Pixel Scroll 10/14/19 Two Little Pixel Scrolls, Staring At The Sun, One Had A Filtered Lens, So Then There Was One

(1) BIGGER ON THE INSIDE. Linden A. Lewis advises writers “How to Create a Novel from a Short Story” at the Odyssey Writing Workshop blog.

Step 2: Expand the world based on feedback

Short stories are short because there aren’t a lot of characters to interact with or places to go or things to do; otherwise, they’d be too long. Since long was my goal, I let myself daydream about the world around the spaceship. Who were these warriors? Who were they at war with? What was their culture, and how did it conflict with their enemy’s? Why did this priestess’ religion forbid speech?

I came up with anything—and many things that didn’t make it into even the first draft—to fill out the world. I didn’t limit myself at all. I added more characters and gave existing characters more goals based on more detailed backgrounds. I wrote what I now call the Worldbuilding Bible, a 30-page document of information on science, locations, and the histories of the two societies in humanity’s far future. And when I finally started writing the novel, I had a ton of characters on the board who would be sure to create conflict.

(2) ABOUT THE OTHERWISE AWARD. Keffy R.M. Kehrli explores his complex reaction to the decision to rename the Tiptree Award. Thread starts here.

(3) BOUNDARIES IN COSPLAY. Trae Dorn’s Nerd & Tie post “Dear Congoers of the World: Why Do I Have to Tell You Not to Do Blackface?” mainly focuses on the title issue, but ends with this corollary:

…And look — yes, you can cosplay characters of other races. Most anime characters are asian, and no one’s asking white cosplayers to stop playing those characters. Heck, a white cosplayer can cosplay a black character. The important thing is you just don’t alter your skin color. That’s all you have to do. And if you don’t think you can accurately cosplay a character without doing so, maybe don’t cosplay that character. Or, y’know, just be okay without being perfectly “accurate.” Cosplay exists within a real world context, and maybe you should make sure you think about that context before suiting up.

Is that what I should be getting out of the wider discussion, that if I chose to dress as Black Panther without tinting my skin, everyone should be find with that? I wonder what Filers think.

(4) WE CONTROL THE HORIZONTAL. It’s 1964 and at the end of the first month of the new fall TV season four Outer Limits episodes have aired. Natalie Devitt tells Galactic Journey readers why she’s a little worried about the show: “[October 14, 1964] Back in Session? (The Outer Limits, Season 2, Episodes 1-4)”.

The second season of The Outer Limits is now underway! As someone who is pretty devoted to her favorite shows, I anticipated the return of the science fiction anthology show with excitement. But something seems different. Could it be the result of the departure of producer Joseph Stefano, who contributed his creative vision and a number of scripts? Maybe changes in the show’s budget, time slot or its music? Read on, and tell me if you share my concern.

(5) WORKING. At Plagiarism Today, Jonathan Bailey uses Voyager to illustrate legal and ethical issues: “Copyright in Pop Culture: Star Trek: Voyager”.

…Last week I shared an article about Copyright and Artificial Intelligence looking at the complications that artificial intelligence is bringing to copyright and the challenges we may face when machines, not people, are creating the bulk of our works.

However, as a serious Star Trek fan, I realized that the conversation wouldn’t be complete without an examination of episode 20 of season 7 of Star Trek: Voyager, entitled Author, Author. The episode involves an artificial intelligence writing a creative work and then having to fight to retain control over it as his infringers believe he doesn’t qualify copyright protection.

It’s a rare mix of science fiction, legal wrangling and debates over humanity that could only come from the latter episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. However, as we slide into more and more autonomous artificial intelligence, it may not be long before we have our own story like this one to ponder.

(6) BLOOM OBIT. Critic Harold Bloom died October 14. The New York Times obituary is here — “Harold Bloom, Critic Who Championed Western Canon, Dies at 89”. I mention him primarily because his eye-opening description of how many ways you can trace artists’ influence on one another – the similarities between their works being merely one possibility – had a big impact on Diana Glyer’s first Inklings book.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 14, 1926 — A. A. Milne’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh, was published in the UK.
  • October 14, 1977  — Starship Invasions premiered. Released as Project Genocide in the UK, it starred Robert Vaughn and Christopher Lee.  It scored 39% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • October 14, 2011 The Thing, the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing went into general release in the US. It was a financial and critical flop with rating at  Rotten Tomatoes of 35%.
  • October 14, 2008  — Journey To The Center Of The Earth premiered on home video.  It starred Greg Evigan of TekWar fame and Dedee Pfeiffer. It rated 29% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint from for most of the Sixties. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 73. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born October 14, 1949 Crispin Burnham, 70. And then there are those who just disappear. There’s nothing to show him active after 1998 when the final part of his People of The Monolith was publishedin Cthulhu Cultus #13 . Prior to that, he edited Dark Messenger Reader / Eldritch Tales from 1975 to 1995, and wrote a handful of what I’ll assume is Cthulhuan fiction. No surprisingly, he’s not to be on iBooks or Kindle. 
  • Born October 14, 1953 Richard Christian Matheson, 66. Son of the Richard Matheson that you’re thinking of. A very prolific horror writer, mostly of short stories, he’s also no slouch at script writing as he’s written for Amazing StoriesMasters of HorrorThe Powers of Matthew StarSplatterTales from the CryptKnight Rider (the original series) and The Incredible Hulk. Wiki claims he wrote for Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber but IMDB shows no series or show. Kindles and iBooks have a goodly number of story collections available.
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 66. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes, Shatner was in it. 
  • Born October 14, 1956 Arleen Sorkin, 63. To my ears, still the best Harley Quinn as she voiced her on the Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born October 14, 1956 Martin Millar, 63. Among his accomplishments was the novelization of the Tank Girl film. Apparently it’s even weirder than the film was! He won the World Fantasy Award for best novel with his book Thraxas, and the entire Thraxas series which are released under the name Martin Scott are a lot of not-too-serious pulpish fun. 
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 55. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced Livewire in the DCU animated shows.
  • Born October 14, 1968 Robert C. Cooper, 51. He was an executive producer of all the Stargate series. He also co-created both Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe with Brad Wright. Cooper has written and produced many episodes of Stargate  series as well as directed a number of episodes. I’m really impressed!

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. In coming up wth “Marvel: The 10 Most Important Stan Lee Creations Ever”, CBR.com had a lot to choose from.

8. THE INCREDIBLE HULK

In 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a superhero based more on the classic Universal Horror monster ideals. While someone like The Thing looks like a monster, he still maintained his intelligence and was a true hero. However, Hulk was like a mixture of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf-Man.

As a matter of fact, early versions of The Hulk had him only changing at night like the Wolf-Man. Hulk was a monster that the world feared but someone who was a hero at the end of the day — despite the collateral damage he caused. He was so popular that it was Hulk that gave Marvel one of their earliest live-action TV shows.

(11) HONK IF YOU LOVE GAMING. Adri Joy performs the desirable writer’s magic trick of transmuting time wasted playing video games into an accumulation of valuable research in “WE RANK ‘EM: Villagers from Untitled Goose Game (House House)” at Nerds of a Feather.

Having sunk a significant amount of time into the goose uprising – learning the ways of the village, its routines, and what happens to all the items I’ve been throwing down the well – I have decided, rather than undertaking a review, to resurrect a hallowed Nerds of a Feather institution: the We Rank ‘Em post. I now bring my extensive goose game expertise to bear on the objective ranking of the villagers of goose game, from my omniscient perspective as the objective arbiter of their destinies. This ranking has been cross checked using the most advanced scientific principles available to game character analysts today, and was also compiled while I was hungry and therefore very motivated to put down the most straightforward, no-nonsense reasoning I could so as to get on with the more important business of reheating leftover noodles and maybe making a mug cake. With these factors in mind, I present to you: the definitive ranking of untitled goose game villagers….

(12) POLITICAL CARTOON. When Vietnamese officials saw this scene, they got very animated: “Vietnam pulls Abominable film over South China Sea map”.

Vietnam has banned the new DreamWorks film Abominable from cinemas because of a scene involving a map illustrating China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Abominable, about a Chinese girl who discovers a yeti on her roof, is a joint China-DreamWorks production.

The map shows China’s unilaterally declared “nine-dash line”, which carves out a huge area in the sea that Vietnam lays claim to.

China and Vietnam have been locked in a recent standoff in the region.

The latest dispute started in July when China conducted an energy survey in waters controlled by Vietnam.

(13) SPYING LESSONS. Well isn’t that a surprise. “China’s Study the Great Nation app ‘enables spying via back door'”.

The Chinese Communist Party has gained the ability to spy on more than 100 million citizens via a heavily promoted official app, a report suggests.

Analysis of the Study the Great Nation app found hidden elements that could help monitor use and copy data, said phone security experts Cure 53.

The app gives the government “super-user” access, the security firm said.

The Chinese government denied the app had the monitoring functions listed by the cyber investigators.

Released in February, Study the Great Nation has become the most downloaded free program in China, thanks to persuasive demands by Chinese authorities that citizens download and install it.

The app pushes out official news and images and encourages people to earn points by reading articles, commenting on them and playing quizzes about China and its leader, Xi Jinping.

Use of the app is mandatory among party officials and civil servants and it is tied to wages in some workplaces.

(14) FLYING STEEPLEJACK. “Robotic inspectors developed to fix wind farms”.

Fully autonomous robots that are able to inspect damaged wind farms have been developed by Scots scientists.

Unlike most drones, they don’t require a human operator and could end the need for technicians to abseil down turbines to carry out repairs.

The multi-million pound project is showing how the bots can walk, dive, fly and even think for themselves.

…Aerial drones are already used offshore to inspect hard-to-reach structures.

But this one goes further: it can manoeuvre to attach itself to vertical surfaces and has a robotic arm.

A drone like this could fly to a wind turbine, not just to inspect it but to deploy a sensor or even carry out a repair.

(15) PAPERING THE VAPERS. Pirated Thoughts reports on a battle of the behemoths: “Disney Looks to Extinguish E Cig Named ‘Jedi’”.

The Force is strong in this trademark opposition. Disney is fighting a multi-million dollar tobacco company’s attempt to register the trademark JEDI in association with its line of e-cigarettes.

The word “Jedi” has no other meaning that being associated with the Star Wars franchise as it was coined by George Lucas and the mark first appeared in the 1977 film, Star Wars: A New Hope. Since this time, Lucasfilm has used the mark continuously in its movies, television shows, video games, and on merchandise. Lucasfilm even owns 22 registered ore pending trademarks for the JEDI mark. There can be no doubt but that when you hear the JEDI mark you automatically associate it with the Star Wars franchise.

Godfrey Phillips India Limited is an India-based tobacco company with reported annual revenue of $640 million. That’s a lot of cancer bucks…. 

(16) ASSISTED SPEECH. Well, it’s the Sun, so the dramatic headline obscures the more likely factual claims of the story: “Terminally-ill scientist with motor neurone disease ‘transforms into world’s first full cyborg’”.

  • A laryngectomy has separated Peter’s oesophagus and trachea. The operation prevents the risk of him swallowing and choking on saliva, but removes his voicebox.
  • Though he’ll no longer be able to speak with his biological voice, he’s instead banked his voice on a computer, meaning his new voice will be able to speak emotively – and in other languages if he wants.
  • Scientists have also designed a face avatar, which he can use to show expressions if he loses muscle control.
  • An electric wheelchair enables him to be upright, sitting or laid down.
  • He is fed through a tube and has a catheter and colostomy bag attached so he doesn’t need to eat or use the toilet.

(17) DOGWATCH. Snoopy in Space is coming November 1 to the Apple TV app with an Apple TV+ subscription.

Blast off with Snoopy as he fulfills his dream to become a NASA astronaut. Joined by Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang, Snoopy takes command of the International Space Station and explores the moon and beyond.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/19 We Didn’t Start The File, It Was Always Scrolling Since The Fans Been Squeeing

(1) STAMPEDE ZONE. Fran Wilde, in one of the New York Times’ op-eds from the future, implores “Please, Stop Printing Unicorns”. Tagline: “Bioprinters are not toys, and parents shouldn’t give them to children.”

… Making bioprinting more accessible to the public — especially to children — will be likely to lead to even worse disasters than last Friday’s blockade of the Chicago I-899 skyways off-ramp by a herd of miniature unicorns. Sure, the unicorns (whose origins are unknown) were the size of ducklings, but their appearance caused several accidents and a moral quandary.

These bioprinted unicorns were living creatures with consciousness — as defined by the A.I. Treaty of 2047 — trying to find their way in the world…..

(2) NYRSF STARTS SEASON 29. The New York Review of Books’ readings open their 29th season on September 3 with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick.

Gregory Feeley writes novels and stories, most in some respect science-fictional. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine, and Kentauros, a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth. He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician.

Michael Swanwick writes fantasy and science fiction of all sorts, at lengths ranging from novels to flash fiction. Over the years, he’s picked up a Nebula Award, five Hugos and the World Fantasy Award–and has the pleasant distinction of having lost more of these awards than any other writer. Tor recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.

The event is Tuesday, September 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m.

(3) D&D FILES — THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Kotaku challenges the received wisdom: “Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax”.

Everybody calls Rob Kuntz last, he says. Those who want to know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons start with co-creator Gary Gygax’s kids, one of Gygax’s biographers, or D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. As they’re wrapping things up, they might get around to dialing up Kuntz, a 63-year-old game designer. And once they call him, he tells them the same thing: Everything they know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in his opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong.

“There’s a myth that’s been propagated in the industry,” Kuntz told Kotaku during an interview in February of this year. “If you keep digging into this, you’re going to come up with a story that will enrage people and expose the truth.”

(4) MIND OF THESEUS. In the August 14 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Library of Congress fellow Susan Schneider critiques the arguments of Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk that we should figure out how to download our brains into the clouds to prevent really smart AI machines from taking over our lives.

“Here is a new challenge, derived from a story by the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan.  Imagine that an AI device called ‘a jewel’ is inserted into your brain at birth.  The jewel monitors your brain’s activity in order to learn how to mimic your thoughts and behaviours.  By th time you are an adult, it perfectly simulates your biological brain.

At some point, like other members of society, you grow confident that your brain is just redundant meatware.  So you become a ‘jewel head,’ having your brain surgically removed. The jewel is now in the driver’s seat.

Unlike in Mr Egan’s story, let us assume the jewel works perfectly, So which is you–your brain or your jewel?”

(5) CHAMBERS PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The recent Worldcon in Dublin seems to be prompting some discussion of the literary merit of genre work. Writing in the Irish Times, John Connolly (“The future of sci-fi never looked so bright”) holds up the work of Hugo-winner Becky Chambers as an example of meritorious genre work, writing that:

In a world in which intolerance seems to be implacably on the rise, the fundamental decency at the heart of Chambers’s narratives, her depiction of a post-dystopian humanity attempting to construct a better version of itself while encountering new worlds and species, begins to seem quietly, gently radical.

