Pixel Scroll 8/6/20 The Scroll With The Twisted Pixel

(1) SHARKE SIGHTING.  Nina Allan has been doing an interesting series of posts on both Hugo nominees and Clarke Award nominees; she wrote one on all of the Hugo-nominated novellas, for example. Her most recent is on Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. “Weird Wednesdays #9/Clarke Award #3: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley”.

…What a ride, what a charge. Kameron Hurley was last shortlisted for the Clarke Award back in 2014, for her debut novel God’s War. I enjoyed and admired God’s War, but had fallen somewhat out of touch with Hurley’s work since, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her latest within the context of the Clarke. What a delight it is to see a writer fulfilling her potential. What I loved most about God’s War and the short fiction from Hurley that I’d read in the interim was its densely textured language, and The Light Brigade is immediately, thrillingly identifiable as by the same hand. Time (and increasing fame) has done nothing to slow or flatten the vividness and immediacy of Hurley’s approach, nor compromise its intelligence or conceptual ambition.

… Although The Light Brigade works perfectly well as a standalone novel – you don’t need to have read any of Hurley’s other work or even any science fiction to get on board – it is important to note the many and clever ways in which it is directly in conversation with older works of SF. …

(2) SUBSCRIBE TO ASTROLABE. Aidan Moher will launch a new newsletter— Astrolabe — on Friday

Aidan Moher

Astrolabe covers all the stuff I love—from science fiction and fantasy, to retro gaming, parenting, and personal news about my work. It’s about talking my stuff and professional news, but also building a community of readers, and sharing the love by highlighting and sharing all the other great work and books I come across.

Why wait? Here’s the link to subscribe.

Aidan Moher, who won a Best Fanzine Hugo in 2014 for A Dribble of Ink, which really was a beautiful publication, has gone on to author  “On the Phone with Goblins” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” and write for KotakuVentureBeatEGMUncanny MagazineCast of WondersBarnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy BlogTor.com, and various other places. 

But Aidan has not forgotten my teasing from back in 2014. He ended his email:

I see your absolute glee that I’m starting a issue-based fanzine, Mike Glyer. I SEE YOU.

(3) NUMBER NINTH, NUMBER NINTH. NPR’s Jason Sheehan warns us that “Whatever You’re Expecting, ‘Harrow The Ninth’ Is Not That Kind Of Book”.

You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it’s okay. You don’t have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.

This is not that kind of book

You know how sometimes people say, It’s like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.

This is not that kind of book.

Last year, Tamsyn Muir absolutely owned the lesbian-necromancers-in-space genre. She created a crumbly, dusty, deeply haunted and wonderfully goopy horror-universe with Gideon the Ninth, peopled it with creepy, sepulchral wizards, dipped it all in the reverential tones of quasi-Catholic religious fanaticism, wrote it like a science-fantasy parlor romance full of murder and then gave it to us, still warm and dripping, like a cat bringing home a particularly juicy mouse.

…I loved Gideon. Loved everything about it. It was just so much of a book — so strange, so full, so lush, so double-bats*** crazy and so unerringly cool — that I didn’t think anything could top it.

And Harrow the Ninth, second in the series, doesn’t.

Because it is not that kind of book.

Gideon was the perfect surrogate through which to experience Muir’s creation — a brash, foul-mouthed, anarchic guide who was just as wonderstruck as we were by the gory weirdness happening at every other breath, but never so serious about it that any piece of the story felt logy with funereal detail.

Harrow, though? Harrow is all black crepe and rosaries. She’s that one goth girl from high school gone full dark supernova with her sacramental face paint and unfathomable necromantic powers. A bone witch (and don’t think Muir doesn’t have some fun with that), she can construct a skeleton from a chip of tibia and have it tear your arms and legs clean off. She vacillates wildly between breathless (though exceptionally prudish) teenage passion for a corpse (that would take pages to explain), fervent prayer and drear musings on death — her own and everyone else’s. At one point, she carefully (and explosively) poisons someone with a soup made from her own bone marrow and it’s passed off like, Oh, that’s just Harry, exploding one of God’s own hit men at the dinner table, the kooky kid!

(4) FAN PIPES UP. Speaking of Tamsyn Muir, she did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit yesterday: “I’m Tamsyn Muir, author of HARROW THE NINTH, second book of the Locked Tomb trilogy. AMA!”

[Question] … I have been telling all my friends that Alecto the Ninth is going to be a heist novel. Can you please confirm this, and if so, also confirm that there will be many heart crimes. Thank you for writing these books, they are fantastic….

tazmuir

AMA Author Tamsyn Muir

I had to go back and look to see if I’d ever mentioned that I wanted a heist in Alecto, because otherwise you are 1. psychic or 2. hiding in my drywall — there IS actually a heist in Alecto. It’s not the world’s greatest heist, and is undertaken by idiots, but there’s a heist. If you’re in my house, can you tell me if turning off the boiler at night has helped the pipes? I assume you’re between the walls.

(5) OPENING A FRESH DECK. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “With ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks,’ A Venerable Franchise Loosens Up”.

The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the ’70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark. As a piece of cultural furniture, Star Trek’s ubiquity, driven by multiple television series, movies, books, games, comics and fan-fiction, means its tropes have entered the collective consciousness, and have thus become easy to recognize — and to make fun of.

Why, one could even construct an entire, very-good movie just by riffing on Trek (1999’s Galaxy Quest), as well as an entire, not-very-good television series (FOX’s mystifying The Orville).

The difference between all these previous efforts and the one represented by Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering Thursday August 6th on CBS All Access, is a simple one:

This time, the comm signal is coming from inside the house.

True, the franchise has poked the gentlest of fun at itself, over the years — a throwaway line here, a winking reference to previous Trek series there. But Star Trek: Lower Decks is an official Trek property, its yuks are both nerdily meta and rigorously in-canon, and they go — more broadly than boldly, it must be said — where no Trek has gone before.

The premise is such stuff as comedy sketches are made on: Starships are huge, and staffed by hundreds of officers and crew members, so why does every Trek story need to revolve around the bridge, and the same 7 or so characters? Why not focus instead on the grunts doing the tedious, everyday work?

Creator/showrunner Mike McMahan made his bones on the animated series Drawn Together and Rick and Morty — shows whose darker, more cutting humorous sensibilities would seem to clash with Trek’s traditional commitment to ennobling, optimistic uplift. But that disconnect turns out to work for the new series, in most respects. For the nerds, in-jokes and easter eggs abound, testifying to the creators’ fondness for the source material, while viewers who don’t know a nacelle from a Jeffries Tube will likely appreciate the show’s sheer joke-density — and the fact that, as an animated series, it comes outfitted with an unlimited special effects budget.

That’s important, because despite its bright, broad, cartoony look, the planets of Lower Decks can appear legitimately otherworldly, instead of all looking like the Vasquez Rocks outside of Santa Clarita, California. Alien races can look alien — obviating previous series’ need to, as one wag (me) once put it, “Grab a dayplayer, slap a hunk of spirit gum between their eyebrows, paint ’em Prussian blue and shove ’em in front of the camera”.

(6) I WRITE THE WORDS. NPR reveals how “A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance”.

Alan Menken composed the song “Prince Ali,” memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist’s hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.

“His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time,” says Menken. “But Howard’s [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there’s something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he’s extremely vital — even now.”

Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist, is coming to streaming August 7 on Disney+. It also shows the friendship between Ashman and Menken, who met in New York City in the 1970s, where Ashman was the artistic director of a black box theater, the WPA, near Union Square. Menken had been working as an accompanist for singers and writing songs for Sesame Street, and they immediately gelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together they wrote the musicals Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and the unlikely hit, Little Shop of Horrors — a monster mash parody of American musical comedies, which won several Drama Desk Awards and was adapted into a film in 1986 – before going on to work for Disney.

The documentary tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It’s told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover’s treasure trove….

(7) ABOUT ASIMOV. In the comments on LitHub’s article “What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man?”, posted in May, former SFWA President Marta Randall told about the time Isaac Asimov assaulted her:

“In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”

I have to take exception to this. In the mid-1980s I was serving my first term as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the first woman to hold that office, and attended the Boskone convention, as did Dr. Asimov. He showed up in the organization’s suite and I thought it proper to introduce myself, so at a suitable break in the conversation, I held out my hand for a shake and tried to say, “Dr. Asimov, I’m Marta Randall, the president of SFWA.” I didn’t make it to the second syllable of his title before he grabbed my hand, jerked me to him, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. We were in a suite run by our professional organization, but apparently it never occurred to him that his actions might be inappropriate. Luckily a number of members who knew me pried him off of me before I tried to deck him.

We met again years later, when I was protected by carrying a baby on my back. He was perfectly cordial, but never apologized, if he even remembered the assault.

The man was a pig.

(8) VIRTUAL OXONMOOT. The UK’s Tolkien Society will hold “Oxonmoot Online” from September 18-20. Full details at the link.

…Clearly Oxonmoot Online will be a very different event from a normal Oxonmoot, but our aim is to bring you a busy and engaging weekend of Tolkien related activities. In addition, the online nature of the event offers new opportunities for international members who are normally unable to travel to Oxford to take part….

…Thanks to the actions of Ar-Pharazôn at the end of the Second Age, we find ourselves living on a round world – which means we have to deal with the complexities of time zones. To make the event as accessible as possible to as many of our members as we can, the “core” time for the keynote events and larger activities will be 18:00-22:00 UK time.

Outside these hours, we will run an engaging programme of talks, papers, activities and social gatherings – the exact timing of which will depend on the offers we get from you, our members. We intend to record talks and papers so that delegates can watch the presentations which are delivered at a time which is difficult in their time zone…

(9) THE GOAL IS MONEY. Trailer for the Korean sff movie Space Sweepers. “Are lots of trash worth a fortune?”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 6, 1955 Science Fiction Theater’s “The Stones Began to Move” first aired. Starring Truman Bradley, Basil Rathbone, and Jean Willie, a discovery inside the just-opened tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh may hold a clue as to the construction of the pyramids, but a murder is committed to keep that secret from being revealed. You can watch it here,

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 6, 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  (His name was Alfred Tennyson; he was later made 1st Baron Tennyson.)  Poet whose engagement with quest and fantasy point us to him (“To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” – speaking of which, don’t neglect the highly strange Frank Belknap Long story “To Follow Knowledge”, 1942).  See “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, Idylls of the King (the Matter of Arthur).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series  He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle has just the latter. (Died 1947.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born August 6, 1917 – Barbara Cooney.  Author and illustrator of a hundred children’s books, some fantastic.  Two Caldecott Medals.  National Book Award.  Here is a picture that might simply be entitled “Fantasy”.  Here is a cover for Snow White and Rose Red.  Here is Where Have You Been?  Here is “The Owl and the Pussycat” (note the runcible spoon).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 – Judith Bemis, 65.  Co-chair (with husband Tony Parker), Tropicon 8-9.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Parker), Concave 16.  Treasurer of MagiCon (50th Worldcon), Noreascon 4 (62nd).  Active getting fanzines into FANAC.org database. [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 –Eva Whitley, 65.  Chaired Paracon 1, Disclaves 26 & 34.  Widow of Jack Chalker; says  ”Possibly the only person in fandom to meet spouse by making him GoH (Paracon 1)”.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 17 (with Chalker) & 21, Norwescon XXII (with Chalker).  Active in WSFA (Washington [D.C.] SF Ass’n) and BSFS (Baltimore SF Ass’n).  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 58. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles were as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1969 – Álvaro Enrigue, 51.  Novel Sudden Death for us, Herralde Prize.  Six novels, three collections of shorter stories and one of essays.  Mortiz Prize.  Carlos Fuentes said E’s novel Perpendicular Lives “belongs to Max Planck’s quantum universe rather than the relativistic universe of Albert Einstein, a world of co-existing fields … whose particles are created or destroyed in the same act.”  Translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German.  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, 48.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories, translated into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Spanish.  Interviewed in Electric VelocipedeIntergalactic Medicine ShowInterzoneLightspeedLocusNY Review of SFSF Research Ass’n Review.  First novel The Windup Girl won Hugo, Nebula, Campbell (as it then was) Memorial, Compton Crook, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Ignotus, Laßwitz, Prix Planète, Seiun; also a Printz, a Sturgeon, another Seiun.  Toastmaster at MileHiCon 42; Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 33, Capclave 2014.  Williamson Lectureship, 2014.  [CE and I found two different dates for his birthday; since he’s done and won much, we decided to let both notes stand – JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Truer cartoon words were never spoken — Ziggy.

