Pixel Scroll 1/26/20 The Scroll Went Over The Pixel, To See What It Could See

(1) YOU DO KNOW JACK. “John Barrowman on his shock Doctor Who TV return – ‘It’s about time’”RadioTimes interviews the actor about his surprise appearance.

In an appropriately shocking character resurrection, fan-favourite Doctor Who character Captain Jack Harkness has made a surprise return to the BBC sci-fi series, with John Barrowman’s immortal Time Agent popping up in the latest episode to deliver a message to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

…Kept secret through a mass of codenames, disguises and carefully-planted lies, Jack’s return is sure to make a splash with fans – just last year, RadioTimes.com readers voted him the character they’d most like to see return to the series – and ahead of the episode’s airing, Barrowman said he was prepared for a big reaction.

(2) VIEW FROM THE BOTTOM RUNG. Saturday Night Live suited up guest host Adam Driver to parody his Star Wars character.

Undercover Boss checks in with one of its more notorious bosses, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), to see if he kept his promise to change his company.

(3) IMAGINARY PAPERS LAUNCHES. Imaginary Papers is a new quarterly (free) newsletter from the Center for Science and the Imagination. Edited by Joey Eschrich, it features analysis and commentary on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination. The first issue is available here.

…Each issue will feature brief, incisive pieces of writing from a diverse array of contributors, from scholars and journalists to cultural critics, designers, technologists, poets, and more. 

We hope you’ll join us in thinking carefully and whimsically about the tangled relationships between how we envision the future and how we see ourselves and our world today. 

(4) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL EXHIBIT AT BOOK FAIR. The 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which takes place in Pasadena from February 7-9, will include two special exhibits —

Votes for Women. The Book Fair celebrates the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage with a special exhibit documenting women’s effort to secure political equality. Materials will be on display from the special collection libraries of The Claremont Colleges, University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, California State University, Dominguez Hills and the Los Angeles Public Library.

Something Wonderful This Way Came: 100 Years of Ray Bradbury. The Book Fair marks the centennial of the beloved science fiction and fantasy writer. This special exhibit features Bradbury works and related cultural treasures from the Polk Library at California State University including the manuscripts for Fahrenheit 451 and the short story “The Fireman,” from which the classic novel originated. 

The Book Fair takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center at 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA.  Tickets on Friday, February 7 are $25 for three-day admission.

(5) FIFTIES PAPERBACK COVERS APPRAISED. Last night on PBS’ Antique Roadshow: “Appraisal: Ric Binkley Science Fiction Illustrations”.

Watch Kathleen Guzman’s appraisal of Ric Binkley science fiction illustrations ca. 1950, in Winterthur Museum, Hour 3.

(6) THE COLORS OUT OF SPACE. “NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Revealed Colors Unseeable By The Human Eye. It Retires Next Week”LAist assembled a retirement party photo gallery.

Next week, the last of four NASA space-based observatories will retire. The Spitzer Space Telescope brought the universe into a new light (literally), revealing images of planets, solar systems, stars and more in infrared — renderings that human eyes aren’t able to see otherwise

(7) GEEZERBUSTERS. Yahoo! Entertainment reveals “It’s Official! Bill Murray Returns to His Ghostbusters Role in Upcoming Sequel”.

30 years after last appearing as squad leader Peter Venkman in 1989’s Ghostbusters 2, Bill Murray is set to reprise his beloved role in the upcoming sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The new movie stars Paul Rudd as a science teacher whose students find themselves in the middle of a ghostbusting mystery.

Though Murray, 69, made a cameo in the 2016 all-women Ghostbusters, he will be back as his parapsychologist character in the new movie directed by Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan Reitman.

Vanity Fair visited the set — “Exclusive: Hanging With Bill Murray on the Set of Ghostbusters: Afterlife”.

… The production uses lightweight, less detailed packs for stunts and distant shots, but I was saddled with the 30-pound heavy-duty version used for close-ups, which is loaded with batteries and rumble motors to make the blasters shudder and jolt in the hands of the user.

…Later, [Ivan] Reitman said he hopes the film will help fans feel the excitement of suiting up themselves: “I wanted to make a movie about finding a proton pack in an old barn and the thrill of actually putting it on for the first time. I’ve had friends come to the set and hoist on the packs, and it always turns grown-ups into children.”

Murray just stood by nodding and smiling. “You’ll see what it feels like,” he said.

“The first 30 seconds are okay,” I told him.

The actor snorted. “It’s that last 30,” he said, shaking his head. “And the dismount.”

(8) SLURP THE FANTASTIC. BBC Sounds finds the connections between “Fantasy, fiction and food”. Mary Robinette Kowal and others are interviewed.

What do Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Lady and the Tramp have in common? Both use food in subtle ways to immerse us in their stories and help us make sense of fictitious worlds – from jumping chocolate frogs to kissing over spaghetti. The same is true for many novels, where food can be an integral part of building characters, plots, even entire worlds. Graihagh Jackson speaks to three world-acclaimed writers – two authors and one Nollywood script writer and film director – to find out how and why they employ food in their work. How do you create make-believe foods for a science fiction world, yet still imbue them with meanings that real world listeners will understand? When you’re trying to appeal to multiple audiences and cultures, how do you stop your food references getting lost in translation? And can food be used to highlight or send subtle messages about subjects that are traditionally seen as taboo?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 26, 1995 Screamers premiered. This Canadian horror starred  Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis and Jennifer Rubi. It was  directed by Christian Duguay. The screenplay was written by Dan O’Bannon, with an extensive rewrite by Miguel Tejada-Flores, is based on Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” novelette first published in Space Science Fiction magazine, in May 1953. It earned almost unanimously negative reviews from critics and has a 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has since developed a cult following. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1915 William Hopper. I’m reasonably sure his first genre first was the Thirties The Return of Doctor X. Twenty years later, he’s Dr. George Fenton in Conquest of Space, and just a few years later he’ll be Col. Bob Calder in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Unless we count Myra Breckinridge as genre or genre adjacent, he was Judge Frederic D. Cannon on it, that’s it for him as none as his series acting was genre related. (Died 1970.)
  • Born January 26, 1923 Anne Jeffreys. Her first role in our end of things was as a young woman in the early Forties film Tarzan’s New York Adventure. She’s Jean Le Danse (note the name) around the same time in the comedy Zombies on Broadway (film geeks here — is this the earliest zombie film?). And no, I’ve not forgotten she had the lead role as Marion Kerby in the Topper series. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Fantasy Island and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 26, 1927 William Redfield. He was in two SF films of note. He was Ray Cooper in Conquest of Space, a Fifties film, and later on he was Captain Owens in Fantastic Voyage. In addition, Wiki lists him in the cast of the Fifties X Minus One radio anthology series, and Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs site confirms he was in nine of the plays. His series one-offs included Great Ghost Tales (a new one for me), Bewitched, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of Tomorrow. (Died 1976.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. And Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is at least genre adjacent… (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here read here them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 91. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well, and that he’s also illustrated Eisner’s Spirit which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators. 
  • Born January 26, 1957 Mal Young, 63. Executive Producer of Doctor Who for the Ninth Doctor. A great season and Doctor indeed. As all have been in the New Who. He was the Assistant Producer thirty years ago of a series called Science Fiction hosted by none other than the Fourth Doctor Himself. Anyone watch this? 
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 60. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz that he did with Elaine Willingham as I don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books…

(11) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scientist about “Disinfecting your hands with ‘magic’”.

DEMOKRITOU: We have the tools to make these engineered nanomaterials and, in this particular case, we can take water and turn it into an engineered water nanoparticle, which carries its deadly payload, primarily nontoxic, nature-inspired antimicrobials, and kills microorganisms on surfaces and in the air.

It is fairly simple, you need 12 volts DC, and we combine that with electrospray and ionization to turn water into a nanoaerosol, in which these engineered nanostructures are suspended in the air. These water nanoparticles have unique properties because of their small size and also contain reactive oxygen species. These are hydroxyl radicals, peroxides, and are similar to what nature uses in cells to kill pathogens. These nanoparticles, by design, also carry an electric charge, which increases surface energy and reduces evaporation. That means these engineered nanostructures can remain suspended in air for hours. When the charge dissipates, they become water vapor and disappear.

Very recently, we started using these structures as a carrier, and we can now incorporate nature-inspired antimicrobials into their chemical structure. These are not super toxic to humans. For instance, my grandmother in Greece used to disinfect her surfaces with lemon juice — citric acid. Or, in milk — and also found in tears — is another highly potent antimicrobial called lysozyme. Nisin is another nature-inspired antimicrobial that bacteria release when they’re competing with other bacteria. Nature provides us with a ton of nontoxic antimicrobials that, if we can find a way to deliver them in a targeted, precise manner, can do the job. No need to invent new and potentially toxic chemicals. Let’s go to nature’s pharmacy and shop.

(12) BIGFOOTIN’. Forbes’ Ollie Barder reports “A Walking Life-Size Gundam Will Be Unveiled In Japan This October”.

While we knew that this was a project that had been underway for a while, it’s now actually going to be a real thing. In that, this October a walking Gundam will be unveiled in Yokohama, Japan.

The plans to make a Gundam walk were announced back in 2015 and at the time the idea was to have it finished by 2019.

So while this has been delayed a bit, it does look like we will have a Gundam that can walk later this year.

Well, when I say “walk” it looks like this is not some free-roaming Gundam but will be attached to a support mechanism at the waist, to avoid it from falling over.

It doesn’t look like you will be able to pilot it either, as this walking Gundam will be remote controlled.

To be honest, I was expecting limitations like this. Simply because the engineering requirements to make an 18-meter-tall mecha walk are not exactly trivial.

(13) AT WORK. “Astronauts Finish Spacewalk For Final Fix Of International Space Station Device”NPR has details on what real construction work in space is like.

Two astronauts aboard the International Space Station conducted their fourth and final spacewalk Saturday to finish a series of repairs aimed at extending the functioning of a cosmic ray detector attached to the spacecraft.

The six-hour, 16-minute foray outside the space capsule began shortly after 7:00 a.m. ET and ended at 1:20 p.m.

NASA flight engineer Andrew Morgan and the commander of the space station’s Expedition 61, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, completed leak checks on their installation of a new cooling system meant to extend the lifespan of the externally attached Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer dark matter and antimatter detector.

They were assisted by two other Expedition 61 crew members, NASA flight engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, who operated a Canadarm2 robotic arm capable of fine-tuned maneuvers.

The AMS, as the cosmic ray detector is known, was installed about nine years ago on the spacecraft and was designed to function for only three years. It was not meant to be serviced in flight.

But the scientific data collected by the AMS — to date, it has recorded more than 140 billion particles passing through its detectors, 9 million of which have been identified as the electrons or positrons that compose antimatter — have proven so valuable that NASA scientists now aim to keep it operating for the full 11 years of a complete solar cycle in order to better understand the possible impact of solar radiation variation on astronauts traveling to Mars.

