Pixel Scroll 6/21/19 No, My Toupee Isn’t Slipping, That’s My Emotional Support Tribble

(1) BE THE FIRST ON THE MOON. Apollo 11 in Real Time is a very impressive site that collates all kinds of archival mission material to simulate a real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon. You can watch the launch, you can follow what I’ll describe as a media reenactment of the entire mission.

Included real-time elements:

  • All mission control film footage
  • All TV transmissions and onboard film footage
  • 2,000 photographs
  • 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio
  • 240 hours of space-to-ground audio
  • All onboard recorder audio
  • 15,000 searchable utterances
  • Post-mission commentary
  • Astromaterials sample data

(2) TOP ART. Mark Lawrence has started a page for the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off cover contest – only three covers as of today, more to be added when the participating blogs make their picks.

Each year I run a cover contest for the SPFBO entrants. Each blog choses its 3 favourite covers from their pool of 30 entrants. The 30 favourites collected from the 10 blogs are then voted on in separate ballots by the bloggers and by the public.

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(3) CHASTE CHUCK. Here’s a position you won’t find in the Kama Sutra:

(4) IT COULD HAPPEN. Also, there’s reason to believe that Chuck will be at CONvergence 2019 in Minneapolis over July 4th weekend.

(5) AVOID CALENDRICAL HERESEY. Steve Davidson proclaims, “Well, we FINALLY did it, and by ‘we’, I mean Kermit Woodall, Amazing Stories’ Art Director and Electronic Media Maestro and by ‘it’ I mean Amazing Stories Events Calendar!”

  • It’s gorgeous.
  • It’s clean.
  • It’s easy to navigate.
  • It has well over 500 events listed (and more regularly added).
  • It covers events World Wide.
  • It covers events from Bronycons to Middle Eastern Gaming Cons and, if there were such things as cons located off the Earth, we’d have them in there too!
  • You can export it to other calendar programs.
  • You can display it on your screens in a variety of different ways.
  • You can search it by date and by keyword, including type of event, name of event, location of event.
  • You can not only read about an event on our website, but you can click through to the event’s website right from the calendar.
  • There’s pop-outs and roll-overs and clicking for more info!
  • AND – you can add your own events.

In short, we’re now providing fans with an indispensible tool for planning their cons, one with comprehensive information and an easy to use interface.

No longer will you have to say “These aren’t the events I was looking for.”

Mini-editorial: We’ve been working towards this pretty much from the launch of the website. We’ve long believed that a comprehensive, one-stop-shopping events calendar is a must for the Fan community. Many more conventions than most realize are held every month, most of them small, intimate affairs with little to no marketing or advertising outside of a very small local footprint.

Yes, there are a few websites out there, and Erwin ‘Filthy Pierre’ Straus continues to do yeoman’s work for a couple of the print magazines (and continues to put his events rack out at conventions), but these efforts are limited in scope for a variety of legitimate reasons.

We wanted to go beyond that and we think that we’ve succeeded.

***

Want your convention to be seen by over 45,000 convention-going fans? Go click that button that says “Submit Your Event”, right there on the events calendar. There’s an easy to use interface that will let you add an image, set your dates and locations, contact information, website, select multiple ‘types’ of con (there’s 23 different categories and we’ll add more as needed!); you can add your own description of the event, enter costs, venue and more.

  • Check out the sample page below or visit The Events Calendar here – here.
  • And if you visit those pages and come away saying “But my event isn’t in there” – ADD IT!

(6) WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED. Andrew Liptak told readers of The Verge that although the movie adaptation has never been released, there may be a Three-Body Problem TV series in the works:

China’s biggest science fiction novel, The Three-Body Problem, is being developed for a potential television series, according to CX Live. If it happens, it’ll come after the massive success of another big sci-fi adaptation from the country, The Wandering Earth.

Chinese entertainment company YooZoo Entertainment holds the rights to the series, and it’s apparently working on an adaptation of the book. CX Live discovered a publicity form submitted to the Chinese government that lists the production details of the proposed series, which will apparently run for 24 episodes and could begin shooting this September.

(7) LUCASARTS. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the game “Sam and Max Hit the Road”:

Day of the Tentacle wasn’t the only splendid adventure game which LucasArts released in 1993. Some five months after that classic, just in time for Christmas, they unveiled Sam & Max Hit the Road.

At first glance, the two games may seem disarmingly, even dismayingly similar; Sam and Max is yet another cartoon comedy in an oeuvre fairly bursting with the things. Look a little harder, though, and some pronounced differences in the two games’ personalities quickly start to emerge. Day of the Tentacle is clever and funny in a mildly subversive but family-friendly way, very much of a piece with the old Warner Bros. cartoons its aesthetic presentation so consciously emulates. Sam & Max, however, is something else entirely, more in tune with an early 1990s wave of boundary-pushing prime-time cartoons for an older audience — think The Simpsons and Beavis & Butt-Head — than the Saturday morning reels of yore. Certainly there are no life lessons to be derived herein; steeped in postmodern cynicism, this game has a moral foundation that is, as its principal creator once put, “built on quicksand.” Yet it has a saving grace: it’s really, really funny. If anything, it’s even funnier than Day of the Tentacle, which is quite a high bar to clear. This is a game with some real bite to it — and I’m not just talking about the prominent incisors on Max, the violently unhinged rabbit who so often steals the show.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1938 Ron Ely, 81. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record. 
  • Born June 21, 1932 Lalo Schifrin, 87. Argentina-American pianist and composer of the music for the original Mission: Impossible series along with The Four Musketeers (1974 version), The Amityville Horror, The Mask of Sheba, The Hellstrom ChronicleTHX 1138The Cat from Outer Space and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to select some of his work.
  • Born June 21, 1947 Michael Gross, 72. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well-armed graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits              where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (wasn’t that a Niven story?) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters. 
  • Born June 21, 1952 David J. Skal, 67. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1957 Berkeley Breathed, 62. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is genre as they are fantastic creatures. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 David Morrissey, 55. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest in seeing) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m very ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve heard the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 Steve Niles, 54. Writer best- known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film.
  • Born June 21, 1969 Christa Faust, 50. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one nove with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final Destination, Friday the Thirteenth, FringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes. Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1979 Chris Pratt, 40. Starlord in the MCU film franchise. His first genre role was voicing Jake in the “Attack of the Terrible Trio” episode of The Batman series. After that, he’s largely confined himself to the MCU with the exception of being Owen Grady in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a UFO abductee’s priorities.
  • And Bizarro shows that if it’s not easy being green, consider the alternatives.

(10) GUNN BEARING. Dark Matter Zine has posted another Ian Gunn illo: Hollywood Cliché No. 15. See it there!

Last week we began a series of movie cliche illustrations by Ian Gunn. This week we look at villains’ habits of climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower — then falling off. And here are some of New York’s finest, puffing and panting their way in pursuit of said villain… who is climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower.

