Pixel Scroll 9/13/19 One Pixel, One File and One Scroll, Well, My Fandom, She Gone, She Gone Tonight

(1) A CLASSIC. Deadline reports Clifford D. Simak’s novel Way Station, a 1964 Hugo winner, will be developed for Netflix: “Matt Reeves’ 6th & Idaho To Turn Sci-Fi Tale ‘Way Station’ Into Netflix Movie”. In years gone by this was my #1 favorite sf book!

Here’s the logline on Way Station: For more than 100 years Enoch Wallace has been the keeper of a Way Station on Earth for intergalactic alien travelers as they teleport across the universe. But the gifts of knowledge and immortality that his intergalactic guests have bestowed upon him are proving to be a nightmarish burden, for they have opened Enoch’s eyes to humanity’s impending destruction. Still, one final hope remains for the human race.

(2) GRRM WILL CO-AUTHOR GOT TV PREQUEL. “‘Game of Thrones’: Second Prequel in the Works at HBO”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

A second Game of Thrones prequel is in the works at HBO.

Sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter that the premium cable network is near a deal for a pilot order for a prequel set 300 years before the events of the flagship series that tracks the beginnings and the end of House Targaryen. Ryan Condal (Colony) and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin will pen the script for the drama, which is based on Martin’s book Fire & Blood.

(3) COPING WITH CHANGE. M.L. Clark provides a deeply thoughtful analysis of the conversation about award names in “Letting Go of Our “Heroes”: Ongoing Humanist Training and the (Ex-)James Tiptree, Jr. Award” at Another White Atheist in Colombia.

…I asked myself three questions, then, to challenge my knee-jerk defense of the status quo–and I’d encourage you to employ similar the next time a group decision focussed on harm-reduction finds you, initially, “on” or “on the other side of” the fence.

1. To whom are you listening in this debate?

In the wake of my defensiveness, I had to make a concerted effort to read counterpoints to my perspective. Lots of them. And as I did, I took note of the times when I felt the greatest urgency to seek out both-sides-ism, to return to the security of others whose initial reactions were the same as mine: folks reluctant to change the name of this award, to own up to the pain Sheldon’s story has left in the hearts of many living human beings.

Critically, too, I didn’t then seek out those arguments when I wanted to–because what need did I have of them? They’d be sheer preaching to the choir, like the reading of apologetics for some Christians when faced with doubts. But I did note the contexts in which I most wanted to dive for shelter… and those contexts? They were usually when someone said something that challenged me to reason from empathy, to recognize the humanity of other people marginalized by Sheldon’s prominence at potential cost to the value of her disabled husband’s life. At those points most of all, I felt the urge to hide behind the presumption of neutrality, in superficial phrasing like, Well, no one can say for sure what happened that night! 

Which, sure, is true… but then why was I still automatically favouring one interpretation–the more convenient interpretation–over another that people were actively telling me did harm to their sense of full and safe inclusion in SF?

(4) EX-MEN. Cian Maher helps Polygon readers remember “That time the X-Men’s humanity was put on trial in a real court of law”. Because the Toy Biz company could get a lower tariff rate if the figurines were deemed nonhuman.

…Toy Biz’s motion acknowledged that the X-Men “manifest human characteristics at varying degrees,” but argued that most are more of a mixed bag of human and non-human aspects. For example, the document specifically calls out Wolverine (rude!) for having “long, sharplooking [sic] claws grafted onto his hands that come out from under his skin along with wolf-like hair and ears.”

Don’t body-shame Wolverine! He tries very hard!

Judge Barzilay’s official ruling, in which Toy Biz prevailed, states “the action figure playthings at issue here are not properly classifiable as ‘dolls’ under the HTSUS by virtue of various non-human characteristics they exhibit.”

(5) THESE THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE CAREFULLY… Vance K offers advice to parents in “Let’s Frighten Children! Vincent Price & Scooby-Doo” at Nerds of a Feather.

You’re a parent. You love horror. But horror is scary. So how to share this love of horror with your young, innocent, in-love-with-the-world child?

…For me and my family, the first step to introducing horror was to introduce the language of scares without, really, the fear. It’s hard to be a little kid. You are tiny, and surrounded by giants. Nothing makes sense, and every outcome is uncertain. Mom’s leaving…Will she come back?! How long is an hour?! It’s unknowable. And worse, there might actually be a monster under the bed. Or in the closet — you just don’t know.

This is where Vincent Price and Scooby-Doo came in handy. It’s pretty unlikely any kid is going to be legitimately frightened by an episode of Scooby-Doo. And yet, there are ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires, werewolves, creepers, and more, all running about. I’m actually not a huge Scooby fan, but I found the Cartoon Network Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated series to be excellent. I watched a big chunk of it with my kids, who were five and seven at the time. They loved it, and still do. We re-watch episodes regularly. In a world where asking a kid who has grown up with an iPhone to watch Bela Lugosi’s Dracula seems like a bridge too far, this is a show that is fast-paced, conversant in horror tropes, dabbles in grotesque/frightening imagery, and is funny, smart, and good. It’s also a show that prominently features Vincent Van Ghoul, who is a not-at-all-disguised representation of Vincent Price.

(6) ALA ADDRESSES MACMILLAN CEO. Publishers Weekly covers an American Library Association press conference where “Librarians Launch National Campaign to Oppose Macmillan’s Library E-book Embargo”.

…So far, that action includes two rather modest initiatives, unveiled on Wednesday. One is an online petition (eBooksForAll.org) urging Sargent and Macmillan to reconsider the publisher’s recently announced embargo. The other is a new online book club, in partnership with OverDrive. The “Libraries Transform Book Pick” will offer library users unlimited access to a selected e-book for two weeks, with no holds list and no waiting. The first pick is Kassandra Montag’s debut novel After the Flood (HarperCollins), which will be available for unlimited e-book checkouts at public libraries from October 7-21.

(7) WORDS OF A FEATHER. Paul Di Filippo’s F&SF column “Plumage from Pegasus” tells all about a collaboration by two of the genre’s founders that was largely unknown ‘til a couple of years ago: Flora Columbia: Goddess of a New Age, by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

In the year 1901, with the publication of his ninth novel, The First Men in the Moon, H. G. Wells, then a thirty-five-year-old wunderkind, cemented his reputation as the leading purveyor of “scientific romances.” The acclaim accorded to this British upstart, however, did not sit well with the aging lion of the nascent genre, Jules Verne—then an ailing seventy-three and just a few years away from his own death. Verne did not care for Wells’s less-stringent approach to scientific speculation, nor for his wilder imagination. In fact, Verne was so perturbed that he gave vent to his famous direct criticism of the novel: “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”

So much is a matter of historical record. But what came next remained secret until just recently.

Both irked and disappointed by the jab from this venerable figure who had done so much to pioneer imaginative literature and whose respect he would have relished, Wells did a daring thing. On a mission both conciliatory and confrontational, he journeyed to France to confront the Master. In Amiens, at 44 Boulevard de Longueville, he was received with a wary hospitality. But after some awkward conversation over a lunch of calvados and choucroute garnie, the two writers found a shared footing in their mutual love of “science fiction,” a term they would not even have recognized. And then, impulsively, they decided to seal their tentative new friendship in a manner befitting their shared passion.

They would collaborate on a short novel….

(8) COLLINS OBIT. Charles Collins (1935-2019) died August 26 at the age of 83. He worked as a Publisher’s Representative, eventually becoming co-owner of Como Sales Company. Also, with Donald M. Grant, he co-founded Centaur Press, later renamed Centaur Books, a small press active from 1969 through 1981.

With Donald M. Grant, left, and Robb Walsh at the launch of Kingdom of the Dwarfs, 1980. Photo by © Andrew Porter

It was primarily a paperback publisher, though one of its more successful titles was reissued in hardcover. It was notable for reviving pulp adventure and fantasy works of the early twentieth century for its “Time-Lost Series.”

Authors whose works were returned to print include Robert E. Howard, Arthur O. Friel, Talbot Mundy, H. Warner Munn, and William Hope Hodgson. In the sole anthology it issued, the press also premiered a new work by Lin Carter. In later years it also published longer works by contemporary authors, including Carter, Galad Elflandsson, and Robb Walsh. Its books featured cover art by Jeff Jones, Virgil Finlay, Frank Brunner, Stephen Fabian, Randy Broecker, and David Wenzel.

The family obituary is here. Collins’ own history of Como Sales Company is here.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 13, 1969 – CBS introduced Scooby Doo, Where Are You? 50 years ago this week: Quoting the Wikipedia —

The first episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! “What a Night for a Knight” debuted on the CBS network Saturday, September 13, 1969. The original voice cast featured veteran voice actor Don Messick as Scooby-Doo, radio DJ Casey Kasem (later host of radio’s syndicated American Top 40) as Shaggy, actor Frank Welker (later a veteran voice actor in his own right) as Fred, actress Nicole Jaffe as Velma, and musician Indira Stefanianna as Daphne.[15] Scooby’s speech patterns closely resembled an earlier cartoon dog, Astro from The Jetsons (1962–63), also voiced by Messick.[2] Seventeen episodes of Scooby-Doo Where are You! were produced in 1969–70.

  • September 13, 1974  — Planet of the Apes debuted as a weekly television series with the  “Escape from Tomorrow” episode. Roddy McDowall was once again Galen. Due to really poor rating, CBS canceled the series after 14 episodes. 
  • September 13, 1999 — On this day, in the timeline inhabited by the crew of Space: 1999, the events told in the “Breakaway” premier episode happened.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1898 Arthur J. Burks. He  sold his first stories to Weird Tales in 1924. He became one of the “million-word-a-year” men in the pulp magazines by dint of his tremendous output. He wrote in the neighborhood of eight hundred stories for the pulps. Both iBooks and Kindle have some of his fiction available for free if you care to see how this pulp writer reads. (Died 1974.)
  • Born September 13, 1926 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 86. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell. I will confess that I never watched the latter. Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! 
  • Born September 13, 1932 Dick Eney. Most notably, in 1959 he published Fancyclopedia 2, an over two hundred page encyclopedia of all things fandom. He worked on committees for Discon I, Discon II, and Constellation and was the Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.Con II, the 1984 Worldcon. He served as OE of FAPA and SAPS and was a member of The Cult and the Washington in ’77 Worldcon bid. He was toastmaster at Conterpoint 1993. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 13, 1936 Richard Sapir. Pulp writer in spirit if not in actuality. Among his many works is The Destroyer series of novels that he co-created with Warren Murphy. (Murphy would write them by himself after death of Sapir starting with the seventy-first novel until the series concluded with ninety-sixth novel.)  And the main character in them is Remo Williams who you’ll no doubt recognize from  Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins where Fred Ward played Remo which I’ve watched but remember nothing of thirty years on. (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 13, 1939 Richard Kiel. He’s definitely  best remembered  for being the steely mouthed Jaws n The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Now let’s see what other SFF films he’s been in… His very last genre work was voicing Vlad in the animated Tangled with first his being The Salorite in The Phantom Planet. He was Eegah in the low budget horror film Eegah,  a giant House of the Damned, Dr. Kolos in The Human Duplicators, Psychiatric Hospital Patient in Brainstorm, Bolob in the Italian L’umanoide, internationally released as The Humanoid, and he reprised his Jaws character in Inspector Gadget. Series wise, he’s shown up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Twilight Zone,  Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe Wild Wild West (where he working in a recurring role with Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless), I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Land of The Lost and Superboy. (Died 2014.)
Richard Kiel, right, in Wild Wild West
  • Born September 13, 1944 Jacqueline Bisset, 75. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of Counterpart that’s her entire encounter with genre acting.
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 72. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Warlord, and Jon Sable Freelance. The Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth .
  • Born September 13, 1961 Tom Holt, 59. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, truly into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. 
  • Born September 13, 1969 Bob Eggleton, 50. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork,  Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton  which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.

(11) ROLLING ON THE RIVER. Kelly Lasiter recommends a book at Fantasy Literature: “Mapping Winter: A character and a world that will stick with me”.

Mapping Winter (2019) is Marta Randall’s reworking of her 1983 novel, The Sword of Winter. (Randall talks more about the story behind the book here.) Its release as Mapping Winter was followed shortly by the all-new sequel The River South, with the two novels making up the RIDERS GUILD series. It’s a secondary-world fantasy, but without magic; I was about two-thirds of the way through the book when I realized, “Huh, I don’t think there’s been any magic!” What it does have is a nation poised between feudalism and industrialization.

(12) SCHOOL DAZE. James Davis Nicoll rings up our magic number: “Five SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

Kazuma Kamachi’s ongoing series of short novels and their associated manga and anime (A Certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun, A Certain Scientific Accelerator, etc.) is set in Academy City. The city is home to over two million students, most of whom have some degree of reality-breaking Esper power. Some can control electromagnetism; some can keep objects at a constant temperature. Imagine the Xavier School for the Gifted with the population of Paris, France. Unlike the leadership of Xavier’s school, however, the people running Academy City are ambitious people entirely unfamiliar with the concepts of consent or ethics….

(13) ABOUT THAT DEAD HORSE. Good point – after all, how many people would watch a channel that mostly runs commercials?

(14) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Paul Weimer says people who like a character-focused story will love it: “Microreview: This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In a world of twitter, and direct messages, and texts, and instant social media, long form letters are a delightful retro technology and form. Epistolary novels and stories, never the most common of forms even when letters were dominant as a means of communication, are exceedingly distinctive just by their format in this day and age. It’s a bold choice by the authors to have the two agents, Red (from a technological end state utopia) and Blue (from a biological super consciousness utopia) to start their correspondence and to have their letters (which take increasingly unusual forms as described in the narrative) be the backbone of the action. Every chapter has one of the principals in action, and a letter from the other principals, giving a harmonic balance for the reader as far as perspective. But it is within the letters themselves that the novella truly sings and shows its power.

(15) BOG STANDARD. Nina Shepardson reviews Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss at Outside of a Dog.

The theme of Sarah Moss’s latest novel, Ghost Wall, can be summed up by a William Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even really past.” Sylvie’s father plans an unusual vacation for their family: joining a local college professor’s project to spend a couple of weeks living the way British people did in the Bronze Age. This involves some of the physical discomforts you would expect, such as foraging for food in the summer heat and living in huts. But things take a darker turn as Sylvie’s father’s fascination with the period deepens into obsession. And not all the hazards of the era were natural ones; there’s evidence that a nearby bog was a site of human sacrifice….

(16) ALASDAIR STUART. It’s Full Lid o’clock!

(17) THE MESSAGE. Joseph Hurtgen has just released his second sff novel with a theme chosen for reasons he explains in “Why I Wrote an Anti-Gun, Anti-Trump, Environmental Science Fiction Novel “. “This novel is an exercise in hoping our democracy outlasts this election cycle, hoping our generation doesn’t destroy the planet, and hoping that we could rise above greed to make our nation safe for our children. What better place to do all this hoping than in the pages of science fiction?”

The book follows William Tecumseh Sherman as he time travels around America’s history, talking to presidents that like their guns and aren’t interested in instituting environmental protections. 

I realize that it’s a bit of stretch that Sherman would get involved politically. Sherman once said if he was elected, he wouldn’t serve. But isn’t that precisely the kind of leader America needs? Someone disinterested in leadership wouldn’t likely have ulterior motives for holding a position of power: no Putins to please, no buildings to build in Moscow or the Middle East.

But the reality of American politics is that those willing to profit from power are rewarded for it. In 2019, the emoluments clause might as well be struck from the record. It clearly isn’t taken seriously. But emoluments are only the tip of the ugly iceberg.

(18) “THE SCREAM”. “Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2019: Here are the finalists” — minimal text, great photos.

(19) THEATER AS GAME. “Variant 31: ‘Pushing the boundaries’ of immersive theatre”.

It’s being promoted as the biggest live immersive game yet. Variant 31 is theatre – there are 150 real-life performers involved. But its creator is hoping it will bring in video gamers – and people who like jumping out of aircraft.

If you heard reports of reanimated cadavers roaming at will beneath New Oxford Street you might suppose London had been having a particularly bad day for public transport.

But producer Dalton M Dale is proud to stand in a slightly musty former shop basement and talk of the malevolent band of marauding zombies he’s adding to the growing world of immersive theatre.

He’s from North Carolina but in 2017 he came to London after a few years working on immersive shows in New York.

“London is the place to push the envelope of what immersive storytelling can do: the point about Variant 31 is that as you move through our really large site you get actively involved in the story. That’s instead of standing at a slight distance and observing and admiring, which has often been the case with even the best immersive experiences.”