(14) CAT SUITS. The Guardian shows how cats can be more divisive than Brexit: “Claws out! Why cats are causing chaos and controversy across Britain”. Tagline: “Whether it is local ‘cat-seducers’, out-and-out thievery or marauding toms, our feline friends are prompting furious rows and rivalries between neighbours.”

…It’s a sad case,” says the Halls’ barrister, Tom Weisselberg QC. “If she’d seen sense, everyone’s time and money would have been saved.” He worked pro bono on the case, because the Halls are friends. There are few legal options for someone wanting to stop their neighbour stealing their cat. Technically, it’s theft, but generally the police won’t get involved. “You have to show that they intend to deprive you permanently of possession,” Weisselberg says. “That’s a high threshold to satisfy.”

When he was a junior barrister, Weisselberg worked on a legal dispute between Kuwait Airways and Iraqi Airways. The Kuwaitis argued, successfully, that the Iraqis had in effect stolen some Kuwaiti planes, because they had painted their own colours on them, thereby converting them. “I said: ‘Look, if the Kuwaitis can say the Iraqis converted their aircraft by putting different colours on the planes, why can’t you say the defendant has converted your cat by changing its collar?’” Weisselberg planned to use this precedent in court but, at the courthouse door, Lesbirel agreed to a number of restrictions on contact with Ozzy.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/20 You Can Pixel Anytime You Like, But You Can Never Scroll

(1) ALL KNOWLEDGE IS CONTAINED IN FANZINES. CBR.com’s Brian Cronin reveals a little-known origin story — “Comic Legends: The Surprising Possible Inspiration for Superman’s S Logo”.

COMIC LEGEND:

A rather familiar S shield was used as the sign-off to a classic 1930 science fiction fanzine

STATUS:

True

This is an interesting legend because I’m not trying to prove that something is a specific influence or anything like that, which I normally do in stuff like this (or, in the alternative, show that it WASN’T an influence). No, here, the POSSIBLE inspiration is so interesting in and of itself that I’m still going to feature it. It’s just THAT freaky.

… [Mort] Weisinger and the others (including [Julie] Schwartz) referred to themselves as “The Scienceers.”

In the third issue of The Planet (and yes, by the way, there’s a reasonable chance that the name of the fanzine, itself, was an inspiration for the Daily Planet, as well), they tried out a logo for “The Scienceers”.

(2) WILD (LIFE) IMAGINATION. “How Animals Behave When We Aren’t Looking By Artist Julien Tabet” – at deMilked.

Julien Tabet is a 21-year-old French artist who creates incredible photo manipulations of animals. He started creating his clever edits a little over a year ago and in this short time gathered a whopping 95k followers on Instagram.

(3) JEOPARDY! GOAT. [Item by David Goldfarb.] I went back and watched the first episode of the Jeopardy! “Greatest of All Time” tournament (yes, this is out of order: I blame Hulu’s UI) and there was a category “Greatest of All Time Travelers” in the preliminary round of the second game. All answers were successfully questioned. I’ll put the answers first, in case readers want to try themselves:

$200: In Stephen King’s “11/22/63”, Jake Epping travels back in time to prevent this event from ever happening.

$400: In this Audrey Niffenegger novel, Clare is married to Henry, who suffers from Chrono-Displacement Disorder.

$600: In chapter 16 of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, Hank meets this woman whose first name is the same as his surname.

$800: In this 1969 classic, Tralfamadorians abduct the protagonist who has unfortunately become “unstuck in time”.

$1000: “Kindred”, about an African-American woman transplanted back to a plantation in antebellum Maryland, is a novel by this author.

And here are the questions:

$200: What is the Kennedy assassination?

$400: What is “The Time Traveler’s Wife”?

$600: Who is Morgan Le Fey?

$800: What is “Slaughterhouse-5”?

$1000: Who is Octavia Butler?

Also, in the Double Jeopardy round of that game, this was the $800 answer in the category “Potpourri”:

When she said she was leaving “Star Trek”, MLK asked her to stay, saying, “Through you, we see ourselves and what can be”.

I assume that all File 770 readers will know, “Who is Nichelle Nichols?”

(3) A FAR, FAR BETTER THING. James Davis Nicoll starts “Five SF Works Involving Epic Space Journeys” starts by telling Tor.com readers  he’s running for DUFF – because he, too, wants to make an epic journey, get it?

… Of course, the tradition of sending people very far away for various laudable reasons is an old one. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected through the lens of science fiction. Various SF protagonists have been sent quite astonishing distances; sometimes they are even permitted to return home. Here are five examples.

(4) NOW ON SALE. Stephen Blackmoore, one of the game designers for Evil Hat’s game Fate of Cthulthu, wants to make something very clear:

Somebody asked why, then, try to monetize Lovecraft’s material at all? How dare someone ask a question like that! Jeeeze, dude, next thing you’ll be asking the Emperor where’s his clothes!

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS. [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. Jack Belicec in the original and by far the best version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thirty years later, he’d be Lunartini Husband in Nothing Lasts Forever, a SF comedy film with a contentious history. His only other genre appearence was a one-off on Night Gallery. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday. Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham, he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XII, The Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of nonfiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is safely out of date and OOP as well. Checking the online digital publishing concerns shows nothing’s available by him. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1931 Dean Jones. An actor in some of the sillier and most entertaining genre and genre adjacent films undertaken in the Sixties. He was Jim Douglas in The Love Bug, Steve Walker in Blackbeard’s Ghost and Peter Denwell in Mr. Superinvisible. May I count his later appearance in Agent Zeke Kelso in That Darn Cat! as a SJW cred? Around the the time of the film, he was a Dean Webster Carlson in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. His final role before he retired from acting was as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge & Marley.  (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Responsible for the Texas Chainsaw Maasacare, which heco-wrote with Kim Henkel. That alone gets him Birthday honors. But he has also directed the Salem’s Lot series, also Poltergeist, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars. And this is hardly a full listing. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 70. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp,” he was Kiv where he looked looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment”, “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark.
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 62. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. Queen of Air and Darkness he’s written lot!
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 57. Has published a number of works of which his most important is Four British fantasists: place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Anotherimportant work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website ishere.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 47. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade long run on the Green Lantern books.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld predicts the Jack Reacher series will veer off in surprising new directions.

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Yahoo! Entertainment sets the table: “Star Trek’s George Takei Reacts to Donald Trump’s Space Force Logo: ‘We Are Expecting Some Royalties'”.

On Friday, Trump unveiled the new insignia for the United States Space Force — which was signed into effect in late December — and was met with a flurry of comparisons to the emblem worn by the members of Star Trek‘s fictional Starfleet organization.

“After consultation with our Great Military Leaders, designers, and others, I am pleased to present the new logo for the United States Space Force, the Sixth Branch of our Magnificent Military!” Trump tweeted alongside the Space Force’s new logo.

George Takei, who starred as Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series, was quick to respond. Amid accusations from other Trekkies that the emblem had copied the Starfleet logo, the actor responded to Trump in a tweet, “Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this…”

 “Is Trump’s Space Force Logo a Copycat of Starfleet’s From ‘Star Trek’? (Sure Looks Like It)”. The Wrap makes sure to magnify the uproar before eventually remembering where the Space Force logo really comes from.

…Compare and contrast: On the left side of the image above is the logo for Space Force (which, for those of you wondering, is part of the air force and not actually a separate branch of the military); and on the right is the emblem of Starfleet Command, the scientific and military space force for the United Federation of Planets.

…Now, in fairness, the new Space Force logo is actually based on the preexisting Air Force Space Command logo, which was established in 1982 and rendered obsolete by Space Force. Here’s what that looks like:

Okay, here, I’ve run the story – you all can stop sending me links to it.

(8) FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLETIN. WIRED reports “An AI Epidemiologist Sent the First Warnings of the Wuhan Virus”.

On January 9, the World Health Organization notified the public of a flu-like outbreak in China: a cluster of pneumonia cases had been reported in Wuhan, possibly from vendors’ exposure to live animals at the Huanan Seafood Market. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had gotten the word out a few days earlier, on January 6. But a Canadian health monitoring platform had beaten them both to the punch, sending word of the outbreak to its customers on December 31.

BlueDot uses an AI-driven algorithm that scours foreign-language news reports, animal and plant disease networks, and official proclamations to give its clients advance warning to avoid danger zones like Wuhan.

Speed matters during an outbreak, and tight-lipped Chinese officials do not have a good track record of sharing information about diseases, air pollution, or natural disasters. But public health officials at WHO and the CDC have to rely on these very same health officials for their own disease monitoring. So maybe an AI can get there faster…

(9) SIGN AWAY. “Facebook and YouTube moderators sign PTSD disclosure” – BBC has the details.

Content moderators are being asked to sign forms stating they understand the job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to reports.

The Financial Times and The Verge reported moderators for Facebook and YouTube, hired by the contractor Accenture, were sent the documents.

Moderators monitor objectionable materials and often view hundreds of disturbing images in a day’s work.

Accenture said the wellbeing of workers was a “top priority”.

In a statement the company added only new joiners were being asked to sign the forms, whereas existing employees were being sent the form as an update.

“We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do,” Accenture said in a statement.

(10) SPOT INSPECTION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Tested Labs has begin a year-long series of tests of Boston Dynamics dog-like robot Spot. Former Mythbuster Adam Savage will be a tester and the on-camera host of the video series, available on their YouTube channel. Nerdist: “Adam Savage Tested Boston Dynamics’ ‘Spot’ Robot Dog”

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, “Spot,” has been in the news ever since the robotics company debuted its ancestor, BigDog, a decade ago. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen Spot evolve from prototype into polished product, and now it’s finally time to see how the mechanical quadruped performs out in the real world. And what better way to do that than by having legendary myth-buster Adam Savage put the robo-pup through its paces?

Savage and the rest of the Tested YouTube channel crew recently announced they’ll be testing Spot over the next year, with an initial video (above) showing the team unboxing the robot dog and having it perform some initial tasks including walking, climbing, and crawling; feats, incidentally, that would make most other four-legged droids quake in their metallic foot cups.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Time Travel in Fiction Rundown” on YouTube, Minute Physics explains different theories of time travel, including in Ender’s Game and Harry Potter.

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, N., Olav Rokne, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, David Goldfarb, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/20 I Pass The Test. I Will Comment, And Go Into The Thread, And Remain Galadriel

(1) TFL. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid (24th January 2020) is filled to overflowing —

This week TFL takes a look at all the iconic characters getting third acts, what’s good, what’s bad and who’s missing. I also take a look at the excellent charity ‘zine Visitor’s Pass, inspired by The Magnus Archives, process the emotions of my partner finally being out of the Visa system, embrace the joy of getting weird fiction-related and talk about what’s next for The Full Lid.

Signal Boost this week covers upcoming show PodUK2020 and Escape Artists’ role there, fiercely inventive RPG Trophy hitting Kickstarter, Rachel E. Beck‘s latest cyberpunk thriller becoming available for pre-order and friend and colleague Kit Power prepping to launch the crowdfunding campaign for the first collection of his superb Ginger Nuts of Horror column, My Life in Horror

Here’s an excerpt:

Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain’s Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they’re immense fun (the ‘Edited by’ tag kills me every time) and secondly because they’re a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we’ll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I’m 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced…

Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet’s most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I’d love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I’ll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)

(2) SURVIVOR. CrimeReads’ Maureen Johnson provides “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village”.