(11) STOOGE SURPLUS. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is putting “The Personal Collection of Moe Howard” up for bid from June 24-28. Featured items include “Scarce Three Stooges Agreement With Columbia From 1946 Signed by FOUR Stooges, Moe, Curly, Larry & Shemp”.

 (12) ON THE MENU. Scott Edelman urges listeners to hash it out with Kathe Koja in Episode 98 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Kathe’s debut novel The Cipher, for which she won a Bram Stoker Award, had a tremendous impact on the horror field — as much of an impact on horror, in fact, as William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer did on science fiction — a tremendously rare thing for a debut. She’s also written historical fiction, such as her Under the Poppy trilogy, as well as a number of young adult novels, starting with Straydog in 2002, and most recently Headlong. Her short stories have been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, F&SF, and many other magazines, plus anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction. She is the founder of nerve, a Detroit-based immersive theatre company.

We snuck away during StokerCon to San Chez Bistro. Not only is this tapas restaurant well-reviewed and highly rated, but they’re also amazingly sensitive to the needs of their guests, so much so they have multiple full specialized menus — not just a Vegan menu, but ones for soy allergies, tree nut allergies, citrus allergies, shellfish allergies and more. It’s one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve ever visited when it comes to food preferences. My one regret from my trip to Grand Rapids is that time didn’t permit me to experience the full dinner menu.

We discussed her love of immersive theater (and dissected her previous night’s performance at StokerCon), why her groundbreaking debut novel The Cipher will always be The Funhole in her heart, what caused her to move into the YA world after her dark adult novels and why it’s harder to write for a younger audience, how she accidentally wrote her Under the Poppy trilogy, the allure of writing historical novels, how being in the presence of Kate Wilhelm at Clarion changed her life, what she got out of her many collaborations with Barry Malzberg and others, plus much, much more.

(13) PLOT AND PLAN. Nina Shepardson gives a quick review to Odd Adventures with Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss” at Outside of a Dog.

I did have a couple of stylistic issues with the novel. The primary one is that some of the dialogue doesn’t feel realistic. Elmore Leonard once said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” and some of the dialogue here definitely sounds like writing.

(14) PEACES OF EIGHT. Paul Weimer applauds the result in “Microreview [book]: Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin continues the Children of Time universe in a mostly standalone braid of stories of terraforming, Uplift and first contact.

…The novel follows two strands in the web of plot. In the “past” timeline, a human exploration ship before their fall into a dark age (and subsequent revival) has come into a likely solar system looking for a planet to terraform. What they find are two candidate planets, a marginal glaciated one, Damascus,  that might be melted into terraformability, and a second inner one, Nod, that, much to their disappointment is already full of indigenous life. That strange  alien life is worth study, but it means the planet is not really suited for future colonization. But within that life on Nod is a surprise. On Damascus, in the meantime, a crew member’s idea to use octpodes to help in the colonization will have unexpected consequences.

In the present day, a Human/Portiids (Spider) exploration ship with a clone of the AI from Children of Time, has arrived in that same solar system thousands of years later, to find, to their shock and surprise, what has happened in the interim to the two planets. The humans are gone, but on both planets, their legacy and inheritors are most definitely in evidence, and much more than the explorers anticipated…

(15) THE REASONS. Ian Sales tells what he thought about “The Hugos 2019, novellas” and why at It Doesn’t Have To Be Right. This is an excerpt from his take on Binti: the Night Masquerade.

…I’m no fan of exposition, and I disagree entirely with Kim Stanley Robinson’s statement “it’s just another form of narrative”, and “streamlining exposition into the narrative” is another piece of writing advice that gets my back up… Which is not to say there’s zero info-dumping in Binti: the Night Masquerade. There’s plenty. But it’s all about Binti and her culture, or that of her male companion. The rest of the world is so sketchy it might as well have been made-up on the spot by Binti herself. I really do not rate these novellas, and I’m mystified by the love shown to them.

(16) CANCEL CULTURE. Remember that petition signed by 20,000 calling on Netflix to cancel Good Omens? Well, they did. And Amazon Prime returned the favor.

(17) BY THE YARD. The New York Times points to another Amazon Prime offering, reruns of a Fifties show with Boris Karloff.

‘Colonel March of Scotland Yard’ 
When to watch: Now, on Amazon.

This is more specimen than gem, but there aren’t that many shows from the 1950s available to stream — and this one, starring Boris Karloff in an eye patch, has a fun spookiness. Karloff plays Colonel March, who works in the “department of queer complaints,” and thus solves mysteries of all sorts. How can he do it all? one character marvels. “Because I’m a student of the major obsessions of our time: food, finance, fashion and frenzied love,” he replies. Sounds fun.

(18) TALES OF SUPER SCIENCE. You can thank a black rocket scientist from Alabama for both the Super Soaker and the Nerf Blaster. Assuming, of course, that you weren’t traumatized as a child by being blasted by either one of those at an embarrassing time (or place). Smithsonian Magazine: “The Accidental Invention of the Super Soaker”. Tagline: “A leak in a heat pump gave rocket scientist Lonnie Johnson the idea for his powerful squirt gun”

You might think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to invent a squirt gun like the Super Soaker. But Lonnie Johnson, the inventor who devised this hugely popular toy that can drench half the neighborhood with a single pull of the trigger, actually worked on the Galileo and Cassini satellite programs and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped develop the B2 stealth bomber.

Johnson is a prodigious creator, holding more than 120 patents on a variety of products and processes, including designs for film lithium batteries, electrochemical conversion systems, heat pumps, therminonic generators and various items to enhance battery production, including a thin-film ceramic proton-conducting electrolyte. In addition to serious-science inventions, Johnson has also patented such versatile and amusing concepts as a hair drying curler apparatus, wet diaper detector, toy rocket launcher and Nerf Blasters. Yes, that rapid-fire system with foam darts that tempts the child in all of us to mount ambushes on unsuspecting relatives and pets.

“I’m a tinkerer,” Johnson says. “I love playing around with ideas and turning them into something useful or fun.”

(19) HERE COMES THE SUN. A day like any other day, only — “Stonehenge summer solstice: Thousands gather to cheer sunrise” (lots of pictures).

Thousands of people cheered sunrise at Stonehenge on summer solstice.

About 10,000 people gathered at the Neolithic monument to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police.

Kate Logan, from English Heritage, said: “There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers.”

The celebrations at Stonehenge came as people descended on sites across the UK to celebrate the first day of summer.

Glastonbury Tor in Somerset and the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire also attracted crowds.

(20) LET THERE BE LIGHT AT NIGHT, TOO. BBC hails “The invention that saved a million ships”.

In the 1820s, Augustin Fresnel invented a new kind of lens and installed it in France’s Cordouan lighthouse. Suddenly, one lamp could light the way for sailors many miles out to sea.

Since antiquity, lighted beacons have guided ships to port. The earliest lighthouses were controlled fires on hilltops that warned vessels that they were approaching land. Over time, these signals were powered by burning coal or oil lamps backed by mirrors, which could reach navigators further out to sea. But lamp power was no match for a dark and stormy night; over centuries, broken hulls and wind-whipped sails ran aground as ships’ captains and crew perished within, unable to spot the coastline before it was too late.

