Telepathic? Telekinetic?
We’re Hiring!

Illo by Teddy Harvia and Brad Foster. Reprinted from Corflu publications courtesy of the artists.

By Daniel Dern: If you’ve got mutant, meta-, super, magic, fae or other powers and abilities, be sure you’ve listed them at the top of your resume (and LinkedIn page, under SKILLS)… because, fueled by the responses to COVID-19, healthcare, education, and other industries are hot! hot! hot! to hire you!

* Telekinetics! — There’s never been a better job opportunity window for people who can move things without touching them. Class 5 rating for size, weight and distance who can help move infected patients with beds and respirators — but even Class 1s and 2s will find lots of opportunities for contactless handoffs and deliveries for food, packages and other deliveries, not to mention the health care and medical potential. (But act quick! The drone and mobile robot mobilization will soon snap up many of these positions!)

* Telepaths! — Help medical professionals put the “tele” in telemedicine. Provide remote-work and group conferencing, particularly in areas short on mobile and wired broadband. Help support virtual classrooms! Provide contactless day care management! Be sure to include specialties like meta-language understanding, physiological empathy, and communication with animals, plants and inanimate objects.

* Force-fielders! Depending on how far you can project yours, check out those telekinetic jobs. Also opportunities for isolation zones, first responder and other protection, and more. Persisters (free-standing fields) a plus!

* Healers! — ‘Nuff said! (But be sure to be tested first to determine whether you heal by absorbing illnesses… nobody wants that.)

* Strongers! Speedsters! Teleporters! Fliers! Delivery services want you!

* Glamourers — work with AR/VR to help remote workers, quarantined and stay-in-placers feel less hemmed in. Experience with claustrophia and agoraphobia a plus!

* Shapechangers, weres and size-changers — have we got odd jobs for you! And if your otherself is a non-carrier, or, even better, resistant, additional options (check the Telekinetics and Force-fielder listings for ideas).

* Time control and sleep-makers — help speed up or slow down metabolisms for curve-flattening and for infection testing. Can you put a building or village to sleep or other very-low-energy hibernation? Classified and unclassified opportunities!

* Teleporters, Portalers… help bring stranded travellers hope, and provide mission-critical transport where regular travel has been banned.

* Finders – Can you find lost things? Spot that last can of beans? Suss out caches of toilet paper and sanitizer? Find your dream job now!

* Pyrotics, Freezers and other Energy-Movers! Help cook! Help heat-clean! Provide cryo-food service! Put patients into cryo-suspension! And more!

* Vamps, Zombs, Weres and Other Bite/Contact Spread Conditions! Is your Other Self immune or high-healing for COVID — and is your condition (sorry, “Alternative Identity”) spreadable (in a deliberate, controlled way)? Healthcare providers and researchers want to talk with (and test) you! Help be part of the solution! (And maybe you and we can learn more about management of your Alternate Selfness.)

Don’t see your power, ability or specialty above? Contact 1-pi-aleph-sub-null-planck-I-GOT-PWRS or WeReHiringMetas to talk to our agents! (Telepaths, you can reach us directly at $^%(@*%&#@)

Trigger Snowflake and the Prize

By Ingvar: Trigger walked into the Coffee Emporium, looking forward to an excellent cup of coffee and a delicious grilled synthecheese. What he actually saw was his wife, Coraline Snowflake, more or less dancing around with Barbara Dimatis, whooping with what sounded for all in the world like joy.

He stopped a few steps inside, staring wordlessly at the scene in front of him. A few seconds later. Barbara and Coraline stopped, turned to Trigger and laughed.

“Oh, darling Trigger, Barbara has given me the best of news, POAOU is a finalist for the Best Services prize! This is huge!”

“Beloved Coraline, what prize? And what’s POAOU?”

“Oh, I sometimes forget that you are not as deeply interested in literature, poetry, song and the arts as I am. You remember when we helped Kochs with the Separable Rock? Well, Best Services is handed out by the same organization and at the same ceremony. It’s the prize for the most valued service or services to literature in the previous year. And POAOU is a finalist. This is huge!”

“I am still not sure what POAOU means?” said Trigger.

“Let me explain”, said Barbara, “POAOU is a collective that writes adjacent poetry, reinterprets literature and extends songs. It is a collective of artists from various backgrounds, and they’ve gathered under the name of ‘the Poetry Of All Of Us’, to POAOU for short. And last year, they finally completed their automated context finder, that by automatic means sorts written works into various categories, to give a context in which the work is similar to other things. And that’s huge, and well worth winning Best Services!”

Trigger took a slow, deep breath.

“All of this sounds absolutely exciting. When will we know?”

“Oh,” said Coraline, “the awards will be handed out at SysLiCon in four months.”

“Sheriff Snowflake”, said Barbara, “before I forget, would you like your usual?”

#

Several months later, as the afternoon turned into evening and it was time to shutter the Sheriff’s Office, Coraline walked down from their apartment above the office.

“Trigger, darling, we should watch the telecaster. The Prizes were announced live just a short while ago, and the signal should be arriving just after dinner. We can watch it as live as possible! It will be so exciting!”

“Of course, beloved Coraline. Prizes on the telecaster it is!”

They sat through the first few winners, before the prizes they were most concerned with were coming around.

“And, next, the Separable Stone Award for Most Obvious Slate For The Exploding Star! It was a tough field this year, but our indefatigable panel went through the entire shortlist. Among them, one slate in particular caught their attention. And, without further ado, I present the Separable Stone to Slem ven Pocketry, for his tireless pumping of Venusian Sulphur Poetry! Understandably, he has chosen to not give an acceptance speech, but we will forward the award to his current permanent residence.

“Finally, and with extreme joy, we come to the Prize for Best Service to the Poetic Arts. Again, the field this year was, as always, completive and it was quite hard to decide from the shortlist who was best placed to receive the award. But our illustrious voters managed to crown a winner. And this year’s winner of the Systems Literature Convention for Best Services Award is… The Poetry Of All Of Us! Accepting the prize on the collective’s behalf is Natalia Newbay. Natalia?”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! It is with great joy I am standing here. I have been part of the POAOU since about a month before the collective was formally convened. I think what POAOU do is brilliant. And I am so, so happy that the SysLiCon membership have graciously agreed that POAOU is worthy of the Best Services award. Naturally, I am not POAOU, since it is, indeed, the collective all of us. But I doubt I fail to speak for any of us, when I say ‘Thank you!'”