(6) THE STORY OF A GENERATION. USA Today reports from D23 — “Disney unveils new ‘Rise of Skywalker’ footage, ‘Star Wars’ fans lose it over Rey’s double lightsaber”. The clips start with a walk down memory lane…  

Disney released a new poster depicting the battle, presenting it to all attendees.

Fans can now watch the pinnacle moment of the footage – a cloaked Rey pulls out what appeared to be a red, double lightsaber in battle, similar to the infamous weapon wielded by Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”

The D23 crowd let out an immediate, overpowering cheer at the sight of the weapon’s return and proclaimed the sighting on Twitter.

It caused a disturbance in the Force which was felt well beyond the D23 walls.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • August 26, 1912 Ted Key. Of interest to us is his screenplay for The Cat from Outer Space about an apparent alien feline who has crash-landed here (starring Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan and Harry Morgan), which he followed up with a novelization. He also conceived and created Peabody’s Improbable History for producer Jay Ward’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It would become the Sherman and Peabody Show. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” You can read his full letters here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of It? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 70. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received a solo 2016 Hugo award as best professional editor (long form). 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 69. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 49. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise. It will be released on December 20 of this year.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 39. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) LOOKS LIKE DEATH (EXTREMELY) WARMED OVER. Delish says“Cheetos Is Rumored To Be Bringing Back Its ‘Bag Of Bones’ Snacks For Halloween” in Flamin’ Hot and White Cheddar flavors.

If you haven’t had a chance to try this snack yet, they’re basically Cheetos puffs that are shaped into various parts of a skeleton like the head, ribcage, hands, and bones. This means that besides being as delicious as a classic Cheeto, you can also build spooky skeletons with your food if you can resist scarfing down the whole bag for a while.

.(10) LAUNCHING FROM THE ANTIPODES. Ars Technica invites readers “Behind the scenes at Earth’s most beautiful rocket launch site” – lots of photos.

Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, a red “Remove Before Flight” tag unchecked, or a single Kiwi (be it bird or engineer) out of place: Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 looks like an industry brochure come to life (better in fact). Located at the southern tip of the picturesque Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, LC-1 is currently the only operational Rocket Lab launch site where the Electron vehicle—Rocket Lab’s low-cost small satellite launch vehicle—takes flight.

Rocket Lab just took advantage of the latest window at LC-1 on August 19. But back in December 2018, fellow rocket launch photographer Brady Kenniston had the exclusive opportunity to photograph Rocket Lab’s first NASA mission, ElaNa-19, from this private launch site. This launch was going to be Rocket Lab’s most important mission to date because, as the leader in the small satellite industry, they had an opportunity to show NASA (and the world) what they are made of. If successful, it could lead to future business from other small satellites in need of a ride to space—not to mention, the company would earn the endorsement of NASA Launch Services as an eligible vehicle to fly future NASA small-satellite science payloads.

(11) SO FAR, SO GOOD. Joe Sherry, Adri Joy, and Paul Weimer identify the high points of 2019 in “Blogtable: Best of the Year So Far” at Nerds of a Feather.

Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.

Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…

Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?

(12) FEEDBACK. Heinlein is both an important influence on genre history and in the regard of author Chris Nuttall, who goes deep into Farah Mendlesohn’s book in “Review: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein”. Nuttall ends a substantial discussion by saying —

Heinlein was not fond of critics, not entirely without reason. Even in his day, a good critic could be a wonder – and a bad one a nightmare. But I think he might have liked this book – and, as Heinlein remains popular, we should ask ourselves why. You may not agree with everything in this book, but it will make you think. Mendlesohn treats Heinlein as what he was, a man. Not an angel, or a demon, but a man. An influential man, but a man nonetheless.

(13) SMILE! Guess what this scene made Kevin Standlee think of —  

(Now imagine, what if somebody used X-ray film?)

(14) CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING HEINLEIN BOOK. Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Publishers sent out an update about Phoenix Pick’s Heinlein novel The Pursuit of the Pankera.

…As many of you are aware from my previous emails, this is the parallel text to The Number of the Beast. 
 

It is, effectively, a parallel book about parallel universes.


We had originally attempted to release the book before Christmas, but some production issues have delayed the release to Sprint/Summer of 2020.

These include sorting out some fairly intricate details discussed in the book. For example (for those of you dying to see what it is that we publishers actually do), here are a few internal excerpts between editors working on various aspects of the book:

“The planet-numbering system may be off in certain parts of the story. At the beginning of the story (and in real life) we live on planet Earth. In the course of the story, there is time travel, and that’s where it gets confusing… the story refers to both Earth-One and Earth-Zero. There is a detailed explanation of the numbering system (see pg. 312) wherein “Earth-Zero is so designated because Dr. Jacob Burroughs was born on that planet…”

However, in other parts of the book, Earth-One is referred to as the characters’ home planet.”

OR

“After discussion with Patrick, I’ve settled on the following conventions: x-axis (hyphenated, lowercase, no italics) but axis x (no hyphen, lowercase, italic single letter). In the manuscript, of course, the italic letter would be underlined rather than set italic. The letters tau and teh remain in the Latin alphabet (rather than Greek or Cyrillic) and are lowercase but not set italic. When used with the word “axis” (tau-axis) they are hyphenated.”

These are the little details that keep us Publishers up at night 🙂

But alas, given a book of this magnitude and size (this is a BIG book, over 185,000 words) all this takes time.

Hence the delay.

Mahmud says the ebook will be priced at $9.99 at launch, but they will run a Kickstarter beginning September 4 to help pay for production, which will allow people to buy the ebook for just $7.00. And there will be other rewards available.

(15) THE NEXT BIG THING. Best Fanzine Hugo winner Lady Business tweeted a get-acquainted thread for new followers (starts here) which closes with this appeal –

OMG, what a great idea, nominating business meeting agenda items in Best Related Works! Chris Barkley will be so excited (Best Translated Novel Hugo Category Proposed)! Am I right or am I right?

(16) NOT A GOOD IDEA. Just because Trump doesn’t know this it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t: “Nuclear weapons and hurricanes don’t mix, NOAA advises”.

Using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea, a US scientific agency has said, following reports that President Donald Trump wanted to explore the option.

The Axios news website said Mr Trump had asked several national security officials about the possibility.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the results would be “devastating”.

Mr Trump has denied making the suggestion.

Hurricanes typically affect the US east coast, often causing serious damage.

It’s not the first time the idea has been considered.

Following reports of Mr Trump’s suggestion, the hashtag #ThatsHowTheApocalyseStarted has been trending on Twitter.

What effect would nuking a hurricane have?

Mr Trump asked why the US couldn’t drop a bomb into the eye of the storm to stop it from making landfall, news site Axios said.

The NOAA says that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”.

(17) A VOLCANO SPEAKS. There was smoke on the water. Then this: “Vast ‘pumice raft’ found drifting through Pacific Ocean”. Opinions vary on whether it will reach Australia or break up, and on how likely it is to be helpful — “Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef”:

A vast “raft” of volcanic rocks stretching over 150 sq km (93 sq miles) is drifting through the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

The sea of pumice – the size of 20,000 football fields – was first reported by Australian sailors earlier this month.

Experts say the mass likely came from an underwater volcano near Tonga which erupted around 7 August according to satellite images.

Sailors have been warned to stay clear of the potential hazard.

Pumice is a lightweight, bubble-rich rock that can float in water. It is produced when magma is cooled rapidly.

(18) NOT COKE. “World of Warcraft Classic: Hit game goes back to basics” – BBC has the story.

The hit video game World of Warcraft (WoW) is going back to basics with the launch of WoW Classic this evening.

First released in 2004, the online multi-player game has evolved and changed dramatically over the years.

Many players had asked developer Blizzard Entertainment to revive the original version of the game, known as “classic” or “vanilla” WoW.

While not identical to the original, WoW Classic will replicate a majority of the features from the first game.

World of Warcraft is a fantasy game in which players roam the virtual world, fighting monsters and completing quests.

Blizzard said some players who had been given early access to the classic version – which is released at 23:00 BST on Monday – mistakenly thought some of the original features were errors.

(19) FASTER THAN A PET ROCK. A BBC video shows “Gloucestershire man walks tortoise to the pub every day”. Doesn’t move as slow as you might think…

A Gloucestershire man has started walking Nancy Drew the tortoise to the pub and around town.

Jason Smith says the African sulcata tortoise, which is actually male, needs to burn off energy, as in the wild he would ordinarily be looking for a mate at this time of year.

The creature has become famous around Tewkesbury, with people loving to stop and say hello.

(20) CRASH LANDING. “Natalie Portman rockets toward madness in mind-bending ‘Lucy in the Sky’ trailer” Yahoo! Entertainment cues it up.

Natalie Portman blasts off through the wildest reaches of the universe in the new trailer for Lucy in the Sky.

Legion creator Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut stars the Oscar-winning actress as Lucy Cola, a loose adaptation of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after returning to earth from a length mission to space, began an obsessive affair with a coworker….

[Thanks to Jim Freund, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Errolwi, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Top Elf, PhilRM, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/19 It All Happened At Earthport, Greatest Of Buildings

(1) DRESSING UP. An 11-minute video of cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con.

San Diego Comic Con 2019, at the San Diego Convention Center. In its 50th year it was an hectic and news worthy convention with some really great costumes and creativity, thanks everyone for participating  

(2) DUBLIN 2019 REMINDERS. The Hugo voting deadline is upon us —

Voting will end on 31 July 2019 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 07:59 Irish and British time, all on 1 August)

Also, Dublin 2019 invites members to take the survey — “Consider participating in a research study that is collecting data on Worldcon attendees.”

Want to Help Out Science?

Professor Jennifer Zwahr-Castro is researching Worldcon, and investigating why we attend and what we get out of the experience. She would like to invite all Dublin 2019 attendees to take part in her research by filling out a survey.

(3) THE CHERRY ON THE TOP OF MT. TBR. An email from NESFA Press tells me they are pleased to announce two new ebooks available immediately–

  • Moskowitz, Sam, The Immortal Storm (978-1-61037-334-0)
  • Nielsen Hayden, Teresa, Making Book (978-1-61037-333-3)

(4) CLOSE READING. [Item by rcade.] Catherynne Valente tweeted that in 15 years writing professionally, she doesn’t think she’s ever described the size of a woman’s breasts.

After some internal debate over whether I should, I broke the news to her that she had.

The overall thread has a lot of hilarious stuff in it. It starts here.   

(5) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. Margaret Atwood’s inclusion on the 2019 Book Prize Longlist was reported in yesterday’s Scroll – but here’s the complete list, or ‘Booker Dozen’, as the cognoscenti say.  

This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges: founder and director of Hay Festival Peter Florence (Chair); former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch; and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.  

The 2019 longlist, or ‘Booker Dozen’, of 13 novels, is:

  • Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
  • Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
  • John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
  • Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
  • Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
  • Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

The list was chosen from 151 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019.

(6) BIG BRAINS. Kicking off today in Dublin, a “Theorizing Zombiism Conference”:

The rising academic interest in the zombie as an allegory for cultural and social analysis is spanning disciplines including, humanities, anthropology, economics, and political science. The zombie has been used as a metaphor for economic policy, political administrations, and cultural critique through various theoretical frameworks. The zombie has been examined as a metaphor for capitalism, geopolitics, globalism, neo-liberal markets, and even equating Zombiism to restrictive aspects of academia.

Apparently it is not a joke:  

(7) DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME? NPR asks “Can This Group Of Teen Girls Save The World From Nuclear War?”

On a recent morning, 15 teenage girls and young women reported for duty at an office overlooking the Pentagon. Their mission: Save the world from nuclear war.

“This is where I want you to stop being you,” said Stacie Pettyjohn, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a defense think tank. “You’re going to have to start to role-play.”

Pettyjohn was leading a war-game exercise on North Korea. Typically, military commanders and policymakers use war gaming to test strategies and their likely consequences. But nothing about this game was typical. It was designed by women — RAND’s “Dames of War Games” — for teenagers from Girl Security, a nonprofit that introduces girls to defense issues. The partnership was a first for both groups; it’s among a series of recent efforts to boost women’s participation in national security.

“You have to fight,” Pettyjohn told the teens. “You are the military commanders.”

The scenario Pettyjohn laid out was bleak. U.S. talks with North Korea had collapsed, and deadly tit-for-tat attacks had spiraled into open conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Half the teens would join the blue team, assuming the roles of U.S. and allied South Korean generals. The others went to the red team, playing North Korean leaders determined to stay in power.

 (8) SOMEDAY MY BLUEPRINTS WILL COME. Curbed’s Angela Serratore shares credit with architects of the Eighties and Nineties for corporate Disney’s current world domination: “The magical (postmodern) world of Disney”.

It was 1991 and Michael Eisner was on the brink of changing everything.

After becoming the CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 1984, Eisner, a native New Yorker, set out to turn the old-fashioned Disney brand into one that would speak not just to the present moment but also, crucially, to the future. During his tenure, the company would eventually acquire the television network ABC and the sports behemoth ESPN and produce films that would come to define the Disney Renaissance—The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin, among others.

An amateur architecture and design buff, Eisner also understood that a company like Disney ought to have a real presence—theme parks, of course, but also office buildings, studios, and hotels. What if, his design philosophy seemed to suggest, people could look up at Disney headquarters in Burbank or Orlando and feel the same awe and delight they must’ve felt on Disneyland’s opening day?

(9) DRAWN THAT WAY. A tour of the exhibit led by Lucas Adams: “Worlds Apart: Sci-Fi Visions of Altered Reality” at New York Review of Books.

We all wish we could change the past, at least some of the time. Relationships, elections, conversations: there are countless moments in our lives we’d love the chance to rework, or simply reimagine. Living in an era when we can easily tweak the small (delete a sentence, crop an image) but feel helpless when facing the large (political turmoil, climate change), it’s hard not to fantasize about reworking our histories. 

But this inclination is not new. Attempting to rework the past, at least on paper, has been the outlet of artists and authors for as long as people have been wishing for different endings. “As If: Alternative Histories From Then to Now,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center, presents eighty-four works from 1888 to the present that “offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian on Doctor Who. He appeared in The Ribos Operation episode, The Key to Time season during the Era of the Fourth Doctor, and the Enlightenment story during the Era of the Fifth Doctor. He was also Dr. Meinard in the early Fifties Stranger from Venus (a.k.a. Immediate Disaster and The Venusian). (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1921 Kevin Stoney. He appeared in three serials of the science fiction series Doctor Who over a period of ten years, playing Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan during the time of the First Doctor, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion during the time of the Second Doctor and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen during the time of the Fourth Doctor. Other genre credits include: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Danger Man, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Doomwatch,  The Tomorrow People, Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Quatermass, and Hammer House of Horror. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science Fiction, Fantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at iBooks and Kindle shows a twelve story Wildside Press collection but none of her novels. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course that made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on the Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “ A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 71. I am reasonably sure that I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 46. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed, her second time around. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won aParsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast in 2018, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction-wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider –

(12) FAILURE TO IMAGINATE. “Twitter’s retweet inventor says idea was ‘loaded weapon'” – BBC has the story.

