Pixel Scroll 11/26/18 Caution: Pixels In Scroll Are Closer Than They Appear

(1) POUNDING AWAY AT IT. Although I’ll never carry this much British cash, I’m interested in the story: “New £50 note scientist nominations released”.

 On the list are computing pioneers Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and astronomer Patrick Moore.

The Bank received 174,112 nominations, of which 114,000 met the eligibility criteria.

To be on the list, the individual must be real, deceased and have contributed to the field of science in the UK.

The list, which includes more than 600 men and almost 200 women, includes black holes expert Stephen Hawking, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, father of modern epidemiology John Snow, naturalist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, British-Jamaican business woman and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole and Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before becoming prime minister.

Here’s the Bank of England’s eligibility list [PDF file]. Fred Hoyle is on it. (Don’t you think he looks darling in the mockup below?) Keep looking, probably lots more sf writer/scientists. And I see other unexpected names – like Jethro Tull….

The BBC story notes that there are a lot of women and minorities on the list, but not whether the bank intends to pick someone ignored rather than someone obviously famous. Hawking is the favorite of bookmakers, but women are #2, #3 (tied) and #6 on that list.

(2) EARLY START ON NEBULA WEEKEND PROGRAM. I’m hungry already.

(3) INSIGHT REACHES THE SURFACE OF MARS. CNN follows the headline with a full retrospective of the mission: “NASA’s InSight lander has touched down on Mars”.

After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. A few minutes after landing, InSight sent the official “beep” to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed.

Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploded into celebratory applause and cheers after the touchdown was confirmed. The landing was watched around the world and even broadcast live on the Nasdaq Stock Market tower in New York City’s Times Square.

(4) OUTASIGHT. Satirical Canadian news site The Beaverton suggests that the lander must be glad to be away from humans: “Mars probe glad to leave doomed Earth behind”.

“After the atmospheric entry procedure, InSight reported that it was ‘functioning normally, unlike your ill-fated Earth-bound governments,’” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release…

(5) SLOSHING ON THE RED CARPET. Elle’s R. Eric Thomas wasn’t a big fan of the stars’ red carpet outfits: “I Don’t Really Understand the ‘Aquaman’ Premiere’s Dress Code”.

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade here. I’m not trying to dampen anyone’s spirits. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I’m not trying to be a drip. But, what was the dress code for this event?

Amber Heard is going very literal with an Esther Williams realness water ballet lewk, complete with an embroidered cap. Loves it. She is giving me 1970s country club loungewear vibes. She just got a perm and she’s just trying to get some sun and maybe stick her feet in the pool. That all tracks.

But what is is Jason Momoa doing in this scenario? This look says less Son of Atlanna and more Son of Anarchy. Whereas Amber is giving us Busby Berkley balletics, Jason is serving Rizzo from Grease.

(6) LAST GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano reports, “I’ve decided to end my GeekWire podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Or at least take a long pause that, hopefully, refreshes –”

After 18 stories and 14 episodes over about a year and a half, the “popcast” I hosted has run the gamut for now. GeekWire generally is rethinking its podcast strategy, so the timing is right. The episodes were great fun, and not only were the podcasts distributed through Google Play and Apple Podcasts, but they also aired in Seattle on KIRO-FM on the weekends.

Among the science fiction episodes were interviews with Greg Bear, Cat Rambo and Ramez Naam, a look at the history of Clarion West, how Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture looks for and preserves science fiction and fantasy artifacts, and how the SF and science fact site Scout uses science fiction as a business planning tool.

All episodes were recorded in real time and not heavily produced, on purpose, to make the guests and topics the star, not the production. However, the audio quality was always excellent.

I will continue to cover science fiction for GeekWire, but just not necessarily in audio form. (Unless Brian Herbert finally gives me that interview I’ve been pestering him about for 18 months, if he ever makes it into Seattle proper.)

All the episodes and stories can be found at this link: https://www.geekwire.com/tag/popcast

(7) JAY OBIT. Magician and actor Ricky Jay died November 24 reports Variety. BravoLimaPoppa3 notes: “For genre related works, he was in The Prestige, Mystery Men and an episode of the X-Files. Plus he could pull off stunts that made magic look real – as close to a real life wizard as you could get. He will be missed.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1986Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had a whale of a time

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 26, 1919 – Frederik Pohl, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom, who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. He edited Astounding Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UK, If, Star Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astounding Stories, and the list goes on. As a writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series, though I confess some novels were far better than others; Gateway won Hugo Nebula, Campbell, Prix Apollo, and Locus Awards for Best Novel. Man Plus, I think, is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion, of course, will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants, co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952, is damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not – but that was true of most SF writers of the time. That he was great, and that he was honoured for being great, is beyond doubt — he won seven Hugo Awards (three as editor, three as author, and one as fan writer!) and two Nebula Awards; and for his 1979 novel Jem, he won a U.S. National Book Award in the special one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of their Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 – Shusei Nagaoka, Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Tina Turner, 79, Grammy-winning Actor, Composer, Singer, and Dancer. She rates being mentioned just for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in the musical Tommy, and a cameo as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero.
  • Born November 26, 1940 – Paul J. Nahin, 78, Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, Time Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 69, Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 – Steve MacDonald, 57, Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF.
  • Born November 26, 1966 – Garcelle Beauvais, 52, Actor and Producer born in Haiti, whose first role was in Manhunter, the original adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon featuring Hannibal Lector. She has also appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I Know Who Killed Me, and the steampunk Wild Wild West film, had a main role in the cybertech TV series Eyes, and played recurring roles in Grimm and The Magicians.
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer whose genre appearances include a main role in all of the Twilight movies, the first season of Supergirl, parts in The Scorpion King, The Damned, Angela, and Hollow Man 2, and as the oh-so-creepy villain in Supernova.

(10) TRUMP TREK. Reason’s Jonathan Rauch wastes no subtlety on “How Star Trek Explains Donald Trump”

Sociopaths have haunted fiction since fiction began, and no wonder. Sociopathy is civilization’s greatest challenge. Richard III and Iago; Raskolnikov, Kurtz, Willie Stark, and Humbert Humbert; J.R. Ewing, Frank Underwood, and even HAL 9000. How do we understand the narcissist, the demagogue, the liar, the manipulator, the person without scruples or conscience? The creative imagination can probe dark places that psychology and medicine can’t reach. So I am not being cute when I say that Star Trek is a source of insight into the universe of President Donald Trump.

….In “Mirror, Mirror,” the normal Kirk, realizing he has entered a barbaric parallel world, is able to impersonate a barbarian long enough to save himself and his shipmates. In our own universe, meanwhile, Kirk’s corrupt counterpart cannot fake values like empathy, trust, and fair play, and quickly finds himself locked in the brig. The sociopath may be charismatic, wily, and manipulative, but he lacks the moral depth and imagination to fool people who do not wish to be fooled….

This did not go over well with Reason readers, however, you need to register to read the comments. If you’re not willing, just think of a lot of comments that sound like Tank Marmot wrote them…

(11) FACE THE MUSIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apropos item (6) (“Negative Feedback”) from the Pixel Scroll of this past Saturday (11/24), Gizmodo brings us news that “Facial Recognition Flags Woman on Bus Ad for ‘Jaywalking’ in China”. A businesswoman whose visage appeared in ads on busses was publicly shamed for jaywalking, before the authorities had to pull an Emily Litella.

China’s surveillance system is becoming increasingly omnipresent, with an estimated 200 million cameras and counting. While this state of existence alone is unsettling, it’s even more troubling that the machines are fucking up even the simplest task.

Last week, the face of Dong Mingzhu—the chairwoman of a leading air conditioner manufacturer in China—was displayed on a giant Billboard-sized screen in Ningbo, a major port city in east China’s Zhejiang province, to publicly shame her for breaking a traffic law. Zhejiang is one of the provinces that last year deployed facial recognition technology that humiliates citizens who jaywalk by putting their photos on massive LED screens. But the cameras didn’t catch Mingzhu jaywalking—they identified a photo of her in a bus ad, South China Morning Post reported.

The error was caught, acknowledged, and corrected and the police were even thanked by Dong Mingzhu’s company (Gree Electric Appliances) “for their hard work” in a blog post. One may be forgiven for wondering if the error would have been caught, acknowledged, or corrected had the citizen offended been of a less lofty station.

(12) CYBER MONDAY. Via KinjaDeals, “ThinkGeek’s Cyber Monday Sale Is a Bonkers 50% Off Sitewide”.

for Cyber Monday, ThinkGeek is taking 50% off sitewide via coupon code DOTCOM. Combined with the lowered free shipping threshold (today you have to spend only $35 pre-discount, rather than the usual $75)

Daniel Dern suggests: “If nothing else, grab a ’Bag of Holding – Con-Survival Edition’here’s an image — It quickly became my favorite day bag, not just for cons but also trade shows and general carrying of stuff during a day.”

(13) ROAR OF SKY. Jana Nyman praises Beth Cato’s trilogy-ending book in “Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy” at Fantasy Literature. (Beware spoilers.)

…However, I do love everything about the magic system, and Cato’s exploration of geomancy and its potential uses for good and ill is thoughtful and feels sturdy, like it could actually exist. Madam Pele is literally awesome. The sylphs are fun without becoming twee….

(14) MALKA OLDER’S SERIES. Abigail Nussbaum looks over “A Political History of the Future: State Tectonics by Malka Older” for Lawyers, Guns & Money.

The point of the Centennal Cycle books, as I see it, is not to offer a plausible alternative to our current democratic system, but to encourage us to ask questions about how that system is organized, and whether we could make different choices that could lead to better outcomes. The idea of a non-contiguous political entity, for example, one that is united by shared policy preferences rather than ethnic or national identity, is an intriguing one. So is the notion of expanding the concept of political parties past national lines (though on a darker note, it also has its echoes in discussions we’ve had on this site about the trans-national nature of many far-right, supremacist movements). It’s not so much that you’d want to pursue any of these ideas in the real world, as that they provide an interesting thought experiment with which to expand your understanding of what government is and can be.

(15) REFINER’S FIRE. This is a hell of a story from the LA Times coverage of the Northern California fires: “As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye”. (Definitely skip the comments on this one.)

This is how I die.

She is standing in the driveway of a sand-colored house — she doesn’t know whose — and the air is choked with smoke.

The sky is a nuclear orange. Wind is hurling embers against her body and into her blond wavy hair.

She has just seen an ambulance melt. Transformers are blowing up around her. Homes are caving in and trees are bowing. Fleeing cars have jammed the roads, and flames dance on both sides of the asphalt….

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Olav Rokne, BravoLimaPoppa3, Mike Kennedy, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 11/1/18 When You Gonna Give Me Some Time Scrollona

(1) SAME NAME, DIFFERENT GAME. At Strange Horizons, Abigail Nussbaum reviews Netflix’ “The Haunting of Hill House”.

…Netflix’s miniseries adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, by Mike Flanagan (who wrote most of the series’s ten episodes and directed all of them), throws most of that out the window. It takes only a few scenes for a viewer familiar with the book to realize that the only similarity between it and this miniseries are a few character names, and the fact that they both revolve around a Hill House which is haunted. To a Jackson fan (most of whom are, after all, extremely defensive of her reputation) this initially seems like sacrilege. Why use the name if you’re not going to honor the actual work?

Flanagan’s Haunting never offers a persuasive answer to this question. What it does instead, almost as soon as the issue is raised, is counter with a genuinely excellent piece of horror filmmaking that makes you forget, at least for a while, its total lack of fidelity to its source….

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman orders up an interview with Steve Rasnic Tem in Episode 80 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steve Rasnic Tem

…I now ask that you join me for lunch at The Fish Market with Steve Rasnic Tem.

Tem has published more than 400 short stories, garnering multiple award nominations and wins, including a British Fantasy Award in 1988 for “Leaks,” a 2001 International Horror Guild Award for “City Fishing,” and a 2002 Bram Stoker Award for “In These Final Days of Sales.” His many collections include Fairytales, Celestial Inventory, The Far Side of the Lake, and others. Some of his poetry has been collected in The Hydrocephalic Ward, and he edited The Umbral Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry. His novel Blood Kin won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award. His collaborative novella with his late wife Melanie Tem, The Man On The Ceiling, won the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild awards in 2001.

We discussed the importance of writing until you get to page eight, what he did the day after Harlan Ellison died, why even though he was a fearful kid he turned to horror, the thing which if I’d known about his marriage might have caused problems with my own, how crushed we both were when comics went up to 12 cents from a dime, why his all-time favorite short story is Franz Kafka’s “A Country Doctor,” how TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” had an effect on the way he writes action scenes, why he made an early pivot from science fiction to creating horror, the way joining Ed Bryant’s writing workshop taught him to become a writer, how math destroyed his intended science career, the reason it took him 48 years to take Ubo from initial idea to finished novel, why beginning writers should consciously read 1,000 short stories (and what they should do once they’re done), and much more

(3) THESE BOOKS DON’T MAKE THEMSELVES. Jeannette Ng has written a fabulous thread on the history of book production, urging writers to think about this when worldbuilding. Starts here.

(4) DAWN’S SUNSET. For the second time this week, a long-duration NASA mission has come to an end due to exhausting its fuel supply. RIP Kepler is now joined by RIP Dawn. (CNN: “NASA’s Dawn mission to strange places in our solar system ends”)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and dropped out of contact with mission control, the agency said Thursday.