“And, with that, our final prize for the evening has been awarded. What remains is simply saying thank you to the SysLiCon committee, without whom we would not be here. And a big thank you to all attending and supporting SysLiCon members, without whom we would not know what we would’ve done in the ceremony that is now coming to an end. I have been your host, Ioannis Ruste.”

Coraline turned to Trigger, “POAOU won!”. Trigger was not entire sure what to say, when there was suddenly a sharp knocking on the front door.

“Beloved Coraline, here’s someone knocking on the door. I need to answer it, in case it is urgent.”

Trigger hurried down the stairs. Not quite a run, but definitely fast-stepping down the stairs. He unlocked the three locks, and lifted the bar blocking the door.

“Just about to open! Please refrain from knocking, so you don’t hit a lawman!”, he shouted, just as he pulled the door open. Standing on the porch outside, Barbara Dimatis was actually bouncing up and down, squealing with delight.

“Did you hear? Did you hear? POAOU won! I must speak to Coraline, at once! It is so exciting!”

“She’s upstairs, please come in.”

#

Olaus Frond woke up, and checked the announcements from yesterday. The Prize for best Services to Literature had been announced inconveniently late, after Olaus’ accustomed bedtime. But that meant he could break fast and take part of the news at the same time.

Mr Frond was a long-time contributor to, and member of, the Poetry Of All Of Us, and he had hopes, nay a strong wish, that POAOU had indeed managed to take home the prize. It would be an unprecedented first, as he was sure that the literature world at large sneered at POAOU and their mission of bringing, extending, explaining, and exploring context in literature was childish and foolish. Well, at least that is what many said, and he had no wrong reason to doubt it. It was a well-known fact after all.

He started on his toast, with mild cheese and the best synthetic Martian orange marmalade. Just a thin smear, enough to bring some citrus to the cheese, but not so much that it was overpowering. Then he brought up the news from yestereve.

“We won!”, he thought. “We actually did it! This is a system first. I must immediately write a letter of comment!”

The Poetry Of All Of Us – an unprecedented victory

By Flapping-in-the-wind Leaves

Yesterday, we saw something wonderful. Together, we have pulled off something unprecedented. Together, we have made the Poetry Of All Of Us into a prize-winning literature collective. This is something that none of would have dared dream of, only a decade ago. But, by our collective expertise, effort and guidance, we have created a context-extraction machine of unheralded power. It is only because of all of us that we have achieved this. So, say together with me, sisters, brothers, siblings. We won! We have done it! We made the Poetry Of All Of Us what it is. Rejoice!

#

As Trigger entered the Coffee Emporium, Barbara Dimatis came up to him.

“See, Sheriff Snowflake, they’re still at it!”

Trigger hummed non-committaly, as Barbara places a print-out in front of him. He scanned the plastisheet.

Why POAOU’s win is important

– Godrune Schutler

Today, I woke up to the news that I am 0.0000435% of a winner of the Exploding Star Prize for Best Services. This is clearly something to celebrate! I will do this by spending 0.0000435% of the year crowing my win to the skies, and maybe have 100% of a glass of Champagne. I hope everyone else who is also a partial winner will join me in celebrating our new, exalted, status with the seriousness that it requires.

Trigger put he sheet down.

“Miss Dimatis, I fear you are over-reacting. This is clearly someone writing in jest and there is no way you can consider this a smear on the dignity of the Exploding star?”

“But! They’re joking. About the Exploding Star!”

“Which, surely, is allowed. Do you not remember that Martine E. E. George hosts a Brown Dwarf party for everyone who was a finalist, but did not win? Is that not poking fun at the Exploding Star? It definitely feels as if this super-small fraction joke is merely in the same vein. To me, at least.”

“But! The dignity of the…”

“Brown Dwarf party. This is clearly no different. Dear Miss Dimatis I beg you to stop trying to find outrage in everything people of the POAOU do.”

#

Charles Tayroth woke up, head spinning. Only yesterday, it had been announced that his context-extension had won the SysLiCon prize for best. It would certainly not have happened unless for him. It was time, therefore, to shout his victory from the rooftop. Or, at least, updating his social media profiles, all over the place.

First, time to put an update on ShortCom, the interplanetary service for extremely short letters-of-comments. Only 140 code points allowed.

“@TheRealTayroth: Yesterday, I earned my first well-deserved SysLiCon Prize for Best Services. I am the best.”

Then, time to update his profile.

“@TheRealTayroth – Business man, leader, master of the shuffle – Exploding Star Winner”

Almost done. What was that? Someone complaining about Charles talking about his well-earned victory?

“@TheRealTayroth: Did too! POAOU would not have won without me. I *am* a winner. So there!”

Nothing would spoil this glorious day, it was truly time to bask in the glory of being a winner. It was probably time to jazz up a lapel pin, a tie clip and possibly an embroidered linen shirt, proclaiming “Charles Tayroth – Winner”, over the Exploding Star logo. And, maybe, in white, on a stylish, brightly coloured fedora.

#

Almost a week into the win, and Barbara Dimatis was almost regretting that POAOU had won. Too many people were simply not taking the orbit-shattering newness of POAOU’s win with the seriousness that it should earn. Was it not enough to say “we, the collective, won”? Must it always be turned into the personal? Or the comedic? Sure, in the most technical sense possible, she was herself a 0.000003017% of a prize winner, but why was it not enough to say “POAOU won”?

She would write to the Exploding Star committee and ask them to talk to POAOU’s board, to make sure this all stopped.

Yes, that would be a good thing, with no possible drawbacks.

#

The Poetry Of All Of Us letters-of-comment section had a new post. Unusually, it was from the board. It read:

It has been brought to the board’s attention that some members of POAOU are calling themselves winners of the Best Services to Literature Prize. As a matter of fact, the prize was awarded to POAOU, not to any specific individual. We have been asked, and now ask all of you in turn, to please not drag the POAOU’s glory in the dirt by referring to yourself as a winner of the prize.