The man who came up with Twitter’s retweet button has likened it to “handing a four-year-old a loaded weapon”, in an interview with BuzzFeed.

Developer Chris Wetherell said no-one at Twitter had anticipated how it would alter the way people used the platform.

…He told BuzzFeed that he thought the retweet button “would elevate voices from under-represented communities”.

Previously people had to manually retweet each other by copying text and typing RT and the name of the tweeter but once the process was automated, retweeting meant popular posts quickly went viral.

While some went viral for good reasons, such as providing information about natural disasters, many others were not so benign.

Gamergate – a harassment campaign against women in the games industry – was one example of how people used the retweet to co-ordinate their attacks, Wetherell told BuzzFeed, describing it as a “creeping horror story”.

“It dawned on me that this was not some small subset of people acting aberrantly. This might be how people behave. And that scared me to death.”

(13) CRASH TEST DUMMIES? BBC wonders “Why is India sending humanoid robots into space?” Me too.

Before humans headed up there, animals were the first living creatures that were sent into space. But India will now become the first nation to fly a spacecraft with only humanoid robots. Science writer Pallava Bagla reports.

The Indian government has sanctioned $1.4bn (£1.1bn) to the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for its first manned space flight by 2022.

…To date – using indigenously made rockets – Russia, the US and China have sent astronauts into space. If India can achieve this, it will become the fourth country to launch humans into space from its own soil.

But, unlike other nations that have carried out human space flights, India will not fly animals into space. Instead, it will fly humanoid robots for a better understanding of what weightlessness and radiation do to the human body during long durations in space.

(14) FLYING TO FEAR. A BBC video details “The Nasa astronauts on a mythical mission to Mars moon”.

Nasa is finding out how people cope with the demands of long space missions at its Human Exploration Research Analog (Hera).

For 45 days a crew of four people live in a habitat which simulates a mission to Phobos, a moon that orbits the planet Mars.

The crew carry out daily maintenance tasks on board, enjoy views of space from the capsule window and keep in contact with mission control via a five minute delay, meaning that a response to a communication takes 10 minutes.

(15) REASONS TO VOTE. Joe Sherry ranks the YA award contenders in “Reading the Hugos: Lodestar” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Generally, it takes a novel that breaks out of the YA spaces and gains visibility in some of the more SFF communities that I engage with (see, Children of Blood and Bone) or has some aspect that catches the attention of those communities (see, Dread Nation) or are beloved by commentators I deeply admire and respect (see, Tess of the Road). Also, I almost said the “wider SFF communities”, but that would not have been correct because YA publishing and readership is absolutely huge and has a significant overlap in science fiction and fantasy that should not be understated.

This is all to say that I was familiar with three of the novels on the ballot, and I was excited to read everything here to see which novels would break out into my list of new favorites. At least one, and let’s find out which….

(16) THIS IDEA COULD CRATER. Looking at both sides of the question:“Hawaii TMT: Desecrating sacred land or finding new frontiers?”

Rifts over a dormant volcano in Hawaii have resurfaced in recent days, pitting the state’s culture and history against its ambitions.

Plans for a powerful new telescope near the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano could bring in hundreds of jobs and boost science and the economy. But some native Hawaiians insist the site is sacred and that the long-planned construction should not go ahead.

Last week, protesters blocked access to the building site on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its underwater base. At least 33 people were arrested, given citations and released.

Hawaii’s governor has issued an “emergency proclamation” that increases powers to break up the blockade but said he wanted to find a “peaceful and satisfactory” solution for both sides.

Here, some of the people at the centre of the debate explain what Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project mean to them.

(17) AUTO-BUY. Adri Joy’s faith in an author is repaid: “Microreview [Book]: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia” at Nerds of a Feather.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an author I’d follow into almost any genre, and that’s a good thing given how varied her career has been so far. From the 80’s nostalgia-heavy Signal to Noise to the romance fantasy of manners The Beautiful Ones, to the criminally underrated sci-fi novella Prime Meridian and even the editorial work she does on The Dark Magazine (a recent addition to my short fiction rounds), Garcia brings talent, nuance and a particular eye for female characters challenging overwhelming imbalances in power over the forces against them. Now, in Gods of Jade and Shadow, Moreno-Garcia brings her talents to a historic fantasy where 1920’s Jazz Age Mexico meets the gods and monsters of Mayan mythology, taking protagonist Casiopea Tun on an unexpected but long-dreamed-of adventure with a deposed Lord of the Underworld….

(18) SPLASH. The flyer from a recent Pixel tried something a lot harder — “Franky Zapata: Flyboard inventor fails in cross-Channel bid”.

A French inventor has failed in his attempt to cross the English Channel on a jet-powered flyboard.

Franky Zapata, a former jet-ski champion, had been hoping to cross from northern France to southern England in just 20 minutes.

But the 40-year-old fell into the water halfway across as he tried to land on a boat to refuel.

He took off from near Calais on Thursday morning and was heading for St Margaret’s Bay in Dover.

Mr Zapata was not injured when he fell and later announced he was planning a second bid to fly across the Channel next week.

(19) FIRE ONE. James Gleick traces the long, fictional effort to infect Earthlings with “Moon Fever” at New York Review of Books.

…The first moon landing was at once a historical inevitability and an improbable fluke. Inevitable because we had already done it so many times in our storytelling and our dreams. Astonishing, even in hindsight, because it required such an unlikely combination of factors and circumstances. “The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth,” remarks Jules Verne in his fantastic tale From the Earth to the Moon (1865). The French fabulist imagined that the pioneers of space would be none other than Les Yankees: “They had no other ambition than to take possession of this new continent of the sky, and to plant upon the summit of its highest elevation the star-spangled banner of the United States of America.”

To get there, Verne proposed a projectile fired from a giant gun. He had probably read Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” (1835), in which a Dutchman journeys to the moon by lighter-than-air balloon and meets the inhabitants, “ugly little people, who none of them uttered a single syllable, or gave themselves the least trouble to render me assistance, but stood, like a parcel of idiots, grinning in a ludicrous manner.” Like Poe, Verne embellished his story with a great deal of plausible science involving computations of the moon’s elliptical orbit, the distances to be traveled at apogee or perigee, the diminishing force of gravitation, and the power of exploding gunpowder….

(20) FACTS AND FIGURES. BBC updates readers on “Climate change: Current warming ‘unparalleled’ in 2,000 years”.

The speed and extent of current global warming exceeds any similar event in the past 2,000 years, researchers say.

They show that famous historic events like the “Little Ice Age” don’t compare with the scale of warming seen over the last century.

The research suggests that the current warming rate is higher than any observed previously.

The scientists say it shows many of the arguments used by climate sceptics are no longer valid.

When scientists have surveyed the climatic history of our world over the past centuries a number of key eras have stood out.

These ranged from the “Roman Warm Period”, which ran from AD 250 to AD 400, and saw unusually warm weather across Europe, to the famed Little Ice Age, which saw temperatures drop for centuries from the 1300s.

The events were seen by some as evidence that the world has warmed and cooled many times over the centuries and that the warming seen in the world since the industrial revolution was part of that pattern and therefore nothing to be alarmed about.

Three new research papers show that argument is on shaky ground.

The science teams reconstructed the climate conditions that existed over the past 2,000 years using 700 proxy records of temperature changes, including tree rings, corals and lake sediments. They determined that none of these climate events occurred on a global scale.

(21) TRAILER PARK. From the novel The Future of Another Timeline, by Annalee Newitz, comes a riot grrl band called Grape Ape. They are lost to our timeline, but you can see them here in all their glory. The Future of Another Timeline comes out from Tor Books on Sept. 24, 2019.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/5/19 We Hold These Pixels To Be Self Scrolling, That All Filers Are Created Equal

(1) TUNING IN. The Doctor may use her time traveling skills to visit your TV set even sooner than the beginning of Season 12. Radio Times speculates that “Doctor Who could air an extra episode before the new series”.

RadioTimes.com understands that a plan is in the works to air a standalone Doctor Who special some time before series 12 hits screens, possibly in a festive slot like this year’s New Year’s Day Special or the Christmas specials that were released every year prior (from 2005 onwards).

However, it’s also possible that the proposed episode will bypass the festive period altogether, airing in a less competitive slot to give the Tardis team their best reintroduction this winter, and avoiding the usual holiday themes favoured by previous Doctor Who specials.

(2) ORDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. Just as French fries are merely a delivery vehicle for ketchup, File 770 exists to publicize where Scott Edelman goes to eat lunch. In Episode 99 of Eating the Fantastic, the meal is served at the Sagebrush Cantina in the company of comics legend Gerry Conway.

Gerry Conway

My first meal of the Nebula Awards weekend was with comics legend Gerry Conway, who I’ve known for at least 48 years, since 1971 — when I was a comics fan of 16, and he was 19, and yet already a comics pro with credits on Phantom StrangerKa-Zar, and Daredevil. Our paths back then crossed in the basement of the Times Square branch of Nathan’s (which, alas, no longer exists) where the late Phil Seuling had organized a standalone dealers room without any convention programming dubbed Nathan’s Con, which was a test run for his future Second Sunday mini-cons.

Gerry and I have a lot of history in those 48 years, including his time as Marvel’s editor-in-chief when I worked in the Bullpen — though his tenure was only six weeks long, two of those weeks my honeymoon — a tenure you’ll hear us talk about during the meal which follows. He’s the creator of The Punisher, Power Girl, and Firestorm, and wrote a lengthy and at one point controversial run on Spider-Man. But he’s also worked on such TV series as MatlockJake and the FatmanHercules: The Legendary JourneysLaw & Order, and many others.

At Gerry’s recommendation, our meal took place at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas, California, where I invite you to take a seat and eavesdrop on our longest conversation in 40 years.

We discussed how the comics business has always been dying and what keeps saving it, why if he were in charge he’d shut down Marvel Comics for six months, what it’s like (and how it’s different) being both the youngest and oldest writer ever to script Spider-Man, the novel mistake he made during his summer at the Clarion Writers Workshop, why he’s lived a life in comics rather than science fiction, what caused Harlan Ellison to write an offensive letter to his mother, the one bad experience he ever had being edited in comics (it had to do with the Justice League), the convoluted way Superman vs. Spider-Man resulted in him writing for TV’s Father Dowling Mysteries, how exasperation caused him to quit his role as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief (while I was out of the Bullpen on my honeymoon), how he’d have been treated if he’d killed off Gwen Stacy in today’s social media world, and much, much more.

(3) TALKING ABOUT A GAMES HUGO. Camestros Felapton starts a thoughtful discussion of Ira Alexandre’s motion in “Looking at the Hugo Game/Interactive Experience proposal”.

…I think accessibility to the works remains one of the biggest obstacles to this category working effectively, although the proposal makes substantial efforts to address this.

My other concern is the multiple vectors against which we’d need to judge works in this category. The proposal gives numerous examples of other game awards but I’m struck by the many ways game awards split their own categories….

(4) KOTLER’S PICKS. Paul Weimer hosts “6 Books with Steve Kotler” at Nerds of a Feather. I’m in the middle of reading the author’s latest —

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

My latest book is Last Tango in Cyberspace. It’s a novel that follows a protagonist named Lion Zorn. He’s an empathy tracker or em-tracker, a new kind of human with a much deeper ability to feel empathy than most. His talent lets him track cultural trends into the future, a form of empathetic prognostication, and a useful skill to certain kind of company. But when Arctic Pharmaceuticals hires him to em-track rumors of a new and extremely potent psychedelic—with potential medical uses—he ends up enmeshed in a world of startup religions, environmental terrorists and overlapping global conspiracies. It’s a thriller about the ramifications of accelerating technology, the evolution of empathy, and the hidden costs of consciousness-expansion. And it’s awesome because, well, it’s just a ton of mind-blowing fun.

(5) GROKKING JAPAN. In The Paris Review, Andrei Codrescu resurrects “The Many Lives of Lafcadio Hearn”, once among the best-known literary figures of his day.

…History is a fairy tale true to its telling. Lafcadio Hearn’s lives are a fairy tale true in various tellings, primarily his own, then those of his correspondents, and with greater uncertainty, those of his biographers. Hearn changed, as if magically, from one person into another, from a Greek islander into a British student, from a penniless London street ragamuffin into a respected American newspaper writer, from a journalist into a novelist, and, most astonishingly, from a stateless Western man into a loyal Japanese citizen. His sheer number of guises make him a creature of legend. Yet this life, as recorded both by himself and by others, grows more mysterious the more one examines it, for it is like the Japanese story of the Buddhist monk Kwashin Koji, in “Impressions of Japan,” who owned a painting so detailed it flowed with life. A samurai chieftain saw it and wanted to buy it, but the monk wouldn’t sell it, so the chieftain had him followed and murdered. But when the painting was brought to the chieftain and unrolled, there was nothing on it; it was blank. Hearn reported this story told to him by a Japanese monk to illustrate some aspect of the Buddhist doctrine of karma, but he might as well have been speaking about himself as Koji: the more “literary” the renderings of the original story, the less fresh and vivid it becomes, until it might literally disappear, like that legendary painting.

(6) VISIONARY. CNN discovers Simon Stålenhag — “Simon Stålenhag’s hauntingly beautiful retro sci-fi art”.

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of mundane scenes from the Swedish countryside and haunting scenarios involving abandoned robots, mysterious machinery and even dinosaurs.

They are the product of his childhood memories — growing up in suburban Stockholm and painting landscapes and wildlife — and his adulthood appreciation for sci-fi.

“I try to make art for my 12-year-old self,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to make stuff that would make my younger self see it and go, ‘I’m not supposed to look at this because it’s for adults, but I really want to anyway.'”

(7) UNSURPRISINGLY, THE IRS RECOGNIZES SATAN. The Burbank Leader generated some clicks with its overview: “The IRS gave nonprofit status to a satanic church. Will all hell break loose?”.

Earlier this year the Internal Revenue Service officially recognized the Satanic Temple as a church, meaning it has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

According to the church’s website, the Satanic Temple’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”

Yet perhaps because the group describes itself as a “nontheistic religious organization” and maintains an openness about taking political stances, the IRS decision has brought some controversy.

According to an article on Rewire.News, a pro-life petition online states, “This egregious decision runs counter to everything America stands for,” and a Catholic commentator argued that without God or a literal Satan, there is no “real religion.”