(13) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project is “Tomorrow Is Another Daze,” a story of Aztlán, creative reuse, and making technology work for you by Ernest Hogan (an Arizona-based writer, often called the father of Chicanx science fiction).

Lalo was in the middle of making Huevos Rancheros Microöndas when the doorbell rattled. The microwave buzzed less than a second after. Yet another quarantine for yet another virus was going on, so he wasn’t eager to answer the door. For all he knew it could be a terminal case, long past the early stages that are said to be similar to what they used to call future shock: the disorientation and hallucinations, the convulsions, foaming at the mouth, about to drop dead on his porch under the decorations his wife insisted on putting up, requiring the services of a hazmat team….

On Monday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they will have another virtual event on Zoom, with Ernest and scholar, author, and editor Frederick Luis Aldama. Register at the link.

(14) EAR TO THE GROUND. Michelle Nijhuis, in “Buzz Buzz Buzz” at New York Review of Books, discusses four recent works about human responsibilities towards animals.

…The scholarly emphasis on negative rights, along with the work of animal-rights and animal-welfare activists, has arguably improved the treatment of domesticated animals in North America and Europe. Public opposition to animal cruelty is now widespread, and recent laws and policies have banned animal blood sports. The insights of advocates such as Temple Grandin have helped us imagine how other species experience the world, and begin to curb some of the most brutal factory-farming practices.

None of these advances, however, has changed our fundamental relationship with animals—which is hardly sustainable, ethically or otherwise. In Slime, when one of the translators finally succeeds in communicating with a bump-nosed parrotfish from the Pacific Ocean, the message is stark, delivered in dramatic terms: “Youare helping Slime to kill us You You You Land Monsters!!! Why? Stop? Why? Change your swimming! Change your swimming! Change your swimming!!!!” Were Slime written today, it might include a line from a pangolin or a bat, warning that our heedless exploitation of animals carries deadly risks for all.

… That animals are in this sense political actors is an underrecognized and, to my mind, potentially powerful point of convergence between the animal-rights and ecological-protection movements: both traditions hold that animals have needs and wants that humans are more than capable of understanding, and should attend to.

(15) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AMONG THEM ENGLISH. James Davis Nicoll was pleased to get some egoboo from the letters to the editors in the August 4 Sydney Morning Herald:

Hold the phonics

Each of your “o’s”, Kevin Harris, represents different sounds because of the consonants in each word that have individual phonetic sounds; always have and always will (Letters, August 5). Otherwise, we’d all be speaking French, where half the letters aren’t ever pronounced. John Kingsmill, Fairlight

Thirty years ago, one James Nicoll observed that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”. With that has come disparate rules of pronunciation, to the annoyance of Kevin Harris’ five-year-old and countless others. For English, basic phonics works for about 40 per cent of words, enough to make it a useful tool. For the rest, plenty of guided reading will make up most of the deficit. Richard Murnane, Hornsby

(16) SURPRISE! – NOT. “Hollywood censors films to appease China, report suggests” – BBC has details.

Hollywood bosses have been censoring films to placate the film market in China, a report has suggested.

The lengthy report says US film companies want to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market.

It said casting, content, dialogue and plotlines were increasingly being tailored to appease censors in Beijing.

The report, compiled by the free speech charity PEN America, claimed China was therefore influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.

China holds the world’s second largest box office market behind the US.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6bn (£2bn) in China last year, with Disney’s Avengers finale, Endgame, making $614m (£466m).

PEN is a non-profit organisation that campaigns on free speech and it sponsors the Pinter Prize for literature.

The report said that Marvel’s 2016 superhero film Dr Strange whitewashed a major Tibetan character for fear of jeopardising the title’s chances of success in China.

The forthcoming Top Gun sequel, Maverick, was also criticised for the “mysterious disappearance of the Taiwanese flag” in a 2019 trailer.

“Our biggest concern is that Hollywood is increasingly normalising pre-emptive self-censorship in anticipation of what the Beijing censor is looking for,” said James Tager, author of the report.

(17) HEISENBIRDS. “Attaching Small Weights To Pigeons Helps Them Shoot Up In The Social Hierarchy”NPR transcript:

Scientists found that attaching small weights to pigeons causes them to shoot up in the social hierarchy. The finding is important because scientists often attach trackers to pigeons.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It turns out there is a social hierarchy among pigeons, and it definitely pays to be the big bird on campus.

STEVE PORTUGAL: Being top of the dominance hierarchy basically gives you preferential access to everything. It means you get priority access to food, priority access to mates.

SHAPIRO: That’s Steve Portugal, a zoologist and biologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. And contrary to what you may have heard about the early bird getting the worm, in the case of pigeons, it is heavier birds that get all the perks.

VANEK SMITH: So Portugal and his colleagues wondered what would happen if you made lighter pigeons feel heavier. If you beefed them up, would they punch above their weight?

SHAPIRO: They tested their theory in a captive flock of homing pigeons. They identified the birds in the bottom half of the hierarchy and loaded them up with tiny weights – little bird backpacks, actually.

PORTUGAL: And sure enough, when I did that, they became much more aggressive, started much more fights and won many more fights as well.

(18) EVRYBODY MUST BE STONE. ScreenRant luckily didn’t run out of fingers while counting the cast: “All 9 Star Trek Actors In Gargoyles The Animated Series”.

A number of Star Trek actors lent their voices to the animated series Gargoyles. The show followed the adventures of gargoyles, nocturnal creatures who turned into stone during the day. After being transported from their home in Scotland to New York City, the clan were awoken from their 1000-year-long magical slumber and took on the responsibility of protecting the city. The children’s series originally ran from 1994 until 1997, but has been finding new audiences thanks to Disney+.

… Like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis was a main character on both Star Trek: TNG as well as GargoylesSirtis played Deanna Troi, the empathetic, chocolate-loving counsellor onboard the USS-Enterprise. Troi is half-Betazoid, which grants her empath abilities — which often came in handy in dealings with other alien races. Also like Frakes, Sirtis played a villainous role on Gargoyles: her character Demona despised humans, and is possibly the most dangerous of all remaining gargoyles. She aligned herself with David Xanatos, and was largely responsible for him resurrecting the Wyvern clan, whom she had hoped would join her on her quest for vengeance.

(19) BEEB TRIVIA. Nicholas Whyte told the SMOFs list where they could see this Hugo-related feat:

The UK quiz show University Challenge had three questions about the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form last night, all correctly answered by the team from Strathclyde University – which, as it happens, is in Glasgow.

[Thanks to PhilRM, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Peer Sylvester, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, verified, blue check Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/20 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel

(1) TALK AMONG YOURSELVES. N.K. Jemisin has some great news. This is as much of it as she can share.

(2) BEST OF THE FIRST HALF. Grimdark Magazine presents its list of “Best Sff Books Of 2020 So Far: Picked By The GDM Team”. Includes –

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

(PICKED BY MIKE MYERS)

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

(3) BEATTS UPDATE. Sponsors of Borderlands Books are among those who have signed “An Open Letter to the Borderlands Books Ownership, Staff, and Community” calling for Alan Beatts to give up ownership of the store.

We, the undersigned, have been sponsors and supporters of Borderlands Books. Alan Beatts asked for community support to keep his business operational; in exchange, we expect him to be accountable to that community.

In light of the accusations that Alan has committed acts of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, we are withdrawing our sponsorship and support for Borderlands Books. We believe the survivors. We want to support them and any others Alan has harmed, whether or not they publicly come forward.

We cannot support Borderlands while Alan might use his position as owner to do and conceal harm. We demand that he relinquish ownership of the store and divest financially from it….

(4) SFF WINS CHINESE AWARD. Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang, whose story “The Language Sheath” has been awarded the 2019 Annual Award by Shanghai Writers’ Association. The English version, published by Clarkesworld, is here.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel encounters Kit Reed:

Dry witted and lethally incisive, Kit Reed (1932 – 2017), was prolific in a variety of genres: speculative fiction, literary fiction, and (as Kit Craig) psychological thrillers. Selecting a particular work out of all the short SFF Reed published over her long career must have been challenging. Nevertheless, editor Marcus assures us 

“To Lift a Ship” is my favorite story from this era, and I think you’ll like it, too.

Did my Young People, in fact, enjoy it?

(6) ONE OF THE BIGGER IDEAS. “The Big Idea: Madeline Ashby” at Whatever begins:

“It’s a rape revenge story? Is that what you said?”

It was October of 2016. It was a rainy morning in London just days from Halloween, and I was mind-shatteringly jetlagged, getting ready to give a talk at MozFest, the festival put on each year by the Mozilla Foundation. I was answering questions put to me by a fact-checker from the Wall Street Journal, after Margaret Atwood said they should talk to me about robots, science fiction, and the future. The interviewer had asked about my series of novels called The Machine Dynasty, which started with a little book called vN. This was how Margaret and I met — we did an appearance together with Corey Redekop at the Kingston WritersFest back home in Canada. She had gently steered the interview in the way only she can, and said, “Now, Madeline, having read your book, I must ask: how old were you when you first saw The Wizard of Oz?”

Oh, I thought. She gets it. Of course she does. She’s Margaret Fucking Atwood.

This was my life in 2016. In a week or two, the world would fall apart. So would I. In both cases, it happened slowly, but faster than you might think. In both cases, it started years earlier. Collapse is not a binary state; damage occurs on a spectrum of possible repair. You might not recognize it, at first. You may not yet have the words with which to describe it….

(7) OTHER SNOW WHITES. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scholar about “Snow White and the darkness within us”.

Maria Tatar collects versions of the tale from around the world and explains how they give us a way to think about what we prefer not to

Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released as the first feature-length animated film in 1937, and decades later, the musical fantasy based on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale about the complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship is still a cultural touchstone. The story has virtually eclipsed every version of the many told the world over about beautiful girls and their older rivals, often a cruel biological mother or stepmother, but sometimes an aunt or a mother-in-law. In her new book, “The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters,” Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Folklore and Mythology and Germanic Languages and Literatures and a senior fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows, collected tales from a variety of nations, including Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Armenia, and India. She spoke to the Gazette about her lifelong fascination with the saga and how we can look to fairy tales to navigate uncertain times.

GAZETTE: Why did you decide to take up the Snow White story?

