spread the ministry’s propaganda by broadcasting their book-burning raids to fans. She joins an A-list cast that includes Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, and “The Mummy” star Sofia Boutella.

I’ve watched a lot of her comedy videos — my daughter is a fan — and she’s talented and funny. This sounds like she’s being given a dramatic role, so we’ll have to see how well that works. I don’t automatically assume Ray Bradbury would be unhappy with the choice — after all, he seemed to like Rachel Bloom’s YouTube act well enough.

Ray watching “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” for the first time. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(6) MORE RAY TO SHARE. BBC’s Radio 3 program The Essay ends a five-part series with “Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”.

Five writers recall clothes and accessories that resonate vividly in works of art: The series started with a white dress and ends with a pristine white suit …

Author and journalist John Walsh describes the transformative powers of a ‘two-piece’, worn in turn by a motley bunch of blokes in Los Angeles and celebrated in Ray Bradbury’s story ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’.

(7) TOUPONCE OBIT. Ray Bradbury scholar William F. Touponce (1948-2017) died of a heart attack on June 15, His colleague at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Jonathan Eller, has posted a thorough and heartfelt appreciation.

Our good colleague, steadfast friend, and long-time Ray Bradbury scholar William F. Touponce passed away from a sudden heart attack on 15 June 2017. Bill joined the faculty of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 1985, and attained the academic rank of Professor of English and adjunct Professor of American Studies during his twenty-seven years with the school. In 2007 Bill co-founded the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and became the Center’s first director. During his four-year tenure as director, he established The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury and a scholarly annual, The New Ray Bradbury Review. He retired from the faculty in 2012, but continued to pursue his scholarly interests as Professor Emeritus right up until his passing.

…During the first decade of the new century Bill wrote introductions and volume essays for seven special limited press editions of Bradbury’s works; these included an edition of the pre-production text of Ray Bradbury’s screenplay for the 1956 Warner Brothers production of Moby Dick (2008). In 2007, we co-founded the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies within the Institute for American Thought, and Bill agreed to take on the direction of this new and exciting enterprise. During his four-year tenure as director, he established The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury multi-volume series, and a scholarly journal, The New Ray Bradbury Review.

(8) FURST OBIT. Stephen Furst, best known to fans as Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 has passed away. The LA Times obituary sums up his career.

Furst’s breakout role was as Dorfman in the 1978 film “Animal House,” which also marked the film debut of “Saturday Night Live” star John Belushi.

…He was later a regular on “Babylon 5” and “St. Elsewhere.”

In addition to his acting career, Furst directed several low-budget films, and was a producer on the 2009 drama “My Sister’s Keeper,” starring Cameron Diaz.



  • Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing
  • Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg

(11) CARRIE FISHER REPORT. An Associated Press story by Anthony McCartney, “Coroner Releases Results of Carrie Fisher Death Inquiry”, says the coroner determined that Fisher died from a variety of causes, one of which was sleep apnea, “but investigators haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact cause.”

Carrie Fisher died from sleep apnea and a combination of other factors, but investigators were not able to pinpoint an exact cause, coroner’s officials said Friday.

Among the factors that contributed to Fisher’s death was buildup of fatty tissue in the walls of her arteries, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said in a news release late Friday. The release states that the “Star Wars” actress showed signs of having taken multiple drugs, but investigators could not determine whether they contributed to her death in December.

Her manner of death would be listed as undetermined, the agency said.

(12) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Kara Dennison returns with “CONVENTIONS: Where Does Your Money Go?”

The Alley

Artists and vendors, this is for you. This is a whole other concept of paying for cons.

I’ve worked both as a seller in Artist Alley and an AA head, so I’ve seen a lot of sides of this. Tables at events can go for anywhere from $40 to (apparently now) $300, all for a six-foot table with a hotel tablecloth and two chairs. And seriously what the heck.

Here’s what the heck.

For starters, renting those tables actually costs the cons money. Yeah. To take them out of storage and use them for three days, the con has to pay the hotel. That’s a part of the contract. Each hotel chain will have their own version of pricing for that, but that fits into your fee.

Beyond that, the price is reflective of the fee to rent the space the Alley is in, as well as the sort of business the con believes you can expect to do. Not a guarantee, but an estimate. If you shell out $100 for a table, that’s in essence the con saying “A good vendor doing their part can expect to take home at least $100 this weekend.”

To be fair, some cons out there really overestimate themselves. The best way to make sure a price is fair is to talk to regular vendors at the event (in your medium, if possible) and see if it evens out. I’m describing to you how a scrupulous Artist Alley works — if something seems off, do your homework.

That said, there are some cons that know they are too small to bring the goods and will actually cut their prices or waive the table rental fee. If a table is extremely low-priced at an event, it’s not because all tables should be that cheap — it’s because the staff is aware of their attendance size and trying to be fair to artists. Artist Alley fees should be judged against their con, not against each other.

(13) THE X-PERSON FRANCHISE. The word from Vanity Fair ” Sophie Turner Is Now Officially the Future of the X-Men Franchise”.

Fox today confirmed a number of suspicions that had been swirling around the next installment of the central X-Men franchise. For the foreseeable future, just like Cyclops, the mutants will be seeing red as Jessica Chastain joins Sophie Turner at the center of X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Doubling down on the investment the studio made in Turner as head of the new class of mutants in X-Men: Apocalypse, the sequel is now, Deadline reports, officially subtitled Dark Phoenix–a reference to a famous comic storyline involving her powerful character, Jean Grey, breaking bad. It’s the same storyline X-Men explored with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey in the weakest installment of the franchise: The Last Stand. To lean in on a storyline from the least-loved X-Men film and draft Turner, whose debut in the franchise certainly didn’t make Apocalypse any better, is a risky choice. But Fox is full of gambles that pay off these days (see: Deadpool, Logan) and will shore up this foray into bold, new (yet familiar) territory with a trio of returning stars.

(14) SECURITY. China launches a quantum comsat.