All that changed in the early 1820s, when a French physicist invented a new kind of lens: a ring of crystalline prisms arranged in a faceted dome that could reflect refracted light. Augustin Fresnel installed his creation in the Phare de Cordouan, a towering lighthouse situated in France’s Gironde estuary, about 100km north of Bordeaux. Suddenly, one lamp could illuminate the way for sailors many nautical miles out to sea.

(21) BDPLF MEANS FINE TOBACCO. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist reviews.

Anyway.  Time for me to don my World’s Worst Film Critic hat and look at the films this year.  They’re all good, you see.  They get shown on a screen that’s bigger than my bedroom!  Nobody would do that if the films weren’t any good, right?

(22) PLAN F***. Rachel Bloom featured in a video that illustrated the host’s topical comments on state abortion laws on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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

Amazing Collector Cards

Amazing collector cards

Steve Davidson has unveiled these images of giant-sized cover artist collector cards, each one featuring one of Amazing Stories Volume 76 covers on the front and the artist’s picture and bio on the back.

They include the magazine’s special one-year anniversary (all-color edition) cover by Vincent Di Fate, which will be coming soon; it’s also the Volume 77, Number 1 cover.

Created as rewards for Amazing Stories’ Indiegogo campaign, they’ll be available for sale in the relatively near future (after issue 5 comes out in August/September).

DiFate cover center

Pixel Scroll 6/13/19 And What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Come Round At Last, Crowdfunds Towards Dublin, To Be Scrolled?

(1) SKIPPING OVER THE SAND. Judith Tarr tells why she’ll be passing on a Bene Gesserit tv series with an all-male creative team. Thread starts here.

(2) KAIJU-CON. On Saturday June 14, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is holding a one-day “Kaiju-Con”.

In conjunction with Kaiju vs Heroes, JANM is hosting a day-long Kaiju-Con that will include a vendor hall, workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations all related to kaiju and Japanese toys. The day will culminate in a special free outdoor screening at 8:30 p.m., on JANM’s plaza of Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

The museum’s exhibit “Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys” continues through July 7.

… After the war, the United States closely monitored the types of industries allowed to revive in Japan. The toy industry was one of the first to be enabled to reinvent itself, and the kaiju films and television shows helped fuel it. Additionally, the toy industry helped stimulate Japan’s economy during the early postwar reconstruction period. These new artistic and economic factors fused with kaiju and hero characters to set the stage for a golden age of Japanese popular culture—one that Nagata first became enamored with as a nine-year-old boy.

Nagata’s pursuit of these Japanese toys took him on an unexpected journey that brought new realizations about his cultural identity as an American of Japanese ancestry….

(3) DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. Gizmodo assures us that “Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism”.

The results of a massive new DNA sequencing project on the New York City subway have just been published. And yup, there’s a lot of bacteria on the subway—though we know most of it is harmless. What’s really important, though, is what we don’t know about it.

The PathoMap project, which involved sampling turnstiles, benches, and keypads at 466 stations, found 15,152 life-forms in total, half of which were bacterial. The Wall Street Journal has created a fun, interactive microbial map of the subway out of the data, showing where on the lines the bacteria “associated with” everything from mozzarella cheese to staph infections was found.

(4) GUNN RETROSPECTIVE. Dark Matter Zine is revisiting the work of the late Hugo-winning fanartist Ian Gunn: “Giant man-baby. A silly illo by Ian Gunn”.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some movie cliches that Ian Gunn drew. Today’s, obviously, is the giant man-baby walking in slow motion. Although the drawing is at least 20 years old but did Gunn foresee the Trump Baby resistance balloons, banners etc? I wonder if the giant Trump Baby acts in slow motion too?

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. John Boston doesn’t pull his punches when he’s slugging the prozines of 1964 for Galactic Journey: “[June 12, 1964] RISING THROUGH THE MURK (the July 1964 Amazing)”.

Can it be . . . drifting up through the murk, like a forgotten suitcase floating up from an old shipwreck . . . a worthwhile issue of Amazing?

You certainly can’t tell by the cover, which is one of the ugliest jobs ever perpetrated by the usually talented Ed Emshwiller—misconceived, crudely executed, and it doesn’t help that the reproduction is just a bit off register.

(6) CLONE ARRANGER. ComicsBeat brings music to fans’ ears — “ORPHAN BLACK returns in new serialized novel and audio adaptation”.

The Clone Club is reconvening. Variety reports that Orphan Black, the hit BBC America sci-fi series that ended in 2017, is set to return as a serialized novel, with accompany audio narration, later this year. The new story is produced by publishing startup Serial Box, and will feature original series star Tatiana Maslany providing the audio narration.

(7) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Eater says the promotion is really quite simple: “Burger King’s New ‘Stranger Things’ Special Is Literally an Upside-Down Whopper”.

With the premiere of Stranger Things Season 3 just a few weeks away, Netflix and Burger King are teaming up for a fast food stunt that seems aimed at the die-hard fans, only: At 11 locations across the country, the chain is adding an “Upside Down Whopper” to the menu, which is literally just a Whopper served upside down. No special Demagorgon sauce, Eggo bun, or Hopper’s bacon crumbles. It’s just an inverted hamburger in Stranger Things-branded packaging.

The YouTube caption assures viewers —

pro tip: you can’t get eaten by something in the upside down if you’ve already eaten the upside down whopper. served upside down at select bk locations on June 21:

(8) MILES OBIT. Actress Sylvia Miles has died at the age of 94 reports the New York Times.

Sylvia Miles, who earned two Academy Award nominations (for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely”) and decades of glowing reviews for her acting, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 94.

Ms. Miles began her career as a stage actress; [she] was a witch in “A Chekhov Sketchbook” (1962). She described her character in the 1977 horror film “The Sentinel” as “a mad dead crazed German zombie lesbian ballet dancer.” Her other film roles included … Meryl Streep’s mother in “She-Devil” (1989).

Her final TV appearance was in 2008, on the series “Life on Mars.” Her last screen appearance was in “Old Monster,” a 2013 short based on the epic “Beowulf.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1929 Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars Holiday Special, Cocoon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 Malcolm McDowell, 76. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film, that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Here is the same premise with John Hex instead. 
  • Born June 13, 1945 Whitley Strieber, 74. I’ve decidedly mixed feelings about him. He’s written two rather good horror novels, The Wolfen which made a fantastic horror film and The Hunger. But I’m convinced that his book Communion about his encounter with aliens is an absolute crock. 
  • Born June 13, 1949 Simon Callow, 70. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well, he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the latter. How are they? He was The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 Tim Allen, 66. Jason Nesmith in the beloved Galaxy Quest, winning a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. (What was running against it that year?) it actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in that film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 Audrey Niffenegger, 56. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1981 Chris Evans, 38. Captain America in the Marvel film franchise. He had an earlier role as the Human Torch in the non-MCU Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think this makes him the only performer to play two major characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes. 