Also, please don’t sell merchandise with the prize’s logo in your march stores. It is trademarked, and if you do, people will have to come after you for it.

Sorry to be buzz-kills, we wish we didn’t have to.

— The Board

#

“No, I think you’re cherry-picking data, Barbara”, Coraline said. “I think it’s an extremely small minority that are saying ‘I won’ in all seriousness. Yes, there are many people that have put it in their social media bios, but so far I have only seen one that actually seems to believe it.”

“Who? Ah, TheRealTayroth? Yes, he seems to actually believe it would not have happened without him,” Barbara responded.

“Yes. And looking at who’s been saying things, I think what you’re seeing is a digging-in of metaphorical heels, and a circling of the wagons, as it were, to show collective strength in the face of opposition.”

“But! They’re wrong!”

“No, they’re speaking (or typing) from anger. I think everyone who’s put down an indication of a small percentage of a win, is doing so in surprise that POAOU won, and use this to show pride in the win. Not to actually pull the tail of the prize, as it were.”

“So, a sign of respect?”

“Of sorts. It’s probably also the case that most POAOU members don’t realize how small the voting contingent for the Best Services prize is. There’s, what, 300 million POAOU contributors? And about 4,000 voters. So, they probably do see themselves as the downtrodden minority, because in general they probably only know 10-15 other POAOU contributors personally, so it feels like a small group.”

“That might be true. So you are saying I shouldn’t be angry?”

“No, I am saying that expressing and feeding your anger is not a useful endeavour. And if all of us stop being angry, maybe all of the other us stop being angry as well.”

“Thank you, Coraline. Would you like to come over to the Emporium, for a cuppa on the house?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Imploding Composers

By Ingvar: Trigger walked down the street, looking forward to a quiet morning of a grilled synthecheese and a cup of the new special down at the Coffee Emporium. Hoping nothing untoward would happen, he stepped through the doorway and walked towards his normal table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, welcome. The usual?”

“Thank you. Everything all well with you, Miss Dimatis?”

“As well as can be expected. But I am a little bit worried, it seems as if there’s something odd happening with the Ballad Composers of the System organization. Apparently, they’ve just recently punished Venice Aresian for speaking out against planets behaviors, and stripped her of her membership.”

“Is this something that concerns the law?”

“Not as such. Or, at least not yet. But it will have repercussions for SysLiCon, so I thought I would brief you, in case Coraline takes it up.”

“Forewarned is forearmed. Tell me as I devour your delicious grilled synthecheese.”

Not long after, breakfast was served and Barbara Dimatis sat down across the table from Trigger.

“Now, something with the Ballad Singers?”

“Ballad Composers of the System, BCS for short. This is what we know, at the moment. Seven months ago, Ms Aresian wrote an LoC, calling out Suzette Hitchtale for having badly written a Martian character in a recent ballad of Hitchtale’s. This apparently ended up in a disciplinary complaint to the BCS’s ethics committee.”

“Well, at least they have processes and procedures for this, it seems.”

“This is where it starts taking a turn for the weird. The chair of the ethics committee was Ms Aresian. So the BCS board formed a shadow ethics committee, entry pulled from new members.”

“To avoid bias, I guess?”

“Well, apparently in the past, the ethics committee members have been pretty good at stepping out when bias could have been an issue, so it’s a little bit weird.”

“Fair enough. What else?”

“So, three days ago, the board published a statement, saying that Ms Aresian had been forced out of her position as head of the ethics committee, and from that point was barred from any position of trust in BCS.”

“That seems a bit harsh?”

“Maybe. I haven’t read the full text of the LoC that spurred the whole thing. Maybe it is warranted. Now, worse, it turns out that letters of comment are actually explicitly excluded from the BCS code of conduct. And since she was punished based on a breach of code of conduct, this all seems a bit odd. And, since then, multiple LoCs weighing in on one side or another have been written and published, in a variety of venues.”

“If that’s all, I shall thank you for an excellent grilled synthecheese and the information. I shall see you tomorrow, at the same time.”

After a full day of putting in a presence and patrolling Fort Corallium, Trigger eventually returned home to the Sheriff’s office.

“Beloved Coraline, I am home!”

“Trigger, darling! Have you heard?”

“The BCS thing? Yes, Ms Dimatis saw fit to brief me over morning coffee.”

“There have been developments! Seems as if the decision and support material that the ethics committee based their recommendation to the board on have been expunged! And the liaison between the new ethics committee and the Board is the Chair-Elect of BCS! And the previous Chair just stepped down! And the Chair-Elect is the new Chair!”

“Ooof, that sounds messy. Well, I guess we’ll see what happens.”

#

The next morning, Trigger was about half done with his grilled synthecheese when Barbara walked up to the table.

“New developments! Suzette Hitchtale, as it turns out, was not in a position to file the complaint in the first place. She’s not only a ballad composer, but also runs a company printing note sheets. As such, she’s not allowed, under the BCS rules, to file complaints against composers, but only against other sheet-music publishers.”

“More BCS? What is this, a detergent musical?”

“It certainly seems like it. Have Coraline said anything?”

“I got the same brief, in full, when I got home. With the new developments on the Chair. I think she would be delighted if you give her a call to come down and discuss the BCS Affair with you, here at the Emporium.”

“That sounds like a good idea. Coraline is so lucky to have such a considerate husband. I hope today’s patrolling stays quiet.”

“Now you’ve doomed it, Ms Dimatis.”

“Sorry, Sheriff Snowflake.”

#

Let us delight in our omniscient perspective and zoom not only out, but into the past. We find ourselves in a plush office, on Earth.

“Ms Hitchtale, I suspect you wonder why I invited you here?”

“Yes, Mr Nappa, I do.”

“We have an interest in common. As you are well aware, filthy no-Earthers have inveigled themselves into the very core of the Ballad Composers. Ballads are, as you know, a pure Earth form of poetry, and as such, Martians, Venusians, and other non-pure-Earth stock have no place in our hallowed halls.”

“I am not quite sure I follow, Mr Nappa?”

“Oh, call me Immanuel. I saw that nasty LoC that Aresian wrote last week. And I think this is our opening.”