The term “spy satellite” has taken on a new meaning with the successful test of a novel Chinese spacecraft.

The mission can provide unbreakable secret communications channels, in principle, using the laws of quantum science.

Called Micius, the satellite is the first of its kind and was launched from the Gobi desert last August.

It is all part of a push towards a new kind of internet that would be far more secure than the one we use now.

The experimental Micius, with its delicate optical equipment, continues to circle the Earth, transmitting to two mountain-top Earth bases separated by 1,200km.

(15) GLOWBOT. Swimming robot to investigate Fukushima: “‘Little sunfish’ robot to swim in to Fukushima reactor”.

It’ll be a tough journey – previous robots sent in to the ruined nuclear reactor didn’t make it back.

(16) A PIXAR FRANCHISE KEEPS ROLLING. NPR likes Cars 3: “‘Cars 3’ Comes Roaring Back With A Swapped-Out (Story) Engine”

The multi-billion-dollar success of Pixar’s Cars series can be chalked up to a great many things, but don’t discount the little vroom-vroom frowns the cars make with their dashboard eyes when they want to go fast. When Lightning McQueen, the Owen Wilson-voiced stock car with the bright flames decal, guns for pole position, he squints so much that any human who might be driving him wouldn’t be able to see the road. But of course there are no humans in this world, unless you count the invisible giant kids who must be steering the racers with their hands and making the motor sounds themselves.

That enduring childhood (typically but by no means exclusively boyhood) fascination with moving vehicles has propped up this franchise for the backseat set, seeing it through three feature-length films, a spin-off Planes series, and countless toy tie-ins.

(17) IAMBIC TWO-AND-A-HALF-METER. The Science Fiction Poetry Association is having a half-price sale on their t-shirts.

(18) FEWER NAUGHTY BITS. Row over cleaned-up movies: “Sony sanitising films row – the story so far”.

If you’ve been on a long-haul flight recently, you might have noticed the films being shown were a bit different from their cinematic release.

They’re usually a bit shorter as they’ve been made family-friendly for any young eyes who can see your screen.

Earlier this month Sony decided to make these sanitised versions available to download at home, choosing 24 titles including Ghostbusters and Easy A.

But now they’ve had to backtrack after filmmakers complained about the move.

(19) SUBCONTINENTAL SUBCREATOR. “India’s Tolkien”: “Amish Tripathi: ‘India’s Tolkien’ of Hindu mythology”. I wonder, has he been introduced to “America’s Tolkien”?

Meet best-selling Indian author Amish Tripathi who has just released his much anticipated fifth book, Sita: Warrior of Mithila, that re-imagines the life of the Hindu goddess from the epic Ramayan.

With four million copies in print, the former banker, who has successfully turned centuries-old mythological tales into bestselling works of fiction, is one of the highest selling Indian authors writing in English.

Chip Hitchcock says “India has snobs just like the west: ‘Although critics say his books lack any literary merit, they admire him for his ability to “create completely new stories from old ones”.’“

(20) PIONEERING. Oregon breaks new legal ground in personal identification — “Male, female or X? Oregon adds third option to driver’s licenses”.

Oregon on Thursday became the first U.S. state to allow residents to identify as neither male nor female on state driver’s licenses, a decision that transgender advocates called a victory for civil rights.

Under a policy unanimously adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission, residents can choose to have an “X,” for non-specified, displayed on their driver’s license or identification cards rather than an “M” for male or “F” for female.

The policy change was cheered by supporters as a major step in expanding legal recognition and civil rights for people who do not identify as male or female. This includes individuals with both male and female anatomies, people without a gender identity and those who identify as a different gender than listed on their birth certificate.

(21) BRONZE AGE. Is this the style of armor Patroclus wore? “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era”.

The earliest sample of a full body armor in Greece was found at the Dendra archeological site, located in the Argolis area. Discovered in May 1960 by Swedish archaeologists, the discovered breastplate, and backplate made of bronze, date to the 15th century BC. These pieces are part of the Dendra full-body armor, composed of fifteen pieces, including leg protectors, arm-guards, helmet and the parts mentioned above. The pieces were held together with leather lacing, covering the entire body of the soldier.

The breastplate and backplate are linked on the left side by a hinge, and together with the large shoulder protectors, these pieces consisted the upper body armor. Two triangular-shaped plates are attached to the shoulder protectors, providing protection for the armpits. The armor also includes a neck protection plate. Three pairs of curved shields hang from the waist, giving protection to the groin and the thighs. This artifact is unique for its armguard, and as for the leg protectors, it is assumed that they were made of linen and are a standard piece of armor seen in illustrations from the Mycenaean age.

(22) EMISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Speaking of Homeric — what about Our Wombat!

[Thanks to Joe H., Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and rcade for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/8/17 The Pixel Who Circumnavigated Filerland In A Scroll Of Her Own Making

(1) BUM OF THE MONTH CLUB. The time is ripe for “The Official Pornokitsch Taxonomy of Villains”.

So we’ve been at this Villain of the Month thing for a while now — since August 2016, to be precise — and by this point we’ve accumulated an interesting roster of villains….

First up, we have the True Believer (the Operative, Dolores Umbridge). True Believers have a cause to which they are faithfully devoted. That’s not to say they lack other ambitions — wealth, for example, or glory — but those take a back seat to one all-important ideological goal. For the Operative, that goal is creating “a world without sin”. For Umbridge, it’s a fascist regime ruled by the Ministry of Magic. Villains who obsequiously serve a Dark Lord (e.g. Bellatrix Lestrange) or fight to preserve the existing order (e.g. Agent Smith) would also fall into this category. For me, the most interesting True Believers are those fighting for a cause the audience could nominally get behind (e.g. the aforementioned world without sin), but whose methods are beyond the pale….

(2) MISSING THE APOCALYPSE. “Yeah, why DON’T authors deal with climate change??? <rolleyes>,” wrote JJ after seeing Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham and some other sff authors on Twitter get a little peeved because Publishers Weekly touted an article by Siddhartha Deb in The Baffler that said only nonfiction writers seemed to be dealing with it.

