Pixel Scroll 11/18/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) OUT OF THE BAG. Spies in Disguise just had a “super-secret” drop.

Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.

(2) BOOMER DOOM. John Scalzi speaks sooth in “Reader Request Week 2019 #2: The War Between the Generations”.

…The special sauce of this particular moment of generational conflict is that it involves the Baby Boomers for the first time being the antagonists of the generational story, rather than either the protagonists or the somewhat neutral mainstream. The Boomers are now the older generation and are having a moment being seen as the ossified and inflexible group whose opinion is not worth considering, and they don’t appear to like it at all. There is the (some would say delicious) irony of the generation that famously professed it would never trust anyone over 30 having become the generation that those under 30 allegedly doesn’t trust. I’m pretty sure the Boomers don’t appreciate that irony at all.

(3) ON THE BLOCK. Time Out discusses auctions of collectibles from the Happiest Place on Earth in “A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World”.

Since first being approached by one man and his collection of Disneyland materials about five years ago, gallery co-founder Mike Van Eaton has become a go-to figure for these auctions. He estimates that he sells about 98% of the stock each auction, so it’s no surprise that prolific collectors and former parks employees keep approaching him to offer relics on consignment. Those relationships are part of how he verifies the pieces’ provenance; he’ll consult with Disney Imagineers to separate the fan-made items from the park-used ones, and he’ll use the plausibility of their backstories to suss out how one It’s a Small World doll is from the Florida version of the ride, while another is clearly from a promotional storefront activation in New York (the use of electric parts instead of pneumatic was the tip-off). Others are more directly verifiable, like when a former county assessor dropped off official plans he’d overseen for the railroad that Walt Disney built in his Holmby Hills backyard.

(4) I’M BAAACK! Hollywood Collectibles will let you have this sweetheart for only $1,599. Easy payment plan available!

This stunning life-size wall display pays homage to the terrifying Alien Queen’s iconic battle with Ripley, in the climatic scenes of Aliens.

(5) ETCHISON MEMORIAL. Dennis Etchison’s memorial marker, “paid for by a long-term friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous,” is now in place at Pierce Brothers, Westwood Village. It’s marker #127 on the ‘Cenotaph’ wall, (quite near the graves of Ray and Maggie Bradbury).

(6) LE GUIN ON UK SCREENS. Another chance to see the BBC4 TV documentary “The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” which also has contributions from Margret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. The link only works in the UK – which will be fine for some of you.

(7) TIMING IS EVERYTHING. ScienceAlert says “NASA Has Detected Weird Orbital Movement From Two of Neptune’s Moons”.

The two moons in question are Naiad and Thalassa, both around 100 kilometres or 62 miles wide, which race around their planet in what NASA researchers are calling a “dance of avoidance”.

Compared with Thalassa, Naiad’s orbit is tilted by about five degrees – it spends half of its time above Thalassa and half of it below, in a linked orbit that’s unlike anything else on record.

“We refer to this repeating pattern as a resonance,” says physicist Marina Brozovic, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There are many different types of dances that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before.”

The two small moons’ orbits are only around 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) apart, but they are perfectly timed and choreographed to keep avoiding each other. Naiad takes seven hours to circle Neptune, while Thalassa takes seven and a half on the outside track.

(8) INFLUENCER RULES. Pirated Thoughts provides a reader update: “Explaining the FTC’s New Social Media Influencer Sponsorship Disclosure Rules”.

When to Disclose

Influencers must disclose when they have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.  If given free or discounted products, an Influencer is required to disclose this information even if they were not asked to mention that product.  The FTC reminds Influencers that even wearing tags or pins that show favorability towards a company can be considered endorsements of said company.  However, if you simply enjoy a product and want to talk about the product, you are not required to declare that you don’t have a relationship with that brand.  Lastly, even if these posts are made from abroad, U.S. law will still apply if it is reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers.

(9) BIG TROUBLE. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is tuned in for the latest (55 years ago) doctoral thesis: [November 17, 1964] A Continuing Adventure In Space And Time (Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants).

PLANET OF GIANTS

AWOOOGA, AWOOOGA. We’re barely a minute in and already things are going wrong aboard the good ship TARDIS. As the Doctor brings her in to land, the doors start opening by themselves. Fortunately, the companions manage to get them closed and they land safely. Or do they? The Doctor is very agitated about the doors opening, but doesn’t do a good job of explaining what it is that’s bothering him. Something strange is afoot, that’s for sure.

(10) WHO CLUES. Mirror UK is in tune with the series’ more current events: “Doctor Who series 12 release date, cast, episodes, plot for Jodie Whittaker return”. Lots of hints, like this one:

Doctor Who series 12 release date

Doctor Who series 12 is due to air in very early 2020.

However, fans should keep an eye out for something on November 23 2019 , according to a recent BBC teaser.

There have been rumours of a surprise Christmas Special for December 25, 2019, but this will likely air in 2020 instead.

(11) DEEP THOUGHTS ABOUT STAR WARS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Film blogger Darren Mooney has offered some pretty awesome analysis of Star Wars on Twitter. Thread starts here. Some highlights:

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 18, 1928 Steamboat Willie, was released featuring Mickey Mouse.
  • November 18, 1959  — The Incredible Petrified World enjoyed its very first theatrical screening for residents of Burlington, North Carolina.
  • November 18, 1992 Killer Tomatoes Eat France! premiered  in the U.S. home video marketplace.  Written and directed by John De Bello, it starredJohn Astin,  Marc Price and Angela Visser. It rates a surprisingly high 41% over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 18, 1994 Star Trek Generations premiered. Starring Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, the film did very well but had a decidedly mixed critical reception and the film holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 80. Well there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I recommend, and I’ve good things about The Penelopiad.
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 73. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his SW work as I ever got into reading what amounted to authorized fanfic. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 69. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction superb and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover.
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 69. I’d say that he’s best-known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1952 Doug Fratz. Long-time fan and prolific reviewer for the  New York Review of Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age who also published a number of zines including the superbly titled Alienated Critic. He was nominated for Best Fanzine Hugo four times. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 66. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen very close. Pity about the film. His worse work? The Lost Girls. Shudder. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 58. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield depends on a rare astronomy lesson for a joke.
  • Even one of the character’s is surprised by Garfield’s Asimov reference. 

(15) EFFECTED OR AFFECTED? [Item by Olav Rokne.] On his personal blog, former Guardian SF book reviewer Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) admits that he didn’t read a single novel in 2019 — “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.”

In an essay that gets a bit finger-pointy, he decries the state of novel writing, casts aspersions at NaNoRiMo books, and asks for something new that will “inspire” him. Warning: if you’re anything like me, you might find the piece a bit aggravating. 

If anything killed the magic of the novel, it’s seeing the novel utterly degraded and disrespected by the fevered egos who crank out junk and self publish it on the Kindle. I really wish this didn’t effect how I see the novel, but inevitably, it does.

And mainstream publishing isn’t all that much better. They don’t seem to invest anywhere near enough into developing talented new writers. New writers are published too early, then disappear before they have a chance to develop, which rarely happens before half a dozen lesser novels have been published.

Curious about what the Filers have to say about Walter’s opinion.  

(16) NO CAMERA TRICKS. BBC outlines “How Mary Poppins has changed for the stage”. The scene with the carpetbag is cited as an example of bad camera fakery; now they’re doing it live.

The stage adaptation of Mary Poppins is not the kind of show where the actors can afford to let their concentration lapse.

There are several precise and tricky cues for the cast to hit across the three-hour West End production.

Props have to appear from (or disappear into) thin air. There are magic tricks. Characters dance upside down on the ceiling. There are scenes that involve complex choreography, kite flying and statues coming to life.

It’s a testament to how tightly rehearsed the show is that nothing went wrong at the show’s opening night on Wednesday.

“It does sometimes!” laughs Zizi Strallen, who plays the legendary leading role. “But there are contingency plans, that’s the beauty of live theatre, and it’s my job to cover it up as well if it does go wrong.”

The most complicated part of the show, she says, is a scene which will be familiar to fans of the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, where Poppins is seen somehow pulling huge items out of a relatively small handbag.

“Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her. “There’s a magic teapot, bringing a plant out of the bag, a hat stand, a mirror, putting them all on the wall so they don’t fall off.

“There’s a lot of pressure in that number, a lot of things to think about. So my brain is going 100 miles per hour. And then when that number’s done I think ‘right, now I can just have fun’.”

(17) LAWFUL NEUTRAL. FastCompany says local governments are finding ways to keep this from being a purely rhetorical question, despite the FCC: “Should the internet be a public utility? Hundreds of cities are saying yes”.

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon are free to slow down, block, or prioritize internet traffic as they wish, without interference by the federal government. That’s the effect of an October ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a 2017 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that reversed rules requiring what is called “net neutrality“—treating all internet traffic equally, regardless of where it’s from or what kind of data it is.

Giving corporate telecom giants this power is wildly unpopular among the American people, who know that these companies have overcharged customers and interfered with users’ internet access in the past.

However, people who advocate for an open internet, free of corporate roadblocks, might find solace in another aspect of the court’s ruling: States and local governments may be able to mandate their own net neutrality rules.

The effort is underway

Governors in six states—Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.

More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.

(18) AVENUE 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Three words: Hugh Laurie. HBO. Space cruise. Comedy.

OK, that’s six words.

Gizmodo believes “The Space Cruise Comedy From the Creator of Veep May Become Our New Obsession”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sunspring, a Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch” on YouTube is a fim from Ars Technica based on a screenplay written by an AI who had digested hundreds of script for sf films and tv shows.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/19 We Have Always Lesnerized In The Castle

(1) DOUBLE DUNE.  Deadline reveals there will be a Dune TV series concurrent with the new films (the two back to back). “‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ Series Ordered By WarnerMedia Streaming Service With Denis Villeneuve Directing”.

WarnerMedia has given a straight-to-series order to Dune: The Sisterhood, a drama from Legendary Television based on Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune and the popular sci-fi franchise it spawned.

The series is designed to co-exist with the Dune feature film, currently in production at Warner Bros., as part of Legendary’s comprehensive plans for Dune which also include video games, digital content packages and comic book series.

Further underlining the symbiotic relationship between the movie and the series, Denis Villeneuve, who is directing and producing the new Dune film, also is set to executive produce the series and direct its pilot episode, with one of the feature’s co-writers, Jon Spaihts set to write the show. It mirrors NBCUniversal ‘s approach to the Purge franchise, which also encompasses a film and TV series franchise.

(2) GREAT FANTASY NOVELS BY WOMEN. The writer and filmmaker Sarah Passos tweeted:

She has gotten over 500 replies, including recommendations from Gaiman and Rothfuss.

(3) MY IMPOSTOR SYNDROME. Once in a dream I was impersonating a famous fantasy writer and Oxford scholar, wearing suitably tweedy clothes. “Hello,” I said to a middle-aged woman, and introduced myself. “I’m J.R.R. Tolkien.”

“Tres bien,” she answered in French. She was buying it. That much French I understood. In fact, that was all the French I understood. I was going to need an excuse to hold the conversation in English. Uh. Uh. So the next thing I said was, “I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten all of my French, Old Norse, Greek, Latin, and 14 other languages I made up myself.”

(4) THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY. That tech had to be good for something. Variety has learned, “Steven Spielberg Writing Horror Series for Quibi That You Can Only Watch at Night”.

Steven Spielberg is penning a horror series for Quibi that users will only be able to see when their phone knows it’s dark outside, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said on Sunday.

…Katzenberg said Spielberg has already “written five or six episodes (which Quibi calls “chapters,” like a novel) of a 10- or 12-chapter story.” The program is being developed under the title “Spielberg’s After Dark.” (Spielberg is also developing a revival of his anthology series “Amazing Stories” for another new content programmer, Apple TV Plus.)