“I am still not sure I follow, Immanuel? I do agree that what the Martian wrote was totally uncalled-for, and hurtful to boot. But, what does that have to do with you?”

“Ah, I have a master plan. Let me detail it for you. It is very clever and not capable of failing. You see, Aresian is the head of the BCS ethics committee…”

“I am well aware.”

“And, as such, were there to be a complaint filed against her, the existing ethics committee would all be biased.”

“Ah, so we could get a fresh ethics committee under our control in place?”

“Just so. I am also campaigning for the position as Chair-Elect, and as I am running unopposed, I am virtually guaranteed to get it. And I have some contacts in the BCS office, so we can hold up the processing of the complaint until my Chair-Elect position is confirmed.”

“How does this help us?”

“We ensure we get a new emergency ethics committee that’s under our full control. We then make a recommendation to sever Aresian from BCS, rescind her membership and throw her out. This will cause our bleeding-heart Chair to step down, rocketing me into the Chair six months ahead of schedule. We can then drop the horrendous code of conduct and emplace one that forbids speaking out against Earthians, and does not punish talking about off-planetarians.”

“I am starting to see the appeal in this line of thought. And this is a clever scheme indeed.”

“It is very clever, and I have ensured there’s no possible way this could ever come back to us. I will send you my written analysis of the plan, so you can study it at leisure. I think two-three days should be enough? I will know that you have agreed that the plan is infallible by your filing of a complaint.”

“Mr Nappa, it’s been a delight to talk to you. I look forward to a long and fruitful association.”

#

Trigger was slowly sipping his occasional evening tipple of Victory Wishkey, when his slow contemplation of things of legal significance was interrupted.

“Trigger, darling! Have you heard the latest?”

“No, beloved Coraline. What news?”

“It turns out the Chair, Immanuel Nappa is not actually qualified for either the Chair-Elect position, or the Chair. It seems that the Chair and Chair-Elect must have had a ballad printed in the two years preceding their taking office as Chair-Elect, or have a ballad currently under contract with a printer. And it seems that Nappa’s last ballad was printed four years ago, well outside the time limit. Apparently, he had a sworn affidavit from HitchTale’s company that he had a ballad under contract, but his husband swears blind that it is not the case.”

“Curiouser and curiouser. I am actually starting to wonder if this is not starting to encroach on my professional interests.”

“It is quite strange, isn’t it? I am sorry to have disturbed your weekly contemplation. Should I bring the Wishkey bottle, for a quick top-up?”

“No, this is, I think, more a Djinn moment. Maybe even going as far as a Djinn and Bitter Orange. Yes, Djinn and Bitter Orange, dearest.”

“Coming up, darling Small glass or large?”

#

The following morning, as Trigger was making his way to the Coffee Emporium, he was met by an out-of-breath Barbara, running from the Emporium to meet him.

“Trigger! Sorry, I mean Sheriff Snowflake! Have you heard the latest?”

“Now, now, Ms Dimatis. Let us not make a scene in the street. Instead, follow me to the Emporium, where we can discuss this over a cup of your most excellent Purple Granite and a grilled synthecheese. Or, if it is large news, maybe even two?”

“Right as always, Sheriff Snowflake.”

A cup of the latest beans, and a plate with two grilled synthecheese and a side of fresh chives (grown in the small hydroponic plot behind the Emporium, freshly harvested that very morning), Trigger and Barbara were sitting at a table.

“Well, Sheriff Snowflake. You will NOT believe the latest development in the whole BCS thing. It now turns out that most of the board have resigned in protest. And the expunging of the ethics committee report? It’s against process, procedure and policy! Not only that, many planetary chapters of the BCS have filed official requests to have the board forcibly stood down, an emergency election, and for the whole thing to be investigated by the Lunar Tax Office attack auditor squad!”

“Weighty news indeed.”

“The general feeling seems to be that this has all been carefully orchestrated in a vain hope that it would just slide past. I do not understand how they could not have foreseen this result?”

“Now, now, Miss Dimatis. I know that I am more familiar with the minds of ne’er-do-wells, and I hope you never gain that hard-won experience, but this does not actually surprise me at all. They probably simply thought that the bulk of the BCS membership shared their beliefs and thus could not foresee how a more enlightened population would rise up against their bad-will.”

“You are right as always, Sheriff Snowflake.”

#

“Hm”, said Immanuel Nappa to himself. “I should soon be able to cement my absolute power of the Ballad Composers of the System.” He walked slowly from his office door to his desk, gesturing dramatically with his right hand in the air.

“Once my absolute power is in place, I shall look into expanding my domain. I have my eyes set on the Madrigal Writers of All Planets. I feel that ballads and madrigals go together like sunshine and surf. Yes, most probably the Madrigal Writers. And the current campaign against Aresian is progressing well.”

On his desk, his phone started ringing. He lifted the bakelite handset from its resting position.

“The office of Chair  Nappa, Nappa speaking.”

“Immanuel, it’s Suzette. Have you seen the latest?”

“I do not have to consider small trivial things like that, my schemes are progressing apace and according to plan.”

“No, Immanuel, they are not. It seems you have been a bit liberal in interpreting the requirements for your position, and that is now coming home to roost. You need to do something, quick.”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you read the requirements for being Chair? You are at least two ballads short of the composing and publishing requirements.”

“Ah not to worry, I have a tame printer of sheet music at hand, I will simply have them re-print a few of my old ballads with verses jumbled up and a new interesting title.”

“Oh, that’s clever. It might just work.”

“It is my plan, it is obviously flawless. Was there anything else?”

#

After yet another long day of patrolling Fort Corallium, Trigger returned home to the office. Wearily, he stepped through the front door and walked to his desk. He unstrapped his laser revolver belt, hung it from the hook under the desk and sat down for a few moments of blessed rest.

“Trigger, darling?”

“What, beloved Coraline?”

“It seems that Nappa has stepped down as Chair for the Ballad composers.”

“He’s the one who might not have been qualified?”

“Yes, the very one.”

“Well, I guess he finally saw the writing on the wall.”

“I think the fact that someone started looking into his ballad composing in depth is what did it. Looks like he really didn’t have the proper prerequisites, and for at least one of the things that was listed on his life curriculum actually seems to have been faked by one of his sheet music printers.”

