2019 Darrell Awards Finalists Announced

The annual Darrell Awards support Midsouth Literacy by recognizing the best published Science Fiction, Fantasy and/or Horror in Short Story, Novella, Novel, Young Adult & Other Media formats. The 2019 Darrell Awards finalists are:

Best Midsouth Novel

  • John E. Siers  — In the Service of Luna
  • Frank Tuttle — Every Wind of Change

Best Midsouth Novella

  • Kevin Andrew Murphy – Find the Lady (appearing in Mississippi Roll, a Wild Cards shared-world novel)
  • William Alan Webb – The Hairy Man (set in his post-apocalypse series)

Best Midsouth Other Media 

  • Matthew Maala — Amazing Grace (Season 3, Episode 14, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow tv series)
  • Mark Powers — Dog Men (the first 6 issues in this comic book series set in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files universe)

Best Midsouth Short Story 

  • Lee Ann Story — “Family Circle” (appearing in End of the World Potluck)
  • Sheree Renee Thomas — “Teddy Bump” (appearing in Fiyah Lit Mag, issue 7)
  • Frank Tuttle — “Knob Hill Haunt” (a free-standing Mama Hogg story in the Markhat universe)

The Darrell Awards are named in honor of the memory of Dr. Darrell C. Richardson, who was instrumental in getting the Memphis SF Association off the ground.

The 2019 Darrell Awards will be presented at MidSouthCon in Memphis on March 16.

HWA Announces 2019 Summer Scares Reading List

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) announces the first annual Summer Scares Reading List. In celebration of National Library Lover’s Day, the HWA joins with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal for this event. The reading list includes titles selected by a panel of authors and librarians, and it is designed to promote horror as a superb reading option for all ages.

The Summer Scares program seeks to introduce horror titles to school and public librarians and to open a dialogue between libraries and readers about the horror genre. A goal of the program is to facilitate the promotion of horror beyond the books on each year’s reading list and encourage reading for years to come.

Along with the annual list of recommended titles for readers of all ages, the Summer Scares committee will release themed lists of “read-alike” titles for libraries to use when suggesting books to readers. Helping libraries forge stronger connections between books and readers, the Summer Scares committee will work with the recommended authors and writers nationwide, providing free programming to libraries. From author visits (in person and virtual) to book discussions to horror themed events, Summer Scares focuses on connecting horror writers with libraries and readers all year.

Each year, three titles will be chosen in the Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories. This year’s Summer Scares reading list for 2019 is as follows:

ADULT

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017)

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due (Harper Voyager, 1998)

Earthworm Gods by Brian Keene (Deadite Press, 2012)

YOUNG ADULT

Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Ember, 2012)

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (Speak, 2016)

Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow (Penguin Random House Publisher Services, 2015)

MIDDLE GRADE

Doll Bones Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015)

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014)

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)

The Summer Scares program committee includes award-winning author Grady Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, Paperbacks from Hell), Becky Spratford (library consultant, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd Ed.), Carolyn Ciesla (library director, academic dean, book reviewer), Kiera Parrott (reviews director for Library Journal and School Library Journal), Kelly Jensen (editor, Book Riot, author of [Don’t] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health), and JG Faherty (HWA Library Program director, author of The Cure and Carnival of Fear).

For more information about the Summer Scares reading program, including how to obtain promotional materials and schedule events with the authors/committee members, visit the HWA’s Libraries web page (www.horror.org/libraries), Becky Spratford’s Reader’s Advisory Horror Blog RA for All: Horror, the Library Journal, Book Riot, School Library Journal, or United for Libraries websites and social media sites. You can also contact JG Faherty, HWA Library Program Director (libraries@horror.org), or Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary (bspratford@hotmail.com).

The HWA will also host a special Library Day program at its annual StokerCon™ event, which will be held May 9-12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Several of the authors from the Summer Scares reading list, as well as the committee members, will be in attendance.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 2/14/19 Scot Hunk, Cyber Punk, Even If It’s Old Junk

(1) HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. I found my holiday inspiration at SYFY Wire: “Debate Club: The 5 best romances in sci-fi movies”.

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Week! And even if you’re not out with your significant other on Thursday night, you can still appreciate a good love story, particularly one that’s surrounded by the genre trappings we’ve all come to appreciate. We need love stories to humanize all the theatrics, to make sure human beings aren’t lost among the stars.

Skipping all the details, the movies (and couples and actors, where applicable) Grierson and Leitch choose are:

Upstream Color (2013) — Jeff (Shane Carruth) and Kris (Amy Seimetz)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) — Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)

Edward Scissorhands (1990) — Edward (Johnny Depp) and Kim (Winona Ryder)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) — Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet)

WALL-E (2008) — WALL-E and EVE

(2) THE TMZ OF THE MCU. And yes, love is in the air, even after 50% of humanity is gone (Inverse: “Who’s Dating Who in the MCU? After Thanos’ Snap, Here’s the Complete Guide”).

This Valentine’s Day, there’s no better place to look for love than in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which boasts more than 80 characters in 20 movies with stories spanning across various countries, realms, galaxies, and even timelines. And only half of them are dead!

Many characters are now gone. We get it. But hey, love is complicated! Love is patient. Love is kind. Time travel Love can fix anything.

(3) BEWARE THE IDEAS OF MARCH. John Scalzi tweeted, “Oh, hey, here’s a trailer for you, he said, with no personal vested interest at all.” I wonder what he meant by that? Love Death + Robots debuts on Netflix on March 15.

Sentient dairy products, werewolf soldiers, robots gone wild, garbage monsters, cyborg bounty hunters, alien spiders and blood-thirsty demons from hell – all converge in eighteen NSFW animated stories. Presented by Tim Miller & David Fincher.

(4) WAKE-UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE. Um, can you even do that in the vacuum of space? The promoters of Space Roasters say that’s where they’ll perfect your cup of coffee.

TrendHunter Marketing has the details — “Re-Entry from Space Heats Space Roasters’ Coffee Beans”.

Space Roasters is looking to “revolutionize coffee roasting” by taking the process to outer space. Space Roasters plans to send green coffee into space and allow the heat from its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere to take care of the roasting—and in the process, address many of the pitfalls of conventional coffee-roasting practices. Since gravity interferes with coffee beans tumbling and breaking, Space Roasters aims to create a zero-gravity setting for roasting that creates evenly distributed heat and perfectly roasted beans.

Daniel Dern notes: “This makes me think of the Tom Swift Jr book where he sends up rockets holding cargoes of solar batteries so they can charge in space, and then come back to earth.”

(5) GEORGE PAL. Arnold Leibovit’s GoFundMe “Fantasy Worlds of George Pal Film Preservation” hope to raise $9,850 to preserve a series of historic rare archival videotape interviews – many never released –  from The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal  (1986).