(5) CHELSEA CAIN. Comic writer Chelsea Cain has deleted her Twitter-account after a controversy regarding her new comic Man-eaters. At Women Write About Comics, Jameson Hampton analyzes the controversy: “Questioning Chelsea Cain’s Feminist Agenda”.

…Insisting that her book is not trying to imply that all women menstruate is one thing, but the implication that all people who menstruate are women is something else entirely — and plays into a societal habit to assume all trans issues are trans women issues. Compounding that issue is Mags Visaggio, a prominent trans woman in comics who came to Cain’s defense on twitter, insisting the book wasn’t offensive and that Cain should be able to write about “her experience as a cis woman” — again, missing the point that transmasculine people were primarily the ones being harmed.

Specifically, Cain has been back under scrutiny this week after the release of issue #9 of Man-Eaters on June 5th. The controversy? Imagery of propaganda posters in concentration camps featuring the text from fan tweets that had been critical of Cain’s work on the book.

Cain claims that her intention was to “acknowledge the really painful criticisms” that made her feel “worthless and small.”

However, she clearly hasn’t given a lot of thought to the implications of sharing criticism in this way. While the tweets were unattributed in the comic, she has claimed that she “didn’t know” people could still find the original tweets by searching for the text — which feels like a dubious claim, not only because it’s a basic function of Twitter, but also because (as pointed out by CK Stewart) it seems difficult to believe that someone who has experienced so much online harassment is so naive about how online harassment can happen. It’s possible she didn’t consider the nuance of using these words on the walls of a concentration camp, but worth noting that “being more nuanced” was something she explicitly promised to the very writer of the tweets used here. The potential implication that trans folks and their allies are the oppressors and women are the victims is subtext, but it’s hard not to read into it, especially while Cain continues to complain about how the criticisms of her book are mean and hurting her feelings….

(6) THAT’S WHAT THEY SAID. Max Florschutz, in “Being a Better Writer: Voice VS Grammar”, supports this point with some colorful analogies (which you should go there to read).

…I want you to think for a moment, and think hard. Have you ever read a book where a scene or chapter begins without telling you who the viewpoint character of the chapter is, but you can tell anyway because of the voice in the narration? Or read a book where two characters are speaking unattributed, but you’re able to figure out who they are because of their voices?

I have. To both. Because those characters are given strong voices that, while often not grammatically correct, are vivid and real. They have a way of speaking, from use of particular words, to phrases, to even just a cadence or a flow that makes them uniquely identifiable.

That is the power of character voice. To be so vivid and real that even if a character doesn’t offer a name, the reader can figure out who they are simply based on their style of speaking. And since dialogue and narration are the two things our reader will see the most in most books, this makes character voice as powerful a tool as a character walking in screen in a film or show.

(7) SPEAK, MEMORY. The book created for Vonda McIntyre’s memorial, Remembering Vonda, is available for purchase at Lulu.com.

Award-winning SFF author Vonda N. McIntyre died April 1, 2019. The world lost a force of nature, a brilliant, kind, generous, fiercely talented artist. In this volume, friends, colleagues, admirers, fans all pay tribute to a radiant life. McIntyre’s oeuvre includes Dreamsnake (Hugo and Nebula award winner, ’78), The Moon and the Sun (Nebula ’98; a movie based on it is awaiting release); as well as stories, novelizations and tie-ins, including the Star Trek novel The Entropy Effect. She founded the Clarion West workshop and was a “fairy godmother” to hundreds of students; a quiet, tireless feminist, Kentucky-born McIntyre moved to Seattle with her family and became a life-long resident, as well as a prolific creator of crochet topoplogy; McIntyre also collaborated with Ursula K. Le Guin, and was a founding member of the Book View Cafe, an author-owned publishing cooperative. McIntyre both shaped and nurtured the SF/F community; as her friend Jane Hawkins has said “we shall not see her like again.

(8) STEPHEN COLBERT MEETS KING KONG. Just another Tony Award nominated guest….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 10, 1922 Judy Garland. Best remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, it was also her only genre role in her tragically short life. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 10, 1928 Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 10, 1937 Luciana Paluzzi, 82. She’s best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. Genre wise, I see she was also in Journey to the Lost City (in the original German, Das indische Grabmal), HerculesThe Green Slime1001 NightsCaptain Nemo and the Underwater City and War Goddess (also known as The Amazons and The Bare-Breasted Warriors in its original Italian title). The latter film is online in its entirety on Youtube. 
  • Born June 10, 1950 Ed Naha, 69. Among his many genre credits, he was Editor of both Starlog and Fangoria. An even more astonishing genre credit was that he produced Inside Star Trek in 1976 wth Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard talking about the series. Fiction wise, he wrote one series as D. B. Drumm, The Traveller series and adapted a number of movies such as Robocop and Robocop 2 under his own name. Way back in the Seventies, he wrote Horrors: From Screen to Scream: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Greatest Horror and Fantasy Films of All Time which alas has not been updated. There are no digital books at iBooks or Kindles for him.
  • Born June 10, 1951 Charles Vess, 68. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. 
  • Born June 10, 1952 Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company Concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen.(Died 2010.)
  • Born June 10, 1953 Don Maitz, 66 Winner of the Hugo twice for Best Artist and ten Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. And a World Fantasy Award as well. Yes, I’m impressed. From Asimov to Wolfe, his artwork has adorned the covers of many genre authors. He’s married to Janny Wurtz and their excellent website can be found thisaway.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DUBLIN 2019 DAY PASSES. Available June 15.

(12) SLOW CHANGE. Unlike Sweden (noted in a Pixel some time ago), “For Many Germans, Cash Is Still King”.

This may be surprising to some. After all, Germany is Europe’s leading economy and famous for technological know-how. But, even while some of its neighbors in Europe and elsewhere are quickly swapping physical money for new pay technologies, many Germans prefer their euro bills. Cash is quick and easy to use, they argue. It provides a clear picture of personal spending, keeps transactions more private and is widely accepted in the country.

“I usually pay cash. This way I have the feeling of keeping track of the money I spend,” says Madeleine Petry, 29, as she shops at a supermarket in Berlin. “Sometimes when I couldn’t make it to the ATM, I use my debit card in the store, but I never use my credit card for shopping in the real world — just for online shopping.”

She is not the only one with this mindset.

A 2017 study by the country’s central bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, said Germans carried an average of 107 euros (over $115 at the 2017 exchange rate) in their wallet. That’s more than three times what the average French person carries (32 euros), according to the European Central Bank. It is also far more than what Americans carry. Three-quarters of respondents in a U.S. Bank survey said they carried less than $50 — and one-quarter said they keep $10 or less in their wallet.

(13) THE ROBOTS RETURN. John Scalzi announces “Love Death + Robots Renewed for Season Two”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story:

Netflix has picked up its series Love, Death and Robots for a second run, and the anthology is bringing aboard an animation veteran to help bring the show to life.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the director of Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3, will join the series as supervising director for the second season — or “volume,” as the show’s producers call it. A release date and episode count for the new run has yet to be determined.

(14) HIDE AND SEEK. “Scientists close in on hidden Scottish meteorite crater”, estimated to be 20 times older than Chicxulub.

Scientists think the time has come for a full geophysical survey of The Minch, to see if the Scottish strait is hiding an ancient meteorite crater.

The idea that such a structure lies between the Western Isles and mainland Scotland was first raised back in 2008.

They found evidence on the Highlands coast for the rocky debris that would have been produced by a giant impact.

Now, the team from Oxford and Exeter universities believes it can pinpoint where the space object fell to Earth.

Writing in the Journal of the Geological Society, Dr Ken Amor and colleagues say this location is centred about 15-20km west-northwest of Enard Bay – part way across The Minch towards Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

The feature would be buried deep under the seafloor, they add.

(15) ALIEN MUSEUM PIECES. In the Washington Post, John Kelly remembers seeing Alien when it was released 40 years ago and interviews National Air and Space Museum curator Margaret Weitekamp about the artifacts from Alien and Star Trek in the Air and Space Museum’s collections: “‘Alien’ scared me silly 40 years ago. Today, my chest bursts with affection for it.”

In 2003, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History welcomed into its collection a 3-foot-tall plaster-of-Paris xenomorph egg that was used as a prop in “Aliens.” It may not be a moon rock or a first lady’s dress, but it’s iconic just the same. The National Air and Space Museum has a set of 103 “Alien” trading cards.

(16) RETURN OF THE BLOB. Watch where you step! ABC7 in LA reports “Tar oozes on to sidewalk, street near La Brea Tar Pits”.

A black, gooey mess was bubbling up out of the ground near the iconic La Brea Tar Pits on Saturday.

The sight was attracting the attention of locals and tourists alike.

City workers were on Wilshire Boulevard trying to contain the seepage that was taking over a corner across the street from the historic landmark.

“I’ve seen it bubble up a little bit before, and it’s always fascinating when it happens. Thinking, OK, the tar pits are gonna win this time and take over the world,” Andrea Ross-Greene said laughing. “This is the biggest eruption I’ve seen, and I think it’s pretty cool.”

The earth has been oozing tar and methane gas in the area since pre-historic times.

(17) GRRM Q&A. In Santa Fe at his Jean Cocteau Cinema, George R.R. Martin emcees occasional author events, which they have now started recording for streaming and later viewing. Here are three available on YouTube.

  • Marlon James (author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.)
  • Alan Brennert (from The Twilight Zone, author of Daughter of Molokai.)
  • Lee Child (Creator of Jack Reacher.)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/30/19 The Pixels, My Friend, Are Scrollin’ In The Wind

(1) KIND OF LIKE A CORRESPONDENCE COURSE. BBC reports “JK Rowling to release new Harry Potter eBooks”.

JK Rowling is to release four new Harry Potter eBooks next month, offering fans the chance to “delve deeper into the rich history of magic”.

Rowling’s Pottermore website will publish the non-fiction stories, which will be devoted to all things from the “wizarding world”.

Each will be themed around lessons studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The shorts are inspired by a British Library exhibition about Harry Potter.

…The first two books, released on 27 June, will explore Defence Against the Dark Arts as well as Potions and Herbology.

The third and fourth books, which will be released soon after, will look at Divination and Astronomy along with Care of Magical Creatures.

(2) LIMIT ONE ENDING PER CUSTOMER. “Dark Phoenix Ending Was Reshot Because Another Superhero Movie Had the Same Ending” – and Movieweb tries to deduce which movie got there first.

…With the movie finally set to arrive in theaters next month, the cast has started making the press rounds to promote it. During a recent interview, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were asked about the extensive reshoots. That’s when things got interesting, as McAvoy gave anything but a typical answer. Here’s what he had to say about it.

“The end [of Dark Phoenix] changed a hell of a lot. The finale HAD to change. There was a lot of overlap and parallels with another superhero movie that came out… a while ago.”

(3) NYRSF READINGS. Chana Porter and Katharine Duckett will illuminate the stage at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings series on June 4. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.), Brooklyn, NY.

Chana Porter is an emerging playwright, speculative novelist, and education activist. Her plays have been developed or produced at Playwrights Horizons, The Catastrophic Theatre, La MaMa, Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre, Cherry Lane, The Invisible Dog, and Movement Research. She is a MacDowell Fellow, a New Georges Audrey Resident, a Target Margin Artist-in-Residence, and Honorable Mention for the Relentless Prize. She is currently writer-in-residence at The Catastrophic Theatre in Houston. Chana is the co-founder of the Octavia Project, a free summer writing and STEM program for Brooklyn teenage girls and nonbinary youth. Her play LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR runs at The Flea Theater June 16-30th, directed by Tara Ahmadinejad. Her debut novel, THE SEEP, is forthcoming from Soho Press in 2019. www.chanaporter.com

Katharine Duckett is the author of MIRANDA IN MILAN, and her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine, Interzone, PseudoPod, and various anthologies. She is also the guest fiction editor for the Disabled People Destroy Fantasy issue of Uncanny. She hails from East Tennessee, has lived in Turkey and Kazakhstan, and graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she majored in minotaurs. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife.