Such are the absurdities of the fossil-fuel lifestyle we are locked into globally, folly piling upon folly, the latest among them the decision by the United States to pull out of a Paris Climate Agreement that itself is like a band-aid applied to an earthquake. (Its target is to limit the global rise in temperature to between 1.5 and 2 degrees centigrade but, since it comes into effect only in 2020, it is seen by many critics as putting such a target beyond reach.) Yet in spite of all the evidence of the destruction visited upon the world by our resource-heavy appetites, accompanied by a gnawing recognition that something is fundamentally wrong in our relationship with the Earth and in the way we live, and all the cumulative knowledge about climate change and the irreplicable characteristics of an era that some have named the Anthropocene, the end result is still a kind of imaginative fatigue.

This makes itself evident in the paucity of fiction devoted to the carbon economy, something the Brooklyn-based Indian writer Amitav Ghosh addresses in his marvelous recent book, The Great Derangement, writing, “When the subject of climate change occurs . . . it is almost always in relation to nonfiction; novels and short stories are very rarely to be glimpsed within this horizon.”

(3) FAUX POP CULTURE. The Book Smugglers reminds all that Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem comes out next week with this guest post from the author, “You Were Watching What on TV, Cheris?”

One of the most entertaining things I’ve gotten to do in the background worldbuilding for the hexarchate is its popular culture. For example, in Ninefox Gambit, my heroine Cheris spends her free time watching crackalicious TV shows (“dramas”). In Raven Stratagem, one of the Kel recalls a classmate who used to read trashy adventures involving “dungeon-crawling” in the bowels of the campus. And it also reveals that Jedao’s mom used to like reading equally trashy sci-fi novels involving survivalists and tentacled monsters from outer space. Just because she’s a science fantasy character doesn’t mean she can’t like sci-fi, right?

(4) INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Robin Parker have succeeded in creating the Emerging Indigenous Voices Awards, which is now hosted by the Indigenous Literary Studies Association. And the ILSA has announced the award judges. (No excerpt, because the news item is one big image file — not text!) ILSA has set a funding target of $150,000 to”make the award sustainable for many years to come.” As of this writing, the Indiegogo appeal has raised $109,298 (Canadian). [H/T to Earl Grey Editing.]

(5) TIPTREE FELLOWSHIP REPORTS. The two 2016 Tiptree Fellowship winners have reported on how their work has been facilitated by the fellowships. [H/T to Earl Grey Editing.]

First on Porpentine Charity Heartscape’s list:

Here’s what I’ve been up to since I got the Tiptree fellowship. I made Miniskirt World Network: Business Slut Online, a video/music hypertext about a femme vaporwave world where fashion is a basic computer peripheral. I wanted to evoke the contradictory tensions of feminine-coded clothing and the weird emotional textures that come with it.

Mia Sereno (Likhain) explains:

I cannot separate my being Filipino, of the Philippines, from my being a woman; they are inextricably intertwined. Thanks to the Tiptree Fellowship I was able to examine this intertwining more closely through my art. Life has not been easy this past year and between trying to keep my household afloat and taking care of my own health, I’ve had less time than I would have liked to work on my art series built around the concept of Filipinas as monsters, monstrosity reclaimed and embraced. Still, I’d like to share with you some work-in-progress pencils and concept sketches featuring both high fantasy settings and the supernatural as the second skin of our everyday.

(6) THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND. The Wombat Conservancy, Winery, and Writer’s Retreat — a hilarious conversation on Twitter.

To reach the beginning, JJ advises, “You have to keep scrolling up until you get to the top (land for sale listings).”

(7) RARE POWER. ScreenRant tells you what they think is the “Wonder Woman Movie’s Most Important Scene”. But I will excerpt a less spoilery part of the article.

By now most superhero fans with an eye for gender representation will have noticed a discrepancy between males and females with superpowers in comic movies, fantasy, science fiction, etc., etc.. Where the men either immediately or eventually see their superpowers as a gift, and the testing and mastery of the powers as a thrilling ‘coming of age’ story (or montage), women face a different road ahead. Often, the surfacing of a latent or new superpower is treated as an illness: something to hide, remove, control, or at the very least suspect as a problem to be solved (no matter how cool those superpowers may be). For every ‘Professor X’ there is a Jean Grey, for every Flash there is a Killer Frost, for every super-fast Quicksilver, there is a mentally-traumatized Scarlet ‘Witch.’

It’s a gender difference that means men will typically exert power by hitting things, while women are given powers rendering them unpredictable, mentally unstable, or simply tied to forces from an ‘unknown, mystical, potentially harmful’ source. But with Wonder Woman, Diana’s discovery of her ability to punch straight through stone is treated as the world-altering, empowering, and thrilling gift the viewers would take it to be. After smashing her hand through the stone in a frantic fall, Diana deduces that she is stronger than any Amazon before her

(8) NEBULA SHOWCASE. Don’t forget the Nebula Awards Showcase 2017 edited by Julie Czerneda.

The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes have been published annually since 1966, reprinting the winning and nominated stories of the Nebula Awards, voted on by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). This year’s editor, selected by SFWA’s anthology Committee (chaired by Mike Resnick), is Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer and editor Julie Czerneda. This year’s Nebula Award winners are Naomi Novik, Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Pinsker, and Alyssa Wong, with Fran Wilde winning the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book. Also included in this volume are works by N. K. Jemisin and Ann Leckie.

(9) ON THE ROAD. I laughed.


  • June 8, 1949 — George Orwell published his most significant book, 1984. (You may be pardoned for thinking there’s an echo around here.)
  • June 8, 1984 Ghostbusters is released in theaters across the United States.


  • June 8, 1910 — John W. Campbell, Jr

(12) BRYANT MEMORIAL. George R.R. Martin tells about attending the memorial service for Ed Bryant in “Saying Farewell”.