In the annals of Hollywood, Academy Award winner George Pal will always be remembered as a titan, a brilliant visionary who profoundly shaped the art of motion pictures. As an animator, Pal was a pioneer of stop-motion animation known as Puppetoons ™ and a peer of Walt Disney and Walter Lantz. In the 1950’s as a producer and director of live-action films, he brought to the screen such classics as “The War of the Worlds”, “The Time Machine”, “When Worlds Collide”, “Destination Moon”, “Tom Thumb”, “Houdini”, “Atlantis the Lost Continent” “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”, “7 Faces of Dr. Lao”, “The Power”, “Doc Savage: Man of Bronze” and others.  Pal’s cinematic legacy can be traced in the works of Walt Disney, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Gene Roddenberry, Tim Burton, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and dozens of others.

The original 1 inch ‘B’ NTSC video format used in the production of “The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal” are long out of use. To make matters worse, only 2  working ‘B’ NTSC machines exist that can aid in the digitization process.  There is no telling how long these machines will last or their working parts as they are also no longer in existence!

… Talent interviews to preserve includes: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Tony Randall, Tony Curtis, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Gene Roddenberry, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Russ Tamblyn, Barbara Eden, Ann Robinson, Roy E. Disney, Ward Kimball, Robert Wise, George Pal, Mrs. George Pal,  David Pal, Gae Griffith, Walter Lantz, Gene Warren Sr., Wah Chang, Jim Danforth, Robert Bloch, Chesley Bonestell, Albert Nozaki, William Tuttle, Duke Goldstone, Bob Baker and Phil Kellison….

(6) REBEL AND WRITE CLEARLY. Benjamin Dreyer, vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief, of Random House, and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style asserts in a Washington Post opinion piece: “I’m not the grammar police. But writing well is an act of resistance.”.

…I might also urge you to kondo your prose of what I call the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers® — the “very”s and “quite”s and “rather”s and “actually”s in which many (most?) of us bury our writing like so many packing peanuts. Because once you’ve stripped those away, I insist, you’ll find yourself looking at sentences that are bolder in their spareness.

And perhaps be less eager to grab up the latest bit of jargony businessspeak — is it not enough to orient new employees? Must we onboard them, and is that not prohibited anyway by the Geneva Conventions?

As a copy editor I find myself frequently asked to weigh in on an array of language peeves and crotchets: “Is it okay to use ‘literally’ to mean ‘figuratively’?” “What about ‘begs the question’?” “What do I do about supermarket signs that read ‘Ten Items or Less’?” (Respectively: If I say no, is that going to stop you? I plead the Fifth. Get a hobby.)

(7) PRIME PADDINGTON. He looks pretty good for 50. Paddington Bear passed the half-century mark last last year but apparently isn’t retired yet (BBC News: “Paddington returns as a TV series with the voice of Ben Whishaw”).

The actor has already provided the voice for the bear for two films that were critical and box office hits. 

The series for pre-schoolers will be a 3D CG-animated series, which follows the adventures of a younger Paddington.

[…] “It is a joy to bring this uniquely life-enhancing bear to a whole new audience of younger children. We are thrilled that the inimitably brilliant Ben Whishaw will continue to voice Paddington,” [executive producer David Heyman] said. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 14, 1929 Vic Morrow. I usually avoid dealing in death here but this time I can’t. He and two child actors were killed in 1982 by a stunt helicopter crash during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie. It was his first big budget SF film having done only two low-budget ones before that, Message from Space (Ucyuu karano messeiji), a Japanese film where he was cast as General Garuda, and as Hank Slattery in Humanoids of the Deep. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 14, 1933 Robert Shea. Author with Robert Anton Wilson of The Illuminatus Trilogy (The Eye in the PyramidThe Golden Apple and Leviathan). Weird shit. Is it really genre? Or just the ravings of two insane writers? (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 77. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a novel based based on his character, A Stitch in Time  and a novella, “The Calling” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone
  • Born February 14, 1948 Teller, 70. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Paula M. Block, 67. Star Trek author and editor; but primarily known for working in Paramount Pictures’ consumer licensing division and then with CBS Consumer Products. Remember that novel I noted by Andrew Robinson? Yeah that’s her bailiwick. She’s also written with her husband Terry J. Erdmann, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion and Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier. It looks like she did some Trek fanfic as well including “The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly’s Feet”.
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 67. Interesting person the she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces, and her twenty year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading.
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 56. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest is one I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where (SPOILER!) his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 49. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond (with a co-writing credit for the latter). His first foray into the genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late genre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the present Mission: Impossible franchise.
  • Born February 14, 1978 Danai Guirira, 41. She’s best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, and as Okoye in the MCU franchise starting with Black Panther, and later reprising that role in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Her first genre film was Ghost Town in which she’s listed as playing assorted ghosts, and she’s got some role in the forthcoming Godzilla vs. Kong

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LOOKING BACKWARD. At the Dublin 2019 site Ian Moore does a category overview: “Retro Hugos: dramatic Presentations in 1943”.

…Science fiction pictures as we know them now were still relatively rare in 1943. However, horror films provide a rich vein of Retro Hugo eligible material, admittedly of variable quality. Universal brought out another version of The Phantom of the Opera, with Arthur Lubin directing Claude Rains in the title role. Somewhat unusually for horror films of the era, this film was awarded Academy Awards in the cinematography and art direction categories. At just over 90 minutes it is eligible for the long form dramatic Retro Hugo.

Universal also brought out the short Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, directed by Roy William Neill. This was the first of their films to feature an encounter between two of their monsters. Lon Chaney Jr. reprised his role as the Wolf Man while Bela Lugosi finally played Frankenstein’s Monster, a role he had famously turned down when the 1931 Frankenstein was being cast. Chaney also appeared in the Universal short films Calling Dr. Death (directed by Reginald LeBorg), a lost memory murder mystery, and Son of Dracula (directed by Robert Siodmak), in which he took on Lugosi’s Dracula role. By 1943 Lugosi meanwhile was ageing, but he still managed to play another vampire role in Columbia’s short Return of the Vampire (directed by Lew Landers) and The Ape Man (a short for Banner Pictures, directed by William Beaudine), in which he plays a scientist who transforms into an ape-man hybrid following some ethically dubious experiments….

(11) VALENTINE’S DAY BURRITO. John Scalzi reached 160,000 Twitter followers yesterday. By popular acclaim he celebrated by making a burrito. A thread with the recipe starts here. He’s also published it as a Whatever blog post.

(12) PERSPECTIVES ON SFF HISTORY. SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” takes a look at, “How genre has failed and served queer representation.”

Two years ago, during my annual pilgrimage to the Lesbian Herstory Archives’ book sale, I stumbled across Kindred Spirits, the first anthology of gay and lesbian science fiction stories ever, to my knowledge, published. First published in 1984 by Alyson Publications, one of the oldest LGBTQ publishing houses in operation, the anthology boasted twelve queer science fiction stories written by authors of varying identities, ranging from legendary lesbian author Joanna Russ to openly gay Star Trek screenwriter David Gerrold, who wrote the iconic episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

[…] [Editor Jeffrey M.] Elliot clearly hoped that anthologizing these stories would engender empathy and acceptance in his readers, but he was also cognizant of the limitations of fiction, citing the clear and urgent work of queer activists as moving the goalposts forward. Turning away from the darkness of the past, Elliot looks hopefully to a future where speculative fiction both reflects increasing acceptance of the LGBTQ community and can be used to increase acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

It’s been 35 years since Kindred Spirits was published in that hope. Have we lived up to it?