…”You start at Patient Intake at Toxico Technologies,” Dale explains. “Toxico 25 years ago has manufactured strange and nefarious materials for chemical warfare. You are given a piece of wrist technology which at key points across 35 floors will allow you to do various things: you can alter the lighting and open hidden passages and even change the weather.

“Creatures emerge as you move through. From the moment you step into this world the hunt is on and someone wants to catch you. Oh, and always bear in mind: the only way to kill a zombie is to aim for the head.

Players score points by killing the creatures and at the end of the experience there will be just one winner from your group. “We claim this is the first truly immersive experience: it’s not spoon-fed like some other shows. Your presence matters and genuinely changes what goes on.”

(20) DATA SAVED BY DEFNESTRATION. BBC tells how “Russian activist saves data from police with drone”.

A Russian activist used a drone to get his data out of his high-rise flat when police came to search it.

Sergey Boyko says he sent hard drives to a friend by drone when police banged at his door at 10:00 local time, to avoid them getting hold of the data.

The search was part of a nationwide crackdown on the opposition.

Around 200 raids have been carried out in the past few days after the ruling party suffered major losses in local elections in Moscow.

A YouTube video taken (in Russian) by a female companion shows Mr Boyko, who lives in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, releasing a drone from his flat in a tall apartment block as police wait to be let in.

Mr Boyko heads the local branch of the movement of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who campaigned for voters to defeat candidates of the United Russia party using tactical voting in Sunday’s city council election.

The activists say the raids are a form of revenge by the authorities for the setbacks.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In A Month of Type on Vimeo, Mr Kaplin animates the alphabet.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Joseph Hurtgen, IanP, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/1/19 I Have Pixeled The Scroll Less Tickboxed, And That Has Made All The DIfference

(1) TIPTREE BIOGRAPHER WEIGHS IN. Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, shared her research about the death of Tiptree and her husband. Thread starts here.

(2) STOKERCON UK ADDS GUEST. Mick Garris will be StokerCon UK’s media guest of honor in 2020.

STOKERCON UK—the Horror Writers Association’s fifth annual celebration of horror and dark fantasy in creative media and the first to be held outside of North America—is delighted to welcome award-winning American film-maker MICK GARRIS as its latest Guest of Honour.

Mick Garris began writing fiction at the age of twelve. By the time he was in high school, he was writing music and film journalism for various local and national publications, and during college, edited and published his own pop culture magazine. Steven Spielberg hired Mick as story editor on the AMAZING STORIES TV series for NBC, where he wrote or co-wrote ten of the forty-four episodes. Since then, he has written or co-scripted a number of feature films and teleplays (*BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, THE FLY II, HOCUS POCUS, CRITTERS 2 and NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES, amongst many others).

As a director and producer, he has worked in a wide range of media, including feature films (CRITTERS 2, SLEEPWALKERS, RIDING THE BULLET, NIGHTMARE CINEMA); made-for-TV movies (QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY, VIRTUAL OBSESSION, DESPERATION); cable movies and series (PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and its spin-off RAVENSWOOD, WITCHES OF EAST END, SHADOWHUNTERS, DEAD OF SUMMER, ONCE UPON A TIME); network mini-series (THE STAND, THE SHINING, BAG OF BONES); series pilots (THE OTHERS, LOST IN OZ) and series (SHE-WOLF OF LONDON). He is also the creator and executive producer of Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR anthology series, as well as creator of the NBC series, FEAR ITSELF.

Mick is known for his highly-rated podcast, POST MORTEM WITH MICK GARRIS, where he sits down with some of the most revered film-makers in the horror and fantasy genre for one-on-one discussions, including the likes of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Roger Corman, Walter Hill, Neil Gaiman, and many others….

(3) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. John Coxon has posted his report: “Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon”. Lots of in-depth talk about facilities, parties and program.

Finally, let’s talk parties. These were so much better than Loncon 3 and Helsinki, and represent the first party scene outside a US Worldcon that I’ve thought really worked. The model of having programme rooms by day become party rooms by night worked well, and in general it was a fun time. There was a failure mode — the queue to get a drink in the Glasgow in 2024 party was as big as the room, making it difficult to actually enjoy the party after you’d got your drink through no fault of the organisers — but most parties were a good mixture of people, pleasant to spend time in, and had interesting drinks and snacks (although the expense of having to use conference centre catering meant these often ran out quite early). Having the bar just down one floor meant that if you got bored of the parties you could head back, and vice versa. This felt nicer than the fan village in Loncon 3 mostly because that space was one, gigantic space with no nooks or crannies, which to me fails to capture what’s nice about drinking at Eastercon, i.e. the ability to find a little niche and settle with friends, or go from niche to niche changing context. Dublin very much captured that feeling, and the nightlife felt much, much more like a giant Eastercon than it did at Loncon 3. I liked that the bar was named in honour of Martin Hoare, who died shortly before the convention.

(4) AUTOPSYING THE ART BOOK CATEGORY. 2019 Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte’s extensive analysis of “A Hugo Award for Best Art Book: the 2019 experiment”, on his blog From the Heart of Europe, includes this statistical summary:

So, we unleashed it along with the other Hugo and Retro Hugo categories in January, and tallied the results after nominations closed in May. Participation at nominations stage was frankly disappointing.

  • Best Art Book had the lowest participation at nominations stage of any 2019 category (248 voters compared to the next lowest two: 290 for Best Fan Artist and 297 for Best Fanzine).
  • It had the lowest number of nominees (78, compared to the next lowest two: 91 for Best Semiprozine and 102 for Best Fanzine).
  • The top finalist in the category had the lowest number of votes for a top finalist in any category (51, compared to the next lowest two: 70 for the top finalist in Best Fan Writer and 72 for the top finalist in Best Fancast).
  • The lowest-placed finalist had the second lowest number of votes for the lowest-placed finalist in any category (28, ahead of 25 for the lowest-placed finalist in Best Fan Artist but behind 33 for the lowest-placed finalist in Best Graphic Story).
  • The sixteenth-ranked nominee had the second lowest number of votes for any category (6, compared to 5 for Best Fan Artist and 8 for Best Fanzine).
  • The count for Best Fan Artist had the second lowest number of rounds of any category (36, ahead of 31 for Best Fanzine, behind 43 for Best Semiprozine).
  • The votes cast for the top 16 nominees were 51, 47, 47, 39, 30, 28, 25, 24, 24, 19, 15, 12, 12, 10, 8 and 6.

(5) WFC 2019 ROOMS. This year’s World Fantasy Con committee reminded everyone time is fleeting – click here for room reservations.

As a reminder, the World Fantasy Convention 2019 hotel discount block closes on September 30! You can reserve a hotel room at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel for $149 (plus taxes & fees) by visiting our Venue page below, and clicking on the “Book Your Room Now” rate.

(6) HUGO LOSERS PARTY. Beyond the File 770 comments section, there have been trenchant responses to George R.R. Martin’s post about the party.

Alex Acks writes, “I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”.

There are a few things in particular I’d like to respond to in George’s epic non-apology.

I do not know that anything I can say will appease those who did not get into the party… but I can at least explain what happened, and why.

We’re writers. Words and word choice matter, and we’re not going to pretend otherwise. I do not need to be appeased like a tantrummy child, and I don’t appreciate the implication. I wanted an apology for those of us left out in the cold.

I actually do appreciate the explanation of the communication issues, of how things got so messy. The party is a large undertaking. It’s also George’s party, and as I have stated before, he can invite who he bloody well pleases. I also do appreciate this:

We knew the capacity of the floor we were renting well in advance, and worried whether the 450 limit would be a problem for us.   The possibility was there, we all saw that.    But there was no easy answer, so in the end we decided to go ahead as planned in the hopes that things would work out.   The final decision was mine.   It was the wrong decision.

Which is then rather deflated by:

A number of the louder Twitterers have stated SOMETIMES IN SCREAMING CAPS that it is simplicity itself to calculate the number of attendees at a party.   That makes me suspect that none of them have ever organized one, at least not one as big as the Hugo Losers Party.

Feel free to name me if you have a problem with me. I certainly used screaming caps because I was, I would hope understandably, upset…

Renay, part of the team that creates Lady Business, this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, took issue with the entire post, of course, especially objecting to this phrase:

Also, whereas in the past categories like fanzine and semiprozines only had one editor, and therefore one nominee (Andy Porter for ALGOL, DIck Geis for ALIEN CRITIC, Charlie Brown for LOCUS, Mike Glyer for FILE 770, etc.), now most of them seem to be edited by four, five, or seven people, all of whom expect rockets and nominee invitations.

Thread stars here.

Alexandra Erin makes extensive comments beginning here.

Kat Tanaka Okopnik, who experienced the inconvenience of waiting to get into the party, shared observations on Facebook.

We (waiting outside) had no idea the buses weren’t supplied by GRRM. It added to the consternation.

It was raining intermittently, the buses had left, and there as no shelter and no seating. Most of us were willing to stand, although it was cold and most of us were not prepared for standing outside — femme party clothes don’t prioritize weatherproofness. We asked for seats for people who needed not to be standing.

…I’m writing this account in hopes of adding to the aggregate narrative about the night, and with the expectation that having more facts and viewpoints available affects the way someone might think of the events and choices that lead to them. GRRM’s generosity is legendary, but it’s true that we shouldn’t expect it to be bottomless. I thank him for both his hospitality and for the accounting he has shared with us giving insight into his planning process.

Lastly, someone slipped a joke onto the internet!

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree wth that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. (Died 1950.)
  • Born September 1, 1936 Gene Colan. He co-created with Stan Lee the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. He created Carol Danvers, who would become Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, and was featured in Captain Marvel. With Marv Wolfman, he created Blade. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 1, 1941 Elen Willard, 78. She’s best known for her portrayal of the character Ione Sykes in “The Grave” episode  of The Twilight Zone. You can rent it on iTunes or Amazon. She also shows up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘s “The Jingle Bells Affair”. 
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 77. I certainly think the Hugo Award winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners.
  • Born September 1, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. A noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician who born in Washington, D.C. He frequently is known by the nickname Filthy Pierre. He’s is the creator of the Voodoo message board system once used at cons such as Worldcon, WisCon and Arisia. 
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 68. He co-edited The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman which I highly recommend. He is a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and he’s member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies.
  • Born September 1, 1952 Brad Linaweaver. Mike’s remembrance post is here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 1, 1952 Timothy Zahn, 68. Apparently he’s known more these days for the Thrawn series of Star Wars novels.
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 55. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards. Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Dairies are amazing reading? 
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 52. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in Gormenghast and Harmony in Good Omens.

(8) BIRTHDAY PARTY IN PROGRESS. [Item by Standback.] Cassandra Khaw’s “Birthday Microfiction” has been exploding all over Twitter and it’s fantastic. You can see lots and lots and LOTS of people throwing their hat into the ring here.

Lots of great ones, large and small. My favorite so far is Marissa Lingen’s “hardest experience in a magic ollege major” thread; they’re on-point and fantastic.

Some excellent ones that could use some more prompts:

* A continuing story, @fromankyra:

* Strange dubbed TV, Laura Blackwell:

* Imaginary TV shows, Evelyn Chirson:

…and, I’m doing one too, if you want to hear how your themed birthday party is going to pan out.

It’s a lot of fun

(9) SPOOKY HISTORY. ‘Tis the season to remember who made it up — “Have You Ever Heard of a Halloween Tree?”

It can be speculated that the Halloween tree got its start from the 1972 fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. In the novel, eight boys are out trick-or-treating on Halloween night when they realize their friend Pipkin has been taken away. The trick-or-treaters find their way through time, wandering through Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, the Notre Dame in Medieval Paris, and finally the Day of the Dead in Mexico. As the friends travel through time, they learn the origins of Halloween and in the end, the Halloween Tree, filled with jack-o-lanterns, serves as a spooky metaphor for all the different cultures and how they celebrate Halloween.

(10) HONK IF YOU LOVE GAMING. “A gaming company is releasing something called “Untitled Goose Game” and people are losing their honking minds”CNN has the story.

If you have ever wanted to be a “horrible goose” House House’s new video game Untitled Goose Game, may be for you.

The Australian gaming company released a honking new trailer for the game that has been in the works for three years and comes out on September 20.

And there are options. You can be a goose on your Nintendo Switch, Mac or PC and terrorize the citizens of a village.

(11) PRIORITIES. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for August 30, 2019 talks about what it’s like to not win a Hugo, and what’s worse than losing —

That is an amazing set of winners! Especially delighted to see Zen Cho, Jeanette Ng, Becky Chambers and Mary Robinette Kowal recognized. That being said. there are times when Hugo voters can, intentionally or not, be cruel. Two of them hit this year.

Charles Payseur getting fewer votes than No Award is indefensible. Charles is a dynamo who, along with colleagues like Maria Haskins, has made short fiction reviewing viable and vital and in doing so has aided the entire field. The industry needs him, it doesn’t need to insult him. I hope next year that’s rectified.

Didi Chanoch‘s thread here covers the ground concerning Gardner Dozois’ posthumous Hugo brilliantly. All I’ll add is this: the voters didn’t recognize the 13 years E Catherine Tobler and Shimmer put into making the industry better. That’s a massive shame.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. According to Vox: “Brain-reading tech is coming. The law is not ready to protect us.”

Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year.

Other companies such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky are also working on brain tech. They say they’re building it for ethical purposes, like helping people with paralysis control their devices.

This might sound like science fiction, but it’s already begun to change people’s lives. Over the past dozen years, a number of paralyzed patients have received brain implants that allow them to move a computer cursor or control robotic arms. Implants that can read thoughts are still years away from commercial availability, but research in the field is moving faster than most people realize.

Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer.

(13) TODAY’S OTHER THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Ars Technica: “How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron”.

As guards were going so far as to check inside NFL fans’ wallets as part of routine security measures before a recent preseason game at Levi’s Stadium, a different form of surveillance was taking place on the inside of the San Francisco 49ers’ one-year-old, $1.3 billion home here in Silicon Valley.

We’re not talking about facial recognition devices, police body cams, or other security measures likely zeroing in on fans. Instead, employees from San Jose-based Zebra Technologies had recently finished scanning the NFL uniforms of the 49ers and of their opponents—the Dallas Cowboys. All of a sudden, an on-the-field de facto surveillance society was instantly created when Zebra techies activated nickel-sized Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chips that were fastened inside players’ shoulder pads. Every movement of every player now could be monitored within an accuracy level of all but a few inches…

(14) THREE YEARS BEFORE 1984. Andrew Strombeck looks back at “The Year of the Werewolf” at LA Review of Books and asks what it tells us about our current moment.

Why all the lycanthropy? The werewolf was an apt figure for 1981, a moment when prominent commentators worried that many Americans had become too self-focused. Tom Wolfe had first advanced the argument in 1976, dubbing the 1970s the “me” decade, wherein Americans, under the lingering influence of the counterculture, were spending way too much time cultivating their bodies and minds. Christopher Lasch’s 1979 The Culture of Narcissism was so popular that Lasch was invited to the White House, where his ideas would influence Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “crisis of confidence” speech. Linking the OPEC embargo, Watergate, and a declining economy, Carter told Americans “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption,” turning away from the broad project of American productivity that characterized the postwar years. By “self-indulgence,” Carter was referring to the human potential movement, a combination of therapeutic techniques, meditation, swinging, and yoga. Lasch blamed these cultures for the baffling emotional, economic, and social violence that seemed everywhere: in rising divorce rates, widespread unemployment, and the destruction of the inner city.

(15) EAST OF JAVA. BBC looks back at the “Game of Thrones makers on that coffee cup blunder and season eight”.

The Game of Thrones creators said they would be “very far from the internet” when the final episode of the show aired, and it seems they were true to their word.

It’s been more than three months and David Benioff and DB Weiss have just given their first interview addressing Game of Thrones’ controversial eighth season.

While Japan’s Star Channel didn’t ask about the nearly 2 million people that have signed a petition calling for the final season to be re-made, they did bring up that coffee cup – the one left in a scene in front of Daenerys Targaryen.

David Benioff called it their “Persian rug”.

(16) DRAGON AWARDS TRIVIA. The ceremony ran opposite Doctor Who companion Catherine Tate’s appearance and 58 other items starting at 5:30 p.m. per the list in the online schedule.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/20/19 My Name Is Pixel, Scrolled Pixel

(1) HUGO STATS. Dublin 2019 Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte has published his analysis of the voting: “2019 Hugos in detail, and reflections on the viability of Best Fanzine”. It begins —

All but two of the winners had the most first preferences in their categories. The exceptions

  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “Janet(s)” came from third place to overtake Dirty Computer and The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate”.
  • Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven started in second place but got enough transfers to overtake Black Panther: Long Live the King.