(4) JEMISIN’S SEASON AT PBS. The PBS News Hour announces “‘The Fifth Season’ is June’s pick for the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club”.

…In the coming days, we’ll post discussion questions for “The Fifth Season,” an annotated excerpt from the book, and writing advice from Jemisin. At the end of the month, she will answer your questions on the PBS NewsHour. We hope you’ll join us and read along.

(5) THE HUGO AWARDS ON JEOPARDY! The Hugo was included in the “Awards and Prizes” category on last night’s show. Kevin Standlee shared the screen grab of the answer that the J! media team sent him.

(6) HUGO FINALIST SIGHTING. Boyd Nation is trying to get on Jeopardy! and thereby hangs the tale:

I was in a Jeopardy! audition today in Nashville, and one of the other participants was 2002 Best Novelette finalist Shane Tourtellotte.  He’s still producing the occasional short fiction piece, but he’s mostly focusing on writing for a baseball web site as a source of income these days.  

As an aside in the course of his interview, by the way, I learned that Frederick Pohl IV was a long-time writer for Jeopardy!

(7) HUGO VOTE COUNTING DEMO. Nice animation of Single Transferable Vote (STV) in the Belfast (Ireland)Telegraph’s “Election 2019” coverage that may help people trying to explain how the Hugo awards work. (Via Robot Archie.)

STV is the system used to count the Hugo final ballot and determine the winners. That’s different from EPH, which is used to count the nominations.

(8) THINKING OUTSIDE. Camestros Felapton contemplates alien aliens in “We’re going on an adventure: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky” – beware minor spoilers.

…It is an interesting challenge to try and side step the imaginative approach, although I don’t see how that is possible. Alternatively we can delve into fiction and specifically, science fiction to explore minds quite different from our own. However, science fiction does not present us with the inner workings of alien minds as often as would be implied by its subject matter.

Science fiction aliens are often explorations of variations on human cognition, personality and culture. I don’t want to dismiss that — there is value (both speculatively and as entertainment) in thinking about the species of hyper-stoical Vulcans. Alternatively, aliens may be quite cryptic and offer a huge barrier to understanding that human characters may only bridge as the climax of a story (or in the case of Ender’s Game as a coda to the climax)….

(9) LOST AND FOUND. View the NOVA episode about the “Lost Viking Army” on the PBS website.

Forty years ago, hundreds of skeletons were unearthed in a mass grave in an English village. Bioarchaeologist Cat Jarman believes these bones are the last remains of the “Great Heathen Army,” a legendary Viking fighting force that invaded England in the ninth century and has long been lost to history. Armed with the latest scientific methods, Cat’s team uncovers extraordinary human stories from the front line, including evidence of women fighters and a lost warrior reunited with his son in death.

(10) ETCHISON FUNDRAISER. The Dennis Etchison Memorial Fund, a GoFundMe appeal, has been launched to help pay for funeral expenses.

Hi all, We are hoping to raise funds to help Kristina Etchison with costs incurred to have Dennis laid to rest. 

The cost of dying is high, sadly, and Kris can use any help here that you can afford to give. 

The final plans for memorial services, etc have not yet been made, and we will keep everyone up to date as plans are finalized in this very difficult time.

In the first six hours, people contributed $435 towards the $4,000 goal.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 30, 1914 Bruce Elliott. His fifteen stories in The Shadow magazine in the late Forties are generally held in low esteem by Shadow fans because of his handling of the character, best noted by the three stories in which the Shadow does not appear at all in his costumed identity. Oh, the horror! He also wrote three genre novels — The Planet of ShameAsylum Earth  and, errr, The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. And he had stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction including “Wolves Don’t Cry”:and “The Last Magician”. (Died 1973.)
  • Born May 30, 1919 Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes. British author best known for his ghost and horror stories though his first published work was the SF novel The Man from the Bomb in the late Fifties. The Monster Club, a series of linked tales, is a good place to start with him if you’ve not read him and it became a film with Vincent Price co-starring John Carradine. He won the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, and also a British Fantasy Society Special Award. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 30, 1922 Hal Clement. I’m reasonably sure Mission of Gravity was the first novel I read by him though I’ve not re-read it so the Suck Fairy not been tested. And I’m pleased to see that his short fiction which collected into three volumes is still available though only in hardcover. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 30, 1936 Keir Dullea, 83. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I know I saw 2001 but I’ll be damned if if I can remember seeing 2010. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New WorldSpace Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And less we forget he was Devon in Starlost.
  • Born May 30, 1948 Michael Piller. He was a writer and Executive Producer of The Next Generation, and co-creator of Deep Space Nine and  Voyager. He’s likely best known for co-writing “The Best of Both Worlds” and the pilots of DS9 (“Emissary”) and Voyager (“Caretaker”). Post-Trek, he developed a short-lived series based off of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and he had a deal with WB for a series called Day One, a post-apocalyptic series based on the UK Last Train series. WB reneged on the contract.  (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 30, 1952 Mike W. Barr, 67. Writer of comics and sf novels. Created along with Jim Aparo Looker (Emily “Lia” Briggs), a hero in the DC Universe. She first appeared first appeared in Batman & the Outsiders #25. He worked for both major houses though I’d say most of his work was at DC. He wrote the “Paging the Crime Doctor” episode of Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born May 30, 1953 Colm Meaney, 66. Best known for playing Miles O’Brien in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Other genre roles include an unnamed Cop at Tess’s in Dick Tracy, Seamus Muldoon in The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, a recurring role as Chief Cowen on Stargate Atlantis and Father Francis on Tolkien
  • Born May 30, 1962 Kevin Eastman, 57. Best known for co-creating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Peter Laird. He’s the editor and publisher of Heavy Metal which he purchased in 1992. He’s working on a new TMNT series with IDW Publishing. 
  • Born May 30, 1964 Mark Sheppard, 55. He’s the son of actor W. Morgan Sheppard. A number of genre roles including lawyer Romo Lampkin on the Battlestar Galactica reboot, sleazy crime lord Badger on Firefly, Tanaka on Dollhouse, Reagent Benedict Valda on Warehouse 13, Canton Everett Delaware III on Doctor Who and Willoughby Kipling, member of the Knights Templar, on Doom Patrol

(12) TIME TO SLIME. In WIRED, Louise Mitsakis reports on the World Slime Congress in Hershey, Pennsylvania where 5,000 people, mostly teens, go to see what’s new in slime, “participate in slime drama,” and listen to “slime influencers” discuss the latest trends in goop creation. “It’s the World Slime Convention! Let’s Goo!”

…My first stop was the booth of Liz Park, a slime influencer whose Instagram, @slimeypallets, has more than 75,000 followers. Park has long, black hair, dyed stormy gray at the ends, and she was wearing enormous fake eyelashes and a Mickey Mouse-style headband, each ear plastered with a yellow Slimey Pallets sticker. The tween girls clustered around her booth wanted to score one of those palettes—sampler packages of six or so slimes that Park makes by hand and sells for around $18 each. I tried to step in to say hello, but a girl wearing a sparkly T-shirt pointed at me, turned to her friends, and loudly reported that I had cut the line. I retreated and watched as Park, who at 30 is much older than most of her fans, handed out slimes and signed posters, chatting and laughing.

(13) CELEBRITY BRUSH. People: “Ariana Grande Dresses Up as an Astronaut During NASA Space Center Visit — and Plays Her Song ‘NASA'”.

One small step for woman, one giant leap for woman-kind!

After performing for a sold-out crowd in San Antonio, Texas, Ariana Grande accepted the opportunity to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Saturday.

The pop star, 25, documented her tour on Instagram Story in videos that showed her dressed in an astronaut’s uniform, complete with helmet.

“Thank you for the coolest day of my life @nasa,” Grande captioned one of her videos.

(14) THE STAGES YOU’LL CROSS. In the Washington Post, Ron Charles says that Dr. Seuss’s last book, Oh, the Place You’ll Go! has become “a title as firmly associated with graduation as pumpkins are with Halloween or turkeys with Thanksgiving:”  Charles provides a list of other books he thinks would be more sophisticated presents for college graduates. (Chuck Tingle’s new Seuss-ian book of erotica isn’t one of them.) – “How Dr. Seuss’s ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’ became a graduation-gift cliché”.

…How the Seuss stole graduation is a tale that sheds light on our own aspirations. The extraordinary success of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” stems from the book’s infinitely flexible appropriateness. Like the knitted thneed in “The Lorax,” it’s a “Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!” Children leaving kindergarten respond to Dr. Seuss’s colorful drawings and silly rhymes. For teens graduating from high school, the book is a sweet reminder of their waning adolescence. College graduates accept it as a cute token of nostalgia. And all allegedly resonate to the book’s rousing invocation of adventures just over the horizon.

…Seth Lerer, the author of “Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History, From Aesop to Harry Potter,” notes that the rise of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” as a graduation gift coincides with the lengthening of adolescence for college-age people.

…That change is reflected in their graduation gifts, too. In the 1970s, Lerer recalls, new graduates commonly received a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and a fancy pen-and-pencil set. “The belief was that when you graduated, when you had a period of transition, you needed to be ready to read and write, that the transition was a transition of literacy,” Lerer says. “What Dr. Seuss hit in ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’ and the reason it’s been adopted is because many people now think that the transition is not about reading and writing, it’s about action. It’s about doing. It’s about going places.

(15) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING BOOK EXPO. Andrew Porter says, “Book Expo continues to implode (diagram below shows exhibits now just a portion of one floor), but I picked up a copy of a Lem story turned into graphic novel [there].” (Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage, a graphic novel by Jon J. Muth, Scholastic Graphix, Oct. 1 2019, Age 8-12, ISBN 978-0-545-00462-6).

(16) FILMED IN BLACK AND… BLACK. They’ve restored Nevil Maskelyne’s 1900 film of a total solar eclipse in North Carolina. “Watch the oldest surviving film of a total solar eclipse” at Science News. (Via PJ Evans.) (Length of film: 1:08 – from just before totality to just after.)

Maskelyne developed a special telescope adapter for his camera to film the eclipse without frying his equipment. The 1900 eclipse was actually his second attempt. His first, an eclipse in India in 1898, was successful, but his film canister was stolen on the trip back to England.

(17) ECLIPSED BY WIL WHEATON. What did John Scalzi find out about his hometown when he checked out a unique map of the U.S. based on Wikipedia use? About what you’d predict. His explanatory post is titled: “In Which I Learn That I Live In Me”.

There’s a site out there that scraped Wikipedia entries from the last few years, and then put up a map of the United States where the place names were replaced with the person associated with that place (in apparently whatever capacity) whose Wikipedia article was looked at the most. For Bradford, Ohio, and perhaps not entirely surprisingly, that person happens to be… me. Yes, that’s correct, on this map, I live in me.

Since my own vanity knows no bounds I immediately searched Arcadia, CA – and found it is now known as Wil Wheaton. Well, I won’t be knocking him off the top of the hill any time soon. However, if I moved a mile down the street into Monrovia maybe I’d have a better chance – it’s only named for a former Boise State football player.

(18) TAKING GAS. Fast Company asks if this idea will ever get off the ground: “We’re still waiting for flying cars. This startup says hydrogen power is the answer”.