(13) SOMETHING WICKED. Flavor Wire quotes from Frank Skinner’s introduction to the Folio Society’s new edition of a Ray Bradbury classic, which contemplates what exactly makes this story so scary: “Book Excerpt: On the Potent Fear of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’”.

…Bradbury, it seems, is something of a student of fear. It is, he suggests, much more complex than we might think. It is certainly not just one thing. I once lived in an apartment overlooking the Thames. Seeing so much of the old river made me realise how different it could be from day to day, from hour to hour. It swirled and settled, it grew darker, it sparkled, it seemed, sometimes, almost to stop flowing. It feels as if Bradbury, through his writings, has similarly studied fear on a daily basis, noting its ebbs and flows, recognising its surprising variety. Thirteen-year-old boys can be a strange mix of high energy and deep languor. Their fear, Bradbury shows us, is subject to similar peaks and troughs. Having been near-paralysed with foreboding for a sustained period, Will and Jim become ‘starchy with boredom and fatigued with sameness’ and consider giving themselves up to the carnival just for something to do….

(14) IT’S A DRY HEAT. So far, Dune has pretty firmly resisted adaptation to the silver screen. Director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) is lining up talent for the next attempt (IGN Entertainment: “Dune Movie: Every Actor in the Sci-Fi Reboot”). Actors listed in the article as signed (or in talks) include:

  • Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) — Paul Atreides
  • Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) — Lady Jessica
  • Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) — Duke Leto Atreides
  • Stellan Skarsgård (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) — Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
  • Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049) — Glossu Rabban
  • Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) — in talks to play Chani
  • Charlotte Rampling (Red Sparrow) — Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
  • Javier Bardem — in talks to play Stilgar
  • Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2) — Gurney Halleck
  • Jason Momoa (Aquaman) — reportedly in talks to play Duncan Idaho

(15) ASKING FOR A TIME REFUND. Think Story deems the TV production of Nightflyers to be “A Hot Mess in Space.”

Were you as disappointed in Netflix’s “Nightflyers” as I was? Join me as we take a look at what could have been a great series but was thrown out the airlock.

[Thanks to Charles Mohapel, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

2018 Cybils Awards

The 2018 Cybils winners (Children’s and Young Adults Bloggers’ Literary Awards) were announced on February 14.

The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.

Here are the results from the speculative fiction categories.

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

The Witch Boy
by Molly Knox Ostertag
GRAPHIX

Aster, a thirteen-year-old boy living in a secluded community with strict magical rules, longs to learn practices that are forbidden to boys. Rich, believable characters support this appealing tale of breaking free from traditional gender roles. Ostertag has created a fully-realized magical world that will leave middle-grade and teen readers clamoring for more.

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
by Jessica Townsend
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Beth Mitchell

Morrigan has grown up believing she is cursed. Then, on her eleventh birthday, her luck changes when she’s whisked off to the magical city of Nevermoor, and invited to compete to be a member of the Wundrous society.   Readers will assume she makes it through the trials, but Morrigan’s low self-esteem means she herself is doubtful, and so it’s not just her external triumph that makes readers cheer for her.  Thought the good vs. evil plot might seem familiar, there are plent of unique twists.  The zany world of Nevermoor is wildly original, and the characters are vivid and three-dimensional. Fantasy-loving kids will be hooked by this memorable, magical story, and want the next book right away!

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Tess of the Road
by Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Caitlin

In Tess of the Road, author Rachel Hartman masterfully employs the classic fantasy quest format as a metaphor for Tess’s emotional journey towards healing and self-acceptance. The ‘road novel’ is a familiar trope, but Tess’s journey is full of unexpected bends in the road: difficult family relationships, guilt over past mistakes, trouble accepting help from others.

As an epic fantasy, it’s easy to expect stakes that are larger than life: good vs. evil, the fate of the universe. Where Tess is different is that she wrestles with struggles we all face daily–including how to push through other people’s ideas about you to get to the heart of who you really are. She’s a relatable main character, and readers will find themselves rooting for her to overcome her flaws.

This novel is action-packed, yet also richly layered. It has humor and suspense as well as depth and subtlety, as Tess sorts through complex issues that will resonate with readers and engage them in her quest for self-understanding and self-acceptance.

 [Via Locus Online.]

Liu Cixin Didn’t Quit His Day Job – and That’s the Problem

Liu Cixin never let his day job keep him from getting his writing done. Did anyone know that when Jason Heller tweeted this message last week and got a lot of sff writers in an uproar?

Of course, Heller and everyone else is assuming that someone with a day job will actually be working at it. Not in this case.

Bloomberg’s report “Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Sparks Debate on Slack in State Economy” carries news of a revealing 2015 interview with Liu Cixin that’s made a recent splash in Chinese social media:

China’s most prestigious science fiction novelist revealed that a lot of his work was written during work hours at a state-owned power plant, sparking debate about the level of slack in the nation’s vast state sector.

The comments from Liu Cixin, seen as China’s equivalent to Arthur C. Clarke, come from a 2015 interview that began circulating widely on social media recently after the film Wandering Earth, which is based on one of his novellas, took in 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in just a week.

“Everyone was sitting in front of a computer, and nobody knew what anyone else was doing,” Liu said in the interview. “You have to be in the office. But when you’re there, you are free to write.”

Liu worked as a software engineer at a power plant in Shanxi province from the 1980s and identified himself a worker there in interviews until as late as 2014.

However, this week Liu tried to walk back what he said in the interview (Sixth Tone, “Chinese Sci-fi Author Sparks Work Ethics Debate”).

But on Tuesday, the writer told the state-run Global Times that there’s “no time to write while on duty,” while also admitting that on rare occasions he would write on his office computer. “As an engineer at a grassroots power station, there’s constant work. Where is the time to write?” he said.

And officials also jumped in to do damage control, crediting themselves for making changes that are already taking effect:

On Monday, China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission also stepped in to address Liu’s comments on company culture at state-owned enterprises. Liu worked at the power station in Shanxi until 2014, two years after the company’s reforms.

“Mr. Liu, this phenomenon you mentioned — more workers than available work — is exactly why we are deepening reforms,” the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said via Weibo. “The reforms are good, so the enterprises can focus on their business, and you can focus on writing novels.”

Fans long ago discovered that one worker sitting in front of a computer typing looks like any other, as long as you’re not reading over his shoulder. But they also discovered a second truth which seems to have escaped the Hugo-winning author — that if you brag about what you’re really doing, then you get in big trouble.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/13/19 The Fast And The Furriest

(1) REST IN PEACE, MARTIAN ROBOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] We know where it is, but with communication now long lost NASA has declared one of its Mars rovers dead (Popular Mechanics: “NASA Says Goodnight to Opportunity, Its Most Enduring Mars Rover”).