The only category where fewer than six rounds of counting were required to determine the winner was Best Fancast, where Our Opinions Are Correct won on the fifth count.

The closest results were:

  • Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven beat Black Panther: Long Live the King by 8 votes.
  • Best Novella: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” beat “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by 9 votes.
  • John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng beat Rivers Solomon by 43 votes.

At lower rankings, there were three closer results:

  • Best Related Work: The Mexicanx Initiative beat Astounding by 4 votes for fourth place.
  • Best Fancast: The Skiffy and Fanty Show beat The Coode Street Podcast also by 4 votes for fifth place.
  • Best Fan Writer: Bogi Takács beat Elsa Sjunneson-Henry again by 4 votes for second place.

(2) AFTER ACTION REPORT. Cheryl Morgan tries to figure out what went wrong at the Hugo Losers Party in “Worldcon #77—Day 5”.

…Quite why so many finalists were turned away isn’t clear. It isn’t the fault of the Dublin committee, because they have nothing to do with the party other than pass on invitations to the finalists. It probably isn’t the fault of the NZ people because these days I understand that organisation of the event is passed on to people who work for George. People on Twitter inevitably blamed George personally (and doubtless complained that he should be writing books rather than running parties). The fault may lie with the staff at the venue. It is all a bit murky.

What is clear is that a whole lot of people who were not Hugo finalists had got into the party long before the Hugo Ceremony finished. This is the publishing industry in action. If there is a swank party going, publishing people will find a way to get into it. And the fact that they did led to the venue being (allegedly) overcrowded and people being turned away.

(3) FUND RAISING FOR SARAH NEWTON. Sarah Newton is a game designer and author of the Mindjammer game and novels and other RPGs. Over the past 6 months she’s been caring for her husband who had with stage IV cancer and she is now raising money for his funeral expenses, to get back on her feet, and get her company up and running again: “We?re raising £3,500 to help fund the funeral expenses of Chris James, the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” The appeal has brought in £7,231.

I wanted to explain what any money above Chris’s funeral expenses will be used for. The week after next, I’ll take Chris’s ashes to the UK by car and ferry, appx £400. I’ll return to work in France by 1 October. Mindjammer Press has been mothballed since February. It’ll take me the rest of the year to start delivery, meaning I need to cover the period financially. With your blessing, it would be useful to use your gifts to reduce any loan I’ll eventually need. My outgoings are low – appx 1000 euros a month. Please let me know your thoughts.

(4) IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED. Jezebel notes “Once Again, Women Casually Dominated the Hugo Awards” (based on a post at The Verge.)

… The streak is notable, because it comes even after a Gamergate-style pushback attempt in 2015.

(5) INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE. And one of those winners got a nice writeup in MalaysiaKini: “Malaysian author Zen Cho wins Hugo Award”.

Malaysian author Zen Cho has bagged the Hugo Award, a prestigious literary award for science fiction writing.

Cho’s ‘If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again’ won in the Best Novelette category.

… “It was unexpected – I was pleased to be nominated because I was attending Worldcon this year anyway, and I was keen to go to the Hugo Losers party hosted each year by Martin.

“But I had my bets about who would win and it wasn’t me!” she was quoted as saying….

(6) GONE FROM THE VERGE. Bad news for Andrew Liptak and those of us who like to read his coverage of the sff field: Reading List: Well, that was unexpected.

So, last week didn’t turn out as I’d expected it to. I was let go from The Verge: my last day was Wednesday. The reasons are both simple and complicated, and I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail, other than to say that I’m bummed to be out, will miss a bunch of my former co-workers, and being able to talk about some of the things that I really love to a big audience. I began work there three years ago, after applying on a complete whim. My time there has made me a much better writer from where I started, so that’s a plus. 

(7) BOND FILM GETS NAME. Esquire, in “‘No Time To Die’: Bond 25 Title And Release Date Are Finally Confirmed” says we know what the new Bond movie is and when it will be released.

At last – at long, long, long last – the next James Bond film has its title. Bond 25 can officially nestle in the bin with Shatterhand, Eclipse, A Reason To Die and however many other mooted titles which came and went….

It’s officially titled No Time To Die. It’s got a very punchy logo, and it’s out in the UK on 3 April 2020 and 8 April 2020 in the US.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 20, 1973 — George Lucas signed the contract to shoot a movie called Star Wars.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1890 Howard P. Lovecraft. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, he was published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty. He’s regarded now as one of our most important authors of horror and weird fiction. He is not the originator of the term Cthulhu mythos, that honor goes to August Derleth. (Died 1937.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 76. The Seventh Doctor and the last until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1947 Alan Lee, 72. Book illustration and film conceptual designer. I think one of his most impressive works is the Tolkien centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings which he did all the art for. Though his first edition cover of Holdstock’s Lavondyss: Journey to an Unknown Region s damn impressive too. Though I don’t  like the storytelling of The Hobbit films, his and John Howe ‘s conceptual design is fantastic.
  • Born August 20, 1948 John Noble, 71. He’s best known as Dr. Walter Bishop on Fringe, and Henry Parrish on Sleepy Hollow. He’s also played Denethor in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And he voiced Brainiac in Superman: Unbound, a superb film. 
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 68. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery.
  • Born August 20, 1957 Mary Stävin, 62. It’s not often we get someone in two Bond films, both of them Roger Moore affairs. In Octopussy, she played an Octopussy girl, and in A View to a Kill, she played agent Kimberley Jones. In the low budget Italian SF film Alien Terminator, she’s Maureen De Havilland, and in Howling V: The Rebirth, she’s Anna. 
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 57. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures. 
  • Born August 20, 1962 James Marsters, 57. Spike in Buffyverse. He’s also played Brainiac on Smallville, Captain John Hart on Torchwood, Barnabas Greeley on Caprica, and Victor Stein on the Runaways. Oh and he voiced Lex Luthor in Superman: Doomsday.
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 56. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well crafted. She shows up in other genre series such as Super ForceThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-Files, Conan and Highlander: The Series

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Speed Bump is about a disappointing turnout for an author’s event.

(11) UNDER THE LID. This week Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid dives into the heady, deadly romance of This is How You Lose The Time War and explores what happens to aging when we live…Longer. Rounded out by an early review of the wonderful Moonbase Theta, and Out’s second season, click here to read it: “The Full Lid 16th August 2019”. Excerpt from the Time War review —

A duel is a romance with different syncopation. A game is a conversation with rules. A dance is a fight you both get to win. A waltz between the seconds, a volta across parallel timelines. All of it driven by tempo and need, the percussion of war, the brass of ideologies clashing. The Hans Zimmer siren of massive concepts crashing against each other, of miniature disasters and minor catastrophes stitching themselves into the quilt of the world.

In the midst of all of this, Red and Blue. Soldiers. Assassins, Gardeners (Although only one would think of themselves as such), rivals and slowly, surely, something much, much more.

(12) ARE THE LIGHTS STILL ON? Camestros Felapton surmises that Vox Day’s “Castalia House has stopped publishing new science fiction”.

…The last blog post at Castalia’s blog leading with “Castalia New Release” was in November 2018 and was Day’s non-fiction riposte to Jordan Peterson. ISFDB has only one entry for Castalia in 2018 (Nick Cole’s republished Soda Pop Soldier) and while I know they are missing some titles (e.g. Cole’s sequel to that book from 2018), it is a sharp contrast from 2014-2017.

John C Wright’s “Nowither: The Drowned World” was published in 2019 but the series has shifted from Castalia to Superversive Press. Newer writer Kai Weah Cheah published a sequel with Castalia early in 2018 but his more recent books have been with Russell Newquist’s Silver Empire….

(13) BOOTH OBIT. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Richard Booth: Bookshop owner and ‘king of Hay-on-Wye’ dies”. “I made the pilgrimage there before Conspiracy; If I recall, Jo Walton got married there.”

Richard Booth, who turned Hay-on-Wye into a second-hand bookshop capital, has died aged 80.

He was responsible for transforming the market town in Powys into the world’s foremost home for books.

Mr Booth – who dubbed himself “king of Hay” opened his first bookshop in the town’s former fire station in 1961 and was honoured with an MBE in 2004.

Anne Addyman, from Addyman’s Books, said: “This town has become what it is because of him.”

(14) PORTALESS FANTASY? A BBC writer takes “A bizarre journey beyond Earth’s borders”.

The Kcymaerxthaere is our global link to a ‘parallel universe’. So why don’t more people know it exists?

There’s a well-known saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes: ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey’.

That’s kind of how I was feeling, standing in the middle of the Malzfabrik – an enormous art and design centre that began as a malting plant more than a century ago – in Berlin’s Tempelhof neighbourhood. I’d walked 20 minutes from the closest U-Bahn station, along wide, tree-lined streets almost vacant of other pedestrians to reach these towering red-brick buildings and their main square.

I was well off the city’s typical tourist routes, and since my phone’s wi-fi kept cutting out (and the lovely woman at the Malzfabrik’s front desk had never heard of the ‘Kcymaerxthaere’), I’d been wandering around this massive industrial property for over half an hour, searching for signs to a parallel universe. Finding the first one – a pillar-mounted plaque describing Sentrists, a people so self-absorbed that the centre of the universe shifts a bit when more than a few of them get together – was fairly easy, but the others (including a marker tucked within the Malzfabrik’s entry garden) took a bit more sleuthing.

“You’re looking for what?” asked my friend Maria, with whom I was staying in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood, when I told her about the Kcymaerxthaere, or ‘Kcy’ – an ongoing, global, three-dimensional storytelling experience that has 140 installations, including a series of mostly square bronze plaques (or ‘markers’) and more complex ‘historic sites’, spread over six continents and 29 countries. Each installation pays tribute to a conceived ‘parallel universe’ called the Kcymaerxthaere, and shares bits of larger stories that are said to have taken place at or around corresponding locations in our own ‘linear’ world, but within an alternate dimension. It can be a heady thing to wrap your mind around.

(15) MACROPROCESSOR. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite what Bill Higgins and Barry Gehm wrote of 40 years ago (*), but big enough: “Cerebras reveals world’s ‘largest computer chip’ for AI tasks”.

A Californian-based start-up has unveiled what it says is the world’s largest computer chip.

The Wafer Scale Engine, designed by Cerebras Systems, is slightly bigger than a standard iPad.

The firm says a single chip can drive complex artificial intelligence (AI) systems in everything from driverless cars to surveillance software.

…Cerebras’ new chip has 400,000 cores, all linked to each other by high-bandwidth connections.

The firm suggests this gives it an advantage at handling complex machine learning challenges with less lag and lower power requirements than combinations of the other options.

Cerebras claims the Wafer Scale Engine will reduce the time it takes to process some complex data from months to minutes.

(*) from “Home on Lagrange” (with respect to the advertised possibility of growing huge crystals in orbit): “It had 392 pins, drew fifty-seven amps of current, had a heat sink the size of a Cadillac. They called it … Macroprocessor”. (Per The NESFA Hymnal — the addition does not appear on the permitted onlining at http://www.jamesoberg.com/humor.html, so I’m not sure whether it’s original or part of the filk process.)

(16) INDIA CRAFT ARRIVES IN LUNAR ORBIT. BBC reports“Chandrayaan-2: India spacecraft begins orbiting Moon”.

India’s second lunar exploration mission has entered the Moon’s orbit, nearly a month after blasting off, officials have said.

Chandrayaan-2 began its orbit of the Moon at 09:02 local time (04:32 GMT) on Tuesday.

The craft completed the manoeuvre in around 30 minutes, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the mission as “an important step in the landmark journey”.

K Sivan, head of Isro, said he was confident Chandrayaan-2 would land on the Moon as planned on 7 September.

…Chandrayaan-2 (Moon vehicle 2) will try to land near the little-explored south pole of the Moon.

The mission will focus on the lunar surface, searching for water and minerals and measuring moonquakes, among other things.

See near the end of this BBC article for the orbital reason it took most of a month after launch to reach the moon.

(17) SHOW’S OVER. “‘World’s oldest webcam’ to be switched off” – BBC has the story.

The world’s oldest continuously working webcam is being switched off after 25 years.

The Fogcam was set up in 1994 to watch how the weather changed on the San Francisco State University campus.

It has broadcast almost continuously since then barring regular maintenance and the occasional need for it to be re-sited to maintain its view.

Its creators said it was being shut down because there were now no good places to put the webcam.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/11/19 Where Are We Going? Pixel 10!

MONDAY. My mother is having her pacemaker battery replaced tomorrow and I’ll be going along with her to the hospital. I don’t know how that will affect my plans for the Scroll. A day off? A relief to come home and work on it? If you don’t see one, that’ll be why.

(1) UNEXPECTED PARTY. If there had been op-eds in Lord of the Rings… David Howard tells “We Need a Wizard Who Can Appeal to the Moderate Orc Voter” at McSweeney’s.

I may be just an ordinary orc, but I wasn’t at all surprised when the Dark Lord Sauron became the leader of Mordor. A lot of my smart, liberal friends, though, reacted as if Middle-earth was coming to an end. Dwarves in the barroom of the Prancing Pony said it was the pride of the High Elves. Ravens twittering under the eaves of Mirkwood blamed the cunning of dragons. The Steward of Gondor, posting on FacePalantir, said it was because of Sauron’s hatred for the heirs of Isildur.

I’m here to tell you: it’s the economy, stupid.

It’s all very well for those of you who dwell in the Shire, the haven of Rivendell, or the quiet forests of Lothlórien. You live in a bubble. You don’t know what life is like for the average orc, in depressed areas like the Trollshaws, the Misty Mountains, or the Dead Marshes. Let me tell you, it’s hard out here for an orc….

(2) THE YA AUDIENCE. Q&A with YA author Kate Marshall, “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)”, at Odyssey Writing Workshops.

Congratulations on the upcoming September release of Rules for Vanishing, a YA novel about local ghost legend Lucy Gallows! What are some of the unique challenges of writing for a YA audience?

One of the tricky things about the YA audience is that it’s not very young adult! Most YA readers aren’t teenagers, but not by a huge margin—which means that you’re writing both for actual teens and for adult fans of the category. There’s a lot of crossover in expectations and preferences between the two sets of readers, but there are differences you have to navigate. What teens find unrealistic in a teenage character and what adults find unrealistic in a teen character are often quite different. And the online conversation and community is dominated by that older set of readers, which makes it important to seek out teens’ reactions and opinions, whether that’s through school visits or teen reader programs at libraries. And of course, it helps to actually know some teens. And to like them! There’s a lot of disdain out there for young adults, and it’s absolutely antithetical to the pursuit of writing YA. I started writing YA when I was a teenager, but when I picked it up again as an adult I made sure I was interacting with my target audience—in this case, through a mentorship program at a local high school, where I hung out twice a week one-on-one just to chat about my mentees’ lives.

(3) ONE FAN’S VIEW. Europa SF hosts an analysis of two bids for Eurocon in 2021: “COUNTERCLOCK SF: EUROCON 2021 BID EVALUATION – Wolf von Witting”. The site will be chosen during Titancon in Belfast, this year’s Eurocon.

Let’s compare the upcoming bids for 2021.

The Italian Eurocon in Fiuggi 2009 was a disappointment. A thin program, good food, but low attendance. Not the best publicity for Italian fandom.

At the time, I decided to oppose another Italian Eurocon.

In particular, if they were pitched against a Polish, Croatian or Romanian bid, since these fandoms participate to a wider extent in building bridges across their borders in Europe. Perhaps you recall Tricon 2010, which was a Polish-Czech and Slovakian collaboration?

Romanians are making more efforts to be part of the
European sf-community. I was inclined to throw myself into the blend with long smoffing experience, helping the Romanians to make their event a success. What I found was they don’t need me!

More Italians have to realize, that Europe is no longer an archipelago of isolated language islands. …

(4) SCHULMAN OBIT. Author and part of the early Libertarian movement, J. Neil Schulman (1953-2019) died August 11 of a pulmonary embolism reports John DeChancie.

Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel (1984). His book Alongside Night was voted a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (1989) and produced as a movie (2014).

His third novel, Escape from Heaven, was also a finalist for the 2002 Prometheus Award. His fourth and latest novel, The Fractal Man, is a finalist for the 2019 Prometheus Award.

He wrote the “Profile in Silver” segment for a 1986 episode of the revived Twilight Zone, about a future historian who creates a disastrous alternate timeline when he time travels back to November 22, 1963 and prevents JFK’s assassination.

Neil’s other projects included writing, producing and directing the suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, starring Nichelle Nichols, which won two film-festival awards.