A letter to the editor from a self-identified atheist began:

I’m fine with the ruling, based on the finding that the Temple’s attributes — unique tenets, regular congregations and religious services — meet the IRS guidelines for a tax-exempt religious organization, i.e., a church. Neither God, gods nor Satan are required to be a “real religion” under these guidelines, contrary to the commentator quoted in this month’s question.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1904 Milburn Stone. Though you no doubt know him as Doc on Gunsmoke, he did have several genre roles including a German Sargent in The Invisible Agent, Captain Vickery in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, Mr. Moore in The Spider Woman Strikes Back and Capt. Roth in Invaders from Mars. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 5, 1929 Katherine Helmond. Among her roles was Mrs Ogre in Time Bandits and Mrs. Ida Lowry in Brazil. Now I’ll bet you can tell her scene in the latter… (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 5, 1941 Garry Kilworth, 78. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? 
  • Born July 5, 1948 Nancy Springer, 71. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos.
  • Born July 5, 1957 Jody Lynn Nye, 62. She’s best known for collaborating with Asprin on the MythAdventures series  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. 
  • Born July 5, 1963 Alma Alexander, 56. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her AbductiCon novel which is is set in a Con and involves both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved. 
  • Born July 5, 1964 Ronald Moore, 55. He‘s best known for his work on various Star Trek series, on the Battlestar Galactica reboot and on the Outlander series.  
  • Born July 5, 1972 Nia Roberts, 47. She appeared in two two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible whichspoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.

(9) GET MAD. If you want to see more of Alfred E. Newman’s gap-toothed smile, Doug Gilford’s MAD Cover Site is the place for you.

Look at every regular issue cover from the comic book days of 1952 to the present day! Issue contents included!

(10) COUNTING FANS AT WORLDCONS. The latest round of Hugo statistics led to a discussion on the SMOFs list about other Worldcon stats, where Rene Walling reminded readers about his compilations, published by James Gunn’s Ad Astra earlier in this decade:

Sweeping statements and generalizations are often made about the membership of early World Science Fiction Conventions (WSFC, or Worldcon) such as “only the same people came back every year” or “the attendance was all male.” Yet rarely is more than anecdotal evidence given to support these statements. The goal of this report is to provide some hard data on the membership of early Worldcons so that such statements can be based on more than anecdotal evidence.

…The number of members listed over the entire 1961-1980 time span totals 33,279 for the WSFC sources, which represents 81.66% of the total from the Long List (40,752). The total number of individual members is 17,136.

(11) IS BEST SERIES WORKING? At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry precedes his discussion of the nominees in “Reading the Hugos: Series” with some meta comments about the category.

This is worth mentioning now because 2019 is the third year of the Best Series category and the second appearance of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series because McGuire has published two additional novels (The Brightest Fell, Night and Silence) as well as some short fiction set in that universe. I wouldn’t be shocked to see McGuire’s InCryptid make a second appearance next year, and I also expect to see The Expanse to have its own second crack at the ballot, though with The Expanse I hope readers wait one more year for the ninth (and final?) volume to be published so that The Expanse can be considered as a completed work.

I’m curious what this says about the long term future and health of the category if we see some of the same series make repeat appearances. Of course, we can (and do) say the same thing about a number of “down the ballot” categories like Fanzine (we do appreciate being on the ballot for the third year in a row!), Semiprozine, and the Editor categories.

(12) IN A BAD PLACE. Steve J. Wright’s review of the finalists has reached “Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” – and there’s one he really doesn’t like.

We have two episodes of The Good Place, and I won’t complain about that either, because this is a popular vote and the show clearly has its fans…. I’m still not among them.  It seems to me that The Good Place is still trying to be several things at once, and is failing at all of them, and since the things it’s trying to be include “funny” and “though-provoking”, the result isn’t good. 

(13) HELICON AWARDS. Richard Paolinelli celebrated the Fourth of July by announcing the ten inaugural winners of the Helicon Awards on his YouTube channel. Sad Puppy Declan Finn won the Best Horror Novel category, which is probably more informative about where these awards are coming from than that Brandon Sanderson and Timothy Zahn also won.  

The 2019 Helicon Awards celebrates the best literary works of 2018 in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Military Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Alternate History, Media Tie-In, Horror and Anthology (SF/F/H).

Throughout the presentation Paolinelli keeps using the pronouns “we” and “our” without shedding very much light on who besides himself is behind these awards. The slides for the winners bear the  logo of his Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild, opened last year with the ambition of rivalling SFWA. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild closed group on Facebook is listed as having 275 members – you can’t see the content without joining, but FB displays a stat that it’s had 6 posts in the last 30 days. The SFFCGuild Twitter account hasn’t been active since February 2018.

Paolinelli’s blog claims sponsorship of the awards, but in the video he says not only won’t winners be receiving a trophy, he hasn’t even designed a certificate for them, though he might do that in a few weeks.

In addition to the 10 Helicon Awards, Paolinelli named “three individual honorees for the Mevil Dewey Innovation Award, Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award and the Frank Herbert Lifetime Achievement Award.”

So far as the first two awards are concerned, it’s likely that what did most to persuade Paolinelli to give them those names was the decision by two organizations this past year to drop the names from existing awards – in Wilder’s case (see Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 item #5), the US Association for Library Service to Children said it was “over racist views and language,” while the American Library Association dropped Dewey (see Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Item #13) citing “a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment.”

(14) A FANNISH ANIMAL. “My Wild Time Living in a House Full of Wombats” is an article at The Daily Beast, where else?

What is a full night’s sleep?! I haven’t had one of those in a long time. I run Sleepy Burrow Wombat Sanctuary in Australia, which is the largest wombat sanctuary in the world. I’m up every three hours to do round-the-clock feedings for the baby wombats that have recently come into our care. Their first nights with us are always the most critical time where their survival is the most at risk. If being up all night is what it takes to pull them through, I will do it. Don’t feel too bad for me though. I wouldn’t trade the life I have for anything in the world. I have a wonderful family I built with the most supportive husband, who is my partner both in life and rescue. I’m a mother to two perfect daughters, a dog, and a house full of the cutest wombats you can imagine. As a family unit we have rescued over 1,300 wombats.

(15) NIGERIAN SFF. Adri Joy makes the book sound pretty interesting, though rates it only 6/10: “Microreview [book]: David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa” at Nerds of a Feather.

That main character, it will not surprise you to hear, is David Mogo, Godhunter. David lives in a version of Lagos which has been subjected to the Falling: a war which has caused thousands of Orisha to rain down on the city and take up residence. A half-god himself, David was abandoned by his mother and raised by a foster-father who also happens to be a wizard, wielding magical talents which David’s divinity keeps him from using in the same way. Instead, when we meet David he’s trying to throw himself into a bounty hunting existence with as much amoral abandon as possible, taking on a job from far more shady wizard Ajala for “roof money” while trying to suppress the sense that he should be acting with slightly more principle.

(16) SPONGING OFF FANS. That’s the allegation, anyway: “SpongeBob SquarePants fan claims Nickelodeon copied art”.

A fan has claimed Nickelodeon used his SpongeBob SquarePants artwork without his permission.

Matt Salvador, 17, says the art was featured in an advert for the show which was aired in June.

His artwork, uploaded online in 2016, is drawn in the style of a background used in a typical episode.

Various YouTube channels have uploaded the video, which the fan says shows the same artwork, but with his signature in the bottom-right corner removed.

(17) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Unlike Facebook or Google — “Why the BBC does not want to store your data”.

BBC audience members could soon be using all the data from their social media and online accounts to fine tune the content they listen to and view.

The BBC is developing a personal data store that analyses information from multiple sources to filter content.

Early prototypes of the BBC Box draw on profiles people have built up on Spotify, Instagram and the BBC iPlayer.

The BBC will not store data for users. Instead, preferences will be kept in the Box so they can be reused.

The project is seen as “disruptive” because individuals will decide what they use their data for themselves.

The Box is part of a larger European project seeking to give people more control over their data.

(18) STILL NOT READY. Let’s face it: “Biased and wrong? Facial recognition tech in the dock”.

Police and security forces around the world are testing out automated facial recognition systems as a way of identifying criminals and terrorists. But how accurate is the technology and how easily could it and the artificial intelligence (AI) it is powered by – become tools of oppression?

Imagine a suspected terrorist setting off on a suicide mission in a densely populated city centre. If he sets off the bomb, hundreds could die or be critically injured.

CCTV scanning faces in the crowd picks him up and automatically compares his features to photos on a database of known terrorists or “persons of interest” to the security services.

The system raises an alarm and rapid deployment anti-terrorist forces are despatched to the scene where they “neutralise” the suspect before he can trigger the explosives. Hundreds of lives are saved. Technology saves the day.

But what if the facial recognition (FR) tech was wrong? It wasn’t a terrorist, just someone unlucky enough to look similar. An innocent life would have been summarily snuffed out because we put too much faith in a fallible system.

What if that innocent person had been you?

This is just one of the ethical dilemmas posed by FR and the artificial intelligence underpinning it.

Training machines to “see” – to recognise and differentiate between objects and faces – is notoriously difficult. Computer vision, as it is sometimes called – not so long ago was struggling to tell the difference between a muffin and a chihuahua – a litmus test of this technology.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/19 Get Your Clicks On Scroll 6-6-6!

(1) DEALING WITH DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS. Chuck Wendig, who doesn’t want people using social media to shove their negative reviews of his work in his face – point taken – goes on to make an unconvincing distinction between customer complaints about his fiction and everything else: “Hi, Definitely Don’t Tag Authors In Your Negative Reviews Of Their Books”.

…You might note also that negative reviews are one of the ways we communicate with creators of products and arbiters of service in order to improve the quality of that product or that service — which is true! If someone at American Airlines shits in my bag, I’m gonna say something on Twitter, and I’m going to say it to American Airlines. If the dishwasher I bought was full of ants, you bet I’m going to tag GE in that biz when I go to Twitter. But books are not dishwashers or airlines. You can’t improve what happened. It’s out there. The book exists. You can’t fix it now. And art isn’t a busted on-switch, or a broken door, or a poopy carryon bag, or an ant-filled dishwasher….

(2) THE PERIPHERALS WHISPERER. Ursula Vernon has many talents – this is another one.

(3) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Simon Strantzas and Kai Ashante Wilson on Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas is the author of five collections of short fiction, including Nothing is Everything (Undertow Publications, 2018), and is editor of the award-winning Aickman’s Heirs and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3. His fiction has appeared in numerous annual best-of anthologies, in venues such as Nightmare, Postscripts, and Cemetery Dance, and has been nominated for both the British Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife in Toronto, Canada.

Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson won the Crawford award for best first novel of 2016, and his works have been shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. Most of his stories are available on Tor.com. His novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey may be ordered from local bookstores or online. Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.

(4) FAT ISSUES IN ENDGAME? Adam-Troy Castro rejects complaints about Thor’s character in Avengers: Endgame. Beware Spoilers.

I am a fat guy. I will likely always be a fat guy.

Fat Thor is not fat-shaming.

Fat Thor is character humor: the man has given up. Tony Stark went in one direction, the Odinson went in another. He’s a binge-drinking, binge-eating, emotionally fragile shell of himself, and while some of the other characters make unkind (and, dammit, funny) remarks, it is his diminishment and not his enlargement that is the source of the humor.

Sure, bloody explain it to me now.

I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Fvck you, I’m a fat guy. I do know, I do understand. I have been mocked for my weight, sometimes viciously. I know it all.

(I haven’t personally encountered these complaints, I can only assume there must be some, else why Castro’s post.)

(5) JUNE SWOON. It’s 1964. the prozine pendulum is swinging, and apparently it’s getting away from Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus: “[May 8, 1964] Rough Patch (June 1964 Galaxy)”.

I think I’ve got a bad case of sibling rivalry.  When Victoria Silverwolf came onto the Journey, she took on the task of reviewing Fantastic, a magazine that was just pulling itself out of the doldrums.  My bailiwick consisted of Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, IF, and Galaxy, which constituted The Best that SF had to offer.

Ah for those halcyon days.  Now Fantastic is showcasing fabulous Leiber, Moorcock, and Le Guin.  Moreover, Vic has added the superlative Worlds of Tomorrow to her beat.  What have I got?  Analog is drab and dry, Avram Davidson has careened F&SF to the ground, IF is inconsistent, and Galaxy…ah, my poor, once beloved Galaxy

(6) TERRAIN TERROR. Laird Barron now writes crime novels set in Alaska.  But he used to be a horror writer, and “In Noir, Geography Is a Character” on CrimeReads, Barron has anecdotes about Michael Shea and the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose.

…A decade ago, bound for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, I stared out the window of a light commercial plane swooping in low over the Central Valley. Low enough I made out details of oak trees covering big hills and the rusty check patterns of the yards of individual homes. Country roads radiated like nerves from a plexus. Cars crawled along those snaking roads through golden dust. The rumpled land subtly descended toward the haze of the Pacific. I realized this was where Michael Shea got his flavor. This “obvious” revelation slapped me in the face.

Michael left us too soon five years later in 2014. His memory looms large in the weird fiction and horror fields as the man who wrote the landmark collection Polyphemus. A deep vein of mystery and noir travels through his work, grounding the fantastical tropes. I’d read him since my latter teens, absorbing the unique cadence of his prose without giving conscious thought to how echoes of the natural world inflected his grimiest urban settings, how the superstructures and sprawl of his version of LA and San Francisco were influenced by the ancient earth they occupy….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

This was a big date in sff history.

May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered.

May 9, 1986 Short Circuit debuted in theatres.

May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element arrived in movie houses.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn was the pen name of Philip Klass. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Ottman Neville. His most famous work, the novella Bettyann, is considered a classic of science fiction by no less than Barry Malzberg. He wrote four novels according to ISFDB over a rather short period of a decade and a number of short story stories over a longer period. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 68. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. 
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 40. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my faves including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) INTERZONE BEGINS. SFFDirect downloads the history of a famed sf magazine from one of the founders: “Early years of Interzone, told by Co-Ed Simon Ounsley”.

In 1981, Eastercon was held in Leeds. Four attendees were David Pringle, Simon Ounsley, Alan Dorey (then chairman of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA)) and Graham James. David Pringle was a co-chairman of the convention and Simon Ounsley was assisting with the finances. The convention made a profit of £1,300, which Simon states was completely unintentional and purely down to cautious budgeting. At Graham James’ suggestion, the committee agreed to use the money to launch an SF magazine. Simon recalls how controversial this decision was at the time, but in any event, the four men teamed up to start a magazine.

At the same time, four friends in London were also trying to get an SF magazine off the ground. They were Malcolm Edwards, who worked for SF publisher Gollancz, and SF critics John Clute, Colin Greenland, and Roz Kaveney. They had asked the BSFA if they would publish the magazine and it had declined. However, Alan made David aware of the London proposal and the two groups got together.

As Simon says, this was an ideal match because the Leeds contingent had the money and the London team had the connections. The name of the magazine was suggested by David. It was an imaginary city in the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch

(11) THE HOST WITH THE MOST. Stephen Colbert helped fans get a head start watching the new biopic: “Stephen Colbert Hosts First ‘Tolkien’ Screening With Cast and Director” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Moviegoers across the country were able to see Tolkien ahead of its release this Friday, along with a Q&A moderated by Lord of the Rings super-fan Stephen Colbert, even if they weren’t at the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey on Tuesday for the first-ever screening of the movie.