This ends the spacecraft’s 11-year mission, which sent it on a 4.3 billion-mile journey to two of the largest objects in our solar system’s main asteroid belt. Dawn visited Vesta and Ceres, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit two deep-space destinations.

Dawn missed two communication sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network the past two days, which means it has lost the ability to turn its antennae toward the Earth or its solar panels toward the sun. The end of the mission is not unexpected, as the spacecraft has been low on fuel for some time.

It’s the second historic NASA mission this week to run out of fuel and come to an end, as NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope did Tuesday.

(5) HOSTILE GALACTIC TAKEOVER. Today’s Nature shares “Evidence of ancient Milky Way merger”:

An analysis of data from the Gaia space observatory suggests that stars in the inner halo of the Milky Way originated in another galaxy.

This galaxy is thought to have collided with the Milky Way about ten billion years ago.

One conclusion on which all of the groups agree is that the event might have contributed to the formation of the Milky Way’s thick stellar disk. Astronomers have speculated for several decades that an ancient satellite galaxy merged with the Milky Way in the past, because such  an event could explain differences in the motions and chemical compositions of stars in the neighbourhood of the Sun.

Here’s a PDF of the item.

(6) SABRINA SHORTCOMINGS. Taylor Crumpton’s op-ed for Teen Vogue analyzes “How ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Failed Prudence Night”.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not a reboot. Yes, the new Netflix show features the same characters as the cheery ‘90s sitcom, but it has been updated to reflect our darker, more malevolent times. The show also aims to be progressive, with storylines that speak to marginalized communities and a diverse cast of actors in almost every scene.

But despite great intentions, the show falls short in its portrayal of its black women characters, specifically with the character of Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle), the head witch of the Academy of the Unseen Arts and leader of the Weird Sisters.

…The most troubling aspect of the conflict between Sabrina and Prudence occurs after “The Harrowing,” a pledging ritual that simulates the horrors experienced by the 13 witches during the Greendale Witch Trials. The last step in the ritual process mimics the hangings of the original witches by the mortals of Greendale; as Prudence leads Sabrina to the tree, Sabrina emphasizes the importance of the Academy as a safe space of community and inclusion for witches who have been subjected to violence by mortals for centuries. While in the tree, Sabrina calls upon the power of the dead witches and warlocks to effectively lynch Prudence and the Weird Sisters, and declares the end of “The Harrowing.”

The show did not issue a trigger warning for an image of a lynched Black woman in 2018; it comes on suddenly and in close-up view

(7) STATIONING GAS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The preprint paper “Securing Fuel for Our Frigid Cosmic Future” was discussed in a news story covering that article at Universe Today: “The Tools Humanity Will Need for Living in the Year 1 Trillion”

A preprint (that is, not yet peer-reviewed) paper from Harvard University’s chair of the astronomy department, Dr. Abraham Loeb, concludes in Securing Fuel for Our Frigid Cosmic Future that:

Advanced civilizations will likely migrate into rich clusters of galaxies, which host the largest reservoirs of matter bound by gravity against the accelerated cosmic expansion.

He opens with the question:

The accelerated expansion of the Universe pushes resources away from us at an ever- speed. Once the Universe will age by a factor of ten, all stars outside our Local Group of galaxies will not be accessible to us as they will be receding away faster than light. Is there something we can do to avoid this cosmic fate?

In his discussion, Loeb mentions various “cosmic engineering” projects that have been suggested and briefly examines their limitations. He then works his way around to suggesting an advanced civilization should move to a region with a high concentration of galaxies close together to provide a large fuel density, even as ones observable universe shrinks due to the accelerating expansion of the universe. He further notes that:

The added benefit of naturally-produced clusters is that they contain stars of all masses, much like a cosmic bag that collected everything from its environment. The most common stars weigh a tenth of the mass of the Sun, but are expected to shine for a thousand times longer because they burn their fuel at a slower rate. Hence, they could keep a civilization warm for up to ten trillion years into the future.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 1, 1897 — Dame Naomi Mitchison, Writer, Poet, and Activist from Scotland who lived to be over a hundred years old. Her genre writing includes the 1931 novel The Corn King and the Spring Queen, which contains open sexuality and is considered by contemporary genre editor Terri Windling to be “a lost classic”. Other genre works include Memoirs of a Spacewoman, which was nominated for a Retrospective Tiptree Award, Solution Three, and the Arthurian novel To the Chapel Perilous. As a good friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, she was a proofreader for The Lord of the Rings.
  • Born November 1, 1917 — Zenna Henderson, Writer whose first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951. She is best known for her more than 30 stories in The People universe about members of an alien race with special powers who are stranded on earth, which were published in magazines and later in collections, including The People: No Different Flesh, and the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People. Her novelette “Captivity” was nominated for a Hugo Award, and her story “Pottage” was made into a movie starring William Shatner, The People, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1973. “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside, which first aired in 1988.
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Dean A. “dag” Grennell, Writer, Editor, Firearms Expert, Conrunner, and Fan who edited numerous fanzines including La Banshee and Grue, which was produced sporadically from 1953 to 1979 and was a finalist for the Hugo Award in 1956. He published several short fiction works, and even dabbled in fanzine art. He ran a small U.S. gathering held the same weekend as the 1956 UK Natcon which was called the Eastercon-DAG, and another called Wiscon, which preceded the current convention of that name by more than twenty years. He is responsible for the long-running fannish joke “Crottled Greeps”.
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Gordon R. Dickson, Writer, Filker, and Fan who was truly one of the best writers of both science fiction and fantasy. It would require a skald to detail his stellar career in any detail. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic Stories. Childe Cycle, featuring the Dorsai, is his best known series, and the Hoka are certainly his and Poul Anderson’s silliest creation. I’m very fond of his Dragon Knight series, which I think reflects his interest in medieval history.  His works received a multitude of award nominations, and he won Hugo, Nebula, and British Fantasy Awards. In 1975, he was presented the Skylark Award for achievement in imaginative fiction. He was Guest of Honor at dozens of conventions, including the 1984 Worldcon, and he was named to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Filk Hall of Fame. The Dorsai Irregulars, an invitation-only fan volunteer security group named after his series, was formed at the 1974 Worldcon in response to the theft of some of Kelly Freas’ work the year before, and has provided security at conventions for the last 34 years.
  • Born November 1, 1941 — Robert Foxworth, 77, Actor whom you’ve most likely seen, if you’ve watched genre television or film. His first genre role was as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in the 1973 Frankenstein TV movie, followed by the lead role in Gene Roddenberry’s TV pilot The Questor Tapes, which never made it to series after NBC and The Great Bird of the Galaxy had a falling-out. He is well-known to Star Trek fans, having had roles in episodes of both Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5, seaQuest DSV, and The (new) Outer Limits. His genre movie roles have included Beyond the Stars, Damien: Omen II, Invisible Strangler, Prophecy, The Devil’s Daughter, and The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, and he provided the voice for the character Ratchet in the Transformers movie franchise.
  • Born November 1, 1944 — David Rorvik, 74, Writer and Journalist who published in 1978 the book In his Image: The Cloning of a Man, in which he claimed to have been part of a successful endeavor to create a clone of a human being. According to the book, at the behest of a mysterious wealthy businessman, he had formed a scientific team that was taken to a lab at a secret location, and after a few years of experimentation they managed to create a human ovum containing implanted DNA, which was brought to term by a surrogate mother and produced a living, cloned child. A British scientist whose doctoral work had been lifted for the theoretical basis outlined in In His Image sued for 7 million dollars, and after a judge ruled pre-trial that the book was a fraud, the publisher settled out-of-court for $100,000 plus an admission that the book was a hoax. No evidence for or against the cloning claim was ever produced, and the author to this day still denies that it was a hoax. (numerous conflicting sources list either 1944 or 1946 as his birth year)
  • Born November 1, 1959 — Susanna Clarke, 59, Writer from England whose alt-history Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell wins my award for the most footnoted work in genre literature. It won the Hugo, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, and Locus Awards, was a finalist for Nebula, British Fantasy Society, British Science Fiction Association, and Premio Ignotus Awards, and was adapted into a 7-episode BBC series which was nominated for a Saturn Award. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works, and is splendid indeed; it was a finalist for the World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. Interestingly, she also has a novelette included in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Book of Dreams anthology.
  • Born November 1, 1972 — Toni Collette, 46, Tony-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen from Australia who received an Oscar nomination for her leading role in the supernatural film The Sixth Sense, and had roles in Hereditary, The Night Listener, Fright Night, Krampus, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Tsunami: The Aftermath, and the upcoming Velvet Buzzsaw. She has provided voices for characters in the animated features The Boxtrolls, Blinky Bill the Movie, The Thief and the Cobbler, The Magic Pudding, and Mary and Max.
  • Born November 1, 1984 — Natalia Tena, 34, Actor from England who played Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter film franchise and the wildling Osha in the Game of Thrones series. She also appeared in Black Mirror’s feature-length special White Christmas and the superhero comedy SuperBob, and had lead roles in the Residue miniseries and the short-lived Wisdom of The Crowd series. She has a recurring role on Origin, a series set on a spacecraft bound for another system which premieres on November 14.
  • Born November 1 — Jaym Gates, Writer, Editor, Game Designer, and Crisis Management Educator who is currently the acquisitions editor for Nisaba Press and Falstaff Books’ Broken Cities line. She also writes and designs role-playing games, fiction, comics, and nonfiction, and has been editor of numerous SFF anthologies, including JJ’s favorite Genius Loci. She has presented on the topic of crisis communication and community crisis response to groups including the 100 Year Starship and the Atlantic Council, and is a creative partner on an educational project which uses role-playing games, storytelling, and game theory to teach students about managing crisis. She was the SFWA Communication Director for five years and helped to run the Nebula weekends during that time, as well as fostering communications with NASA, DARPA, library and school systems, and public media. She will be a Special Guest at the OrcaCon tabletop gaming convention in January 2019.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TITLE POLL. The Bookseller has opened public voting for this year’s “Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year”. Voting closes on November 16, and the winner will be announced November 23. The shortlist for year’s six oddest titles includes:

  • Are Gay Men More Accurate in Detecting Deceits? by Hoe-Chi Angel Au
  • Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung by Richard Jones
  • Equine Dry Needling by Cornelia Klarholz and Andrea Schachinger
  • Jesus on Gardening by David Muskett
  • Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker
  • Why Sell Tacos in Africa? by Paul Oberschneider

(11) PROPS TO YOU. An LAist reporter managed to get in the door at “The Amazing Santa Monica Prop Shop That’s Rarely Open”.

It’s difficult to define Jadis, because it wears multiple hats: it’s a movie prop house, a museum of pre-computer-era oddities, a cabinet of curiosities, and a retail store.

Oh, and it’s also infamous for almost never being open. Like, ever.

“I tell people, not being open all the time just increases the demand,” Jadis’s owner Susan Lieberman said. “You would take me for granted if I was open regular hours.”

When you walk inside Jadis, you might feel like you’ve found yourself inside a mad collector’s lab: giant interlocking gears, microscopes, cabinets filled with old postcards and eyeglasses, quack science devices from the turn of the century. And if you clap or talk too loudly, there’s a talking head that might yell at you: “My brain hurts. Why you look at me like that. WHYYY?!”

 

(12) NUKE AVOIDANCE. They say all knowledge is contained in…. I thought it was fanzines, but apparently it’s in James Davis Nicoll essays. Today he points out “13 Stories About Surviving a Nuclear War — At Least Briefly”.

Most people now living are too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a fun time when the Americans and the Russians (who at that time were not good buddies but rivals), toyed with seeing just how close they could come to World War Three without pressing the (metaphorical) button. For various reasons, not least of which was that the balance of power of power greatly favoured the United States and the Soviets apparently didn’t fancy atomic suicide for some reason, the stand-off stopped short of nuclear war.

(13) DEATH WHERE IS THY STING. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton was one of those asked to explain “How death disappeared from Halloween” for the Washington Post.

Sexy avocado costumes obscure the holiday’s historical roots and the role it once played in allowing people to engage with mortality. What was once a spiritual practice, like so much else, has become largely commercial. While there is nothing better than a baby dressed as a Gryffindor, Halloween is supposed to be about death, a subject Americans aren’t particularly good at addressing. And nowhere is that more evident than in the way we celebrate (or don’t celebrate) Halloween.

Halloween has its origins in the first millennium A.D. in the Celtic Irish holiday Samhain. According to Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” Samhain was a New Year’s celebration held in the fall, a sort of seasonal acknowledgment of the annual change from a season of life to one of death. The Celts used Samhain celebrations to settle debts, thin their herds of livestock and appease the spirits: the kinds of preparations one might make if they are genuinely unsure whether they will survive the winter.

(14) MARVELMAN. Corporate and legal shenanigans enliven Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s new history Poisoned Chalice.

The comic character Marvelman (and Miracleman) has a fascinating – and probably unique – history in the field of comics. His extended origin goes all the way back to the very beginnings of the American superhero comics industry, and it seems likely that his ongoing story will stretch on well into the future. It involves some of the biggest names in comics. It’s a story of good versus evil, of heroes and villains, and of any number of acts of plagiarism and casual breaches of copyright. Poisoned Chalice wades into one of the strangest and thorniest knots of all of comics: the history of Marvel/Miracleman and still unsolved question of who owns this character. It’s a story that touches on many of the most remarkable personalities in the comics industry—Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane, Joe Quesada and more—and one of the most fascinating in the medium. The story of Marvelman touches on the darker places of comics history, springing from the prehistory where greed ruled the day; it’s a complex tale that others have attempted to untangle, but there has never been as thorough or as meticulous a study of it as this book.