Ed was a talented writer and a great workshopper, who mentored and encouraged many writers younger than himself and helped them on their way. He was one of my Wild Cards authors, creator of Sewer Jack and Wyungare. But most of all he was a sweet, kind man, with a warm smile and a gentle wit. Science fiction and fantasy will be poorer without him. Memorials like this are not for the deceased so much as they are for those left behind, I believe. It was good to get together with so many others who cared about Ed, and to share our memories of him, with laughter and love.

(13) TURNABOUT. Queen Idia’s Africa: Ten Short Stories by Cordelia Salter was released May 11.

Africa is rich and the West is poor. That’s the setting for Queen Idia’s Africa: Ten Short Stories by Cordelia Salter with a foreword by Zeinab Badawi.

This is a world where slavery and colonialism never happened and Africa is the rich global superpower.

The West is mired in poverty, politically unstable and relies on aid from Africa. Zeinab Badawi, Chair of the Royal African Society, points out in the foreword that the stories make us think what things could have been like if the boot had been on the other foot.

What would Africa do about swarms of illegal European migrants trying to get to Africa in search of a better life? How would Africa respond to droughts, famines and rebel warfare in North America? Could there have been apartheid the other way round?

(14) SHE, THE JURY. Naomi Alderman, whose sf novel The Power just won the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, has been added to the jury for the The Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize.

Alderman will be one of five judges, chaired by award-winning writer and television presenter, palaeontologist and Royal Society Fellow, Richard Fortey. They are joined by: writer and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, Claudia Hammond, Channel 4’s Topical Specialist Factual Commissioner, Shaminder Nahal and former Royal Society University Research Fellow, Sam Gilbert.

The Prize has worked with many eminent judges over its illustrious 30-year history, among them Ian McEwan, Sarah Waters, Terry Pratchett, David Attenborough, Tracy Chevalier and Michael Frayn.

The Prize celebrates outstanding popular science books from around the world and is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience. Over the decades, it has championed writers such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould and Bill Bryson.

Naomi Alderman commented: “It’s a terrible shame that arts and sciences are so often seen as mutually opposed, and that there’s so little understanding of what makes great work in ‘the other’ culture. So many of the most urgent problems that face us today can only be solved by thinking in an interdisciplinary way. That’s why I’m particularly thrilled to be a judge of this Prize, where we’ll be looking both for great science and excellent writing and storytelling. There’s no reason that a science book can’t be a bloody good read, and I can’t wait to get stuck in, and to discuss the best new science writing with the other judges.”

(15) ILLEGAL ESPIONAGE. In Section 31: Control, frequent Star Trek novelist David Mack takes on Starfleet’s secretive, rogue agency. Dr. Bashir, as he was in Deep Space Nine episodes involving Section 31, is the chief protagonist.

No law…no conscience…no mercy. Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answering to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group pledged to defend the Federation at any cost.

The discovery of a two-hundred-year-old secret gives Doctor Julian Bashir his best chance yet to expose and destroy the illegal spy organization. But his foes won’t go down without a fight, and his mission to protect the Federation he loves just end up triggering its destruction.

Only one thing is for certain: this time, the price of victory will be paid with Bashir’s dearest blood.

(16) TOASTY. A “heat battery” in use in real world: “From hand-warmer to house-warmer for tech firm”.

It took a creative leap to take the idea further: could you scale up the phase change process so a hand-warmer became a house-warmer?

Several big corporations – over several decades – tried to make it happen but each time the research petered out.

Now an East Lothian company with fewer than 30 employees has succeeded.

The equipment Sunamp have developed at their base in Macmerry has already been installed in 650 Scottish homes, providing heat and hot water for about half the cost of gas.

(17) HAWKING MEDAL. Space.com reports “Neil deGrasse Tyson Becomes 1st American to Receive Stephen Hawking Medal”.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson received the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication Tuesday (June 6), becoming the first American scientist to earn the prestigious award.

Tyson, who refers to himself as “your personal astrophysicist,” is most known for his television series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” and podcast-turned-television-series “StarTalk.” He is the director for the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History here in New York City, where Tuesday’s announcement was made.

The Stephen Hawking Medal is an annual award created in association with the Starmus Festival, an international gathering celebrating science and art that will take place in Trondheim, Norway, on June 18-23 this year. Medals are given to science communicators in three categories: writers, musicians and artists, and people in the film and entertainment industry. Hawking, a famous theoretical physicist and author of several best-selling books about the universe, handpicks the recipients himself. [The Most Famous Astronomers of All Time]

(18) WHEN MEN WERE MEN AND DINOS WERE FROGS. Looking for a Father’s Day present? How about this “ORIGINAL JURASSIC PARK Screenplay SPECIAL Copy”, asking price (reduced 30%!) now $2,450 on eBay.

[JURASSIC PARK – THE FILM]. CRICHTON, MICHAEL, DAVID KOEPP. Original Limited and Numbered Confidential Shooting Script for the Film ‘Jurassic Park’ by David Koep. Based on the Novel by Michael Crichton and on Adaptations by Michael Crichton and Malia Scotch Marmo. Los Angeles: Amblin Entertainment, 1992. Original limited and numbered copy of a 126 page shooting script with color rewrite pages for the film ‘Jurassic Park’ by David Koep, based on the novel by Michael Crichton and on adaptations by Michael Crichton and Malia Scotch Marmo. A special printed page at the beginning reads: “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – You are a part of a very limited distribution. This numbered copy of JURASSIC PARK has been assigned to you and is for your eyes only.” next to which “JP” and “64” are stamped in red and throughout the script. This copy belonged to the film’s safety coordinator

(19) MARKET OVERVIEW. David Steffen’s “SFWA Market Report for June” at the SFWA Blog includes these opening markets.


(20) NOT THAT ANYONE WOULD REMEMBER. Chris Chan continues his Orwellian remaking of recent fanhistory in “‘No Award’: The Hugo Awards, Sad Puppies, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Literature — Part Two: A Short History of the Sad Puppies at the Hugos” at Nerd HQ.