…As the efforts to build George Jetson’s robot have failed, evidence points to big barriers for his flying car. All these electric craft–be they powered by battery or hydrogen–are radically different contraptions from traditional planes and helicopters, posing a challenge for regulators trying to evaluate their safety.

Companies are hoping to lead the FAA on this process, advocating an approach in which the government sets overall safety goals that aircraft makers figure out how to achieve. But public sentiment may turn against industry-led regulation after the Boeing 737 Max crashes–possibly the result of the FAA’s light-touch evaluation of new software.

Then there’s hydrogen. While battery-powered electric cars are all over the road, fuel cell vehicles haven’t gotten beyond pilot projects. And all the same challenges faced by cars may carry over to planes. Electricity is almost everywhere in the U.S. and other developed countries. Hydrogen is not….

(19) PICARD TRIVIA QUIZ. Trek, Actually challenges fans with its “Trivia Quiz: Captain Picard Edition!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cath, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, PJ Evans, ULTRAGOTHA, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Kevin Standlee, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/18 Three…(Click)…Two…(Click)….One…(Click)…Godstalk!

(1) DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL AIRS TOMORROW. And you can preview the New Year’s Day Special Doctor Who: Resolution.

The Doctor Who cast talk about what to expect in the New Years Day Special, Doctor Who: Resolution.

(2) THE YEAR’S MOST WTF. ScienceFiction.com is right – there were plenty: “The Most WTF Moments Of 2018”.

There were a lot of memorable moments in pop culture in 2018, including many highs, as well as a few lows.  But in addition to that, there were a few events that were just weird or shocking, to the point that some folks are still reeling months later.   Yes, there were many deaths.  There were also a large number of sexual misconduct accusations.  But omitting those, here are a few other moments that you may recall.

Their list begins with —

12. Netflix Dropped A Surprise Movie, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ After The Super Bowl

(3) 2018 MOST INFLUENTIAL SFF WOMEN. At SYFY Wire, the Fangrrls column lists their “2018’s most influential women in genre.”

This was a hard year. For many of us, 2018 was surreal, and for many more, it was deeply painful. But in the face of adversity, as always, it is the women who made us feel we can survive, thrive, and make a difference. 

In 2018, women like Christine Blasey Ford stood firm against a wave of screams attempting to silence, dismiss and discredit her. But firm she stood. For better or worse, and still experiencing attacks and threats, she and so many other women reminded us that we are strong. Often because the world has given us no choice. But it’s what these women do with that strength that is empowering, inspiring, and life-changing for those of us their lives touch. 

The genre world is no different. This year, we were still told, constantly and from people who should know better, that there is simply not room at the table for us, or, possibly worse, gaslit into believing there aren’t enough of us capable or even willing to do the work men are handed with far less experience

These women inspired us to say “f*ck that” and be everything the world says we can’t be. And we are eternally grateful.

Details are in the article for about each selectee. The list (along with an attempt to distill the roles for which each woman was selected) is:

* Eve Ewing (academic, author, visual artist)—selected by Sara Century

* Jody Houser (comic book author)—selected by Riley Silverman

* N.K. Jemisin (author, activist)—selected by S.E. Fleenor

* Jodie Whittaker (actor)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Laila Shabir (founder/CEO of Girls Make Games)—selected by Courtney Enlow

* Margot Robbie (actor, producer)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Janelle Monáe (musician)—selected by Clare McBride

* Ava DuVernay (director)—selected by Tricia Ennis

* Natalie Portman (actor, activist)—selected by Emma Fraser

* Tessa Thompson (actor, singer, songwriter)—selected by S.E. Fleenor

* Christina Hodson (screenwriter)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Brie Larson (actor, activist)—selected by Carly Lane

(4) GOING TO HAVE TO REFILL THE MIRROR. A.V. News says “Bandersnatch was so complex that season five of Black Mirror has been delayed”.

We never would’ve guessed this, but it turns out that developing an interactive movie with tons of branching paths and alternate endings is kind of difficult. Perhaps that’s why most movies only have the one narrative and end the same way no matter how many times you watch it?

…The movie has so many different variations based on what choices you make that Brooker (the creator of Black Mirror) says he has “forgotten” how many different endings there are, going so far as to reject producer Annabel Jones’ claim in a Hollywood Reporter interview that there are five “definitive” conclusions.

That Hollywood Reporter piece goes deep into how Bandersnatch was made and some of the behind-the-scenes magic that allows it to work, but the biggest reveal is that Bandersnatch required such an “enormous” amount of time and work that the fifth season of the oppressively dark sci-fi horror series has been delayed….

(5) NEW BUHLERT POSTS. Galactic Journey has published Cora Buhlert’s review of Andre Norton’s Ordeal in Otherwhere (her first Norton), as well her original 1960s recipe for spaceman’s punch, a New Year’s party favorite.

Cora also has a poem in Issue eleven of the poetry webzine Umbel & Panicle, out today, which also features photographs by Paul Weimer and Elizabeth Fitzgerald.

(6) EVOLVED GINGERBREAD. Aftonbladet reports how “Caroline’s gingerbread makes success”. Hampus Eckerman translated the first part of this Swedish-language article for Filers to enjoy:

In Caroline Eriksson’s family, it has always been a tradition to build gingerbread houses.

But over the years, Caroline began to get tired of “just” building houses.

This year she has built a 130×90 centimeter replica of Alien – made in gingerbread.

For three and a half weeks, Caroline Eriksson, 31, has worked with the gingerbread during evenings and weekends.

Building gingerbread houses always used to be a tradition in Caroline’s family during her childhood in Tyresö. But in recent years, the gingerbread cookies have become increasingly advanced.

– After a few years I got tired of doing houses and started to do more special things like boats and some movie creations, says Caroline.

For several years, Caroline has lived in Oslo. In 2013, she participated in a gingerbread competition in Norway and since then the gingerbread cookies have become more extreme.

– Then I built Optimus Prime, the transformer robot, in gingerbread. I won the competition which was super cool and after that, the tradition of making a gingerbread figure every year continued. I try to challenge myself and make more crazy creations every year, says Caroline.

(7) SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARDS YEAR KICKS OFF. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and will be taken until the window closes on March 30, 2019.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2018 calendar year.

…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. The awards will be presented at Geysercon – the 2019 National SF&F Convention.

(8) AMONG THE RUINS. Harvard Gazette’s ‘Stepping inside a dead star” offers “A virtual reality experience of being inside an exploded star.” You’ll need the VR hardware to try this out.

Cassiopeia A, the youngest known supernova remnant in the Milky Way, is the remains of a star that exploded almost 400 years ago. The star was approximately 15 to 20 times the mass of our sun and sat in the Cassiopeia constellation, almost 11,000 light-years from earth.

Though stunningly distant, it’s now possible to step inside a virtual-reality (VR) depiction of what followed that explosion.

A team led by Kimberly Kowal Arcand from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Center for Computation and Visualization at Brown University has made it possible for astronomers, astrophysicists, space enthusiasts, and the simply curious to experience what it’s like inside a dead star. Their efforts are described in a recent paper in Communicating Astronomy with the Public.

The VR project — believed to be the first of its kind, using X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory mission (which is headquartered at CfA), infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical data from other telescopes — adds new layers of understanding to one of the most famous and widely studied objects in the sky.

(9) ROMAN OBIT. NPR reports: “Nancy Grace Roman, ‘Mother Of Hubble’ Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93”. She defied a guidance counselor who asked “what lady would take math instead of Latin”; joined NASA when it was 6 months old.

When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, her favorite object to draw was the moon.

Her mother used to take her on walks under the nighttime sky and show her constellations, or point out the colorful swirls of the aurora. Roman loved to look up at the stars and imagine.

Eventually, her passion for stargazing blossomed into a career as a renowned astronomer. Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, where she served as the agency’s first chief of astronomy.

Known as the “Mother of Hubble,” for her role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, Roman worked at NASA for nearly two decades. She died on Dec. 25 at the age of 93.

(10) LUSK OBIT. SYFY Wire reports the death of classic Disney animator Don Lusk:

Don Lusk, longtime Disney animator and Hanna-Barbera director, has died. The multi-hyphenate artist behind dozens of iconic characters roaming throughout animation was 105. His longevity was only matched by his output, as Lusk’s six decade career saw him make the faces of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie Brown, Babar, Papa Smurf, and Goofy familiar to an entire culture.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1958 The Crawling Eye showed up at the drive-in.
  • December 31, 1958  — The Strange World Of Planet X made for a good double bill at the drive-in.
  • December 31, 1961The Phantom Planet appeared in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 31, 1937  — Anthony Hopkins, 80. I never know what I’ve going to find when I look these Birthday possibilities so imagine my surprise when I discover his first genre role was Ian McCandless in Freejack followed soon by playing Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula! He went to have a number of genre roles including being C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands, the lead in The Mask of Zorro, the narrator of that stink, stank, stunk How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Odin in three Thor MCU films. 
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 75. First SF character he played was Avatar in Slipstream, later roles included Dr. John Watson in Without a Clue, Minister Templeton in Photographing Fairies, The Great Zamboni In Spooky House, Specialist in A.I., Man in the Yellow Suit in Tuck Everlasting,  Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and that’s just a partial listing. God he’s had an impressive genre history! 
  • Born December 31, 1945Connie Willis, 73. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even I who isn’t generally impressed as you know by Awards! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the DogDoomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there.
  • Born December 31, 1949Ellen Datlow, 69. Let’s get start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which, yes , I know, it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories for them from time to time. If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site. Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzine and Subterranean Magazine
  • Born December 31, 1958 Bebe Neuwirth, 60. Ok she’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself is apparently still ongoing. 
  • Born December 31, 1959Val Kilmer, 59. Lead role in Batman Forever where I fought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the reboot of Knight Rider.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In this Brewster Rockit, Cliff Clewless may have the right idea—retroactive New Year resolutions.

(14) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter, Jeopardy! game show genre reference correspondent, spotted another:  

Double Jeopardy Answer, for $3,000: He wrote 1899’s “Father Goose”; he came up with a “Wonderful” adventure the following year.

Wrong question: “Who is [Upton] Sinclair?” [which cost the contestant $3 grand]

Correct question: Who is L. Frank Baum?

(15) POOP QUIZ. Meanwhile, Daniel Dern is proposing his own game show – “Today’s SF and SF-adjacent Pop Quiz.”

What (a) SF story, and (b) folk song (story, more precisely) do these articles make you think of:

“Maine woman who makes artwork out of moose poop might be getting a TV show”

which in turn refers back to —

“People love this Maine woman who makes artwork out of moose poop”

Stay tuned to ROT-13 for the answers —

a) Gur Ovt Cng Obbz ol Qnzba Xavtug

b) “Zbbfr Gheq Cvr,” ol gur yngr Oehpr “H. Hgnu” Cuvyyvcf, Gur Tbyqra Ibvpr bs gur Terng Fbhgujrfg naq “Nzrevpn’f Zbfg-Srnerq Sbyxfvatre,” bevtvanyyl ba uvf TBBQ GUBHTU nyohz — urer vg abj

<uggcf://jjj.lbhghor.pbz/jngpu?i=0mo1dfIdwjt>

Abgr, V ybir gung n jro frnepu gheaf hc uvgf yvxr:

    Fubc Zbbfr Gheq Cvr: Nznmba

Gur FS-nqwnprag nfcrpg: Cuvyyvcf jnf n thrfg (TbU, creuncf) ng ng yrnfg bar FS pbairagvba — ZvavPba?

And that’s the name of that tune!

(16) KSR’S LATEST. Vidvuds Veldavs totes up the pluses and minuses about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon for readers at The Space Review.

[Note: the review contains spoilers regarding the novel.]

Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, Red Moon, is set in 2047. China has become the dominant player on the Moon with large-scale operations at the South Pole. The US and other players have facilities at the North Pole. China achieved this position using the experience of massive infrastructure projects to mount an operation possibly larger and more intensive in scope than the U.S. Apollo project. According to the novel, President Xi Jinping secured the commitment of the Chinese Communist Party at the 20th People’s Congress in 2022 to the goal “… that the moon should be a place for Chinese development, as one part of the Chinese Dream.” Insofar as 2022 is still more than three years into the future, Robinson may be advocating for such a future. Xi Jinping is highly praised in the book for his Moon declaration as well as for the environmental cleanup that takes place on Earth. The hills surrounding Beijing in 2047 are green and the air is fresh and breathable as a result of the environmental policies of Xi.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF YEAR IN NEWS. The BBC’s “2018 in news: The alternative end-of-the-year awards” features videos of masterfully-incompetent criminals, and of an attempt to stifle press questions that got shown up by a phone app.

(18) YOUNG JUSTICE. The final trailer of Young Justice Season 3: Outsiders has been released. The TV series will premiere January 4.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/18 It’s My Pixel, And I’ll Scroll If I Want To

(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —

(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.

With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?

Well, take the following as a rumor.

Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.

What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.

I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.

However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.

(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.

MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?

(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.

There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.

The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.

No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 7, 1955 — The sf radio program X-Minus One aired Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills Of Earth” for his birthday.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 7 – Shelley Duvall, 69. Executive Producer of Faerie Tale Theatre, performer in Popeye as Olive Oyl, also Twilight Zone, Time Bandits, The Shining, and Ray Bradbury Theater to name some of her genre work.
  • Born July 7 – Billy Campbell, 59. The Rocketeer of course, but also series work in STNG, Dead Man’s Gun, The 4400, and Helix, plus a role in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found out how monsters cosplay in Bizarro.

(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.

Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.

 

(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.

A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.

The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.

The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….

(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.

2 July:    “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.

I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..

Arthur “Ego” Clarke

(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.

…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.

Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.

First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.

Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.

Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….

(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.

…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.

The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.

Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….

Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”

(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.

If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….

 

(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”

This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017  something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it?  Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/17 The Fan In The High Pixel

(1) WELCH’S STAR WARS VINTAGES. Collect and swill ’em all!

The Force is strong with these ones! Welch’s new Star Wars™ themed Sparkling Red 100% Grape Juice is the perfect addition to your celebration, or to your collection. Find all 4 unique designs, including the limited edition!

(2) PULLMAN ON THE AIR. Starting next Monday, BBC Radio 4 is presenting a 10-part audio narration of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, volume 1 of Pullman’s new The Book of Dust trilogy.

Episode 1 at 10:45 PM (GMT), Monday 10/23. As usual with BBC, the episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

This is part of BBC’s Book At Bedtime series, which is more of an audiobook-on-radio than the dramatic adaptations they’ve done elsewhere on their schedule.

Accompanying the novel installments will be nonfiction essays by Pullman, “Dreaming of Spires”:

In these personal, entertaining and deeply thoughtful essays, Philip Pullman examines the art of storytelling.

Written over a period of 30 years, they reflect on a wide range of topics including the origins of his own stories, the practice of writing and the storytellers who have most inspired him.

(3) FORMERLY FORBIDDEN. Cat Rambo conducts an “Interview with Sherwood Smith on Omniscient Point of View in the Inda Series”.

Recently the question of omniscient POV has come up in several classes, so I started reading some examples of it. One of the best I hit was Sherwood Smith’s Inda series. I figured, why not go to Sherwood and ask some questions about how she pulled that off.

What drew you to using omniscient point of view for the Inda series? What sorts of stories work particularly well with that POV? Were there any models that you looked when working with it?

I had always written in omni. I’m a visual writer (with all its pluses and pitfalls), which means I see a movie in my head—not just dialogue but characters’ inner lives. Omni always seemed the easiest way to get that movie down.

But when I started selling, I was told to switch to limited third, which I had to learn.

Segue up a couple decades, I was desperate to escape the limitations of third, and omni was no longer (trigger doom music) Forbidden….

(4) BECKY CHAMBERS’ NEXT NOVEL. Hodderscape invites you to “Read the first extract from Becky Chamber’s Record of A Spaceborn Few

When we heard that Becky Chambers was writing a new book set in the world of the Wayfarers we were over the moon. When we read the blurb and heard that one of the main characters was an alien academic (squee!) we were way over the moon and somewhere near Jupiter. Then we read this extract and we shot into a whole other galaxy entirely.

Record of a Spaceborn Few arrives 26th July 2018 and is available to pre-order now.

(5) FILERS AND REFILERS. Librarians at an Auckland public library kept finding books that had gone missing from their shelves “reshelved” in nooks & crannies.  Turns out bookloving homeless people were responsible (because they didn’t want the books to be lent out before they got a chance to finish reading). The New Zealand Herald has the story: “The curious case of the missing books at Auckland Library”.

“A lot of the guys that come in are extremely well-read and have some quite eccentric and high-brow literary tastes … people are homeless for so many different reasons, and being intelligent and interested in literature doesn’t preclude that.”

According to Rivera, around 50 homeless people visit the library daily.

The story also has been taken up by The Guardian.

(6) FOR YOUR SJW CREDENTIAL. Cat bowls hand-painted by celebrities are being auctioned for the benefit of “Architects For Animals Giving Shelter”. They include the handiwork of William Shatner, Elvira, and Jeri Ryan.

(7) HOVERCRAFTER. IBM’s Science and Star Wars video series talks about how superconductors are the future of mass transportation – an installment featuring Kevin Roche, engineer scientist at IBM Research Almaden who coincidentally is also chair of next year’s Worldcon in San Jose.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode Five-Oh! Book ‘em, Danno! Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Bask in Basque beef stew as Eating the Fantastic turns 50 with guest Xia Jia”.

Here we we are, more than 20 months later, and those of you who’ve followed my journey have listened as I’ve shared at times full meals—at times a donut, during my two lightninground episodes—with more than 75 guests. And the feasting’s not over yet!

This time around, I’m inviting you to join me and my guest for lunch during Worldcon at Parrilla Española, the oldest Spanish restaurant in Helsinki.

And who is this episode’s guest?

Xia Jia, whose short stories have been published in Nature, Clarkesworld, Year’s Best SF, Science Fiction World, and many other venues. She’s won five Galaxy Awards for Chinese Science Fiction as well as six Nebula Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Chinese. But her science fiction skills have been visible on more than just the page, because she directed the 2007 science fiction film Parapax, in which she also acted, appearing as three different identities of the protagonist across parallel universes.

We discussed how reading science fiction gave her the courage to take risks; what it means when she says she writes not hard SF, nor soft SF, nor slipstream, nor cyberpunk, but “porridge sci-fi;” why Ray Bradbury matters so much to her; the challenges of writing in Chinese, writing in English, and translating from one language to the other; our mutual love for Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler; how The Three-Body Problem changed the perceptions of science fiction in China, why she has faith she’ll eventually get to Mars, and more.

(9) MAY OBIT. Julian May (1931-2017) died October 17.

John Hertz profiled her in “May the Force Be With Her” in 2015, after he accepted her First Fandom Hall of Fame Award on her behalf.

She has always spelled her name Julian, and although after marrying T.E. Dikty (1920-1991, elected posthumously in 2013) she sometimes declared copyright as Julian May Dikty, she continued to write under the name Julian May — among others, including, I’m told, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, by which I dare not address her.

Her fanzine was Interim Newsletter, rendering her to some extent a surrogate for all of us. Her story “Dune Roller” was in the December 1951 issue of Campbell’s Astounding, with four interiors by herself (it was made into a 1972 film, credited to her as Judy Dikty). Eight months later she chaired Chicon II, at the age of twenty-one….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House opens in theaters.
  • October 20, 1943 Son of Dracula premieres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • October 20, 1882 – Bela Lugosi

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian believes in Frankensteinly speaking as practiced by The Argyle Sweater.

(13) SPEAK UP. Mary Robinette Kowal is boosting the signal.

(14) SOUND INVESTMENT.  Atlas Obscura takes us “Inside the World of a Halloween Sound-Effects Artist”.

…Jumping ahead to the late 1950s, vinyl records allowed people to bring albums of sound effects home. Novelty records by the likes of Spike Jones, featuring funny monster songs and spooky stories set to eerie effects, became popular. However, possibly the first record with a track of just spooky sounds seems to be a record released by Disney in 1964 called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. The album features effects that are now Halloween staples: moaning ghosts, barking dogs, clattering chains, and screaming victims, interspersed with short, often comedic, vocal segments that established them. “Disney’s Haunted House album, which was rereleased in 1995, seems to have become a staple in the U.S.A. in particular,” Haggerwood says.

(15) ANOTHER WORLD. At Nerds of a Feather, The G kicks off a new series of posts: “WORLDBUILDING: A Big World and Beyond”.

Welcome to the first post in our Worldbuilding series, where our writers explore various elements of imagining place, people and culture. Today I’m going to discuss where inspiration for fantasy worlds comes from, and what I’d like to read more of in that regard. Obligatory disclaimer: this is an opinion piece. You may agree, if our tastes align or if the arguments put forth resonate with you; or you may disagree, if they do not. That’s healthy. There is ample space for all kinds of approaches to fantasy, and life would be boring if we all wanted to read the same things. -G

Second-world fantasy is not historical, but draws from human histories, cultures and mythologies. The most famous and influential fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien, drew heavily from Nordic and Celtic mythologies in constructing Middle Earth. Most fantasy published since The Lord of the Rings has been similarly Eurocentric, utilizing the tropes he established and/or popularized as well as other widely-known (European) sources: Arthurian Legends, the Brothers Grimm, Niebelungenlied and various medieval bestiaries. Many, like Tolkien, are also in a sense a retelling of Song of Roland, or Herodatus–wherein a “civilized” stand-in for the West is threatened by a horde from the geographic periphery.

(16) TASTER’S CHOICE. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Charles Payseur uploads his monthly short fiction reviews: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 09/2017”.

The stories very much run the gamut between joyous and crushing, but each one is beautiful in its own way, and each brings its unique flavor to this early autumn tasting experience. So settle in and raise a glass, and let’s get to it. Cheers!

Tasting Flight – September 2017

“Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)

Notes: Expertly balanced between darkness and light, the story tastes like a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of smog, warms and lifts and offers a hope of healing.

Pairs with: Amber Bock

Review: Amir and Mani grow up in a Beirut strained by climate change, by water-scarcity, by the fear of doing greater harm. Both characters, because of their world and because of the weight of history, know only too well the cost of possession, of privatization. Both enter into service to try and heal the planet and bring water and hope and life back to a world that is on the brink. At the same time, they find themselves drawn to one another, and yet mindful that how humans treat the world, and how they treat each other, is linked, and that treating people like possessions, just like treating the Earth like a possession, leads only to corruption, deprivation, and loss. The story, through the exploration of these characters lives and relationships, begins to build a picture of what it might take to make the world work better. It stresses that it’s not technology alone that will save us, because without a philosophy to match, the exploitation and consumption will continue to escalate, pushing past all obstacles and barriers and safeguards. I love how the story implies that humanity needs a different framework in order to respect humans and the environment, in order to put cooperation and compassion ahead of personal ambition or passion. And it is a beautiful story that touches on how love still works in this philosophy, not quite in the same way that we now expect but still in profound and powerful dimensions that allow Amir and Mani’s story to be one of hope and healing and triumph, even as it is often about longing and distance as well. It is an amazing piece, and one of my very favorite stories of the year, period.