(15) ELEGANT SOLUTION. Greg Egan and fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya contribute to mathematics: “An anonymous 4chan post could help solve a 25-year-old math mystery”.

…An anonymous poster figured out one possible way to solve to the 4chan problem, satisfying the more mathematically inclined Haruhi fans. But in the process, they also helped puzzle out an issue that mathematicians have been working on since 1993. The anonymously authored proof (which was recently reposted on a Fandom wiki) is currently the most elegant solution to part of a mathematical problem involving something called superpermutations. It’s an enigma that goes well beyond anime….

… The 4chan proof outlines how to find the smallest possible number of episodes for the solution. But that doesn’t fully solve the problem. An even bigger breakthrough came earlier this month when sci-fi author and mathematician Greg Egan wrote up a proof that outlined how to find the largest possible number for any given superpermutation problem….

(16) THERE WILL BE (WATER) WAR. Gizmodo take’s a look at a new report that looks at potential areas of conflict over water could arise as climate change continues (“Here’s Where the Post-Apocalyptic Water Wars Will Be Fought”). They couldn’t resist the genre allusions.

A United Nations report published last week said we have about a decade to get climate change under control, which—let’s be honest—isn’t likely to happen. So break out your goalie masks and harpoon guns, a Mad Max future awaits! Now, as new research points out, we even know where on Earth the inevitable water wars are most likely to take place.

Sarcasm aside, this report is actually quite serious.

Published today in Global Environmental Change, the paper identifies several hotspots around the globe where “hydro-political issues,” in the parlance of the researchers, are likely to give rise to geopolitical tensions, and possibly even conflict. The authors of the new report, a team from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), say the escalating effects of climate change, in conjunction with ongoing trends in population growth, could trigger regional instability and social unrest in regions where freshwater is scarce, and where bordering nations have to manage and share this increasingly scarce commodity.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Big Data–L1ZY” on Vimeo shows what happens when a virtual assistant becomes an evil robot overlord!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/24/18 That’s One Sure Road To Mount Tsundoku Blues, Pixels On The Scrolls Of Your Shoes

(1) HUGO HISTORY BY WALTON. At Locus Online, “Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton”.

…So the value of Walton’s book – in some ways a companion piece to her other collection of Tor.com columns, What Makes This Book So Great – lies not in identifying such howlers – in fact, she con­cludes that Hugo voters got it more or less right some 69% of the time – but in the lively and opinionated discussions of the winners and losers, of which books have lasted and which haven’t, and why. Walton includes not only her original columns, but selec­tions from the online comments, and the comments, especially from Locus contributors Gardner Dozois and Rich Horton, are so extensive and thoughtful as to make the book virtually a collaboration….

(2) A GENEROUS SPIRIT. Rachel Swirsky had a great experience at “an unusually good convention, with a lot of space and help for new writers” — “Open-Hearted Generosity at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference”.

The administrators established an atmosphere of open-hearted generosity which reflected through everyone. The agents and editors were eager to find new clients, and also to help nurture new ones. The professional writers treated the new ones like colleagues, not supplicants or intruders who would have to prove themselves worthy before being given respect. The new writers were excited and respectful of the professionals’ time and experience.

I think one thing that really helped foster the positive environment was the expectation that presenters join the attendees for meals and announcements. It got everyone used to being around each other, and reinforced that we were all in it together as people at that conference, sharing the goals of telling stories and making art.

Anyone can have a worthy story to tell. Everyone seemed to have a strong sense of that, and to respect it.

I think the administrators also chose carefully–and wisely–presenters whose native inclination is to come to new people with warmth. My experience of the colleagues I already knew who were there–Cat Rambo, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Nalo Hopkinson–bears that out. They’re all excellent teachers who are thoughtful and kind, and excited by teaching and learning. I can only aspire to match their generosity.

(3) ZICREE WINS INAUGURAL GOLDEN DRAGON. The Cardiff International Film Festival honored Space Command creator Marc “Mr. Sci-Fi” Zicree this past weekend. Wales 247 covered the festival’s award ceremony: “Winners announced for world class cinema in Cardiff”.

The highlights of the ceremony were the lifetime achievement award for Dame Sian Phillips and the naming of American science fiction writer and director Marc Zicree as the first recipient of a Golden Dragon award for excellence in cinema and the arts.

[Zicree said – ] …“The thing that’s wonderful about accepting this award here in Wales is that Elaine and I have received such a warm welcome here this weekend. My own writing career began as a teenager having watched The Prisoner television show, which was filmed in Portmeirion. So Wales is in part responsible for my career as a screenwriter.”

Marc Zicree and his wife Elaine, have sold over 100 teleplays, screenplays and pilots to every major studio and network, including landmark stories for such shows as Star Trek – The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, The New Twilight Zone, and Babylon Five. Their work has been nominated for the American Book Award, Humanitas Prize, Diane Thomas Award, and Hugo and Nebula Awards, and they’ve won the TV Guide Award, the prestigious Hamptons Prize and 2011 Rondo and Saturn Awards. Their new production, Space Command, premiered at the Cardiff International Film Festival.

(4) STONY END. James Davis Nicoll gives pointers on “How to Destroy Civilization and Not Be Boring”. For example —

Large eruptions like Toba 70,000 years ago or the Yellowstone eruption 640,000 years ago are very sexy: one big boom and half a continent is covered by ash. But why settle for such a brief, small-scale affair? Flood basalt events can last for a million years, each year as bad as or worse than the 18th century Laki eruption that killed a quarter of the human population in Iceland. Flood basalts resurface continental-sized regions to a depth of a kilometer, so it’s not that surprising that about half the flood basalts we know of are associated with extinction events. In terms of the effect on the world, it’s not unreasonable to compare it to a nuclear war. A nuclear war that lasts one million years.

N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series gives some idea what a world in the midst of the formation of a Large Igneous Province might be like.

(5) CARNEGIE MEDAL CONTENDERS. I’m easily spoiled. The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction 2019 Finalists were announced today. Last year, two of the three novels were of genre interest. This year, none, although Washington Black does include a trip in a hot air balloon. It’d be a shame to waste my research, though, so here’s the shortlist —

Fiction

Esi Edugyan
Washington Black
Knopf

This evocative novel, equally rich in character and adventure, tells the wonderfully strange story of young George Washington Black who goes from Caribbean slavery to Arctic exploration, via hot-air balloon, to search for his mentor in London.

Rebecca Makkai
The Great Believers
(Viking)

Makkai’s ambitious novel explores the complexities of friendship, family, art, fear, and love in meticulously realized settings––WWI-era and present-day Paris, and 1980s Chicago––while insightfully and empathically illuminating the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Tommy Orange
There There
(Knopf)

Orange’s symphonic tale spans miles and decades to encompass an intricate web of characters, all anticipating the upcoming Big Oakland Powwow. Orange lights a thrilling path through their stories, and leaves readers with a fascinating exploration of what it means to be an Urban Indian.

Nonfiction

Francisco Cantú
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border
(Riverhead)

Readers accompany Cantú to parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as he recounts his years working for the U.S. Border Patrol. Remaining objective without moralizing, he shares a heart-wrenching, discussion-provoking perspective on how a border can tear apart families, lives, and a sense of justice.

Kiese Laymon
Heavy: An American Memoir
(Scribner)

In his artfully crafted and boldly revealing memoir, writing professor Laymon recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth; the depthless hunger that elevated his weight; his obsessive, corrective regime of diet and exercise; his gambling, teaching, activism, and trust in the power of writing.

Beth Macy
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America
(Little, Brown)

Macy’s years of reporting on the still-unfolding U.S. opioid crisis earned her remarkable access to people whose lives have been upended by these drugs. Hers is a timely, crucial, and many-faceted look at how we got here, giving voice to the far-reaching realities of the addicted and the people who care for them.

(6) CALL ME ISHMAEL. David Brin posted an entertaining collection of “Fabulous First Lines of Science Fiction”.

Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. – Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ, with guest appearance by Standback]

  • Born October 24, 1893 – Merian Cooper, Aviator, Writer, Director and Producer. After spending WWI in the Air Force, Cooper became a writer and researcher for The New York Times and later the American Geographic Society, traveling the world, and writing stories and giving lectures about his travels. He then turned some of his writing into documentary films. He had helped David Selznick get a job at RKO Pictures, and later Selznick hired him to make movies. He developed one of his story ideas into a movie featuring a giant gorilla which is terrorizing New York City. King Kong was released in 1933, and for reasons which are utterly unfathomable to JJ, the story has been sequeled, remade, comicbooked, and rebooted innumerable times in the last 85 years.
  • Born October 24, 1915 – Bob Kane, Writer and Artist who co-created, along with Bill Finger, the DC character Batman. Multiple sources report that “Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks’ movie portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, based on Mary Roberts Rinehart’s mystery novel The Circular Staircase.” He was inducted into Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The character he created has been featured in countless comic books, stories, movies, TV series, animated features, videogames, and action figures in the last eight decades.The 1989 movie based on his creation, featuring Michael Keaton in the title role, was a finalist for both Hugo and British Science Fiction Association Awards.
  • Born October 24, 1948 – Margaret “Peggy” Ranson, Artist, Illustrator, and Fan, who became involved with fandom when she co-edited the program book for the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans. She went on to provide art for many fanzines and conventions, and was a finalist for the Best Fan Artist Hugo every one of the eight years from 1991 to 1998, winning once. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a DeepSouthCon. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2016; Mike Glyer’s lovely tribute to her can be read here.
  • Born October 24, 1952 – David Weber, 66, Writer of numerous novels and short works in several science fiction series, most notably the popular Honor Harrington series, which has spawned spinoff series and numerous anthologies bearing contributions from other well-known SFF authors. He has been Guest of Honor at more than two dozen conventions, including the 2011 UK Natcon, and received the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement from Southern Fandom.
  • Born October 24, 1952 – Jane Fancher, 66, Writer and Artist. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black and white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black and white comic book, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions.
  • Born October 24, 1954 – Wendy Neuss, 64, Emmy-nominated Producer. As an associate producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, her responsibilities included post-production sound, including music and effects spots, scoring sessions and sound mixes, insertion of location footage, and re-recording of dialogue (which is usually done when lines are muffed or the audio recording was subpar). She was also the producer of Star Trek: Voyager. With her husband at the time, Patrick Stewart, she was executive producer of three movies in which he starred, including a version of A Christmas Carol which JJ says is absolutely fantastic.
  • Born October 24, 1956 – Dr. Jordin Kare, Physicist, Filker, and Fan who was known for his scientific research on laser propulsion. A graduate of MIT and Berkeley, he said that he chose MIT because of the hero in Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. He was a regular attendee and science and filk program participant at conventions, from 1975 until his untimely death last year. He met his wife, Mary Kay Kare, at the 1981 Worldcon. He should be remembered and honored as being an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a crucial filksong collection, and later as a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the very first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings. Shortly after the shuttle Columbia tragedy, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, on live TV, attempted to read the lyrics to Jordin’s Pegasus Award-winning song “Fire in the Sky”, which celebrates manned space exploration. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was named to the Filk Hall of Fame. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him can be read here.
  • Born October 24, 1960 – B.D. Wong, 58, Tony-winning Actor of Stage and Screen who has appeared in the Hugo-winning Jurassic Park films and The Space Between Us, had main roles in Mr. Robot and Gotham, had guest roles in episodes of The X-Files and American Horror Story, and voiced a main character in Disney’s Mulan films. He was also in Executive Decision, which is only borderline genre, but holds a special place in JJ’s heart for killing off Steven Seagal, and JJ feels that all of its cast members should be heartily applauded for that.
  • Born October 24, 1971 – Dr. Sofia Samatar, 47, Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is a twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website.

Guest birthday bio from Filer Standback:

  • Born October 24, 1970 – Vered Tochterman, 48, Israeli Writer, Editor, and Translator. From 2002-2006, she was the founding editor of Chalomot Be’Aspamia (“Pipe Dreams”), a science fiction and fantasy magazine for original Israeli fiction which has been massively influential on Israeli fandom and writing community. Her short story collection Sometimes It’s Different won the first Geffen Award for original Hebrew fiction; more recently, her novels Blue Blood and Moonstone depict vampires in modern-day Tel Aviv. As a translator, she has brought major English novels — from Tim Powers to Susannah Clarke to Terry Pratchett — to Israeli readers. One of her more eclectic contributions was a fan production she co-wrote, which is a mashup between Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the Buffy musical episode. She has been, and remains, one of the most prominent figures in Israeli fandom.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BANDERSNATCH. See video of Diana Glyer’s talk at Vanguard University last evening here on Facebook. (Warning — the image looks sideways.)

(10) NEXT YEAR’S MYTHCON. Mythcon 50 has announced its dates — August 2-5, 2019, in San Diego, California.

Theme: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Our theme is a head-nod to Roman mythology’s Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, gates and doorways, transitions and passages and duality. So we are moving forward into the future while also, at least for this Mythcon, looking backward toward the place from where we’ve come.

(11) TIM MOONLIGHTS. Timothy the Talking Cat takes his show to Amazing Stories: “timTalk: Tonight’s Episode – Schroedinger’s Cat”.