It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.

Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live….

 (3) THAT’S THE QUESTION. “Quiz of the week: Do you know Jones’s Python characters?” This week’s BBC News Quiz leads off with a Python question. How many Filers will get it?

(4) FADED. NPR film reviewer Mark Jenkins finds“No Love, Little Craft In Pulpy Body-Horror Flick ‘Color Out Of Space’ “.

It wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” explains a dazed New England patriarch, trying to describe the unearthly phenomena at the center of Color Out of Space. Such an assertion might work in “The Colour Out of Space,” the 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft, whose work oozes with mysteries that can’t be fully comprehended or even perceived. But viewers of the movie have already seen the unearthly hue by the time it’s so described.

It’s purple.

So are many things in this indigestible stew of modern sci-fi and antiquarian horror, notably Nicolas Cage’s characteristically unhinged performance. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a failed painter and would-be farmer who’s frantic to protect his wife, three kids, dog, and flock of alpacas. Alpacas? They’re among many additions to the tale that would bewilder its original creator.

Like this movie, Lovecraft’s pulp-fiction mythos combines extraterrestrial and occult threats, although the author was never concerned with plausible science. So it’s not such a stretch that the first Gardner to be introduced is one invented altogether by the filmmakers: teenage Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), whose blonde tresses are partly dyed, yes, purple. She’s an aspiring witch spied by the movie’s narrator, visiting hydrologist Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight), as she’s performing a ritual in the woods.

…In the original, the narrator arrives years after the events have occurred, and struggles to piece it all together. His investigation leaves questions and doubts, allowing readers to complete the story in their heads and decide for themselves what they believe. Color Out of Space takes a more explicit, less artful course: It turns ominous possibilities into a gory mess that proves utterly unbelievable.

(5) SOMTOW’S NEW OPERA. A story behind a paywall at the Financial Times, however, I was able to access the article from Google (no idea if that will work for you.) The headline is: “Helena Citrónová — Somtow Sucharitkul’s Auschwitz-set opera premieres in Bangkok.”

A work of intriguing moral ambiguity was sung with passionate commitment at the Thailand Cultural Centre 

When he first saw the BBC’s landmark 2005 documentary on Auschwitz, the Thai-born, British-educated composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul was immediately struck by a Slovakian prisoner’s interview about her relationship with a Nazi officer. Sensing its operatic potential, he soon fashioned a libretto inspired by their story. 

The music came later, mostly in fits and starts. But last autumn Somtow unveiled a suite from the opera during a European concert tour, and the piece quickly gained traction after a broadcast in Slovakia. All this helps explain why, amid this month’s 75th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, the opera Helena Citrónová made its premiere last week in Bangkok with the imprimatur of the German and Israeli ambassadors to Thailand. 

Opera Siam, which Somtow originally formed as the Bangkok Opera in 2001, is a scrappy outfit largely moulded from its founder’s diverse interests. Halfway through presenting south-east Asia’s first Ring Cycle — its Siegfried has been postponed at least twice — the company began devoting resources to Somtow’s epic cycle Ten Lives of the Buddha (it has now reached chapter six).

Emotionally, the evening took its cues directly from Cassandra Black’s Helena and Falko Hönisch’s Nazi guard Franz Wunsch, who acutely revealed their emotional range in one standout scene, in which Franz is interrogated and Helena is tortured (at opposite ends of the stage), smoothly transitioning from dramatic quartet to lyrical love duet. Other standouts (in multiple roles) were Stella Grigorian’s maternal presence as Helena’s sister and Franz’s mother, and Damian Whiteley’s all-round villainy as both chief prisoner and a German captain.

(6) A MERE FORCE GHOST OF ITSELF. Variety says things are looking dark: “Obi-Wan Kenobi Series at Disney Plus Loses Writer, Seeks to Overhaul Scripts”.

Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety.

Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 24, 1969 Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.

“What is it, Jim?”

“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”

– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost

This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventeenth episode of the final season.  It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911 C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaborative work resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their work in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1937 Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 76. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1949 John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 53. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash
  • Born January 24, 1970 Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, 50. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an academic so let’s have one. He’s not a specialist — instead he’s tackled the Gothic (The Cambridge Companion to the American Gothic), cult television (Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory, and Genre on Television), popular culture (Critical Approaches to Welcome to Night Vale: Podcasting Between Weather and the Void) and even cult film (Reading Rocky: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Popular Culture). His The Age of Lovecraft anthology (co-edited with Carl Sederhlm) has an interview by him with China Miéville on Lovecraft.  
  • Born January 24, 1985 Remy Ryan, 35. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.

(9) RETRO ROCKETS. Cora Buhlert covers another 1944 contender — “Retro Review: ‘The Lake’ by Ray Bradbury”.

“The Lake” is a short story by Ray Bradbury, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here. This review is also crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following….

(10) OVER THERE. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon review two new (in 1965) issues of British prozines: “[January 24, 1965] A New Beginning… New Worlds and Science Fantasy Magazine, January/February 1965”.

Summing up New Worlds

New Worlds is an eclectic mixture this month and there are signs that Moorcock is making his own stamp on the magazine. The addition of factual science articles and more literary reviews reflect this, and it must be said that the expansion of literary criticism has been one of Mike’s intentions since he took over as Editor. It’ll be interesting to see how the regular readers respond to it.

By including such material of course means that there’s less space for fiction, and I suspect that whilst that might ease Moorcock’s load a little – he is writing and editing a fair bit of it, after all – it may not sit well with readers. But then we are now monthly…

(11) TROPES IN SPACE. If, like me, you don’t remember ever hearing about 1990’s computer game “Master of Orion”, no problem — Digital Antiquarian tells us everything we missed. And about a few other PC sff games, too.

…A new game of Master of Orion begins with you choosing a galaxy size (from small to huge), a difficulty level (from simple to impossible), and a quantity of opposing aliens to compete against (from one to five). Then you choose which specific race you would like to play; you have ten possibilities in all, drawing from a well-worn book of science-fiction tropes, from angry cats in space to hive-mind-powered insects, from living rocks to pacifistic brainiacs, alongside the inevitable humans. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re cast into the deep end — or rather into deep space — with a single half-developed planet, a colony ship for settling a second planet as soon as you find a likely candidate, two unarmed scout ships for exploring for just such a candidate, and a minimal set of starting technologies.

(12) ABOUT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant hasn’t quite learned how to fake sincerity: “Things To Ponder”.

…Whilst I don’t sexually objectify (or subjectify, for that matter) attack helicopters in any way (the ones I saw in my younger days, I was usually trying to shoot down!), and I’m more of a transgressor than a transgender, I nevertheless sympathize with the author.

(13) DEER LORD ABOVE, WHY? SYFY Wire reports “Bambi to get The Lion King treatment as latest Disney ‘live-action’ remake”.

The Lion King won’t be the only Disney film about an animal losing a parent to be made even more realistic and emotional thanks to modern technology. Now the 1942 animated classic Bambi will be getting what Disney calls a “live-action” remake (even though it’s actually impressive CGI that aims to be photoreal).

(14) THE MUMMY SPEAKS. “Egyptian priest’s voice heard 3,000 years after death” — 2-second video.

The voice of a 3,000-year-old ancient Egyptian priest has been recreated using cutting-edge 3D printing and speech technology.

Nesyamun’s voice was reproduced as a vowel-like sound that is reminiscent of a sheep’s bleat.

The research – carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of York and Leeds Museum – is published in the Scientific Reports journal.

He distinctly said “To blave.”

(15) MMM-MMM-GOOD? “Space cookies: First food baked in space by astronauts”.

Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.

Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.

Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.

The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.

The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.

The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet

A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would “soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment”.

These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat.

(16) PROTO ST. AQUIN. “What we can learn about robots from Japan”, according to BBC writer Amos Zeeberg.

While the West tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s complex relationship with machines.

At a certain 400-year-old Buddhist temple, visitors can stroll through peaceful stone gardens, sit for a quiet cup of tea, and receive Buddhist teachings from an unusual priest: an android named Mindar. It has a serene face and neutral appearance, neither old nor young, male nor female. Beyond the realistic skin covering its head and upper torso, it looks unfinished and industrial, with exposed tubes and machinery. But Mindar is philosophically quite sophisticated, discoursing on an abstruse Buddhist text called the Heart Sutra.

If you had to figure out where you could find this robotic priest, you might need only one guess to conclude it’s in Japan, at the beautiful Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other. While this reputation is often exaggerated abroad – Japanese homes and businesses are not densely populated by androids, as hyperventilating headlines imply – there is something to it.

Some observers of Japanese society say that the country’s indigenous religion, Shinto, explains its fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits, or kami, not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even quotidien objects like pencils. “All things have a bit of soul,” in the words of Bungen Oi, the head priest of a Buddhist temple that held funerals for robotic companion dogs.

According to this view, there is no categorical distinction between humans, animals, and objects, so it is not so strange for a robot to demonstrate human-like behaviours – it’s just showing its particular kind of kami. “For Japanese, we can always see a deity inside an object,” says Kohei Ogawa, Mindar’s lead designer.

Japan’s animism stands in contrast with the philosophical traditions of the West. Ancient Greeks were animistic in that they saw spirits in natural places like streams, but they thought of the human soul and mind as distinctly separate from and above the rest of nature.

(17) FAST SHOOTING. Via Slashdot: “Ultrafast Camera Takes 1 Trillion Frames Per Second of Transparent Objects, Phenomena”.

After developing the world’s fastest camera a little over a year ago, Caltech’s Lihong Wang decided that wasn’t good enough and started working on an even faster device. A new paper published in the journal Science Advances details a new camera from Wang that can take up to 1 trillion pictures per second of transparent objects.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Le Silence de la Rue” on Vimeo, Marie Opron discusses the hazards of city life.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, Daniel Dern, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/20 No-One Expects The Scrollish Pixelation!

(1) THE DOCTOR IS STILL IN. Entertainment Weekly confirms “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker will play time traveler for at least one more season”.

… “I’ve seen loads of fan art, which I always love,” she says. “But it’s never been that great for me to immerse myself in noise that you can’t control, good or bad. I think both are a rabbit hole that you shouldn’t necessarily go down. We know that we work really hard for the show to be the best it can be in this moment. Once it’s out in the ether, how people feel, in a way, is kind of irrelevant.”

But Whittaker isn’t going anywhere. The length of time an actor has played the Doctor has varied over the years — back in the ’70s and ’80s, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor piloted the TARDIS for seven seasons; in the aughts, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor survived just one. So, will Whittaker return for a third run of shows? “Yes, I’m doing another season,” she confirms. “That might be a massive exclusive that I’m not supposed to say, but it’s unhelpful for me to say [I don’t know] because it would be a massive lie! [Laughs] I absolutely adore it. At some point, these shoes are going to be handed on, but it’s not yet. I’m clinging on tight!”