(17) WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE. At Centauri Dreams, an interesting piece on whether robotics might make the traditional SF vision of asteroid mining practical — “Robotic Asteroid Mining: Bootstrapping the Solar System Economy”.

While the prospects for humans in space dimmed somewhat, a renewed flowering of developments in AI and robotics burst onto the scene with capabilities that astonished us each year.  On the endlessly orbiting ISS, while astronauts entertained us with tricks that we have seen since the dawn of spaceflight, autonomous robots improved by leaps and bounds.  Within a decade of a DARPA road challenge, driverless cars that could best most human drivers for safety appeared on the roads.  Dextrous robots replaced humans in factories in a wide variety of industries and threaten to dramatically displace human workers. DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s champion GO player with moves described as “beautiful” and well within the predicted time frames.  In space, robotic craft have visited every planet in the solar system and smart rovers are crawling over the face of Mars.  A private robot may soon be on the Moon.  In orbit, swarms of small satellites, packing more compute power than a 1990 vintage Cray supercomputer, are monitoring the Earth with imaging technologies that equal those of some large government satellites. On Earth we have seen the birth of additive manufacturing, AKA 3D printing, promising to put individual crafting of objects in the hands of everyone.

What this portends is an intelligent, machine-based economy in space.  Machines able to operate where humans cannot easily go, are ideally suited to operating there.  Increasingly lightweight and capable, and heedless of life support systems, robotic missions are much cheaper..  How long before the balance tips overwhelmingly in the machines’ favor? Operating autonomously, advanced machines might rapidly transform the solar system.

(18) FASHION VIOLATIONS. Kelly Woo’s Yahoo! piece, “Halloween horror: 19 terrible ‘sexy’ movie and TV costumes no one should ever wear”, is clickbait that warns that women who want to dress up as Sexy Freddy Kruger, Sexy Strawberry Shortcake, and Sexy Remote Control, don’t do it!

So-called sexy Halloween costumes have gotten out of control in the last few years, with manufacturers doing their best to crank out a “sexy” version of pretty much anything. Even characters that have no business being sexy are now tarted up — and it’s time for the madness to end. Click through to see 19 terrible “sexy” pop culture costumes that simply should not exist.

(19) KEEPS ON TICKING. Lisa Taylor is enthusiastic about The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones — review at The Speculative Herald.

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors.

(20) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Talk about “news to me” – I never heard there was another ending: “Frank Oz restores dark original ending of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for Trump era”.

The first time Warner Bros. screened Little Shop of HorrorsFrank Oz’s 1986 film musical, test audiences ate it up like a bloodthirsty plant devouring a sadistic dentist. They rooted hard for Seymour (Rick Moranis), the nerdy 1960s shop assistant who makes a devil’s bargain with a man-eating plant to win the love of his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). Every scene met with laughter and applause — until the plant devoured Seymour and Audrey, and the audience went silent. After two previews and many livid comment cards, Oz and screenwriter Howard Ashman decided to scrap the original, 23-minute ending — in which the plant eats everyone and takes over the world — in favor of giving Seymour and Audrey their happily-ever-after. Oz has no regrets. “My job is to entertain,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment, and the new ending was “more satisfying to the audience.” However, film fans have long mourned the disappearance of the original ending, which included a heartbreaking reprise of Audrey’s ballad “Somewhere That’s Green” and a fantastic montage of the plant, named Audrey II, rampaging, Godzilla-style, across New York City.

This month, Little Shop of Horrors will be screened for the first time nationwide with its original, darker ending restored. Oz wonders if the film will have a new resonance in the Trump era, when America’s real-life monsters thrive on blood, greed, and the misguided good intentions of countless Seymours….

(21) THE KINDEST CUT OF ALL. Vanity Fair interviews the principals to find out “How The Princess Bride Built Film’s Most Beloved Sword Fight”.

For six months, Princess Bride star Mandy Patinkin had trained to become Inigo Montoya, the world’s greatest swordsman. His worthy opponent, the Man in Black/Westley—played by Cary Elwes—had four months of prep under his belt as well. Spirits were high as the actors performed their duel for director Rob Reiner on the Cliffs of Insanity set for the first time, in London in 1986.

Elwes and Patinkin finished, drawing applause from the film’s crew. Then, both drenched in sweat, they looked to Reiner, who voiced his own response: “That’s it?” It wasn’t exactly the reaction they had hoped for.

(22) THE PEN IS MIGHTIER. Marked down to $6,862.50! “Montegrappa Limited The Iron Throne Game Of Thrones Limited Edition Fountain Pen & Rollerball Set Matching Number”.

But if you can’t swing that, there’s always “Montegrappa Limited DC Comics Superhero Set Ballpoint” for  $3,920.00.

(23) SPACE JOCKEY. Jockey statues have mostly gone out of fashion – unless it’s one created by H.R. Giger. You’ve got less than a week to put in your bid at Nate Sanders Auctions: “H.R. Giger Hand-Painted Model of Space Jockey & the Derelict Spaceship From ”Alien” — Measures Over 3 Feet by 3 Feet, Personally Owned by 20th Century Fox Executive Peter Beale”. Minimum bid: $100,000.

The enormous Space Jockey and cavernous spaceship are quintessential Giger, renowned for human-machine melded beings called biomechanoids; the walls of the spaceship appear to be either vertebrae from a once living creature, or cogs in a vast industrial machine system, or perhaps both. Space Jockey is fused into his command station and wears either a mask, or has an elephantine trunk extending from his face. In the ”Alien” set — which was built based on this model — Space Jockey sits 26 feet tall, dwarfing the characters of Kane, Dallas and Lambert who find him dead, his rib cage blasted open, serving as foreshadowing to what awaits the crew later in the film. So pivotal was the scene — establishing the world of the Alien creature and serving as ground zero for the film’s mythology — that Ridley Scott insisted upon its construction, despite the enormous cost of building the life-size (or larger than life) set. Space Jockey so enthralled the audience of ”Alien”, that the character would even go on to serve as a critical and central story point in Scott’s ”Promethus”, the ”Alien” origin story released in 2012.

(24) HORROR MUST ADVERTISE. Adweek has the story behind a series of seasonal candy commercials: “The Makers of the ‘Bite Size Horror’ Ads Tell Us All About Their Wonderfully Spooky Creations”

Halloween advertising has been a treat this year, thanks to Fox and Mars candy brands, which teamed up for a wonderfully creepy series of two-minute “Bite Size Horror” films that have been airing on Fox TV networks.

The series has included four films— “Floor 9.5” for Skittles, “The Road” for M&Ms, “The Replacement” for Starburst, and “Live Bait” for Snickers. (The campaign was created by Fox Networks Group’s integrated agency All City. Tony Sella from All City is the executive producer of the campaign, and Arby Pedrossian from Fox Digital Studio is the producer.)

 

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Lenore Jean Jones, Michael Brian Bentley, JJ, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Soon Lee, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/17 I Watched TBR Piles Grow In The Dark Near Tannhäuser’s Gate

(1) THE UGLY SPACEMAN. Adam Roberts tells New Scientist readers, “If I were a Martian, I’d start running now”.

Exploration has never been neutral, and it’s hard to believe that future exploration of the cosmos will be different. So: doesn’t SF have a duty to flavour its fantasies of boldly going with a smidgen of ideological honesty? “Exploration Fiction” is, after all, better placed than any other kind of literature to explore exploration itself.

(2) IN VINO VERITAS. The Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival takes place in Waukegan on June 3. The Chicago Tribune has the story —

Ray Bradbury wrote about the happiness machine in his iconic novel “Dandelion Wine,” published in 1957 and reminiscent of his early boyhood days exploring the ravines of Waukegan.

Sixty years later, the annual Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival in Bowen Park offers participants the chance to create pictures of their own “happiness machines” for the community art project….

“The festival is an important way to honor and pay tribute to Ray Bradbury and it’s a great time for everybody to finally get over winter — spring’s here — and it kicks off summer,” Rohrer said.

Bradbury served as the festival’s honorary chairman until his death in 2012. The festival tradition ensures his legacy will live forever in Waukegan. Typically more than 1,000 adults and children come to the festival each year, Rohrer said.

John King Tarpinian says of dandelion wine, “I am told it tastes like grass.”

(3) LITERARY TOURIST. Laura J. Miller’s “Dark Futures” adapts the age-old literature vs. science fiction dichotomy as a vehicle to administer a kick to Donald Trump from a different angle. However, that still forces her to discuss actual writers and books, a discussion she ends with this malediction:

Science fiction has always promised its readers fictional wonders they can’t get in other genres, stories in which the stakes are high and the ideas are heady. What’s surprising is not that literary novelists are increasingly taking up science fiction’s tools, but that more of them didn’t try it sooner. Now, as the present crumbles away into a future that evolves more quickly than most of us can track, it seems impossible to write about contemporary life without writing science fiction. But the secret to doing it well doesn’t lie in suspenseful chase scenes, weighty messages or mind-blowing existential puzzles. That stuff can be fun, but it can also feel pretty thin without something that’s supposed to be a specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy. Do justice to that, and the wonders will take care of themselves.

The article enraged a whole handful of sf writers, quoted by Jason Sanford in his rebuttal post, “Laura Miller, or what happens when a literary critic loathes genre fiction but knows that’s where the best stories are?”

So. Much. Fail. In. One. Essay. And before you believe I’m biased because I’m one of those lowly SF authors who need step aside for my literary betters, check out the reaction of other authors to Miller’s words:

Part of the problem with the essay, beyond Miller’s actual condescending words, is that she overlooks the ability of SF authors to write at the level of the authors she’s praising. She grudgingly gives William Gibson and Karen Joy Fowler minor props but ignores the stylistic and literary ability of SF masters like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis and so many others.

(4) TRAINING WHEELS. The Telegraph explains “Why Harry Potter fans will like the new Bank of Scotland £10 note”.

An image of the Glenfinnan Viaduct – part of the West Highland Railway Line that was made famous by the Harry Potter movies – will remain on the reverse of the design, but with the addition of a steam locomotive hauling a heritage tourist train.

(5) BINDING PLANS. Provided they don’t let the Doctor himself navigate, “A TARDIS-inspired shared library is coming to Woodbridge” this weekend.

Fans of Doctor Who will have a new destination to check out in Detroit. On Saturday, June 3 at noon, a TARDIS-inspired shared library will be installed at the corner of Vermont and Warren.

Dan Zemke has been a fan of Doctor Who and wanted to build a TARDIS (a Police Box time machine that stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space). It can transport a person anywhere in time and space, kind of like a great book. Inspired by his brother Jon, who rehabs houses in Woodbridge and had a large mural painted on one prominent home last year, Dan decided to create a practical use for it and build it into a library. With the help of his dad, the time machine/library is now ready to be installed.

It’s big — 10 feet tall and likely weighs a ton — and they’re seeking book donations since it can hold so many. Zemke says he’d like to include a large book where people can write and share their own stories.

The public is invited to the installation at noon on June 3. And if you have some books to contribute, feel free to bring them.

(6) FOURTH STAGE LENSMAN. Joe Vasicek experiences “What it’s like to write after a life interruption”. His post takes readers from Stage Zero through Four.

Stage 0: Procrastination

I guess I should write — but first, I should check my email. Also, there’s a couple of publishing tasks I need to do. I’m also kind of hungry, come to think of it.

Wow, those publishing tasks took a lot longer than I thought they would. I could start writing now, but I’d only have half an hour, and what can I possibly get done in that time? Maybe I should just relax for a bit and play this addictive online game…

Stage 1: BIC HOC

All right, no more excuses. It’s butt in chair, hands on keyboard time!