TimTALK: Tonight’s Episode – Schrodinger’s Cat.

[Theme music fades out and the title fade out to reveal a small studio. Two cats sit in comfortable chairs with a coffee table between them. Timothy the Talking Cat (for it is he) is looking at the camera, while his guest sits opposite.]

Timothy the Talking Cat: Good evening, hello and welcome to another edition of timTALK where I, Timothy the Talking Cat, ask the tough question of the day of the great, the good and the feline. Tonight, I’m talking to one of the Twentieth Century’s most notable thought leaders. A cat who has done more for surprisingly cruel thought experiments in physics than any animal since Zeno made a tortoise race Achilles. I am, of course, talking to Schrödinger’s Cat.

[Timothy turns to his guest]
Good evening. You’ll be eighty-three years old this November, shouldn’t you be dead already?

Schrödinger’s Cat: Ha, ha, let me just say that reports of my death have been exaggerated. No, wait…they haven’t been exaggerated at all.

(12) OCTOCON REPORT. Sara (“Not Another Book Blogger”) has written up Octocon, the Irish National Convention, held last weekend in Dublin –

(13) RUINING FANDOM. free to fanfic purports to show “how web 2.0 (and especially tumblr) is ruining fandom”.

how does the structure of web 2.0 socmed harm fandom?

in aggregate: it forces fandom[$], a diverse space where people go to indulge niche interests and specific tastes, into overexposure to outsiders and to one another, and exacerbates the situation by removing all semi-private interaction spaces, all moderation tools, all content-limiting tools, and all abuse protection.

(14) SHORT ON SENSE OF WONDER. Abigail Nussbaum reviews “First Man” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…I have to admit that I approached First Man in genuine puzzlement as to why it had even been attempted. 2016’s Hidden Figures, it seemed to me, provided a much better template for future fiction about the Apollo program, shining a light on little-known corners of the endeavor, and on the people who took part in it who were not white men. Why go back to Armstrong and Apollo 11, whose story has surely been covered from every possible angle?

First Man doesn’t really give you a satisfying answer to this question. It’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking, with some stunning visuals and set-pieces—particularly the long final sequence on the moon itself, though I couldn’t shake the sneaking suspicion that in shooting these scenes Chazelle was driven primarily by his crushing disappointment that none of the real moon landing footage is in HD. And there are moments in Josh Singer’s script where you can almost sense a unique approach to the material. Where, instead of Right Stuff hyper-competence, or even Apollo 13 improvisation, the film highlights the ricketiness of the edifice NASA built to take men into space, the flimsiness of the technology that Armstrong and his fellow astronauts trusted with their lives, and the danger and uncertainty they met when they left the earth’s atmosphere….

(15) WORLDS WITHOUT END. Mylifemybooksmyescape interviews Dave, administrator of the Worlds Without End sff book site.

DJ: Which feature or aspect of WorldsWithoutEnd.com do you actually like most/sets its apart from other sites in the community?

Dave: One of the things that we have tried to do is replicate the brick and mortar bookstore experience online.  We have set up the site to be browse-able in a way that sites like Amazon or other online bookstores just aren’t.  On those sites you go in already knowing what you want. You can’t really browse like you’re wandering around in a bookstore.  On WWEnd we present you with shelves of books in different categories that you can easily browse through.

You might start off looking through the Nebula shelves for something to read.  You spot a great looking cover, just like you might in a store, and click over to read about The Three-Body Problem.  You read the synopsis, just as you would flip the book over to read the back blurb. Then you read the excerpt as if you held the book in your hands.  Then you skim through the reviews to see what other folks are saying about that book as if there was someone else on the isle in the store you could talk to.  Then you notice that the book is also on the WWEnd Most Read Books of All-Time list so you wander over there to see what else is on that shelf. Then you see an author like N. K. Jemisin that everyone is talking about so you click her name and see what’s on her shelf.

And as you go you’re tagging books to put them on your to-read list for later examination or marking the ones you’ve already read and slowly but surely the site is getting color-coded to your reading history — suddenly you realize you’re only six books away from reading all the Campbell Award winners.  Or you find out that you haven’t read as many books by women as you thought you had. The experience is fun and intuitive and we provide an abundance of information so you can make more informed choices before you plunk down your hard-earned money.

(16) CLEANUP THE DEAD ON AISLE THREE. Gizmodo peeked behind the Wall Street Journal’s paywall and discovered “The Urban Legend About Scattering Human Ashes at Disney Is True, and It’s Worse Than We Thought”. There’s even a special code to call for cleanup.

The Journal report continues with more specific details:

Human ashes have been spread in flower beds, on bushes and on Magic Kingdom lawns; outside the park gates and during fireworks displays; on Pirates of the Caribbean and in the moat underneath the flying elephants of the Dumbo ride. Most frequently of all, according to custodians and park workers, they’ve been dispersed throughout the Haunted Mansion, the 49-year-old attraction featuring an eerie old estate full of imaginary ghosts.

“The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny,” said one Disneyland custodian.

(17) PYTHON TRIBUTE. BBC finds that “Dutch ‘silly walks’ crossing is a hit”.

The people of Spijkenisse have taken to the idea with great enthusiasm, and filled social media with clips of pedestrians crossing with a variety of outlandish gaits.

Aloys Bijl was also on hand to show passers-by the 12 steps of the traditional John Cleese silly walk.

(18) JOHN WILLIAMS SICK. He’s had to miss an engagement — “John Williams: Composer pulls out of concerts due to illness”.

The 86-year-old had been due to appear with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday.

But the venue said he had pulled out because of a “last-minute illness”.

(19) CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’RE A BOOKSELLER. One moment he was a customer, the next moment…. “Dutchman’s ‘pure shock’ after winning Cardigan bookshop”

Paul Morris and his wife Leila, owners of Bookends in Cardigan, are giving their beloved bookshop away.

The couple will now fulfil a lifetime ambition by travelling the world.

The winner of that draw, Dutchman Ceisjan Van Heerden, known as CJ, will run the shop with his Icelandic friend Svaen Bjorn, 23, who he had never met….

When he told CJ, who is from Vrij Bij Duurstede and a “regular customer” at the bookshop, Paul said “there was a lot of silence” and he could tell he was “stunned”.

“It was pure shock initially,” said CJ. “Then I thought ‘this is an amazing opportunity, let’s do it’.”

But CJ did not want to run the shop alone and called around some of his friends, one of whom had already shown an interest.

CJ had known Svaen Bjorn, a 23-year-old from Reykjavik in Iceland, for eight years through online gaming but the pair had never met in person.

“He got back to me and said ‘yeah, let’s do it’,” CJ recalled ahead of the official handover on 5 November.

(20) SOMETHING NEW AT THE BAR. Unlike Pohl and Kornbluth (Gladiator-at-Law), J.K. Rowling’s work has put down roots in the legal profession: “Harry Potter to ‘inspire’ budding India lawyers”.

A top Indian law university in the eastern state of West Bengal has introduced a course based on the fictional world of Harry Potter.

The course uses the role of law in the series to draw parallels between the stories and real-life situations.

Professor Shouvik Kumar Guha, who designed it, says it is an “experiment” to “encourage creative thinking.”

Several universities in the US and at least one in the UK also offer courses inspired by the famous series.

The course in India, which is entitled “An interface between Fantasy Fiction Literature and Law: Special focus on Rowling’s Potterverse”, is expected to include a total of 45 hours of discussion-based teachin

Some of the topics mentioned in the course module point out how social and class rights in India can be equated with the “enslavement of house-elves and the marginalisation of werewolves” in the fantasy series.

(21) ALT-FLIGHT. There was a strange addition to the commute in the San Fernando Valley yesterday…. (Although marked as a WWII German fighter, the plane was a vintage U.S. Army trainer.)

The pilot, who flies for Alaska Airlines, walked away from the crash with minor injuries, according to AP News.

He told KTLA in a previous interview that he was interested in vintage airplanes because his father had flown in World War II. The single-engine model that crashed was a North American Aviation T-6 Texan, which was first developed in the 1930s and used by U.S. pilots to train during World War II, according to AP News.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 10/1/18 I’ll Have A Short Half-Caf Scroll With Free-Range Foamed Pixels, Please

(1) DOES IT SUIT ME? Would you believe that no one is more surprised about this than the Doctor herself? “‘Doctor Who’: The Doctor Realizes She’s A Woman In A Brand New Clip!” at ScienceFiction.com.

In the first clip released for the upcoming season, we see that, thanks to the memory-affecting nature of the regeneration, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor will discover the gender right along with the rest of us. She can’t even remember who she is, just that she’s “looking for a doctor,”…

 

(2) WORDS TO THE WISE. Bustle shares “11 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers With Incredible Advice For Aspiring Authors”. I love to listen to writers talk about writing. And it’s much easier to do than actually writing!

“Apply logic in places where it wasn’t intended to exist. If assured that the Queen of the Fairies has a necklace made of broken promises, ask yourself what it looks like. If there is magic, where does it come from? Why isn’t everyone using it? What rules will you have to give it to allow some tension in your story? How does society operate? Where does the food come from? You need to know how your world works.”

? Terry Pratchett, in A Slip of the Keyboard

(3) TRAVELERS TO NZ TAKE HEED. Bad news for CoNZealand? Radio New Zealand reports “Travellers refusing digital search now face $5000 Customs fine”.

Travellers who refuse to hand over their phone or laptop passwords to Customs officials can now be slapped with a $5000 fine.

The Customs and Excise Act 2018 – which comes into effect today – sets guidelines around how Customs can carry out “digital strip-searches”.

Previously, Customs could stop anyone at the border and demand to see their electronic devices. However, the law did not specify that people had to also provide a password.

The updated law makes clear that travellers must provide access – whether that be a password, pin-code or fingerprint – but officials would need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

“It is a file-by-file [search] on your phone. We’re not going into ‘the cloud’. We’ll examine your phone while it’s on flight mode,” Customs spokesperson Terry Brown said.

If people refused to comply, they could be fined up to $5000 and their device would be seized and forensically searched.

(4) SOUNDS ASTOUNDING. The Coode Street Podcast’s latest episode has a Golden Age theme: “Episode 338: Alec Nevala-Lee, Andy Duncan, and the Astounding Legacy”.

Worldcon 76 in San Jose, California this past August was a busy time. Thousands of science fiction and fantasy writers, readers, artists, publishers, and fans of every stripe travelled across the country and, in some cases, around the world to celebrate the best in SF.

We (Gary and Jonathan) had a wonderful time while we were there and managed to record four special episodes. Our final conversation is one of our favourites. Alec Nevala-Lee‘s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction is a fascinating and probably definitive examination of Astounding, John W. Campbell and the writers who made up that time.  Andy Duncan, a long-time friend of the podcast, also just published “New Frontiers of the Mind”, his first story for Analog (successor to Astounding) which examines the connection between Campbell and Rhine. Both Alec and Andy sat down with us in San Jose to discuss Campbell, Astounding, and their own work.

(5) FREEMAN DYSON. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s Into the Impossible podcast features Freeman Dyson — Episode 19 – Nature Has More Imagination.

In a ranging conversation, associate director Brian Keating interviews the preeminent scientist and thinker Freeman Dyson, discussing his career in science and letters, the role of creativity and subversiveness, the perils of prizes, and how nature always shows more imagination than we do.

(6) AMERICA ON POTTER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In a morning TV appearance to promote her new book American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures, America Ferrera also talked about other books that she finds important (Today Show: “America Ferrera says these are the books that inspire her”). She particularly enthused about the Harry Potter series, saying of her young son Sebastian (who goes by Baz), “Baz is only four months old. I cannot wait to read Harry Potter to him so I can read it again. I can’t wait to see him discover that whole world. Every night we read Goodnight Moon. I could recite it right now. That’s his nightly book. A good children’s book is genius. I love reading to him.” She also mentioned that her husband reads to the boy, saying, “My husband reads to him in the mornings. He wants to expose him to all kinds of reading. He’s read him A Brief History of Time out loud. If Baz grows up and becomes a physicist, it’s because he read that book out loud.”

All children should be so lucky.

(7) SCREENTIME. Abigail Nussbaum is back with “Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2018 Edition” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

The First – Hulu’s series about the first manned mission to Mars looks and sounds like many millions of bucks.  It’s full of moments of breathtaking cinematography backed by a sweeping orchestral score.  But all that grandeur often seems to be in service of obscuring the fact that The First has so little to say about its putative topic.  Despite what promotional materials may have promised, the season takes place on Earth, after an accident during the launch of the first stage of a semi-private venture to the red planet leaves the rest of the project in jeopardy.  Tech visionary Laz Ingram (Natasha McElhone) brings in former astronaut Tom Hagerty (Sean Penn), with whom she had previously feuded, to lead the next mission and help convince the public and politicians not to pull funding.  But even this logistical, political, and technical challenge isn’t where the show’s heart really lies.  Instead, The First turns out to be much more of a character drama, about the kind of people who choose to risk their lives on a long, arduous, dangerous journey into the unknown, and the people they leave behind….

(8) EZQUERRA OBIT. Carlos Ezquerra (1947-2018) has died — 2000 AD paid tribute:

2000 AD is profoundly saddened to confirm that artist Carlos Ezquerra has passed away at the age of 70.

One of the all-time greatest comic book artists, the Spanish illustrator was one of the titans of 2000 AD.