Opportunity colored our modern understanding of the red planet. Now, it’s time to say goodbye.

The craft, which arrived at the Red Planet in July 2004, has been out of communication since last summer. Many months’ worth of attempts to contact the craft failed. Today, NASA is officially saying goodbye to the craft that, for years and years, couldn’t be stopped. At 2 p.m. Eastern, the space agency will give a press conference on the rover and is expected to say that the last attempts to reach it have failed.

Opportunity had been roving the surface of Mars for 15 years before the ominous, giant global dust storm that sealed its demise came along. This wasn’t the first time a dust storm had made Oppy go silent. But a subsequent “cleaning” event—what NASA calls it when weather conditions clear, exposing the solar panels and allowing the craft to recharge—never happened.

The press conference referenced above did happen and the expected announcement was made. RIP Opportunity. A short farewell video was posted by NASA/JPL-Caltech here.

(2) HEART TREK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Valentine’s Day is coming. Prepare to cuddle up on your comfiest couch with your loved one and watch a marathon of, um, Next Gen? (Den of Geek: “10 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes Awkwardly Romantic Enough For Valentine’s Day.”)

Don’t want to go boldly into dating disaster on Valentine’s Day? Beam these Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes onto your screen.

So you’re not into mail-order teddy bears or heart-shaped boxes of bonbons. Neither is the crew of the Starship Enterprise. There are plenty of reasons, human and otherwise, that Star Trek: The Next Generation wouldn’t be considered Valentine’s Day viewing. Androids like Data aren’t programmed to feel human emotion, and just a few minutes of getting to know Worf makes it clear the Klingon race will do just about anything to avoid it.

Even the homo sapiens on board (with the possible exception of Riker) aren’t exactly temptresses or Casanovas. Some need an operating manual just to get through a date, while others wouldn’t show affection if the Federation mandated it. Could you possibly imagine Captain Picard waltzing over to Dr. Crusher’s quarters with a bottle of Magus III’s finest vintage and a bouquet of chameleon roses? Point made.

Space fairytales aren’t about to happen when you’re beaming alien diplomats or racing across galaxies at warp nine. Still, the crew of the Enterprise tries to fumble their way through romance between all the Calrissian conflicts and Ferengi negotiations. From Riker’s interplanetary (and often interspecies) liaisons and Data’s failed attempt at programming human emotions to the embarrassingly amorous antics of Deanna Troi’s mother, it appears love in 24th century space isn’t nearly as advanced as the technology.

There’s lots of info about the episodes… but herewith just the list:

  • “Haven” Season 1, Episode 10 (1987)
  • “The Dauphin” Season 2, Episode 10 (1989)
  • “Manhunt” Season 2, Episode 19 (1989)
  • “The Emissary” Season 2, Episode 20 (1989)
  • “Booby Trap” Season 3, Episode 6 (1989)
  • “The Vengeance Factor” Season 3, Episode 9 (1989)
  • “Ménage à Troi” Season 3, Episode 24 (1989)
  • “Data’s Day” Season 4, Episode 11 (1991)
  • “Qpid” Season 4, Episode 20 (1991)
  • “In Theory” Season 4, Episode 25 (1991)

(3) YEAR OF THE VILLAIN. It’s not quite free, but CBR.com figures it might as well be (“DC Declares 2019 the Year of the Villain With a 25-Cent One-Shot Comic”).

DC Comics readers can begin their Free Comic Book Day celebration a few days early when the publisher releases [it’s] DC’s Year of the Villains one-shot on Wednesday, May 1.

The issue, which will retail at 25-cents, not only celebrates DC’s most popular bad guys, it is designed to set up the next year’s worth of major storylines and events for the company’s biggest titles.

(And by the way, Free Comic Book Day arrives on May the Fourth.)

(4) GETTING INTO THE BUSINESS. A Publishing Perspectives columnist imparts wisdom gained from experiences producing his firm’s first book — “Richard Charkin: Nine Lessons From a Small Indie Publisher”.

Lesson 3. Treat your suppliers with respect. I’ve taken a policy decision to pay cash owed into a freelancer’s account the same day I receive the invoice. My cash flow is important but respecting other people’s cash flow generates goodwill, and better relationships are vital for a small enterprise—perhaps for big enterprises too.

Lesson 4. Everything costs more than estimated, and income is always less. Those who see publishers, large or small, as greedy monsters making large profits should try it for themselves.

Lesson 5. All the fine comments, tweets, and reviews about a book count for little if they don’t generate readership and sales. The best—and only?—viral campaign remains word of mouth.

(5) FROZEN II TRAILER. Since not long after Frozen hit theaters, a significant contingent of fans has been advocating for Disney to make Elsa the first gay Disney Princess. Now that a trailer is out for Frozen 2 (due in theaters 22 November), the clamor is ratcheting up (Wired: “Frozen 2 Trailer: Twitter Asks, Where Is Elsa’s Girlfriend?”).

One hour. That’s all it took for the tweets to start coming in. No sooner had Disney dropped the trailer for Frozen 2 than the question started popping up: Where was Elsa’s girlfriend? Was she gonna be a lesbian, or nah? Disney fans and LGBTQ advocates alike were demanding: Make Elsa Gay, Dammit.

This call for Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) to embrace her Sapphic side didn’t come from out of the blue. For one, her theme song, “Let It Go,” has been embraced as a coming-out anthem, beloved at karaoke nights and piano bars the world over. For another, there’s been a Twitter campaign for it that dates back to 2016, when a young woman named Alexis Isabel Moncada noted how “iconic” it would be if Disney made the character into a lesbian princess. “The entertainment industry has given us girls who have fallen in love with beasts, ogres who fall for humans, and even grown women who love bees,” Moncada wrote in a piece for MTV about her tweet. “But we’ve never been able to see the purity in a queer relationship.” Soon #GiveElsaAGirlfriend was trending and a movement was born.

(6) BALLANTINE OBIT. Betty Ballantine (1919-2019) died February 12 — “Paperback Pioneer Betty Ballantine Dead at 99”.  She and her husband Ian (d. 1995) helped create Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. The Ballantines were Worldcon guests of honor in 1989, and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. Betty was given the World Fantasy Convention’s Life Achievement Award in 2007.

She was also a writer — her novel, The Secret Oceans (1994), was marketed as “a modern-day, ecology-oriented 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for kids.”

The New York Times obituary begins —

Betty Ballantine, the younger half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team which helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as “The Hobbit” and “Fahrenheit 451,” has died.