TATAR: While working on my previous book with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., “The Annotated African American Folktales,” I came across a South African story called “The Unnatural Mother and the Girl with a Star on Her Forehead.” It was basically what we call the Snow White story, but in it the “beautiful girl” falls into a catatonic trance after putting on slippers given to her by her jealous mother. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole of wonder tales and discovered stories from all over the world in which a stunningly attractive young woman arouses the jealousy of a woman who is usually her biological mother. The Brothers Grimm, whose 1812 story inspired Walt Disney to create the animated film, had many vernacular tales available to them, but they chose to publish the one in which the rival is the stepmother, in part because they did not want to violate the sanctity of motherhood. Now, decades later, it is still our cultural story about the many complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship. It has eradicated almost every trace of the many tales told all over the world about beautiful girls and their rivals.

GAZETTE: Why does this particular story remain so resonant?

TATAR: All of the tales in this collection are cliffhangers. They begin with the counterfactual “What if?” then leave us asking “What’s next?” and finally challenge us to ask “Why?” These stories were originally told in communal settings, and they got people talking about all the conflicts, pressures, and injustices in real life. How do you create an ending that is not just happily ever after, but also “the fairest of them all”? What do you do when faced with worst-case possible scenarios? What do you need to survive cruelty, abandonment, and assault? In fairy tales, the answer often comes in the form of wits, intelligence, and resourcefulness on the one hand, and courage on the other. With their melodramatic mysteries, they arouse our curiosity and make us care about the characters. They tell us something about the value of seeking knowledge and feeling compassion under the worst of circumstances, and that’s a lesson that makes us pay attention today.

(8) REPLAY. Aidan Moher has an epic retro game review at Nerds of a Feather: “Beauty, Dragons, and Isometric Horror: Revisiting Breath of Fire IV”. Lots of analysis accompanied by eye-catching art from the game. At the end —

…Despite all that. I’m nine hours into this playthrough of Breath of Fire IV and it’s going to be the first time I complete it. Maybe it’s playing on a CRT monitor, which really allows those sprites to shine. Maybe it’s sheer grit and determination. Maybe it’s a growing understanding of how to appreciate games within their context, rather than expecting them to be something more modern. Nah. It’s the sprite art.

(9) HISTORY OF WATER? Maybe. The Planetary Society highlighted this NASA public domain image of “Curiosity’s View From The Top Of The Greenheugh Pediment”:

Stitched together from 28 images, this recent view from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken from the top of a steep slope, looking out over a sandstone cap and a more distant “clay-bearing unit,” a region which scientists think contains evidence of the history of water in the area.

(10) COLE OBIT. Joanna Cole, author of more than 250 books for children, including the Magic School Bus series, died July 12 at the age of 75. NPR paid tribute: “‘The Magic School Bus’ Series Author Joanna Cole Has Died”.

She originally created The Magic School Bus in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen. The core idea of a sweet and nerdy crew of schoolchildren taking field trips into scientific concepts, bodily parts, into space and back to the age of dinosaurs — and always led by their teacher, the intrepid Ms. Frizzle — eventually spun out into dozens of tie-ins and more than 93 million copies in print, plus a beloved television show that aired for 18 years in more than 100 countries.

In the U.S., the original Magic School Bus TV series was broadcast by PBS for 18 years; in 2017, an updated version launched in 2017 on Netflix, with the first of four specials on the way in August….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and produced by Arne Schmidt, it was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It starred Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer. It would lose out to The Princess Bride at Nolacon II for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. The movie was first given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America due to its graphic violence, but Verhoeven toned it down and got an R. Most critics loved it and gave it high marks both as a SF film and as social commentary. Director Ken Russell said he thought it was the best SF film since Metropolis  It did very well at the Box Office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an 84% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best-remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.) (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1907 – Humphry Ellis.  Double first in Classics at Magdalen (i.e. Oxford; not Magdalene, Cambridge), invited to teach at Marlborough, 1930; while there submitted to Punch, was accepted; hired there, 1933; deputy editor, 1949; resigned to protest new editor Malcolm Muggeridge, 1953; earned more selling to The New Yorker, 1954; a dozen collections.  For us “Trollope in Space”; “The Space-Crime Continuum” and one more in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1912 – Barbara Strachey.  Journeys of Frodo, an atlas; drew the maps herself.  See The Independent’s wonderful obituary, with a doll of Lytton Strachey, wine, Bertrand Russell, gardening.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1936 – John Spurling, 84.  Nairobi (not his fault this reminds me of Ernie Kovacs); Marlborough too late for H. Ellis; St John’s, Oxford; Royal Artillery; British Broadcasting Corp.; free lance.  Arcadian Nights re-imagining Greek myths; King Arthur in Avalon, play for a ladies’ college – is the Matter of Arthur fantasy?  Walter Scott Prize for The Ten Thousand Things, historical fiction about Wang Mêng (1308-1385); three more novels, nine more plays.  Franz Liszt Society.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1943 – Grania Davis.  Two novels (and three more outside our field) plus two with Avram Davidson; a dozen and half shorter stories plus four with him; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian; her collection Tree of Life, Book of Death; AD collections The Boss in the WallThe AD Treasury with Robert Silverberg, Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven with Jack Dann, The Investigations of AD with Dick Lupoff, ¡Limekiller! and The Other 19th Century with Henry Wessells; anthology Speculative Japan with Gene van Troyer; essays, letters, on China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (as it then was), Japan, M.Z. Bradley, C.N. Brown, AD, P.K. Dick, G.C. Edmondson, Judith Merril, Takumi Shibano, in LocusNY Review of SFet al.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 76. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column for Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog. He appears frequently at Boston-area Cons. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 66. Best-known rather obviously for creating and writing most of  Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics side, he’s written The Amazing Spider-ManThor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written SupermanWonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1956 Timothy D. Rose, 64. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but was in The Dark Crystal, Return to EwokReturn of The JediReturn to OzThe Muppet Christmas CarolThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1971 – Cory Doctorow, 49.  Ten novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Columnist for Locus, SF Age; anthologist; interviewed in SF Research Ass’n ReviewShimmerSteampunkStarShipSofaStrange Horizons.  Finding ourselves chatting about something or other at an SF convention we noticed that others stared; now, really, folks.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 44. Wow. Author of Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire Summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1988 —  Summer Bishil, 32. Best-known as Margo Hanson on The Magicians,  but she’s also been Azula in The Last Airbender, and Aneesa in Return to Halloweentown. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1989 – H.A. Titus, 31.  Two novels (Burnt Silver just released in February), ten shorter stories.  Paper Tigers proofreading service.  Loves legends, Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons,skiing, rock-climbing, her husband, their sons.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld captures the spirit of the moment.

(14) TIME FOR A REFILL. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 17th July 2020” takes a look at The Old Guard from the other side, exploring the important choices the movie adaptation makes and what that means for Western action/genre cinema. And after that, says Stuart —

I also take a look at Noelle Stevenson’s vastly impressive The Fire Never Goes Out, a graphic novel autobiography with clear eyes, a wicked sense of humor and incredible emotional honesty. Finally, there’s a look at Concrete Genie, a deeply lovely, and deceptively subtle PS4 game which maps personal and artistic growth onto the renovation of a small town, occasional parkour and adorable grobble monsters. Plus lots of apples.

The Full Lid is published weekly and is free. You can sign up at the top of the most recent issue and view an archive of the last six months. 

(15) TRAILER TIME. Here is the Superman Smashes the Klan Official Trailer for Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel from DC.

The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman! Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!

(16) LEARNING FROM THE CLARKE AWARD NUMBERS. “The Good News and the Bad: the Clarke Award submissions list under the lens”. Tagline: “Author and Clarke Award 2020 judge Stewart Hotston on representation and the state of contemporary SF publishing in the UK.”

…Now the bad news.

To be honest, I thought of writing something witty in place of that last sentence. Maybe ‘now the less good news’ but it’s not less good. It’s appalling and I want to be clear with my language here rather than covering over the situation with typical British understatement.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

121 submissions.

45 imprints

116 authors

14 authors of non-white descent (the specific definition of which we’ll discuss below)

3 British authors of non-white descent

Let me say that again.

3 British authors of non-white descent

Out of 116 authors.

In my view there were actually more books with problematic depictions of race than there are books by authors from those very communities (By my own count there were 9 books submitted from 7 imprints which featured unacceptable racial stereotypes or tropes).

(17) HOLD THE PHONE. “NASA Pushes Back Launch Date On Webb Space Telescope, Citing COVID-19”. NPR’s story includes video of packing the telescope for launch.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited — and long-delayed — successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, has been pushed back yet another seven months, NASA said Thursday citing, in part, delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nearly $10 billion project, which scientists hope will see back to the time when the first galaxies were formed following the Big Bang, had been scheduled to launch next March from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, but the space agency said it is now aiming for an Oct. 31, 2021, launch date.

“Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “The team continues to be focused on reaching milestones and arriving at the technical solutions that will see us through to this new launch date next year.”

(18) LIGHTS OUT. “Scientists shed light on how the blackest fish in the sea ‘disappear'”

An ocean mystery – how the blackest fish in the deep sea are so extremely black – has been solved in a study that began with a very bad photograph.

“I couldn’t get a good shot – just fish silhouettes,” said Dr Karen Osborn from the Smithsonian Institution.

Her detailed study of the animal’s “ultra-black” skin revealed that it traps light.

While it makes the animals difficult to photograph, marine scientists say it provides the ultimate camouflage.

There is, Dr Osborn explained, nowhere to hide from predators in the deep ocean, so this “ultra-blackness” renders creatures almost invisible.

(19) LITTLE TEENY EYES. “Beetle-mounted camera streams insect adventures” — the BBC’s straight-prose version. You can come up with your own filk accompaniment.

Researchers have developed a tiny wireless camera that is light enough to be carried by live beetles.

The team at the University of Washington in the US drew inspiration from the insects to create its low-powered camera system.

Its beetle-cam can stream up to five frames per second of low-resolution, black and white footage to a nearby smartphone.

The research was published in the Science Robotics journal.

The entire camera rig weighs just 250 milligrams, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card.

While the sensor itself is low resolution, capturing just 160 by 120 pixel images, it is mounted on a mechanical arm that can shift from side to side.

That allows the camera to look side to side and scan the environment, just like a beetle, and capture a higher-resolution panoramic image.

(20) CHANGING TIMES. BBC explains “Why Monty Python’s Life of Brian, once rated X, is now a 12A”.

In 1979, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was considered so controversial it was given an X certificate and banned from some British cinemas.

Last year, however, its rating was downgraded to a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

In its annual report, published this week, the BBFC said it now considered the film “permissible at a more junior category” under its current guidelines.

The film returned to cinemas in 2019 to mark its 40th anniversary.

It was rereleased in April last year with a 12A rating for “infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity [and] comic violence”.

…When it was first released, the BBFC – then named the British Board of Film Censors – rated the film AA, which meant those under 14 were not allowed to see it.

Contemporary concerns that the film was blasphemous in nature led to more than 100 local authorities opting to view the film for themselves.

This led to 28 of them raising the classification to an X certificate, meaning no one under 18 could see it, and 11 banning the film altogether.

…It is not uncommon for the BBFC to revisit films that are being reissued theatrically and reappraise their original classification.