What’s wrong with my chair? Did someone put a magnet in it? It seems like my butt gets repulsed every time I try to sit down in it. I can knock off a couple of paragraphs, but then I have to get up and pace for a while. Or do some chores. Or–

No! I’ve got to focus. But man, it feels like I’m pulling teeth. The words just aren’t coming. It’s been more than an hour, and how much have I written? Holy crap, that’s pathetic.

Well, it’s the end of the day, and I only managed a few hundred words, but that’s better than nothing I guess.

(7) BACK FROM THE SHADOWS. Carl Slaughter observes:

NBC cancelled the Constantine live action series after only one season. CW’s Arrow series brought the Constantine character in for 2 episodes. Now CW is giving the Alan Moore-created comic book character another crack at a television series through animation. Constantine actor Matt Ryan will return to voice the animated version. Here’s a history of Constantine.

 

(8) BERKELEY OBIT. Makeup artist Ron Dursley Berkeley (1931-2017) died May 9.

His 50-year career included working on George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960), The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, and Star Trek. He won one Primetime Emmy, and was nominated four times altogether.

His non-genre work spanned The Manchurian Candidate, Anne of a Thousand Days, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends the librarian humor in today’s Farcus.

(10) ADA PALMER. In May 2017, Ada Palmer came out with Seven Surrenders, the second in her Terra Ignota series. The Will to Battle comes out in December 2017.

 

SEVEN SURRENDERS

In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war — a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed locations, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.

(11) MARVEL INVADES GOTHAM. You can find Marvel at BookCon 2017 starting tomorrow:

This weekend, Marvel returns to New York’s Javits Center for BookCon 2017, spotlighting how Marvel continues to branch out and bridge the divide between pop culture and book buyers, librarians, and book fans of all ages.

This Thursday, June 1st, join novelists Jason Reynolds (Miles Morales: Spider-Man), R. L. Stine (Man-Thing), and Margaret Stohl (Mighty Captain Marvel) as they are joined by some of the biggest names from the House of Ideas — as well as some surprise Mighty Marvel Guests! These blockbuster creators will discuss bringing their prose skills to Marvel’s graphic fiction, bringing Marvel characters into the prose world, and the exciting universal appeal of Marvel’s new wave of graphic novels.

Can’t make it to the convention? Follow along on Marvel.com and @Marvel on Twitter.

 

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. The passing of actor Roger Moore prompted Dwayne Day to consider the actor’s legacy as the face of the James Bond franchise in an article for The Space Review.

Roger Moore passed away on May 23 at the age of 89. Moore, who was born in London in 1927, was best known for playing James Bond in seven movies between 1973 and 1985, more Bond movies than any other actor. Moore’s Bond appearances included the 1979 film Moonraker, the highest-grossing Bond movie until Daniel Craig rebooted the franchise in the 2000s. Moonraker is one of several Bond movies with a space theme, but the only one where James Bond travels into space.

Moonraker often tops critics’ lists of the worst Bond movie made, although it sometimes ties for that dubious honor. Like most Bond films, it recycled a lot of over-used plot devices: the megalomaniacal billionaire bent on world destruction, lame double-entendres, blatant sexism, dumb quips Bond makes upon dispatching a bad guy, the amazing coincidence that Bond happens to possess exactly the right gizmo he needs at the moment of maximum peril, and the absurdity of a “spy”with brand name recognition whom everybody recognizes the second he walks through the door. But these were the franchise’s fault, not Moore’s…

Moonraker was made because producer Cubby Broccoli saw the box office returns from Star Wars and decided that his next Bond movie should be set in space. Broccoli was shameless, but his decision paid off handsomely, with a worldwide gross of $210 million in then-year dollars. Although Moonraker frequently rates among the worst Bond movies, it made more money than any other Bond film for the next 16 years. Moore reprised the role three more times.

(13) WHEN VENUS WAS A SOGGY MESS. A Bradbury story with sound effects — radio reinvented! “THE LONG RAIN, by Ray Bradbury, sound-designed & narrated by Alexander Rogers”.

THE LONG RAIN is my personal favorite short story from Ray Bradbury’s classic body of tales, The Illustrated Man. Written in 1950, it paints a deadly and seductive image of an interminably rainy planet of Venus. Admittedly, science now shows us Venus is more of a lead oven than a drenched rainscape, but let’s not take Venus literally in this sense. I’ve always felt that planets in sci-fi are more of a mental/spiritual arena in which to place relatable, earthly characters.

Bradbury’s writing here is so poetic and so visual, I just knew a vocal narration wasn’t enough. An audiobook like this deserves a rain soundtrack, complete with soggy footsteps and storms and rivers and shimmering things. May you enjoy the sound design as well as the characters!

(14) THE DOG DAYS. Once I read John Scalzi’s opening tweet I knew it was going to be a slow news day….

(15) REALLY FINICKY. Mashable has a funny video: “Cute kitty devastates the crew of the Nostromo in this recut trailer of ‘Aliens'”.

The spacecraft Nostromo has an unwanted guest wreaking havoc on the crew. No, it’s not a bloodthirsty Alien… but an adorable kitten? Watch what happens in this re-imagined trailer.

 

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Davidson for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/28/17 No File For You Till You Scroll All Your Pixels

(1) THANKED AND EXCUSED. Mattie Brahan, in a non-public post, said her husband, Darrell Schweitzer, was told he won’t be needed as a Readercon 28 program participant –a piece of news Barry Longyear exaggerated in his public post as “banning”.

Readercon has been banning (“disinviting”) former guests from being guests, Darrell Schweitzer being the most recent about whom I’ve heard. I originally thought it was for political reasons (I was part of the Northern Maine Rebellion), but apparently the reason was age, experience, having been around for too long. It’s sort of like having an AA meeting and forbidding the attendance of anyone who has more than one year of sobriety….

Is it really because Schweitzer is too old? There are any number of men and women listed as part of the forthcoming Readercon program who are not young.

(2) THE FOREVER QUEUE. Io9 reports yesterday at Disneyland “Lines Snaked Through Entire Park for Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Ride Debut”.

Looks like the hype was real. Disney’s ride for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! opened at Disney’s California Adventure on Saturday… and the effects could literally be felt everywhere in the park.

The Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom also opened in Florida over the weekend. It took fans about two hours just to get into the Pandora park, and ride lines were averaging about three to four hours for rides. Hell, some people reporting three-hour lines to get into the damn gift shops. Insane amount of standing and slowly walking aside, fans seemed happy with both Mission: Breakout! and Pandora.

(3) OPEN CASTING. Yes, this needs to happen. Emily Asher-Perrin and Leah Schnelbach team up to answer “Who Could Play This Merry Fellow? Dreamcasting Tom Bombadil” at Tor.com.

Emily pointed out that there should have been a DVD extra of Bombadil material, and then, naturally, that led to a dreamcasting of Bombadil. We gave ourselves a few restrictions–these had to be people who would have fit the role in 1999-ish, when they would have been hired for The Fellowship of the Ring, and all of the actors have been cast on the assumption that supermodel Claudia Schiffer is playing Goldberry…

(4) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. As for my own attempt to cast the next Doctor Who — “Would Hayley Atwell Take The Role Of Doctor Who? Here’s What She Says”.

Hayley Atwell is frequent on fan’s most wanted lists, and while Atwell would likely kill it in the role, what does she actually think of all this? She wants that particular role to go to someone else.

I don’t want to play it. No. It’s just not my thing, but I really respect it. I’m a big fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, though. She plays the lead in Fleabag. There were talks of her being the next Doctor, and she’s so funny and eccentric and unique; she’d be great. I can’t really see anyone other than her playing it.

Appearing at Heroes and Villains Fanfest in London (via Geekfeed), Hayley Atwell made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to be the next Doctor.

(5) WHAT YOU MISSED. Chaz Boston Baden reports on his party at this weekend’s BayCon:

“A Bear’s Picnic” closed at 3:30 am, when the last four people left. As far as I know, no noise complaints were received about out party, even when Diane Osborne started singing about her rooster being dead….

Curious as to what song that might be I Googled “lyrics dead rooster” –you’d be surprised how many songs feature them.

(6) BODY WORK. Camestros Felapton went to the movies. He has posted the autopsy —“Review: Alien Covenant”.

…Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus are both variations on the theme of the original Alien. The same elements have to appear (some of which are shared with Aliens films), the horseshoe ship and the undiscovered planet and the body horror. The tone is serious and visuals are striking.

Covenant’s cast is sufficiently good and the dialogue strong enough that while the characterisation is not deep there is at least a sense of these people having some depth of character –it’s just that we don’t get to see it before they variously die horribly. Looking back at the original film, I suppose the same could have been said of it –even Ripley….

(7) FAN FILM. The Verge says “This Harry Potter prequel fan film looks even better than Fantastic Beasts” –and they’re right, it’s pretty slick.

The story follows a witch named Grisha Mac Laggen (heir to Griffindor and original character to this film), who suspects trouble when Hepzibah Smith, a descendant of the Hufflepuff family, was found murdered. The case goes cold, but Laggen suspects that there’s some sort of dark magic at play, and she believes that former Hogwarts student and future dark wizard Tom Marvolo Riddle is involved somehow. Visually, the teaser looks stunning, with visual effects and production design that feel like they fit alongside that of the official Harry Potter films.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

(9) A BIT OF FAME. Contributor Francis Hamit’s letter to the editors of TIME Magazine got a mention:

May 25, 2017

HACKING U.S. DEMOCRACY

Massimo Calabresi’s May 29 story about Russia’s use of social media to influence Americans was a reminder to be “wary of the source of that liked/upvoted social post,” wrote Sanjeev Verma of Sunnyvale, Calif. However, as Francis Hamit of Sherman Oaks, Calif., pointed out, foreign attempts to sway American politics aren’t necessarily new. “It’s just that we are finally paying attention,” he noted.

Hamit adds, “What TIME used was the tag line of a longer letter about Soviet €˜active measures’ during the Vietnam War.”

(10) SHAZAM. Adweek tells about a recent public service campaign: “Shazam Suddenly Started Forgetting Song Titles to Highlight a Little-Known Fact About Alzheimer’s”.

We’re naturally inclined to attribute human characteristics to the apps that continuously follow us around, which is part of why Siri is so amusing and Alexa so charmingly useful. But for Alzheimer’s Research U.K., agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam–the ability to forget…

 

The purpose of the campaign was to tell young people that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just concern seniors; it can affect people as young as 40 years old. Over 40,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the U.K. alone.

The effort ran through the month of April in the U.K. In mere hours, the agency says, “The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page. (Hopefully they remembered their credit card information.)

(11) HUGO SHORTS. Camestros Felapton continues sharing his ballot, and the reasons therefore: “Hugo 2017: Short Story”.

  1. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” Amal El-Mohtar It had a tough job against strong competition but I do think this one stood out. The story takes two elements from lesser-known fairy tales: a woman who has to live on top of a glass mountain and a woman who has to walk the earth in iron shoes until their soles are worn away. El-Mohtar captures the atmosphere of the stories but also turns them to her own purposes.

(12) HUGO LONGS. Ethan Anderton’s Twitter robots made me look, but it was later pointed out to me that the material had been thieved from Mark Kaedrin, so here’s the direct link to Mark — “Hugo Awards: The Dark Forest and Death’s End”.

Those ideas that evoke the fabled SF goal of Sense of Wonder are what make these books work. The more sociological and philosophical aspects of the story are a little less focused and successful, leading to some inconsistency in terms of characters and pacing that perhaps make the series too long and pull the books down a peg or two. I suspect some things are lost in translation here, but this is not meant as a slight on Ken Liu (who translated the first and third books in the series), just an acknowledgement that translations naturally produce, for example, awkward dialog and pacing. I’ll put this on me too, as reading a book from another culture always presents challenges that I’ll readily admit I’m not always equal to. However, most of my complaints are far outweighed by what this series gets right, and this will rank high on my Hugo ballot, though I don’t know that it will unseat my current frontrunner (which remains Ninefox Gambit).