“I guess it is true, what they say. Love songs conquer all!”

My First Scary Movie

By Rich Lynch: Somewhere around 60 years ago I had the bejeezus scared out of me.  

I recently read in the File770.com newsblog that November 29th was the 60th anniversary of  the premiere of the Cold War-era sci-fi movie The Atomic Submarine.  I didn’t see it until probably a year or so later, when it was shown on one of those Saturday afternoon scary movie matinees that were popular on television stations back then.  And boy was it scary!  I was not yet a teenager and I remember that at the most intense point of the movie I had covered my face with my hand and squinted through the gap between my fingers.

Six decades later I’m trying to figure out why it seemed so frightening to me.  The plot was fairly pedestrian as B-grade sci-fi movies go – a U.S. Navy atomic submarine (which was pretty new real-world technology back then) was sent on a mission, under the Arctic ice pack, to find out why ships had gone missing in that part of the world.  It turns out that an undersea UFO was the cause, which is not much of a spoiler since the promotional poster for the movie shows a flying saucer.  Why the UFO was hanging out and destroying ships that passed by its vicinity was never explained, but it all was just a MacGuffin to get the submarine and the UFO next to each other so we could get to see the alien monster.

And a nightmare-inducing monster it was!  One-eyed, ugly, and truly evil – it killed off the redshirts of the boarding party in terrifying ways, and was planning to bring samples of humanity back to its own world to dissect in preparation of a large-scale invasion of Earth.  How in the world (literally!) could the U.S. Navy prevent that from happening?

I expect that this movie is obscure enough that probably only the scary movie aficionados have ever seen it.  But it turns out that if you want to see it, you can – it’s apparently now in public domain, and there’s a pretty good digital transfer available on YouTube.  So you know what?  I’m gonna watch it again.  I know it’s not going to be very much of a “Keep Watching the Skies!” sense-of-wonder experience, but I still want to see if I’m even remotely as scared as I was way back then.  And I’m kind of hoping that I will be.  Well, maybe just a little anyway.

Another Dern Minute: 3 Months of Kindle Unlimited for a Buck

By Daniel Dern: Amazon’s doing another round of Kindle Unlimited priced at 3 months for $0.99, versus the usual $9.99/month, at https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/hz/subscribe/ku.

The offer is good (available) through “11:59 p.m. (PST), December 31st, 2019.”

(Reminder, your subscription will automatically convert to the full $9.99/month price if you don’t cancel.)

I took advantage of one of these offers sometime over the past year, cancelled when the cheap period was over, and have just ponied up a fresh $0.99 and made a “cancel K/U” note in my calendar file…

I think that if you are already a K/U subscriber at the regular price, you can use this, and get this price instead, for the 3 months. Read the site offer carefully; I am not Amazon.

There’s bunches of interesting and interesting-enough stuff here, particularly at the price.

For example, pretty much all of Nathan Lowell’s Tales of the Solar Clipper Age (somewhat hard or harder for my library to get print copies of). And those led me to “tales of a space accountant” — a pleasant enough trilogy whose author I fergets but could look up. Etc.

And there’s a fair bunch of comic books/graphic novels/collections. (best read on a display big enough that you don’t have to squint or fuss — like the admittedly not-cheap iPad Pro 12.9, or, perhaps, a large enough 2-in-one, etc.

At this price, if you only find and read one or two, you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

As long as you remember to cancel, if you don’t plan to continue at full price.

Frugally,

DPD

Shirts Are the Reason
for the Season

By Daniel Dern: The High Seas Trading Company’s, whose space and galaxy Hawaiian shirts have been featured/mentioned/shown on File 770 somewhere over the past year or so —

— has added other sfnal/fannal motifs

  • Space Shuttle comes in two different color schemas, blue (shown here) and black.

And there’s the cosmic credentials shirt: Cats in Space.

Plus this holiday-themed sfnal one: Santa-in-Space.

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

By Steve Vertlieb: I had the great pleasure of seeing Sony’s new release, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood last evening. This sweet, lovely trailer both previews and promises faithfully that this new film, based upon an incident occupying the later years of Fred Rogers, will become the feel good movie of the year. Tom Hanks is, as ever, a magical presence on the screen. It is, indeed, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood when spiritual goodness is shared, honored, and cherished by both film maker and audience. 

 However, this lyrical and wondrous motion picture is so much more than I could ever have imagined. It is loosely based upon the friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television’s most beloved children’s host, after a jaded, embittered magazine writer is assigned a purely “fluff” assignment to interview Public Television’s “Mr. Rogers” for Esquire Magazine.

Convinced that the character of “Mr. Rogers” is merely a scripted persona, the writer goes about his work with both cynicism and restrained contempt … until events in his own life force him to look inward toward the scarred, unhappy soul that he has, perhaps, unknowingly, become. Rogers, a former Presbyterian minister, gently pierces the bitter facade of his interviewer, subtly forcing the writer to believe in his own inherent goodness, and in the deceptively hidden beauty of the world and people around him.

Directed with deep sensitivity by Marielle Heller from a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman Blue and Noah Harpster, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood features sweet, lovely performances by Matthew Rhys as the troubled journalist, Chris Cooper (in what’s sure to become an Oscar-nominated supporting performance as his troubled father), Susan Kelechi Watson as his wife and, of course, Tom Hanks in the role that he was, perhaps, born to play as Mister Rogers.

 A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a tender, sweet parable about fathers and sons, and about the absolute power of goodness. Heller’s direction of the film plays with children’s perceptions of love and strength, while softly interweaving them with the sadness, distrust, and cynicism which often, sadly, replace the innocence of youth with the jaded wisdom of maturity. In these deeply divisive and conflicted times, we truly need this sweet story of faith, spiritual goodness, and the remarkable beauty and consequence of love and forgiveness. To that end, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a both a revelation, and a miracle.

Walter Day Will Debut SF Trading Cards at 2020 Balticon

Walter Day, the trading card creator who also celebrates video games and historical figures, has announced that Balticon will host his 2020 Science Fiction Trading Card Award Ceremony on Saturday, May 23 at 2 p.m. Day will unveil the newest cards in the Science Fiction Series and present ornate awards to worthy honorees who have contributed greatly to the global science fiction culture.