(2) GUINAN. Patrick Stewart, while appearing on The View, extended an invitation to host Whoopi Goldberg to appear in Picard’s second season. See 4-minutue video here. Stewart said —

“I’m here with a formal invitation, and it’s for you, Whoopi.  Alex Kurtzman, who is the senior executive producer of Star Trek: Picard, and all his colleagues, of which I am one, want to invite you into the second season.”

The crowd delivered a standing ovation as Goldberg and Stewart hugged, and Goldberg replied, “Yes, yes, yes!” 

(3) THE PEOPLE ALL RIDE IN A WORMHOLE IN THE GROUND. The New York Post tells readers “Here’s where to get ‘Star Trek: Picard’ MetroCards featuring Patrick Stewart”.

“Star Trek: Picard” is beaming to a subway station near you.

For three weeks starting Thursday, when the show premieres on CBS All Access, the series will be promoted on special MetroCards available at six MTA stations in Manhattan.

In the drama, Sir Patrick Stewart, 79, reprises his “Star Trek: The Next Generation” role of Jean-Luc Picard, the retired Starfleet admiral and former captain of the Starship Enterprise who is living out his latter days on his family’s vineyard in France. Fittingly, the subway promotion will showcase two different cards — one featuring Picard on the front and his family’s sweeping vineyard on the back, the other with Picard’s dog, No. 1, on the front and several planets on the flip side.

(4) IS PICARD MESSAGE-HEAVY? The Daily Beast argues “‘Star Trek: Picard,’ With Its Refugee Crisis and Anti-Trump Messaging, May Be the Most Political Show on TV”.

…At the crux of the Picard premiere is a devastating monologue Stewart delivers recounting a catastrophic event that happened years before, triggering a refugee crisis and driving Picard to quit his position in the Starfleet, disgusted by what the organization and the Federation now stood for. 

It might sound in the weeds if you’re not a Trekkie, but the basics of the plot are refreshingly simple. 

A supernova blast threatened the planet Romulus. Despite their antagonistic relationship, the Federation agreed to rescue the Romulan people. But in the midst of the rescue mission, synthetic lifeforms like Data, who helped Picard pilot his ship, went rogue and destroyed the Federation’s base on Mars, killing over 90,000 people. In the wake of the incident, synthetic lifeforms were banned, a decision that appalled Picard and caused him to quit before he carried out his Romulan rescue mission. 

“It has always been part of the content of Star Trek that it will be attempting to create a better future with the certain belief that a better future is possible if the right kind of work and the right kind of people are engaged in that,” Stewart told reporters. “And my feeling was, as I look all around our world today, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today.” 

(5) CLONE WARS TRAILER. The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts streaming Feb. 21 on DisneyPlus.

One of the most critically-acclaimed entries in the Star Wars saga will be returning for its epic conclusion with twelve all-new episodes on Disney+ beginning Friday, February 21. From Dave Filoni, director and executive producer of “The Mandalorian,” the new Clone Wars episodes will continue the storylines introduced in the original series, exploring the events leading up to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

(6) HAVE SPACEWORTHY 3D PRINTER, WILL TRAVEL. Daniel Dern looks into “NASA’s 3D Printing Space Initiatives” in an article for GrabCAD.

…The SLS [Space Launch System] is intended to be the primary launch vehicle of NASA’s deep space. By manufacturing as many of the engine’s parts as possible (like the fuel injectors, turbo pumps, valves, and main injectors) with 3D printing, NASA can significantly reduce time and money spent.

“NASA is on track to reduce the number of individual parts by an order of magnitude — from hundreds to tens — and reduce the cost of the entire engine by 30% and later by 50%, and the build time by 50%,” John explains.

Dern notes, “This is the 3rd or 4th NASA-related article I’ve gotten to do over the past six months. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this, and hope find more assignments on this stuff over the coming year.”

(7) WHAT IT TAKES. “Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chris Butler’s top animation tips” – BBC video.

Film writer and director Chris Butler, who has been nominated for an Oscar, has said anyone who wants to be an animator needs to be prepared for “hard work”.

His film Missing Link is up against Toy Story 4 in the Animated Feature category, but Butler, from Maghull, Merseyside, has already beaten it – and Frozen II – to a Golden Globe.

He said he was “shell-shocked” when it was announced as the winner earlier this month – so much so that he cannot remember going on stage to collect the award.

Butler said making animated films was “not easy” and warned that budding filmmakers have to “put in long hours” to make it in the industry.

(8) STONE AGE. First Fandom Experience not only remembers when — “In 1939, Lithography Came To Fanzines — But Why?”. Zine scans at the link.

Beginning in 1932, Conrad H. Ruppert reshaped the world of fan publications with the printing press he bought with money saved by working in his father’s bakery. He printed issues of the most prominent fanzines of the period, including The Time Traveller, Science Fiction Digest, and Charles D. Hornig’s The Fantasy Fan. It’s not unreasonable to assert that the professional appearance of Hornig’s leaflet-sized ‘zine contributed to his ascension to the editorship of Wonder Stories at the age of 17….

(9) THOSE DARN FANS. RS Benedict posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast — “This is the first of a two-part series about the dark side of fandom. Why does fandom turn toxic? Can over-investment in fandom stunt your social and artistic growth?” The first episode is here: “The Dark Side of Fandom, Part 1: Have You Accepted Spider-Man as Your Lord and Savior?”

Tim Heiderich of Have You Seen This took the time to talk to us about the creative perils of fandom. Fandom can be fun, but it can also turn ugly too, or it can keep us so busy focusing on someone else’s work that we fail to develop our own talents.

This was a huge conversation, so we split it into two parts. In the first installment, we talk about toxic fandom, simulacra, and the siren song of nostalgia.

(10) EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey’s TAFF win attracted local media attention: “From Chester County High School to Stockholm and Birmingham (England)” in the Chester County Independent.

…Lowrey has been attending these conventions since 1975 and loves it. He said he loves how the conventions are filled with interesting, intelligent people. The interaction of science fiction fans overseas is awesome as well he said.
“I got people I consider good friends that I never met before,” he said.
He actually met the woman whom he would spend his life with and marry, C.K. “Cicatrice” Hinchliffe of Bertram, Iowa, at the local Milwaukee science fiction convention in 1981.
Lowrey graduated from Chester County High School in 1971 and earned a magna cum laude degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to his job with the State of Wisconsin, he’s been working as a writer and editor since 1984.
He is also a bookseller, serves as a local president and state executive board member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and acts as a volunteer administrator for Wikipedia. He has had book reviews published and also Dungeon and Dragon articles published in Dragon magazine.

(11) KARLEN OBIT. John Karlen , the actor who played multiple roles (Willie Loomis, Carl Collins, William H. Loomis, Desmond Collins, Alex Jenkins and Kendrick Young) on the ABC serial Dark Shadows died January 22 at the age of 86.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 23, 1954Killers From Space made it to your local drive-in. It was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder. It has a cast of Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar and James Seay. We should note that Killers From Space came about as a commissioned screenplay from Wilder’s son Myles Wilder and their regular collaborator William Raynor. How was it received? Not well. There was, in the opinion of critics, way too much too talk, too little action, poor production values… you get the idea. Though they liked Graves. Who doesn’t? Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a decidedly unfavourable rating of just 24%. 
  • January 23, 1974 The Questor Tapes first aired on NBC. Created and written by Roddenberry himself with Gene L Coon as co-writer, it was by Richard Colla. It starred Robert Foxworth, Mike Farrell and John Vernon. (Fontana’s novelisation would be dedicated to Coon who died before it aired.) though it was intended to be a pilot fir a series, conflict between Roddenberry and the network doomed the series. It would place fifth in the final Hugo balloting the following year at Aussiecon One with Young Frankenstein being the Hugo winner.
  • January 23, 1985 — The Rankin-Bass version of ThunderCats premiered in syndication. Leonard Starr was the primary writer with the animation contracted to the Japanese studio Pacific Animation Corporation, with Masaki Iizuka as the production manager. It would run for four years and one and thirty episodes. Need we note that a vast media empire of future series, films, comics, t-shirts, statues, action figures and so forth have developed since then?

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered  for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both digitally and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1932 Bart LaRue. He was the voice of The Guardian  of  Forever in the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Trek as well as doing voice roles in “Bread and Circuses” (on-screen too) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” as Provider 1 (uncredited) “Patterns of Force” as an Ekosian newscaster (Both voice and on-screen) and “The Savage Curtain” as Yarnek. He did similar work for Time Tunnel, Mission Impossible, Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea, The Andromeda StrainWild Wild West, Land of Giants and Lost in Space. (Died 1990.)
  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg’s aged eighty one years, and Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s  A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1942 Brian Coucher, 78. He appeared in three genre series — first  the second actor to portray Travis in Blake’s 7 and also as Borg in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Robots of Death”. Finally genre wise he appeared in a Doctor Who spin-off that I’ve never heard existed, Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. No Who characters appeared though Sophie Alfred played someone other than Ace here. 
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 77. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages. 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 70. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. 
  • Born January 23, 1976 Tiffani Thiessen, 44. Better known by far by me at least her role as Elizabeth Burke on the White Collar series which might be genre adjacent, she did end up in three films of genre interest: From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (a parade of the Friday the 13th films) and Cyborg Soldier. They’re average rating at Rotten Tomatoes among reviewers is fifteen percent in case you were wondering how good they were. 
  • Born January 23, 1973 Lanei Chapman, 47. She’s most remembered as Lt. Vanessa Damphousse on Space: Above and Beyond, a series that ended well before it should’ve ended. She made her genre debut on Next Gen as Ensign Sariel Rager, a recurring character who was a conn officer. 
  • Born January 23, 1977 Sonita Henry, 43. Her very first was as President’s Aide on Fifth Element. She was a Kelvin Doctor in the rebooted Star Trek film, and she’s Colonel Meme I the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Time of The Doctor”.  Her latest is playing Raika on Krypton.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) AND SPREAD HIM OUT THIN. Adweek says “Rest in Peace, Mr. Peanut—Planters Kills Off Iconic Mascot in Lead-Up to Super Bowl”.  

… In a shocking move, Planters, the Kraft-Heinz-owned snack brand, has killed off its iconic mascot in a teaser for its Big Game spot. Mr. Peanut’s untimely demise began with a Nutmobile crash, followed by falling off a cliff and ending in an explosion.

… And when will the classic mascot be memorialized? During Super Bowl 2020, naturally.

…The loss of Mr. Peanut is a major moment for the brand. Planters first introduced Mr. Peanut to audiences in 1916, meaning that the mascot has been around since the midst of World War I, making him of the longest-standing brand mascots of all time.

The spot, which will air during the third quarter of the Big Game on Feb. 2, was produced by VaynerMedia. Planters also has several promotions and activations to honor Mr. Peanut’s life, including commemorative pins for fans who spot the Nutmobile on the streets and a hashtag, #RIPeanut, for fans to share their sympathies.