Originally from Zaragoza, Carlos began his career in Barcelona, drawing westerns and war stories for Spanish publishers. Breaking into the UK market on romance titles like Valentine and Mirabelle, he was head-hunted for the new IPC title Battle Picture Weekly where he drew Rat Pack, Major Eazy and El Mestizo.

In 1976, he was asked to create a new character, the future lawman Judge Dredd, for a new weekly science fiction comic called 2000 AD. Thanks to his enduring partnership with John Wagner, Dredd was to become one of the world’s most recognisable comic book characters, with Carlos there to apply his inimitable style to some of the biggest stories in the strip’s history, such as The Apocalypse War, Necropolis and Origins.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered on this day
  • October 1, 1958 — National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) founded
  • October 1, 1968 Night of the Living Dead premiered

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 1, 1872 – James Allen St. John, Artist who is particularly remembered for his illustrations for the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, although he illustrated works of many authors. There are two recent collections of his work, J. David Spurlock’s Grand Master of Adventure: The Drawings of J. Allen St. John and The Paintings of J. Allen St. John: Grand Master of Fantasy by J. David Spurlock and  Stephen D. Korshak. It is said that Frank Frazetta was a student of his, but I was unable to confirm that.
  • Born October 1, 1914 – Donald A. Wollheim, Editor, Publisher, Writer, Fan. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls Wollheim “one of the first and most vociferous SF fans.” He was a founding member of The Futurians and a member of First Fandom; The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz and The Futurians by Damon Knight are both essential reads on his contributions to early fandom. His first story, “The Man from Ariel”, was published in the January 1934 issue of Wonder Stories. His David Grinnell-penned novels are quite good, as are the ones under his own name. He co-edited the World’s Best SF anthologies for 26 years, and his editorship of imprints such as Avon and his founding of DAW Books were key to the development of the genre as we now know it.
  • Born October 1, 1922 – Terry Jeeves, Member of First Fandom, Fan Artist, Editor, Writer, and Organizer. He helped found the British Science Fiction Association in 1958, later serving as chair and as editor of its zine, Vector, for two years, and was one of the first fans recognized with the Doc Weir Award for service to British Fandom. He published a fanzine of his own, Erg, for over 40 years. His A Checklist of Astounding in three parts covers the years 1930 to 1959, and he was credited for assisting with Michael Ashley’s complete index of the prozine in 1981. He was contributing letters and fan art to fanzines right up until his death in 2011 at the age of 88.
  • Born October 1, 1928 – Laurence Harvey, Actor best known as The Manchurian Candidate, who had appearances on genre shows including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Night Gallery, and roles in other genre movies including The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and The Winter’s Tale.
  • Born October 1, 1935 – Dame Julie Andrews Edwards, 83, Actor, Writer, and Producer from England known for lead genre roles in Mary Poppins and the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella, playing the Queen in the Ruritanian films The Princess Diaries, and lending her voice to various animated feature characters, including the Queen in the Shrek movies. In 1974 she published a children’s novel, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.
  • Born October 1, 1943 – Sharon Jarvis, 75, Writer, Editor, and Fan. Co-wrote 3 different SFF novel series under the pen names of H. M. Major, Johanna Hailey, and Jarrod Comstock. Author of 3 volumes of True Tales of the Unknown for Bantam Books and fannish essays such as “To Con or Not” Parts Two and Three (though curiously the first part is not to be found) as published in the Cranky Bitches series in Fantasy Newsletter in 1983, and editor of the 1985 non-fiction anthology Inside Outer Space: Science Fiction Professionals Look at Their Craft, which contains contributions from some of the big names in genre writing.
  • Born October 1, 1944 – Rick Katze, 74, Attorney and Fan. I’ll just quote Fancyclopedia 3, which does him justice:

A Boston-area con-running fan. He is a member of NESFA and MCFIand was a member of SCIFI. He has been an officer of both NESFA and MCFI. He has worked on many Boskones as well as a number of Worldcons. A lawyer, professionally, he was counsel to the Connie Bailout Committee and negotiated the purchase of the unpaid non-fannish debt [of ConStellation, the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore which went into the red for more than $150,000 – that’s $380,000 in today’s dollars] at about sixty cents on the dollar.

He chaired Boskone 21, Boskone 28, Boskone 41, and Lexicon 8, and edited many books for NESFA Press, including the six-volume Best of Poul Anderson series. He was made a Fellow of NESFA in 1980. He appeared in the fannish musical Back to Rivets.

  • Born October 1, 1948 – Mike Ashley, 70, Editor and Anthologist, and that is somewhat of an understatement, as the Mammoth Book series by itself has thus far run to thirty volumes including such titles as The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy and The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures. He also did The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, which features commentary by him. He’s done a number of genre related studies including The History of the Science Fiction Magazine with Robert A. W. Lowndes, and Out of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It.
  • Born October 1, 1950 – Natalija Nogulich, 68, Actor best known to genre fans as Admiral Necheyev in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, who has also had guest roles in numerous genre series including Dark Skies, The Pretender, Charmed, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
  • Born October 1, 1954 – Paul Park, 64, Writer and Teacher whose Ruritanian novels were nominated for World Fantasy, Tiptree, and Sidewise Awards, and whose SFF novels and stories have been finalists for Nebula, Clarke, Tiptree, BSFA, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, and Kurd Laßwitz Awards.
  • Born October 1, 1960 – Elizabeth Dennehy, 58, Actor who played Lt. Commander Shelby in the Emmy-nominated Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds”, guest roles on Quantum Leap, Charmed, and Medium, and parts in Gattaca, The Last Man on Planet Earth, Red Dragon, and Hancock.
  • Born October 1, 1962 – Hakeem Kae-Kazim, 56, Actor from Nigeria with the Royal Shakespeare Company who has appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, The Jinn, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Slipstream, Global Effect, the TV miniseries King Solomon’s Mines and The Triangle, has had guest roles on Gotham, Scorpion, The Adventures of Sinbad, and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and has provided voices for numerous videogames including editions of World of Warcraft, Lego Star Wars, Halo, Final Fantasy, and The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 1, 1969 – Zach Galifianakis, 49, Actor, Writer, and Producer who had a main role in the series Tru Calling, appeared in the films A Wrinkle in Time, The Muppets and The Muppets: Most Wanted, and has done voices in animated features including The Lego Batman Movie.
  • Born October 1, 1973 – Rachel Manija Brown (an Eldridge favorite, as she has reviewed for Green Man Review), 45, Writer of the Change series with Sherwood Smith, and Laura’s Wolf, first volume of the Werewolf Marines series. Author of SFF stories, poems, and essays including “The Golden Age of Fantasy Is Twelve: SF and the Young Adult Novel” published in Strange Horizons.
  • Born October 1, 1989 – Brie Larson, 29, Actor, Writer, Director and Producer. Her earliest genre appearance was a guest role on Touched by an Angel at the age of 9. In addition to a guest spot on  Ghost Whisperer, she appeared in the movies 13 Going on 30Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Kong: Skull Island. She directed and starred in the indie film Unicorn Store, is the star of the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, and will appear in the next Avengers film.

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY

  • Born September 30, 1949 – D Potter, Editor, Photographer, and Fan, was a New York and then Bay Area fanzine fan. She participated in numerous Amateur Press Associations (APAs), pre-internet fanzine-sharing and discussion groups – often focused on a specific subject of interest – which distributed copies and letters via group meetings and snail mail, including Apa-nu, A Women’s APA, APA-Q, Myriad, Mixed Company, Spinoff, MISHAPFAPA, and Intercourse. She was founder and Original (or Collating) Editor of the music discussion ALPS, and Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 16 in 1982. Although she passed away last October, her website can still be seen at http://onyxlynx.blogspot.com.

(12) A BIRTHDAY LETTER OF COMMENT. Sheila Williams sent a correction to our birthday listings —

My thanks to whoever included me in the list of September 27, 2018 birthdays. Just wanted to mention an error, that I’ve only seen once before. The first sentence reads “Sheila Williams, 62, Editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for the past thirteen years, following twelve years before that working under Isaac Asimov and Gardner Dozois at the magazine, which is a remarkable achievement.”

Actually, I worked at the magazine for 22 years before becoming editor. I joined Asimov’s in June 1982 (hired by Cathleen Moloney) and just celebrated my 36th year on the staff. In addition to Cathleen, Gardner, and Isaac, I also worked with Shawna McCarthy during her entire tenure as editor of the magazine.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) PICK OF THE LITTER. Huffington Post promises “A Missing ‘Game Of Thrones’ Character Is Coming Back In Season 8”.

If anything, Jon Snow’s direwolf lived up to his name in Season 7 of “Game of Thrones.”

Throughout the course of seven episodes, the King in the North’s constant companion didn’t show up once. Ghost was an actual ghost.

This despite the fact that the wolf would probably come in handy in confrontation with zombie hordes, undead polar bears and the Night King, who’s taking down dragons with pinpoint accuracy like he’s plaid-wearing, retired sniper Mark Wahlberg in any Mark Wahlberg movie….

(15) IS HE BALD ENOUGH? The Hollywood Reporter says, “Nicolas Cage Says It’s Too Late to Be Superman, But He’d Be a ‘Great’ Lex Luthor.” You may recall that Cage was in line to play the Man of Steel for director Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, which famously never got off the ground.

Cage touches on that topic (among many others) in an interview by Hadley Freeman published in The Guardian (“Nicolas Cage: ‘If I don’t have a job to do, I can be very self-destructive’”). In that, Freeman writes:

Because of his son’s name [Kal-El], I tell him, there’s an online campaign to make him the next Superman. “Oh, I think my Superman days are long gone,” he laughs with a little pat of his belly. He would be an amazing villain in it, I reply. His eyes light up. “Oh, that would be GREAT! I’d make a great Lex Luthor!”

(16) CONTINUED NEXT ROCK. BBC says “Prehistoric art hints at lost Indian civilisation” — petroglyphs estimated up to 12,000 years old — which makes them pre-“civilization”, back in the hunter-gatherer era.

“Our first deduction from examining these petroglyphs is that they were created around 10,000BC,” the director of the Maharashtra state archaeology department, Tejas Garge, told the BBC.

The credit for their discovery goes to a group of explorers led by Sudhir Risbood and Manoj Marathe, who began searching for the images in earnest after observing a few in the area. Many were found in village temples and played a part in local folklore.

“We walked thousands of kilometres. People started sending photographs to us and we even enlisted schools in our efforts to find them. We made students ask their grandparents and other village elders if they knew about any other engravings. This provided us with a lot of valuable information,” Mr Risbood told the BBC.

(17) THE LONG WAY HOME. James Davis Nicoll’s youth have returned! And the Young People Read Old SFF panel has been assigned Walter M. Miller Jr.’s “The Will.”

SF 68 was a South African radio show that ran in, well, 1968. Producer Michael McCabe went on to produce the more successful Beyond Midnight. SF 68 adapted a number of American SF stories to radio play form, many by authors I would not have expected to sell rights to an Apartheid era South African program. If there is a story behind that, I have not heard it.

Walter M. Miller is best known for his Canticle For Leibowitz (of which there is a top notch adaptation far too long for this project). Indeed, the rest of his body of work has been essentially eclipsed by Canticle. Still, there are pieces while not as iconic as Canticle are worth consideration. “The Will” for example demonstrates a laudable understanding of the true utility of time machines other, Hugo-winning, works manifestly do not. But perhaps my volunteers will not agree with me.

The Will can be listened to here.

(18) CONCERNED. Motherboard (from Vice) brings us news that a “Top CERN Scientist [is] Suspended for Presentation That Argued There Is No Sexism in Physics.” His theory seemed to be that women aren’t discriminated against in science — particularly physics — they just aren’t as good.

In a copy of [Dr. Alessandro] Strumia’s presentation seen by Motherboard, Strumia frames his presentation as an effort to get to the bottom of the “mainstream” and “conservative” positions about gender equality in physics and science more generally. Strumia framed his presentation as an attempt to “use data to see what is right.”

A number of slides show what Strumia described as data about the percentage of women in different fields, sexism in citations, sexism at conferences, and gender asymmetry in hirings. These data items conflict with a number of other studies that point to rampant discrimination in STEM, however. For example, a study published earlier this year by Pew Research found that nearly half of women in STEM say sexual harassment is a problem and that they have experienced some form of discrimination.
Strumia’s presentation also claimed sexism against men, on the grounds that scientists were killed in wars and that universities have made hiring decisions based on equal gender representation “irrespective of merit.”

According to [Dr. Jessica] Wade, who wrote an op-ed for New Scientist about Strumia’s talk, his presentation “claimed that women weren’t as good at physics, were promoted too early, and received disproportionate funding given their ability.”

(19) POWERS AND PRATCHETT. FTL Publications has posted video of some classic author interviews:

  • This is a 2-part interview with Tim Powers at the Arcana convention in St. Paul on October 1, 2004. Tim talks about his novels, including The Drawing of the Dark, The Annubis Gates, Dinner at Deviant’s Palace, The Stress of Her Regard, and Declare. He also discusses the writing process.

 

  • Sir Terry Pratchett (d. 2015) is interviewed at Minicon by Jim Young (d. 2012) on March 26, 2005 in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA. The author talks about his writing, meeting J. K. Rowling, and how he received the OBE.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/18 Who Put Nineteen Great Pixels In That Itty Bitty File?