The panel, featuring the Fox Searchlight film’s stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins with director Dome Karukoski, was simulcast to select theaters following special screenings. In Montclair, Karukoski revealed what goes into a film like Tolkien, which chronicles the formative years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life as he forms friendships, goes to war and falls in love….

To close out the Q&A, Colbert praised Karukoski’s efforts and Tolkien itself. “Thank you for the film you created. It reminds me of the power of story, and how it can give us hope,” the late-night host said before citing one of Tolkien’s quotes from The Return of the King: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Continued Colbert, “I cried many times watching this film, and I want to thank you for those tears of pain and of those tears of joy and thank you for what you have given me of his [Tolkien’s] life and for your beautiful performances.”

(12) CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE. “Australia’s A$50 note misspells responsibility” – time to get the appertainment flowing Down Under.

Australia’s latest A$50 note comes with a big blunder hidden in the small print – a somewhat embarrassing typo.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) spelled “responsibility” as “responsibilty” on millions of the new yellow notes.

The RBA confirmed the typo on Thursday and said the error would be fixed in future print runs.

But for now, around 46 million of the new notes are in use across the country.

The bills were released late last year and feature Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.

What looks like a lawn in the background of Ms Cowan’s portrait is in fact rows of text – a quotation from her first speech to parliament.

(13) HEAVY METAL. Alas behind a paywall at Nature: “Collapsars  forming black holes as a major source of galaxy’s heavy elements” [PDF file]. Here scientists report simulations that show that collapsar accretion disks (in black hole formation) yield sufficient heavy elements to explain observed abundances in the Universe.

Although these supernovae are rarer than neutronstar mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence. We calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process heavy element content of the Universe.

(14) HE CALLED FOR HIS BOWL. BBC calls “Southend burial site ‘UK’s answer to Tutankhamun'”.

A royal burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed as the UK’s answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003.

Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their “best guess” is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.

It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial.

Now, after 15 years of expert analysis some of the artefacts are returning to Southend on permanent display for the first time.

When a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) excavated the site, they said they were “astounded” to find the burial chamber intact.

(15) STAR BLECCH. Matt Keeley encounters one of the earliest Star Trek parodies while revisiting a Sixties issue of MAD: “Not Just a Classic Issue, MAD #115 (December 1967) Predicted the Future”.

…Mort Drucker’s art is exquisite as always, and DeBartolo’s writing is top notch, loaded with puns and hilarious jokes. (Spook: “That’s what your MIND says! What does your HEART say?” Kook: “Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat — just like everybody else’s!”) But one of the most interesting things about this parody is the way the story wraps up — the solution is for the Boobyprize to reverse orbit and go back in time. You might recognize this plot device from the first Superman movie. Somehow DeBartolo ripped it off, despite “Star Blecch” coming out 11 years before the film.

(16) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MARVEL. Nerds of a Feather panelists Adri Joy, Mike N., Phoebe Wagner, and Vance K assemble for a “Review Roundtable: Avengers: Endgame”.

Today I’ve gathered Brian, Mike, Phoebe and Vance to chat about our Endgame reactions: what made us punch the air in glee and what had us sliding down in our seats in frustration. Needless to say, all the spoilers are ahead and you really shouldn’t be here unless you’ve had a chance to see the movie first.

Adri: So, Endgame! That was fun. Even more fun than I expected after, you know, all the dead people and the feelings about them.

Brian: First impressions are that I thought this was a great conclusion to all of the movies that came before it. The MCU could stop here (it won’t, but it could) and I would be completely satisfied.

Vance: The woman seated next to me — and I’ve never experienced this in a movie theater — started taking deep, centering breaths the moment the lights went down. And I love her for it. Infinity War was a gauntlet for fans, yet she was there opening day for whatever came next, no matter how gutting. Turned out the movie was a lot of fanservice, so she made it through. As did I!

(17) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. (If you see that sign, it won’t lead you to a fabulous new alien, I guarantee!) The LA Times tries to find out — “After hyping a $1-billion Star Wars land, how does Disney get visitors to leave?”

…Once a time window expires, park employees dressed as “Star Wars” characters will politely tell parkgoers that they need to leave the land to make way for new visitors.

Disneyland representatives say they expect that most guests will abide by the courteous directions to move on. But they remain mum about what will happen if guests ignore the requests.

“Four hours is a long time in the land,” said Kris Theiler, vice president of the Disneyland Park. “Most guests are going to find that they’re ready to roll after four hours.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/19 The Task Of Filling Up This Scroll I’d Rather Leave To You

(1) EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Ian Sales’ “Top five science fiction films” is a good post made even more interesting by the choice of John Carter (2012) as one of the five – not a movie many viewers would pick.

I saw someone recently tweet for requests for people’s top five science fiction films and I thought, I can do that. Then it occurred to me I’ve watched around 3000 movies in the past few years, and many of them were science fiction. So those films I think of as my favourites… well, surely I’d seen something that might lead to a new top five? Even if nothing sprung immediately to mind… True, I’m not that big a fan of science fiction cinema, and most of my favourite movies are dramas. And most of the sf films I have seen were commercial tentpole US movies, a genre I like even less…

I went back over my records, and pulled together a rough list of about fifteen films – it seems most of the sf films I’ve seen didn’t impress me very much – and then whittled that down to five. And they were pretty much old favourites. Which sort of rendered the whole exercise a bit pointless.

Or was it?…

(2) FILER SCORES SCALZI Q&A. While John Scalzi was in Hungary for the Budapest International Book Festival, he gave an interview to blogger Bence Pintér:

I will present an English version for my blog in a few days, but until then there is a short video interview at the end of the article, which is in English: “John Scalzi: A szélsojobbos trollok csak jót tettek a science fictionnel”.

(3) HELP ED NAHA. Lots of fans know Ed Naha as the creator and screenwriter for Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and a writer for Starlog, Fangoria and Heavy Metal. He also wrote scripts for the movies Doll, Trolls, and other horror/sf movies.

Paul Sanchez says, “Ed is facing an upcoming major life-threatening surgery. The great American health care system being what it is, it is not nearly enough (Shocking, right?)” So he’s launches a GoFundMe appeal —“Honey, I Shrunk Naha’s Medical Bills!”

In the first two days people have contributed $1,605 toward its $19,998 goal.

(4) ZHAO RETURNS. The author who pulled her book in response to a Twitter uproar now is ready for it to go to press.

The New York Times elaborates: “She Pulled Her Debut Book When Critics Found It Racist. Now She Plans to Publish.”

(5) WHY WAIT? “‘The Twilight Zone’ Renewed for Season 2 at CBS All Access” says The Hollywood Reporter.

CBS All Access and Jordan Peele will spend some more time in another dimension.

The streamer has renewed Peele and Simon Kinberg’s Twilight Zone revival for a second season. The pickup comes five episodes into the anthology’s run; new installments are released each Thursday.

(6) HORROR AT GETTYSBURG. Dann writes: “Via episode 216 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, I learned about a new Con.”

The inaugural Creature Feature Weekend is scheduled to take place Labor Day weekend of 2019. (August 30 to September 1) In Gettysburg, PA. The con will feature the usual vendor’s room, autograph opportunities, nightly ghost/film location tours, and host an independent film festival.

Scheduled guests include Corey Feldman, Patty Mullen, Joe Bob Briggs, Geretta Geretta, Jason Brooks, Brandon Novak, Chalet Lizette Branna, Billy Bryan, David Eisenhauer John Russo, Glenn Ennis, and others.

Thought this might be of interest to fans of the horror corner of the genre pool.

(7) ANTHOLOGY ARCHITECTURE. In “Time Capsule: SF – The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956)”, Nerds of a Feather contributors Adri Joy, Joe Sherry and Paul Weimer use a single work to focus their discussion of editor Judith Merril.

… Today we’re talking about Judith Merril’s first Year’s Best anthology: SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, originally published in 1956….

Paul: I am reminded that rights make it difficult to get many of these older anthologies except in falling-apart paperbacks. I do think there is something lost when these things fall out of print, because the notes make this more, in my view, than just the sum of the stories. There is value in reading this collection above and beyond the individual stories themselves.

On that note, one thing I did like in this anthology that you don’t get in a lot of modern anthologies is the “Sewing together” that Merrill does in providing explicit direction as to what she was thinking in placement of stories on subject and theme. I don’t think that gets enough play these days, and too often, anthologies seem to have stories in any old order without a sense of how they reflect and refract on each other. Merrill WANTS you to know what she is thinking. It’s a more “present” place for an anthologist than what you get these days.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Game are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way, several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; also did editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 64. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia at the Signature Theatre Company. 
  • Born April 29, 1968 Michelle Pfeiffer, 61. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. I saw it once which was quite enough. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?h in The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 49. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film, and Irene in Gattaca.

(9) GAME OF ROT-13. BEWARE SPOILERS for last night’s Game of Thrones episode.The Mary Sue asks “Ubj va gur Jbeyq Pna Nalbar Fnl Neln Fgnex Vf n Znel Fhr?”.

Gvzr sbe zr gb erne zl htyl urnq va guvf pbairefngvba naq fgneg fpernzvat ng crbcyr, orpnhfr gur tebff pbafrafhf nsgre gur yngrfg rcvfbqr bs UOB’f Tnzr bs Guebarf vf gung Neln Fgnex, n jbzna jub qrqvpngrq ure yvsr gb pbzong genvavat, vf abj n Znel Fhr. Nsgre fur raqrq hc qrsrngvat gur Avtug Xvat ol fgnoovat uvz jvgu qentbatynff, zra ner znq gung n jbzna qvq vg vafgrnq bs gurve cerpvbhf Wba Fabj.

(10) QUICK, WATSON. Paul Weimer reviews a Holmes-inspired novel in “Microreview [book]: The Hound of Justice, by Claire O’Dell” at Nerds of a Feather.

By the end of A Study in Honor, the first in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles, the writer had established the parameters of her world, introduced our two main characters in full, Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes. These two queer women of color as posited are indeed this world’s versions of the classic detective duo, in a near future 21st century Washington D.C, where America, after the divisiveness of a Trump administration is wracked by something even worse: A new Civil War. The two meet, and a first step toward Watson engaging with the war-torn past that cost her an arm is the central mystery at the heart of that novel.

In The Hound of Justice (yet a second novel title in homage to Doyle)., Dr. Watson’s story continues…

(11) XENON. “Scientists witness the rarest event in the Universe yet seen” — at SYFY Wire, Phil Plait tells what made it possible.

Over a kilometer below the surface of Italy, deep beneath the Gran Sasso mountain, lies a cylindrical tank. It’s roughly a meter high, a bit less than that wide, and it’s filled with an extraordinary substance: three and a half tons of ultra-pure xenon, kept liquid at a temperature of almost a hundred degrees Celsius below zero.

The tank is part of an experiment called XENON1T, and scientist built it in the hopes of detecting an incredibly rare event: an interaction of a dark matter particle with a xenon nucleus, predicted to occur if dark matter is a very specific kind of particle itself. Should they see such an event, it will nail down what dark matter is, and change the course of astronomy.

Unfortunately, they haven’t seen that yet. But instead, what they have seen is something far, far more rare: the decay of xenon-124 into tellurium-124. The conditions need to be so perfect for this to happen inside the nucleus of a xenon-124 atom that the half-life* for this event is staggeringly rare: It’s 1.8 x 1022 years.

(12) SOURCE OF OLD EARWORMS. NPR’s “From Betty Boop To Popeye, Franz Von Suppé Survives In Cartoons” includes the cartoons mentioned in the headline.

On April 18, 2019, Franz von Suppé was born on 200 years ago in what is now Croatia, but he went to Vienna as a young man and built a successful career as a conductor and composer. And while you may never have heard of von Suppé, if you like movies, cartoons, or video games, odds are you’ve heard his music.

(13) BEFORE THE BREAKTHROUGH. BBC delves into “‘The Wandering Earth’ and China’s sci-fi heritage”.

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi.

The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April.

But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers.

So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention….

(14) PLEASE TO RETURN TO SENDER. “Norway finds ‘Russian spy whale’ off Arctic coast”: BBC has the story.

A beluga whale found off Norway’s coast wearing a special Russian harness was probably trained by the Russian navy, a Norwegian expert says.

Marine biologist Prof Audun Rikardsen said the harness had a GoPro camera holder and a label sourcing it to St Petersburg. A Norwegian fisherman managed to remove it from the whale.

He said a Russian fellow scientist had told him that it was not the sort of kit that Russian scientists would use.

Russia has a naval base in the region.

The tame beluga repeatedly approached Norwegian boats off Ingoya, an Arctic island about 415km (258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based. Belugas are native to Arctic waters.

…A Russian reserve colonel, who has written previously about the military use of marine mammals, shrugged off Norway’s concern about the beluga. But he did not deny that it could have escaped from the Russian navy.

Interviewed by Russian broadcaster Govorit Moskva, Col Viktor Baranets said “if we were using this animal for spying do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘please call this number’?”

(15) WHAT TO WANT. I learned something about Murderbot, and something about the reviewer, Andrea, in “Exit Strategy by Martha Wells” at Little Red Reviewer.

…When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise….

(16) WHERE’S OSHA DURING ALL THIS? It’s James Davis Nicoll’s turn to deconstruct a classic: “On Needless Cruelty in SF: Tom Godwin’s ‘The Cold Equations’”.

Science fiction celebrates all manner of things; one of them is what some people might call “making hard decisions” and other people call “needless cruelty driven by contrived and arbitrary worldbuilding chosen to facilitate facile philosophical positions.” Tomato, tomato.

Few works exemplify this as perfectly as Tom Godwin’s classic tale “The Cold Equations.”…

James has a good time, and doubtless some of you will, too. Teenaged me, on the other hand, considers his feelings mocked….

(17) TURNING UP THE LOST VOLUME. “Christopher Columbus’ son’s universal library is newly rediscovered in this lost tome”.

Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Italian colonizer Christopher Columbus, had an obsession with books. Colón traveled the world to attempt an ambitious dream: to collect and store all of the world’s books in one library. Summaries of the volumes he gathered were distilled in the “Libro de los Epítomes,” or “The Book of Epitomes” — that repository had been lost to history for centuries.

…This was right at the dawn of the era of print, so the number of books was rising exponentially. He realized that the idea of this library was a wonderful one, but of course, it might become unmanageable if he was just collecting the books and not finding a way to organize and distill them. So he paid an army of readers to read every book in the library and to distill it down to a short summary so that all of this knowledge could be put at the disposal of a single person.

It’s this book, the “Libro de los Epítomes,” that is described by his last librarian in a document at the end of Hernando’s life, but then disappears and isn’t really heard of for basically 500 years because it’s been sitting for at least 350 of those years in Scandinavia, where it was unrecognized….