The results of the 2015 experiment were dramatic and explosive. The recommendations of the Sad Puppies (and also those put forward by the Rabid Puppies) dominated the 2015 Hugo Nominations. John C. Wright received five nominations in three categories (he initially was awarded a sixth slot, but one was revoked on a technicality). The Hugo nominee list changed over the coming weeks. Aside from the aforementioned instance, some nominees chose to decline their nomination (Hugo nominees have this option and can decline for any reason they like — some original nominees did not approve of the Sad or Rabid Puppies and did not wish to have any connection with them, and others objected that they believed that the voting process was being corrupted), and the slots were then filled by the runners-up. Incidentally, Correia’s Monster Hunter Nemesis received enough votes to qualify for a Best Novel nomination, but he turned down the nod to make the point that Sad Puppies was not being organized in order to receive honors for himself.

And yet that’s exactly why Correia started down this road — see the first post in 2013, “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo. :)”, and the follow-up post that initiated the Sad Puppies theme, “How to get Correia nominated for a Hugo PART 2: A VERY SPECIAL MESSAGE”. There was really nothing noble about it, in the beginning or later.

(21) THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE. Jon Del Arroz, after studying the wildlife in its native habitat, offers his “Behavioral Observations In Science Fiction”.

There’s two groups, the old guard burnout mentality, and the new indie pulp revolution. There’s a bit of a line up along political lines, but not as much as you’d expect, and in fact, that’s used as an excuse a lot of the time to poo poo the new. This is the state of science fiction today. I’ve talked about it briefly before, but here’s a broader look at the experiences I’ve had after engaging with both.

Old Guard

You walk into social media, or a group, or a convention of what I called the “old guard”, they’e hesitant. They’re the type to complain that they’re introverts, having to recharge after social interactions (which is fine to be, but knowing that — why complain so often?). A new person is immediately greeted with a stand-offish attitude, like they have to vet you to make sure you’re “really one of them” or that you have to pay your dues to prove yourself somehow. They’re hyper-political. If you look at their social media posts, 70-90% of them are endless shrieking about politics they don’t like. They keep talking about how they’re too busy for anyone or anything — including the next generation of fans and writers. And this is all before they know that you’re on the “wrongthink” side of politics.

(22) WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. The Coode Street Podcast will take a couple of breaks this year. The announcement provoked this hilarious exchange.

(23) ALTERNATE REALITY HUMOR. It might be too late for this to be funny — Loki Runs For President, a video from last November. (Was it funny then? It’s basically somebody talking a mile a minute over scans of a comic book.)

(24) APE CLIP. Two minutes of War for the Planet of the Apes about “Meeting Nova.”

She is the future. Meet Nova in the first clip from #WarForThePlanet and be the first to #WitnessTheEnd on Monday, June 19


[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Earl Grey Editing, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor the day Oneiros.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/17 P.S. I Love You

(1) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Rowling’s Potter postcard was probably worth more than the jewels that were taken at the same time — “J.K. Rowling begs fans not to buy stolen ‘Harry Potter’ prequel”.

An extremely rare “Harry Potter” prequel idea, handwritten by bestselling author J.K. Rowling, has been stolen. And the author is pleading with fans not to purchase it on the black market.

According to England’s West Midlands Police, the 800-word story was handwritten on the front and back of an A5 postcard. It was stolen during a robbery in central England, sometime between April 13 and April 24.

Rowling hand wrote the story to raise money for English Pen, an organization that promotes literature. It sold at a charity auction for £25,000 or approximately $32,000, in 2008.

(2) ROCK OF AGES. National Geographic has a piece on one of the best preserved dinosaurs ever found. “The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada”.

The cavernous warehouse swells with the hum of ventilation and the buzz of technicians scraping rock from bone with needle-tipped tools resembling miniature jackhammers. But my focus rests on a 2,500-pound mass of stone in the corner.

At first glance the reassembled gray blocks look like a nine-foot-long sculpture of a dinosaur. A bony mosaic of armor coats its neck and back, and gray circles outline individual scales. Its neck gracefully curves to the left, as if reaching toward some tasty plant. But this is no lifelike sculpture. It’s an actual dinosaur, petrified from the snout to the hips….

(3) VAS YOU DERE SHARLY? The biggest bangers of them all make clear any dissent from the prevailing theory is unwelcome — “Big Bang or Big Bounce? Stephen Hawking and Others Pen Angry Letter about How the Universe Began”.

Stephen Hawking and 32 of his fellow scientists have written an angry letter responding to a recent Scientific American article about how the universe began. In it, they declare their “categorical disagreement” with several of the statements made, and explain why the theory of inflation is still one of the best models for the origin of the cosmos.

The article in question was published in February. Titled “Pop Goes the Universe,” physicists Anna Ijjas, Paul J. Steinhardt, Abraham Loeb examine the latest measurements from the European Space Agency relating to cosmic microwave background (CMB).

CMB is the oldest light in the universe—light emitted just after the Big Bang around 13.7 billion years ago. In 2013, a map of the CMB appeared to show how the universe inflated extremely fast, before settling down to become the universe we see today. This, many experts said, backed up models relating to inflation theories, where the universe expanded exponentially fast a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

However, Ijjas, Steinhardt and Loeb disagreed with this interpretation. “If anything, the Planck data disfavored the simplest inflation models and exacerbated long-standing foundational problems with the theory, providing new reasons to consider competing ideas about the origin and evolution of the universe,” they write.

The three physicists argue that since the 2013 map was produced, more precise data has been gathered. And this data, they say, adds more evidence to the argument that the Big Bang and inflation do not adequately explain how the universe started. “Yet even now the cosmology community has not taken a cold, honest look at the big bang inflationary theory or paid significant attention to critics who question whether inflation happened,” they say….

(4) BICENTENNIAL SPACEWALK. It wasn’t without its problems — “U.S. spacewalkers overcome glitch on 200th station outing”.

Two U.S. astronauts overcame an early equipment glitch to complete an abbreviated spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Friday, accomplishing all the major tasks initially planned for a longer excursion in four hours, NASA said.