…Charging as little as a quarter, they published everything from reprints of Mark Twain novels to paperbacks of contemporary best-sellers. They helped established the paperback market for science fiction, Westerns and other genres, releasing original works and reprints by J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke and H.P. Lovecraft, among others. They made their books available in drugstores, railroad stations and other non-traditional outlets. They issued some paperbacks simultaneously with the hardcover, instead of waiting several months or longer.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1932 Barbara Shelley, 87. She was at her most active in the late Fifties (Blood of the Vampire) and Sixties when she became Hammer Horror’s best known female star with DraculaThe Gorgon Prince of Darkness and Rasputin, The Mad Monk as some of her credits.
  • Born February 13, 1938Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and  Return of the Musketeers. Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 60. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. 
  • Born February 13, 1961 Henry Rollins, 58. Musician and actor of interest to me for his repeated use in in the DC Universe as a voice actor, first on Batman Beyond as Mad Stan the bomber, also as Benjamin Knox / Bonk in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, then on Teen Titans as Johnny Rancid and finally, or least to date, voicing Robot Man in the “The Last Patrol!” of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  I’d be remiss not to note he’s Spider in Johnny Mnemonic, andin Green Lantern: Emerald Knights as the voice of  Kilowog.
  • Born February 13, 1966Neal McDonough, 53. He first shows up in an SF role on Star Trek: First Contact as Lieutenant Hawk. He’s then in Minority Report as Officer Gordon ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. (Anyone see this? Just curious.) He next plays Frank Gordon in Timeline before going off into Loren Coleman territory as Ned Dwyer in They Call Him Sasquatch. He voices Green Arrow in the most superb DC Showcase: Green Arrow short which you on the DC Universe service. Where can also also find Batman: Assault on Arkham with him voicing the Deadshot / Floyd Lawton character. (End of plug.) Series wise, I see he’s appeared as  Dum Dum Dugan on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. Did he time time? He’s also played Damien Darhk in the Arrowverse. And he played Wyatt Cain in the Tin Man series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • A new comic universe is mooted in Frazz. (Which sounds a lot more sophisticated than the joke.)
  • Last Kiss’ Valentine’s Day gag is even less tasteful…

(9) FUTURE HUGO CATEGORIES. John Scalzi has a dream:

(10) ANOTHER SMALL STEP. “Nasa’s InSight mission: Mars ‘mole’ put on planet’s surface”. Chip Hitchcock says, “With all this spreading, I’m just waiting for a cop to show up and ticket Insight for parking outside the lines.”

The US space agency’s (Nasa) InSight mission has positioned the second of its surface instruments on Mars.

Known as HP3, the heat-flow probe was picked up off the deck of the lander with a robot arm and placed next to the SEIS seismometer package, which was deployed in December.

Together with an onboard radio experiment, these sensor systems will be used to investigate the interior of the planet, to understand its present-day activity and how the sub-surface rocks are layered.

(11) NOT THAT ONE. BBC reports “Black panther: Rare animal caught on camera in Kenya”.

Black Panther has been everywhere in recent years – but spotting one of the animals the famous superhero is named after in the African wilderness is a little more rare.

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed it – and there are even claims this is the first time anyone has captured a melanistic leopard on camera in Africa in 100 years.

Very few images of these iconic, secretive creatures exist.

Will heard rumours of a black panther – which is a loose term for a black leopard or black jaguar, depending where in the world it’s from – at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

(12) THE NEXT ASTRONAUT SENATOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mark Kelly wants to join an exclusive club: astronauts turned US politician (CNN: “NASA astronaut Mark Kelly launches Senate campaign”). John Glenn (Mercury-Atlas 6 and Shuttle mission STS-95) served as Senator for 24 years and campaigned for president in the 1984 cycle. Both Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) served one term as Senator and Jack Swigert (Apollo 13) was elected to the Senate but died before he took office. Jake Garn (Shuttle mission STS-51-D) was a Senator for a bit over 18 years and went to space in the middle of that. Bill Nelson (Shuttle mission STS-61-C) has served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, flying on the Shuttle while in the House.

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly’s “next mission” is to be a US senator for Arizona.

“I care about people. I care about the state of Arizona. I care about this nation. So because of that, I’ve decided that I’m launching a campaign for the United States Senate,” Kelly said in a video released Tuesday announcing his run as a Democratic candidate.

Kelly, 54, is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who survived a shooting in 2011. The two appeared together in Kelly’s announcement video, recounting that difficult period in their lives and Giffords’ rehabilitation from the gunshot wound.

“I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer,” Kelly says in the campaign announcementvideo. “But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”

(13) NO CROSSOVERS, PLEASE! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Reboots are us,” James Cameron seems to be saying (Yahoo! Entertainment: “James Cameron reveals dark title for new ‘Terminator’ movie, teases a ‘hardened’ Sarah Connor” and Consequence of Sound: “James Cameron reveals new Terminator title, hints at Aliens sequel”). In the Yahoo story, we see that:

Now, Cameron is headed back to Terminator’s less-than-hopeful future for the first time since 1991’s action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The writer-director is serving as executive producer on the Tim Miller-helmed sixth entry in the franchise, which will reset the continuity clock back to Judgment Day, erasing the subsequent sequels Rise of the Machines (2003), Salvation (2009) and Genisys (2015) from the timeline. And while Sarah Connor appeared to avert the machine uprising at the end of T2, the proposed title for the new Terminator — due in theaters on Nov. 1 — makes it clear that there’s plenty of darkness still ahead. “We’re calling it, Terminator: Dark Fate,” Cameron reveals. “That’s our working title right now.”

And in the Consequence of Sound article:

[…] Last week, the director also teased that he might be doing the same for the Alien franchise, specifically that would-be followup to Aliens that Neill Blomkamp dreamed up years ago (and Ridley Scott promptly destroyed). If you recall, the idea would be to bring back Sigourney Weaver and Biehn, ignoring Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.

On a recent red carpet interview […], Cameron was asked about calling up Blomkamp and pivoting to Aliens, to which he confirmed, saying: “I’m working on that, yeah.” It’s exciting news given that Blomkamp is currently doing something similar for RoboCop, and the idea of a legacy sequel is all the rage right now in Hollywood (see: HalloweenGhostbusters).

(14) GHOSTFACE MILLIONAIRE. A Jamaican lottery winner went to ex-Screams, um, I mean extremes to hide his (or, despite the headline, it could be her) identity while completing the paperwork and accepting the souvenir oversized check (BuzzFeed: “Baller Move By This Lottery Winner Who Wore A Scream Mask To Pick Up His Prize”).

(15) WEIRD CITY. The new anthology series created by Jordan Peele and the “Key & Peele” writer Charlie Sanders, Weird City, streams on YouTube Premium. The first couple episodes are currently available free.

A sci-fi potpourri that wears its influences on its sleeves, this imagines a socially stratified dystopia whose upper- and lower-class citizens are separated by a physical barrier called “the line.” But while it’s dystopian, it’s also funny; the show plays as if “Black Mirror” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” had a love child, and then that child chose a career in comedy. Many recognizable actors — including Steven Yeun, Awkwafina, Dylan O’Brien, LeVar Burton and Rosario Dawson — portray the citizenry of this middle-class-less society.

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

Roche Will Run Dublin 2019 Worldcon Masquerade

By John Hertz:  Progress Report 3 from Dublin 2019, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention (the 77th!), tells us Kevin Roche will be the Masquerade Director.