(10) ROBOCOMICS. The New York Times looks at a marketing solution: “Like Comic Books? This Platform Picks Titles for You”.

Comic book fans have multiple digital options to choose from these days, with apps for independents, manga and political cartoons as well as libraries from giants like DC and Marvel. But the fractured nature of the business means readers have to visit several platforms to fill their needs.

Enter Graphite, a free digital service from Graphic Comics that begins Tuesday and hopes to put them all under one roof.

The impetus for the company was a simple one, said Michael Eng, Graphite’s chief executive: “There is no solution right now that serves comics in all its forms.”

The goal of the service is to offer digital comics from all formats, including the work of independent creators as well as major publishers, and make it all free. The content will include ads, but an ad-free service is available for a $4.99 monthly fee. Graphite also hopes to expand the audience of comics readers by offering material in 61 languages. But its biggest bet is on artificial intelligence, which will suggest content to readers based on their taste.

(11) HIDDEN NO MORE. BBC: “Hidden Figures: Nasa renames street after black female mathematicians”.

The street outside Nasa’s headquarters has been named “Hidden Figures Way”, in honour of three African-American women whose work helped pave the way for future generations at the space agency.

(12) A LARK IN THE VACUUM. The Atlantic’s Rebecca Boyle has her own estimate of “The True Price of Privatizing Space Travel”.

…NASA’s decision to open up the space station is in some ways a natural next step for space exploration. Earlier, earthbound vessels all experienced a similar transformation. Transoceanic ships, railroads, and airplanes spawned cottage industries to enable their spread and wide adoption, and each eventually reached the masses. And in widening access to space, NASA is actually behind the Russians, whose space agency has transported a few space tourists through a company called Space Adventures.

But space is different. Space, as they say, is hard. To get there, you have to strap yourself to a bomb, and sometimes those bombs malfunction.

Personal space exploration is also hard to justify….

…Handing tourists the keys to the ISS reflects a much broader shift in space exploration, one that prioritizes resource extraction and commercial profit over pure research and collective scientific efforts. It’s a step toward making space more mundane, a travel destination defined by money and vacations, rather than discovery and glory.

(13) ONE OF EVERYTHING. Joe Sherry does a fine job of tackling these finalists in “Reading the Hugos: Related Work” at Nerds of a Feather.

Related Work is a bit of a catch-all category. It’s for work that is primarily non fiction and that is related to science fiction and fantasy, and which is not otherwise eligible elsewhere on the ballot. This is how you can have an encyclopedia compete against a folk album against a podcast against a collection of essays about movies (this was in 2012 when the Fancast category had not yet been created. That particular lineup of finalists can’t happen today. You may also note that albums and songs have been included in Dramatic Presentation – because the two Clipping albums in question are narrative driven whereas Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls was not.). There may also be a single blog post competing and winning in the category. Or a series of blog posts focusing on the women of Harry Potter. In the case of this year there is a four way biography, a series of interviews, a three part documentary, a collected essay series about the Hugo Awards, a recognition of the work done by a website, and the experience of bringing together Mexicanx fans and creators to Worldcon. Related Work is an interesting cross section of another side of the genre and another side of fandom.

(14) HUGO NOVELLAS. James Reid continues his “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Novella”.

I feel like this category has undergone a bit of a renaissance with digital publishing: when I was growing up, I thought of Novellas as either the anchor of a short story collection, 1 or works that flesh out a larger series.2  Without the pressure of meeting mass market paperback length however, novellas can be sold as free standing works, which then can lead to series of novellas.  Fully half the slate fall into this category,3 and not only are they sequels, but they are sequels to previous nominated works.

In all three of these series, I liked the original novella,4 but the two sequels that were in the ballot last year, Binti: Home and Down Among the Sticks and Bones were both marked by precipitous drops in quality.  Given this, my big questions going into the ballot this year are can Artificial Condition avoid this sophomore slump, and can either of the threequels pull out of their series nosedives?

(15) CANNED. “Star Wars’ Mark Hamill Reveals He Got Fired From Jack in the Box for Doing a Clown Voice”Comicbook.com has the story.

Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is still full of stories that will surprise and delight fans – as he recently proved during an appearance on The Late Show with James Corden. Corden and Hamill were talking about the road to fame (and all the detours it an take); when they got to the topic of Hamill having worked as a waiter (like so many struggling actors), we got this great anecdote:

“I tried. I always was trying to find the theatrical aspect of it. You know, I worked right down the street at Jack in the Box. And I was in the back all the time, making shakes and minding the grill, and I always aspired to work the window… The one chance I had at it, it never occurred to me not to be in character as the clown, as the Jack in the Box clown! Who would want to hear [Robot voice] ‘What is your order?’ I wanted to hear [Clown voice] ‘Whats your orderrrrrrrrrr?” My manager didn’t think it was very funny: He told me to go home and never come back. I got fired! Fired for being in character! Why you… [Shakes fist] I’ll show you: One day I will be The Joker and then you’ll be sorry!”

(16) BIG FAMILY IS WATCHING. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature notes some past fiction has become science fact with the rise of the surveillance state — “Eyed up: the state of surveillance”

In the 1998 Hollywood thriller Enemy of the State, an innocent man (played by Will Smith) is pursued by a rogue spy agency that uses the advanced satellite “Big Daddy” to monitor his every move. The film — released 15 years before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a global surveillance complex — has achieved a cult following. It was, however, much more than just prescient: it was also an inspiration, even a blueprint, for one of the most powerful surveillance technologies ever created…

This is the basis for the new book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019).

(17) A SEMI-MOVING PICTURE. Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation – “I was not aware we needed this”: “‘Playmobil: The Movie’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Once they’re transformed into animated characters, Charlie soon winds up prisoner in a Gladiator-like kingdom ruled by the evil Emperor Maximums (Adam Lambert), prompting Marla to team up with a hipster food truck driver (Jim Gaffigan, providing vague comic relief) and a ridiculous secret agent (Daniel Radcliffe) to get her bro back. Along the way, she runs into tons of other merchandise, although it’s uncertain at this point whether the figure of Glinara (Maddie Taylor) — basically a female Jabba the Hut decked out in a sleeveless leather dress — was something already made by Playmobil or a creature the filmmakers invented for the hell of it.

Otherwise, everything goes exactly where you expect, from the live-action scenes bookending the cartoon to the nonstop chases and thundering soundtrack to all the attempts at humor that mostly miss their mark. To the director’s credit, the animated sequences are richly rendered, making the most of the rather stiff and plain-looking originals (though, if you want to get nitpicky, an early gag poking fun at the fact that Playmobil legs are unbendable is soon forgotten) and offering up a plethora of settings that help compensate for the lack of good writing.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) NIXING BREXIT. In a letter to The Guardian, “John le Carré and Neil Gaiman join writers warning Brexit is ‘choosing to lose'”.

Dozens of writers have put their names to a letter to the Guardian that urges UK voters taking part in Thursday’s European parliament elections to use their franchise to support the European Union, “unless they know what they are choosing to lose, for themselves and everyone they know, and are happy with that”.