Station commander Peggy Whitson and rookie flier Jack Fischer began what was expected to be a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk more than an hour late, after a cable supplying power and cooling water to Fischer’s spacesuit developed a leak.

The spacewalk was the 200th outing in support of station assembly and maintenance since construction of the $100 billion laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, began in 1998.

And the news item inspired David K.M. Klaus to share his theory why the International Space Station doesn’t run as smoothly as the Starship Enterprise.

The largest department on any version of the ENTERPRISE in STAR TREK had to have been Engineering and Ship’s Services — the redshirts — because of the constant amount of maintenance required to keep the ship running smoothly; we don’t have that kind of balance because the crews aren’t large enough — we have a command structure in theory but not used in reality, and everyone doing both science and engineering / maintenance, so neither science nor maintenance get the full attention they demand.  Only because there are also engineers on the ground in close communication can the work be accomplished.

(5) AMA PATTERSON OBIT. SF Site News reports author and Clarion grad Ama Patterson (1961-2017) died May 1.

[Patterson] helped found the Beyon’ Dusa writing group and the Carl Brandon Society. She served as a judge for the 2001 Tiptree Award and her short fiction appeared in Dark Matter, Scarab, and 80! Memories and Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin.


  • May 12, 1989 — The aquatic monster is back – in The Return of Swamp Thing.


  • Born May 12, 1935 — Actor, archivist, and legendary monster kid Bob Burns.

(8) MILLIONAIRE BASH. Dick and Jane must be doing a lot more than just seeing Spot run for kindergarteners to be making these numbers — “This Kindergarten Class Threw A ‘Millionaire Bash’ To Celebrate Reading 1 Million Words In A Year”.

Breyden’s mom, Denetta Suragh, told BuzzFeed News the school estimated 1 million words was equal to 250 books, which they kept track of with reading logs.

This year, the entire class met the goal, Suragh said.

“Breyden was really on me about it,” she said. “He was like, ‘I want a limousine ride so we have to turn in all our reading logs!’ It encourages every child to want to read even more.”

(9) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. The ultimate collision of science and science fiction. Hear Neil deGrasse Tyson and William Shatner on Star Talk.

Captain on the bridge: Neil deGrasse Tyson invites Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, to discuss Star Trek and the enduring power of science fiction. Joined by comic co-host Chuck Nice and astrophysicist Charles Liu, we hit warp speed as we explore the ins and outs of the Star Trek universe. You’ll hear how William landed the iconic role as Captain Kirk and about his memorable role in The Twilight Zone. Charles breaks down why Star Trek: The Original Series was more popular in syndication than during its original on-air run. You’ll also hear William reflect on Star Trek episodes “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboots, the design of the bridge, and his fascination with the science fiction genre. William also gets a chance to ask Neil questions about the universe, igniting a wonder-infused conversation about spacetime, photons, relativity, and the speed of light. NASA Aerospace Technologist David Batchelor stops by to discuss his article “The Science of Star Trek” and weighs in on what technology from the show could soon become reality. All that, plus, fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on the disappearance of the sun, distant galaxies, neutron stars and we check in with Bill Nye as he shares his appreciation for Star Trek’s optimistic views of the future.

(10) EQUAL TIME. Cirsova editor P. Alexander’s only printable tweet in reply to the  discussion here yesterday:

It’s not impossible to
-have friends & readers who were SPs
-support some writers on SP
-have a broadly different view on fiction from SPs

(11) WAVE BYE-BYE. Real cases of the wave in “Wave Rider”, and studies of what makes them happen: “Terrifying 20m-tall rogue waves are actually real”.

However, what really turned the field upside down was a wave that crashed into the Draupner oil platform off the coast of Norway shortly after 3.20pm on New Year’s Day 1995. Hurricane winds were blowing and 39ft (12m) waves were hitting the rig, so the workers had been ordered indoors. No-one saw the wave, but it was recorded by a laser-based rangefinder and measured 85ft (26m) from trough to peak. The significant wave height was 35.4ft (10.8m). According to existing assumptions, such a wave was possible only once every 10,000 years.

The Draupner giant brought with it a new chapter in the science of giant waves. When scientists from the European Union’s MAXWAVE project analysed 30,000 satellite images covering a three-week period during 2003, they found 10 waves around the globe had reached 25 metres or more.

(12) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. “Superbugs ‘Crawled Out’ Of The Ocean 450 Million Years Ago” —  and had lucky genes.

About 450 million years, animals made one of the most important decisions in Earth’s history: They left the wet, nourishing seas and started living on the dry, desolate land.

At that moment, humanity’s problems with superbugs probably began.

Scientists at the Broad Institute have found evidence that an important group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are as old as terrestrial animals themselves.

(13) NOT-SO-SPECIAL. NPR thinks there are too many effects in Arthur: Legend of the Sword; is this a pattern? “‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’: An Edgy Script, Dulled By CGI”.

Note especially the caption on the lead photo.

(14) SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE. Atlas Obscura drops in on the world’s oldest bookshop.

It has changed hands and locations several times and has been renamed 11 different things. But for 285 years, the Livraria Bertrand, as it is known today, has served Lisbon’s bibliophiles and been a space for intellectual and cultural conversations. Opened in 1732, it holds the Guinness record as the world’s oldest bookstore still in operation.

(15) WHEELBARROW BARDS. I don’t know how long this meme will run, but here’s the first three I spotted:

(16) TIMOTHY IN THE OVAL OFFICE. I laughed so much that I was sorely tempted to gank the picture and all of Camestros Felapton’s setup. But fair is fair – go look at the set-up and the payoff post on Camestros’ blog.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, and Ryan H. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/17 Scroll Like No One Is Filing You

(1) IS THIS A GOOD IDEA? What did Ray Bradbury think would happen when he left his personal books to the Waukegan Library?