In recent years this ceremony has been conducted at WorldCon 74 (Kansas City), WorldCon 75 (Helsinki, Finland), WorldCon 76 (San Jose) as well as smaller ceremonies at the last five years of the Nebula Awards Weekend.

This year’s awards ceremony will be held at Balticon 54, which is the annual Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Here are some of the trading cards that will be unveiled during these ceremonies and given away as free gifts to the attendees at the event. I thank Walter for including my card in this release!

(Note: Day says he has already corrected the spelling of Leibowitz, but he hasn’t posted the new art.)

Day has held his ceremony in conjunction with major cons and events over the past several years. Card #65 (author C. J Cherryh) was presented on the stage during the 2016 Nebula Awards weekend festivities, in Chicago, IL. Card #34 (author Robert Silverberg) was among many presented on the stage during the Grand Masters Talk at the 2016 WorldCon, in Kansas City, MO. On Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the 2019 SFWA Nebula Awards Conference in Los Angeles, Science Fiction Historical Trading Card #211 was presented to William Gibson — the author of Neuromancer — as part of the ceremonies that enshrined him as the 2019 SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction.

Here is a link to the full gallery of the 182 Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards already in print.

Day first gained fame as a video arcade owner and for his work certifying video game achievements for the Guinness Book of Records. He is widely recognized as the inspiration for Mr. Litwak, the beloved arcade owner in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph animated film released in November 2012.

Ready Player One author Ernest Cline says Walter Day (along with Twin Galaxies arcade and Billy Mitchell) were the inspiration for writing his story in 2011, later adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg.

[Card art reproduced with permission.]

Trigger Snowflake and the Secret Guild

By Ingvar:  Timo Tay sat at the short end of the meeting table, looking down at the two lines of Guild members seated before him. He lifted his small wooden mallet.

“As chairbeing. I declare the fourth annual general meeting of the Guild of Copycats and Plagiarists open.”

The mallet thudded onto the small protective butt, rather than the table.

“First item is the financial report for the previous year. Could Miss Cristina Blatante please read the economic report?”

Cristina stood up and cleared her throat. “The Guild received 81,000 Solar Credits in membership dues. The Guild spent 147 Solar Credits for buying off one complainant. The Guild member whose unsubtlety caused the ruckus has been fined 500 Solar Credits. We further spent 40,000 Solar Credits on legal insurance. In total, last year saw a gain in the funds of 41,353 Solar Credits. The Guild has no outstanding debt to service. This concludes the economic report.”

“Thank you, Miss Blatante. Anyone opposed to adding the economic report to the Guild’s archives? Hearing none, the economic report is filed. Next, we need to elect Guild heads for the coming year. The proposal is that Timo Tay is elected as Guild Master; Cristina Blatante is elected as Mistress of Treasure; and, a change, Slem ven Pocketry is elected as Voice to the World, replacing the esteemed Anna min Scortch, who has decided to step down for personal reasons. Anyone opposed to this proposal in bulk?”

A voice rang out from the far end of the table. “Yes!”.

“Having heard an objection to electing in bulk, I will proceed position by position. Anyone opposed to Timo Tay staying on s Guild Master? Hearing no objection, I find myself elected Guild Master. Anyone opposed to Cristina Blatante as Mistress of Treasure? Hearing none, I find Miss blatant re-elected as Mistress of Treasure. Anyone opposed to Slem ven Pocketry being elected as Voice to the World?”

“Yes!” rang out from a single voice.

“Anyone in agreement with electing Slem ven Pocketry as Voice to the World?”

“YES!” rang out from most of the assembly.

“Finding that the voices in agreement vastly outnumber the voices in opposition, I find Slem ven Pocketry elected as Voice to the World.”

“Next, we have a motion to amend the rules of acceptable standards for Guild members. Mr ven Fengsler, if you would be so kind?”

John ven Fengsler stood up and cleared his throat.

“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I find it still necessary to proceed in front of this august assembly. I have put forward a motion to amend the rules of acceptable behaviour of Guild members. Having perused the Guild archives, I have found that many of our esteemed members have, in the last five years, neither plagiarized nor copied. As the Guild rules stand, this is not required. But my motion purports to make it mandatory to commit at least one plagiarism every three years, for continued membership. With a sunset clause, requiring any member who does have more than three years since the last plagiarism to commit one in the next 18 months, or risk expulsion after investigation by the board. The full text has been duly added to the agenda, and everyone should have a copy. As a side note, the motion is a slightly edited copy from the Performing Works section of the constitution of the Sulphurian Society, so technically counts as a plagiarism.”

“We have heard Member ven Fengsler present his motion, and will now proceed to debate. Debate will start with those opposed, alternating between supporting and opposing, until such a time as we have exhausted one side. Who is first? Ah, proceed, Voice ven Pocketry.”

“I am, as is Member ven Fengsler, part of the Sulphurian movement. I was one of the people arguing for our movement having a similar rule, but I oppose it here. For one simple reason. Sulphuric poetry, song and art is tolerant of mistakes. But, in plagiarism, there can be no margin for error. If you plagiarize unwisely, we would attract the notice of the authorities. And as we heard, even without this policy, in the last year our Guild have spent over 40,000 Solar Credits either to preemptively protect us, or as a direct result of someone having been caught. And for that reason, I am opposed.”

“Very well. Anyone speaking for? Member ven Fengsler has the floor.”

“We are a Guild of plagiarists, for a guild of plagiarists. It is imperative that our members actually practice the trade we propose to regulate and foster. And in plagiarism, as in many things in the world, skills decline if left unused. I have not looked deeply into our member that was caught, but I would not be surprised if the time since last registered plagiarism before unfortunate most recent is more than four years. My research shows that plagiarism skill declines slowly over a period of 20-26 months, then with an accelerated decay from there to 34-40 months, at which point it normally drops below the level we would accept from a competent Guild member. It is for this reason I urge the Meeting to pass this motion and add it to the Laws of our Guild.”

“We are now looking for someone in opposition? No one? That means the floor is open for either opposing or supporting. Ah, Member min Scortch wishes to speak.”