I think I first met Neil at the same time as Sam Konkin III, aboard the riverboat cruise organized by the Louisville NASFiC (1979), all part of a group of New York fans relocating to Southern California.

Schulman had already made his mark in fandom by getting a long interview with Robert A. Heinlein (1973), the most revealing ever, on assignment from the New York Daily News. (The interview would reappear as a serial in New Libertarian magazine, and as a book.)

He became part of Konkin’s Seventies sf club the Science Fiction Association of Long Beach, along with Victor Koman and others.

On his website Rational Review Schulman mixed political commentary — he styled himself a libertarian anarchist — with good anecdotes, such as the one about the time he was a witness to a practical joke played on Leonard Nimoy was speaking to an NYU audience in 1974.

(5) COLÓN OBIT. Prolific comic book artist Ernie Colón has passed away at the age of 88 after a battle with cancer reports SYFY Wire.

…Colón began his career in the 1960s as a letterer for Harvey Comics, where he worked as an uncredited penciler on Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. While at Harvey, Colón met Sid Jacobson, who became his longtime friend and creative partner. In 2006, the pair teamed up on the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report. The two would continue to release additional historical graphic works, like their 2010 graphic biography about Anne Frank.

.. Many, however, know him best from his work with the late Dwayne McDuffie on Marvel’s Damage Control. He’s equally well known for co-creating DC’s Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Arak, Son of Thunder. Colón’s distinctive style lent itself well to DC’s 1980s science fiction mainstays.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 11, 1923 Ben P. Indick. A member of First Fandom and prolific fanzine publisher. He wrote a handful of short genre fiction but is better remembered for his two non-fiction works, The Drama of Ray Bradbury and George Alec Effinger: From Entropy to Budayeen. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 11, 1928 Alan E. Nourse. His connections to other SF writers are fascinating. Heinlein dedicated Farnham’s Freehold to Nourse, and  in part dedicated Friday to Nourse’s wife Ann.  His novel The Bladerunner lent its name to the movie but nothing else from it was used in that story. However Blade Runner (a movie) written by, and I kid you not, William S. Burroughs, is based on his novel. Here the term “blade runner” refers to a smuggler of medical supplies, e.g. scalpels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born August 11, 1932 Chester  Anderson. His The Butterfly Kid is the first part of what is called the Greenwich Village Trilogy, with Michael Kurland writing the middle book, The Unicorn Girl, and the third volume, The Probability Pad, written by T.A. Waters. I can practically taste the acid from here… (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 11, 1936 Bruce Pelz. He was highly active in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) co-chairing the 30th World Science Fiction Convention. He also wrote filksongs and was a master costumer. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 11, 1942 Laurel Goodwin, 77. She starred as Yeoman J. M. Colt in the Trek pilot, and after the series was picked up, the episode became the first season two-part episode entitled “The Menagerie”.  She also played Phoebe on the “Anatomy of a Lover” episode of Get Smart! 
  • Born August 11, 1949 Nate Bucklin, 70. Musician who has co-written songs with Stephen Brust and others. He’s a founding member of the Scribblies, the Minneapolis writer’s group, and is also one of the founding members of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society, better known as Minn-stf. He spent four years as a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation or N3F, and his correspondents included Greg Shaw, Walter Breen, and Piers Anthony. He’s been a filk guest of honor at five cons.
  • Born August 11, 1959 Alan Rodgers. Author of Bone Music, a truly great take off the Robert Johnson myth. His “The Boy Who Came Back From the Dead” novelette won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction, and he was editor of Night Cry in the mid-Eighties. Kindle has Bone Music and a number of his other novels, iBooks has nothing available. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 11, 1961 Susan M. Garrett. She was a well-known and much liked genre writer, editor and publisher in many fandoms, but especially the Forever Knight community. (She also was active in Doctor Who and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne fandoms.) She is perhaps best known for being invited to write a Forever Knight tie-in novel, Intimations of Mortality. It, like the rest of the Forever Knight novels, is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 11, 1983 Chris Hemsworth, 36. Thor in the MCU film franchise and George Kirk in the most recent Trek film franchise. Other genre performances include Eric the Huntsman in the exemplary Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Curt Vaughan in Cabin in the Woods and Agent H in Men in Black: International. Ok who’s seen the latter? 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) FULL LID. In Alasdair Stuart’s last Full Lid before Worldcon (“The Full Lid 9th August 2019”), “we take a look at Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch’s superb magical noir graphic novel Grimoire Noir. We also dive deep into the strange and wonderful world of Middle: Below from TinCan Audio and examine how She-Ra Season 3 may have cracked (one) of the problems many Netflix shows face. Oh and in ‘My Event Horizon Fever Dream’ I have ENTIRELY too much fun thinking about where I’d take the upcoming Amazon show.”

…Netflix have two terrible habits; cancelling a show two seasons in (Tuca and Bertie and The OA most recently) and chopping a 13 episode production order into two six episode ones and claiming they’re whole seasons. This really hurt the middle seasons of Voltron but it’s something She-Ra turns not just into a feature but a driving force….

(9) THIS OLD HOLE. “NASA discovers “cloaked” black hole from earliest days of the universe”The Indian Express has the story.

Astronomers from American space agency NASA have discovered evidence for the farthest “cloaked” black hole found so far. The discovery was made by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The astronomers have claimed the clocked black hole at only 6 per cent of the current age of the universe.

NASA says that this is the first indication of a black hole hidden by gas at such an early time in the history of the cosmos. Supermassive black holes are often millions to billions of times more massive than our Sun and typically grow by pulling in material from a disk of surrounding matter.

(10) BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE. In “H. G. Wells and the Uncertainties of Progress” on the Public Domain Review, Peter J. Bowler, an emeritus professor at Northern Ireland’s Queen’s University, looks at how H.G. Wells’s sf novels were grounded in a critique of the Victorian “inevitability of progress.”

…The Darwinian viewpoint is more clearly visible in Wells’ hugely successful non-fiction work The Outline of History, originally published in fortnightly parts in 1920. The survey starts from the development of life on earth and the evolution of the human species. Progress had certainly happened both in evolution and in human history from the Stone Age onward, but Wells shows that there was no predetermined upward trend. His exposure to the Darwinian vision of biological evolution (which continued in his collaboration with Julian Huxley to produce The Science of Life some years later) showed him that there were multiple ways of achieving a more complex biological structure — or a more complex society. Truly progressive steps in both areas were sporadic, unpredictable, and open-ended. When progress did occur in human society, Wells was certain that the driving force was rational thinking, science, and technological innovation. Yet history showed how all too often the benefits of creativity had been undermined by conservatism and social tensions, culminating in the disaster of the Great War….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/19 Scrolling To Montana Soon – Gonna Be A Pixel-Floss Tycoon!

(1) EXPANSE GETS FIFTH SEASON. The Expanse has been renewed for Season 5 at Amazon reports Variety.

The announcement was made during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Saturday. Season 4 of the series is set to debut on Dec. 13.

The Expanse” aired its first three seasons on Syfy, with the cable networking having cancelled the series back in 2019. Shortly after it was cancelled, it was reported that Amazon was in talks to continue the series, which is produced and fully financed by Alcon Television Group.

(2) SF AUTHOR’S PREDICTION FULFILLED. A writer for Britain’s Private Eye rediscovered Norman Spinrad’s Agent of Chaos (1967) with its prescient comments about another political leader named Boris Johnson.

(3) SIX WILL GET YOU ONE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At The Atlantic, contributing writer Dr. Yascha Mounk (Johns Hopkins University associate professor and German Marshall Fund senior fellow) has his own ideas on “How Not to Run a Panel” (tagline: “Panel discussions can be very boring, but they don’t have to be if you follow these six rules.”).

I could write a whole book about the panels that have gone wrong in particularly strange or hilarious fashion: the one where the moderator fell asleep. The one where the opening statements lasted longer than the time allotted for the whole event. The one, high up on the 10th floor, when the acrobatic window washer stole the show.

These exotic horrors notwithstanding, I disagree with Leo Tolstoy: Every unhappy panel is unhappy in some of the same ways.

Mind you, he’s talking about academic panels (his field is political science), but one wonders how much his advice crosses over to convention panels. He elaborates on each of his six points:

1. Don’t have more than four people onstage.
2. Keep introductions to a minimum.
3. Ax the opening statements.
4. Guide the conversation.
5. Cut off the cranks.*
6. Pick panelists who have something to say to one another.

* NB: He’s talking about cranks in the audience. He doesn’t seem to consider cranks on the panel.

(4) THE VERDICT. Camestros Felapton reports from the scene: “Michael Z Williamson’s Wikipedia page has not been deleted”.

For those keeping score, the Michael Z Williamson article on Wikipedia has not been deleted after a long and fractious discussion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Log/2019_July_21#Michael_Z._Williamson

The outcome of the deletion discussion was ‘no consensus’ i.e. notability wasn’t decided one way or another. This was mainly because of the brigade of trolls who descended on the discussion at Williamson’s request.

While the Wikipedia is keeping the article, the record of the debate preserves these additional facts:

I note that the subject of this article, Michael Z. Williamson, has edited Wikipedia as Mzmadmike. He has been banned from Wikipedia as a result of a community discussion that concluded that Williamson has disrupted Wikipedia through his edits as a Wikipedia user and through comments on social media, which (according to the community discussion) have included canvassing, legal threats (admin-only diff) and harassment of Wikipedians. This has no bearing on the outcome of this deletion discussion, because having an article is not an indication of merit (as a person, author or otherwise), but only of what Wikipedia calls “notability“, i.e., being covered in some detail by reliable sources. But it bears mentioning here as a context of what may be necessary future administrative actions to protect the article and Wikipedia from further disruption.

(5) THE MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. The New York Times profiles the conflicting family views behind an auction that has already yielded $16.7 million in sales: “‘Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy”.

Those sales by the brothers, who also pursued a newly disclosed $6 million wrongful death settlement over their father’s medical care, have exposed deep differences among those who knew Neil Armstrong about his legacy — and what he would have wanted.

Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut’s aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.

“I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.”

(6) ERB-DOM ANNUAL GATHERING. Burroughs fans will hold DUM-DUM 2019 in Willcox, AZ from August 1-4.

(7) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s latest, newly BFS Award-nominated The Full Lid for 26th July 2019″ includes a look at the first three episodes of The Space Race. An epic dramatized account of the birth and evolution of crewed spaceflight it starts in the future, takes in Gagarin, Armstrong and the rest of the past and throws light on some surprising elements of the story.

As does the deeply eccentric Apollo 11 anniversary coverage. Says Stuart, “I was especially impressed with the choices made by a BBC movie about the flight and the little moments of humanity we glimpse outside the history books in Channel 4’s programming.”

He also salutes “the monarch of the kitchen warriors, the king of the B movie and the crown prince of charming villainy, the one, the only Rutger Hauer. Rest well, sir.”

The Full Lid is free and comes out every Friday.

(8) DRAGON ANATOMY. From the New York Times Magazine: “Judge John Hodgman on Whether a Tail Is Part of the Butt” (January 17).

“Paul writes:  My wife, Samantha, and her grandmother Gigi have a disagreement about whether a creature’s tail is part of his butt.  Gigi says that because poop can get stuck in a butt, it is part of the butt.  Sam argues that a tail  only starts at the butt.  Are tails butts?  (Specifically a dragon’s tail, which is what sparked this argument.)

JOHN HODGMAN SAYS:  “What a surprise twist at the end!  Before we walked through this wardrobe into fantasy land, I was confident in my ruling:  tails are NOT butts, as they have specific balance and display functions.  And also let’s face it:  Poop can get on anything.  But as I am no expert on dragon anatomy, I turned to the actual George R.R. Martin, whose number I actually have, who reports:  ‘Poop can also get stuck to a dragon’s leg, but that does not make it part of the butt.  Dragon poop is hot, by the way.  Fire hazard.'”

Martin Morse Wooster sent the link with a postscript: “How many points do I get for finding George R.R. Martin’s opinions on ‘dragon poop?’”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1926 T. G. L. Cockcroft. Mike has his obituary here. Not surprisingly none of his works are currently in-print. 
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 91. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got by translated by Ursula Le Guin into English.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here. I will note that he was a published author having “On Conquered Earth” in If, December 1967 as edited by Frederik Pohl. I don’t think it’s been republished since. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Though primarily a writer of horror fiction, he did write three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard, The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Meta-verse. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 53. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental Adventures, Epic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. Dixon and Lackey are the 2020 Worldcon’s Author Guests of Honour.
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 51. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LE GUIN ON TV. This Friday night on PBS the program American Masters is highlighting Ursula Le Guin. That’s when they’ll air the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary.

(12) JOHNSON’S WALK. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu interviews Richard Kelly, whose obscure 2006 sci-fi film Southland Tales might have been pivotal in advancing the film career of Dwayne Johnson: “The delightfully bonkers film that turned the Rock into Dwayne Johnson”.

…Survey a theater of moviegoers and they all might tell you a different interpretation of what “Southland Tales” is actually about. The short version is that a nuclear explosion has gone off in Texas, thrusting the United States into World War III. Taking place in 2008 Los Angeles at the end of the world, the film consequently delves into the post-Iraq War militarization of the country, the rise of the surveillance state and, naturally, rifts on the space-time continuum.

The movie, which would go on to become a critical and commercial failure, contains a who’s who of character actors, as well as once- and soon-to-be notable stars. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a porn star who simultaneously has a hit single (“Teen Horniness is Not a Crime”) and accurately foretells the imminent apocalypse in a screenplay she’s written. Amy Poehler delivers a slam poetry performance in her last seconds on Earth before she is gunned down by a racist cop played by Jon Lovitz. Justin Timberlake, in a confounding, drugged-out dream sequence, lip-syncs the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

To steer his often messy but engaging opus — and eventual cult classic — director Richard Kelly needed a truly magnetic force. Enter Johnson.

(13) BRYAN FULLER. [Item by Carl Slaughter.]According to Midnight’s Edge and Nerdrotic, Bryan Fuller pitched the Picard series concept to CBS as one of 5 possible series. Fuller also approached Jeri Ryan and Brent Spiner about starring in it.  Fuller has yet to get any credit it for the Picard show.

(14) ONE VOTER’S DECISION. Rich Horton rolls out his “Hugo Ballot Thoughts, Short Fiction, 2019” on Strange at Ecbatan. Which actually begins with his argument against having AO3 up in the Best Related Works category. But he soon veers back to the topic, such as these comments about Best Novella:

Of these only Artificial Condition was on my nomination ballot, but I didn’t get to The Black God’s Drums until later, and it would have been on my ballot. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach struck me as impressively ambitious – probably the most ambitious of the nominees – but I think the ending is a mess. Still a story worth reading. The Tea Master and the Detective is nice work, not quite brilliant. And, I say with guilt, I haven’t read Beneath the Sugar Sky, which I suspect will be very fine work.

(15) BUTTERFAT CHANCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Author, crafter, and freelance journalist Bonnie Burton has a knack for spotting odd news—her CNET article “NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts honored in… a butter sculpture” in this case. (Tagline: “Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins look just as legendary carved in butter at the Ohio State Fair.”)

If you want to celebrate NASA‘s 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, you might as well do it with butter.

At this year’s Ohio State Fair, visitors can see highly detailed, life-sized butter sculptures of the Apollo 11 moon crew — Neil ArmstrongBuzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

There’s also a separate butter sculpture of Armstrong in his spacesuit saluting the American flag while standing near the lunar module Eagle.

Armstrong — who was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio — is considered a state icon for his trip to the moon. In addition, Armstrong bought a dairy farm in Ohio after leaving NASA in 1971. 

You can see the entire butter sculpture unveiling ceremony posted by The Columbus Dispatch on YouTube.

(16) EN FUEGO. Space is getting hotter…but not that much (AP: “New Mexico chile plant selected to be grown in space”). The first fruiting plant to be grown on the International Space Station will be the Española Improved hot pepper. However, it’s said to max out at a relatively modest 2,000 Scoville units, well less than the typical Jalapeño much less really hot hot peppers.

A hybrid version of a New Mexico chile plant has been selected to be grown in space as part of a NASA experiment.

The chile, from Española, New Mexico, is tentatively scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station for testing in March 2020, the Albuquerque Journal reports .

A NASA group testing how to produce food beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and the chile plant was created with input from Jacob Torres — an Española native and NASA researcher.

Torres said the point of sending the chiles into space is to demonstrate how NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat – which recreates environmental needs for plant growth like CO2, humidity and lighting – works not only for leafy greens, but for fruiting crops, as well.

(17) TRAILER BREAKDOWN. New Rockstars answers questions you didn’t even know you had about the newest Star Trek: Picard trailer.