When I covered the legacy in 2013, Bradbury’s daughters had approved trading some of the books to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies to get other books for the library’s collection. That was before plans for a Bradbury statue got off the ground. The latest on that front is told by The Verge in “Ray Bradbury’s hometown is crowdfunding a statue in his honor”:

The committee is looking to raise $125,000 to fund the project, and launched its campaign earlier this month. Donors who give more than $150 will be given a book from Bradbury’s library. Thus far, the committee has raised around $13,000, with another $20,000 promised. Richard Lee, the Library’s executive director and chair of the statue committee, told The Chicago Tribune that he hoped that the statue will remind area children of the famous author, and that it might inspire them to become writers themselves.

The link for donations is here.

Gifts of any amount will make this project reality. Donors supporting the project at $500 and above will be recognized permanently near the statue on the grounds of Waukegan Public Library….

Gifts of $150 and higher will be acknowledged with a book from Ray Bradbury’s personal library, which was left to Waukegan Public Library after Bradbury’s death in 2012.

(2) COSPLAY MELEE WINNER. Jacqueline Goehner won Season 1 of Syfy’s Cosplay Melee. See her interview here.

(3) CHARON DUNN HAS LAUNCHED AGAIN. And this time she’s following Camestros Felapton’s marketing advice: “I had my cat interview me this time, but he’s not nearly as articulate as Timothy. So much for idea stealing.”

“An Interview with Charon Dunn, author of Retrograde Horizon, by T.B. Kahuna”

I interviewed myself to promote the last book I launched, and it worked! People actually bought copies! I was feeling all self-congratulatory about my self-inflicted promotional ability, when I reflected that everything on the internet is better with a cat in it. Maybe I could get my own cat to interview me to promote my current book!  So I woke T.B. Kahuna from his nap, and bribed him with some catnip and a bilateral ear massage.

Me: Kahuna, I really appreciate your being able to fit this interview into your busy schedule.

T.B. Kahuna: I have food in the square kitty dish but not the round one! Please move it to the round one right now. It’s kind of an emergency.

Me: Sure, but before I do that, I just wanted to talk about my most recent book, Retrograde Horizon….

T.B. Kahuna: Oh no, my catnip-filled squirrel got stuck behind the couch again.

It’s interesting that you should bring up politics. I did a little rewriting after the U.S. presidential election, since one of my villains is a politician – I toned down the violence and opinion-slinging, and I made my bad guy more generic. My stories take place far in the future, long after the corpses of current politicians have decayed into dust and the social problems we’re fighting about have been solved for the most part, leaving room for a whole bunch of new ones (for instance: if we create sentient life, do we have to consider it a sovereign nation?). My goal is escapism for people taking a breather from politics, not to browbeat people about the world they’re trying to escape. [Retrieves squirrel.]…

(4) WELCOME TO THE CLUB. Well said.

(5) DOING JUSTICE. Is the studio doing enough to promote Wonder Woman? Here’s an uptick in marketing from the past couple of days. “Wonder Woman: Diana, Steve Trevor & Etta Candy Arrive in New Photos”

Warner Bros. has released a handful of new images for the “Wonder Woman,” featuring Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer and Lucy Davis as Etta candy.

The photos arrive amid criticisms that the studio isn’t promoting director Patty Jenkins’ film as heavily as it did last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” However, it was revealed late last week that advertising spending for “Wonder Woman” is outpacing that for “Suicide Squad” at the same point in pre-release


(6) HOW PLASTIC WAS MY VALLEY. Silicon Valley deconstructed by In the Circle, on NPR: “In ‘The Circle’, What We Give Up When We Share Ourselves”.

The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world. And, as a longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, I have to say there is a lot that this comic and spooky film gets right.

Let’s start with the main character, Mae, a recent college grad played by Emma Watson. Mae is eager, idealistic and versed in the kind of marketing verbiage that rolls off the tongues of way too many young people in Silicon Valley. When she goes for a job interview at the Circle — the world’s biggest tech company — she impresses her interviewer with a comically perfect description of the company’s main service.

Sounding like a commercial voice-over, she says: “Before TrueYou, it was like you needed a different vehicle for every single one of your errands. And no one should have to own 87 different cars. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the chaos of the Web made elegant and simple.”

(7) THE ROADS MUST BURROW. More SF from Elon Musk: underground highways to reduce traffic jams: “Ted 2017: Elon Musk’s vision for underground road system”.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Ted curator Chris Anderson, the founder of Tesla and Space X said that he was inspired to consider a tunnel system to alleviate congestion because he found being stuck in traffic “soul-destroying”.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “The Big Dig may have been exceptionally expensive, but I don’t see this happening for under a billion dollars a mile.”

(8) FEELS MUGGY. There is a fantasy design, and several of the other designs also include one or two sff writers.

This sturdy 11 ounce (i.e., normal size) white ceramic mug is both microwave and dishwasher safe. There are books all the way around it, so it works beautifully for both coffee and tea drinkers, and for both righties and lefties.

This set is of 20 of the most beloved fantasy books of all time, including Game of Thrones, The Fellowship of the Ring, Stardust, and The Last Unicorn.

You know I’ll never hear the end of it unless I show you the one with a Bradbury reference. (It’s the third book from the right.)

(9) PINNING AWAY FOR THE FJORDS. The same outfit sells book pins like these. Use your psychic powers to figure out which one John King Tarpinian now owns.

(10) ZAHN’S STAR WARS NOVELS. THRAWN by Timothy Zahn, was published by Del Rey on April 11.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond.

But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

Other Thrawn novels:

Thrawn Trilogy:

  • Heir to the Empire
  • Dark Force Rising
  • The Last Command

Hand of Thrawn:

  • Specter of the Past
  • Vision of the Future

Star Wars Legends:

  • Outbound Flight
  • Choices of One

Carl Slaughter notes, “I have not been able to find material in Wikipedia, Amazon, or Good Reads about the previous Thrawn novels that provides insight into the development of the Thrawn character and his place in the Star Wars Universe.  I would appreciate anyone linking to or writing such material. “

(11) PAINFUL BUT GREAT. Review of The Handmaid’s Tale TV show by Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. “The Handmaid’s Tale is the most horrific thing I have ever seen”

What’s really stunning about The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t its evocation of a dark political future, however. It’s the way we’re drawn into the personal perspective of June, a book editor who paid very little attention to politics until one day her credit card stopped working. Because she’s fertile, June is sent to a reeducation camp for handmaids. Eventually she’s renamed “Offred” when she becomes the property of a man named Fred and his supposedly infertile wife. Other women aren’t so lucky. The infertile are sent to die cleaning up toxic waste in the colonies. Lesbian “gender traitors” are hanged in public places, where their bodies are left on display for days.