Somehow this reminds me of Forry Ackerman’s answer to the question of whether he’d read all the books in his collection – “Every last word.” By which he meant he’d looked at the last word on the last page of all of them.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/19 Heroic Struggle Of The Little Guys To Finish The Scroll

(1) SCRAMBLED WHO. “Neil Gaiman Shares That There Are Multiple ‘Doctor Who’ Easter Eggs In ‘Good Omens’”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

So, what kind of Easter Eggs might we see appear on the screen? Gaiman chimed in and shared:

“Jack Whitehall plays Newton Pulsifer, and the first time you see him going off to do a job he’s about to be fired from, his tie is actually the fourth Doctor’s scarf — really small, as a tie.

You know he must be an enormous Doctor Who fan, because he only owns one tie”

There’s also a new teaser trailer for the show –

(2) SINGING GEEKS! “Batman! Spider-Man! Marvel! DC! The Geeks are back this Sunday night in NYC!” The Off Broadway production of Geeks! The Musical! opens April 21 at St. Luke’s, 308 W 46th Street in New York. The music is by LASFSian Ruth Judkowitz.

David Bratman reviewed the 2014 production in San Diego.

…The story takes place over several days at a Comic-Con, though it could be any large generic media-oriented SF con – the coincidence of running into somebody and the difficulty of finding them when you’re looking for them plays some role in the plot. It’s the story of three pairs of friends who come to the convention, one set specifically in hopes of selling the avant-garde comic they’re working on, the others to buy collectibles or to attend programming or just to people-watch. They interact, and romantic pairings, both straight and gay, ensue….

The material has been updated for the 2019 production.

(3) TYPECAST ON TWITCH. Half a dozen sff and game writers will launch TypeCast RPG on Twitch this coming April 23. The continuing role-playing game will stream live Tuesday nights from 7-10 MST.

The members of TypeCast RPG will adventure in a world they’ve collaboratively created named Vaeron. Throughout the sessions, the dungeon master and five game players will make use of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rule system to take their characters through a dark and heroic world in which cities have been built on the backs of slumbering eldritch monsters, stone-age dangers lurk in the lands below, and sky-ships plunder both land and air! 

The cast includes: 

  • Dan Wells will serve as the Dungeon Master for the group.
    • Notable Works: I am Not a Serial Killer, the Partials series, the Writing Excuses podcast. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Charlie N. Holmberg will be playing Fleeda, a Stone Age human druid with complicated family problems.
  • Alan Bahr brings forth Seggrwyrd, the gentlest (and biggest) Jotunnblut barbarian you’ve met.
  • Robison Wells is Grummund, a scoundrel sky dwarf pirate you’ll cheer for.
  • Mari Murdock is Grisk, a half-orc rogue torn between profit and faith, and willing to switch allegiances for the right reward.
    • Notable Works: Legend of the Five Rings Contributor, RPG Writing, Whispers of Shadow and Steel. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Brian McClellan is Krustov, the necromancer cleric and atheist (yes, it’s that confusing).
    • Notable Works: The Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, Uncanny Collateral. TwitterFacebookWebsite

After the livestream wraps up, video viewing will be available on YouTube, as well as a podcast intended to launch on Wednesday afternoons. Various bonus content such as interviews, industry discussions for both fiction writing and gaming, and guest stars will be part of the live stream and other formats!

(4) AMAZON WILL PUBLISH SFF COLLECTION. The AP service carried the announcement of a prestigious collection:

Amazon Original Stories, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, announced today the forthcoming six-part science-fiction collection Forward, featuring original short stories from some of today’s most celebrated voices in fiction, including Blake Crouch, N. K. Jemisin, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles, Paul Tremblay, and Andy Weir. Forward will be available for free on September 17 th, 2019 to Prime and Kindle Unlimited customers. Readers can download the collection as a Kindle eBook or Audible audiobook.

Forward explores a central theme: the resounding effects of a pivotal technological moment. While each author started with this same prompt, readers will discover that each story unearths a unique corner of the sci-fi genre, ranging from intimate to epic, grounded to far future, hopeful to harrowing.

 Andy Weir ( Artemis, The Martian ) imagines a high-tech Las Vegas casino heist; Paul Tremblay ( The Cabin at the End of the World ) immerses readers in a patient’s mysteriously slow healing process; Amor Towles ( A Gentleman in Moscow ) explores a fertility clinic’s god-like abilities to alter an unborn child’s life path; Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) spins a story of finding connection in the face of our world’s certain destruction; N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth series) subverts all expectations when an explorer returns to the ravaged Earth his ancestors fled; and Blake Crouch ( Dark Matter) follows a video game designer whose character Maxine unexpectedly “wakes up.”

(5) BLADE. Is this the sword that Claire Ryan’s pen was mightier than? Authors thanked Claire Ryan for her work helping to expose #CopyPasteCris. (A list of 40 plagiarized authors is posted at the link.)

(6) RAISING A WRITER. Stuart Anderson’s Forbes profile “Isaac Asimov: A Family Immigrant Who Changed Science Fiction And The World” starts with a topical hook but is mainly a literary biography.

Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, came to America as a family immigrant. In fact, he came as part of what some people, sometimes those not particularly in favor of immigrants, today call “chain migration.”

(7) NO SURPRISE. You will not be shocked by this BBC news item — “Hellboy: David Harbour remake fails to fire up box office”.

The latest remake of Hellboy has failed to catch fire, mustering a mere $12m (£9m) at the US box office in its opening weekend.

The turnout falls short of Lionsgate’s $20m (£15m) estimated figures.

Directed by Neil Marshall, the film stars Stranger Things’ David Harbour as a demon who switches satanic allegiance to protect humanity from evil.

Based upon Mike Mignola’s graphic novels, tensions reportedly plagued the R-rated superhero production.

Its poor performance with audiences, (underlined by its disappointing C-rating on Cinema Score), was also reflected by critics.

The Chicago Sun-Times described it as “loud and dark – but almost instantly forgettable,” while the Washington Post lamented its “flat performances and incoherent story”.

(8) PICARD. Three additions to the CBS All Access “Picard” series have been announced. Variety: “‘Star Trek’ Jean-Luc Picard Series Adds Three to Cast”.

Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Isa Briones have jumped aboard as series regulars alongside Sir Patrick Stewart in the upcoming untitled “Star Trek” series.

They join previously announced cast members Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora.

…Pill, who is represented by CAA and The Burstein Company, is best known for playing Maggie Jordan on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom.” Treadaway is known for playing Victor Frankenstein on “Penny Dreadful.” He is represented by Principal Entertainment LA. Briones, who recently starred in “American Crime Story: Versace,” is repped by Piper/Kaniecki/Marks Management.

(9) ALIEN  RETURNS TO STAGE. “Date announced for North Bergen High School’s ‘Alien’ encore performance” reports NorthJersey.com.

There will be an encore performance of the stage version of the classic 1979 sci-fi movie, which became a viral sensation when some enterprising North Bergen High School students produced it with eye-popping sets and effects.

On April 26 at 8 p.m., North Bergen will reprise the show, which was staged for only two performances in March. Those performances caused a tsunami of interest when a video posted the weekend of March 23 got some 3 million hits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 77. It’s his Who work that garners him a Birthday honour.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as the actor who was the First Doctor that made him worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 60. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area of interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark which purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.)  Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. 
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 47. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra Natchios and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil.
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 46. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of  Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? 

(11) SOMEONE BLEW THE BUGLE. Do cats really have nine lives, or do they make up the other eight? The question is inspired by the latest installment of Timothy the Talking Cat’s autobiography — “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 3”

Chapter 3: Marine Sergeant Tim

…My first attempt failed as I had mistaken the Post Office for the Marines. In my defence “Royal Mail” and “Royal Marines” look very similar if you are reading a sign from cat height. Further confusion at the Salvation Army ended more violently as I attempted to attack a uniformed man with a trumpet in an attempt to show my martial temperament….

(12) RIGHT THERE IN THE TAX RECORDS. CNN reports: “Shakespeare home in London, where he wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ found by historian”.

…Marsh’s quest began after The Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered in 2008. The historian wondered where Shakespeare was living when his plays were performed there, which predated The Globe as the playwright’s workplace.

It had previously been identified that the Shakespeare lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station, then known as the parish of St. Helens, after he was listed on taxpayer records in 1597/98, but the exact location was never identified….

(13) UNQUOTE. This 1975 letter from Thornton Wilder mentions the Dinosaur from “The Skin of Our Teeth” while illustrating a classic writers’ problem:

Before leaving for Europe (hope you had a lovely time) you sent me a beautiful American Wildlife Calendar. I was enjoying the pictures – the timber wolf, the woodchuck, the bison – and the mottos, Job, Walt Whitman. Dostoievsky, Dante – when I was thunderstruck to see my name-my birthday month, April … subscribed to a howling idiocy: “The best thing about animals is  that they don’t say much.” I never wrote that! I never thought that! I yelled for Isabel and pointed it out to her, the tears rolling down my face. “Isabel! Somebody’s played a cruel joke on me.  WHEN DID I SAY SUCH A THING? Let’s move to Arkansas until the laughter dies down.”
 
      “Don’t you remember that Mr. Antrobus says it in The Skin of Our Teeth when the Dinosaur is whining about the Ice Age.”
       “But l, I didn’t say it.”
       Then I thought of all the damaging things that could be brought up against me from that same play:
The Child Welfare Calendar: “A child is a thing that only a parent can love” Thornton Wilder.
The Anti-War Calendar: “God forgive me but I enjoyed the war; everybody’s at their best in wartime.” Thornton Wilder.

X

No more playwriting for me.

(14) DREAMSNAKE. Adri Joy gives a very fine overview of the book and its influence in “Feminist Futures: Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre” at Nerds of a Feather.

Executive Summary: Snake is a healer in a fractured post-apocalyptic world, travelling through various communities which live out relatively isolated existences in a world which appears to have gone through nuclear war. As you might guess from her name, the title, and almost every book cover Dreamsnake has been released with (except for a 1994 edition which decides to focus on the book’s stripey horse. There’s also… this.) this healing involves snakes: Mist, an albino cobra, and Sand, a rattlesnake, are both bred to synthesise various cures and vaccinations for illnesses, representing a combination of genetic engineering and on-the-spot biochemistry. The third snake is even more special: Grass is a dreamsnake, an extremely rare “offworlder” breed able to create hallucinations and pleasant dreams which are most often used to ease the pain of the dying.

(15) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Spacefaring Kitten bring Nerds of a Feather readers up to speed about the series of which this new Reynolds work is a part: “Microreview [Book]: Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds”.

There’s something in the dying (or at-least-super-old) Earth subgenre that has always resonated with me: a storyworld littered with weird and wondrous leftovers from times so far past that people are not quite sure what to make of them. In those stories, the massive weight of history hangs over the world and makes it alien in a very specific way….

(16) NO SHORTAGE. Charles Payseur uncorks more short fiction reviews in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #275”.

The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!

(17) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. The BBC will supply a soundtrack for the anniversary of the first Moon landing — “The BBC Proms are going to outer space: 2019’s season highlights”.

The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

Alongside classics like Holst’s The Planets, the season will include a Sci-Fi Prom, featuring scores from films such as Gravity and Alien: Covenant.

A CBeebies concert will take children on a journey to the Moon, including a close encounter with The Clangers.

And the season opens in July with a new piece inspired by the first Moon walk.

Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory will be premiered on Friday 19 July, under the baton of Karina Canellakis – the first female conductor to oversee the First Night of the Proms.

Meanwhile, art-rock band Public Service Broadcasting will play their concept album Race For Space in a special late night Prom.

The record, which combines sparse electronic beats with archive audio recordings from the US-Soviet space race, will be presented in a new arrangement with the Multi-Story Orchestra.

(18) DESERVES A TOUNGELASHING. “Star Wars: George Lucas names Jar Jar Binks as his favourite character”. Check the calendar – nope, it’s not April first.

George Lucas’ has revealed that Jar Jar Binks, one of the most reviled characters in the Star Wars saga, is actually his all-time favourite.

The 74-year-old director made the surprise announcement at a fan event marking the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

“[It] is one of my favourite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favourite character,” he said via video.

(19) A.K.A. Maybe George was just creating a distraction to keep us from noticing that “Disney Has Officially Renamed The First Star Wars Movie”. Let Gamebyte explain:

Just when you think you’ve got your life sorted and you know what’s what with the world, Disney has to go and screw with all our heads and rename the original Star Wars movie.

Heading back to 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was our first trip to that galaxy far, far away and made household names of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Jump to 2019 and we’re on the cusp of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX.

We’ve come a long way since A New Hope, but now, the House of Mouse is renaming George Lucas’ epic space opera. The movie is now called Star Wars: A New Hope, fitting with Disney’s current naming of the movies since Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

(20) COMIC RELIEF. Philip Ball’s 2014 post “The Moment of Uncertainty” translated his interview on uncertainty, with Robert Crease, historian and philosopher of science at Stony Brook University. The interview appeared in the French publication La Recherche. Amid the serious scientific stuff is this little joke —

There’s even an entire genre of uncertainty principle jokes. A police officer pulls Heisenberg over and says, “Did you know that you were going 90 miles an hour?” Heisenberg says, “Thanks. Now I’m lost.” 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/5/19 We Can Scroll It For You Wholesale

(1) GAME OF LUNCH. Ethnic cuisine of Westeros? Gothamist tells you how to order it in “Shake Shack Offering ‘Secret’ Game Of Thrones Items For Valyrian Speakers ONLY”.

Below, you’ll find a little guide explaining what you need to say in order to actually purchase these items. It’s more “bend the tongue” than “bend the knee,” but you get the drift

(2) BLOCKING TECHNIQUE. Foz Meadows takes stock of social media as various platforms enter their teenage years: “Cancel Culture: The Internet Eating Itself”.

…I’m tired of cancel culture, just as I was dully tired of everything that preceded it and will doubtless grow tired of everything that comes after it in turn, until our fundamental sense of what the internet is and how it should be managed finally changes. Like it or not, the internet both is and is of the world, and that is too much for any one person to sensibly try and curate at an individual level. Where nothing is moderated for us, everything must be moderated by us; and wherever people form communities, those communities will grow cultures, which will develop rules and customs that spill over into neighbouring communities, both digitally and offline, with mixed and ever-changing results. Cancel culture is particularly tricky in this regard, as the ease with which we block someone online can seldom be replicated offline, which makes it all the more intoxicating a power to wield when possible: we can’t do anything about the awful coworker who rants at us in the breakroom, but by God, we can block every person who reminds us of them on Twitter.

(3) A WARRIOR HANGS UP HIS SHIELD. Fulk Beauxarmes’ protests against the growing influence of white supremacists in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and use of their symbols in its heraldry, inspired me to nominate him for Best Fanwriter. In a new post he decries the continued inaction of the Society’s leadership and also announces that he’s “Leaving the SCA”.

On February 15th a post that Ronan Blackmoor had recently made was brought to my attention. He’d apparently posted to his Facebook page a triumphant announcement that he and Balder had been “completely cleared” of all accusations of wrongdoing and that there would be “consequences” for all the “leftists”, “SJWs” and “SCAntifa” who had brought “fake charges” against him.