(1) ARTIFICIAL ARTELLIGENCE. Camestros Felapton has invented the “Space Opera Book Cover Maker”.

Ladles and Gentlebens, here it is: The Space Opera Book Cover Maker Thing!

http://camfelapton.ihostfull.com/

First a word of warning. The images take a while to load and might be even slower depending on your internet connection. However, that speeds up as your browser caches some of them.

The basic idea is this. There are seven layers of images which you can control. The images load as thumbnails (actually the full image is loading into your browser’s memory hence it being a bit slow). You then press a button and all the images you’ve picked get stacked together into an HTML Canvas. If you right click on the canvas then you can save the combined image to your computer.

You can tell the output is authentic space opera because these covers have no tavern and no snow!

(2) ABOUT THAT CALENDRICAL ROT. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column for Lawyers, Guns & Money is devoted to the Machineries of Empire trilogy: “A Political History of the Future: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee”.

As Lee eventually reveals, the Hexarchate’s calendar relies on regular “remembrances”, in which heretics are ritually tortured to commemorate specific victories or the suppression of a particular heresy. In order to maintain their power and the empire’s technologies, the Hexarchate’s doctrinal authorities have to provide it with a continuous stream of rebels and heretics, which requires either a constant expansion of the empire’s borders, or a constant narrowing of the range of permissible behaviors. As weird as the calendar notion initially seems, I’m struggling to think of a fantastical device that so perfectly captures the pernicious trap of life under totalitarianism, the way that such systems feed themselves on their own citizens while sapping any survivors of the capacity for resistance.

(3) BEGONE, YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE. James Davis Nicoll invokes the magic number in his latest feature for Tor.com – “Five Worldbuilding Errors That Should Be Banished from SF Forever”.

Stars Move!

The stars in our part of the Milky Way (with some notable exceptions) tend to be headed in the same general direction at the same general speed, but not exactly in the same direction and not exactly at the same speed. Over time, the distances between stars change. Today, our closest known neighbour is Alpha Centauri at 4.3 light years. 70,000 years ago, it was Scholz’s Star at as little as 0.6 light years.

This error does not come up often. It’s a timescale thing: stars move on a scale marked in increments like time elapsed since the invention of beer. That is a lot slower than plot, for the most part, unless your plot covers thousands of years. Still, if your novel is set in the Solar System a billion years from now, don’t namecheck Alpha Centauri as Sol’s closest neighbor….

(4) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi.

“Where do you think we are?” the young Middle Eastern woman with the intense eyes asked.

Jyri smiled at her and accepted a smoothie from a tanned aide.

“I think this is a Greek island.” He pointed at the desolate gray cliffs. They loomed above the ruined village where the 50 contestants in the Race were having breakfast. “Look at all the dead vegetation. And the sea is the right color.”

In truth, he had no idea. At SFO, he’d been ushered into a private jet with tinted windows. The last leg of the journey had been in an autocopter’s opaque passenger pod. The Race’s location, like everything else about it, was a closely guarded secret.

It was published along with a response essay, “Can You Replicate the Burning Desire to Win That Drives Superhuman Athletes?”, by evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper.

 Take a random selection of athletes at any Olympic Games. No matter their discipline, they will have one factor in common: a burning desire to win, and a motivation to be the best in the world. Imagine if we could develop a short cut to that kind of passion.

(5) LIADEN ONLINE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s “Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 121” is online, with news about things to come such as —

BOOK SIGNING:
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be signing the thirtieth anniversary edition of Agent of Change, and whatever else comes to hand, at Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main Street, Waterville, Maine 04901, on! Friday, November 2, from 7:30-9 pm. Hope to see you there!

(6) HOPEFULLY NOT ICE-9. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] LiveScience article: “Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics”.

There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it.

Physicists don’t know what it is exactly. But they do know it’s some sort of cosmic ray — a high-energy particle that’s blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about — the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics — shouldn’t be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected. But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have “large cross-sections.” That means that they’ll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side.

The underlying paper(s) they’re reporting on are on the arXiv service:

—and before that—

Popsci articles reporting on not-yet-published papers can get a little breathless and further can just plain get stuff wrong. What’s being reported in the underlying papers is that 2 anomalous events from one of the flights of ANITA (NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna experiment with uses a balloon to loft the experiment over the Antarctic) — along with some supporting data from the underground IceCube neutrino detector (also in Antarctica) — just might point to previously unseen particles not contained in the Standard Model. This would be Very Big News if true… but the scientists and/or the popular science writers may well be getting ahead of themselves on this one

(7) QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS. Paul Weimer covers “Six Books with Lauren Teffeau” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. And speaking of that, what’s *your* latest book, and why is it awesome?Implanted, my debut from Angry Robot, is a cyberpunk adventure featuring light espionage, high-tech gadgets, romance, and hard questions about the future. The main character is a young woman named Emery Driscoll who’s blackmailed into working as a courier for a shadowy organization, and the book explores what happens when the life she was forced to leave behind comes back to haunt her after she’s left holding the bag on a job gone wrong.

(8) LOOKING FOR SOMETHING GOOD? Lady Business knows these are times when people need a break — “Short & Sweet: Comforting Stories”.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been finding the world a very stressful place recently. That can make it really hard for me to focus. So I thought I’d put together a list of comforting stories. Because sometime I just need to read something that reminds me of the good in the world. I learned from talking about hopeful stories that some of the stories I found bleak others found hopeful, so I suspect that not everyone will be comforted by these stories. There’s a lot family in these stories: both blood family and found family; a fair bit of food; and plenty of people being nice to each other and trying their best. Those are the things I try and hold on to when things are hard. I hope they bring you some comfort.

One example –

”Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon — This story about a young man who inherits a magic sword from his grandmother—but he just wants to be a farmer! I love this story because it’s about valuing feeding people and taking care of the land.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger, Editor, from 1939 through 1953, of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine, plus two years of A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. There is evidence that she was once a member of the New York Futurians.
  • Born September 28, 1923 – William Windom, Actor, known for playing Commodore Decker in the episode “The Doomsday Machine” of the original Star Trek series, a role he reprised in the Star Trek: New Voyages fan series. He also had numerous guest roles in genre TV series including The Twilight Zone, The Invaders, Night Gallery, Ghost Story, Mission: Impossible, and The Bionic Woman, played the President of the U.S. in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and voiced a main character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik, Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in in an auto accident the day before his wedding.
  • Born September 28, 1946 – Herbert Jefferson Jr., 72, Actor, best known to genre fans as Lieutenant Boomer in Battlestar Galactica (later promoted to Colonel when he reprised that role in Galactica 1980).
  • Born September 28, 1964 – Janeane Garofalo, 54, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Comedian who has had roles in odd genre movies, including Dogma, Mystery Men, and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and has done lots of voice acting in animated series and films including the Ratatouille movies.
  • Born September 28, 1967 – Mira Sorvino, 51, Actor and Producer whose genre credits include the TV series Falling Skies and Intruders, and the movies Mimic and Space Warriors.
  • Born September 28, 1968 – Naomi Watts, 50, English/Welsh Actor whose genre roles have included leads in the short-lived TV series Sleepwalkers and the movies Stay, King Kong (the 2005 remake), and Dream House, as well as the Divergent movie series.

(10) I FLOCK TO THE TREES. Steven H Silver celebrates one birthday in his daily Black Gate feature: “Birthday Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s ‘The Byrds’”

Michael Coney takes a look at mass hysteria in “The Byrds,” in which a Canada which is struggling with population problems sends out questionnaires to the elderly which encourage them to choose euthanasia. In one family, as Gran gets on in years, she refuses to kill herself and instead strips naked, paints herself like a bird, and straps on an anti-gravity belt before taking to the trees to the mortification of her family.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ON FANTASY. In August Tor.com posted V. E. Schwab’s Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, given at Pembroke College, Oxford — “’In Search of Doors’: Read V.E. Schwab’s 2018 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature”.

I write fantasy to make cracks in the foundation of a reader’s expectations, to challenge the solidity of their assumptions and beliefs.

I write fantasy because I want to bolster the believers, and make the skeptics wonder, to instill doubt and hope in equal measure. To help readers envision a time, a place, a world in which fantastical concepts like magic, or immortality, or equality, seem within reach.

(13) FAILS. Oren Ashkenazi breaks down “Eight Absurdities We Force on Female Characters” at Mythcreants.

It would be impossible to list all the difficulties storytellers create for themselves, but here are eight of the most common….

The second on the list is —

  1. Separate Fighting Styles

I used to think it was strange how often I would see people online asking how to realistically write women in fight scenes. I thought, “Simple: pointy end goes into the other fighter.” But then I realized that people were actually confused and that the debates over which killing tools would work as “women’s weapons” are largely spawned by existing stories.

Every time a novel depicts a woman needing to find a special weapon or a film gives women a sexy fighting style, it furthers the idea that the way women fight is inherently different from the way men fight. This is nonsense – the physics of murder don’t change based on gender – but the idea persists.

Storytellers can free themselves from this problem by simply accepting that women in their setting fight the same way men fight. A sword doesn’t particularly care about its wielder’s pronouns. If a storyteller actually wants to know what tactics a physically weaker fighter would employ against a stronger opponent, they can ask that, but it should be decoupled from gender. If that level of detail is important to the setting, then it should be considered any time combatants differ in strength, not just when one of them is female.

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. Another big dino discovered: “Bones Reveal The Brontosaurus Had An Older, Massive Cousin In South Africa”.

Millions of years before the brontosaurus roamed the Earth, a massive relative was lumbering around South Africa.

Scientists think this early Jurassic dinosaur was, at the time, the largest land creature ever to have lived. And unlike the even bigger creatures that came later, they think it could pop up on its hind legs.

They’ve dubbed the newly discovered dinosaur Ledumahadi mafube, which translates in the Sesotho language to “a giant thunderclap at dawn.” And the discovery sheds light on how giants like the brontosaurus got so huge.

(15) A DISCOURAGING WORD. “Hackers expose ‘staggering’ voter machine flaws” — even counters-of-paper-ballots can be hacked.

In August, the Def Con conference in Las Vegas ran a “Voting Village”, where participants were encouraged to uncover flaws in US election infrastructure by hacking into various computer systems.

The organisers of the conference on Thursday released a 50-page report on their findings.

They describe the number and severity of flaws in voting equipment as “staggering”.

(16) HE’S BATMAN. The new Nerd & Tie Podcast — “Episode 132 – Your Favorite Cartoon (That No One Remembers)” – shows there’s someplace you can hear all you want about that topic I banished here. (And no, it’s not the one mentioned  in the episode title.)

This episode of Nerd & Tie’s big topic is childhood cartoons we loved that hardly anyone else seems to remember. Trae, Gen and Nick all had different childhoods, so the list ends up being pretty diverse.

Before that though, we hit the news — where Telltale Games is shutting down, Disney is admitting that they’ve been milking Star Wars too hard, and DC showed everyone Batman’s wing wang.

We talk about that last one for waaaaaay too long.

(17) SHARE THE VISION. Engadget delves into the VR adaptation of a PKD story: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Great C’ for Oculus Rift arrives this October”.

The virtual reality adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Great C is now making its way to VR headsets after debuting at the Venice Film Festival. It will be available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as soon as October 9th, but PlayStation VR owners will unfortunately have to wait until 2019. Fans can expect to be thrust into a 37-minute immersive sci-fi adventure when they put on their headsets and fire up the experience.

The Great C is a post-apocalyptic story that revolves around the remnants of humanity under the rule of an all-powerful supercomputer called “The Great C.” Every year, a human tribe living nearby has to sacrifice a young person to the machine in order to appease it. The VR adventure by Secret Location focuses on a woman named Clare whose fiancé was chosen for that particular year’s pilgrimage from which nobody ever returns.

(18) LUCASFILM GAMES. Digital Antiquarian studies the history of the gaming sideline to George Lucas’ moviemaking activities: “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or, Of Movies and Games and Whether the Twain Shall Meet)”

Before there was Lucasfilm Games, there was the Lucasfilm Computer Division, founded in 1979 to experiment with computer animation and digital effects, technologies with obvious applications for the making of special-effects-heavy films. Lucasfilm Games had been almost literally an afterthought, an outgrowth of the Computer Division that was formed in 1982, a time when George Lucas and Lucasfilm were flying high and throwing money about willy-nilly.

In those days, a hit computer game, one into which Lucasfilm Games had poured their hearts and souls, might be worth about as much to the parent company’s bottom line as a single Jawa action figure — such was the difference in scale between the computer-games industry of the early 1980s and the other markets where Lucasfilm was a player. George Lucas personally had absolutely no interest in or understanding of games, which didn’t do much for the games division’s profile inside his company. And, most frustrating of all for the young developers who came to work for The House That Star Wars Built, they weren’t allowed to make Star Wars games — nor, for that matter, even Indiana Jones games — thanks to Lucas having signed away those rights to others at the height of the Atari VCS fad. Noah Falstein, one of those young developers, would later characterize this situation as “the best thing that could have happened” to them, as it forced them to develop original fictions instead — leading, he believes, to better, more original games.

(19) HEROIC PILOT. Here’s the extended sneak peek of Star Wars Resistance —

A daring pilot embarks upon a secret mission against the First Order… with a lot of help from his friends in Star Wars Resistance. Premiering Sunday, October 7 at 10pm ET/PT on Disney Channel.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/9/18 I Can’t Get No Pixel Action When I’m Reading Pixel Scroll

(1) TAFF DATES ANNOUNCED. John  Purcell says it’s almost time to submit nominees for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race.