(16) POMPEII AND CIRCUMSTANCE. “Mount Vesuvius eruption: Extreme heat ‘turned man’s brain to glass'” – BBC has the story.

Extreme heat from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy was so immense it turned one victim’s brain into glass, a study has suggested.

The volcano erupted in 79 AD, killing thousands and destroying Roman settlements near modern-day Naples.

The town of Herculaneum was buried by volcanic matter, entombing some of its residents.

A team of researchers has been studying the remains of one victim, unearthed at the town in the 1960s.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, said fragments of a glassy, black material were extracted from the victim’s skull.

Researchers behind the study believe the black material is the vitrified remains of the man’s brain.

(17) YOUR PAL IN SPACE. “Meet Vyom – India’s first robot ‘astronaut'” – BBC video.

India’s space agency has unveiled a robot that will travel to space later this year as part of an unmanned mission

Scientists hope that it will be able to later assist astronauts in a manned space mission called Gaganyaan, which is scheduled for December 2021.

Isro will conduct two unmanned missions – one in December this year and another in June 2021 – before the Gaganyaan mission.

The robot, which has been named Vyom Mitra (which translates from the Sanskrit to friend in space) is designed to perform a number of functions including responding to astronaut’s questions and performing life support operations.

(18) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. Public spirited citizens arise! “Wanted – volunteers to monitor Britain’s growing slug population”.

Citizen scientists are being sought to help carry out the first survey in decades of Britain’s slug populations.

To take part, all that’s required is curiosity, a garden, and a willingness to go out after dark to search for the likes of the great grey or yellow slug.

The year-long research project will identify different slug species and the features that tempt them into gardens.

The last study conducted in English gardens in the 1940s found high numbers of just nine species of slug.

Many more have arrived in recent years, including the Spanish slug, which is thought to have come in on salad leaves. Less than half of the UK’s 40 or more slug species are now considered native.

(19) TRANSMUTING GOLD TO LEAD. Iron Man never had days like this. GQ asks “Does Dolittle’s Box Office Flop Spell Trouble for Robert Downey Jr.?”

For over a decade, Robert Downey Jr. played MCU pillar Tony Stark, a billionaire superhero who would almost certainly consider Dolittle’s abysmal opening weekend earnings to be little more than pocket change.

Despite opening on a holiday weekend, RDJ’s Dolittle made just $29.5 million over the four-day period, and only an additional $17 million internationally. Dolittle cost a jaw-dropping $175 million to make, so those box office numbers are kind of catastrophic, with Universal expected to lose $100 million on the movie, according to The Wrap. Universal, it should be noted, also took a bath last month when the furry fever dream that is Cats flopped, but at least Cats only cost $90 million to make, so the loss isn’t quite as terrible.

The only slim hope for Dolittle’s prospects is a higher than expected haul in the international markets where it hasn’t opened yet—including China—but maybe don’t hold your breath.

It took the strain of wielding all six Infinity Stones to kill him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so Robert Downey Jr. will probably survive Dolittle’s bomb. Still… yikes.

(20) I SPY, AGAIN. “Twitter demands AI company stops ‘collecting faces'”

Twitter has demanded an AI company stop taking images from its website.

Clearview has already amassed more than three billion photographs from sites including Facebook and Twitter.

They are used by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and more than 600 other law-enforcement agencies around the world to identify suspects.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent on Tuesday, Twitter said its policies had been violated and requested the deletion of any collected data.

…US senator Ron Wyden said on Twitter Clearview’s activities were “extremely troubling”.

“Americans have a right to know whether their personal photos are secretly being sucked into a private facial-recognition database,” he said.

“Every day, we witness a growing need for strong federal laws to protect privacy.”

(21) PYTHON PASSPORT. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] A fitting (and unintentional) tribute to Terry Jones. I’d vote for a Brexit for this one if I could.

Original:

Sad to say, the Express graphic is fixed now — “Britons will fly to 2020 summer holiday destinations on classic BLUE passport”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Model Citizen” on YouTube, David James Armsby portrays what seems to be the perfect nuclear family–but why is it controlled by evil robots?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

(1) THE APPETIZER COMES LAST. “Hunger Games prequel will reveal villain’s origins” – BBC has the story,

A new Hunger Games novel is to be published in May, focusing on the back story of the villainous President Snow.

…The new book is set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games and details the “Dark Days” that led to the failed rebellion in Panem.

A first excerpt, available on the Entertainment Weekly website, depicts Coriolanus Snow as a charming university student who was born into privilege.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly link: “Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins”.

The world still thought Coriolanus rich, but his only real currency was charm, which he spread liberally as he made his way through the crowd. Faces lit up as he gave friendly hellos to students and teachers alike, asking about family members, dropping compliments here and there. “Your lecture on district retaliation haunts me.” “Love the bangs!” “How did your mother’s back surgery go? Well, tell her she’s my hero.”

(2) HELP NAME THE ROVER. NASA’s Name the Rover contest—for their next Mars rover—has published its list of nine finalists. Students around the country sent in over 28,000 essays supporting their suggested names.

Now the public is invited to chime in — “You Can Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover!” The polls are open for another five days. Each finalist comes with a link to the essay describing why the nominators think it should win.

(3) NEW EDITOR. Galaxy’s Edge publisher, Shahid Mahmud, has announced Lezli Robyn will take over as editor.

As many of you know, Mike Resnick passed away recently.

He pretty much single handedly created this magazine with the aim to give writers, particularly newer writers, a new venue for their stories. He was known in the industry as someone who loved helping younger aspiring authors and there is a large group of writers out there who proudly call themselves Mike’s Writer Children.

One of his writer children was Lezli Robyn, who also works for me as my assistant publisher. During the last year she also helped Mike with the magazine, particularly as his illness started taking a greater toll on his health.

Lezli is an award-winning writer in her own right and has also collaborated with Mike on a number of stories. She will now be taking over as editor of the magazine. I know Mike was very pleased with that decision…to have someone who was very close to him take over something he put so much of his heart into.

Since the two of them were working together on the magazine for the last few months, the transition should be smooth and we expect issue 43 to be available on time, on March 1, 2020.

(4) GALLERY OF HUGO ELIGIBLE ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual gallery of pro artists who are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2020 Professional Artists”.

It has 300+ images from 100+ pro artists whose art was used for short fiction, magazine covers, and novel covers.

However, there is this note –

Thumbnail images with a highlighted link are professional works done in 2019. Thumbnails without a highlighted link were done earlier (shown in last year’s list), later (show in next year’s list) or fan art (published in a semi-prozine) and included to give more examples of the artist’s style.

(5) STET, I REPEAT, STET. Ursula Vernon fights back against the Copyedits of Doom. Thread starts here.

(6) FREE AGENCY. Rudy Rucker shared his experience “Discussing ‘Agency’ with William Gibson”.

RR===

It’s fine with me if the thriller pace slows down. I like your meditative stuff. so nice to have you doing real SF again! “Slash is electric once more.”

I love how Netherton is expecting to be in a superhero iron man peripheral, and then it’s squat and small, like part of an oil filled radiator. He’s a good anti hero, and you have fun tormenting him. He still works as a character being sober, still has the same outside attitude. When I had my character Sta-Hi be sober in Realware, some of my older fans were mad about it, grumbled that “Rucker has gone religious, he’s no fun anymore, etc.” But if they’d notice, Sta-Hi stays exactly as crazy as before, as does Netherton.

WG===

For me, what took over for Netherton in this book was his co-parenting! My first POV character with a baby to take care of! When I discovered how different that felt to write, I guess I decided to roll with it, getting some perverse satisfaction out of imagining poor fuckers who bought the book in an airport, just before jumping on an 8-hour flight, expecting to get the generic thriller hand-job, and bang, they’re parenting!

(7) VOTING AGAINST THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT. The National Post’s “Rookies of Parliament Hill” spotlights a new Canadian legislator with a link to X-Men.

Lenore Zann, best known to the SFF community as the voice of Rogue in the classic X-Men cartoon series of the 1990s has a new role: as a legislator in the Canadian parliament. The 61-year-old actress was elected last autumn as part of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. 

“X-Men is a deep show about deep themes that are universal. They’re almost like our Greek gods and goddesses — they’re like mythology for young people,” said Zann. “I sit on a plane watching what people are looking at on their TV screens in front of them. Most of them are watching stuff like that.”

(8) JONES OBIT. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died January 22. He had been suffering from dementia for years, says The Hollywood Reporter: “Terry Jones, ‘Monty Python’ Co-Founder and British Comedy Icon, Dies at 77”.

Born in North Wales, Jones read English at Oxford University, where he met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin. The two would star together in the college’s comedy troupe The Oxford Revue, and after graduation, they appeared in the 1967 TV sketch comedy Twice a Fortnight.

Two years later, they created The Complete and Utter History of Britain, which featured comedy sketches from history as if TV had been around at the time. It was on the show Do Not Adjust Your Set where they would be introduced to fellow comic Eric Idle, who had starred alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman in productions mounted by the Cambridge University theatrical club the Footlights.  

The five — together with Terry Gilliam, whom Cleese had met in New York — would quickly pool their talents for a new show. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born and ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969 and 1974, with Jones driving much of the show’s early innovation.

Vanity Fair’s 1999 profile of the troupe, “The Dead Parrot Society”, includes this intro of Terry:

Jones is a noted history buff who has written on Chaucer and hosted a number of documentaries, including one on the Crusades. He directed Life of Brian and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life; apart from Monty Python he has directed the films Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows and written several children’s books. The son of a bank clerk, he was born in North Wales and attended Oxford University. He and his wife, a biochemist, live in London and have a son and a daughter. Jones regularly appeared nude (playing the organ) in the opening credits of the Monty Python television series; he also played the obscenely fat, vomit-spewing Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 
  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf would premiere on CBS where it would run for three seasons before ending its run on USA with a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who was also behind Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other SFF series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating  the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Box and Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the ebook publishers are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog, March of 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, as I’ve not read them. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really stung. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down as General Woundwort and in The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Tyrone Power Jr., 61. Yes, son of that actor. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. If you remember him at all, it’s as Pillsbury, one of the aliens, in the Cocoon films. Other than Soulmates, a horrid sounding sort of personal zombie film, in which he had a role, that’s it for his SFF creds. 
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 61. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream to name a few of these films. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 51. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the Destroyer, Beyond the Stars, Asterix Conquers America, Tarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy Island, Batman Beyond, Twilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Born January 22, 1996 Blanca Blanco, 24. She’s here today because she’s on one of those Trek video fanfics that seem to have proliferated a few years back. This one had her planning on playing someone on Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time but the funding never materialized. I’m fascinated by this one as a certain actor was reprising his Gary Mitchell role here.  If it was decided that  an audio series would be made instead but I can’t find any sign of that being done either. Any of you spotted it? 

(11) WHEN THE GALAXY IS OUT OF ORDER YOU CALL… Guardians of the Galaxy!