Earlier this year Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980 with a U certificate, was reclassified as a PG for its “moderate violence [and] mild threat”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’The New World’ from RoGoPaG” on YouTube is Jean-Luc Godard’s contribution to a 1963 anthology film called RoGoPaG where he shows the subtle psychological consequences after an atomic bomb is exploded over Paris. Part I is below. Part II is here.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/16/19 It Must Be Pixels, ‘Cause Ink Don’t Scroll Like That

(1) NEBULA ACTIVITY. SFWA is now selling tickets to the 2020 Nebula Conference taking place May 28-31, 2020 in Woodland Hills, CA (part of Los Angeles)

SFWA members and other individuals who are interested in the field of science fiction and fantasy are welcome to attend SFWA’s Nebula Conference. Attendees may participate in workshops, programming and special events throughout the weekend.

You do not need to be a member of SFWA to attend. We encourage anyone with a connection to the field to join us.

And SFWA members can now cast nominating ballots for the Nebulas.

(2) HORN TOOTING. A.C. Wise is collecting links to eligibility posts, and already has a great many here – “What Have You Done, What Have You Loved? 2019”.

It’s that time of year again! Editors, publishers, and authors’ minds turn toward Year’s Best list, and awards. Which also means it’s time for said authors, editors, and publishers to get out there and self-promote. It can feel icky or uncomfortable, but it’s a valuable service to those who nominate for awards, and those who just want to catch up reading what they might have missed during the year. So step forward, take a deep breath, and shout about what you wrote this year. While you’re at it, shout about the things you loved too! No one can read everything that comes out in a given year, but together we can help each other find excellent things to read, and perhaps even nominate.

(3) WORDS & MUSIC. The lyric video of Taylor Swift singing “Beautiful Ghosts” from the motion picture Cats is online.

(4) UPON REFLECTION. Some who commented about a new YA Twitter donnybrook linked in yesterday’s Scroll (item #16) have adopted a new perspective, including N.K. Jemisin whose thread starts here.

(5) RAPID CONTRACTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog reportedly has severed ties with all its freelancers:

(6) FORD RIGHTS. Will Shetterly’s comment on Slate’s article “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” (linked here yesterday with news that Ford’s books are coming back into print) shed additional light:

I was one of Mike Ford’s friends and editors, and I want to go on record with this: Martha Fry was extremely helpful when we wanted to keep his Liavek stories in print. The breakdown in communication between his original family, his fannish family, and his agent has many reasons, but there are no villains in that story. There are only gossips who love drama, as there are in any community. If anyone claims his first family tried to make his work unavailable, I will point to the Liavek anthologies as evidence that’s not true.

(7) KSR STUDY. The University of Illinois Press has released Kim Stanley Robinson by Robert Markley, the Trowbridge Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Award-winning epics like the Mars trilogy and groundbreaking alternative histories like The Days of Rice and Salt have brought Kim Stanley Robinson to the forefront of contemporary science fiction. Mixing subject matter from a dizzying number of fields with his own complex ecological and philosophical concerns, Robinson explores how humanity might pursue utopian social action as a strategy for its own survival.

Robert Markley examines the works of an author engaged with the fundamental question of how we—as individuals, as a civilization, and as a species—might go forward. By building stories on huge time scales, Robinson lays out the scientific and human processes that fuel humanity’s struggle toward a more just and environmentally stable world or system of worlds. His works invite readers to contemplate how to achieve, and live in, these numerous possible futures. They also challenge us to see that SF’s literary, cultural, and philosophical significance have made it the preeminent literary genre for examining where we stand today in human and planetary history.

(8) DISNEY+. “Disney+ Warns Users About ‘Outdated Cultural Depictions’ in Titles”The Hollywood Reporter works to discern how the policy is applied.

At the bottom of the description for Disney’s 1940 classic animation Fantasia on the studio’s newly minted Disney+ service, there is a line that is garnering attention from viewers: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The disclaimer can be found in the streaming platform’s synopsis of many of Disney’s classic animated titles, including 1941’s Dumbo, 1967’s The Jungle Book, 1953’s Peter Pan and 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, as well as other offerings like 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1955’s Davy Crockett. 

Disney+ features the studio’s massive library that dates back over eight decades, and the verbiage serves as a caution against some racist and culturally insensitive depictions and references in Disney’s older offerings.

While Lady and the Tramp features Siamese cats depicted as East Asian stereotypes and Peter Pan includes a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?,” it is unclear what the criterion is for Disney titles to receive the “outdated cultural depictions” disclaimer. Aladdin, which has been critiqued for its racist depictions of Middle Eastern and Arab culture, does not feature the disclaimer in its synopsis.

Disney has not returned The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.

One feature entirely absent from the streaming platform is the 1946 live-action animation hybrid Song of the South. The movie, which inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, has been widely criticized for its portrayal of African-Americans and apparent glorification of plantation life. It has been the studio’s policy to keep the film from theatrical and home entertainment rerelease. 

The new streaming service is also making news for another decision: “‘Simpsons’ Episode Featuring Michael Jackson Kept Off Disney+”.

Disney did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why the episode is missing and who made the call. 

It is assumed “Stark Raving Dad” is off Disney+ because Michael Jackson (not officially credited) was the guest star. Jackson voiced Leon Kompowsky, a man Homer meets while in a mental institution who sounds like Jackson. The episode was a favorite among fans for several years. 

In March of this year, “Stark Raving Dad” was pulled from broadcast circulation following the release of the HBO documentary film Leaving Neverland, in which the late pop star was accused by multiple men of molestation when they were boys. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 16, 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon and François Truffaut, the film is both a financial and critical success. It currently has a hundred percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre role was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The Invaders, The Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did. Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all…  (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 16, 1952 Shigeru Miyamoto, 67. Video game designer and producer at Nintendo. He is the creator of some of the best-selling game franchises of the company, such as Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.
  • Born November 16, 1952 Robin McKinley, 67. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are Sunshine, Chalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire,UK. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She was Hera in Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome.
  • Born November 16, 1967 Lisa Bonet, 52. First genre work was isEpiphany Proudfoot in Angel Heart, a decidedly strange horror film. More germane was that she was Heather Lelache in the 2002 A&E adaptation of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. She later played Maya Daniels in the Life on Mars series as well. 
  • Born November 16, 1967 Eva Pope, 52. Genre is a slippery thing to define. She was a one-off in Adventure Inc. (might be genre) as well the Splinter film (horror with SF pretensions), Life on Mars (SF maybe) and Spooks: Code 9 (alternate UK history). Is she genre? 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 47. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fave SF films of all time. Also has been in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A Haunted House 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  Roswell, The Tick, Pushing Daisies and Z Nation.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 42. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be best remembered for her role as a Nebari who was a member of the crew on Moya on the Farscape series. Other genre appearances include Beastmaster, The Lost World, Quantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the web series Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Maggie Gyllenhaal, 42. She’s had some impressive genre appearances in such works as Donnie DarkoThe Dark Knight, voice work in the superb Monster House and the equally superb Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

(11) ELLISON REMEMBERED. Fanac.org has uploaded an audio recording of the Worldcon 76 (2018) “In Memoriam: Harlan Ellison” panel.

Worldcon 76 was held in San Jose, CA in 2018. This Memoriam panel (audio, with pictures) features memories and anecdotes from Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg (who was a friend of Harlan’s for 65 years), Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat Segaloff (Harlan’s biographer). Each of the panelists had a close relationship with Harlan, and these loving but clear-eyed reminiscences are a comfort to those that miss him, and hopefully to those readers who never had a chance to meet him. Harlan was an enormous presence in science fiction. His stories, his scripts, his kindnesses and his sometimes unbelievable missteps will be long remembered. Recording provided by Karen G. Anderson and Richard Lynch.

(12) ABOUT LEWIS. Publishers Weekly is right to hedge its bet in the title — “10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis “ because I knew three of these, and a few of you probably know them all!

9. Lewis’s first book was a collection of poetry he wrote as a teenager. Before he planned to be a philosopher, the teenage Lewis hoped to become a great poet. He wrote poetry with the hope of publishing his work and gaining fame. He returned to England after being injured in France during World War I and published his collection as Spirits in Bondage under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

(13) A MEMORY REVERED. “Wales’ Tecwyn Roberts hailed as ‘hero of the space age'” – BBC has the story.

Tributes are being paid to “one of the great unsung heroes of the space age”.

Tecwyn Roberts, from Anglesey, helped set up mission control rooms and enabled astronaut Neil Armstrong to communicate with Earth from the Moon.

Experts have hailed Roberts’ expertise as events are held to mark the 50 years since Nasa’s second lunar landing.

A flag will be placed on his grave during the anniversary of Apollo 12 which flew from 14-24 November 1969.

“Without Tec[wyn], Nasa and mission control as it exists today would probably not have happened,” said Nick Howes, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Tecwyn Roberts could rightly be labelled as one of the great unsung heroes of the space age.”

Mr Howes was speaking in an interview published by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which has also hailed Roberts as a “pioneer”.

He was chief of the network engineering division by the time of the first landing on the Moon and helped to ensure there was communication with astronauts.

…Gary Morse, a former Nasa space shuttle network director, said Roberts “essentially invented” the flight director position.

“He didn’t say much but when he did it was very important,” he said.

(14) MORE TOR BUCKS. Here’s a number most writers would be happy to sign for – “James Rollins lands huge 7-figure deal for epic fantasy series”. Entertainment Weekly is there when the cash register rings.

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author best known for his blockbuster thrillers has signed a major seven-figure deal with Tor Books for Moon Fall, a fantasy series that’s been eight years in the making.

Moon Fall opens a riven world trapped between fire and ice, merging his fascination with the natural world, his love of adventure, and his knowledge of the wonders found at the evolutionary fringes of scientific exploration. It centers on a young girl who foretells a new apocalypse approaching, one that will end all life for all time. Her reward is a charge of grave heresy, punishable by death. As she flees, she gathers an unlikely alliance of outcasts to join her cause to save their world. The journey will take them into lands both burning bright and eternally frozen, to face creatures unimaginable and enemies beyond reason. All the while, hostile forces will hunt them. Armies will wage war around them.

(15) R-RATED B.O. Joker is still bringing people through the turnstiles: “The Joker Hits $1 Billion at Box Office — Making It the First R-Rated Movie to Reach the Milestone”.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, has surpassed $1 billion in gross sales at box offices world wide, Entertainment Weekly reports. The milestone makes the blockbuster the first R-rated movie to hit the $1 billion mark, according to the outlet.

It also means that the movie, which tells the tale of the rise of Batman’s arch-nemesis, has now officially beat out Deadpool as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. The Ryan Reynolds-stared film made $783 million.

(16) WELL-KNOWN BRAND. Martin Morse Wooster assures us, “I normally wouldn’t write about Tanya Edwards’s Yahoo! Lifetstyle story ’10 Gifts That Will Impress The Ultimate Star Wars fan’ because it is an Ebay infomercial.  BUT the Darth Vader Helmet 2-Slice Toaster is definitely worth a photo!”

(17) PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF. Starlux Airlines is an actual company that begins operations in Taiwan in 2020, with all new Airbus planes. They just launched their safety video:

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

Pixel Scroll 8/22/19 Release The Dungeons And The Dragons

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE READ AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll introduces the next phase of the program: “Young People Read Old Science Fiction: Rediscovery!”

The next phase of Young People Read Old Science Fiction focuses on a single reference text, Journey Press’s Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958 – 1963). To quote from Journey Press’ site:

“The Silver Age of Science Fiction saw a wealth of compelling speculative tales — and women authors wrote some of the best of the best. Yet the stories of this era, especially those by women, have been largely unreprinted, unrepresented, and unremembered.