The Masquerade at an s-f con, once a dress-up party as its name implies, developed decades ago into an on-stage costume competition, with lights and sound and who knows what.  Wonders appear.  It typically outdraws anything except, at the Worldcon, the Hugo Awards themselves.  They are our most important event; the Masquerade is only our most spectacular.

As with other things at our conventions, it’s participatory.  Anyone can enter.  Novices have won Best in Show; to quote the late great Bill Rotsler, Hugo-winning fanartist and much-sought-after Masquerade judge, “Quantity of labor has nothing to do with art.”

Kevin Roche, a Master-class costumer, has directed Masquerades, notably at Renovation the 69th Worldcon (with Andrew Trembley), and chaired the 76th Worldcon (called simply “Worldcon 76”; some get names, some don’t).  Applause to him for so soon taking on such a demanding task – as with other things at our conventions, it’s like herding cats – let’s face it, here in the Imagi-Nation we’re seldom the best organized of folks.

I’ve known Brother Roche for years and had various adventures with him.  He knew the job was dangerous when he took it.

Kevin Roche (at right) on a panel about Workmanship Judging

It’ll be a grand Masquerade – that is, if the people who think this artform is fun, or who’d like to find out, show up and take part.  Which we shall.

The Dublin 2019 Masquerade E-mail address is masquerade@dublin2019.com. I don’t see any paper-mail address for it or the con in my otherwise-handsome copy of PR 3, which just arrived.  So you can write to me if you wish.  I’ve been a judge or Master of Ceremonies at lots of Masquerades; recently I was a judge at Worldcon 76, you can see my report here; I’ll help you get in touch.  My paper-mail address is public, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

Vincent Di Fate Elected to Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame

The 2019 inductees to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame include Hugo winner and past Worldcon guest of honor Vincent Di Fate. Artists are elected by a committee of former Society presidents and illustration historians, chosen for their body of work and the impact it has made on the field of illustration. Joining di Fate in the Hall are contemporary illustrators Roz Chast and Mark Summers, and posthumous honorees Frank Godwin, Mary Petty, and Alice Barber Stephens. The induction ceremony will be June 14 in New York.


About the Recipients: 

Roz Chast’s work has appeared in numerous magazines through the years, including The Village VoiceNational LampoonScientific AmericanHarvard Business ReviewRedbook and Mother Jones, but she is most closely associated with The New Yorker. Chast attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied painting. After graduating in 1977 she returned to New York City, where she quickly established her cartooning career. In addition to collections of her New Yorker cartoons, Chast has written and illustrated a range of books. Her latest, Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York (2017), a personalized travel guide to New York City that began as a going-away present to her


Vincent Di Fate has been an illustrator working in the specialties of science fiction, fantasy and aerospace art since the late 1960s. Di Fate studied at the Phoenix in New York City (later incorporated into the Pratt Institute as the Pratt Manhattan Center) and holds a Master of Arts degree in Illustration from Syracuse University. He is a full professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), a former president of the Society of Illustrators, a Hugo Award winner for Best Professional Art, an inductee of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (2011), and a recipient of the Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award. Di Fate has also authored four books on illustration and has written approximately 300 articles on various art, science and film-related topics for magazines, books, encyclopedias and museum publications.


Mark Summers has been a full-time freelance illustrator since graduating from the Ontario College of Art in 1978. Author and illustration historian Steven Heller credits Summers “as giving the scratchboard medium a second life.” Mark had initially worked for clients like The New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Wall Street Journal and many others, but quickly moved into all forms of publication. He has worked for every major magazine, and has contributed work for Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated and numerous covers for Time in addition to contributing covers for most of the major publishers in the world. He has also lavishly illustrated volumes of Poe, Dickens, Moby Dick , Gulliver’s Travels as well as writing and illustrating two books of his own. His work is best remembered for his decade long collaboration with Barnes and Noble, where he created the visual persona of their stores, doing portraits of famous authors that decorated their walls. For his work, Mark has received 6 medals and earned the Hamilton King Award from the Society of Illustrators in New York. At last count he had received just over 350 awards at home and globally


Frank Godwin (1889–1959), was an American illustrator and comic strip artist. Born in Washington D.C., Godwin worked as a young man for his father’s paper, The Washington Star. Godwin studied at the Art Students League in NYC. His book illustrations were featured in classic best-sellers Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood and King Arthur. He is most recognized for his comic strips Connie and Rusty Riley. Additionally, he was a prolific editorial and advertising illustrator. A Society of Illustrators vice-president, Godwin was also a member of the National Press Club and the Dutch Treat and Salmagundi clubs.


Mary Petty? (1899–1976) was a self-taught, prolific illustrator of books and magazines whose works appeared regularly on the covers of ?The New Yorker. In total, Petty completed 273  drawings and 38 covers for the publication. Her work often depicted the New York elite, centering around the characters of the Peabody family including Mrs. Peabody and her maid, Fay. During her lifetime, Petty exhibited work both nationally and internationally. Today, her art resides in the permanent collection of several prestigious museums including  the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Wichita Art  Museum. The largest single collection of her work was gifted to Syracuse University by the artist.  


Alice Barber Stephens (1858–1932) was educated at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (later called Moore College of Art & Design). In 1876, she was one of the first women to be granted admission into the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she studied under Thomas Eakins. Her illustration work appeared in Scribner’s Monthly, Harper’s Weekly, and The Ladies Home Journal. Her work was also featured on numerous books for Houghton Mifflin and Crowell publishers, including Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Mary E. Wilkins’ The People of Our Neighborhood, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Stark Munro Letters, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun.

Founded in 1901, the Society of Illustrators and its Museum of Illustration together comprise America’s longest-standing nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of illustration. The mission of SI/MI is to promote the art and appreciation of illustration and its history and evolving nature through exhibitions and educational programs.

[Based on a press release.]

2019 IAFA Crawford Award

The winner of the 2019 Crawford Award, presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for a first book of fantasy, is R.F Kuang for her novel The Poppy War (Harper Voyager).

The other finalists on this year’s Crawford shortlist are The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com), Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine), The Breath of the Sun, Rachel Fellman (Aqueduct), Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth House), and Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga).

Participating in this year’s nomination and selection process were previous Crawford winner Candas Jane Dorsey and former IAFA president Farah Mendlesohn, as well as Cheryl Morgan, Niall Harrison, Karen Burnham, and Mimi Mondal.

The award will be presented March 16 at the 40th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida.

Also, the IAFA’s Distinguished Scholarship Award will be presented to the conference’s guest scholar, Mark Bould.

Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Fans Scroll In, Where Pixels Fear To Tread

(1) RIDLEY SCOTT’S COGNAC AD. The noted director of Blade Runner, various Aliens movies, and the Apple Mac: 1984 commercial, Ridley Scott, has returned to commercial work this year. First to air was his Turkish Airlines ad for the Super Bowl, and now comes a short video tailored for airing online and on TV during the Oscars:

The liquor brand is promoting its Hennessy X.O cognac in “7 Worlds,” a mix of epic drama and sci-fi odyssey. The video highlights the seven notes of X.O and pays homage to the Oscars with a scene that includes colossal golden figures similar to the Oscars award statue.