The authors, who also include Neil Gaiman, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Williams and Laurie Penny, go on to say: “It seems to us that the same question is facing every industry and every person in the UK: what will you choose to lose? Because we used to hear about advantages in Brexit. We used to hear about the bright future, the extra money, the opportunities. Now the advocates of Brexit just assure us that it won’t be as bad as the last world war.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode 96 of Scott Edelman’s podcast let you listen to him crunch into a crab cake sandwich with leading Aussie author Kaaron Warren.

Kaaron Warren

We met at the Freer Gallery, and then wandered over for lunch at the Capitol Hill branch of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which opened in 2012.

I first met Kaaron slightly less than 10 years ago, at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, where her novel Slights was one of the inaugural titles from Angry Robot Books. The publisher even had a robot rolling around the launch party! (It was not angry, however.) She’s published many more novels and stories since then, with one novel, The Grief Hole, winning all three of Australia’s genre awards — the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Australian Shadows Award. Her most recent novel is Tide of Stone. She’s published seven short story collections, the most recent being A Primer to Kaaron Warren.

We discussed how her recent Rebecca reread totally changed her sympathies for its characters, the disturbing real-life crime related to the first time she ever saw The Shining, the catalyst that gave birth to her award-winning novel Tide of Stone, how she came up with new angles for tackling stories about such classic characters as Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, the way flea market bric-a-brac has led to some of her best ideas, the only correct method for preparing fairy bread, her go-to karaoke song, and much, much more.

(3) TAKING A BITE OUT OF SONIC’S SCHEDULE. ComicsBeat explains why “Character design changes push SONIC THE HEDGEHOG movie release date to 2020”.

…The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie definitely got people talking…just probably not the way the studio intended. Reaction to Sonic’s design—his muscular legs, his regularly-proportioned head, his teeth—was swift, loud, and overwhelmingly negative. The filmmakers heard the cries of the masses, and they responded with action, as director Jeff Fowler tweeted a few days after the trailer’s release that they would be working to tweak the design of the character…

(4) DRAGON RECOMMENDATIONS. Red Panda has created a “Dragon Awards 2019 Eligible Work” based on Renay’s Hugo recommendation’s spreadsheet. She says, “We’re trying to get folks to pay attention to the Dragon Awards to prevent them from becoming puppy awards by default. Here is a spreadsheet of eligible works – and people are welcome to add to it as long as works fit the Dragon award rules.”

(5) AFTERMATH. Cora Buhlert wrote a blog post about the Nebula Awards kerfuffle involving 20Booksto50K: “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Winners and a Post-mortem on the 20Booksto50K Issue”.

…Most of [Craig] Martelle’s post seems to be extolling the virtues of the 20Booksto50K group and the idea behind it which was developed by Martelle’s business partner and occasional collaborator Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind 20Booksto50K is  is basically “write fast, publish fast and create a ‘minimum viable product’ in highly commercial genres”. For more information, you can also read their manifesto or watch videos of their conferences. They also have a Wiki with more background information here.

Now I don’t have a problem with either the 20Booksto50K group or their system. I don’t doubt that the group or their conferences help a lot of indie writers. And while their approach to writing and publishing isn’t mine, there are a nuggets of useful information in there.

Alas, the rest of the Martelle’s post engages in same tired “indie versus traditional publishing” rheotric that we’ve been hearing since 2010. “Traditional publishing is slow” – yes, it is, because their model is different, but that doesn’t make it bad. “Awards don’t matter, but whether stories resonate with readers does” – okay, so why are you so desperate to win an award then?

(6) ROTTEN TOMATOES REVAMP. The movie ratings site makes changes in the wake of their experience with people who lowballed Captain Marvel’s pre-release score: “We’re Introducing Verified Ratings and Reviews To Help You Make Your Viewing Decsions”.

In February we ditched our pre-release “Want to See” percentage in favor of a more straightforward Want to See tally (kind of like the “likes” you see on social media). We also removed the function that allowed users to write comments about a movie prior to seeing it. You can read about these changes here.

What’s next? Today, we’re excited to introduce new features to our Audience Score and user reviews with the addition of Verified Ratings and Reviews.

So, let’s get to it.

Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.

… The first Audience Score you see on a movie page – that’s it next to the popcorn bucket just to the right of the Tomatometer – will be the score made up of Verified Ratings. As with the current Audience Score, when the score is Fresh (that is, above 60%), you’ll see a red popcorn bucket; when it is Rotten (59% and below), the bucket will be green and tipped over (you can read more about that here). If you want to see a score that incorporates all included ratings – both verified and non-verified – simply click “more info” where you can toggle between the two….

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson says “The trouble with streaming: It could fragment fandom”.

…All this is a reminder that genre tales now dominate the entertainment landscape. The people behind all these platforms are fighting to attract the attention of us, the SF, fantasy and horror fandom.

But they are also fighting for our wallets. And while is is technically possible for one household to receive all these services, it is unlikely that very many households could afford to.

Once, producers essentially had two ways of monetising their entertainment. They could charge for it – for movie tickets, videotapes or discs; or they could give it to us via free-to-air television and sell our eyeballs to advertisers.

Now, we have a new eco-system where the producers are charging us, not for individual works, but for whole bundles of content. So we can get the Netflix package, the HBO package or the Hulu package, but not everything….

What is this in contrast to? Sure, things are different than when all TV was free, however, not so different from periods when there were five or eight or ten printed prozines coming out that you could only get by subscription, unless you were lucky enough that your local library subscribed to some (never all) of them.

(8) KERR OBIT. British children’s book writer and illustrator Judith Kerr died May 22 aged 95. Cora Buhlert comments —

In spite of the title, her most famous work (at least in Germany) When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit is not genre, but about the Kerr family’s escape from the Nazis in the 1930s. The pink rabbit of the title was young Judith Kerr’s beloved toy, which she lost en route. But a lot of her children’s picture books are at least genre-adjacent and several feature SJW credentials. Besides, she was married to Nigel Kneale, British TV writer and creator of Professor Quatermass:

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher) and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. Producer and script editor. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during the era of the Fourth Doctor. He went to be one of the producers of Rould Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1946 Jeremy Treglown, 63. Author of Roald Dahl: A Biography and Roald Dahl: Collected Stories. Amateur actor who met his first wife while both were performing Romeo and Juliet at University. 
  • Born May 24, 1949 Jim Broadbent, 70. He played Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He joined the cast of A Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His genre credits include Time Bandits, BrazilSuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceThe BorrowersThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well somebody had to be in it). 
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 67. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars. She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She  appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 66. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the  outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character.
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 59. Among his roles, I’ll single out as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the ghosts of Edith’s Mother and Beatrice Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and the Amphibian Manin The Shape of Water. 
  • Born May 24, 1965 Michael Chabon, 54. Author of one of the great baseball novels ever, Summerland. Then there’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay which is the best look I know of at the comics industry during the Golden Age. And The Final Solution: A Story of Detection may be an awesome home to the Greatest Beekeeper Ever.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark takes fan disappointment about Game of Throne’s final season in a hilarious new direction.