“Until now.

“Volume one of REDISCOVERY represents a historic first: fourteen selections of the best science fiction of the Silver Age, written by the unsung women authors of yesteryear and introduced by today’s rising stars. Join us and rediscover these lost treasures…. “

James is also recruiting participants:

I am looking for reviewers born after about 1980. The deadline for application is September 1, with a target date for the inaugural Young People Read Old Science Fiction: Rediscovery! post of October 1. If you are interested, please contact me at jdnicoll at panix dot com.

Where previous phases have involved each contributor working on their own, this chapter will feature a round table approach. Each contributor will be provided by me with a copy of the ebook.

(2) IN CONS TO COME. Cheryl Morgan assesses the competition to host a future Worldcon in “The Race for 2023”.

… Prior to Dublin the extant bids for 2023 were Nice (France), Chengdu (China) and New Orleans (USA). The New Orleans bid has, I understand it, collapsed. However, some US fans were busily organising a bid for another city. Apparently they viewed this as essential to prevent yet another non-US Worldcon. I think they have settled on Memphis but it was a bit confused.

The Chengdu bid is controversial for two reasons, one of which is that it is very hard to get into China. Elizabeth Bear told me that she has been denied a visa because she is a writer. That could happen to a lot of us. My own view is that a Chinese Worldcon won’t happen without government approval, and if that approval exists then it should be possible to set up a system whereby visa applications can be expedited. This is China, after all

(3) FINAL FANZINE SOLUTION. Cheryl Morgan also reacts to Nicholas Whyte’s statistics showing that the Best Fanzine Hugo category is skating on the edge of the abyss in “Whither Fanzine?”?

…On Twitter Aidan Moher has been calling for more appreciation for video fanzines. (Booktube appears to be the name for such things.) People making them certainly deserve recognition, but they belong in the Fancast category which is for:

Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects

Aidan also suggests collapsing Fanzine and Fancast to create a single category of fan-created works. Much as I would like to see fewer Hugo categories, I can’t see that happening. Neither the podcast people nor fanzine fandom would be happy….

(4) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST. The National Fantasy Fan Federation’s annual short story contest is accepting entries through December 31, 2019. There are no entrance fees, but there are cash prizes. First prize is $50, second $30, and third $20. Read about it here: “2019 N3F Amateur Short Story Contest”. The judge is SF author Jefferson Swycaffer. Results will be announced by March 2020.

1. This contest is open to all amateur writers in the field, regardless of whether they’re members of the National Fantasy Fan Federation. For the purposes of this contest, we define an amateur as someone who has sold no more than two (2) stories to professional science fiction or fantasy publications or publishing houses.

2. Stories entered in the contest must be original, unpublished, not longer than 8,500 words in length—and must be related to the science fiction, fantasy, or similar genres in the opinion of the judge.

(5) AFRICAN FUTURES. “These Nigerian Teens Are Making Sci-Fi Shorts with Slick Visual Effects”Kottke.org has the story. Photos of the steps in one of their productions can be seen at the post.

For the past year, a group of teens in Nigeria called the Critics Company have been uploading short sci-fi films to their YouTube channel. Using a smartphone with a busted screen, makeshift equipment, open source 3D tools like Blender, and green sheets hung on walls, the self-taught group has produced some professional-grade special effects. Check out this 10-minute short they uploaded in January, Z: The Beginning.

(6) MORE ON CAMPBELL. Comments by David Bowles, including some quotes from Campbell. Thread starts here.

(7) NO BILLIONS AND BILLIONS? The Hollywood Reporter drills into the “‘Spider-Man’ Standoff: Why Sony Thinks It Doesn’t Need “Kevin’s Playbook” Anymore”.

…Rothman will need to deliver Marvel-less fare that lives up to hype of the Spider-Man character’s MCU appearances. “If the two sides don’t come to a compromise, it’s a lose-lose for everybody,” argues Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for industry website Boxoffice. “Marvel won’t be able to resolve the cliffhanger in future movies, which is saying something when it’s their most popular hero. And for Sony, who has had success, Far From Home doesn’t get to a billion dollars without Feige and Marvel’s involvement.”

Adds Robbins, “The other big question is, ‘How are fans are going to react to a Tom Holland Spider-Man movie that is not set in the MCU?’ That is a roll of the dice that no studio should take.”

(8) I THOUGHT BUGS HATE RAID(S). Cnet reports “Spider-Man fans want to ‘storm’ Sony and ‘bring our boy home’ to the MCU”.

First the internet wanted to raid Area 51, now Sony is the target, with over 5,500 Spider-Man fans planning to storm its California offices and bring Spider-Man back to Marvel.

A Facebook event, hosted by three fans, was set up on Tuesday. The event, according to its description, involves dressing up in Spider-Man costumes and bringing “our boy home!” (to the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

The raid is planned for Oct. 31, aka Halloween. The perfect guise.

This fan rage spawned from a report Deadline published Tuesday of a high-level dispute between Sony and Marvel. That dispute means Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige won’t produce any more Spider-Man films and Marvel will no longer be involved in the Spider-Man movie universe.

(9) CRYSTAL CLEARING. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance premieres August 30 on Netflix.

As power-hungry overlords drain life from the planet Thra, a group of brave Gelfling unite on a quest to save their world and fight off the darkness.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 22, 1907 Oliver McGowan. He played The Caretaker in the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Trek. It must be decades since I’ve seen that episode but I still remember liking it a lot silly though it be. It’s kind of the ancestor to the holodeck, isn’t it? McGowan has one-offs on One Step Beyond, Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 22, 1909 Paul W. Fairman. His story “No Teeth for the Tiger” was published in the February 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. Two years later, he was the founding editor of If, but he edited only four issues. In 1955, he became the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic which he would hold for three years. There are several films, Target Earth and Invasion of the Saucer Men, based on his stories, plus some TV episodes as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite book by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to regularly works by him. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman, 94. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”.
  • Born August 22, 1948 Susan Wood. Of extremely fragile health, she received three Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer in 1974, 1977, and 1981, and a Best Fanzine Hugo as coeditor of Energumen in 1973In 1976 she was instrumental in organizing the very first feminist panel at a con, at MidAmericon. The reaction to this helped lead to the founding of A Women’s APA and of WisCon. While teaching courses in SF at UBC, one of her students was William Gibson.  “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” which is his first published story was written as an assignment in her SF class. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 64. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, and Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing.
  • Born August 22, 1959 Mark Williams, 60. He was Arthur Weasley in seven of the Potter films. He also played Brian Williams in the BBC series Doctor Who, appearing with the Eleventh Doctor in “The Power of Three” and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He was also Olaf Petersen on Red Dwarf. His first genre role was as Fearnot’s Brother in the “Fearnot” episode of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. 
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 56. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams) and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman is based on her.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speedbump has a very funny variation on an old theme, with a little environmental message.
  • In Pearls Before Swine we meet a frog who’s a different kind of prince.
  • Grimmy serves up a very cheap pun!

(12) BRADBURY REDISCOVERIES. The B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog calls readers’ attention to “8 Lesser-Known Works by Ray Bradbury” on his birthday.

The Green Towns
Green Town is to Bradbury what Derry and Castle Rock are to Stephen King: an invented town that brings to life the community of the author’s childhood dreams, shot through with an undercurrent of the supernatural. The town is based on Waukegan, Illinois, where Bradury spent his boyhood years, and his fond memories and great love for the place shine throughout the Green Town series’ four novels, the most widely read of which is Something Wicked This Way Comes.

(13) BLOW OUT YOUR CANDLE. LitHub declares “Ray Bradbury still deserves birthday sex, even after all these years.”

…I bet you didn’t know that Crazy Ex Girlfriend creator and star Rachel Bloom is quite possibly his biggest fan. In 2010, she went public with her adoration and shared “F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury” with the world. (In 2011, the video was even nominated for a Hugo Award!)

So, celebrate Ray Bradbury today with lyrics like: “Since I was 12, I’ve been your number one fan / Kiss me, you illustrated man. / I’ll feed you grapes and dandelion wine / And we’ll read a little Fahrenheit 69.” You’re welcome.

(14) ON THE AIR. “Fast radio bursts” feature in today’s Nature. Their origin has been a mystery and some have (seriously) proposed ET intelligence origin (like pulsars were but you know how that turned out).  There are also repeaters… “Haul of mysterious cosmic bursts excites astronomers”.

Discovery of more ‘repeater’ fast radio bursts should help to reveal signals’ origins…

Astronomers are edging closer to finding out what causes brief, powerful flashes in the sky known as fast radio bursts (FRBs), after a Canadian telescope discovered eight more of the most intriguing type of these blasts — those that repeat their signals. FRBs are intensely energetic events that flare for just milliseconds, seemingly all over the sky and from outside the Galaxy. But their cause has remained a mystery since the first FRB was identified in 2007. Astronomers hope that studying bursts that repeat their flashes, rather than flare just once, can help to elucidate the origins of FRBs. That’s because it’s easier for high-resolution telescopes to make followup observations of ‘repeaters’ and trace their origins compared with one-off blasts.

(15) BOT AND DELIVERED. My cousin Russia Mike, as I like to call him, is on his way to the ISS: “Russia launches life-sized robot into space”. (With photos.)

Russia has launched a rocket carrying a life-sized robot to the International Space Station (ISS).

It was launched from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday and is set to arrive at the station on Saturday.

The robot, named Fedor (Experimental Demonstration Object Research), is the first ever sent into space by Russia.

In order to test a new emergency rescue system, the robot was the Soyuz rocket’s only passenger.

Fedor stands some one metre and 80 centimetres tall (5ft 11 inches) and weighs 160 kilograms.

During its 10 days at the ISS, Fedor will learn new skills such as “connecting and disconnecting electric cables, using standard items from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher,” said Alexander Bloshenko, the Russian space agency’s director for prospective programmes and science.

It is hoped that Fedor will eventually carry out more dangerous tasks such as spacewalks.

(16) A CITY SAID TO THE UNIVERSE. They hope there isn’t any there there: “City of Bielefeld offers €1m for proof it doesn’t exist” – BBC has the story.

It’s a German city dating back to the 9th Century, with 340,000 residents, a university, a medieval fort… but does it really exist?

Bielefeld is now offering a €1m (£914,000) prize to anyone in Germany who can prove the city’s non-existence.

The city marketing group running the competition wants to disprove a 25-year-old conspiracy theory.

Back in 1994 a student light-heartedly posted the message “Bielefeld? There’s no such thing” on the Usenet system.

Achim Held’s message became a long-running joke in Germany, once it spread virally with the subsequent internet boom

(17) WE KNOW HE IS A WIZ OF A WIZ. Matthem Dessen imparts “A Brief History of Peeing in Video Games” at Slate.

Gamescom 2019 kicked off in Cologne, Germany on Monday night, and as usual, the annual trade fair has been full to bursting with announcements, trailers, and exciting new details about upcoming games. But one development is making a bigger splash than the rest: Visionary video game auteur Hideo Kojima’s next game, Death Stranding, will feature the kind of hyper-realistic urination gameplay action that gamers crave. Drench your eyeballs in this leaked footage from Gamescom’s opening night stream to see Death Stranding star Norman Reedus take the most lavishly digitized piss in video game history…

…Mystery House (On-Line Systems, 1980)

Roberta and Ken Williams are rightfully hailed as two of the most influential game designers in history, but their first attempt to break gaming’s pee barrier was an abject failure. Mystery House, the very first graphical adventure game, was also the very first graphical adventure game to feature a drawing of a toilet….