“Beloved Guild members. Member ven Fengsler consulted with me before putting this motion to the Meeting. At that point, I was in favor. But, I must say that Memb, ahem, Voice ven Pocketry have convinced me that this is a cure that is worse than the disease. For that reason, I urge the Meeting to oppose this motion.”

“Well spoken, and clearly against. We are now looking for a speech supporting. No one? Anyone wanting to argue against? Finding none, I will now take votes. Anyone opposed? I see a raised hand. Member Bobbingsley, what is the matter?”

“I call for this Meeting to vote via secret ballot. It is far too divisive a question for open voting.”

“Secret ballot has been called for. Every member should have been given two stones, one white and one teal. In an orderly queue, please walk to the voting table, then deposit your vote into the urn marked ‘Vote’ and your other stone in the urn marked ‘Discard’. If you would like the motion to pass, please deposit a white stone as your vote and if opposed, the teal one.”

The meeting dissolved into a chaos of people moving about, slowly forming into something that looked like a pale imitation of an orderly queue. When people eventually returned to their seats, Chair Tey picked the urn marked “Vote” and spilled it onto the table in from of him.

“I have not yet done a count, but from the look of the pile of voting stones in front of me, I would say that the Ayes have it. I will now proceed to do an accurate count.” A few minutes later, the stones had been separated into one white and one teal pile, the white pile towering over the teal. “Having counted the votes, the Ayes have 48 votes, the Nays have 17. The Ayes carry the vote, and we now have a rule requiring committing at least one plagiarism every three years. As of this moment, all members with more than three years are on an eighteen-month grace period.”

This is the point where we leave the remainder of the annual general meeting of the Guild of Copycats and Plagiarists to wend its own way.

#

Trigger was sitting at the kitchen table, his morning bowl of cereal and syntxemilk in front of him, spoon in hand, chewing the first mouthful of cereal, when he decided something was definitely not as it should be. He wasn’t quite sure what was wrong, but something was. This, this was not normal.

“Beloved Coraline, did we get the right cereal?”, he asked.

“Dearest Trigger, it should be Nutty Neptune Nuggets, as usual”, his wife replied.

“Hmm. Something’s not right, then.”

Trigger stood up and walked to the dry-goods cupboard, opened the doors and looked. He could see the cereal box, and it looked as it should. Wait. No, something was off.

He looked carefully at the package again.

“Beloved Coraline, it seems we have purchased a box of Nütty Neptüne Nüggets?”

Coraline darted out from the bedroom, hair still in disarray from the night. She stopped beside Trigger and looked at the cereal box.

“Why, indeed. This is not Nutty Nuggets, at all. Whyever did this happen? Let me telephone the General Store right now!”

After having dressed, Trigger walked downstairs, to his office.

“Dearest Trigger”, Coraline said, “I have spoken to the store manager and he is as surprised as we are.”

“What I shall do, beloved Coraline, is to walk over and talk to him in person. We know this is not right, and it needs to be investigated.”

Trigger walked through the front doors of Fort Corallium General Store.

“Abner? It’s Trigger. What’s up with the cereal delivery?”

“Well, Sheriff, I have looked at the shipping manifest and we should have received a pallet of Nutty Neptune Nuggets, half a pallet of Sugary Snowflakes, and half a pallet of Maize Crispies. But, looking carefully at the contents, it seems that a full third of the Nutty Nuggets are these… Nütty Nüggets, And all of the Sugary Snowflakes are, instead, some sort of impostor Snowy Sugarflakes, that I have never seen. Most of the Maize Crispies are right, but one out of about ten is a Maze Cruspies packet. I have checked and double-checked, and it just makes no sense.”

Trigger scratched his square, manly jaw with his right hand. Something was afoot, and it was not good game.

“Odd indeed, Abner. Odd indeed.”

#

Slem ven Pocketry sat down in front of the table. On the other side sat Timo Tey, in the middle, flanked by Cristina Blatante and Lena Bobbingsley.

Timo cleared his throat.

“Member ven Pocketry, you have a report?”

“Yes, chairbeing Tey, I have a plagiarism to report. I have successfully infiltrated fake cereal onto the market, at normal market price, at a 55% profit on my initial investments. As a dues-paying Guild member, I wish this to be recorded in our books.”

“Well done. Does any of the other members of the inquisitors panel have any remarks or questions?”

“Member ven Pocketry, could you explain why you chose cereal products for your plagiarism, instead of something more conventional, like books, illustrated magazines, or art?”

“Certainly, member Bobbingsley. It is actually a much higher return on investment. Having previously primarily focused on plagiarizing furniture and sculpture, my profits tended to be in the 5% to 20% range, but in cereal, my initial probing attempt incurred a 40% profit and with some streamlining of my counterfeit production line, I could easily realize the current 55% profit margin. It is thus much more profitable and I envision the ability to expand this to plagiarizing and counterfeiting other food items. Alas, my learnings really do not carry over to luxury items, all my attempts at counterfeiting caviar have, for example, all fizzled out. While I can make a convincing replacement, I do so at a cost higher than what I can sell it for.”

“And how, exactly, are you recouping your costs?”

“Ah, this is possibly the most clever bit. I have contacts at a wholesaler, and I am using that to essentially pad their stocks and shipping my copies out mixed in with shipments of the originals. Quite ingenious, even if I say so myself.”

#

Trigger Snowflake had checked up on the transport company that had sent the shipment to Fort Corallium General Store, and they were headquartered in Ytterbium Valley. While outside his jurisdiction, he had a pretty good feeling he would be able to get permission from the local law to investigate.

He arrived at the Ytterbium Valley Sheriff’s Office and knocked on the door.

“Sheriff Scrogginski? It’s Trigger, from Fort Corallium. I need to be accredited to do some investigation and a few interviews here in Ytterbium Valley.”

“Trigger! You know you can call me Urbel. What’s up?”

“I have this weird case with counterfeited breakfast cereals, and I thought I would simply go and talk to the next step in the transport chain. I’ve already interviewed the store manager and he seems to be on the up and up. Next, I thought I would talk to the transport company, but since they’re here, I either need you to do it, or you can deputize me and I can use that to ask the questions that will be needed.”