(11) REVISITING THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. The highlights from February’s two-day conference on The Art of the Mimeograph at the University of Westminster include an appearance by fanhistorian Rob Hansen beginning around the 8:54 mark.

(12) OVERFLOWING LID. Alasdair Stuart says his Full Lid for May 24 2019 “takes a look at DJ Kirkbride and team’s excellent SF/crime/comedy comic series Errand Boys. I’ve also got a breakdown of the 2014 Godzilla in the first of two briefings in the run up to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There’s a look at the excellent documentary Knock Down The House and the one thing about its structure that bothered me. Finally, special guest Sarah Gailey drops by to do the Hugo Spotlight feature, which, this week, features me.”

…The creative team behind Errand Boys is a who’s who of people whose work I pick up, sight unseen. DJ Kirkbride and Adam P Knave are two of the best writers and editors in the business and Frank Cvetkovic is one of the best letterers. They’re joined by a raft of artists whose work is unfamiliar to me but is all massively impressive, kinetic and fun.

(13) RETRO REVIEWS. The link takes you to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists and to her Retro Hugo Novel Reviews Part 1 and Part 2.

I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). It is also the first time a father and son appeared on the same ballot–well, sort of. Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.

(14) ALADDIN’S LAMP DOES NOT SHINE BRIGHTLY. NPR’s scott Tobias finds  “Aladdin to be A CGI World, Neither Whole Nor New”.

As Disney plunders its archives for live-action remakes of animated classics, the question of “Why?” continues to be less evident on the screen than it is on the company ledger. The one quiet exception was Pete’s Dragon, which succeeded because it had no fidelity to the second-rate slapstick and songcraft of the original, and could re-imagine the premise from the ground up. When the catalog titles get as massive as Aladdin, however, the mission becomes to replicate it as closely as possible, which inevitably leads to stilted facsimile. No matter how sophisticated CGI gets, the speed and fluidity of animation is hard to reproduce.

The new Aladdin mostly has the beat-for-beat quality of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the current standard-bearer for pointlessness, but there are elements of it that really pop, even for being bizarre missteps. Foremost among them is Will Smith’s Genie, whose entire look is a Violet Beauregarde nightmare of bright blue and CGI-inflated swole, with a top-knot/goatee combination that suggests 10,000 years away from the fashion pages. Yet Smith is the only member of the cast who’s bothered to rethink the original character: He doesn’t bother to imitate Robin Williams’ manic schtick, but draws on his own ingratiating silliness and kid-friendly hip-hop flavor instead. If everyone else had followed suit, this Aladdin wouldn’t necessarily be any better, but at least it would be its own thing….

Chip Hitchcock notes: “My local paper wasn’t quite so harsh, but did give it just 2.5 stars.”

(15) EINSTEIN? NEVER HEARD OF HIM. BBC remembers “The man who made Einstein world-famous”.

It is hard to imagine a time when Albert Einstein’s name was not recognised around the world.

But even after he finished his theory of relativity in 1915, he was nearly unknown outside Germany – until British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington became involved.

Einstein’s ideas were trapped by the blockades of the Great War, and even more by the vicious nationalism that made “enemy” science unwelcome in the UK.

But Einstein, a socialist, and Eddington, a Quaker, both believed that science should transcend the divisions of the war.

It was their partnership that allowed relativity to leap the trenches and make Einstein one of the most famous people on the globe.

Einstein and Eddington did not meet during the war, or even send direct messages. Instead, a mutual friend in the neutral Netherlands decided to spread the new theory of relativity to Britain.

Einstein was very, very lucky that it was Eddington, the Plumian Professor at Cambridge and officer of the Royal Astronomical Society, who received that letter.

Not only did he understand the theory’s complicated mathematics, as a pacifist he was one of the few British scientists willing to even think about German science.

(16) FAKEBOOK. According to NPR, “Facebook Removed Nearly 3.4 Billion Fake Accounts In Last Six Months”. Over half a century ago, Clarke suggested what’s now become a truism: that the Internet would be a haven for porn. But he didn’t foresee the other abuses….

Facebook says it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts from October to March. That’s twice the number of fraudulent accounts deleted in the previous six-month period.

In the company’s latest Community Standards Enforcement Report, released Thursday, Facebook said nearly all of the fake accounts were caught by artificial intelligence and more human monitoring. They also attributed the skyrocketing number to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”

The fake accounts are roughly a billion more than the 2.4 billion actual people on Facebook worldwide, according to the company’s own count.

(17) SPIKING THE CANON. James Davis Nicoll diagnoses the waning popularity of once-beloved works in “The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF” at Tor.com.

Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.

If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ,. Mike Kennedy Cat Eldridge, Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Hansen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/19 A Scroll Without A Pixel Is Like A Walrus Without An Antenna

(1) HUGO CONTENDING ART BOOKS. The Daily Beast gives a rundown — “These Are 2019’s Hugo Awards Art Book Finalists”.

… We compiled the six art book finalists below to give you an idea of what’s competing for the venerable award in August, along with some information about them from Amazon….

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, $36 on Amazon: Illustrated by Charles Vess, Written by Ursula K. Le Guin. “Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the timeless and beloved A Wizard of Earthsea, this complete omnibus edition of the entire Earthsea chronicles includes over fifty illustrations illuminating Le Guin’s vision of her classic saga.”

(2) LARSON & JACKSON TOGETHER AGAIN. NPR’s Linda Holmes says “Brie Larson’s Directorial Debut Glitters With The Charming ‘Unicorn Store'”.

“Bringing a unicorn here is not an easy or inexpensive endeavor. You have to be the right sort of girl.”

The right sort of girl.

The backbone of Brie Larson’s offbeat directorial debut, the comedy Unicorn Store, is the idea of what it means to be the right sort of girl. Larson plays Kit, a woman pushing 30 who lives with her parents and favors an aesthetic heavy on rainbows, glitter and — yes — unicorns. And after she receives a couple of mysterious magical letters, she finds herself in the company of a man who calls himself The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson). He’s the one who says these words, who tells her that she’s in line for a unicorn of her own. But she has to earn it. She has to be stable. She has to make a home for it. She has to be an adult, ironically, to be the right companion for a unicorn.

(3) NICE TRY? BBC reports “Google’s ethics board shut down”.

An independent group set up to oversee Google’s artificial intelligence efforts, has been shut down less than a fortnight after it was launched.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was due to look at the ethics around AI, machine learning and facial recognition.

One member resigned and there were calls for another to be removed.

The debacle raises questions about whether firms should set up such bodies.

Google told the BBC: “It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted.

“So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board. We’ll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics.”

There had been an outcry over the appointment of Kay Coles James, who is president of conservative thinktank The Heritage Foundation. Thousands of Google employees signed a petition calling for her removal, over what they described as “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant” comments.