Star Trek Picard Trailer from Comic Con teases the return of Data, Seven of Nine, the Borgs, and more nods to The Next Generation and Voyager! Where will this new Picard series on CBS All Access take Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) after the events of Star Trek Nemesis and First Contact? Erik Voss gets an assist from friend and Trekkie Marina Mastros, who breaks down this Star Trek trailer shot by shot for all the Easter Eggs you may have overlooked! What is the secret identity of the new mystery woman, Dahj? Why are the Romulans experimenting with Borg technology? Has Data really returned, or is it his alternate version, B-4?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/19 Scroll On, You Crazy Pixel

(1) FOR PARENTS OF TEENS AT WORLDON. A Facebook group has been created for parents who will have minors at Dublin 2019, to set up reciprocal chaperoning arrangements: Dublin2019parents.

This COMPLETELY UNOFFICIAL group is for parents of young people who will be attending Dublin2019, an Irish Worldcon, to discuss the logistics of Kids In The Space. We all want to have a great time, make sure our offspring are safe, and work within the rules set forth by the convention regarding unaccompanied children and responsible adults. Let’s collaborate!

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series presents Paul Witcover & Lara Elena Donnelly on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar. Chandler Klang Smith & Mercurio D. Rivera will be subbing for hosts Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel, who will be traveling.

Paul Witcover

Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, most recently The Watchman of Eternity. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson awards. He hopes one day to win something!

Lara Elena Donnelly

Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the Nebula- Lambda, and Locus-nominated trilogy The Amberlough Dossier, as well as short fiction and poetry appearing in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny. Lara teaches at the Catapult Classes in New York City and is a thesis adviser in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(3) WATCHMEN COMIC-CON TRAILER. Watchmen debuts on HBO this October.

There is a vast and insidious conspiracy at play…. From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.

(4) BID MAD FAREWELL. The New York Times letters section is filled with expressions of sentiment offered “In Fond Remembrance of Mad Magazine”.

I wholly endorse Tim Kreider’s views and mourn Mad’s effective demise to the extent it ceases the publication of new material.

As the beneficiary of slightly distracted conservative parents, I subscribed to and have collected Mad since I was a preteenager. Bill Gaines’s “usual gang of idiots” offered intellectual freedom from the confining dictates of the 1950s, and that freedom continues to inform my thinking.

The art was as meticulous as the writing. Each artist’s style was perfectly attuned to the text of the particular piece. What can compare to George Woodbridge’s illustrations of hippies and beatniks?

In contrast to so many publications, those many issues of Mad reflect no typographical errors, misspellings, grammatical mistakes or instances of poor usage, unless intentional. At least I have never spotted any.

Literate, entertaining, enlightening and inspirational.

R.I.P., Mad!

Barbara Jaffe
New York
The writer is a New York State Supreme Court justice.

Tim Kreider’s opinion piece “The World According to Mad Magazine” appeared July 12.

(5) ALL YOUR COMIC-CON BELONG TO US. Writers and editors at The Hollywood Reporter have picked “Comic-Con Winners and Losers From Film, TV and Comics Panels.” Each entry includes a paragraph on why it was selected, but the roundup is:

  • Winner: Marvel Studios 
  • Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
  • Winner: Paramount
  • Winner: The Witcher (Netflix)
  • Winner: The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Loser: The Eisner Awards 
  • Winner: It Chapter Two (New Line/Warner Bros.)
  • Loser: Game of Thrones (HBO) 
  • Winner: Westworld (HBO)
  • Winner: Watchmen (HBO) 
  • Loser: Ruby Rose 
  • Winner: Tom Hooper
  • Winner: Tom King 
  • Winner: The X-Men (Marvel)
  • Winner: Undiscovered Country (Image Comics)
  • Winner: Riverdale (The CW)
  • Loser: Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
  • Winner: Star Trek (CBS All Access)

Here’s one example:

Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
Surprise! All episodes of the highly anticipated revival are available to stream a week early! In what was designed as a reward for diehard fans of the Kristen Bell-led series from creator Rob Thomas, those packed into Ballroom 20 were delighted at the early arrival before likely realizing they’d be unable to stream it given that they already had weekend plans — at Comic-Con — and would likely be spoiled by that heartbreaking finale. The early drop was a regular topic on Friday but by Saturday, it had already been drowned out amid a glut of hundreds of other film, TV, video game and comic book panels and trailers.   

(6) MORE COMIC-CON COVERAGE. San Diego’s Fox 5 has a 45-photo gallery of “Best costumes of Comic-Con weekend”.

The Comic-Con Blood Drive was the most successful ever:

(7) FULL LID REFILLED. Blade Runners, alien invasions of several kinds and the retirement of an all-time great are all part of this week’s “The Full Lid 19th July 2019”. Alasadair Stuart outlines what’s inside —  

We open with a look at the first issue of Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019 featuring a new member of the division with some very new problems. Then we’re off to curdled suburban horror with Jeremy C. Shipp’s superbly unsettling Bedfellow. A house guest turns a family’s lives on their heads, but he’s always been there, hasn’t he? An uncle, a brother, a god, a monstrous cuckoo nesting in their lives. Marv is here to stay and a superbly unsettling villain.

Then we salute the comics career of Alan Moore, godfather of the UK scene, film-maker, actor, magic user and architect of an age. But for all his legendary skill and gravitas, Moore is a hell of a comedian and my favorite work of his falls in that field. Finally, with the recent and much deserved Clarke Award win, we re-run the review of Tade Thompson’s excellent Rosewater from last year. Rounded out with the latest work from Anne Fortune, Claire Rousseau and You Suck At Cooking, that’s the Full Lid for the week.

(8) LEGO’S APOLLO PROGRAM. The Verge: “A Lego designer talks about designing spaceships and collaborating with NASA”. Tagline: “More than 40 years of LEGO Space”

The Verge spoke with Lego designer Simon Kent recently, who explained that he and his colleagues recently visited with NASA engineers and personnel to compare their toys against the real spaceships, rovers, and space stations currently in operation today. “Across the company, space is such a big theme, that we can tap into it in many different ways, whether its a plaything like Lego City, or a display model that goes into the fine details of the spacecraft’s design,” like the recently-released Apollo 11 Lunar Lander [list price $99.99].

(9) THAT’S NOTABLE, NOT NOTORIOUS. Camestros Felapton fills everyone in about “Today’s right wing author meltdown…” which commenced when Michael Z. Williamson learned his Wikipedia entry was slated for deletion on grounds that he is not sufficiently notable. In fact, the page has been deleted and restored pending debate while this has been going on.

Last night Michael Z. Williamson’s blog was brought to my attention, who if you are unfamiliar with him, was (is) one of the pioneering fiction writers in the wild west of the early-mid 2010s who bucked the system of social justice-focused “woke” writing in order to focus on craft and excellent storytelling.

Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page.

(10) KRAFT OBIT. NASA pioneer Chris Kraft died July 22. The Houston Chronicle headline: “Legendary NASA flight director Chris Kraft has died at 95”.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. — NASA’s first flight director and a legendary scientist who helped build the nation’s space program — died Monday, just two days after the world celebrated the historic Apollo 11 walk on the moon. He was 95.

“#RIP Dr. Christopher Kraft,” former astronaut Clayton Anderson posted on Twitter soon after. “You were a true leader for this nation and our world. So glad you were able to witness #Apollo50th…we felt your presence everywhere.

“Godspeed and thank you.”

Kraft’s name is emblazoned in bold letters on the side of the mission control building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to the base of operations where Kraft guided astronauts from launch to landing as the organization grew to a full-blown agency that required multiple flight directors to oversee a mission.

…During an era with no calculators and only rudimentary computers, Kraft essentially built NASA’s mission control to manage human operations in space. As the agency’s sole flight director, with a simple black-and-white monitor and listening to eight different communications loops, he had the final say for NASA’s first five manned missions, including the Mercury flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.

(11) HEDISON OBIT. Actor David Hedison, best known for his role in Sixties sci-fi series Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, hdied July 18 at the age of 92 reports Deadline.com. He also was in the original version of horror sci-fi classic The Fly.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1881 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1912 Stephen Gilbert. His final novel, Ratman’s Notebooks was adapted as the Willard film. Thirty’s years later, it was made into a film yet again. Kindle has most of his books available, iBooks just Ratman’s Notebooks. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 87. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them? Now Jitterbug Perfume, that’s genre!
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 75. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really be it genre or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel  Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original core group of Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 47. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. I miss that series. Did it win any Hugos? He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Hunger, The X-Files, The Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries
  • Born July 22, 1976 Karen Cliche, 43. She’s known for her roles on Flash Gordon, Mutant XVampire High and Young Blades. She’s does two horror films, Pact with the Devil and Saw VI

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cul de Sac shows how hard it can be to be a space flight dreamer.

(14) GRRM AND FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Irish Film Institute will start selling tickets to this event on Thursday:

(15) KEEPING THE R IN HARLEY. You’ve been warned. “Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn Show Is A ‘Tad R-Rated,’ She Warns With New Trailer”CinemaBlend explains the rating:

There’s gratuitous swearing, Joker shooting someone at point-blank range, and he’s taking a shot to the groin courtesy of Harley? Yeah, I can see why Kaley Cuoco wanted to get the warning out on her Instagram, especially when the animation for Harley Quinn looks like something DC would run on Cartoon Network in primetime.

(16) THE UK’S OWN STORM. They made a big splash on social media – will they really try to do the same in the Loch? “RNLI warning over ‘Storm Loch Ness’ monster hunt”.

A suggestion for a mass search for the Loch Ness Monster later this year has gone viral on social media, and caused concern for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

On Facebook, about 18,000 people say they are going to a Storm Loch Ness event with 38,000 “interested”.

It has been inspired by Storm Area 51, an idea tens of thousands of people could storm a US Air Force base to uncover the truth to a UFO conspiracy.

But Loch Ness RNLI is warning of the dangers of the loch’s deep water.

Concerned that hundreds, or even thousands, of people head out on to the loch for Storm Loch Ness on 21 September, the volunteer crew said it could not match the resources being used by the US military to deal with Storm Area 51.

(17) BOILED IN LEAD. Lest you think James Davis Nicoll is being too negative about this idea, he explains how it could have been even worse: “Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus”.

Many readers may find the plots of some SF novels deeply implausible. “Who,” they ask, “would send astronauts off on an interstellar mission before verifying the Go Very Fast Now drive was faster than light and not merely as fast as light? Who would be silly enough to send colonists on a one-way mission to distant worlds on the basis of very limited data gathered by poorly programmed robots? Who would think threatening an alien race about whom little is known, save that they’ve been around for a million years, is a good idea?”

Some real people have bad ideas; we’re lucky that comparatively few of them become reality. Take, for example, a proposal to send humans to Venus. Not to land, but as a flyby.

(18) YA AWARD. Garik16’s Lodestar Award finalist reviews: “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book”.

So yeah, there’s a lot of great works to be nominated for this award, and this year’s shortlist contains some pretty good works, including one book again that was one of my favorites from all of last year, one book that I really really liked, one I enjoyed a good bit which will probably win it all, and two other books that are at least solid – really only one nominee of the bunch do I think is unworthy, although I can understand why it’s nominated.  All in all, this award will give recognition to a work that definitely deserves it, which is the point of the matter.

(19) DOUBLE YOUR FUN. “Chandrayaan-2: India launches second Moon mission” – BBC has the story.

India has successfully launched its second lunar mission a week after it halted the scheduled blast-off due to a technical snag.

Chandrayaan-2 was launched at 14:43 local time (09:13 GMT) from the Sriharikota space station.

India’s space chief said his agency had “bounced back with flying colours” after the aborted first attempt.

India hopes the $145m (£116m) mission will be the first to land on the Moon’s south pole.

The spacecraft has entered the Earth’s orbit, where it will stay for 23 days before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit.

If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have been able to do so.

(20) FASTER THAN TUNNELING? Most SF posits living under the surface of the moon, but there’s an alternative: “Why 3D printing could be key to a Moon base”.

The European Space Agency (Esa) is researching technologies based on 3D printing to see how materials found on the lunar surface could be made into products to help with habitation on the Moon.

Dusty powdered rock found on the Moon’s surface could be made into construction materials, explains the Esa’s James Carpenter.

(21) I SPY, WITH MY LITTLE APP. Pixels, please! “Kazakhstan’s new online safety tool raises eyebrows”.

Kazakhstan’s drive to obtain government access to everyone’s internet activity has raised concerns among privacy advocates.

Last week, telecoms operators in the former Soviet republic started informing users of the “need” to install a new security certificate.

Doing so opens up the risk that supposedly secure web traffic could be decrypted and analysed.

Some users say the move has significant privacy and security problems.

Much of the concern focuses on Kazakhstan’s human rights record, which is considered poor by international standards.

…A statement from the Ministry of Digital Development said telecoms operators in the capital, Nur-Sultan, were carrying out technical work to “enhance protection” from hackers, online fraud and other cyber-attacks.

It advised anyone who had trouble connecting to some websites to install the new security certificate, from an organisation called Quaznet Trust Network.

…One user filed a bug report with Mozilla, maker of the internet browser Firefox, characterising the move as a “man in the middle” cyber-attack and calling for the browser to completely ban the government certificate.

(22) REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE. Frequent contributor Martin Morse Wooster says:

“I have a question I want to ask Filers but it’s guaranteed not to provoke a flame war. My question:

“I would like to eat more tomatoes.  What are the best recipes Filers have for using tomatoes from the farmers’ market?

“I am very serious about this.”

Your culinary advice is welcome in comments.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/19 Our House Hasn’t Collapsed Under The Weight Of All The Books Yet

(1) ARISIA BACK IN THE WESTIN. The convention website indicates Arisia 2020 will return to the Westin Boston Waterfront, from January 17-20, 2020.

(2) READERCON. Kate Nepveu compiled a great set of panel notes about the Readercon panel “Translation and Embedded Assumptions” with Anatoly Belilovsky, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Pablo Defendini, Tamara Vardomskaya (mod).

Neil: is publishing translations without being able to read original, has to count on team of people. So a lot of these granular issues settled before comes to, but not always. It’s interesting when there’s an American in the translated story . . . who is not always that American. They try to get the spirit of story across, so often work extra with the translators on that situation. Has edited bilingual anthology of Chinese SF, two volumes published in China, not been able to get published in U.S.

Tamara: gives example from Ada Palmer, in whose books gender is outlawed: everyone uses “they” (except narrator) to signal that progressive viewpoint has won. Polish translator said, in Polish that’s the conservative position, the progressive is to give high visibility to female existence (e.g., “waitress and waiter”, not “server”). Ada went with political connotation rather than word-for-word….

(3) SHINY. Nature’s David Seed delves into “Two millennia of lunar literature”:

The Moon’s luminous, cratered face, visible to the naked eye, has sparked the imaginations of writers and scientists for centuries with much proto-science fiction…

This included the second-century Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata, whose A True Story is often cited as the first science-fiction narrative….

But Greek the biographer Plutarch’s Moralia (ad 100) is arguably the first such narrative to introduce scientific ideas…

Lunar literature began to crystallize in the ferment of the Renaissance, and to surge in the seventeenth century…

(4) TRUE CONFESSIONS. At American Magazine, Tom Deignan asks “Why do Catholic priests keep popping up in sci-fi?”

This month, Simon & Schuster will reissue a short story collection entitled The Toynbee Convector, by science fiction master Ray Bradbury, best known for classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. First published in 1988, The Toynbee Convector features 23 stories, among them “Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned,” about a priest who hears a chilling confession on a snowy Christmas Eve.

That story—as well as countless other science fiction classics published over the centuries—raises an intriguing question: Why do priests and other religious figures play such an important role in the fantastic worlds and futuristic dystopias conjured by a wide range of sci-fi writers?

(5) SPACE INVADERS. The Alien Party Crashers official trailer has dropped.

In the style of Shaun Of The Dead, The Lost Boys and Attack the Block, this is a funny, dark and action packed sci-fi horror comedy that pits a group of drunken friends on New Years Eve in a Welsh valley against an invasion task force of creepy time-traveling aliens. A kick-ass M.O.D agent, an insecure radio DJ and a kung fu master who owns the local B&B learn their new years resolution this year is simple: STAY ALIVE.”