Scott, who directed films including “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator,” created a four-minute film for the brand that will air on Hennessey’s site during the Oscars on Feb. 24. A 60-second version airs during the show on ABC.

The YouTube blurb explains:

Hennessy X.O – The Seven Worlds – Directed by Ridley Scott. Each time you taste Hennessy X.O, you go on an odyssey. Seven tasting notes, like seven unique worlds to explore. Seven oneiric stories to convey the incredible richness and complexity of this cognac. …The Seven Worlds are creative interpretations of each tasting note, described by Hennessy’s Comité de Dégustation as illustrations of Hennessy X.O’s taste and feel: Sweet Notes, Rising Heat, Spicy Edge, Flowing Flame, Chocolate Lull, Wood Crunches. Culminating in Infinite Echo. These seven notes are envisioned by Ridley Scott as individual worlds each brought to life through wonderous and extreme physiography.

(2) ZAK SMITH CALLED OUT. Game author Zak Smith, a four-time Ennie Award nominee in 2018, has been accused by several women of sexual assault. One company will no longer do business with him.

The Morrus’ Unofficial En World Tabletop RPG News site summarized the story: “RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour”.

RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.

Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. As yet, he hasn’t made any public response to the accusations.

The Facebook post referred to is public, and can be accessed here. Consider ALL the content warnings given. Many reactions and links will be found using this search on Twitter.

OneBookShelf / DriveThruRPG President Steve Wieck says they basically won’t be doing business with Zak Smith going forward — “DriveThruRPG Responds to Current Industry News” at OneBlogShelf.

Thanks to everyone for your patience as we deliberated on the situation that has unfolded regarding Zak Smith (aka Zak Sabbath). At DriveThruRPG, we want to do our part to keep bad actors out of the roleplaying community, and we don’t want business relationships with such people. As such, you’d think there wouldn’t be much deliberation needed on our part. However, the situation posed a number of challenges for us to consider in terms of precedent and collateral impact on other parties.

I have decided that we will not accept future titles for sale on DriveThruRPG (or our other marketplaces) if Zak is a contributor on the title. If any publisher has a title-in-process to which Zak is a contributor and this policy would impact you financially, then we’d ask that you please reach out to us via the publisher services link to have a dialogue about that title…

So DriveThruRPG is now banning certain creators? Will whoever the “outrage brigade” complains about next be banned as well?
We all share a responsibility for the health of our hobby. Any demographic measure we’ve ever seen on the roleplaying hobby shows women are under-represented. Things won’t improve if people shirk the responsibility to make our hobby inclusive.

Zak Smith has a long and well-documented history of behaviors antithetical to a healthy community. In light of recent allegations, which we find credible, we think our business and our hobby is better off without him, so we’re doing our part.

Eric Franklin explained the significance of this decision in a comment: “DTRPG/OBS is the largest RPG PDF retailer on the planet, and are the ONLY legal source for many publishers’ games. This is equivalent to Amazon cutting a publisher off – without OBS, it’s super-hard to make money selling RPG PDFs.”

(3) LEGO CAMEOS. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “How LEGO MOVIE 2 Scored Those Surprising Celebrity Cameos (Spoilers!)” discusses how Bruce WIllis and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have cameos in the film, with Justice Ginsburg saying she would only be in the movie if her action figure had a small gavel.

But there are a few cameos in the new hit animated sequel that will catch you for a loop. While folks like Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as superheroes Superman and Green Lantern, respectively, and DC stars Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot are onboard to voice Lego versions of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, fans who saw the film over the weekend got an unexpected surprise in the bricky form of Bruce Willis playing… well, Bruce Willis (though he bears a striking resemblance to Bruce Willis as Die Hard‘s John McClane).

(4) ERRM, NO. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks: “Does The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part match the original?”

Set five years after the original, a new film continues the story of Lego figure Emmet – and it fails to measure up.

Perhaps no sequel could ever have reached the giddy heights attained by The Lego Movie. Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the best cartoon of 2014 was such a magnificently animated and dazzlingly inventive delight that there was probably only one way its follow-up could go. But it is still depressing to see The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part falling so far short of its glorious predecessor.

One obvious reason for the shortfall is that the first film caught everyone unawares. Those of us who walked into the cinema fearing a cynical advert for a Danish construction toy brand found ourselves gawping instead at a daring Orwellian satire, the exhilarating and hilarious adventure of a cheerfully conformist construction worker, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), who learns that the tyrannical Lord Business (Will Ferrell) plans to glue every one of Bricksburg’s Lego citizens into place….

(5) NOT PRIME ENOUGH? The Counterpart TV series has been cancelled. (At least in this universe.)

Creator Justin Marks announced Monday on his verified Twitter account that the premium cable network has opted to cancel the drama starring J.K. Simmons after two seasons. The news comes ahead of Sunday’s season two finale, which will now serve as a series finale should another outlet not pick up the Media Rights Capital-produced drama.

(6) MARVEL MIGRATION. Hulu looks like the new home for Marvel TV programs: “Marvel, Hulu Set Four-Show Animated Slate”. The Hollywood Reporter has details:

As Marvel’s Netflix relationship sours, the comic book powerhouse is entering a new pact for a slate of four animated series with Hulu.

The streamer — soon to be majority controlled by Marvel parent Disney as part of the Fox asset sale — has greenlit four animated series (and a special) as part of a new partnership with the comic giant.

M.O.D.O.K. centers around an egomaniacal supervillain with a really big head and a really little body, who struggles to maintain control of his evil organization and his demanding family. Writers Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt will also executive produce.

Hit-Monkey tells the tale of a wronged Japanese snow monkey, mentored by the ghost of an American assassin, as he cuts a wide swath through the Tokyo underworld in this darkly cinematic and brutally funny revenge saga. Writers Josh Gordon and Will Speck will executive produce.

Tigra & Dazzler Show is a story about two woke superheroes and best friends, Tigra and Dazzler, as they fight for recognition among powered people who make up the eight million stories in Los Angeles. Writers Erica Rivinoja and Chelsea Handler serve as executive producers.

Howard the Duck is trapped in a world he never made, but America’s favorite fighting fowl hopes to return home with the help of his unstoppable gal pal Beverly before the evil Dr. Bong can turn him the crispiest dish on the menu. Writers Kevin Smith and Dave Willis will also executive produce.

The Offenders follows MODOK, Dazzler, Tigra, Hit Monkey and Howard the Duck as they are all forced to team up in order to save the world and certain parts of the universe.

(7) HOLLOMAN OBIT. Master costumer D. Jeannette Holloman (1955-2019) died February 11.

Jeannette was a founding member of the Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers Guild. Her costumes have been featured in Threads magazine and The Costume Makers Art. She has participated several WorldCon, CostumeCon and Malice Domestic award-winning costumes. She was a noted voice-over artist. She is survived by her husband Ron Robinson, author, costumer, and technocrat. She also leaves a vast number of good friends.