Someone has to guard the galaxy – but who will accept the mission? And will they survive it? See who answers the call in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 trailer featuring writer Al Ewing, Editor in Chief CB Cebulski, and Editor Darren Shan! 

Cosmic peace is hanging by a thread as the major galactic empires bristle against each other. Amidst the chaos, the Gods of Olympus have returned — harbingers of a new age of war, reborn to burn their mark on the stars themselves! The legendary Star-Lord leads Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon on a mission to restore order to the stars!

“The galaxy is just one bad day away from complete and total collapse, and that day is here,” teases Shan.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Marvel cosmic universe, as we know it, comes alive. Marvel space is about to come crashing into the Marvel Universe in a big way,” says Ewing. 

(12) SO MUCH FOR THOSE GOLDEN MEMORIES. The Guardian’s Luke Holland is a little grumpy: “Rise of the ‘bleakquel’: your favourite heroes are back – and more miserable than ever”

… Take the recent Star Wars trilogy, whose entire existence is predicated on the revelation that Han, Leia and Luke all had a miserable old time of it after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before, any fan with R2-D2 on their jim-jams could envisage the three of them growing old together, with a grey-muzzled Chewbacca snoozing contentedly by a crackling hearth. The new films suddenly forced them to confront a new reality in which Han and Leia are estranged because their son became a mass-murderer, and a PTSD-ravaged Luke lives a life of solitude on a remote skerry somewhere uncannily reminiscent of Ireland. And what happens next? Oh, they all die. Miserably. Great. Thanks.

(13) FISTS OF FURRIES. On TV news — “Furries to the rescue: Costumed conventioneers save woman from assault in San Jose”. This is KABC’s caption:

A trio of costumed furries – people who like to dress as animals – came to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted in a car in San Jose.

(14) CLOSING THE UNDERWATER BARN DOOR. A bit late for this, isn’t it? “Titanic Wreckage Now Protected Under U.S.-U.K. Deal That Was Nearly Sunk”.

More than a century after the RMS Titanic sank to bottom of the sea — and nearly a quarter-century after its memory was dredged up for a Hollywood blockbuster — the U.S. and U.K. have implemented a formal agreement on how to safeguard and manage the ill-fated steamship’s remains.

British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed the news Tuesday during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built before setting off from the English port city of Southampton in 1912.

…”This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” Ghani said in remarks released Tuesday by the Maritime Ministry.

Ghani’s comments cap a long and winding journey for the deal, which representatives from the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France officially agreed to as part of a 2003 treaty. The Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic sought to sort out and regulate public access, artifact conservation and salvage rights within 1 kilometer of the wreck site, situated hundreds of miles off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic.

But since the countries negotiated the treaty, the document has largely languished. It requires the ratification of at least two of the four countries to enter into force, and while the U.K. quickly ratified the agreement, both Canada and France have yet to do so. The formal approval of the U.S. government looked long in doubt, as well.

(15) DEAD LETTERS. BBC warns about “The alphabets at risk of extinction”.

It isn’t just languages that are endangered: dozens of alphabets around the world are at risk. And they could have even more to tell us.

On his first two days of school, in a village above the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, Maung Nyeu was hit with a cane. This was not because he was naughty. It was simply that Nyeu could not understand what the teacher was saying, or what was written in his textbooks. Although 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as a first language, Nyeu grew up with Marma, one of several minority tongues in the region. Written, it is all curls, like messy locks of hair.

Eventually Nyeu managed to escape this cycle of bewilderment and beatings. After learning Bengali at home, he returned to school and went to university. Now he is pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Yet Nyeu never forgot his early schooldays. He spends much of his time in the hills where he grew up, where he founded Our Golden Hour – a nonprofit fighting to keep Marma and a flurry of other scripts alive.

There are between 6,000 to 7,000 languages in the world. Yet 96% are spoken by just 3% of the global population. And 85% are endangered, like Marma.

Along with the spoken words, something else is also at risk: each language’s individual script. When we talk about “endangered languages”, most of us think of the spoken versions first. But our alphabets can tell us huge amounts about the cultures they came from. Just as impressive is the length people will go to save their scripts – or invent whole new alphabets and spread them to the world.

(16) LET THERE BE LIGHT MEASUREMENT. And it was good. “Space mission to reveal ‘Truths’ about climate change”.

The UK is going to lead a space mission to get an absolute measurement of the light reflected off Earth’s surface.

The information will be used to calibrate the observations of other satellites, allowing their data to be compared more easily.

Called Truths, the new spacecraft was approved for development by European Space Agency member states in November.

Proponents of the mission expect its data to help reduce the uncertainty in projections of future climate change.

Scientists and engineers met on Tuesday to begin planning the project. Industry representatives from Britain, Switzerland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania gathered at Esa’s technical centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

(17) POCKET WATCH. “Australia fires: ‘Incredible’ signs of life return to burned bush” – BBC video, including incredibly cute joey.

Australia’s bushfires have burnt through 10 million hectares of land, and it is feared some habitats may never recover.

But in some worst-affected areas, the sight of plants growing back and animals returning to habitats is raising spirits.

(18) CALLING CHARLES FORT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Things are not so cute in Florida. NPR aired this story today: “Florida Weather Forecasters Warn Of Falling Iguanas”.

Last night, the National Weather Service called for lows in the 30s and 40s with a chance of falling iguanas. Apparently, the lizards can fall into a deeper slumber in the cold, and it is not uncommon for them to tumble from trees. The advice for you is watch your heads, and don’t bug the iguanas after they land. I mean, do you like being bothered when you’re just getting up?

Related older stories: “What To Do If You Come Across A Frozen Iguana” (2018) – “Bottom line: don’t touch them. They are not dead. They may thaw out and attack.”

For perspective: “Florida Has An Iguana Problem” (2019).

Biologists say invasive green iguanas have been spreading in Florida, and they’re a major nuisance. The state encourages homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

And for “historical context.” Bob & Ray “The Komodo Dragon” (Live at Carnegie Hall, 1984)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/20 The Filers Scroll Round And Round, And They Come Out Here

(1) DREAMER’S BIOGRAPHY. “N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds” in The New Yorker is Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of the extraordinary author.

…In 2018, she released “How Long ’til Black Future Month?,” a collection of short stories. She also completed her next novel, “The City We Became,” the first installment of another trilogy, which is due out this March. Submitting the novel to her editor, a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, she felt depleted; for more than a decade, she had been writing nearly a book a year. She resolved to take 2019 off, but she couldn’t stay idle. She sketched out the new trilogy’s second installment, while also navigating calls from Hollywood, speaking engagements, side gigs. Marvel Comics invited her to guest-write a series—an offer she declined, because she had already agreed with DC Comics to create a “Green Lantern” spinoff. As we sat in her office, the first issue of her comic was slated for release in a few weeks. “This is an unusual year for me,” she said. “Usually, I have only one thing to concentrate on.”

Above her desk she had hung family photos: glimpses of a truncated generational story. “Like most black Americans descended from slaves, it basically stops,” she told me. She once wrote about this loss—not merely the erasure of a backstory but also the absence of all that a person builds upon it; as she put it, the “strange emptiness to life without myths.” She had considered pursuing genealogy, “the search for the traces of myself in moldering old sale documents and scanned images on microfiche.” But ultimately she decided that she had no interest in what the records might say. “They’ll tell me where I came from, but not what I really want to know: where I’m going. To figure that out, I make shit up.”

(2) DROPPING THE PILOT. Jeremy Szal’s tenure at StarShip Sofa has run its course: “All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal”.

As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.

I delayed stepping down this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.

…See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.

But I love writing more….

(3) THE ISABEL FALL STORY. Doris V. Sutherland, self-described “tubular transdudette”, weighs in with “Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Debate” at Women Write About Comics. The in-depth summary and analysis of the issues ends —

…Meanwhile, Isabel Fall has maintained her justifiably low profile. Even during the height of the controversy, she issued statements through mediators — first “Pip,” then Neil Clarke — rather than take a public platform herself. It remains to be seen what paths her creative career will take after her needlessly hostile reception this month.

Another concern is the lasting effect that the controversy will have on trans authors as a whole. The affair of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” makes plain a dilemma for contemporary transgender literature: fiction that is personal and boundary-pushing, that takes insults and abuse and turns them on the head to create something new, clearly runs the risk of being wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. But the alternative — of creating only art that conforms to a narrow notion of “proper” transgender experience, that strives to avoid even the hypothetical possibility of causing offence or discomfort — is hardly appealing.

If transgender fiction is to soar, then it cannot afford for people like Isabel Fall to be bullied off the launchpad.

(4) OSHIRO RETURNS. Mark Oshiro recently announced plans to resume work. Thread starts here.

(5) LET ROVER COME OVER. Future Engineers’ student contest to Name the Rover announced the semifinalists on January 13. There are over 150 – see them all in this gallery.

The finalists will be announced January 21, and the winning name on February 18.

(6) TRAINS IN SPACE. Featured in the 2020 Lionel Train Catalog are Star Trek trains. New: Tribble Transport Car; Romulan Ale Tank Car; Capt. Kirk Boxcar; Capt. Picard Boxcar… (They also have trains from other shows and movies – Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, Frozen II, and other Pixar productions, Scooby-Doo, and Harry Potter.

Batman looks pretty wild, too,

(7) MAYBE THERE’S A PONY UNDERNEATH. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on “The White Pony” by Jane Rice.

Jane Rice is an author familiar to me solely though this story. Everyone gets to be one of the ten thousand sooner or later. She was a respected author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If this story is an example of her skill, I can see why her fans followed Rice. This meet-cute gone wrong is engaging enough for me to seek out more of Rice’s writing1. But what will my Young People think?

(8) RIDE AT GALAXY’S EDGE. When LAist made it to the head of the line, here is what they experienced: “We Traipsed Around A Star Destroyer: Your Guide To Disneyland’s ‘Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance'”. Lots of detail and photos, without spoiling the dramatic conclusion.

…As the transport’s doors open, actual humans playing First Order villains usher you out of the ship for you to be interrogated. They’re empowered to be a little strict with you — we witnessed one of them putting their evil fascist power to use in shushing someone who dared to speak during a speech they were giving to visitors.

“I know growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the corridors of a Star Destroyer — so hey, why not do it for real?” Imagineer John Larena said.

But as Imagineer Scott Trowbridge noted, “It turns out that it’s actually hard to make those experiences that we saw on the massive screen, to bring those to life with that sense of epic scale.” The ride was notably delayed from initial plans to open it alongside the rest of Galaxy’s Edge.

But looking around the ride, it feels like they actually did it. It may not feel quite as massive as some of the scenes from the Star Wars films, but there is a real sense of scale as you walk around what feel like movie sets….