(6) HEAR WRITERS’ THOUGHT PROCESSES. Authors Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alexandra Rowland, and Rowenna Miller have started a podcast called World Building for Masochists, Downloadable at the website, transcripts also available. They have two episodes out so far. The first, “Playing God in Your Spare Time” includes this exchange:

ROWENNA: …I think that I start thinking about the character first, and what are they encountering, what do they have for breakfast, what do they see when they go out of their door in the morning, and there might be things that the character doesn’t know about their world. I think, you know, like you, Marshall, I started the story in a city, and my character actually doesn’t know very much about what’s going on outside of that city; she’s never been outside of it. So there’s kind of a freedom there for her to be ignorant, and it was kind of weird for me at first to be like, okay, there are things that I might know, but I need to keep that shoved aside, because there’s no reason for her to know what this other city would look like, or what the patterns of trade are between, you know, these two coastal towns. She’s never been there, she has no idea. 

MARSHALL: But she might have, say, heard the name, and has her own preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to be.

ALEXANDRA: And I think that having a character with some degree of ignorance can also be a really useful tool for you as an author, because then you can — and I’m going to keep bringing this up because it’s my favorite trick of all time to use — you can sort of build a negative space and invite your character to make assumptions about the world, and also invite the reader to make assumptions about the world…

We’re keeping an eye out for the arrival of “World Building for Sadists,” too.

(7) HEAR IT MEOW? “Do critics think Lion King is a ‘roaring success’?” – BBC has compiled their reactions.

Disney’s Lion King remake, starring Donald Glover and Beyonce, has been described equally by pun-tastic critics as both a “roaring success” and “tame”.

The original 1994 animation won two Oscars for best music and score, while the stage version is also Broadway’s top grossing musical.

…In a four-star review, The Telegraph said “the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside”.

…The Guardian, were less impressed with the film, writing the “deepfake copycat ain’t so grrreat.”

(8) STRANGER THAN EVER. The Hollywood Reporter brings word that “Nielsen Confirms ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is a Big Hit”.

Netflix has said that Stranger Things amassed a bigger audience over its first four days than any other original show in its history. New data from Nielsen shows that a lot of people did, in fact, spend the July 4 holiday weekend watching the series.

Per the ratings service’s SVOD content ratings, the eight episodes of Stranger Things 3 had an average minute audience — the closest approximation for streaming shows to Nielsen’s average viewership on linear TV — of 12.8 million viewers over its first four days of release. That’s a 21 percent increase over the same time frame after the release of season two in October 2017 (10.6 million)

(9) AFTER THE KING RETURNED. Paul Weimer is back to discuss a Robin Hood-themed novel in “Microreview [book]: Brightfall, by Jaime Lee Moyer” at Nerds of a Feather.

The other characters in the novel, human and otherwise, are the strength, power and richness of the novel. Beyond Marian herself, Robin comes off as a prat at first, someone to intensely dislike and hate because of his abandonment of Marian. The reasons how and why he did so, and his ultimate connection with the unraveling of the plot, humanize him to a degree, but the writer’s and reader’s intended sympathy comes off the page intended for Marian. Even by the end of the novel, I still thought he was a prat for his actions, even if I ultimately understood the how and why of them by the end of the novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he says to play three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Wombles, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart, 79. If you count The Avengers as genre (and I certainly do), his first SF role was as a man walking in from the sea in “The Town of No Return” episode. Setting aside Trek, other memorable genre roles include Leodegrance in Excalibur, Gurney Halleck in Dune, Prof. Macklin in The Doctor and the Devils, Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise and he’s played Macbeth myriad times in the theatre world. 
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 77. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. his work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost Rider, Kull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of Horrors, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 77. His best films? Raiders of The Ark, Star Wars and Blade Runner. Surely that’s not debatable. His worst film? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Equally not debatable.
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 64. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 66. A conrunner who co-chaired the 1999 World Fantasy Convention with his wife, Davey Snyder, he also has worked Worldcons as a Division Head, and chaired Bosklone, Lexicon 7 and Boskone 24. He was made a Fellow of NESFA in 1979. Other fannish credits include book editing, Worldcon floor plans, and producer of fannish theatricals.
  • Born July 13, 1966 David X. Cohen, 53. Head writer and executive producer of Futurama. Cohen is a producer of Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s fantasy series on Netflix. He also wrote a number of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on the Simpson’s which have a strong genre slant such as “Treehouse of Horror VII” (“Citizen Kang”). 
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 38. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back four years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IN THIS DICTIONARY, HIS PICTURE REALLY IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE WORD. For reasons you can now guess, Sir Patrick Stewart figures in the entry for the Wikitionary word of the day for July 13, 2019: “calvous”.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alastair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 12th July 2019” stops “in at Centerville for Jim Jarmusch’s deeply strange The Dead Don’t Die, which may be the oddest horror movie you’ll see this year. It’s certainly, along with Midsommar, one of the most interesting. Also on deck this week is Greg van Eekhout’s startlingly good middle-grade SF novel Cog and the always excellent ZoomDoom Stories continue to impress with season one of The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.”

The Dead Don’t Die

The best way to spot a Jim Jarmusch movie is to throw a dart, blindfold, at a wall of ideas. He’s done existential westerns (Dead Man), anthologies about taxi drivers (Night on Earth), a documentary about The Stooges (Gimme Danger) and the best hip-hop/samurai/film noir movie ever made (Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai). Now, he’s turned his attention to horror comedy and the result is so inherently Jarmuschian it basically breaks the meter and embeds the needle in the wall of the lab. Where, I can only assume, Bill Murray stares at it for a moment, goes…’Huh’ and then continues about his day.

(14) SHALL WE DANCE?

(15) WHEN I’M ’64. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is fascinated by the new Doctor Who series – in 1964: “[July 12th, 1964] Mind Over Matter (Doctor Who: The Sensorites [Part 1])”.

Can I admit to something silly? I am a little bit scared of mind-readers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually believe in telepaths. Then again, who knows what sort of freaky experiments certain entities get up to.

I just think the idea of someone reading my mind, or even manipulating it, is one of the most horrifying concepts out there.

And it looks like Doctor Who agrees with me.

(16) CHESS PLAYER CHEATED IN TOILET. I saw ESPN’s headline and I said to myself, that’ll get some clicks. They sourced their post from this Chess.com story:

GM Igors Rausis is under investigation for cheating after he was caught with his phone during a game at the Strasbourg Open. The 58-year-old Latvian-Czech grandmaster had raised suspicions after he increased his rating in recent years to almost 2700.

During an open tournament July 10-14 in Strasbourg, France, a phone was found in a toilet that had just been used by Rausis. He later signed a declaration that the phone was his.

Whether he was using his phone to get assistance from a chess engine is not clear at the moment.

In a comment to Chess.com, Rausis said:

I simply lost my mind yesterday. I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game by written [statement]. What could I say more? Yes, I was tired after the morning game and all the Facebook activity of accusers also have a known impact. At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me—I played my last game of chess already.

…Six years ago, in May 2013, [Rausis’] rating was still 2518, and it had fluctuated around the 2500 mark for at least 10 years. It has since increased by almost 200 points. 

Over the last six years, Rausis increased his rating steadily as he mostly limited himself to playing lower-rated opponents against whom he continued scoring perfectly or almost perfectly. For instance, in the July 2019 rating calculations, he scored 24.5/25 against almost only players rated more than 400 points below his own rating.

…To increase one’s rating like Rausis did requires almost perfect play over a long period of time, which is not easy even against very low opposition.

The case of Rausis is similar to that of a Georgian grandmaster who got banned from a tournament in 2015 after his phone was found in a toilet. In that case, it was discovered that he had been analyzing his position with a chess engine. He was banned for three years and lost his GM title.

(17) GET THE SHOT. NPR remembers “The Camera That Went To The Moon And Changed How We See It” – a feature with lots of pictures — some well-known, some less so.

In the summer of 1962, Walter Schirra — who would soon become America’s third man to orbit the Earth — walked into a Houston photo supply shop looking for a camera he could take into space.

He came out with a Hasselblad 500C, a high-end Swedish import that had been recommended to him by photographers from Life and National Geographic.

“He was sort of an amateur photographer,” Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in charge of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s astronaut cameras, says of Schirra. “Somewhere along the line, the decision was made that he could select what camera was flown on his flight.”

…When NASA got a look at Schirra’s Hasselblad, they liked what they saw. The space agency purchased at least one more. Engineers tore into the off-the-shelf consumer model to make it space-worthy. They stripped it down to save weight and painted it dull black to reduce reflections. They also had to “astronaut-proof it,” says Cole Rise, a photographer and filmmaker who builds custom reproductions of the Hasselblad space cameras.

…Hasselblad’s Chris Cooze says until then, the space agency was so focused on the technical side of spaceflight that photography was something of an afterthought.

He says it was in 1965, when NASA released stunning photos of Ed White’s spacewalk on Gemini 4, that Hasselblad “put two and two together” and realized the pictures were taken with one of their cameras.

“Then they got in touch with NASA to see if there was anything that we could cooperate on,” Cooze says.

(18) FOLLOW THE BOUNCING ‘BOW. “Rippling Rainbow Map Shows How California Earthquakes Moved The Earth”NPR has the story.

Curious how much the ground shifted after the two large earthquakes last week in Southern California? NASA has just the map for that question — and it happens to look like beautiful, psychedelic art.

On July 4, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the town of Ridgecrest, north of Los Angeles. The next evening, the area was jolted again by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or major infrastructure damage.

The map was created by the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It shows rippling rainbows forming a circular pattern around the faults of the two quakes.

Each rainbow stripes[sic] means that the ground has been displaced there by some 4.8 inches. It’s the same logic as a topographic map, where lines that are closer together indicate steeper slopes. In this case, the closer together the rainbow stripes are, the more the ground was displaced by the temblor.

(19) THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT. Steve J. Wright has done both sets of Hugo editor categories now:

The editing categories are always hard for us non-initiates to judge; we do not know the Dark Arts of editorship, the secret and sacred magic by which a piece of text is transmogrified into a professional story…. However, at least we can see the general tenor of a skiffy magazine, and read, well, editorials and the like, and we can work out from that how the short-form editors think.  Sort of.

And, of course, it is distorted in 1943 by the unassailable fact that there’s only one right answer: Astounding, edited by John W. Campbell Jr.  Like it or not, Campbell was shaping science fiction in his own image at this time.  He is the unavoidable choice; the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of the SF world.

Wright begins his Long Form Editor reviews (the Retro category was cancelled) with the same observation, but faithful to the category, at greater length:

Anyway, here we are again, with the category no one is particularly qualified to decide on.  We don’t know, for example, if Beth Meacham found a scrawled note one day that read “dere iz dis wumman who wantz 2 b a spaceman” and worked it up into The Calculating Stars from that, or if Mary Robinette Kowal submitted the manuscript exactly in its current form, and Meacham’s only contribution was to fling it at a passing minion with a cry of “Publish this!”  The truth, of course, must lie somewhere in between those extremes… and it is probably (unless you’re actually interested in the minutiae of the editing profession) pretty darn boring, for those of us not directly concerned.  I think it was John Sladek who said that there were secrets of the universe which Man was not meant to know, and some of them are not even worth knowing.

(20) BLACK HOLE DETECTIVE. BBC says it has lifted off: “Spektr-RG: Powerful X-ray telescope launches to map cosmos”.

One of the most significant Russian space science missions in the post-Soviet era has launched from Baikonur.

The Spektr-RG telescope is a joint venture with Germany that will map X-rays across the entire sky in unprecedented detail.

Researchers say this information will help them trace the large-scale structure of the Universe.

The hope is Spektr-RG can provide fresh insights on the accelerating behaviour of cosmic expansion.

It should also identify a staggering number of new X-ray sources, such as the colossal black holes that reside at the centre of galaxies.

As gas falls into these monsters, the matter is heated and shredded and “screams” in X-rays. The radiation is essentially a telltale for the Universe’s most violent phenomena.

Spektr-RG is expecting to detect perhaps three million super-massive black holes during its service life.

(21) APOLLO DOCUMENTARY. Assembled by Voice of America:

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic mission to land humans on the surface of the moon, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh presents this reflection of the monumental achievement through the eyes of the NASA astronauts themselves. In exclusive interviews Farabaugh gathered, the men of the Apollo program reflect on the path to the moon, and what lies beyond.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/19 Mike Has Some Little Pixels, He Makes Them Into Files, And When We Come To Read Them, The Comments Scroll For Miles

(1) GUESS WHO’S COMING TO HOLODINNER? Ryan Britt conducts an engaging thought experiment at Tor.com – Star Trek: Picard — Ranking the 25 Most Likely Next Gen Cameos”.

It seems likely that at least some characters from Picard’s past might show up on our screens again—here are 25 Next Generation characters ranked from least likely to most likely that they’ll beam-in and hang out with Jean-Luc.

(2) DOTS NICE. Edmund Schluessel shares his experiences at Finncon 2019, which took place this past weekend in a place with lots of dots in the name in Finland.

…Finncon 2019 took place 5-7 July in Jyväskylä, which as a town hardly seems like a place — the city, center is just a half dozen square blocks. Nonetheless the University of Jyväskylä is a major center of learning in Finland and their hosting of the Con afforded a good venue eerily devoid of students in the high summer. The Con ran seven or eight program items at once, spread across three floors, and filled many of them up to the fire limit. As is the norm for Finnish conventions, there was no registration fee and many people simply arrived as they pleased.

…The con boasted four guests of honor, author Charles Stross, editor Cheryl Morgan, translator Kersti Juva and professor Raine Koskimaa who headed up the academic track. This lineup underlines one of the things that sets Finnish conventions apart and allies them more closely with Eastern European and Continental fandom: conventions in Finland are seen as not just fandom events but literary events, where people attend not just to enjoy and appreciate genre works but discuss them and their cultural contexts seriously and to examine the process of creating them….

(3) BLISH 1970 GOH TALK. A photo-illustrated 38-minute audio recording of James Blish’s GoH speech at Sci-Con 70, the 1970 British Eastercon, has been uploaded to Fanac.org’s YouTube channel.

An interesting talk tracing the history of science fiction from well accepted general literature to a literary ghetto and back to general respectability. With wit, insight and quiet passion, James Blish (who was also the respected critic William Atheling Jr.) talks about science fiction before the debut of Amazing ,and his perceptions of the malign influence of the specialty magazine. Jim discusses the impact of technology on society’s attitude towards science fiction, and where we might go from here. Audio recording enhanced with 40 images. Recording and photos provided by Bill Burns, who was part of the Sci-Con 70 committee.

(4) POP CULTURAL ABUNDANCE. Alasdair Stuart is back with a refill: “The Full Lid 5th July 2019”. “This week, we go to Glastonbury for Stormzy and Lizzo, to Steven Universe for Sarah Gailey’s extraordinary comics debut, The Walking Dead 193 for the end of the line and Spider-Man: Far From Home for life after Endgame. And then, we tie them all together.” Here’s the beginning of the Steven Universe segment —  

After another successful mission, Amethyst hits a sad spell. The other Crystal Gems know to leave well alone but Steven, worried about his friend, sets out to cheer her up.

This comic needs to be taught in schools and workplaces. Not just because it’s a great piece of visual storytelling, it is. Sarah Gailey‘s script maps onto the big action, fast moving and weirdly peaceful world of the series and its characters beautifully. Rii Arbrego’s art is expressive, kinetic and kind. Whitney Cogar’s colours and Mike Fiorentino’s letters nail the feel and pace of the world to a tee. If you love the show, you’ll love this book.

But that’s not the reason this one hit me between the eyes. It did that because this is a story about depression, living with it and living with people with depression. One that uses the vehicle of the show to communicate clearly and directly a vital message that gets lost far too often.

(5) MULAN TRAILER. Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for its live action version of Mulan.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

However, fans have noticed a couple of major omissions from this production:

(6) ICE CREAM GRIDLOCK. John King Tarpinian heard a lot of folks are accepting the invitation to Step Inside Scoops Ahoy – Baskin-Robbins’ tribute to Stranger Things’ new season: “A friend drove by yesterday.  She said the line of people was around the block and the queue of cars wanting to enter was equally as long.”

Step Inside Scoops Ahoy

Sail on over to our Burbank, CA location*, where Scoops Ahoy has been recreated exactly as the Hawkins gang would have experienced it over 30 years ago. It will feel like you’ve stepped right into the show – but it won’t be here for long!

*Scoops Ahoy Address: 1201 S Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502. Open July 2 –16.

(7) MORE ON GERMAN SFF FILMS. Cora Buhlert jumped back to 1964 to contribute another post to Galactic Journey, this time about the Dr. Mabuse movies: “[July 8, 1964] The Immortal Supervillain: The Remarkable Forty-Two Year Career of Dr. Mabuse”.

Last month, I talked about the successful German film series based on the novels of British thriller writer Edgar Wallace as well as the many imitators they inspired. The most interesting of those imitators and the only one that is unambiguously science fiction is the Dr. Mabuse series.