…That was the last straw for me….

(4) AIRBNB ISSUE. Do you need to check your reservations?

(5) SURVIVAL REQUIREMENT. James Wallace Harris does a good job of describing the problem and of identifying a solution. If only he sounded more enthusiastic about it! “Subscribe to SF Magazines – Become a Patron of an Art” at Worlds Without End.

…I’ve come to realize that I have to pay if I want certain things in this world to exist, even if I don’t use them.

I subscribe to four SF magazines that I seldom read. I read when I can, or when I see a story recommended, or when a friend tells me about a story. I subscribe because I want them to exist. I subscribe because I want a place for new SF writers to get published. I subscribe because one day if I can ever get back into writing fiction I’ll have a place to submit my stories.

We have to realize that free content on the internet isn’t free. We’ve got to come up with revenue systems that work. I think the internet needs to remain free, so we can always have instant access to content, but we need to find ways to pay publishers who present free content on the web.

(6) THE KISS OF SOMETHING. Chuck Tingle mingles praise and profitmaking in his response to Archive of Our Own’s Hugo nomination.

(7) GHOST OF A MACHINE. In “A Crime Novel for Future Urban Planners” on CrimeReads, Benjamin Samuel interviews Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists, a near future novel in which detective Henry Thompson solves a cyberattack with the aid of OWEN, “an experimental, highly intelligent hologram…who’s developed his own protocol for day drinking.”

Despite being a holographic projection of a supercomputer, OWEN can sometimes feel more human than Henry—or at least OWEN seems to enjoy life a little more. But ultimately, there are limitations to what he can do. What were some of challenges of having an AI character?

OWEN was a lot of fun to write. Since he’s a shape-shifting light projection, he’s essentially a superhero who can’t physically interact with anyone. So anything he wants to accomplish has to come through trickery or convincing Henry to give some life-threatening strategem the old college try. 

(8) FRENCH ADDRESSING. Some authors had fun responding to this idea – Seanan McGuire and John Chu among them – but one took offense (see the thread).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 5, 1900 Spencer Tracy. Yes, he did some genre, to wit he was in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he played Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde! The film even featured Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. (Died 1967.)
  • Born April 5, 1908 Bette Davis. She’s in Burnt Offerings, am Eighties horror film that did well with the audience and not so well with the critics; I also see she’s in Madame Sin which I think is SF given the premise. (Died 1989.)
  • Born April 5, 1909 Albert Broccoli. He’s mostly known as the producer of many of the James Bond films, and his heirs continue to produce new Bond films. With Harry Saltzman, he produced the first eight Bond films including From Russia with Love which is still my favorite Bond film though You Only Live Twice with a screenplay by Roald Dahl comes close. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommend. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him I’ve read the most. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 93. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for what I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996.
  • Born April 5, 1920 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 54. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which was an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense.
  • Born April 5, 1982Hayley Atwell, 37. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire that I’ve flat enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh, and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin.

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman calls on everyone to “bond over bing bread” with Malka Older in Episode 92 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Malka Older

This turns out to be a perfectly timed episode of Eating the Fantastic, though I didn’t plan it that way, and had no idea while recording such would be the case. The reason for my feeling of serendipity is because my guest is Malka Older, author of the novels InfomocracyNull States, and State Tectonics — which comprise the Centenal Cycle — and which just a few days ago was announced as having made the final Hugo Awards ballot in the category of Best Series….

She joined me for lunch at Momofuku CCDC, a restaurant which will be familiar to regular listeners of this podcast, because Rosemary Claire Smith joined me there a little more than two years ago in Episode 32. I try not to be a repeat customer at any of the spots I visit — at least not while recording for the podcast — but a lot has changed since that visit. David Chang installed a new executive chef, Tae Strain, and gave him orders to “destroy” the menu (according to an article in the Washingtonian), which meant ditching the ramen and pork buns for which Momofuku is so famous. But hey, where else am I going to get a chance to try kimchee potato salad?

We discussed why democracy is a radical concept which scares people (and what marriage has to say about the dramatic potential of democracy), the pachinko parlor which helped give birth to her science fictional universe, how what was intended to be a standalone novel turned into a trilogy, her secrets (and role models) when it comes to writing action scenes, which of her characters moves more merchandise, how (and why) editor Carl Engle-Laird helped her add 20,000 words to her first novel, what she learned about herself from the collaborative Serialbox project, the one thing about her background I was embarrassed to admit I’d never realized, and much more.

(11) OVERFLOWING JOY. Alasdair Stuart’s latest issue of Full Lid includes piece on Mac Rogers’ movie The Horror at Gallery Kay, a look at Us, a detailed look at Project Blue Book (Stuart says “Turns out you can take the boy out of ufology but the man keeps watching tv shows about it”) and some Hugos joy.

Project Blue Book was a real thing, the USAF’s probably whitewashed investigation into the UFO phenomena. Doctor J. Allen Hynek was a real person and remains one of the vanishingly small amount of actual scientists to look into UFOlogy as a field and not a snake oil vending machine. His son Joel is a prolific special effects technician who designed the camouflage effect for the Predator by the way. The cases the episodes are based on are real too, the first two episodes dealing with the Gorman (renamed Fuller) Dogfight and the The Flatwoods Monster. In the first, a pilot engaged a UFO in something approximating combat. In the second, a family were first terrified by what they were sure was a downed UFO and second by the enraged townsfolk who refused to believe them.

(12) FUTURE PLAY. “Books that would make great video games” were considered by Quirk Books. First on their list –

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

This sci-fi novel features space battles, espionage, and cute talking robots. Obviously, we see this book being turned into a space opera-esque RPG ala Mass Effect, with a touch of shoot ‘em style space battles. Think Galaga but with interdimensional space politics and dueling. 10/10 would play for days.

(13) MORE APRIL FOOLISHNESS. Space.com finds this joke had multiple layers — “Behind the Scent: Lockheed Martin Bottles Astronaut’s Smell of Space”.

Lockheed Martin’s April Fools’ Day joke passed the smell test.

The aerospace company on Monday (April 1) kicked off its prank by announcing a launch, but rather than it being of a rocket or a spacecraft, it was Vector, “the first ever fragrance to capture the aroma of space.” And no sooner did the liftoff occur, than thousands of people came to Lockheed Martin’s website to request a sample.

One might expect that to be the gag, but the company went a step further, not only creating a spot-on ad for the bottled essence of space, but also producing the scent for real, as in actual vials of the unisex (if not also universal) eau de (zero-g) toilette

(14) MONETIZING. “Rare Harry Potter first edition with typos sells for $90,074” – UPI has the news.

Auction house Bonhams said the first-edition copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone — known in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — attracted a high bid of $90,074.

The specific edition is famed in the Potter fandom for containing a handful of typos, including misspelling the word “Philosopher” and the repetition of “1 wand” on the list of items the boy wizard needs to obtain for school.

Think of all the rare typos I make here – I wonder how much Bonhams could get for my blog?

(15) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. SHAZAM! Never Takes Off” for Leonard Maltin.

Shazam! wants to be slick and smartassy except when it suddenly chooses to be warm and sincere—like a TV commercial for some medication or life insurance. You can’t have it both ways but this film repeatedly tries to do so. I’ve always loved the character who originated as Captain Marvel in 1940s comic books (and lost that name to Marvel in a famous lawsuit). He was essentially a rip-off of Superman but he had his own style and flavor. This movie, however, is a muddle.

(16) SLAG HEAPER. Vox Day sneers at this year’s Hugo-nominated novels in “From pulp to Puppies” [Internet Archive link] at Vox Popoli.

Total nonentities. All six of these novels together won’t sell as many copies as a single Galaxy’s Edge novel. Novik would have been considered a C-level talent at best in the 1980s. And people could be forgiven for thinking that the Rabid Puppies were still dictating the nominees with titles such as “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” on the short list.

(17) FURTHER VIEWS. Ian Mond remarked on Facebook:

Congrats to all the Hugo nominees. I won’t whinge that the best novel category doesn’t, for the most part, reflect my tastes. Nor will I set up a movement of like minded people to ensure it does so in the future….

Jonathan Strahan responded in a comment:

For about 20 seconds I considered trying to put together an Alternate Hugos Best Novel list, and then I realised (1) there are a lot of those and (2) you can’t have an Alternate Hugo list really. These are the books that fans who nominated *liked* the most. That’s fine and pretty cool.

(18) WHERE IS IT? Adri Joy begins this review with many questions: “Microreview [Book]: Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman” at Nerds of a Feather.

I thought I knew what to expect, going in to Terra Nullius. I’d seen the book recommended on speculative sites, I’d read enough about it to know that its take on colonisation and extermination of indigineous people was almost but not quite based on the experience of Australia’s indigenous communities following the British invasion in 1788. And yet, by a hundred pages in, I was starting to doubt what everyone and everything (including the book’s own blurb) was telling me. Was I missing clues to a larger mystery? Were there adjectives that I was misreading or apparently historical references that I was misinterpreting? Where, to be blunt, was all the science fiction?

Of course, if you’re paying attention, that’s an intentional feature of Claire G. Coleman’s brilliant debut novel, which offers a perspective on the invasion of Australia which is very much a speculative novel, and yet still inexctricably and uncomfortably intertwined with the real historical treatment of Aboriginal Australians over centuries of white rule. Coleman herself is Noongar, a community from the south coast of what is now Western Australia, and Terra Nullius is the product of a black&write! indigenous writers fellowship. Despite being a first novel, this is a book that’s utterly confident both in its content and its narrative structure, and for very good reason….

(19) CHICXULUB SNAPSHOT. Douglas Preston tells about the discovery of fossils laid down on “The Day the Dinosaurs Died”.

He began shovelling off the layers of soil above where he’d found the fish. This “overburden” is typically material that was deposited long after the specimen lived; there’s little in it to interest a paleontologist, and it is usually discarded. But as soon as DePalma started digging he noticed grayish-white specks in the layers which looked like grains of sand but which, under a hand lens, proved to be tiny spheres and elongated ­droplets. “I think, Holy shit, these look like microtektites!” DePalma recalled. Micro­tektites are the blobs of glass that form when molten rock is blasted into the air by an asteroid impact and falls back to Earth in a solidifying drizzle. The site appeared to contain micro­tektites by the million.

As DePalma carefully excavated the upper layers, he began uncovering an extraordinary array of fossils, exceedingly delicate but marvellously well preserved. “There’s amazing plant material in there, all interlaced and interlocked,” he recalled. “There are logjams of wood, fish pressed against cypress-­tree root bundles, tree trunks smeared with amber.” Most fossils end up being squashed flat by the pressure of the overlying stone, but here everything was three-dimensional, including the fish, having been encased in sediment all at once, which acted as a support. “You see skin, you see dorsal fins literally sticking straight up in the sediments, species new to science,” he said. As he dug, the momentousness of what he had come across slowly dawned on him. If the site was what he hoped, he had made the most important paleontological discovery of the new century.

(20) HIGH LIFE REVIEW. NPR’s Andrew Lapin concluded: “In The Art-House Sci-Fi Film ‘High Life,’ No Aliens — Just Alienation”.

The spaceship hurtling away from Earth is staffed with men and women sprung from death row to aid in a mysterious science experiment. The once-condemned crew believe they’ve been given a chance to redeem themselves and do one final good deed for humanity. Only later, as their signals to Earth begin to go unanswered and their true mission comes into focus, do they realize they have in fact been condemned twice.

High Life is strange and wondrous, less a traditional sci-fi film than it is a seductive journey into the long, black night of death. For many Americans it will also be a wormhole into the work of French director Claire Denis, who’s been active in cinephile circles for three decades but has never before helmed a movie entirely in English. Of course, having the hipness cred of A24 and Robert Pattinson providing the rocket fuel doesn’t hurt.

A prologue that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarkovsky film shows Pattinson’s human guinea pig Monte in the aftermath of something horrible, wandering alone on the deck of this rocket to nowhere, with only a mysterious baby keeping him company. It’s a great hook — what the hell happened here? — shot at Denis’ familiar meandering pace, proving that even lightspeed won’t rush her story. It’s also a mission statement. As he hurtles toward oblivion, Monte’s acts of paternal care exist in a kind of vacuum. Maybe life and love are possible within a universe of infinite cruelty, and it’s up to the individual to determine their worth.

(21) ON TRACK. When they write the book it should be titled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Moby Dick“Fossil of ancient four-legged whale found in Peru”.

The fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet and hooves has been discovered in Peru.

Palaeontologists believe the marine mammal’s four-metre-long (13 ft) body was adapted to swim and walk on land.

With four limbs capable of carrying its weight and a powerful tail, the semi-aquatic whale has been compared to an otter or a beaver.

Researchers believe the discovery could shed light on the evolution of the whale and how it spread.

“This is the most complete specimen ever found for a four-legged whale outside of India and Pakistan,” Dr Olivier Lambert, a scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and co-author of the study, said.

(22) SJWCS ARE JUST IGNORING YOU. NPR reports: “Cats Don’t Fetch, But Know Their Names As Well As Dogs, Researchers Say”.

Call a dog by his name, and his tail wags, he starts panting happily, and he showers you with love and affection.

Call a cat by his name, and… well, cats are a bit harder to read. Does the cat even know what his name is?

So researchers in Japan set out to answer the question: Can a cat understand the difference between its name and any other random word that sounds like it?

Research on cats is slim compared to research on dogs. That may be because cats can’t be bothered to participate in the experiments. But in a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, the Japanese researchers devised a way to get results whether or not the cats cared to cooperate.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/5/19 Surely You Know, Philately Will Get You Nowhere

(1) THE DEATH OF TRUTH. Brianna Wu is one of the featured victims in The Guardian’s article “Trapped in a hoax: survivors of conspiracy theories speak out “.

Conspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Gone are the days of outlandish theories about Roswell’s UFOs, the “hoax” moon landings or grassy knolls. Instead, today’s iterations have morphed into political weapons. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.

…Their growing reach and scale is astonishing. A University of Chicago study estimated in 2014 that half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory. When they repeated the survey last November, the proportion had risen to 61%. The startling finding was echoed by a recent study from the University of Cambridge that found 60% of Britons are wedded to a false narrative.

The segment on Brianna Wu begins:

An accurate floor plan of her house was assembled and published online, along with her address and pictures of her car and license plate. And then there were the death threats – up to 300 by her estimate. One message on Twitter threatened to cut off her husband’s “tiny Asian penis”. The couple evacuated their house and took refuge with friends and in hotels.

Wu now devotes her time to running for Congress from her home in Dedham, Massachusetts. She sees her candidacy as a way of pressing federal authorities to take the problem of online conspiracy theories and harassment seriously. “The FBI employs about 30,000 agents in the US. As best as I can tell there’s no division that is specifically tasked with prosecuting extreme threats online – it’s simply not a priority for them,” she says.

(2) SPACE ADVOCACY. On March 4 representatives of The Planetary Society visited Congressional offices in Washington: “100 Planetary Society Members. 25 States. 1 Day of Action.”