(9) ASK THE FANTASY WRITERS. Be one of today’s lucky 10,000! View this old episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect featuring a team of fantasy writers composed of Geoff Ryman, Paul Cornell, and Liz Williams. In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. The show ran from 2008 til 2014.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 20, 1936 Cosmic Voyage Is remembered as being one of the first films to depict spaceflight, including weightlessness in realistic terms. It was shot as a silent film and had only a short release window being banned by Soviet censors until the collapse of the USSR. And yes you, can indeed see it here.
  • January 20, 1972 — The first Star Trek convention took place in New York City from this day for two very full days.  Memory Alpha notes that “Although the original estimate of attendees was only a few hundred, several thousand had turned up before the end of the convention, which featured a program of events of an art show, costume contest, a display provided by NASA and a dealers room.“ Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, D.C. Fontana and Isaac Asimov were among the SFF community members who showed up.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the digital release, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 86. The Fourth Doctor of course and the longest serving one to date with a seven-year run. My favorite story of his? “The Talons of Weng Chiang”. He wrote an autobiography, Who on Earth Is Tom Baker?, and just did his first Doctor Who novel, Scratchman, co-written with James Goss. 
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 62. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1981 Izabella Miko, 39. OK, she was in The Clash of Titans as Athens. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood
  • Born January 20, 1983 Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 37. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent  Hugh Jackman led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvels fans will recognise that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian titled productions so I’m not sure…

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur finds two guys who are unprepared for a UFO to land in their bar, but not for the reason you might expect.

(13) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The winners of the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s 2019 Short Story Contest were announced in TNFF.

First Prize: “As Day Follows Night” by Karen L. Kobylarz, a tale of heroic fantasy, highly embla-zoned with both heroism and fantasy, a “quest” story following a magic student on a harrowing journey into myth and sacrifice.

Second Prize: “The Safety of Thick Walls” by Gus-tavo Bondoni, a tale of the Roman Republic…with zombies!

Third Prize: “Where You G-O-H When You Die” by Adam R. Goss, following a fallen space hero in his astonishing afterlife, more fantastic than he could possibly have imagined.

Honorable Mention: “The Captain” by Michael Simon, a three-time loser is sentenced to serve as the captain of a spaceship: does the punishment really fit the crime?

(14) INSIDE DIVERSITY. Whether Tim Waggoner’s advice proves valuable to the reader, it does surface a lot of good questions for writers to think about: “Mix it Up! Handling Diversity in Your Fiction”.

…I understand the basic idea of staying in your lane when it comes to diversity in fiction, and to a certain extent, I support it. I think writers shouldn’t try to tell a story meant to illuminate important aspects of another group’s experience. Only a person who was raised in and still is steeped in a culture/race/gender/etc. can ever know it well enough to write in-depth fiction exploring the issues that group faces. No amount of research can ever give you as authoritative an experience as someone who actually belongs a group other than your own, and you will never do as good a job as a writer from that group would at telling those stories. That said, I think if your story isn’t about the African-American experience or the gay experience, or the fill-in-the-blank experience, you can write from the point of view of a character unlike yourself if their racial/gender/cultural identity isn’t central to the story. Men in Black is a good example. Agents J and K could be people of any race, gender, or sexuality without having an appreciable impact on the film’s plot. (One does need to be older than the other, though.) Some character bits, such as J’s jokes which arise from his race would change, but the characters’ essential personalities and how they solve problems would remain the same. The story isn’t about J being black and K being white. It’s about the weird aspects of their job and saving the world. I’m perfectly comfortable writing from the point of view of someone with a different racial/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation background than myself in this circumstance. I focus on the character’s personality, and while their backgrounds will affect the expression of their character to a certain extent, I don’t attempt to delve very deep into their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And if I do go a little deeper than usual, it’s because I have close relationships with people from those backgrounds, and I’m comfortable asking them if I misrepresented the group they belong to (or rather one of their groups, since we all belong to multiple ones).

(15) STREAMING GHIBLI. If you’re paying for the right streaming service, you’re in for a treat: “Studio Ghibli: Netflix buys rights to iconic animated films”.

Next month 21 films from the legendary Studio Ghibli are coming to Netflix.

It means new people will be introduced to “the ultimate escapism” of Studio Ghibli’s films – up until now they’ve only been available on DVD or illegally.

Some of its most famous films include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

“It will really give people the chance to enjoy a lot of classics that they may not know about but are famous in the anime world,” says Sarah Taylor, whose heart has “been with Ghibli” since she was 16 years old.

(16) WHAT GOES UP. BBC says “Barometric pressure in London ‘highest in 300 years’ at least” but no one’s head exploded.

The weather forecasters have just given us an impressive display of their skill by predicting the scale of the current high pressure zone over the UK.

Overnight, Sunday into Monday, London’s Heathrow Airport recorded a barometric pressure of 1,049.6 millibars (mbar).

It’s very likely the highest pressure ever recorded in London, with records dating back to 1692.

But the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts had seen it coming well ahead of time.

“Computerised forecast models run by the Met Office and the ECMWF predicted this development with near pinpoint precision, forecasting the eventual position and intensity of the high pressure area several days in advance, before it had even begun to form,” said Stephen Burt, a visiting fellow at Reading University’s department of meteorology.

…”The reason for the extremely high pressure can be traced back to the rapid development of an intense low-pressure area off the eastern seaboard of the United States a few days previously (this is the storm that dumped around 75cm of snow in Newfoundland),” he explained.

(17) COULD CARRY ASTRONAUTS THIS YEAR. “SpaceX Celebrates Test Of Crew Dragon Capsule That Will Carry NASA Astronauts”, following up yesterday’s Pixel.

…With Sunday’s successful test, Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said it is now “probable” that the first mission with astronauts on board could happen as early as the second quarter of 2020. He told reporters the test “went as well as one could possibly expect.”

(18) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Something else to do around CoNZealand:“‘Earth sandwich’ made by two men 20,000km apart”.

Two men in New Zealand and Spain have created an “Earth sandwich” – by placing slices of bread on precise points, either side of the planet.

The man behind the sandwich, Etienne Naude from Auckland, told the BBC he wanted to make one for “years”, but had struggled to find someone in Spain, on the other side of the globe.

He finally found someone after posting on the online message board, Reddit.

The men used longitude and latitude to make sure they were precisely opposite.

That meant there was around 12,724km (7,917 miles) of Earth packed between the slices – and some 20,000km between the men, for those forced to travel the conventional route.

…Mr Naude only had to travel a few hundred metres to find a suitable public spot on his side of the world. His Spanish counterpart had to travel 11 km (6.8 miles).

“It’s quite tough to find a spot which isn’t water on the New Zealand end – and where public roads or paths intersect in both sides,” Mr Naude said.

As if he hadn’t gone to enough effort, Mr Naude – a computer science student at Auckland University – made specially-decorated white bread for the occasion.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Horror Musical Instrument — The Apprehension Engine” on YouTube shows off a machine that comes up with the electronic scary music used in horror movies.

[Thanks to N., Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Giant Panda, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/20 All That Is Scrolled Does Not Pixel, Not All Those Who File Are Fifth

(1) A MIGHTY LONG LIST. List Challenges presents “1000 Books You May Have Actually Read” — “Based on the number of ratings each book has on Goodreads. And if you haven’t read them, maybe you can use for a literature bucket list.”

I scored 169. The list has certain biases. If I’d read every book by Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King, I think I could have doubled my number. On the other hand, I got credit for a whole bunch of books I read aloud to my daughter when she was little.

(2) SINCE 9/11. At LA Review of Books, Yxta Maya Murray mines the applications of 2002 Creative Capital awardees to look at how these artists imagined a post-9/11 future: “Art Matters Now — 12 Writers on 20 Years of Art: Yxta Maya Murray on Artists’ Responses to 9/11”.

2002 was a historical hinge. Just a moment earlier, the United States had seemed to be enjoying a period of peace; now it was at war. The art of that year offers a time capsule that reflects the millennium’s complex transitions. Reeling from 9/11 but working on projects begun during the Clintonian boom, before the Towers fell, some artists in 2002 were still able to romanticize millenarianism and the future: rather than imagining the specifics of the violence that would descend with the war presidency of George W. Bush, artists such as Sawad Brooks and Sabrina Raaf, for example, revealed a fascination with a speculative tomorrowland that resembled the visions of sci-fi writers such as Isaac Asimov, Iain Banks, and William Gibson. But others, such as Tana Hargest, Sujata Bhatt, Suzanne Lacy, and Nick Cave, forecasted a more difficult future.

(3) DISNEY’S ARMY OF LAWYERS. IndieWire reports “Disney Is Cracking Down on Sellers of Unlicensed Baby Yoda Dolls”.

Ever since “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney+ in November, the adorable “Baby Yoda” character has melted hearts and minds around the world. However, despite fervent requests for Baby Yoda dolls, Disney has been rather slow to respond to product demands, reportedly in order to keep Baby Yoda’s reveal in “The Mandalorian” pilot a secret per Jon Favreau’s request.

But the cat was out of the bag after the show’s premiere, and “The Child” quickly became a social media sensation. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that impatient fans have already taken matters into their own hands, with Etsy crafters and sellers creating their own unofficial Baby Yoda toys to capitalize on the demand. And for a while, the bootleg Baby Yoda market seemed to flourish.

Of course, it didn’t take long before Disney discovered this, and began issuing takedown notices, reminding Etsy that it owns the intellectual property rights to all Star Wars characters. And Etsy businesses with popular Baby Yoda products suddenly found their listings deactivated, at the request of Disney, according to The Verge.

(4) LEGO NEWS. In the Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to market itself to Generation X people as a stress reliever, thinking that Gen X types “are more likely to drop $800 on a 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon set or $400 for a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle.” — “Lego sets its sights on a growing market: Stressed-out adults”.

Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to appeal to Gen X nostalgia by offering items such as the Central Perk cafe from “Friends” or a “vintage 1989 Batmobile.”  Also next month LEGO Masters will premiere as a competition show on FOX.

Another connection to sf:  Bhattarai says Lego posted a loss in 1998 but was saved when they got the license to produce Star Wars products

(5) BRICKS IN SPACE. And io9 spotted a massive Lego Star Wars fan project:  “This Custom Lego Version of Echo Base Is Ready for the Empire’s Siege”.

The sheer ambition of Lego creators never ceases to amaze me. Far from being satisfied with what Lego’s sets provide, these sculptors create incredible things. Like this version of Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back, which is ready for battle.

Hopefully, this version will have a better fight than the one in the film, however. Clocking in at over 16,000 pieces, this Echo Base, created by YouTuber The Lego Room, is a custom build featuring the base’s hangar, medical chamber, and pretty much every other part you see in the films. It even has a fully motorized gate to keep the snow and the Empire out. Capping it off is an elaborate build of the Millenium Falcon, taking up a lot of hangar space.

(6) SAD STORY OF HARASSMENT. LA Times columnist Julia Wick writes: “A female mayor denounces the harassment she receives. Hours later, a man is arrested at her office”.

 If you are a woman who is so bold as to inhabit a vaguely public stage, chances are high that you will be called a lot of things that can’t be printed in a family newspaper. And then some.