[Thanks to Rich Horton, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John A Arkansawyer, Mike Kennedy, DMS, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, George Phillies, 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 3/27/18 Godstalk It, Jake, It’s Pixel Scroll

(1) READ THE GAME. The Read it Forward site is celebrating Ready Player One’s theatrical debut this week with an interactive 8-bit-inspired excerpt that “gamifies” the prologue from Ernest Cline’s novel. [Click on the GIF to view.]

Read your way to the top of the Scoreboard as you earn points for discovering Easter eggs that bring the content to life. As readers learn of Parzival’s hunt for the keys to OASIS, they’ll maneuver their way around a maze, attend an ‘80s dance party, unlock footnotes, and more. Upon completion, readers can add their name to a Scoreboard and share their score with a link to the excerpt on social media. All of the excerpt’s hidden extras are unlocked once a reader earns the maximum score of 10,000 points.

(2) TV INTEREST IN THREE-BODY PROBLEM. From io9: “Report: Amazon May Pay $1 Billion to Adapt the Hugo-Winning Chinese Novel The Three-Body Problem”.

The Hugo-winning Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem could become Amazon’s Game of Thrones. A new report from Financial Times suggests Amazon is pursuing a deal to make a three-season television show based on the trilogy from Liu Cixin, and it may be willing to pay up to $1 billion to do so.

According to the Financial Times report, international investors say Amazon is negotiating for the rights to produce three seasons based on Remembrance of Earth’s Past, the scifi trilogy more commonly known by the title of its first book, The Three-Body Problem.

In a statement reported by Chinese news outlets, YooZoo Pictures stated that it remains the sole owners for the film and TV rights for The Three-Body Problem, though it didn’t comment on whether Amazon had approached the company or were in talks with them to collaborate on this reported streaming project. Cixin was also asked about this development by Chinese news outlet MTime.com, where he revealed he knew nothing about the project and doesn’t know if he’d be invited to work on it.

(3) DISSENTING VOICE. In contrast to those looking forward to the movie, Vox says “The Ready Player One book used to be considered a fun romp. Then Gamergate happened,” in “The Ready Player One backlash, explained”.

A time traveler from 2011 could be forgiven for being deeply confused by this response. In 2011, Ready Player One was beloved. It was “a guaranteed pleasure.” It was “witty.” It was not only “a simple bit of fun” but also “a rich and plausible picture of future friendships in a world not too distant from our own.”

What gives? How did the consensus on a single book go from “exuberant and meaningful fun!” to “everything that is wrong with the internet!” over the span of seven years?

… But the main thing Ready Player One is doing is telling those ’80s-boy-culture-obsessed gamers that they matter, that in fact they are the most important people in the universe. That knowing every single goddamn word of Monty Python and the Holy Grail can have life-or-death stakes, because why shouldn’t it? (Yes, that is a crucial step in Wade’s battle to save the OASIS.)

For readers in Cline’s target demographic in 2011, that message felt empowering. For readers who weren’t, it felt like a harmless piece of affirmation meant for someone else. Everyone deserves a silly escapist fantasy, right? And since Cline’s silly escapist fantasy wasn’t specifically meant for girls — unlike, say, Twilight, which was getting savaged in popular culture at the timeReady Player One was largely left alone by the people it wasn’t built for…

(4) ASHBY STORY. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, “Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby, is a free read at Slate.

A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live. The latest consumer gadgets are intriguing, but we focus on the longer-term transformative power of robotics, information and communication technologies, synthetic biology, augmented reality, space exploration, and other technologies. Future Tense seeks to understand the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, and what they mean for our environment, how we relate to one another, and what it means to be human. Future Tense also examines whether technology and its development can be governed democratically and ethically.

And there’s also a response essay from Ian Harris, who works on technology issues with the National Network to End Domestic Violence: “The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech”.

Violence against women is having something of a moment right now. Which is to say, portrayals of domestic violence in film and TV are gaining critical acclaim. Through shows like Big Little Lies and movies like I, Tonya, popular culture is grappling with more nuanced representations of domestic violence and the humanity of survivors of abuse. These are important conversations, and I hope that this is the start of a profound societal transformation, though time will tell. For me, the most disturbing part of these portrayals is not the brutality of the assaults, but how frequently physical violence is prioritized over other types of abusive behavior. It is what we don’t see that worries me.

We see this distorted prioritization in real life, too. I’ve been a domestic violence attorney for more than a decade. Despite the long list of clients who have struggled to get the justice system to live up to its name, I have found that survivors are much more likely to get help for physical assaults than for other kinds of abusive behavior such as stalking, surveillance, harassment, and intimate image disclosures, which frequently feel more harmful to the survivor.

(5) AVENGERS PLUG. A new TV spot for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.

The end is near. One month until Avengers: Infinity War.

 

(6) SEARCH FOR DIVERSE FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has another new feature. Greg Hullender explains:

In response to readers who wanted a way to find good stories by diverse authors, we did an analysis of the most-recommended short speculative fiction stories written by people of color in 2015 and 2016 — “Best People of Color SF/F of 2015-2016”.

This only looks at stories that got some sort of recognition (e.g. solid recommendation from a prolific reviewer, inclusion in a years-best anthology, finalist for a major award), so just 481 stories across those two years. Of those, 112 were written by people of color.

The credit for this work goes to Eric Wong, who did the hard work of looking up information on all the authors as well as customizing the software to let readers group the data different ways.

(7) BLOWN UP, SIR. In “This teacher aims to get kids fired up about chemistry”, the Washington Post’s Kitson Jazynka profiles University of Texas chemistry instructor Kate Biberdorf, who “breathes fire and makes explosions that blast the eyes out of jack-o-lanterns.”

Or what about one who, with a quick pour of potassium iodide into a mix of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and food coloring, makes bubbly foam that shoots toward the ceiling? Kate Biberdorf is no imaginary teacher. She’s real, and she’s coming to Washington next month, bringing along her blowtorch and cornstarch, her supplies of liquid nitrogen and dry ice, and a lot of enthusiasm for chemistry.

Bibersdorf’s website is http://katethechemist.com/.  How could Filers NOT be interested in a woman who says her goal in life is “to have an explosive science show in Vegas?”

(8) HELP BILL SPENCER. Paul Di Filippo urges readers to support a GoFundMe that will “Give Back to Bill Spencer”.

We all need a little help sometimes. This is one of those times for Bill. He has several different health issues going on right now and the medical expenses he is incurring that are not covered through Medicare are mounting and could get much worse.   As well, he’s facing some unforeseeable out of pocket expenses that could potentially end up being a serious problem.   Right now, Bill simply doesn’t have enough for monthly bills, day to day living expenses and numerous co-pays that keep coming his way for various medical necessities.

Many readers know Bill as the award-winning writer William Browning Spencer, author of novels like Zod Wallop, Resume with Monsters and short-story collections like his latest, The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories.

But Bill has contributed to others in a very different way as well.  By freely and graciously donating endless amounts of his time over the years to sponsoring and supporting people who are facing their own daunting problems related to alcohol, drugs and living life.  It’s time to give back to Bill what he has so freely given.

This is something Bill would never ask for himself, but he is one of my best friends and I know he is important to folks like yourself, who may wish to help in his time of need.  Bill is truly one of the most amazing, caring and hilarious human beings I know and if you’re reading this you most likely feel the same.  I think we’d all love for Bill to have the peace of mind of knowing that, whatever happens, he need not be stressed out and worried each day about how he’s going to pay for medication or a test or procedure he needs on top of his modest monthly and day to day expenses.

(9) BISCHOFF OBIT. Writer David Bischoff, 66, of Eugene, OR died March 19. He was a contributor to Doug Fratz’ 1970s fanzine Thrust. His first professional successes included The Seeker, a novel published in 1976, and the Nebula-nominated story “Tin Woodman,” co-authored with Dnnis Bailey, later adapted into both a novel and TV episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also wrote the Star Trek tie-in novel Grounded, which spent time on the bestseller list. His other TV work included Dinosaucers (with Ted Pedersen). Bischoff wrote 75 original novels, and tie-in novels for movies and TV series.

David Bischoff. Photo by and copyright Andrew Porter.

(10) A POLICEMAN’S LOT. Camestros Felapton reacted to Richard Paolinelli’s minor league prank of complaining to the Aussie cops about Felapton’s blog.

(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. “The hidden history of the UK’s highest peak”: A tourist hiking trail once led to an early weather station whose records are now being used to trace climate change.

Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.

(12) WAVE GOODBYE. “Stephen Hawking’s final interview: A beautiful Universe” starts from LIGO discovery of grav waves.

Tell us how important is the detection of two colliding neutron stars?

It is a genuine milestone. It is the first ever detection of a gravitational wave source with an electromagnetic counterpart. It confirms that short gamma-ray bursts occur with neutron star mergers. It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behaviour of matter with incredibly high density.

(13) MAY THE ODDS BE ALWAYS IN YOUR FAVOR. Don’t look up — “Tiangong-1: China space station may fall to Earth ‘in days'”.

Should I be worried?

No. Most of the 8.5-tonne station will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere.

Some very dense parts such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely. However, even if parts do survive to the Earth’s surface, the chances of them hitting a person are incredibly slim.

“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” the head of Esa’s space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent briefing.

“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year.”

(14) WEDDING BELLS. Page Six headline: “‘Star Trek’ star marries Leonard Nimoy’s son”:

Live long and prosper, you two.

Adam Nimoy, son of the late “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actress Terry Farrell married on Monday, on what would’ve been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday.

The couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, according to film critic Scott Mantz, who tweeted a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Farrell retweeted Mantz’s photo and wrote, “Freakin AWESOME day!!!!!!! Love ya all! Aka: Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

She also changed her Twitter bio to include “Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

(15) COMPLAINTS ABOUT DATE OF HUGO ANNOUNCEMENT. The announcement of the 2018 Hugo finalists wouldn’t be on March 31/Passover/Easter weekend/a Saturday if it was up to these folks:

(16) VERTLIEB CANVASSES. Rondo Awards voting closes April 8 at midnight and Steve Vertlieb hopes people will consider his nominated article “Robert Bloch: The Clown at Midnight” for Best Article of the Year.

My published work about the author of “Psycho” … “Robert Bloch: The Clown At Midnight” … has been nominated for a Rondo Award for “Best Article of the Year.” Anyone can vote.  This year’s competition ends Sunday night, April 8th, at midnight. To vote for my remembrance of Robert, simply send your choice, along with your name, to taraco@aol.com

This is the story of my twenty five year friendship with acclaimed writer Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. It is the newly published remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship over a quarter century.

Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel. When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released “Psycho” with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history. He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original “Star Trek” series for producer Gene Roddenberry. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship.

(17) NUMBER PLEASE. A strange post at George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog caught Greg Hullender’s eye: “I wonder if this is a coded announcement that Winds of Winter is coming?” “Yowza” consists of a series of pictures of hands with finger extended as though counting. But does the number 4534 really mean anything?

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

Patreon Cancels Fee Changes, Will Find A Different Fix

Patreon’s Jack Conte has walked back the controversial new fee structure that was scheduled to go into effect later this month, with the implied promise the company will find a solution to its problems that doesn’t hurt creators.