Since a lot of people have asked, European TAFF Administrator Johan Anglemark and I have established the following dates for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund Race to send a North American fan to the World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Dublin, Ireland over August 15 – 19, 2019. Here you go, folks:

The actual nomination period will run from October 1st to November 22nd of 2018. Therefore, if anyone is interested in standing for TAFF, the month of September is the time to line up your nominators.

The actual voting period will start on December 1st, 2018, and end on April 22nd, 2019. The week between the end of nominations and the beginning of voting will give your humble and obedient administrators the time to prepare the proper and official ballot.

A much more informative, official 2019 TAFF Press Release shall follow Real Soon Now and will include procedures and related data potential candidates need to know. In the meantime, if you go to the TAFF website https://taff.org.uk/ maintained by that nice David Langford fellow, you can learn many of these details there.

This race should be a lot fun. If you have any questions, feel free to ask either Johan Anglemark or me, John Purcell, and we will answer them as quickly as possible.

(2) EARLY PROMO ART. Sotheby’s auctioned off a Revenge of the Jedi poster on August 28 (Original Film Posters Online). Note, that’s “Revenge,” not “Return.” They’d estimated it would go for £1,400–2,600. After 23 bids it sold for £23,000.

(3) NO SHEET. Jim C. Hines is on the case —

(4) GREAT AMERICAN READ. Voting at last is open for PBS’ The Great American Read, which has been mentioned here several times. Get clicking!

(5) CONSCIOUS SYNTHS. Abigail Nussbaum’s column for Lawyers, Guns & Money takes on the robotic TV show Humans: “A Political History of the Future: Humans”.

…One core difference between Humans and a lot of other science fiction shows about robots or despised minorities with special powers is that it doesn’t center violence—and, when violence does occur, it is used exclusively to horrifying, demoralizing effect. Synths are strong, quick, and agile, but there are hardly any badass robot fights in this show. On the contrary, it often seems as if synths are a great deal more fragile than humans, succumbing to beatings and abuses that a human might recover from (which makes sense if you consider that these are basically talking household appliances, the sort of thing you’d be expected to replace after a few years). Images of damaged and mistreated synths recur frequently throughout the show, as a reminder of both the danger that our main characters face in human society, and the fact that this is a story where problems will mostly be solved by talking (though some characters, like the belligerent, short-tempered Niska, find this incredibly frustrating). This is a role left primarily to Laura, who over the course of the show’s three seasons embraces the cause of synth rights, and Mia, who becomes a figurehead in the growing community of conscious synths.

It’s an approach that, paradoxically, allows Humans to address much heavier, darker subject matter than more high-concept executions of its premise, precisely because the show is so grounded in the familiar….

(6) WHERE THE MONEY IS. AV/TV Club handicaps the contenders to succeed GoT: “Game of Game Of Thrones thrones: 43 big upcoming fantasy and sci-fi shows”.

Since debuting in April 2011, HBO’s Game Of Thrones has slowly become the defining television phenomenon of this decade, dominating the pop culture conversation in a way no other show has since the glory days of The Sopranos. It was one of a number of shows angling to step into the mob drama’s place, along with Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Sons Of Anarchy, Justified, and House Of Cards. HBO initially sold its adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic as “The Sopranos in Middle-earth,” hoping to transplant David Chase’s deeply American saga of violence, sex, family, and power to a sprawling, Tolkien-esque fantasy world. It managed to fulfill those expectations and then some, surpassing Sopranos viewership mid-way through its fourth season. Today it’s gone far beyond that: “Khaleesi” was a more popular name for baby girls in 2017 than “Brittany.”

But winter is coming. As Game Of Thrones heads into its final, six-episode season—slated to premiere sometime in 2019—it leaves a gaping hole in the television landscape. Everyone from Apple to FX has pined, sometimes publicly, for their “own Game Of Thrones,” and the model is clear: Find a nerd-culture tome, and throw money at it. Amazon has pledged to invest $1 billion on its prize-horse, a Lord Of The Rings prequel, but, as you’ll see below, this is a race with a lot of horses. There are dozens of such projects in the works, and even more if you factor in the game, film, and comic adaptations drawn in Thrones’ image, not to mention HBO’s own in-house heirs….

(7) HOW IT COULD HAVE ENDED. ScienceFiction.com says showrunner Ira Steven Behr’s idea for “The Original Series Finale For ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Would Have Blown Viewers Minds!”

His vision was shot down but would have been a direct callback to one of the more interesting episodes in the series. Specifically, it would have directly gone back to “Far Beyond The Stars” from the sixth season. In it, Benjamin Sisko was given a vision of another life by the Wormhole Aliens where instead of being a Starfleet Captain he was actually Benny Russell who was a 1950s science fiction writer. As an author, he came up with the idea of Deep Space Nine in a story that not only dealt with racism but also was “about the dreamer and the dream and who is dreaming and what they are dreaming about.”

As for the potential series finale, it would have revisited the idea of Benny Russell:

“I did pitch to Rick Berman that the final episode would end up with Benny Russell on Stage 17 at Paramount, wandering around the soundstages, realizing that this whole construct, this whole series, that we had done for seven years, was just in Benny’s head. That is how I wanted to end the series. And Rick said “Does this mean The Original Series was in Benny’s head? Does this mean Voyager was in Benny’s head?” I said, “Hey man, I don’t care who is dreaming those shows, I only care about Deep Space Nine, and yes, Benny Russell is dreaming Deep Space Nine.” He didn’t go for it.”

(8) TREKIVERSARY. On the anniversary, SYFY Wire listed “Star Trek: 6 crazy things that nobody remembers about the first episode ever”. The first one thew into doubt just when the anniversary is —

Canada jumped the phaser and aired “The Man Trap” two days early

Famously, the anniversary of the first airing of Star Trek’s first episode is September 8th, 1966 on NBC, in America. But it turns out that the CBC in Canada aired the show two days early, on September 6th. This little-known fact emerged two years ago, surrounding the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the entire Trek franchise. Larry Nemecek, Trek historian and host of the podcast The Trek Files confirms this: “I was shocked that it took 50 years to penetrate us [Americans]! It’s apparently true. I’ve seen scans of Canadian newspaper TV listings that show it.”

(9) BREAKOUT MARVEL. NPR’s Emma Bowman says “Female Breakout ‘Captain Marvel’ Screenwriter Is Disrupting The Superheroine Trope”:

In a male-dominated industry, Geneva Robertson-Dworet is as rare as the female superhero characters she helps craft. The breakout action-genre screenwriter will be adding a historic project to her resume with Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first female-led movie, due out next year.

Robertson-Dworet, who penned the Tomb Raider blockbuster reboot, has also been tapped to work on Sherlock Holmes 3, Gotham City Sirens and the new Dungeons & Dragons adaptation.

In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition, the screenwriter praises the lengths Marvel took to recruit a female-heavy team — both on screen and behind the scenes — for the film, starring Brie Larson.

“Marvel really went above and beyond with Captain Marvel,” Robertson-Dworet says. “Not only did they have Anna Boden, who, along with Ryan Fleck is directing the movie … they had many female writers working on the project. They also had female producers in the room. And that is really rare to have that.”

(10) THE POWER. The Guardian says this job is not that f*ckin’ easy! “The YouTube stars heading for burnout: ‘The most fun job imaginable became deeply bleak’”.

…Professional YouTubers speak in tones at once reverential and resentful of the power of “the Algorithm” (it’s seen as a near-sentient entity, not only by creators, but also by YouTube’s own engineers). Created by the high priests of Silicon Valley, who continually tweak its characteristics, this is the programming code on which the fate of every YouTuber depends. It decides which videos to pluck from the Niagara of content that splashes on to YouTube every hour (400 hours’ worth every 60 seconds, according to Google) to deliver as “recommended viewing” to the service’s billions of users.

… As part of its Creator Academy, a vast online “school” covering everything from how to “enhance your channel’s search and discovery potential” to how to “make deals with brands”, YouTube recently commissioned a series of videos designed to teach its partners how to avoid fatigue. (Few of the people I speak to who run YouTube channels are aware of the resource.) The video on burnout has been viewed just over 32,000 times. It’s written and presented by 34-year-old Kati Morton. A licensed therapist based in Los Angeles, Morton has been posting videos to YouTube for eight years. As such, she is well placed to understand both the problem and the potential solution.

(11) DAILY OBIT. I Dream of Jeannie’s Bill Daily has died.

Actor Bill Daily, best known for his role as Roger Healey in the popular 1960s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” has died at the age of 91, his son J. Patrick Daily said.

Bill Daily died at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Tuesday, publicist Patterson Lundquist wrote on Facebook.

Patrick Daily said his father “was a very happy man. He was happy with everything he did.”

…Daily played an Army captain, later a major, in the space program, the funny sidekick to Larry Hagman’s Air Force Maj. Tony Nelson, on “Jeannie.” The title character, a 2,000-year-old genie, was played by Barbara Eden.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A salute —

(13) MOST IMPORTANT GENRE. If the proof of a fan’s intelligence is how closely they agree with you, a lot of people are going to conclude Harari is pretty bright, WIRED interviews him about “Why Science Fiction Is the Most Important Genre”.

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the best-selling books Sapiens and Homo Deus, is a big fan of science fiction, and includes an entire chapter about it in his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

“Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre,” Harari says in Episode 325 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”

(14) INSTRUMENTALITY. Cordwainer Smith is still in mid-career as Galactic Journey considers his story in the latest issue of Galaxy, “On the Gem Planet”: “[September 9, 1963] Great Expectations (October 1963 Galaxy)”.

On a world composed solely of precious stones, a lone horse wanders masterless through a crystal valley.  The Dictator of the planet and his beautiful heir entreat a young visitor, a crusading exile whose sole goal is to regain the throne of his home planet, for an explanation of how the horse came to his current condition.

Nothing more need be said of this piece save that it is another tale of the Instrumentality by the inimitable Smith, and it does not injure the reputation of the series or its writer.  Four stars.

(15) HOLD THAT APPLAUSE. Bastian’s Book Reviews is lukewarm about its latest subject: “Review: The Fairy’s Tale by F.D. Lee”.

The Fairy’s Tale is a humorous novel about Bea, a fairy who works to ensure that fairy tales go according to plan. Bea herself, meanwhile, dreams of being promoted from a watcher to a manager (i.e. a fairy godmother), allowed to interact with the characters (humans) rather than just being an unseen force that applies minor nudges….

(16) NAGATA PRAISED. However, at Black Gate Steve Case finds plenty of good things to say about a book: “A Celebration of the Wonder of the Universe Itself: Vast by Linda Nagata”

I’ll get right to it: Linda Nagata’s Vast is everything you want epic sci-fi to be: a huge scope in time and space, a compelling look at the horizons of human and technological evolution, and a celebration of the wonder of the universe itself. Vast provides all this, with some truly beautiful descriptions of stellar evolution thrown in for good measure. On top of all this, this scale and big ideas are woven alongside excellent character formation and a plot that builds tension so effectively that long years of pursuit between vessels with slow relative velocities still feels sharp and urgent.

I liked this book. A lot.

(17) DRY DOC. io9’s Julie Muncy found a video that demonstrates how “The Star Trek Universe Uses a Surprising Amount of Paper”.

YouTuber EC Henry has put together a fascinating little video chronicling the history of paper usage in the Star Trek universe, chronologically moving from the original series up through the timeline and noting how the use of paper changes as time passes. In Kirk’s time, fascinatingly, paper is everywhere, and is regularly used for military purposes, while by the time of The Next Generation such usages have almost entirely vanished.

 

(18) IN OBSERVATORY YET GREEN. Let Space.com tell you “How to See the Bright Green Comet 21P in Binoculars on Monday”.

Want to see a comet whizzing by Earth? A great chance to catch one of these celestial visitors is overnight tonight, when Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner will be best visible in binoculars or a telescope.

The comet, also known as “21P,” will make its closest approach to Earth at around 2:30 a.m. EDT Monday (630 GMT). The bright-green comet should reach a visual magnitude of 6.5 to 7, according to EarthSky.org. This makes 21P almost bright enough to see with the naked eye — but not quite. […]

To find Comet 21P in the night sky, look east and find the constellation Auriga sometime between midnight and dawn local time. The comet will still be visible even after tomorrow, but it will fade over the coming days. Its exact location from moment to moment is available in NASA’s ephemeris calculator.

(19) IT’S FEELING BETTER. According to Engadget, “Planet-hunting Kepler telescope declares that it is not, in fact, dead”.

At this point, most space enthusiasts and insiders have said their goodbyes to the Kepler spacecraft. We’ve known for months that it’s very low on fuel, and its planet-hunting replacement, TESS, has already launched. But Kepler has a mind of its own, apparently. Despite the fact that its level of fuel is now crippling, and it’s had its share of mechanical issues, the telescope is once again back to work collecting scientific data and looking for new exoplanets.

(20) CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Variety reports “Michael K. Williams Still Wants to Be Part of ‘Star Wars’ Franchise”.

Michael K. Williams holds no grudges against “Star Wars.”

The actor’s role was cut from the standalone Han Solo film “Solo” after director Ron Howard’s reshoots conflicted with his schedule. Paul Bettany stepped in and the character was reimagined for the new casting.