It’s a truism that unfortunately appears to transcend industry or geography. Exist in public, and eventually an online mob will nitpick your looks, rate your sexual desirability in relation to your ability to do your job, and probably make threats vague and specific — regardless of whether you’re a female journalist, the founder of an indie game studio or trying to run a small city in the Central Coast region of California.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was fed up when she finally took to Facebook last Monday morning to call out the constant harassment she received.

(7) FIRST TIMER. Twitter user Yubi had never actually seen The Princess Bride and knew very little about it. Until now, when they did a watch through, and livetweeted their reactions. It’s really entertaining seeing them find out where so many common fan phrases and gifts came from. Thread starts here.

(8) MORE ABOUT STEVE STILES. The Baltimore Sun paid tribute to one of their own: “Steve Stiles, Hugo Award-winning comic fan artist of ‘Xenozoic Tales,’ dies at 76”.

…He did a two-year Army stint in the mid-1960s. A commanding officer told him: “If you can draw my girlfriend, you won’t get orders to go to Vietnam.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Elaine Stiles, his wife of 38 years. He was stationed instead at bases in Missouri and Virginia Beach.

Mr. Stiles was tasked with using his artistic talents to liven up the Army manuals for rifles and other equipment — following in the footsteps of one of his idols, the legendary comic artist Will Eisner, who had done similar jobs in the service during World War II.

More than 20 years later, while they were serving together on a science-fiction panel at a 1988 convention in Florida, Mr. Eisner complimented Mr. Stiles on his art.

“He was talking about it for the rest of his life,” Mrs. Stiles said.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 19, 1967 Star Trek’s “Arena” episode first aired on NBC. It was written by Gene L. Coon  but after the episode aired , it was found to almost identical to one Fredric Brown had published in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction. Coon then bought the rights to his story and Brown has been retroactively given a story writing credit. Not one but two actors play Gorn (Gary Combs and Bobby Clark), both uncredited, and Ted Cassidy is the Voice of Gorn Captain, also uncredited. This episode, aired in the first season is where the Federation is first mentioned.
  • January 19, 1990 — The first Tremors film premiered. It was directed by Ron Underwood and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, as written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire. It was the only film of six in total to get a box office release. It did poorly at the box office even though critics thought it well of it and thought it has a Fifties throwback vibe to it. It has an 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an astonishing almost two hundred and forty thousand votes! 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 90. Melanie Daniels In Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s Harvest, Tales from the Darkside, The Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 19, 1942 Michael Crawford, 78. He was the first Phantom of the Opera in Andrew Lloyd Opera’s play.  He did thirteen hundred performances in total. He did two other genre plays, Dance of the Vampires and The Wizard of Oz. He did an episode of One Step Beyond as well, though I’m not sure that was genre.
  • Born January 19, 1948 Michael J. Jackson, 72. Shows up on Dr. Who in the Fifth Doctor adventure, “The King’s Demons” as Sir Geoffrey. He played Sean Burns in a recurring role on Highlander, and played Richard I in The Legend of Robin Hood series. He was in The Morons from Outer Space as the Second Scientist.
  • Born January 19, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
  • Born January 19, 1957 Roger Ashton-Griffiths, 63. He’s no doubt best known for his role as Mace Tyrell on Game of Thrones. And yes he was on Doctor Who in a Twelfth Doctor adventure, “The Robots of Sherwood” as Quayle. He’s also had roles in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic,Tales from the Crypt, Torchwood, Brazil and Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files
  • Born January 19, 1981 Bitsie Tulloch, 39. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths even a year later.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows a certain kind of gourmand in action.
  • The Duplex took a photo of my dating life from back in the day.
  • Free Range has a new idea for a nature park.

(12) PIXEL PACKIN’ POWER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 15 Financial Times, Tom Faber reviews a concert at the O2 Brixton Academy in London by Hatsune Miku, a hologram who has a repertory of 100,000 songs.

Here, on her second European tour, she was performing to a mixed crowd:  ‘otaku’; Japanese subculture obsessives dressed in elaborate aqua wigs and microscopic skirts; other excited teens; and a smattering of baffled dads.  There was a real four-piece band on stage to support the synthesized vocals, but the players were left mostly in the dark as they tore through the signature J-pop genre crush of pop, metal, techno and trance.  The dreams and emotions were turned up to 11 from the first chorus, and for two hours they did not come back down  She sang big hits such as the buoyant, melodramatic ‘World is Mine’ and the English-language ‘Miku’ (sample lyric:  ‘Blue hair, blue tie, hiding in your WiFi’).  The misses outnumbered them, though, with an excess of polite guitar shredding and a particularly bloodless salsa number.

…While the 10-year-old hologram technology used in the show was not particularly impressive, Miku’s star continues to rise; she has just been added to the line-up at Coachella 2020.  Her name translates from Japanese as ‘first sound of the future,’ and while she doesn’t convince as a harbinger of the future of pop, she does suggest the future of fandom. After her last song, Miku exploded into a thousand cyan pixels.  The house lights came up and the crowd roared.  Next to me a man, sweaty and euphoric, screamed, ‘Thank you, Miku!’ into the empty air.

Hatsune Miku’s website is https://piapro.net/intl/en.html .

(13) RADIX OFFERS COPIES FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION. Radix Media is offering review copies (printed or PDF) to anybody interested in considering their 2019 releases in the Futures: A Science Fiction Series for awards: “2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Eligibility”.

(14) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. MovieWeb talked to somebody who attended the screening: “First Dune Remake Footage Earns Big Praise, Gets Compared to Lord of the Rings”.

The first Dune footage has screened. The preview footage was shown to a small group of industry insiders and has already been hailed as “epic.” Principal photography wrapped not that long ago and Denis Villeneuve is currently in the post-production phase to prepare the long-awaited movie for release at the end of the year. As for the footage that was shown, it was mixed in with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes shots. It does not seem like it was intended for public release, so don’t expect to see it any time soon.

Sci-fi novelist Brian Clement was one of the lucky viewers of the first Dune footage and he has shared his thoughts online for fans. First of all, the footage did not have completed special effects, though Clement describes the cinematography as “beautiful,” while stating, “I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot of people will have goosebumps/tears when they see this movie (I might!). Heck, when they see the footage I saw they will.” The author had to choose his words wisely as not to catch any trouble with Warner Bros.

…A small amount of footage of Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen was seen also seen in the Dune footage, along with a tiny bit of Jason Momoa. Brian Clement went on to tease that the choice of actor for playing Kynes will be a surprise for audiences, while Dave Bautista apparently looks “creepy” in the footage.

(15) OUT FOXED. “Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand”.

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

(16) AVENUE 5. This is going to be longer than a “three-hour tour” — “Review: HBO’s ‘Avenue 5,’ a Tale of a Fateful Trip (in Space)” in the New York Times.

How far is Armando Iannucci’s new HBO comedy, “Avenue 5,” from his previous one, “Veep”? About a billion miles, give or take, or the distance from earth to Saturn, where the spaceship of the title is thrown off course, greatly increasing the time its load of unlucky tourists will have to spend on their interplanetary cruise.

Set 40 years in the future aboard a vessel that looks like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and a high-end mall, Iannucci’s new show would seem to be a radical departure from the acrid, of-the-moment political satire of “Veep” and his earlier British series “The Thick of It.” (Several of those shows’ writers, including Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Will Smith, have joined him on “Avenue 5.”)

But there are recognizably Iannuccian things about this space-com, which debuts Sunday. Like the politicians and operatives guiding the ship of state in “Veep,” the crew members of the Avenue 5 are an often amoral, small-minded and quarrelsome bunch whose constant sniping provides the bulk of the humor. Leading them is a captain, played by the “Veep” alumnus Hugh Laurie, who, like Vice President Selina Meyer, is not ideally qualified for his post.

(17) SAFETY FIRST. “SpaceX completes emergency crew escape manoeuvre” — includes video.

SpaceX has conducted a test of the abort manoeuvre it would use if one of its crew-carrying rockets ever developed a problem during flight.

The rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center saw a Falcon-9 vehicle’s ascent into the sky deliberately terminated just 80 seconds after lift-off.

The Dragon astronaut capsule on top fired its escape engines to carry itself clear of the “faulty” booster.

Parachutes brought the vessel to a safe splashdown some 30km off Florida.

No humans were involved in the practice abort; the only occupants of the Dragon ship were a couple of Anthropomorphic Test Devices, or “dummies”.

This was considered to be the last major milestone for California’s SpaceX company before the US space agency (Nasa) certifies the firm to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

(18) NOT FOREVER MAN. Hey, don’t laugh, these’ll be very useful the first time there’s a mission to take over an integral tree: “US Space Force mocked for unveiling camouflage uniforms”.

The US Space Force has defended its newly unveiled camouflage uniforms after they were roundly mocked on social media.

The force, officially launched by US President Donald Trump last month, posted a picture of the uniform to its Twitter account.

The uniform in the picture has a woodland camouflage design with badges embroidered on the arm and chest.

Reacting to the uniform, many critics had the same question: “Camo in space?”

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., Michal Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew and Meredith.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/20 The Previous Title Appears to Be Accurate

(1) THE FOREVER FRANCHISE. Dave Itzkoff wonders “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?” in New York Times Magazine.

Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.

Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.

These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.

“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”

…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”

(2) OPENING THE DOOR TO BOOK BANNING. PEN America protests that “Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians”.

 … The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.

“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the January 15 KGB readings where Richard Kadrey read from his new novel The Grand Dark and Cassandra Khaw read from her forthcoming novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey 1
Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey

(4) PANTSER. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Simon Jimenez” begins with a confession:

I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.

(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY. On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.

(6) COP ON THE CORNER. “Nine years later, Detroit’s RoboCop statue is finally ready for installation”Curbed Detroit has the story.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign. A mere nine years later, the RoboCop statue is nearly done.

The campaign, launched by the community arts nonprofit Imagination Station in March 2011, received $67,436 in donations.

In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.

The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.

(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little” a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.

She’s also posted a roundup of links to other reviews of eligible 1944 works, including several reviews by Steve J. Wright:  “Retro Review Links for January 15, 2020”.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 18, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
  • January 18, 1959 Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. 
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUGGLING THE BOOKS. “Majipoor – Les Objets Volants” took inspiration from a Robert Silverberg novel to create this stage act.

Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.

The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.

(12) WATER LOSS ON MARS GREATER THAN THOUGHT. Science reports that water is easily transported high into the atmosphere during storms and lost. This takes place even during the dusty season. “Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season”.

Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.

(13) VERY OLD BIRDS OF A FEATHER. SYFY Wire also reports on the distant past: “This new dinosaur just called it: even feathered dinos were nothing like birds”.

Some dinosaurs looked like birds. Some prehistoric birds looked like dinosaurs, and some birds that are still around echo dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean feathers and wings always make a bird—or a dinosaur.

Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….

(14) TIS MANY A SLIP. Popsugar thinks “Disney’s New Space Mountain Mug Is Light Years Ahead of Everything Else in My Kitchen Cabinet”.

Official blog Oh My Disney recently announced the upcoming arrival of Space Mountain mugs at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in honor of the high-speed roller coaster’s 45th anniversary.

(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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