“Hm, well, that seems quite straight-forward. Let me just give you a deputy star to complement the one you have from Fort Corallium.”

About an hour later, properly deputised, Trigger arrived at Intersolar Transports, the transport company he was after. He walked up to the reception, where a young man was sitting behind the counter.

“Hello, I am Trigger Snowflake, deputy to Sheriff Scrogginski. I need to interview a few people in regards to a crime. Who would be the logical first person to talk to?”

“Ah. Eh. Well… You probably want to talk to the general manager, who can guide you further?”

“Excellent, can you give me directions to his office?”

“Who? Ah, the general manager. Yes, if you walk down this corridor, her office is the thrird door on the right-hand side. It says ‘General Manager’ beside the door. I’ll just give her a call and tell her to expect you.”

Trigger knocked on the door, and a gruff voice called out “Come in”. He opened the door and quickly scanned the room, not really for threats, just out of sheer unbridled habit. Angled against the far right corner was a sturdy desk, behind which was sitting a woman, dressed in tough-wearing coveralls.

“Hello, I am Trigger Snowflake, deputy to Sheriff Scrogginski. I am here to investigate a crime discovered in my home jurisdiction of Fort Corallium, where counterfeit cereal was shipped to our General Store. The shipment came from this company, and I would like to get to the bottom of this.”

“Cereal crime? This is unheard of! Oh, pardon me, I am Jenna J. Jameson, the general manager for Intersolar Transport in this orbit. Well, if you can tell me, roughly, when the shipment was delivered?”

“Two, maybe as many as four, days ago.”

Ms Jameson hummed, as she walked over to a filing cabinet. She pulled open a drawer, rifled through the paperwork, then slammed it shut, only to open another one and rifling through some more papers.

“Aha. Yes, this is a shipment that came in from Luna, a week ago, and was delivered three days ago, to the Fort Corallium General Store. The shipment should have been half a pallet of cereal boxes, a quarter pallet of canned goods, and a quarter-pallet of chocolates and other sweet items. Let me see… Ah, as I thought. You need to speak to Ear-John. Follow me.”

After about five minutes of rapid walking, they arrived at a small glass-walled hut, in the middle of a gigantic warehouse. Inside was a man, again dressed in the seemingly ubiquitous hard-wearing coveralls. Stitched to the right breast of the man’s coverall was a name badge, reading “J Marriott”.

“Ear-John, this is Sheriff Snowflake, from Fort Corallium. He’s been properly deputized and is here to ask you some questions. Please answer them as fully as you can.” With that said, Ms Jameson turned around and walked away, at quite a pace.

“Hello, I am John Marriott, foreman of local loading. They call me Ear-John, because I have a good memory for details and, for this noisy environment, good hearing. What can I help you with?”

“Three days ago, you sent a pallet of goods to the Fort Corallium General Store. Was there anything unusual about it?”

“Not really. We used a new subcontractor to ship it from Luna, but other than that, it was all pretty standard. Why Was there any damage?”

“No, no. Well, not damage as such. It’s just that when the shipment arrived, a large proportion of the cereal boxes had been substituted for fakes.”

“That must’ve been before it arrived at this warehouse. Hm. Actually, I think we have a representative from the subcontractor, over by the arrivals processing area. If you follow me?”

Another few minutes of brisk walking, then Ear-John walked up to a man dressed in a sharp suit.

“Mr ven Pocketry? From Sniiki Transport? I have someone who wants to talk to you.”

When Slem ven Pocketry turned around, he saw Trigger Snowflake and went suddenly very pale, as if all blood had just left his face. “It wasn’t me, Sheriff. I don’t forge cereal. You can’t prove ANYTHING. I want my lawyer!”

Trigger Snowflake was stunned. Not only was this a ne’er-do-well that he had encountered before, but ven Pocketry had pretty much confessed without a single question being asked.

“Slem ven Pocketry, I am placing you under arrest, on suspicion of cereal forgery. Anything you have said, are saying, or will say can and will be held against you in a court of law. Will you follow willingly, or will I have to hand-cuff you?”

Back at the Ytterbium Valley sheriff’s office, ven Pocketry was sitting in a straight-backed wooden chair, looking morose.

“Urbel, we can either do the interview here, or if you rather I take the suspect back to Fort Corallium?”

“Might as well do it here, Trigger. I have this nagging feeling that you want to be close to the spaceport.”

After some extensive interrogation, which we will skip, since it is no fun at all, ven Pocketry had duly confessed to forging the cereal boxes, and had named three other persons involved, all based on Luna.

#

Trigger and his prisoner arrived at Luna Spaceport, having duly sent ahead a message listing the Luna-based suspects. As they passed through the arrivals check, the processing officer suddenly froze.

“Aha. Sheriff Snowflake. I have a note here that you should go straight to the Office of the Peace, where you and your prisoner are needed as soon as possible. I will now take the liberty of requesting a buggy to take you there, unless you strongly prefer to run?”

“A buggy will be fine, gentle herm. Will it be long?”

“It is just pulling up behind the door to my right. If you walk through, you will be taken to the Office of the Peace.”

Some quick driving through Luna Colony later, they arrived at the Office of the Peace, the main office of the organization that appointed sheriffs throughout the Solar System. Trigger had only been at head office twice before. Once for his official swearing-in, and once to receive his transfer order from being a sheriff-at-large on Mars, to his posting at Fort Corallium. They walked the limestone stairs up to the main entrance.

“Sheriff Snowflake, Fort Corallium, with a prisoner, as ordered. What next?”

“Ah, excellent. We have the suspects you named under arrest, and we’ve started interviewing them. It seems, from all we can tell, that the only counterfeiter among them is ven Pocketry here, who will be prosecuted under the False Pretenses act, while the rest of them mainly seem to be in it for the opportunity to defraud the shipping industry, also a serious crime.”

“That is good to hear. Will you need me to give further statements?”

“Not as such, we just need you to counter-sign the telefacsimiles you have sent, in order to make it less of a contentious point at trial. Would you like to stay for the proceedings?”

“No, Officer, I would rather go home to my beloved wife, not having to think about cereal trials.”