(4) HEY RUBE. Steve Davidson complains that he can’t evaluate what technical changes make Archive of Our Own eligible in the 2019 Hugo category for which it was nominated, then, disregarding the argument he just made, asks why AO3 wasn’t nominated in another category that isn’t designed to recognize technical changes: “The Hugo Awards Best Related Work Category and the AO3 Nomination” at Amazing Stories.

In terms of AO3, since I can’t see the “change”, how am I to judge the substantiability?  Maybe, in my mind, it isn’t transformative enough to warrant a vote.  But I can’t make that judgement because I have no reference. I do not have the opportunity to weigh in on the Hugo Administrator’s choices.

Third:  we’ve already determined that websites can qualify under the Best Fanzine category and we can read right in the definition of Best Related Work that works qualify for that category “provided that they do not qualify for another category”.

Why doesn’t a website featuring fanfic qualify for the Best Fanzine category?  Call me a rube, but I can hardly think of a better category for a collection of fanfic than Best Fanzine.  In fact, I seem to recall that a bunch of highly regarded professional authors published their fanfic in…fanzines.  (The printed kind that some of you may not be familiar with.)

(5) BOOKS SHE LOVES. Shelf Awareness brings you “Reading with… Sarah Pinsker”:

Book you’re an evangelist for:

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It’s a wordless depiction of an immigration experience. The protagonist doesn’t share a language with anyone in his new country; their language is gibberish to him and gibberish to the reader. Any item we might recognize is rendered in such a way as to make it foreign to the reader as well, so we experience the confusion that the man feels: strange fruit, strange animals, strange monuments. Tan’s illustrations tell the immigrant’s story a thousand times better than words could have.

Book you’ve bought for the cover:

Saga Press is reissuing three Molly Gloss novels over the next few months (Outside the Gates,Dazzle of DayandWild Life) followed by her first collection, Unforeseen. I already had two of the books, but I’ve preordered all four of these both for her prose and the gorgeously stark matching covers by Jeffrey Alan Love.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 6, 1967Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”, written by Harlan Ellison, first aired.
  • April 6, 19682001: A Space Odyssey was released.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1905 Thomas P. Kelley. Writer of Thirties pulp novels that were serialised first in Weird Tales (The Last PharaohA Million Years in the Future and I Found Cleopatra), Uncanny Tales (The Talking Heads) and Eerie Tales (The Weird Queen). (Died 1982.)
  • Born April 6, 1918 Kaaren Verne. She appeared in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon as Charlotte Eberli. The film btw was very much fanfic bearing little resemblance to the original premise of Holmes. She also appeared in The Twilight ZoneKraft Suspense Theatre and Fireside Theatre (freelance writers such as Rod Serling were a script source for the latter). (Died 1967.)
  • Born April 6, 1935 Douglas Hill. Prolific writer of short novels for both adults and younger of a sword and sorcery bent even when within an SF setting. Best known series include The Last Legionary, Demon Stalker and Huntsman. He served for a short period as assistant editor of the New Worlds magazine under Michael Moorcock. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 82. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie
  • Born April 6, 1947 John Ratzenberger, 72. In-house voice actor for Pixar whose roles have included Hamm in the Toy Story franchise, The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. franchise, The Underminer in The Incredibles franchise, and Mack in the Cars franchise. He made minor live appearances in Superman and Superman II
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 71. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination magazines being three of his venues. He also did some writing for If magazine. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet
  • Born April 6, 1981 Eliza  Coupe, 38. Tiger, one three main roles in Future Man, a web series where a video game apparently is actually real and deadly. She also had a recurring role on Quantico as Hannah Wyland, a series I swear is edging into genre. She was also in Monster Mash (also known as Monster Mash: The Movie and Frankenstein Sings), based on the Bobby “Boris” Pickett song “Monster Mash” and other sources.

(8) SPOTTED OWL. Mike Lawson has won the Spotted Owl Award for his mystery House Witness. The Spotted Owl Award is handed out by a group called Friends of Mystery, based in Portland, Oregon. Eligible are mysteries written by authors from the Pacific Northwest. The finalists were —

  • Baron Birtcher – Fistful Of Rain
  • Robert Dugoni – A Steep Price
  • Warren Easley – Moving Targets
  • G.M. Ford – Soul Survivor
  • Elizabeth George – The Punishment She Deserves
  • Stephen Holgate – Madagascar
  • Mike Lawson – House Witness – winner
  • Martin Limon – The Line
  • John Straley – Baby’s First Felony
  • Jon Talton – The Bomb Shelter

(9) CARTER BROWN. The winner of the inaugural Carter Brown Mystery Writing Award has also been announced:

  • Alibi for a Dead Man by Wilson Toney

The award is named in honor of the prolific Australian author Alan Geoffrey Yates (aka Carter Brown).

(10) MARKETPLACE. Here’s a service someone should start:

(11) WATCH OUT FOR THOSE BOUNDERS. Jim C. Hines referees “Bounding Into Comics vs. Fonda Lee” and finds it’s definitely not a fight by the Marquis of Queensbury rules.

I got to meet and hang out with author Fonda Lee at the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop a few years back. Recently, Lee was at Barnes and Noble and observed:

“This is what modern fantasy writers are up against. In my local B&N, most authors are lucky to find a copy of their book, super lucky if it’s face out. There are 3.5 shelves for Tolkien. 1.5 for Jordan. Here’s who we compete against for shelf space: not each other, but dead guys.” (Source)

Her Tweets got a lot of attention, leading to an article by John Trent at Bounding Into Comics that derides Lee and accuses her, among other things, of criticizing Tolkien. Not that Lee ever did this. Her second Tweet in that thread said, “Before you @ me about the importance of classics, I love LOTR too, okay?” One might almost suspect Trent’s comment, “Lee isn’t the first person to criticize Tolkien,” of being an attempt to stir up shit.

An effective attempt, it seems. Lee has been barraged by Tolkien Defenders over on Twitter….

(12) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. “How Artificial Intelligence Is Used To Make Beer”.—Forbes has the story.

There are many ways artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can make our world more productive and effective. There are even breweries that are using AI to enhance beer production. Is this brilliant or unbelievable? While it’s admittedly too soon to tell, using data to inform brewmasters’ decisions and the possibility of personalized brews makes AI-brewed beer definitely intriguing.

(13) SJWC RETRACTION. Yesterday’s NPR-headline Pixel was quickly corrected: “All Right. Some Cats Do Fetch”.

A tongue-in-cheek NPR.org headline comparing the fetching abilities of cats and dogs revealed a truth known by countless cat owners: Some cats do fetch.

“Cats Don’t Fetch, But Know Their Names As Well As Dogs, Researchers Say,” the original headline proclaimed. This didn’t sit well with some readers.

“In what world do cats not fetch?” Kate Haffey commented on Facebook.

“Artemis knows her name and fetches,” Brandi Whitson said on Twitter. “She’s obsessed.” …

(14) HAPPINESS IS… And while we’re pushing your buttons, read this article in the Portland (ME) Press-Herald “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds”.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population – nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one -they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type – cats, dogs or both – a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

(15) HISTORIC GADGET. “Heath Robinson: WW2 codebreaking machine reconstructed” – BBC has the story. For any Filers not in on the joke: the US equivalent to Heath Robinson is Rube Goldberg — but this machine worked.