Yesterday, 100 passionate Planetary Society members joined us on Capitol Hill for our Day of Action. They discussed the importance of space science and exploration with their congressional representatives and advocated for NASA’s continued growth. It was a huge success!

Through their efforts, we reached more than 127 congressional offices in 25 different states. We are grateful for the passion and dedication of these members.

(3) A LOT TO LIVE UP TO. Shana O’Neil declares “Captain Marvel meets some of the highest expectations yet for a Marvel movie” in a review for The Verge.

…After all of that, Captain Marvel is in the unenviable position of having to introduce a new character to the MCU, lay out her origin story, tie her in with the current MCU timeline, create backstories for several previously established characters, and set up even more significant elements for Avengers: Endgame. But Captain Marvel mostly bears the weight of those expectations. It rises to the occasion with strong performances and with its directors’ willingness to slow down and take their story seriously, balancing humor, action, and exposition in a carefully calibrated package.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is initially introduced as Vers, a Starforce Agent for the alien Kree race. Vers isn’t a character from the original Captain Marvel comics, but Marvel readers may recognize her fellow Starforce members: Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou, Guardians of the Galaxy), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan, Crazy Rich Asians), Bron-Char (Rune Temte, The Last Kingdom), Att-Lass (Algenis Pérez Soto, Sugar), and their leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Vers has powerful Kree abilities: super strength, physical endurance, and the ability to shoot blasts of energy from her fingertips. But she can’t remember how she got those powers, or what her life was like before the Kree found her and brought her to their homeworld of Hala.

(4) BAKER’S DOZEN. Sarah Mangiola posted this last year at The Portalist — “13 Must-Read Hugo Award-Winning Books”. Some of these are short story collections where the title story was the Hugo winner.

Ill Met in Lankhmar and Ship of Shadows

By Fritz Leiber

The 1971 Hugo Award winner for Best Novella, “Ill Met in Lankhmar” recounts the meeting and teaming up of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser—serving as a prequel of sorts to Leiber’s The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser book series. Featured alongside four other stories in Swords and Deviltry, “Ill Met in Lankhmar” starts when Gray Mouser and Fafhrd simultaneously ambush the Thieves’ Guild and steal valuable jewels that they themselves had just stolen. Realizing they make a good team, Gray Mouser and Fafhrd join forces and attempt to infiltrate the headquarters of the Thieves’ Guild. 

(5) CREATURE CREATOR. In “The Big Idea: Mallory O’Meara” at Whatever, O’Meara explains the origins of her book The Lady from the Black Lagoon:

…This book started out simply as a biography of Milicent Patrick, an influential artist whose legacy has been purposely obfuscated for decades. She was an illustrator, a concept artist, one of the first female animators at Disney and the designer of the iconic monster from the 1954 science fiction film CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

The press and attention that Milicent got as the designer of the Creature was the pinnacle of her career. It also caused her downfall. Her boss at the time was so jealous of her being in the limelight with the Creature that he fired her. Milicent never worked behind the scenes in Hollywood again and no one knew what became of her.

While I was researching and investigating her life, it became clear to me that I couldn’t write about what happened to Milicent Patrick without writing about why it happened to her. It’s easy to hear a sad story about a woman dealing with sexism in the 1950s and think, “Man, what a bummer. That’s just how things were back then!”

But it wasn’t just how things were back then. What happened to Milicent Patrick is still happening. It’s happening right now….

(6) LITIGIOUS LOUT. The Sydney Morning Herald invites you to “Meet Nick Rodwell, Tintin heir and least popular man in Belgium”.

It all started when a circle of Tintin fans in the Netherlands, de Herge Genooschap, ran a few strips in their internal newsletter. They were dragged to court, facing a penalty of up to €100,000 ($154,000).

They are only the latest party to have fallen foul of Nick Rodwell, self-proclaimed “the least popular man in Belgium”.

Mr Rodwell is the British-born manager of Moulinsart, the company that holds the rights to the Herge estate. Students, scholars, admirers and collectors alike have been harshly prosecuted at the faintest sign of a Tintin drawing, with Moulinsart demanding arrests, confiscations and colossal sums out of all proportion with the alleged offences.

(7) OGDEN OBIT. Fanzine fan Steve Ogden died March 1. Rick Bradford paid tribute at the Poopsheet Foundation:

My friend, longtime fan, author, fanzine publisher and comics researcher Steven Ogden died on March 1st, 2019 after a lengthy battle with leukemia and everything that goes along with its treatment.

Steve – along with his wife, Vicki – published fanzines and mini-comics through Spotted Zebra Press/New Spotted Zebra Press since the ’80s (or perhaps slightly earlier). Publications included Ouroborus, the mammoth Brad W. Foster Checklist of Published Works from the 20th Century (1972-2000), Edgar’s Journal, Metaphysical Pornographic Funnies and many others. He was also a longtime member of FAPA (The Fantasy Amateur Press Association).

His wife Vicki asks that instead of flowers donations be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

March 5, 1944Captain America premiered theatrically in theaters as a serial.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 5, 1874 Henry Travers. Only two genre roles to my knowledge, he appeared in The Invisible Man as Dr. Cranley and he was in Death Takes a Holiday as Baron Cesarea. (Died 1965.)
  • Born March 5, 1894 Henry Daniell. His most famous role is SF film was as a Morgana in From the Earth to the Moon. He has more obscure roles over the decades in films such as playing William Easter in Sherlock Holmes in Washington or Dr. Wolfe ‘Toddy’ MacFarlane in The Body Snatcher where he’d have been upstaged by it being the last film of both Karloff and Lugosi. (Died 1963.)
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell, 83. I remember him best as Admiral Al Calavicci, the hologram that advised Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap. Other genre roles included being in The Dunwich Horror as Wilbur Whateley, in The Time Guardian as simply Boss, Doctor Wellington Yueh In Dune, a role I had completely forgotten, and voiced Tim Drake in the excellent  Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Series work beyond Quantum Leap includes Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsMission: Impossible, Night GalleryQuinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected (pay attention class, this has showed up before), Star Trek: EnterpriseBattlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1. 
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick, 77. It’s worth noting that he’s has been nominated for 37 Hugo Awards which is a record for writers and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are Stalking the UnicornThe Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger), Stalking the Dragon and, yes, it’s not genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof.
  • Born March 5, 1952 Robin Hobb, 67. Whose full legal name is the lovely Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden hence her two pen names. I reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack. 
  • Born March 5, 1955 Penn Jillette, 64. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. Also he had a recurring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Drell, the head of the Witches’ Council. He’s been in Fantasia 2000Toy StoryFuturama: Into the Wild Green YonderSharknado 3: Oh Hell No!Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanVR.5Space Ghost Coast to Coast and most recently Black Mirror. 
  • Born March 5, 1975 Jolene Blalock, 44. Best known for playing  T’Pol on  Enterprise.  Genre wise, she’s also been in Jason and the Argonauts as Medea, Stargate SG-1 as Ishta, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder as Captain Lola Beck and as the Legend of the Seeker as Sister Nicci.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not only authors who want to GET PAID, so do devices — Bizarro.
  • Garfield is about a fellow who will never have a Mount TBR.

(10) IN CHARACTER. SYFY Wire shares the fun when “J.K. Simmons revives J. Jonah Jameson in Spidey-hating Avengers: Endgame spoof”.

… How would Simmons’ Jameson react to the dusty ending of Avengers: Infinity War? How would he potentially act, if he was to survive, during Avengers: Endgame? Would he finally cut Spider-Man some slack? Would the web-slinger finally earn his respect? 

Thanks to a new spoof made by Lights, Camera, Pod, we don’t have to just sit and wonder. J.K. Simmons himself returned to voice Jameson for this animated video, and, well, see for yourself: 

(11) A CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONSE. Greg Hullender tells how Rocket Stack Rank weathered a storm of public criticism two years ago in this comment at Mad Genius Club. (For background, see “Rocket Stack Rank Issues Apology, Hullender Off Locus Panel”.)

…The way they managed to get us was that we had promised that RSR would be politics-free: focused on the stories alone. But I had been using my reviews to express my annoyance with the use of “non-binary ‘they’” in stories and making it fairly clear I didn’t take the whole non-binary thing seriously. As a long-standing member of the LGBT community, I certainly have the right to voice my opinion of the non-binary movement (although it quickly became clear that I was very out-of-date and should have at least talked to a few non-binary people), but RSR was not the place to have that discussion. Worse, the first my husband (and co-editor) learned of this was when our enemies produced a horrendous “open letter” that was a mix of half-truths and outrageous lies but supported with links to my own reviews. He was, understandably, rather upset with me.

Most embarrassing was that Locus asked me to withdraw from the panel that selects their annual recommended reading list, and issued a press release about it.

We recognized that our enemies wouldn’t be satisfied by anything we did. “If we committed suicide, they’d just say we did it wrong.” So we apologized to our readers for what we genuinely believed I had done wrong, and I went through the old reviews and comments and carefully removed everything that we agreed shouldn’t be there, based on our own principles. They made fun of our apology, of course, but we didn’t care; we didn’t do it for them.

Then we waited to see what happened. We agreed that if volume to the site fell in half, we’d shut it down and find something else to do. It had been a miserable, humiliating experience, and it’s not like we make any money from Rocket Stack Rank. (We brag that we change no fees, run no ads, use no affiliate codes, and never beg for donations.) We think of it as our gift to fandom, and if fans didn’t want it, we wouldn’t keep doing it.

But, volume increased.

During the hullabaloo, volume more than doubled (by all measures) for about a month, based on year-on-year comparisons. But the next few months showed that we kept 20% of that. If we lost any readers, they were more than made up for by the ones who learned about us through this thing. (Maybe it really is true that all publicity is good publicity.) Year-on-year growth has continued, and we’re now actually bigger than some of the semiprozines that Locus reports on (although nowhere near the size of the ones we actually review).

(12) HAGER WINS AGAIN. Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award for 2019 goes to Mandy Hager for life-time achievement and a distinguished contribution to New Zealand’s literature for young people. Her Singing Home the Whale, about a teenaged boy who befriends a baby orca, won the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards’  Margaret Mahy Book of the Year (see a review here.) Her near-future dystopia The Nature of Ash won the 2013 LIANZA YA Fiction Award (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa).

(13) CONTENT WARNING FOR THIS ITEM. Polygon says a “Steam game about raping women will test Valve’s hands-off approach”.

Valve did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on the game’s website, the developer seems aware that its creation is controversial.

“You can’t reasonable [sic] consider banning rape in fiction without banning murder and torture,” the developer says.

“Most people can separate fiction from reality pretty well, and those that can’t shouldn’t be playing video games,” the developer continues.

Technically, Rape Day does not appear to violate Steam’s current content rules, but the developer appears unsure if the game will make it to the final release without getting banned off the platform. Already, the game has been modified to avoid potential content issues — in one news update, the creator says they got rid of a “baby killing scene” in case it gets marked as child exploitation. Rape Day’s website also lists out a couple of plans of action for what may happen to the game, and the developer, should anything get taken down.

“I have not broken any rules, so I don’t see how my game could get banned unless Steam changes their policies,” the developer wrote. “My game was properly marked as adult and with a thorough description of all of the potentially offensive content before the coming soon page went live on Steam.”

(14) DISPLACED. At The Verge, Andrew Liptak says “Famous Men Who Never Lived is a powerful novel about alternate worlds and the plights of refugees”.

In K. Chess’ debut novel, Famous Men Who Never Lived, at some point in the past, reality diverged, and an alternate timeline played out alongside our own. Then, that world was devastated by a nuclear attack, and extradimensional refugees started showing up in our own reality. As Chess follows the lives of refugees from that alternate world, she delivers a story about immigration and how those who lose everything they’ve ever known are able to cope with their new reality.

(15) SERIAL BOX. Adri Joy finds you can’t improve on four aces: “Microreview [Book]: The Vela, by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, Rivers Solomon and S.L. Huang” at Nerds of a Feather.

Serial Box’s new space opera is an action-packed, politically-driven adventure written by an impressive author lineup.

…Together, they take on a space opera that touches on the strengths of all four of these works, while being something very different. Welcome to the system home to Khayyam, Gan-de and Hypatia, where the careless extraction of hydrogen by wealthy inner planets is causing the slow collapse of the sun and the death, over centuries, of all inhabitable worlds – beginning, of course, with the blameless, impoverished outer worlds. Mix in a hardened soldier-for-hire who is herself an escapee from the dying worlds, and her naive non-binary sidekick, and you’ve got an indisputable recipe for success, right?

(16) JUDGMENT RENDERED. Brian Hubbard, in “Microreview [book]: JUDGES Volume 1 by Michael Carroll, Charles J. Eskew, and George Mann” at Nerds of a Feather, wishes the authors didn’t assume the readers already have a lot of knowledge about this series.

How does the world get from the police we know today to Judge Dredd? JUDGES Volume 1 brings us closer to the answer with a trio of short stories set in the Judge Dredd universe. It doesn’t quite reach the bombast of that source material though.

…But if you’re not familiar with the Judges program or the Judge Dredd world, these stories aren’t going to do you a lot of favors in the way of building this world.

(17) IN ONE VOLUME. Rob Bedford assesses “BINTI: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor” at SFFWorld.

To say that the saga of Binti is a modern masterwork is obvious.  Despite the tragedy throughout the series, the physical tragedies, the emotional baggage Binti brought with her when we first met her to the profound affect those physical tragedies had on Binti, one thing was even more clear. Hope. This is very much a forward-thinking series with a charmingly brilliant and empathetic protagonist. Okorafor impressively packs these short novels/novellas with an incredible amount of emotion, fantastical ideas, and philosophical ideals in and of themselves. That the trilogy (plus short story) is under 400 pages and is so powerful is a marvel of storytelling.

(18) THE VERDICT. Camestros Felapton wrote individual reviews of the six 2018 Nebula Awards short story nominees, and now deals with how they work collectively on the literary award’s ballot: “Nebula Shorts: Summing Up”.

I’d contend that there are three clearly exceptional short stories in the Nebula short story finalists. There is a fourth I can see an argument for, there is another that I don’t get but others clearly did and there’s a sixth which, while having many positive qualities, probably shouldn’t be a finalist.

(19) MANY MONSTERS. Ultraman is coming to Netflix (like everything else!)

Years ago, the famous giant of light Ultraman worked to protect peace on Earth. Now, a new champion arises: Shinjiro Hayata, a high-school student who must don the Ultra Suit and the worries that come with it. The son of the former Ultraman, he will become this generation’s new hero! Netflix Original Anime Ultraman starts streaming worldwide April 1st, only on Netflix.

(20) GENRE PLAT. Matthew Johnson left another masterwork in comments today:

All books can be SFnal books, though recent books are bolder
You never know when Dick and Jane might meet with a Beholder
The correct double entrendre
Can make anything genre
You can give a ray gun to Atticus Finch
Let Lennie and George cast a spell in a pinch.

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