“I have not had the chance to see ‘Solo’ but shout out to my cast mates,” Williams told Variety on Saturday at the HFPA and InStyle party at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Even though I didn’t make the final cut, they’re still my cast mates. I love you guys.”

He hasn’t seen ‘Solo’ yet, but “I’m quite sure I’ll get around to it but I’m more interested in getting another shot in being in that galaxy…I would love another opportunity to be in ‘Star Wars.’”

(21) STORM WARNING. Unlike the Mercury-Gemini capsule days, a splashdown here would not mean a happy ending. Ars Technica explains: “SpaceX to launch super-heavy payload, land in high seas Sunday night”

After slightly more than a month, SpaceX returns to the launch pad Sunday night to deliver the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite into orbit. The four-hour launch window opens at 11:28pm ET (03:28 UTC) for a mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight of a new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 booster will seek to loft a large telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. At 7,060kg, this is the second heaviest satellite SpaceX has flown; the heaviest is the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite in July. It weighed 15kg more.
SpaceX will seek to recover the booster, which may prove a challenge given the tropical activity raging across the Atlantic basin. Due to the heavy payload, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will land far out to sea, 660km downrange from the Florida spaceport. There, the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship will be waiting.

Provided the rocket launches on Sunday night, the growing storm Florence—which is likely to be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane by that time—should still be more than 1,000km away. However, another low-pressure system is relatively close by, and choppy wave conditions may make landing more challenging than normal. A delay of one or two days would likely only worsen conditions in the area as Florence gets closer

(22) CAMPBELL. Alis Franklin’s “Everything wrong with science fiction is John W. Campbell’s fault” takes stock of the late editor’s racism and other shortcomings. On the other hand, his immortal novella “Who Goes There?” did inspire this bizarre video:

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 5/6/18 If Pixels Were Zombies, They’d Want To Eat Your Scrolls

(1) CASTING CALL. James Davis Nicoll wants young people for his next project.

I am looking for volunteers for the follow up to Young People Read Old SFF, Young People Listen to Old SF. Participants will get to listen to and react to one moderate length olden timey radio drama per month.

DM me or email me at jdnicoll at panix dot com

(2) NEEDS A PURPOSE. Abigail Nussbaum returns to China Miéville in her latest column “A Political History of the Future: The City & The City” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…Introducing a premise like The City & The City without tying it into current political issues feels like a much less tenable proposition right now. And yet this is what the BBC did in its recent miniseries adaptation of the book. As an adaptation, the miniseries is dutiful but not very exciting. It does a good job of transposing the book’s technique, of slowly revealing its setting until we finally realize that there is nothing going on except a mass delusion, to a more visual medium. In one particularly memorable scene, Borlú and his assistant, Lizbyet Corwi, speak on their cellphones, he from Ul Qoma and she in Bes?el. The camera cuts between them as we’d expect from any TV series trying to convey that two characters are in different physical spaces. Then it pulls back to reveal that Borlú and Corwi are sitting on the same bench, which is half in one city and half in the other. The series also does a good job of beefing up the roles of women, giving Corwi more to do, changing the gender of Borlú’s Ul Qoman counterpart, and even giving her a wife. (A similar impetus might have been at the root of a new subplot involving the disappearance of Borlú’s wife, but it just ends up reading like the common trope of motivating a man by having a woman suffer.)

Still, one has to wonder why you’d even try to adapt this novel, at this moment in time, if you weren’t willing to change it enough so that it actually says something…

(3) WHEN YOU CARE ENOUGH. Just came across this today. As we say around here, it’s always news to someone. From Know Your Meme.

(4) 2001 RETURNING TO THEATERS. The director of Dunkirk finds more use for 70 mm projectors installed to show his film: “Christopher Nolan returns Kubrick sci-fi masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ to its original glory”.

Christopher Nolan wants to show me something interesting. Something beautiful and exceptional, something that changed his life when he was a boy.

It’s also something that Nolan, one of the most accomplished and successful of contemporary filmmakers, has persuaded Warner Bros. to share with the world both at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and then in theaters nationwide, but in a way that boldly deviates from standard practice.

For what is being cued up in a small, hidden-away screening room in an unmarked building in Burbank is a brand new 70-mm reel of film of one of the most significant and influential motion pictures ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science-fiction epic “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Yes, you read that right. Not a digital anything, an actual reel of film that was for all intents and purposes identical to the one Nolan saw as a child and Kubrick himself would have looked at when the film was new half a century ago.

(5) NEW SFF MAGAZINE. The inaugural issue of Vulture Bones: Spec Fic from Trans & Enby Voices is out. See the table of contents here.

Vulture Bones is a quarterly speculative fiction magazine showcasing the voices of transgender and nonbinary writers.

Vulture Bones is what is left when everything useful is harvested, even the gamey meat of scavengers.

Vulture Bones is the name of a bald and genderless sharpshooter with thirteen enemies and one bullet left.

Vulture Bones is something morbid and foundational.

Vulture Bones is a wild ride.

(6) STAFFCON. Kevin Standlee takes you inside the room where it happened this weekend – “StaffCon”.

“StaffCon” for Worldcon 76 planning had over 100 people registered, using the same RegOnline system that the convention itself is using. Today was a chance to do a bit of a dry run of what on-site registration would be like, and to discover some bugs now while there is a chance to adjust them and make things better for the actual convention. After the initial morning session, there were numerous impromptu meetings (including a short WSFS division meeting with the four members of the division who are actually here), followed by groups touring the San Jose Convention Center. There’s an event moving in today, so we couldn’t get at everything, but everyone got a decently good look around before the lunch break. The break allowed people to spread out and find places to get lunch within a short distance of the convention center. There are many such places (far more than there were sixteen years ago).

(7) GET FINALISTS TO THE WORLDCON. The GoFundMe to bring Campbell Award finalist Rivers Solomon to Worldcon 76 reached its goal, and now additional money is being raised to help get more Hugo and Campbell finalists to the ceremony. Mary Robinette Kowal wrote in an Update:

Folks, we’ve got two additional Campbell finalists who could use a boost getting to the Hugos. I’ve got a form set up for additional finalists.

Let’s see how many we can get to the ceremony.

Need help? The link to the application is in Update #2.

(8) GOLLANCZ OBIT & KERFUFFLE. A trade publication’s obituary about Livia Gollancz (1920-2018), who once ran UK publisher Gollancz, a major publisher and now imprint of sf, got pushback from the imprint’s current editor.

For anyone under 40, Gollancz is merely a science fiction imprint—“the oldest specialist sci-fi and fantasy (SFF) publisher in the UK.” Gollancz indeed published many award-winning and successful SFF authors, J G Ballard and Terry Pratchett among them, but Gollancz is far more important than that, which makes the story of its last two decades a tragedy.

Victor Gollancz, a classics graduate from Oxford, was just 30 when he set up his eponymous company in 1927. He published George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier, and Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim, as well as books by Ford Madox Ford, Daphne du Maurier, Franz Kafka and Vera Brittain. On his daughter Livia’s watch, Julia Hales’ The Green Consumer Guide and Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch were trendsetting bestsellers….

I was genuinely shocked to see the comments about Gollancz in Livia Gollancz’s obituary published in The Bookseller. To describe a beloved publishing list as “merely a science fiction imprint” and its last two decades as a “tragedy” is offensive to my colleagues; our authors and fans; our reviewers and bloggers; fellow SFF publishers; and to the wider genre community. While everyone has a right to their personal opinion and literary preferences, to air such a definitive bias against genre fiction in the obituary of our former owner was troubling and frankly insulting.

It is easy to point out how many of the greatest works ever written are SF or Fantasy titles. From the Iliad to Jules Verne, to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, to The Handmaid’s Tale, right up to Naomi Alderman’s The Power, speculative fiction has been an unrivalled way of exploring our world and society. It is just as easy—as your publication has demonstrated—to dismiss that claim by saying those books are ”proper” literary novels not “merely SFF”.

That argument is nonsense. Worse, it is prejudiced and badly informed nonsense….

  • Bookseller editor Philip Jones apologized.

My comments on the diminution of Victor Gollancz should not be interpreted as a slight on the proud history of SF publishing itself, at Gollancz or anywhere else. Rather it is a reminder, to readers and publishers too young to remember the “old” Gollancz, that Victor Gollancz Ltd was a leader in so many ways and an independent powerhouse that set standards and trends in both adult and children’s publishing….

(9) BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 6, 1915 – Orson Welles

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) AURORA AWARDS HEADS-UP. Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association members have until May 26 to nominate eligible works for the Aurora Awards – see the nominations page.

(12) KEEP YOUR SUIT ON. In this Wired video, Chris Hadfield makes nude space walks sound even less attractive than they already did. And that’s just for starters.

Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield helps debunk (and confirm!) some common myths about space. Is there any sound in space? Does space smell like burnt steak? Is NASA working on warp speed?

 

(13) HURTS SO GOOD. I keep reading Galactic Journey despite Gideon Marcus’ tendency to break my teen-aged fannish heart. It’s bad enough the things he says about every issue of Analog. Now he’s lighting into one of young Mike’s all-time favorite sf novels (in the hardcover version, Way Station): “[May 6, 1963] The more things change… (June 1963 Galaxy)”.

The proud progressive flagship [Galaxy] appears to be faltering, following in the footsteps of Campbell’s reactionary Analog.  It’s not all bad, exactly.  It’s just nothing new…and some of it is really bad.  Is it a momentary blip?  Or is Editor Pohl saving the avante-garde stuff for his other two magazines?

…Simak is one of the great veterans of our field, and he has been a staple of Galaxy since its inception.  He is unmatched when it comes to evoking a bucolic charm, and he has a sensitive touch when conveying people (human or otherwise).  This particular tale begins promisingly, but it meanders a bit, and it frequently repeats itself.  Either over-padded or under-edited, it could do with about 15% fewer words.  Three stars so far, but I have a feeling the next half will be better….

Next he’ll be telling Mozart “too many notes”!

(14) SPOCK IN OREGON. As long as we’re revisiting the Sixties, here’s Leonard Nimoy to tell you all about his Star Trek character….

Interview from 1967 conducted by KGW-TV, a news station in Portland, Oregon. This was rediscovered in 2010 in their film archives. Nimoy talks at length about playing Mr. Spock on “Star Trek”, then in its second season.

 

(15) TAKEI IN BOSTON. George Takei is still with us – and in the public eye: “‘Star Trek’ actor George Takei to speak at Boston library” on May 8.

Star Trek” actor George Takei (tuh-KAY’) is scheduled to speak at the Boston Public Library.

Takei on Tuesday is set to discuss his experience during World War II spent in U.S. internment camps for Japanese-Americans.

Takei used his family’s story as the inspiration for the Broadway musical “Allegiance.”

The show tells the narrative of the fictional Kimura family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The cast of the SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of Takei’s musical also will perform during the event at the library’s main branch at Copley (KAHP’-lee) Square.

(16) IT’S DEAD, JIM. Self-conscious about your Latin pronunciation? Let @Botanygeek James Wong put you at ease. Jump on the thread here:

(17) WELL THAT SUCKS. Once more, a story goes viral only to yield a dud: “Egypt says no hidden rooms in King Tut’s tomb after all”.

New radar scans have provided conclusive evidence that there are no hidden rooms inside King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, Egypt’s antiquities ministry said Sunday, bringing a disappointing end to years of excitement over the prospect.

Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said an Italian team conducted extensive studies with ground-penetrating radar that showed the tomb did not contain any hidden, man-made blocking walls as was earlier suspected. Francesco Porcelli of the Polytechnic University of Turin presented the findings at an international conference in Cairo.

“Our work shows in a conclusive manner that there are no hidden chambers, no corridors adjacent to Tutankhamun’s tomb,” Porcelli said, “As you know there was a theory that argued the possible existence of these chambers but unfortunately our work is not supporting this theory.”

(18) BRAIN DEATH. Vice headline: “This Neurologist Found Out What Happens to Our Brains When We Die”.  German neurologists Jens Dreier and Jed Hartings have published a study about what happens to the human brain while dying. It turns out some of the details are remarkably like that discussed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Skin of Evil” during the death of character Tasha Yar.

…if German neurologist Jens Dreier had just binged enough Star Trek: The Next Generation, he could have already known the outcome of his groundbreaking research, which the sci-fi series predicted 30 years ago.

Dreier works at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, one of Germany’s leading university hospitals. In February, the 52-year-old and his colleague, Jed Hartings, published a study that details what happens to our brain at the point of death. It describes how the brain’s neurons transmit electrical signals with full force one last time before they completely die off. Though this phenomenon, popularly known in the medical community as a “brain tsunami”, had previously only been seen in animals, Dreier and Hartings were able to show it in humans as they died. Their work goes on to suggest that in certain circumstances, the process could be stopped entirely, theorising that it could be done if enough oxygen is supplied to the brain before the cells are destroyed.

Soon after their discovery, the two researchers also found out that a 1988 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation shows chief physician Beverly Crusher trying to revive Lieutenant Tasha Yar, while clearly describing the exact processes the neurologists have been trying to understand for years. I spoke to Dreier about their discovery and how it feels to be beaten by a TV show by three decades.

And didn’t Connie Willis’ Passage make use of this premise as well?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, ULTRAGOTHA, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Jay Byrd, Avilyn, Alan Baumler, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]