(13) THE DAMN DOGS DON’T LIKE IT. WIRED ponders “Why Are Colleges So Hostile to Fantasy Writers?”

For decades aspiring fantasy writers have been subjected to dismissive behavior from college professors who disparage genre literature, even though such professors often admit they’ve never actually read any fantasy or science fiction. This sort of hostility is unfortunately alive and well today, as college freshman Alina Sichevaya can attest.

“I’d heard everyone else’s horror stories, because occasionally this comes up on Twitter, and people will talk about their college experience,” Sichevaya says in Episode 257 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “But I definitely wasn’t expecting such a strong response from my professor about genre fiction.”

Sichevaya says she attempted to defend fantasy, and to recommend high-quality examples to her professor, but she’s not optimistic it’ll do much good.

(14) HOW TO LOSE THE SALE. Stay away from these if you want to sell to Dave — “Dave Farland’s 10 Points to Avoid in Writing Short Fiction” at Writers of the Future.

…Seriously, though, I sometimes wish that I could explain to a young writer why I’m passing on a story. So I’m going to talk about it here.

Here are ten reasons why I reject stories quickly–usually within the first page:

  1. The story is unintelligible.Very often I’ll get submissions that just don’t make sense. Often, these seem to be non-English speakers who are way off in both the meaning of words, their context, or in their syntax, but more often it’s just clumsiness. I’ve seen college presidents who couldn’t write. But this lack of care is on a gradient scale, from “I can’t figure out what this is about” to “I don’t want to bother trying to figure this out” to “there are minor problems in this story.” For example, yesterday a promising story called a dungeon the “tombs.” Was it a mistake, or a metaphor? I don’t think it was a metaphor. The author had made too many other errors where the “almost correct” word was used.
  2. The story is unbelievable. “Johnny Verve was the smartest kid on earth, and he was only six. He was strongest one, and the most handsome, too. But the coolest part was when he found out he had magical powers!” At that point, I’m gone, and not just because there were four uses of “was” in three sentences…

(15) TROLLING. Squawks over women-only screenings of Wonder Woman in Texas.

Now unimpressed men are lambasting the idea on Facebook, claiming they are being discriminated against.

“Great, let us know when you have guys-only screenings of Thor, Spider-Man, Star Wars, etc. Let’s see you walk the walk now that you set this precedence [sic],” one man wrote.

“Very sorry if you feel excluded,” came the reply on the [Alamo DraftHouse] cinema’s official account.

(16) ALL WOUND UP. Picture of cyclones on Jupiter’s south pole: “Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter’s Poles”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter’s north and south poles.

That’s just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team.

Juno arrived at Jupiter last summer. It’s the first spacecraft to get a close-up look at the planet’s poles. It’s in an orbit that takes it skimming close to the cloud tops of the gas giant once every 53 days.

(17) HOW TO TALK TO FILM CRITICS AT MOVIES. The BBC trashes the movie of Gaiman’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”: “This is one of the worst films ever made”.

It may seem harsh to say that How to Talk to Girls at Parties is one of the worst films ever made, given that it isn’t a cynical studio blockbuster, but an indie passion project with a budget that wouldn’t pay for the Botox on most Hollywood productions. But this shambolic punks-meet-aliens rom-com is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, the acclaimed auteur behind Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s also adapted from a short story by Neil Gaiman, it has costumes by the triple-Oscar-winning Sandy Powell, and it features Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. If nothing else, then, it should seem vaguely professional. Instead, it’s like a shoddy school play put on by a drama teacher who thinks he’s cool for liking the Sex Pistols.

(18) MONSTROUS HIT. Carl Slaughter notes: “The Munsters wasn’t just a horror sitcom. It was a cultural phenomenon. After only 2 seasons and 70 episodes, it was buried by another cultural phenomenon: Batman.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Mark Kaedrin, Chip Hitchcock, Francis Hamit, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/17 Men And Women in [YOUR AREA] Are Scrolling BIG BUCK$ With THIS ONE WEIRD PIXEL

(1) BACK TO THE PRESENT. Rob Hansen has added a preliminary version covering 1991-2000 UK zines to his British Fanzine Bibliography.

(2) GETTING THE BOMB EARLY. Gregory Benford discusses his latest book The Berlin Project with Scientific American in “An Alternate History of the Atomic Age”.

Tell me more about your research process, how you developed this.

I simply went in and read enormous amounts of known correspondence, mostly in the Manhattan Project. It took me four and a half years of work and writing, plus personally knowing most of the characters.

I found all sorts of amazing things — like a memo between Groves and Pres. Eisenhower, where Groves asked Eisenhower’s permission to deploy Geiger counters with every infantry battalion that made a landing at Normandy on D-day. I asked my father James Benford about that — he went into Normandy on the fifth day. He said he remembered them vaguely, and then I found in fact the Geiger counters stayed in the field for about a month before we realized the Germans were not going to use their uranium — of which they had over 150 tons — as essentially a pollutant, a crude terror weapon. But they certainly contemplated doing it — we know that.

The entire history of nuclear weapons is filled with scientists considering the future using science fiction as a prompt. As a scientist and an author of science fiction, I find that fascinating. The idea of using radioactive dust as a weapon came from a short story by Robert Heinlein: “Solution Unsatisfactory,” published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941, which was about the strategic standoff that would occur from the development of nuclear weapons. But in Heinlein’s story the weapons aren’t explosives, they’re contaminants. That idea went through Astounding directly into the ears of the German rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun, who was still receiving and reading the magazine through a subscription he began in the 1930s via deliveries through the German embassy in Stockholm. He read about it and relayed it to Albert Speer, so the Nazi elite must have known of it as a weapon. The U.S. kept it secret because it occurred to them also, at the same time as Heinlein — in fact, some believe because of Heinlein. There are a bunch of now-declassified memos I have read about uranium as a contaminant, and I quote them in the book! All the memos, letters and so forth in the book are real. I didn’t make them up!

(3) FOR THE BIRDS. A science fiction writer with her own brand of coffee — Balzac’s Atwood Blend. There’s name recognition for you.

Balzac’s is delighted to partner with Canadian author and bird lover Margaret Atwood in creating a Smithsonian Institute certified Bird Friendly blend to help raise funds and awareness for Canada’s Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO).

(4) WHAT COMES AFTER F. Fran Wilde will teach a workshop on “Cussin’ in Secondary Worlds”.

Cursewords, expletives, and more — those things your characters say when nothing else will do — tells you more about the world (including issues of class, cultural taboos, and more) than you might imagine. How cussing and worldbuilding interrelate. AKA the class where we say F*ck a lot.

Join Norton Award winning author Fran Wilde, author of Updraft, Cloudbound, and The Jewel and Her Lapidary for a workshop that will leave you ready to swear magnificently.

Classes are taught online via Google hangouts and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane; a webcam is suggested but not required…

The workshop is happening Saturday, June 10, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time. Click the link for further details, cost, and information about how to register.

(5) PINING FOR THE FJORDS? Once more real life outstrips science fiction — RockPaperShotgun reports “Many pet rabbits will die in Second Life on Saturday”.

Virtual rabbits across Second Life [official site] will fall asleep on Saturday then never wake up, now that the their digital food supply has been shut down by a legal battle. The player-made and player-sold Ozimals brand of digirabbits are virtual pets that players breed and care for in the sandbox MMO, and even need to feed by buying DRM-protected virtual food. But they rely on servers. Waypoint reported earlier today that the seller of Ozimals and the Pufflings virtuabirds has received a legal threat he says he cannot afford to fight, so they’ve shut down. By Saturday, rabbits will run out of food and enter hibernation.

The rabbits aren’t dead, they’re sleeping. They simply can never wake up.

The “breedables“ craze, which Ozimals played a big role in, may have peaked a while back but a lot of virtual animals still exist. Well, for now. If digirabbits can’t eat, they enter “hibernation’ after 72 hours and will only wake up when fed again. Ozimals need to check in with servers but these shut down on Wednesday, so no rabbits can be fed. Even players who’ve bought a big supply of food will find their rabbits, er, very still forever. I’ve read that some are already gone….

Sounds awful! But before you start thinking up five or six ways this tragedy could have been averted, the company already has:

Ozimals did give rabbit owners a brief chance to save their rabbits. Before shutting down, they gave away items which make rabbits not need food — and leaves them sterile. Some rabbits will live on forever, the last of their kind. If you wish that fate upon your rabbit, apparently some kindly players have a stash you’re welcome to.

(6) MORE SUPER TV. The CW has debuted the first trailer for Black Lightning.

(7) LISTEN UP. “On Star Trek: Discovery and Michelle Yeoh’s accent”: Swapna Krishna tells why a particular moment in the new Star Trek: Discovery trailer was so moving.

This article is about one specific moment in the trailer: when Michelle Yeoh’s character, Captain Philippa Georgiou, speaks for the first time.

“It’s hard to imagine you’ve served under me for seven years,” she tells First Officer Michael Burnham, played by the exquisite Sonequa Martin-Green, as they walk through a searing desert.

This line might seem innocuous, and it is. But that didn’t stop me from bursting into tears the second I heard Yeoh deliver the line. Why?

Because Michelle Yeoh kept her accent.

(8) TERMS OF COMPLIANCE. Gary Westfahl begins “Contractual Obligations: A Review of Alien: Covenant” with a reassurance and a warning.

In contemporary Hollywood, the announced information about a film often conveys an implied contract — a covenant, as it were — between filmgoers and filmmakers: if you buy a ticket to see this movie, you are guaranteed to experience certain desired forms of entertainment. Thus, a picture with the word “Alien” in its title, directed by Ridley Scott, promises potential viewers that they will observe numerous images of H. R. Giger’s iconic “xenomorphs” bursting out of human bodies and energetically attacking any person in their vicinity. And unquestionably, Alien: Covenant fulfills its contractual obligations: so, if you have been longing to watch scene after scene of lunging aliens latching on the faces of intended victims and gruesomely slaughtering every one of them, this film represents the answer to your prayers. The very open question is whether anyone without that fervent yearning will want to sit through two hours and three minutes of this otherwise lamentable movie.

(9) MORE SPOILERS. As Carl Slaughter phrases it:

Michael Fassbender versus Michael Fassbender:

If there’s anything better than an alien, it’s an android.

If there’s anything better than an android, it’s 2 androids.

If there’s anything better than 2 androids, it’s 2 identical looking androids.

If there’s anything better than 2 identical looking androids,

it’s 2 identical looking androids with opposite character.

Matthew Jacobs titles his review for HuffPo “An Ode To Michael Fassbender Seducing Michael Fassbender In ‘Alien: Covenant'”.

Alien: Covenant“ has two Michael Fassbenders. Both are androids. They engage in existential disputes on a remote planet. They debate the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. One teaches the other to play a flute. More importantly, they kiss.

These two Michael Fassbenders form the hallmark of “Alien: Covenant,” the sixth installment in the 38-year-old “Alien” franchise. One Fassbender is the prototype David, returning from “Covenant” predecessor “Prometheus.” David’s devilish God-like tendencies have annexed the planet where the titular colony ship is investigating a rogue radio transmission. For his next trick, Fassbender plays Walter, a new-and-improved humanoid that takes care of the Covenant and strains to protect his crewmates from the extraterrestrial beasts David has cultivated.

(10) IT’S A WRAP. The movie arrives June 9, heralded by The Mummy – Official Trailer #3

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. And Paul Weimer, who always retweets the best stuff. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]