(8) SMITH OBIT. British fan Tony “Blindpew” Smith died of cancer on February 9 according to the Novacon 49 Facebook page. He is survived by his wife Wendy and his family. Smith was an early member of the Peterborough SF Club.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 Russ Chauvenet. He co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation, with Damon Knight and Art Widner, and was a member of First Fandom. He coined the word “fanzine” in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours and was for many years a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. He later coined prozine, a phrase for professionally published magazines containing SF stories. It looks like he wrote one piece of fanfic called “If I Werewolf”.  He shares credit for it with Harry Jenkins, Jr., Elmer Perdue, Jack Speer, Wilson Tucker and Arthur L. Widner, Jr. and it was published in Spaceways, January 1942. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 12, 1922 Sam Youd. Best known for writing under the name of John Christopher, which he used when he penned The Tripods series. A BBC and Seven Network (Australia) series would be made from the books. He also wrote two other genre novels, The Death of Grass and The Guardians. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 12, 1933 Juanita Ruth Coulson, 86. She apparently is well-known for her Children of the Stars books though I’ve not heard of them. She co-edited the fanzine Yandro for many years. The magazine won the Hugo in 1965, thus making Coulson one of the very first women editors to be so honored. She’s also known for being an excellent filker. She was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 1996.  She was nominated for several Pegasus Awards for filk music, winning the award for Best Writer/Composer in 2012.
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 77. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire,” which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat.” His genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather superb adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 69. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. 
  • Born February 12, 1952 Steve Szilagyi, 67. This is going to get very meta. Photographing Fairies, his first novel, was short-listed for the 1993 World Fantasy Award. But the novel itself is based on the Cottingley Fairies hoax so is the novel a metanarrative? Ok I’ve been up too long again. At any rate the film made the novel starring Ben Kingsley is first rate.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In its own way, Non Sequitur asks whatever happened to that sense of wonder?

(11) TOLKIEN TRAILER. Oxford, WWI, true love – it’s all in Tolkien, the biopic, arriving in theaters on May 10.  

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

(12) STAR STRUCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One of pop star Ariana Grande’s tracks on her new album is called “NASA,” though it’s more about self-empowerment than space exploration. That didn’t keep there from being some cross-talk (Bustle: “Ariana Grande’s Twitter Exchange With NASA & Buzz Aldrin Perfectly Shows Why She’s Such A Superstar”) featuring Twitter exchanges between NASA and Grande plus between Buzz Aldrin and Grande. For the latter, she seemed a bit, shall we say, star struck.

Another article (The Atlantic: “A Space Nerd’s Reading of Ariana Grande’s ‘NASA’ Song”) notes that the song begins “with a reimagining of Neil Armstrong’s famous line: ‘This is one small step for woman / One giant leap for womankind.’” Self-empowerment indeed.

(13) THE RIGHT-ER STUFF. TV will take another look at America’s space pioneers.Variety: “Nat Geo Orders Adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Right Stuff’ to Series”.

National Geographic, in partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, has greenlit to series an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff,” which recounts the early days of the U.S. space program and its astronauts.

Using Wolfe’s book as a jumping-off point, the first season begins in 1958, the height of the Cold War, with the Soviets leading the space race and the U.S. launching NASA’s Project Mercury. The best-selling book was previously adapted into a feature film in 1983.

The show is described as taking “a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal.” Following seasons will follow the Apollo Space Program, the moon landing, and other missions.

(14) THE FUTURE IS UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. BBC asks, “Sweden’s Cashless Experiment: Is It Too Much Too Fast?”

Cash is still king around the world, but there are pockets of places, especially in Europe, moving away from cash. And no one is dropping cash as fast as Sweden.

In 2018, only 13 percent of Swedes reported using cash for a recent purchase, according to a nationwide survey, down from around 40 percent in 2010. In the capital, Stockholm, most people can’t even remember the last time they had coins jingling in their pockets.

By contrast, around 70 percent of Americans still use cash on a weekly basis, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

In Sweden, however, especially in bigger cities, going cashless is becoming the norm. Purchases usually happen as digital transactions — by card, online or with Sweden’s most popular mobile payment app, Swish.

…But all this change has also spurred a debate in the Nordic nation over the consequences of how quickly Sweden is going cashless, especially for the most vulnerable groups in society. Many retirees, people with disabilities and newly arrived refugees struggle with digital transactions.

“If you go to a bar or if you go to some shops, they say to you that the only way to pay is to pay with cards or this Swish system,” explains 75-year-old Christina Tallberg, who is president of the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation.

She says that even going to public toilets can pose a problem. These often cost 10 kronor (around a dollar) in Sweden, but the toilets rarely accept cash these days.

(15) OF THIS EARTH. Dylan Narqvist has translated his research into graphic form —  

He’d love to sell you a copy of the “World Map of Alien First Contacts in Popular Motion Pictures – Poster”. Here’s an excerpt of the detail —

(16) THE ONE ELLISON TOOK HIS NAME OFF. Cancelled SciFi tells you how to watch Cordwainer Bird’s 1973 TV show: “Streaming Finds: The Starlost Has Its Own Roku Channel”.

The Skinny: This oddity from the 70’s is not well known, but some sci fi fans may be interested in checking it out. It was a Canadian production that was syndicated in the U.S. and that ran for only one season of sixteen episodes. It was created by Harlan Ellison and his script for the pilot even received the Best Original Screenplay award from the Writer’s Guild of America. But Ellison distanced himself from the show after growing disillusioned with the production direction (the studio made many changes and recorded the show on video tape like classic Doctor Who), and had his name removed from the credits (replaced with his usual protest moniker Cordwainer Bird). The resulting series was not great, but still of interest to fans of 70’s sci fi. 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Keir Dullea was one of the leads in the series and Star Trek‘s Walker Koenig showed up in a couple of episodes as an alien.

Apparently this series has slipped into the public domain and a Roku channel titled–what else?–The Starlost has been set up with the entire sixteen episodes available for streaming.

(17) LIVING ON MARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge: “The company that promised a one-way ticket to Mars is bankrupt”.

As the subheading says, “What a shocker.” (Not.) 

Mars One Ventures — the company that claimed it was going to send hundreds of people to live (and ultimately die) on the Red Planet — is now bankrupt, according to Swiss financial notices. It’s an unsurprising development, as many experts suspected that Mars One has been a scam for years, preying on people’s desires to travel to space without having a real plan to get them there. 

—On the other hand—

CNBC:   “Elon Musk: Moving to Mars will cost less than $500,000, ‘maybe even below $100,000’”.

Elon Musk says he is “confident” moving to Mars will “one day” cost less than $500,000 and “maybe even” cost below $100,000.

While the final cost is “very dependent on [the] volume” of travelers, Musk said the cost of moving to Mars will be “low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth [and] move to Mars if they want.” (The median home price in the U.S. is $223,900, according to Zillow.)

Mike Kennedy says, “Hmmm, I move to Mars and weigh about 60% less? I would say ‘sign me up NOW,’ but I suppose that people who move there will be expected to work and I don’t want to un-retire.”

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