Conte’s statement, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change”, says in part —

Creators and Patrons,

We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:

  • The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 – $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
  • Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
  • Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes….

Although Patreon folded on their proposed fee changes, the damage to creators’ income has already been done. One author offered this analogy to describe the moral effect of today’s announcement:

Webcomic artist Zack Morrison voiced what must be a lingering concern for many creators:

Here are some reactions tweeted by people in the sff field:

  • Kameron Hurley

  • Catherynne Valente

  • Seanan McGuire

  • M.C.A. Hogarth

  • Kevin Sonney

  • Patrick Rothfuss

  • Aidan Moher

  • Fireside Fiction Company

[Thanks to Dann and Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/12/17 Avoid The Green Pixels, They’re Not Ripe Yet

(1) READING SERIES CROWDFUNDING. Less than two days to go in the Fantastic Fiction Kickstarter at KGB and Matthew Kressel says they’re still about $1500 shy of what they need to run for six years.

Here are a few of the clever Facebook appeals made by the Kindling Kris Dikeman to encourage people to squeeze out a few more bucks for the series.

  • Sick of how things are going? Hoping the singularity hits soon? You can make things better right now by supporting the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series Kickstarter. The Fantastic Fiction series helps writers promote their work and creates a community for genre artists. Pay tribute to our future robot overlords and receive cool stuff at http://kck.st/2rq5KFA
  • Has the state of our world got you wishing the zombie apocalypse would just start already? You can make the world a better place without the rotting undead’s help by supporting the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series Kickstarter. The Fantastic Fiction series helps writers promote their work and creates a community for genre artists. Plus, you’re going to need stuff to read while you’re cowering in the dark. Check it out: http://kck.st/2rq5KFA
  • Considering a move to the Shire to escape the current state of the world? Put down that second breakfast and shuffle your hairy little feet on over to the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series Kickstarter. The Fantastic Fiction reading series helps writers promote their work and creates a community for genre artists. Galadriel sez: do it for me, hafling: http://kck.st/2rq5KFA

(2) DISAPPOINTMENT. Mari Ness sent a series of tweets discussing why she isn’t on Worldcon 75 programming.

(3) WILD CARDS. In “Something Old, Something New…” George R.R. Martin refutes an old complaint, then explains why readers will have no grounds for it in the Wild Cards book coming out tomorrow.

I’ve had some readers complain about my name being featured on the covers of the Wild Cards books because I “didn’t write them.” That’s a bullshit complaint, IMSHO. No, I am not the sole author of the Wild Cards stories, I am only one of… ah, lemme see, I believe it was forty-one writers at last count.

I am, however, the editor of every single one of the twenty-three volumes published to date, and the new ones in the pipeline as well… the guy who recruits all those writers, determines the ‘overplots’ of the triads, solicits proposals, accepts and rejects, and gives extensive notes on rewrites. (And there’s a LOT of rewriting in Wild Cards, to make all the bits fit together so the whole will be more than the sum of its parts). It’s a lot more work than any other sort of anthology, believe me… though I love it, so I don’t complain… too much. I earn those credits, and to suggest that my name is just being ‘slapped on’ the covers while someone else does the work is as ignorant as it is offensive.

(4) BIRD IS THE WORD. At Tor.com, Aidan Moher makes Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem sound irresistible.

Unlike its predecessor, Raven Stratagem requires no warming up period. Very little of the narrative in Raven Stratagem is bogged-down by incomprehensible infodumps about “calendrical rot.” In comparison, it feels open and airy. Through Cheris and Jedao, Lee proved his ability to create complex and interesting characters, and this time around he throws the doors open by introducing several new point-of-view characters, all of whom are engaging in their own way. From the crashhawk Brezan, who’s on a mission to take Jedao down, to General Kel Khiruev, who is reluctantly beholden to the undead general after he commandeers her swarm, to Shuos Mikodez, leader of a faction of assassins, each of the major players has their own well-defined and compelling part to play in Raven Stratagem’s overall narrative. They’re all damaged and dangerous, full of regrets, but they are also vulnerable and likeable in a way that allows readers to connect with them on the right emotional level.

(5) FOOLPROOF WISDOM. Timothy the Talking Cat continues to dispense advice to writers in “More Mentoring from Tim” on Camestros Felapton’s site. It’s all one graphic, so we’ll have to do without an excerpt. But I’m sure knowing Timothy’s track record you have already clicked through before reaching the end of this paragraph.

(6) AUSTIN OBIT. UK comics fan Alan Austin died May 9.

Alan Austin, pioneer of UK comics fandom and a long-time friend of 30th Century Comics, passed away yesterday morning after a long struggle with cancer.

Beginning in the 1970’s, Alan published the long-running fanzine Fantasy Unlimited (later Comics Unlimited), which drew together comics enthusiasts from all over the UK, and indeed, all over the world. He also published Whiz Kids, Golden Age Fanzine, and the Marvel Super-Hero Index, as well as being a co-publisher of the very first Comics Price Guide for Great Britain. For many years, he ran the shop Heroes, in Islington, London, and in later years was a regular feature at UK comic marts.

Neil Gaiman purchased his first Spirit comic book from Austin’s shop in 1975.

(7) VERDUGO OBIT. Actress Elena Verdugo died May 30. Her radio, movie and TV career spanned six decades. Although she was best known for her TV role in Marcus Welby, M.D., her genre work included horror movies like The Frozen Ghost (1945). Here’s an excerpt from her New York Times obituary,

… Because she had a Hispanic surname, Hollywood mostly typecast her in horror movies and comedies as Gypsy girls, Indian maidens, Mexican peasants, harem handmaidens and South Sea islanders. “With that name, they don’t call you up to do little American parts,” she was quoted as saying in “Women in Horror Films, 1940s” (1999) by Gregory William Mank. “They think you’re a black-eyed, dark-haired señorita” and I’m blond. So I put on my wig and tried to live up to what they thought ‘Spanish’ to be or ‘Gypsy,’ or ‘native,’ or something.”

She later played opposite Lon Chaney Jr. and Boris Karloff in Universal’s “House of Frankenstein” (1944), in which a trio of movie monsters collaborate against their makers’ enemies, and in “The Frozen Ghost” (1945), also opposite Chaney.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Superman Day

What’s that?! There in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s the Man of Tomorrow! Superman has gone by many names over the years, but one thing has remained the same. He has always stood for what’s best about humanity, all of our potential for terrible destructive acts, but also our choice to not act on the level of destruction we could wreak. Superman was first created in 1933 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the writer and artist respectively. His first appearance was in Action Comics #1, and that was the beginning of a long and illustrious career for the Man of Steel. In his unmistakable blue suit with red cape, and the stylized red S on his chest, the figure of Superman has become one of the most recognizable in the world.

Mark Seifert at Bleeding Cool News has more:

In 2013, DC Entertainment declared June 12 as Man of Steel day “in celebration of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated film”. The date seems to have stuck, with a name change to “Superman Day” because I’ve seen a whole lot of #supermanday hashtags in my twitter feed this morning. I know that Metropolis, IL just held their Superman Celebration over the past 4 days€¦

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 12, 1968 Rosemary’s Baby first seen this day.
  • June 12, 1987 Predator first played to audiences.
  • June 12, 2015 Jurassic World debuted.

(10) PAST TENSE. ComicsBeat tees up an unusual WW2-era critique, “Bennett and Savuage take on Japanese Internment in new BOMBSHELLS UNITED series”.

It was important to Bennett to make her takes on DC’s greatest heroines less inherently perfect and to provide them with the opportunity for improvement and redemption. “I’m very into fallible heroines,” Bennett explained. “I understand why so many inspirational characters are given to girls, whether it’s to make up for the years that their weren’t any or that there were so many damsels in distress, but there’s a degree at which when we only give children– but little girls especially– aspirational heroines, we’re denying them the ability to screw up. To have a complete human experience. Being a child and seeing these role models, I knew that I could never possibly compete or live up, so when I screwed up it was horrible. These characters weren’t afforded the opportunity to fail and come back from it.”

Indeed, the first arc of Bombshells United is all about failure– in particular, America’s failure to protect the rights of up to 120,000 Japanese Americans when the national government imprisoned them in internment camps for the duration of World War II. In Bennett’s exploration of Japanese American internment, she casts Cassie Sandsmark and Donna Troy, two characters who have carried the Wonder Girl moniker, as second generation Japanese Americans whose friends and family are being held against their will. While Cassie and Donna are not Japanese in the mainstream DC Universe, according to Bennett, these are her universe’s “definitive versions” of the characters.

(11) POSTSCRIPT. Abigail Nussbaum has more to say — “Five (Additional) Comments on Wonder Woman”.

My problem, however, with talking about Wonder Woman as a feminist work is that most of that feminism is external to the film. That is, Wonder Woman is feminist because of what it is, not because of what it does. To be clear, I absolutely agree with the statement that being the first movie about a female superhero in the current, mega-successful iteration of superhero movies (and one of only a small number before that) is a feminist act in its own right. But there’s only so much that you can say about that, and that’s a problem that is exacerbated by Wonder Woman herself. More than almost any other character in pop culture, Diana exists outside of patriarchy. And while it’s powerful to see a woman who brushes aside the assumption that she’s not as good as a man because the very idea that this might be true is completely foreign to her heritage and upbringing, what this also means is that a lot of the central questions of feminism are equally foreign to her. I’m not as down on Wonder Woman as Jill Lepore, writing in The New Yorker, but she’s not wrong when she says that “Gadot’s Wonder Woman doesn’t fight for rights because she transcends that fight; she is unfettered by it and insensible to it, an implausible post-feminist hero.” Diana’s journey over the course of the movie involves learning to see humanity–or, as she puts it, “men”–for what it is, with all its strengths and flaws. But left completely unacknowledged is the degree to which the cruelty of men is often visited upon women. How does Diana’s bemusement at the concept of marriage face up to the discovery that almost all of the people she meets in 1918 would consider it acceptable for a man to beat his wife? How does her decision to engage in heterosexual intercourse change in light of the fact that she is moving through a rape culture? How does her joy at seeing a baby withstand the knowledge that most women in that period have no choice in when or whether to have children, and that many of them die in childbirth?

(12) WONDER WHY. Meanwhile, Stephanie Abraham clearly feels there’s no pop culture victory that can’t be pictured as a defeat with a little effort — “When Will Wonder Woman Be a Fat, Femme Woman of Color?”

Why couldn’t Wonder Woman be a woman of color? When it was announced that Gadot would play Wonder Woman, audiences went wild body shaming her for not having large enough breasts. One can only imagine the white supremacy that would have emerged had the announcement said instead that she would be played by a Black woman. On Paradise Island, there are Black warriors in addition to white ones, which is a good start, but other women of color are missing. Also, while the female warriors are strong and ass-kicking, they all have tall, thin body types and they all could be models on a runway. In fact, in a pivotal battle scene, Wonder Woman struts across the battlefield as if on a catwalk. As a result, their physical strength plays second fiddle to their beauty, upholding the notion that in order to access power women must be beautiful in a traditional way. Especially with the body positivity movement gaining steam, the film could have spotlighted female warriors with fat, thick and short body types. While people have said that warriors can’t be fat, some of our best paid male athletes are, particularly linebackers on the football field, and no one doubts their physical strength.