(12) A HANDMAID’S TRAILER. You might be curious to compare the trailer for the 1990 adaptation of A Handmaid’s Tale with the current one.

(13) ONE ADAM-12. Grammar brawl in progress. Proceed Code Three.

(14) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. C. and Matt make a promising beginning as two snooty critics in “The 2017 Hugo Awards shortlist: a conversation between two SFF fans” just before completely embarrassing themselves:

C. …So when I say I looked at this year’s list with a sigh, I’m being pretty literal. I’m quite resigned to the fact that the Hugo isn’t the best award for my tastes.

Matt …So over the last last three years I have tried to get involved.  The Hugos are not perfect they have been prone to white US male for a long time but it’s changing.  This year I think we have an almost puppy free list and that finally allows a debate on the quality of the books!

Be that as it may – they decided to go ahead with their debate although each admits not having read half the nominees for Best Novel. Here’s a scorecard —

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders

  • C: (Quit at page 150)
  • M: (Finished book)

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

  • C : (Refused to read – didn’t like first book)
  • M. (Read)

Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

  • C: (Read)
  • M. (Hasn’t read)

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

  • C. (Read)
  • M. (Read)

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin

  • C. (Read)
  • M. (Hasn’t read)

Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

  • C. (Hasn’t read)
  • M. (Hasn’t read)

Yet they confidently offer this opinion about the award –

So, let’s face it: both of some of the most popular novels on the list aren’t novels that, to me, bring something new to the genre. They are certainly crowd pleasers but I really wonder at their future legacy.

How the hell would they know? And then they go on to cover themselves with even more glory, discussing what they haven’t read in the rest of the award categories.

(15) FIVE MISCONCEPTIONS. Vintage Geek Culture seeks to convince readers there are places where the narrative and factual history part company: “Top Misconceptions People Have about Pulp-Era Science Fiction“. There are five, which, as we know, is the magic number.

“Racism was endemic to the pulps.”

It is absolutely true that the pulps reflected the unconscious views of society as a whole at the time, but as typical of history, the reality was usually much more complex than our mental image of the era. For instance, overt racism was usually shown as villainous: in most exploration magazines like Adventure, you can typically play “spot the evil asshole we’re not supposed to like” by seeing who calls the people of India “dirty monkeys” (as in Harold Lamb).

Street & Smith, the largest of all of the pulp publishers, had a standing rule in the 1920s-1930s to never to use villains who were ethnic minorities because of the fear of spreading race hate by negative portrayals. In fact, in one known case, the villain of Resurrection Day was going to be a Japanese General, but the publisher demanded a revision and he was changed to an American criminal. Try to imagine if a modern-day TV network made a rule that minority groups were not to be depicted as gang bangers or drug dealers, for fear that this would create prejudice when people interact with minority groups in everyday life, and you can see how revolutionary this policy was. It’s a mistake to call this era very enlightened, but it’s also a mistake to say everyone born before 1970 was evil.

(16) SPACE AT ANY SPEED. CBS Sunday Morning’s  “Book excerpt: Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Astrophysics for People in a Hurry'” inspires me to paraphrase Emily Dickinson’s line about death – “I could not slow for astrophysics, so astrophysics kindly slowed for me…”

Time is relative, but some of us still don’t have enough of it to fully take in the most salient aspects of such topics as dark matter, exoplanets, the Big Bang, and why so many objects in outer space are spherical.

Fortunately, we have Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose latest book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” (published Tuesday from WW Norton), offers a shortcut to scientific literacy, with entertaining, bite-sized chapters that explore cosmic questions.

Read the excerpts below. And make time for Martha Teichner’s interview with Tyson on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” April 30!

Excerpt from the chapter entitled “Dark Energy”

So what is the stuff? Nobody knows. The closest anybody has come is to presume dark energy is a quantum effect — where the vacuum of space, instead of being empty, actually seethes with particles and their antimatter counterparts.

They pop in and out of existence in pairs, and don’t last long enough to be measured. Their transient existence is captured in their moniker: virtual particles. The remarkable legacy of quantum mechanics — the physics of the small — demands that we give this idea serious attention. Each pair of virtual particles exerts a little bit of outward pressure as it ever so briefly elbows its way into space.

Unfortunately, when you estimate the amount of repulsive “vacuum pressure” that arises from the abbreviated lives of virtual particles, the result is more than 10120 times bigger than the experimentally determined value of the cosmological constant. This is a stupidly large factor — a consequence of what may be the most embarrassing calculation ever made, leading to the biggest mismatch between theory and observation in the history of science.

(18) SHARPEN UP THOSE SKILLS. CinemaBlend says “Machete Kills Again In Space Is Actually Happening”.

If you saw Machete Kills in theaters, then you probably also saw that hilariously ridiculous trailer for something called Machete Kills Again…in Space. At the time, we thought that was all we were going to get of the supposed third installment of the Danny Trejo-led franchise, but the man himself has confirmed that this is in fact in the works. Yes, we will be seeing Machete going berserk…in space! Trejo told Halloween Daily News that he and Robert Rodriguez, his Machete director, will be filming Machete Kills in Space. (Apparently they thought the “Again…” part was unnecessary.) We won’t even have to wait too long for it, as he also said that they will be “working on it this year.” If Trejo can’t land a part in Star Wars: Episode 7, 8 and/or 9, he’ll at the very least be able to brandish a lightsaber machete.

This is the 2014 teaser —

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]