Dr. Mabuse is not a new character. His roots lie in the Weimar Republic and he first appeared on screen in 1922 in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler, based on the eponymous novel by Luxembourgian writer Norbert Jacques.

(8) BRAUNER OBIT. Cora Buhlert adds, “And by sheer coincidence, Artur Brauner, the man who produced the postwar Mabuse movies, died yesterday at the age of 100.” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story “Artur Brauner, Holocaust Survivor and German Film Producer, Dies at 100”.

Buhlert adds:

Brauner was a fascinating person, a Holocaust survivor who went on to produce more than a hundred movies, ranging from forgettable softcore erotica to Academy Award winners. Most of the official obituaries focus on his serious Holocaust and WWII movies, but he did so much more. His genre contributions include the Mabuse movies, the 1966/67 two part fantasy epic The Nibelungs and the 1959 science fiction film Moon Wolf.

My own tribute to Brauner listing some of my personal favourites of his many movies is here: “Remembering Artur Brauner and Dr. Mabuse”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1942 Otto Penzler, 77. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh, does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 68. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 64. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and In The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 61. The role I best remember him in isValentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Sebastian Shaw, Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in the utterly disgusting Hollow Man. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Billy Crudup, 61. William “Will” Bloom in Big Fish is a most wonderful role. His take on Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen is quite amazing. And he’s in Christopher Oram in Alien: Covenant, a film I’ve no interest in seeing as that series as it’s run far too long. 
  • Born July 8, 1978 George Mann, 41. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. 

(10) SPORTS SECTION. Exactly.

(11) MOON MISSION? Mary Robinette Kowal noted an anomaly about a new commemorative Lego figure. (Hamilton did this a few years later.)

(12) DUMPING ON LUNA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 retrospective series asks a rhetorical question: “How do you explore the Moon without ruining it?”.

In March 1966, a group of 14 scientists, working on behalf of NASA, produced an astonishing report about a delicate topic: How to go to the Moon without polluting the Moon.

The conclusion: You can’t.

Simply landing a spaceship and astronauts on the Moon was going to bring with it an astonishing fog of alien pollution.

The lunar module’s rocket engine, hovering the spaceship down from orbit and running until the moment the lunar module touched the surface, was burning almost 1,000 pounds of fuel every 30 seconds, and spraying its exhaust across the Moon nonstop.

The lunar module itself vented both gases and water vapor, and when the astronauts got ready to leave for a Moon walk, they emptied the entire cabin—humidity, air, any particles floating in the atmosphere—right out onto the Moon.

When the lunar module blasted off to head for orbit, the ascent engine would again spray the surface of the Moon with chemicals.

(13) A CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. And what if the Moon tried to return the favor? At least that’s what the Independent says was in danger of happening: “Apollo 11 moon landing could have infected the Earth with lunar germs, say astronauts”.  Quoting astronaut Michael Collins:

“Look at it this way,” he said. “Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs. The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!”

Buzz Aldrin made a similar point as footage showed the astronauts being disinfected as they were on a raft next to the spacecraft they’d splashed down to Earth on.

He said that the rescuers had cleaned him down with a rag – and then thrown that same rag straight into the water….

(14) E PLURIBUS SPACE. Live in the US? NASA now has an interactive map to let you know what your state’s contribution to their mission is. Zoom in and click away — NASA in the 50 States.

(15) FINAL EXAMINER. Bonnie McDaniel reveals her favorite at the end of “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Short Story”.

1) “A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow

This does have a plot, one that’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time: a librarian/witch who gives a broken foster kid the Book he needs most, and with it the means to escape his life into another world. The fact that the author uses examples of real books (Harry Potter, et al) to illustrate her story’s points give it real power, and is one of the reasons I couldn’t forget it. When you can’t get a story out of your head, no matter how much reading you’ve done since, that makes a story award-worthy. As I said, I would be happy if just about any of these stories won…but I’m pulling for this one.

(16) A BIT TOO RETRO. Steven J. Wright reviews “Retro Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” and pronounces the finalists mostly dubious and unimpressive.

I’ll begin with a bit of an ongoing gripe: once again, the actual home of short-form dramas in the 1940s – the ubiquitous and very popular radio shows – has been ignored in favour of cartoon shorts and movies which aren’t quite long enough to reach the Long Form cut-off point.  Harrumph, say I, harrumph.

(17) OH WHAT A WEB THEY WEAVE. What has 24 legs and catches flies? In “Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man”, SYFY Wire looks at the first solo films for each of the three tries at Spider-Man in the last decade plus. Let’s just say the article expresses strong preferences.

…When Tobey Maguire was cast as Peter Parker, Spidey fans had all but given up hope ever to see the webhead on the big screen. Rights issues and development hell had besieged the character for years, so when Spider-Man finally made it to theaters, audiences were thrilled. That goodwill extended through Spider-Man 2, but when Spider-Man 3 came around in 2007 … there was some frustration. Five years later, Andrew Garfield swung into our collective conscious as the Amazing Spider-Man. Then, in 2014, Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, and the less said about that one the better. Finally, Marvel Studios got their most popular character back to make a home in the MCU, and in 2017 Tom Holland made his solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

(18) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter on the game show beat files this report:

The category: Fictional Languages; contestants had to guess who created them.

Answer: Valyrian, Braavosi.

No one got: Who is George R.R. Martin?

(19) SPOUSAL DISPUTE. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman disagree whether Neil used to sport a mullet. There is a photo…

(20) FAUX JAVA. NPR pursues the rhetorical question, “A Bitter End For Regular Joe? Scientists Engineer A Smooth Beanless Coffee”.

Before Jarret Stopforth takes his first sip of coffee, he adds cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.

But then, he thought, why settle for a regular cup of joe? So the food scientist decided to re-engineer coffee, brewing it without the bitterness — or the bean. “I started thinking, we have to be able to break coffee down to its core components and look at how to optimize it,” he explains.

Stopforth, who has worked with other food brands like Chobani, Kettle & Fire and Soylent, partnered with entrepreneur Andy Kleitsch to launch Atomo. The pair turned a Seattle garage into a brewing lab, and spent four months running green beans, roasted beans and brewed coffee through gas and liquid chromatography to separate and catalog more than 1,000 compounds in coffee to create a product that had the same color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel as coffee.

“As we got deeper into the process, we learned more about the threats to the coffee world as a whole — threats to the environment from deforestation, global warming and [a devastating fungus called] rust, and we were even more committed to making a consistently great coffee that was also better for the environment,” Stopforth says.

The future of coffee is uncertain. The amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50 percent by 2050, according to a report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

(21) THE SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Translate tweet: “I’m so grateful when anybody pays attention to me. Thank you! Please don’t stop!” You’re welcome, Richard.

(22) ROBERT MCCAMMON RAP VIDEO. Bestselling author Robert McCammon wrote a song about his creations and worked with filmmaker Chuck Hartsell to produce a music video that features some of them.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/29/19 I Scroll Less Than Half Of You Half As Well As You Pixel

(1) SPEAKING WITH PRIDE. Sina Grace tells about Marvel’s lack of support for LGBTQ+ superheroes and comic books: “As Pride Month comes to a close, it’s time I spoke candidly about my experience at Marvel Comics”. Warning: Grace quotes some of the abuse.

…It’s no surprise that I got the attention of trolls and irate fans for taking on this job. There was already backlash around the manner in which Bobby Drake aka Iceman came out, and Marvel needed to smooth that landing and put a “so what” to the decision. After a point, I could almost laugh off people making light of my death, saying they have “cancerous AIDS” from my book, or insinuating I’m capable of sexual assaultalmost. Between Iceman’s cancellation and its subsequent revival, Marvel reached out and said they noticed threatening behavior on my Twitter account (only after asking me to send proof of all the nasty shit popping up online). An editor called, these conversations always happen over the phone, offering to provide “tips and tricks” to deal with the cyber bullying. I cut him off. All he was going to do was tell me how to fend for myself. I needed Marvel to stand by me with more work opportunities to show the trolls that I was more than a diversity hire. “We’ll keep you in mind.” I got so tired of that sentence. 

Even after a year of the new editor-in-chief saying I was talented and needed to be on a book that wasn’t “the gay character,” the only assignment I got outside of Iceman was six pages along, about a version of Wolverine where he had diamond claws. Fabulous, yes. Heterosexual, yes. Still kind of the gay character, though.

We as creators are strongly encouraged to build a platform on social media and use it to promote work-for-hire projects owned by massive corporations… but when the going gets tough, these dudes get going real quick…. 

(2) SFWA SUPPORTS BEAGLE. Here’s one more instance where they lent a helping hand:

(3) TALE WAGGERS. How can you not want to read a post with a title like this? “Where Dogs Play a Part: Dogtime on the 5 Best Fantasy And Science Fiction Books With Dogs” at Black Gate.

Everybody loves recommending science fiction books. It’s not just our friends at Tor.com, Kirkus Reviews, and The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog anymore. Last week at Dogtime (Dogtime?!) Jean Andrei recommended the 5 Best Fantasy And Science Fiction Books “where dogs play a part in the story.” Starting, of course, with one of the great classics of the genre, the 1944 fix-up novel City.

(4) BARBARIANS AT THE GATES. Did you get into fandom Before Mainstream Acceptance (BMA) or After Mainstream Acceptance? Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has a theory he’d like to try out on you: “BMA Fans and AMA Fans. Will the Real Fan Please Stand Up”.

BMA fans are frequently taken to task for so-called “gatekeeping”.  I think that some of that, perhaps even a large part of it, is not gatekeeping in the minds of those fans so much as it is an expression of fierce loyalty and protectiveness over something that they paid hard currency to help create.  They value certain things because they’ve learned that those things are important to the maintenance of fandom (as they know it) and are suspicious and critical when AMA fans don’t exhibit the same respect, knowledge of or, worst-case-scenario, take it upon themselves to redefine things that are already settled law and enshrined in the fannish encyclopedia.

(5) SOLEIN IS NEITHER GREEN NOR PEOPLE. It’s marketed as electric food, but it’s not what The Guardian’s headline implies: “Plan to sell 50m meals made from electricity, water and air”.

The powder known as Solein can be given texture through 3D printing, or added to dishes and food products as an ingredient.

It is produced through a process similar to brewing beer. Living microbes are put in liquid and fed with carbon dioxide and hydrogen bubbles, which have been released from water through the application of electricity. The microbes create protein, which is then dried to make the powder.

(6) LOCUS AWARDS. Here’s two photos from today’s fun:

  • The cast of Primeval came to the banquet looking for something good to eat.
  • And the traditional Hawaii shirt fun and games:

(7) WWII FANACK. Rob Hansen, curator of fanhistory site THEN, tells about his latest additions:

In what I think concludes my recent deep dive into 1940s LASFS. I’ve just added a page on Ackerman’s War which is accompanied by a couple of photos you may not have seen before. I’ve also moved most of the clubroom stuff onto its own page ‘cos it makes more sense that way. The text includes the usual cornucopia of links, of course.

It’s mostly lighthearted, but not this part —

On New Year’s Day 1945 Alden Ackerman, a Pfc with the 42nd Tank Battalion 11th Armored Division and Forry’s kid brother, was killed in action in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. The news took several weeks to reach Forry, who reported the death in ‘The Alert’ and in VOM #39, which featured him on its cover. Ackerman later announced he would also be starting ALDEN PRESS, whose first offering in March was a memorial to Alden.

(8) BERGLUND OBIT. In another major loss for Lovecraftians, friends of Edward P. Berglund (1942-2019) reported on Facebook he died this week. In the words of Luis G. Abbadie:

Edward P. Berglund was a great editor, a great contributor to our beloved shared world of the Cthulhu Mythos, a great man, period. His anthology The Disciples of Cthulhu was the first original Mythos collection to follow August Derleth’s classic Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and a classic in its own right. And his monumental website A Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos is a fondly remembered Ancient Pharos for so many of us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 29, 1919 Slim Pickens. Surely you remember his memorable scene as Major T. J. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove? I certainly do. And, of course, he shows up in Blazing Saddles as Taggart. He’s the uncredited voice of B.O.B in The Black Hole and he’s Sam Newfield in The Howling. He’s got some series genre work including several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1983.)
  • Born June 29, 1920 Ray Harryhausen. All-around film genius who created stop-motion model Dynamation animation. His work can be seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first color film), Jason and the Argonauts,  Mighty Joe Young and Clash of the Titans. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 29, 1943 Maureen O’Brien, 76. Vicki, companion of the First Doctor. Some 40 years later, she reprised the role for several Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio works. She had a recurring role as Morgan in The Legend of King Arthur, a late Seventies BBC series. Her Detective Inspector John Bright series has been well received.
  • Born June 29, 1947 Brian Herbert, 72. Son of Frank Herbert.
  • Born June 29, 1950 Michael Whelan, 69. I’m reasonably sure that most of the Del Rey editions of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was where I first noticed his artwork but I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere since. He did Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls cover which I love and many more I can’t recall right now. 
  • Born June 29, 1956 David Burroughs Mattingly, 63. He’s an American illustrator and painter, best known for his numerous book covers of genre literature. Earlier in his career, he worked at Disney Studio on the production of The Black Hole, Tron, Dick Tracy and Stephen King’s The Stand. His main cover work was at Ballantine Books where he did such work as the 1982 cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (superb novel), 2006 Anderson’s Time Patrol and the 1983 Berkley Books publication of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith Triplanetary
  • Born June 29, 1957 Fred Duarte, Jr. His Birthday is today and this long-time Texas fan is eulogized by Mike here upon his passing several years back. (Died 2015.)

(10) 101. Anna-Louise Fortune is starting a short series about the Worldcon. After hearing her voice JJ says “I keep expecting her to pull out a ruler and whap me on the knuckles.”

(11) HUGO TAXONOMY. The fabulously inventive Camestros Felapton commences to drilling through the award’s historic layers in “The Hugosauriad: Introduction to a Dinography”.

…Two points form a line and following that line backward I could cut a rock sample through the Hugo Awards and expose the geologic layers. From there I could construct not a biography of the Hugo Awards but a dinography* — an account of a thing using the medium of dinosaurs.

A dinography requires some rules, specifically a rule as to what counts as a dinosaur. For my purpose the dinosaur eligibility includes

  • Actual dinosaurs as recognised by the paleontology of the time a work was written.
  • Prehistoric reptilian creatures from the Mesozoic era that in popular culture count as dinosaurs such as large marine reptiles and pterosaurs.
  • Fantastical creatures derived from dinosaurs such as creatures in Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar series.
  • Aliens (intelligent or not) of a reptilian nature that humans would see as dinosaur like.
  • Dinosaurs as a metaphor for something either out of time or hanging on beyond their time.

(12) DEADLY BED. The Guardian delves into a California seashore calamity: “Temperatures lead to what appears to be largest local die-off in 15 years, raising fears for broader ecosystem”

In all her years working at Bodega Bay, the marine reserve research coordinator Jackie Sones had never seen anything like it: scores of dead mussels on the rocks, their shells gaping and scorched, their meats thoroughly cooked.

A record-breaking June heatwave apparently caused the largest die-off of mussels in at least 15 years at Bodega Head, a small headland on the northern California bay. And Sones received reports from other researchers of similar mass mussel deaths at various beaches across roughly 140 miles of coastline.

While the people who flocked to the Pacific to enjoy a rare 80F beach day soaked up the sun, so did the mussel beds – where the rock-bound mollusks could have been experiencing temperatures above 100F at low tide, literally roasting in their shells.

Sones expects the die-off to affect the rest of the seashore ecosystem. “Mussels are known as a foundation species. The equivalent are the trees in a forest – they provide shelter and habitat for a lot of animals, so when you impact that core habitat it ripples throughout the rest of the system,” said Sones.

(13) LAST CHANCE. James Reid’s assessment: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer”.

The Campbell award is open to the best new writer, and is judged over their output regardless of length or quantity.  Usually, the main thing to comment on is that it is not really a Hugo,1 but the interesting wrinkle of the Campbell award this year is that you can be eligible for it twice.  The Campbell competition is often my favourite, because it usually the most diverse and novel category.   This year however, five of the six nominees are in the second year of eligiblity, and four of those were on last years slate.2

(14) UNDER THE LID. Alasdair Stuart introduces “The Full Lid 28th June 2019”:

This week’s Full Lid is here for all your bio-mechanical, classics of English literature and scrappy can-do cinema needs. I take a listen to the Dirk Maggs’ produced adaptation of William Gibson’s Alien III script, am impressed by the first episode of Catch-22 and ridiculously charmed by the minimal budget enthusiasm of Audax. Also this week, the DJBBQ5000, Journeyquest take us Cooking WIth Carrow and I look back on a demanding week.