Another problem is that the story’s overt queerness gets sublimated by heteronormativity. Diana comes from a separatist commune of women who have intentionally chosen to live without men. In one of the first scenes between Diana and Steve, she explains that she read 12 volumes of a series on sex that concluded that while men are required for reproduction, when it comes to female pleasure, they’re unnecessary. While a love story develops between them, a requirement in superhero stories, Diana thankfully doesn’t compromise her integrity for him.

(13) GENRE MOVIE POSTERS. Bill recommends Posteritati

Hundreds of SF movie posters: https://posteritati.com/genre/sci-fi?page=1

Hundreds more Fantasy movie posters: https://posteritati.com/genre/fantasy?page=1

Note: click “In Stock Only” to “off” to maximize browsing.

(14) BIONIC HANDS. Click on “3D printed bionic hands trial begins in Bristol” to see the video report.

The world’s first clinical trial of 3D printed bionic hands for child amputees starts this week in Bristol.

They are made by a South Gloucestershire company which only launched four years ago.

If the trial is successful the hands will become available on the NHS, bringing life-changing improvements for patients.

(15) PROSPECTIVE ASTRONAUTS. NPR’s story “Meet Your Lucky Stars: NASA Announces A New Class Of Astronaut Candidates” comes with pictures and short interviews.

Jasmin Moghbeli, one of the dozen candidates, spoke with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro from Houston’s Johnson Space Center, where she’ll undertake the training program starting in August.

Moghbeli, who says she’s wanted to be an astronaut since the sixth grade, talked about what kind of candidate it takes to earn the coveted spot.

“Start looking into science, technology, engineering, math, those kinds of fields,” the German-born, New York native says. But whatever you do, she says, love it.

“There were many other applicants that applied who were extremely qualified for this position that aren’t lucky enough to be sitting up here like I am,” she adds. “So make sure you’re doing what you love. If I did not get the call saying, ‘Hey can you join us here at NASA?’ I still would’ve been extremely happy in the career that I was in.”

The seven men and five women of the class bring an impressive resume to NASA: The astronaut candidates are an athletic crew and include former SpaceX employees, a marine biologist and half of them are military officers.

(16) CAPED CLAPTRAP. Glen Weldon claims “Adam West Saved Batman. And Me.” If only by reaction — the author argues that the show was so silly it revived interest in the One True Dark Knight.

In my book, The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, I attempt to unpack how the show, and West’s performance in particular, are the reason anyone’s talking about the character of Batman today.

Batman comics had languished near the bottom of the sales charts — the publisher even made (likely disingenuous) threats to cancel them outright — before West took the hero into the mainstream. The mainstream embraced him, and — after a brief Batmania fad gripped the country in 1966 — swiftly tired of all things Bat. Batman comics sales plummeted again.

Comics creators and fans resented the clownish version of their hero who’d spent time in the cultural spotlight, and reacted against it by engineering a version of the character who was — specifically and intentionally — everything West’s Batman wasn’t: dark, haunted, gothic, brooding. Obsessed.

A new generation of comics readers — who knew a little something about obsession — saw themselves in this new, grim, self-serious Batman. For better or worse, he’s been DC Comics’ top-selling hero ever since.

(17) NOT FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON. Whenever Larry Correia blows his stack at me, once he finally runs out of obscene things to say, which takes awhile, the next thing he does (like today) is tell people I keep linking to his blog to get pingbacks that will lure traffic from his popular site. Which is not only a lie – I link whenever I have an interest in an item – but is absurd on its face. Below are the Alexa rankings for our two sites. And the fact is that although Correia has repeated this claim several times since 2014, at no time then or now was his site ranked above mine, or anywhere close to it.

(Bear in mind that 1 would be the highest ranking, so the site with the most traffic has the lower rank numbers.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Bill, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/16 Little Old Lady Got Pixelated Late Last Night

(1) SHINY. What’s the latest at Young People Read Old SF? Curator James Davis Nicoll has assigned them Arthur C. Clarke’s “Superiority”.

I knew I would be offering my subjects a Clarke story at some point, not because he is an old favourite of mine, but because Clarke was name-checked in the Facebook post that inspired Young People Read Old SF.

nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won’t happen.

But which Clarke? A White Hart anecdote? (No bar stories in this series … so far). A Meeting with Medusa? His creepy “A Walk in the Dark”? The puritanical “I Remember Babylon”? After considerable dithering, I selected 1951’s “Superiority,” because I thought pretty much everyone has had some worthy endeavour undermined by someone else’s desire to embrace a new shiny, whether it’s a committee member using email options they clearly have not mastered (1) or simply someone who discovers Windows 10 installing itself on their once useful computer. Or, in the case that inspired Clarke, the V2 rocket program that undermined the German war effort….

(2) THE QUESTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog couldn’t be more right — “The Biggest Question in Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Series or Standalone?” Aidan Moher and Corrina Lawson take opposite sides in the debate.

Aidan: Very interesting. I was definitely raised on series and trilogies as I first discovered science fiction and fantasy, and I totally agree that there’s something exciting and comforting for a young reader to know that there are more books just like the one she’s finished reading. As I’ve grown older, though, my tastes have changed quite a bit.

Honestly, I think that downfall you mention is a serious one for me. My time for reading is limited, even more so as I’ve grown older, established a career, and started a family, so I want to know that when I commit to a story, I’m guaranteed some measure of satisfaction by the time I finish it….

Corrina: It’s the time commitment for a stand-alone that gets to me. I have to take that extra time to get used to the style of the book. I’m more likely to enjoy something that is fast-paced in that case, like Chuck Wendig’s Invasive, which really reads more like a movie playing in my head….

(3) MACARTHUR FELLOWS. The 2016 MacArthur Fellows have been named, recipients of the “genius grants.”

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more

Here are some of the fellows who are involved in the arts:

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, New York, New York
Playwright using a range of theatrical genres in subversive, often unsettling works that engage frankly with the ways in which race, class, and history are negotiated in both private and public.
Josh Kun, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
Cultural Historian exploring the ways in which the arts and popular culture are conduits to cross-cultural exchange and bringing diverse communities in Los Angeles together around heretofore unnoticed cultural commonalities.
Maggie Nelson, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
Writer rendering pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day experience in works of nonfiction marked by dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory.
Claudia Rankine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Poet crafting critical texts for understanding American culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century in inventive, ever-evolving forms of poetic expression.
Lauren Redniss, Parsons, The New School for Design, New York, New York
Artist and Writer fusing artwork, written text, and design in a unique approach to visual nonfiction that enriches the ways in which stories can be conveyed, experienced, and understood.
Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker, New York, New York
Long-Form Journalist bringing to light the stories of people usually invisible to mainstream reporting and providing new and compelling perspectives on even well-covered social justice issues.
Gene Luen Yang, San Jose, California
Graphic Novelist bringing diverse people and cultures to children’s and young adult literature and confirming comics’ place as an important creative and imaginative force within literature, art, and education.

 

(4) GENRE REALITY. Ann Leckie takes a swing at defining “Real Science Fiction” by looking at a negative definition.

It is notoriously difficult to define “science fiction” but a common attempt to do so–to wall off stuff that isn’t “really” science fiction from the proper stuff–is to assert that a real science fiction story wouldn’t survive the removal of the science fictiony bits, where, I don’t know, I guess “fake” science fiction is just Westerns with spaceships instead of horses or somesuch….

And I can’t help noticing how often this particular criterion is used to delegitimize stories as “real” science fiction that by any other measure would more than qualify. It’s not just that the critic doesn’t really like this work, no, sadly the story is just not “really” science fiction, because if you take away the robots and the spaceships and the cloning and the black holes and the aliens and the interstellar civilizations and the fact that it’s set way in the future, well, it’s still a story about people wanting something and struggling to get it. Not really science fiction, see?

(5) SCHEINMAN OBIT. How “The Day the Earth Stood Still” became the impetus for the creation of assembly-line robots. From a New York Times obituary.

Victor Scheinman [1942-2016], who overcame his boyhood nightmares about a science-fiction movie humanoid to build the first successful electrically powered, computer-controlled industrial robot, died on Tuesday in Petrolia, Calif. He was 73.

His brother, Dr. Richard Scheinman, said the cause was complications of heart disease. He said he had been driving his brother to visit Dr. Scheinman’s home in Northern California when he apparently had a heart attack. He lived in Woodside, near Palo Alto, Calif.

Mr. Scheinman was part of Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department when, in 1969, he developed a programmable six-jointed robot that was named the Stanford Arm.

It was adapted by manufacturers to become the leading robot in assembling and spot-welding products, ranging from fuel pumps and windshield wipers for automobiles to inkjet cartridges for printers. Its ability to perform repeatable functions continuously equaled or surpassed that of human workers.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper. Order your Rose Tyler action figure now!

billie-piper-rose-tyler-series-4-side

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • September 22 – Bilbo
  • September 22 — Frodo

(8) YOUR PATRONUS. “Now Pottermore Lets You Find Out Your Patronus (J.K. Rowling Got a Heron)”io9 has the story.

The latest feature on Pottermore, the ever-expanding home of Harry Potter content, is a quiz designed by J.K. Rowling to tell you what your Patronus is.

In case you’d forgotten, a Patronus is a spell conjured by a happy memory and the incantation “Expecto patronum!” The Patronus takes the form of a silvery animal that protects against the soul-crushing depression caused by exposure to Dementors.

The test on Pottermore, like all Pottermore quizzes, is multiple choice. Only instead of answering a question, two or three words pop up and you have a short time to click one instinctively. No thoughts needed or wanted.

(9) KEN LIU TRANSLATIONS. Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction from editor/translator Ken Liu will be released November 1, 2016. Here’s more information plus the Table of Contents.

Award-winning translator and author Ken Liu presents a collection of short speculative fiction from China.

Some stories have won awards; some have been included in various ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies; some have been well reviewed by critics and readers; and some are simply Ken’s personal favorites. Many of the authors collected here (with the obvious exception of Liu Cixin) belong to the younger generation of ‘rising stars’.

In addition, three essays at the end of the book explore Chinese science fiction. Liu Cixin’s essay, The Worst of All Possible Universes and The Best of All Possible Earths, gives a historical overview of SF in China and situates his own rise to prominence as the premier Chinese author within that context. Chen Qiufan’s The Torn Generation gives the view of a younger generation of authors trying to come to terms with the tumultuous transformations around them. Finally, Xia Jia, who holds the first Ph.D. issued for the study of Chinese SF, asks What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?.

Full table of contents:

  • Introduction: Chinese Science Fiction in Translation

Chen Qiufan

  • The Year of the Rat
  • The Fish of Lijiang
  • The Flower of Shazui

Xia Jia

  • A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight
  • Tongtong’s Summer
  • Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse (unpublished)

Ma Boyong

  • The City of Silence

Hao Jingfang

  • Invisible Planets
  • Folding Beijing

Tang Fei

  • Call Girl

Cheng Jingbo

  • Grave of the Fireflies

Liu Cixin

  • The Circle
  • Taking Care of God

Essays

  • The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three-Body and Chinese Science Fiction
  • The Torn Generation: Chinese Science Fiction in a Culture in Transition
  • What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?

(10) BANDERSNATCH. Diana Pavlac Glyer’s book about the Inklings, Bandersnatch, was released in January 2016. Here was one of the ads from last year encouraging people to pre-order….

gilligan-bandersnatch

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Darrah Chavey, Dawn Incognito, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stores. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Arthurs.]