Who Was That Masked Man?

The Waukegan Public Library posted a picture on Facebook showing that in the spirit of the times statue of Ray Bradbury has been outfitted with a mask.

They say:

Thank you to Waukegan High School soon to be graduate, Austin Cantu, for making sure Ray Bradbury is doing his part in stopping the spread!

In this case the masked man is riding a silver bullet…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Disney Masks – What A Bargain

Disney masks

“Disney launched new cloth character face masks—and $1 million of proceeds will go to charity” reports Yahoo! Life. There’s a quartet of designs for each major Disney franchise.

You can now rep some of your favorite Disney characters and movies while keeping yourself and others safe from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Disney just launched cloth face masks featuring Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars characters. Better yet, it’s all for a good cause.

Along with the launch of the face masks, Disney announced that it plans to donate up to $1 million from the sales of the masks to Medshare, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that delivers medical supplies and equipment to communities around the world. Disney is also donating one million cloth face masks to Medshare to be distributed to children and families in need across the U.S.

Would it be uncharitable to deliver the headline in my Alan Rickman voice? Perhaps – they’re only $19.99 for each set of four.

Available for pre-order, shopDisney masks.

PIXAR

STAR WARS

MARVEL

PhiLunaBaltAutoBoskCon 2020

[Editor’s Note: Steve was inspired to create this piece by SF Concatenation’s call for fans to write about a con, but submitted it here because “I don’t like waiting.” Is this quick enough?]

By Steve Davidson: It took a visionary – but then, what other great contributions to human society haven’t?

Oh, I know, I’m using the original name for the world’s first Transmitter Booth convention, now formally designated the Great Eastern Multi Con – GEMCon for short, but I prefer the original for its historical call-outs.

Did you know that it was originally going to be the Great National Multi Con?  Yeah, that was the plan, but time zones got in the way.  Too many people forgetting the zones, showing up three hours late for a physical event and then getting all pissy about it online.  The worst was the west coast fans flicking east at midnight (their midnight) and showing up at room parties just as they were shutting down.  The con started turning into a permanent floating room party.  Nothing really wrong with that, but the hotels.  The hotels started going crazy with the corkage fees, trying to sneak hourly “maintenance” fees into the contracts.  Not to mention the constant visits by Fire Marshals every time some author said something funny or outrageous and their panel got flash mobbed.

History really is the stuff of little things, isn’t it?

Really.  You’d think someone would have twigged to the possibilities offered to conventions by the transmitter booths and it would have been one of the first things everyone thought of.  I mean – SCIENCE fiction fans, right?

Nope.  What it took was Sheldon Kornpett, sitting in a hotel lobby with his friends, lamenting the fact that two conventions they wanted to attend were happening on the same weekend.  And then he looked up from his pocket schedule, saw the row of transmitter booths by the hotel entrance and said “…but we can go to both conventions, almost at the same time…”.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Well, almost.  It did take a couple of solid years of fan feuds to iron out the details – settling on a date, figuring out how membership fees would work, massaging codes of conduct into one sensible mess, coming to a consensus on the font size for name badges, (not to mention dealer’s room tax issues that almost derailed the entire thing), but, well, you already know it worked out in the end.  If you listen closely you can hear a group of Fen marching through the lobby chanting “All Cons, All Cons in One!”

Now if they’ll just get a move on with that dopelleganger-telepresence tech, I’ll actually be able to attend everything on the schedule I want to see. 

And guys, you’ve really got to do something about the pocket program already.  I’ve seen one fan who’s mounted his on wheels….

Command the US Space Force (Or the Russian Space Agency!)

The Kickstarter for this set of “United States Space Force Action Figures” has already funded and is galloping through its early stretch goals.

Now you can help win the Space Race with the United States Space Force action figures. Build your own Space Force Red or Space Force Blue team OR combine forces to defeat Putin and make space great again!

The goal set by Chris Gawrych, CEO of Amazo Toys, was $40K and they’ve raised over $45K.

Each 4” United States Space Force action figure has over 14 points of articulation, including multiple accessories and 3 interchangeable heads.

The humor is not subtle — Russia’s Space Agency is headed by Vladimir Putin, a figure whose head is interchangeable with Gregori Rasputin.

The actual Space Force is a new branch of the military established in December 2019,

If they reach their $95K stretch goal, a whole flock of other Presidents’ heads will be added to the line. (If they get to $135K they’ll add the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore!)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

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