The subject isn’t sff (is it?) but I’m going to excerpt Stuart’s sharply-written Catch-22 review.

…Luke Davies and David Michôd’s adaptation of Joseph Heller’s classic novel does everything right. It doesn’t have hundreds of pages so instead of the slow burn agonizing unreleased terror of the novel’s absurd waits between missions, it focuses all the way in on Yossarian. Abbott is perfect for the role, simultaneously swaggering and cowed and his jokes are always a quarter second away from a scream. He’s not okay. No one cares. He gets worse. No one cares. That’s the marching tempo of the story, always accelerating, never quite breaking out into a run….

(15) WHAT A CROC! But NPR says it’s true: “Veggie Surprise: Teeth Of Ancient Crocs Reveal That Some Very Likely Ate Plants”.

Modern crocodiles can trace their lineage back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. If you picture that crocodile ancestor, way back in the Cretaceous period, what do you imagine it snacking on? Maybe a fish or a bird?

Think again. Scientists say it’s more likely it was chomping on prehistoric flowers or other plants. A new study in Current Biology has found these ancient crocodile cousins actually evolved into plant eaters at least three times, and probably more.

It started with a paleontology graduate student at the University of Utah puzzling over some strange-looking teeth of the crocodile cousins (known as crocodyliforms, or crocs for short).

“The fact that so many croc teeth look nothing like anything around today just absolutely fascinated me,” Keegan Melstrom tells NPR.

(16) OUT OF THE ZONE. Galactic Journey is there when The Twilight Zone leaves the air (in 1964): “[June 26, 1964] Curtain Call (Twilight Zone, Season 5, Episodes 33-36)”.

Back in January, it was announced that this season would be The Twilight Zone’s last. In the show’s five year run, Rod Serling’s brainchild has produced more than 150 episodes and brought a new level of sophistication to science fiction and fantasy entertainment on television. Even with some decline in the program’s quality, The Twilight Zone still remains incredibly impressive as a whole — as the series comes an end, the show still manages to deliver some strong performances…

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/19 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Files And His Churls

(1) MÜNCHHAUSEN DEBATE. Some regard Retro-Hugo nominee Münchhausen to be the best thing on the ballot, while others are considering refusing to rank it at all because the movie was made in Germany during the Third Reich. Cora Buhlert and Evelyn C. Leeper are two fans who are on opposite sides of the argument.

Buhlert analyzes a lot of the ethical questions in “Why you should not dismiss “Münchhausen” out of hand”.

… This post grew out of a comment on Steve J. Wright’s blog (whose Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews you should really read), where Steve expressed that he was unsure whether he should vote for Münchhausen due to its provenance. His is not the only comment along those lines I have seen, so here is a post explaining why you should not dismiss Münchhausen out of hand.

… However, quite a few Hugo voters have issues with Münchhausen, because it was made in Germany during the Third Reich and they don’t want to vote for “a Nazi film”. This is wrong, because – unlike some of the pretty crass propaganda stuff found elsewhere on the Retro Hugo ballot, particularly in the dramatic presentation and graphic story categories – Münchhausen is not a propaganda film, merely a film that happened to be made during the Third Reich. For while the Nazi propaganda movies are infamous – even though hardly anybody has seen them, because they still cannot be publicly displayed in Germany except for educational purposes* – these propaganda movies (about forty) only make up a small percentage of the total film output of the Nazi era. In fact, it’s a lot more likely to find propaganda in a random Hollywood movie made during WWII than in a random German movie. For the vast majority of the German movies made during the Third Reich were apolitical entertainment: musicals, melodramas, comedies, romances and the like.

…It’s also notable that most of the Münchhausen cast and crew, including director Josef von Baky, had careers that continued unimpeded in postwar Germany. And considering that both the Allies and the postwar West and East German authorities came down harder on artists who were involved with questionable movies than on Nazi doctors, judges, civil servants, military officers, etc… who were actually responsible for the deaths of many people (cause the latter were deemed important for building up the postwar state, while the former were not), this means that most of the people involved with Münchhausen were not Nazis….

Evelyn C. Leeper takes the other side in “Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Reviews” at MT VOID.

MUNCHHAUSEN was an attempt to provide the German audience with the lush Technicolor films they were not getting from Hollywood in 1943. And the film is beautiful, with some scenes reminiscent of Brueghel paintings, and the scenes on the moon quite fantastical. As a Hugo finalist, though, it has two flaws. One is that long stretches are fairly boring–I just don’t find Munchhausen’s intrigues with Catherine the Great very interesting. The second is that if people balk at giving an award to a film directed by someone accused of sexual misconduct and possible rape, what should one think of awarding a Hugo to a film made by the Nazis as a propaganda film (of the “Volksfilm” style)? It’s a fine line, I agree, but while I think the film worth watching (it’s available free on YouTube, and if you get it on DVD, whoever is getting the royalties, it’s not the Nazi party), I cannot vote to give it a Hugo.

(2) SCALING MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by rcade.] Wajahat Ali, a New York Times opinion writer and CNN contributor, asked for advice on Twitter about meeting his goal of reading 3 books a month:

In the replies, someone recommends the essay “How to read a lot of books” by David Evans, an economist who read 104 books in 2018:

The favorite suggestion among Twitter users is to get off social media. 

(3) GOING FOUR IT. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane is there when “’Toy Story 4’ Plays It Again”.

…“Toy Story 4” is directed by Josh Cooley, and it must be said that, for a while, the tale doesn’t seem like the freshest that Pixar has ever told. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks, as ever), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their bunch of pals are forced to adjust when young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), in whose bedroom they reside, departs for orientation day at kindergarten and returns with a toy—or a thingamajig—that she has made. His name is Forky (Tony Hale), he was put together from cutlery, pipe cleaners, and goggly eyes, and he clings to a fervent belief that he is trash. Time and again, despite not having read Dostoyevsky, he has to be stopped from throwing himself away. Parents with children of Bonnie’s age may find these scenes difficult to explain….

(4) CARRYING A TUNE IN A BIG DIPPER. James Davis Nicoll was inspired by File 770 comments to consider the definition of space opera: “Single Star System Space Opera; or, Those Pesky Belters, Revisited” at Tor.com.

One world is not enough (probably). There are space operas that center on one world—novels such as Dune or The Snow Queen come to mind—but their plots require interactions between that planet and the rest of the narrative universe. The story may take place on one world, but this world is only one of many.

Space travel is a therefore a necessary feature of space opera. Travel can delightfully complicate the plot: trade, migration, proselytization, and the chance that the local equivalent of the Yekhe Khagan might pop by with ten thousand of his closest friends to discuss taxation and governance.

(5) PREFERRED SFF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tyler Cowen interviewed Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, in his podcast “Conversations With Tyler.” (“Hal Varian on Taking the Academic Approach to Business”).  In minute 38 of the interview, Varian recommended some sf.  He liked Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” in which robots produce so much stuff that the rich live lives of bucolic simplicity while the poor have to consume until they keel over.  Varian also liked L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, and said that if he could live at any time in history, it would be in the Rome of the fifth century described in de Camp’s classic novel.

(6) EXPERIENCE TOR AUTHORS. Available free from Macmillan for various digital formats: “Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler: Some of the Most Exciting New Voices in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Read free sample chapters from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy today, including C. S. E. Cooney, Katharine Duckett, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Kerstin Hall, Vylar Kaftan, Scotto Moore, Tamsyn Muir, Lina Rather, Priya Sharma, and Emily Tes.

(7) ALL FOR SCIENCE. Via the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off’s FB group, Mark Lawrence has asked for self-published authors to provide titles for the purpose of looking at how Goodreads ratings might correlate with sales.  

In the past I have looked at the relationship between “number of Goodreads ratings” and “sales” for recent traditionally published fantasy books.

“What do Goodreads ratings say about sales?” (from 2015.)

Data from self-published authors has shown a much greater variability.

If you want to help out (note your name and your book name will not be used) then message me the following information for each fantasy book you want to tell me about. It will become a point on a graph. I will not share your figures with anyone (except as an anonymous point on a graph). Note – please only submit info for books with more than 200 Goodreads ratings:

  1. Year the book was published
  2. number of Goodreads ratings for the book
  3. number of copies sold via Kindle Unlimited
  4. number of copies sold in all other formats
  5. estimate the % of all non KU sales (i.e number listed in 4) that were free / £0.00

(8) FIELDS OBIT. Star Trek writer Peter Alan Fields died June 19. StarTrek.com paid tribute: 

For Trek, Fields wrote or co-wrote a total of 13 episodes, most notably the TNG hours “Half a Life,” “Cost of Living” and “The Inner Light,” as well as the DS9 installments, “Dax,” “Duet,” “Blood Oath,” “In the Pale Moonlight” and “The Dogs of War,” among others. In short, he had a hand in several of both shows’ finest moments. He also served DS9 as a co-producer and later producer from 1993 to 1994, spanning seasons one and two.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 22, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its original theatrical premiere.  The feature starred Wallace Beery and Bessie Love. And yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was said to have approved of this version. Indeed in 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. He refused to say if it was actual footage or not. 
  • June 22, 1979 Alien debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 Kris Kristofferson, 83. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly, he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes. 
  • Born June 22, 1947 Octavia E. Butler. As you know, I do research before I decide who gets a Birthday write-up. I kept running across her detractors who grumbled that she was one of those dread SJWs. Well let’s note that she’s a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and she became in 1995 the first genre writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. As regards her fiction, I’d suggest the Xenogenesis series shows her at her very best but anything by her is both good and challenging. I’m pleased to note that iBooks and Kindle have everything of hers available. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 Meryl Streep, 70. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that it.
  • Born June 22, 1953 Cyndi Lauper, 66. Ok I’m officially old as I’m thinking of her as always young. Genre-wise, she played a psychic, Avalon Harmonia, on the Bones series. She also has one-offs in series as diverse as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!Shelley Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Oddly enough she has one serious acting credit, Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera
  • Born June 22, 1958 Bruce Campbell, 61. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved him so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally like just as much The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and godawful, often in the same film. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1971 Laila Rouass, 48. She was Sarah Page, an Egyptologist on Primeval, a series I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it. She played Colonel Tia Karim, a traitorous UNIT officer in the two part “Death of The Doctor” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This story was the last to feature Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor, The Eleventh here, together onscreen. Jo Grant would also show up. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 Ian Tregillis, 46. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a rather good serial fiction anthology (if that’s the proper term) and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I need to check out. 

(11) UPDATE. Jim C. Hines tells fans why he needs to start a “Writing Hiatus and Other Changes”:

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute….

(12) TROTTING THE GLOBE. Rich Lynch has posted the 22nd issue of his zine My Back Pages online at eFanzines.com.

Because of the temporal nearness of the upcoming Irish Worldcon, Issue #22 has a travel-oriented theme and has essays involving Native American culture and Indian food, tall mountains and ocean vistas, ancient computers and modern cell phones, completed walks and works-in-progress, rental cars and water buses, famous writers and somewhat obscure composers, small spittoons and large ash heaps, opened time capsules and preserved brains, strange stories and familiar melodies, glass artifacts and wooden bells, sunny afternoons and inky-dark skies, colorful theories and black & white comics, intense business meetings and serene beach life, fine cheese and a traffic jam, labyrinthine passageways and an expansive convention center, old friends and “old school”…and 15 minutes of media fame – in Estonia!

(13) LOOKING TO REDECORATE? Popular Mechanics displays the latest fashions from Star Wars.

(14) BITE YOUR TONGUE. The Warp Zone’s sketch shows scenes from Steve Rogers’ domestic life with Peggy Carter in “Captain America’s Life After Endgame.”

(15) COLLECTOR’S ITEM. Sorry, wrong number.

(16) BIG TICKET ITEM. Comicbook.com astonishes with the news that “Disneyland Has Already Sold Three of the $25k R2-D2 Droids at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

If you had a spare $25,000 lying around, what would you spend it on? Believe it or not, a total of three people have already spent that amount of money on a very specific purchase at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the latest Disneyland attraction that immerses fans in the galaxy far, far away. According to The OCR, the park is selling a “$25,000 life-size custom astromech unit” which is sold at Driod Depot and “looks just like the 3-and-half-foot-tall R2-D2.”

(17) LOCKED AND LIDDED. Alasdair Stuart says, “This week’s The Full Lid  takes us from the mutable dimensions of grief and horror to how much fun dying slowly in orbit can be.”

In the first instance, I take a look at Starfish, AT White’s fiercely inventive and intensely personal exploration of grief and inter-dimensional invasion. It’s a great, determined and uniquely voiced movie and one you should definitely seek out.

Elsewhere, Matt Miner’s eco-noir direct action specialists return and get WAY more than they bargained for in Lab Raider issue 1. I’ve enjoyed the way Matt’s explored this world through the two previous standalone mini-series, Liberator and Critical Hit and this new series looks to be just as good.

Finally, I take a look at Adr1ft, the under-rated EVA/Survival game released a couple of years ago. It has interesting things to say about the pressures of modern spaceflight, looks absolutely beautiful and is frequently terrifying. An overlooked gem, albeit one leaving a trail of empty oxygen cylinders in its wake.


Adr1ft

I’ve spent a good chunk of this week slowly dying in space. it’s been fun! Adr1ft, by Three One Zero and published by 505 Games is a pared down, minimalist game that demands attention and cheerily punishes you for not giving it. I found a lot to enjoy in there, not the least of which is the killer opening. You wake up in a damaged space suit, in a decaying orbit, surrounded by the shattered remains of a vast space station that has very recently exploded. Player and character enter the game in identicla states of confusion and the plot unfolds at the same pace you follow the debris trail around the shattered station. You are Commander Alex Oshima, head of the HAN-IV project. You are the lone survivor of a catastrophic accident. The accident was your fault.

Now what?

The game perfectly embodies the brutal math of orbital survival without ever getting over-excited about how unforgiving it is….

(18) ELECTRICITY BY THE BALE. Nature reports on “Sunlight harvested by nanotubes”.

The efficiency of junction-based solar cells has almost reached its theoretical limit, and it is therefore imperative to explore methods for converting sunlight into electricity that do not require semiconductor junctions. Writing in Nature, Zhang et al. report a key advance in this direction. They demonstrate a junction-free solar cell that is produced by curling an atom-thick semiconductor layer into a nanoscale tube.

(19) IN TONGUES WITHOUT FLAME. “Cambridge language conference marks Game of Thrones lingo”.

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a conference to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Dr Bettina Beinhoff said the convention would enhance the network of language creators worldwide.

(20) WASP. Like the Eric Frank Russell novel, a tiny cause had a large effect: “Rogue slug blamed for Japanese railway chaos”

A power cut that disrupted rail traffic on a Japanese island last month was caused by a slug, officials say.

More than 12,000 people’s journeys were affected when nearly 30 trains on Kyushu shuddered to a halt because of the slimy intruder’s actions.

Its electrocuted remains were found lodged inside equipment next to the tracks, Japan Railways says.

The incident in Japan has echoes of a shutdown caused by a weasel at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider in 2016.

(21) CRUSH IT LIKE QUINT. The Narragansett brewery claims it’s not only music that soothes the breast of the savage beast:

(22) FOR NEVER IS HERD. What’s that smell? “Curiosity rover finds gas levels on Mars hinting at possibility of life”.

It’s easy to get jaded about potential signs of life on Mars, but a recent discovery might raise eyebrows. The New York Times has learned that NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected “startlingly high” levels of methane — the gas typically produced by life as we know it. The quantities are still tiny at 21 parts per billion, but that’s three times the amount Curiosity spotted during a surge in 2013. The rover’s operators were reportedly surprised enough to pause regularly scheduled studies to obtain follow-up data, with the additional findings slated to arrive on June 24th.

(23) BOT DYNASTY. You think their football team is good? Well… University of Alabama News: “UA Robotics Team Wins NASA’s Grand Prize for Fifth Consecutive Year”.

For the fifth consecutive year, the student robotics team from The University of Alabama won NASA’s grand prize in its Robotics Mining Competition.

[…] Made up of 60 students, primarily from UA’s College of Engineering, Alabama Astrobotics won the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, the grand prize, in NASA’s 2019 robotic mining competition, NASA announced. UA’s teams previously placed first in 2012 and from 2015-2018.

[…] In a separate event hosted at The University of Alabama, UA’s team bested 27 other robotics teams from across the nation to win first in mining, first in the Caterpillar Autonomy Awards and the SSERVI Regolith Mechanics Award.

In the Robotic Mining Challenge held at UA, teams demonstrated how a robot they built over the past year could autonomously navigate and excavate simulated lunar and Martian soil, known as regolith.

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