A World War Two codebreaking machine has been reconstructed after a seven-year project so it can run in public for the first time.

The Heath Robinson has been restored at The National Museum of Computing in Milton Keynes by a team of six.

The machine was an early attempt to automate code-cracking and, due to its complexity, was named after the illustrator W Heath Robinson.

Phil Hayes, of the museum, said the work was “quite an achievement”.

He said it completed using a hand-drawn circuit diagram along with replica circuits based on 1940s technology.

(16) OLD HABITS DIE HARD. CNN wondered why “Why 2.7 million Americans still get Netflix DVDs in the mail”. They came up with six reasons. In the process, they made Cat Eldridge’s day: “Years ago I had an argument with a techie who insisted that new technologies always drive out old technologies. I said that’s simply not true. And here’s proof of that.” Cat and Bruce Sterling agree.

Remember when Netflix used to be a DVD-by-mail company? Well, for 2.7 million subscribers in the US, it still is.

The familiar red envelopes have been arriving in customers’ mailboxes since 1998 and helped earn the company a healthy $212 million profit last year.

Why are so many people still using this old-school service in the age of streaming? There are a number of reasons.

(17) FIRE IN THE HOLE. NPR watches as “Japan (Very Carefully) Drops Plastic Explosives Onto An Asteroid”.

Early Friday morning, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft detonated an explosive device over a small asteroid. The goal was to create a fresh crater that will later be studied by the spacecraft.

Researchers watched from mission control in Sagamihara, Japan, and clapped politely as Hayabusa2 released an experiment known as the Small Carry-on Impactor. The device consisted of a copper disk packed with HMX high-explosive. Once the mothership had safely moved out of the line of fire, the impactor apparently detonated, firing the disk into the side of the asteroid. A camera released by Hayabusa2 appeared to catch the moment of impact, which sent a stream of ejecta into space.

…”These particular asteroids are the precursors to what Earth was made from,” Connolly says. Ryugu is rich in carbon, and minerals on its surface contain water and so-called prebiotic compounds that could have started life on this planet.

“Ryugu is a time capsule,” says Connolly.

This is not Hayabusa2’s first attack. In February, the spacecraft physically touched down on Ryugu and fired a small pellet into its surface. The dust kicked up by that opening shot was collected and eventually will provide researchers with detailed information about the asteroid’s makeup.

But to really understand Ryugu, researchers also want to know what’s down there, and that’s why they created Friday’s crater. In a few weeks, after the dust has settled, the little spacecraft will survey the blast site to see what lies beneath. It may even land a second time to collect subsurface samples.

(18) CLASSIC APOLLO 11 PUBLICITY RESOURCE. In honor of the flight’s 50th anniversary, David Meerman Scott has scanned in his collection of Apollo 11 press kits:

Press kits prepared by the public relations staff at the major contractors for the Apollo 11 mission provided valuable additional information not found in NASA issued news releases. Reporters and editors from media outlets including television and newspapers had access to such documents from dozens of manufacturers while working on stories about the first lunar landing.

(19) STAR TREK FAN FILM. Gizmodo/io9 is drawing your attention to a fan film (“Temporal Anomaly is a Star Trek Fan Film Half a Decade in the Making”). The film appears as two parts, each from 24–27 minutes each.

First conceived and pitched to Kickstarter backers in 2013, Temporal Anomaly is an ambitious fan project set in the Star Trek universe, a nearly hour-long fan film created by Power543 Fan Films

(20) DISCOVERY. The Popcast analyzes The Borg Paradox.

If you thought the last Paradox was good, you’re going to love this one. The Borg are here and Resistance is Futile!

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Cunnane, in “Gary the Gargoyle: Short and Breakdown” on Vimeo, offers a short fiilm about a gargoyle and an analysis of how the creatures in the film were designed.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Conrarius, John King Tarpinian, Bill, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/19 I’ve Got A Pixel To The Scroll But I’d Rather See The Godstalk In Your List

(1) PREVIEWING F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June 2019 cover art is by Cory and Catska Ench.

(2) IT’S WINTERTIME IN THE CITY. “We must fight together now. Or die.” Game of Thrones returns for its final season on April 14.

(3) UNWRAPPING THE PACKAGE. Stephen Zeitchik in the Washington Post says the Writers Guild of America voted 7,882 to 382 to require a new code of conduct from agents that says they can only get money from writers’ commissions and not from packaging shows.  If the Association of Talent Agents doesn’t agree, the result could still be mass firing of agents: “Hollywood writers overwhelmingly approve new code for agents, placing parties on a collision course”.

The Association of Talent Agents released a statement in the wake of the results.

“Now that the WGA is past its vote, we look forward to getting back into the room to work through an agreement that serves the best interest of writers, respects their individual choice, and prevents unnecessary disruption to our industry,” it said. “We stand ready and waiting.

(4) ED KRAMER DEVELOPMENTS. As a result of information made public in a motion filed by Ed Kramer’s lawyer, Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader said she has already stepped aside from hearing criminal matters involving District Attorney Danny Porter. The Daily Report has the story: “Gwinnett DA Seeks Recusal of Judge Under GBI Investigation Over Computer Hack Claim”.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader has stopped hearing criminal cases after District Attorney Danny Porter called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether she improperly allowed third parties—including a convicted felon—to access her county computer to see whether the DA hacked it.

(5) SHEESH. Vice’s Samantha Cole determinedly misses the point of what was actually nominated: “An Internet Fan Fiction Archive Is Nominated for a Hugo”.

Archive of Our Own is a finalist in the prestigious Hugo award’s Best Related Works category—which means thousands of fanfics are Hugo finalists.

Frank Herbert’s Dune, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and Neuromancer by William Gibson—these classic Hugo award nominees, everyone has heard of. But what about the thousands of fanfiction works all addressing the question, “what if Steve Rogers and Tony Stark from the Avengers fucked?”

This week, the Hugo awards—a set of literary awards given to the best science fiction and fantasy works of the year—announced that Archive of Our Own (Ao3), a massive internet fanfic archive, is a finalist in the Best Related Works category for 2019. If the archive wins a Hugo this year, hundreds of thousands of user-created transformative works—much of it horny, weird, and beautiful fan-made takes on existing pop culture like the aforementioned Avengers fanfic—will join the past and current honorees.

(6) HUGO HIGHLIGHTS. Rocket Stack Rank has put online their annual “Annotated 2019 Hugo Award Finalists” for short fiction that highlights the 18 finalists among the top 280+ stories of 2018 in their Best SF/F list. Eric Wong explains –

Sorted by score, the red highlights make it easy to see there were no surprises among the finalists for novellas and novelettes (other than one outlier being outside the top 10 for each), whereas there was less broad agreement among awards, year’s best anthologies, and prolific reviewers for the short story finalists (especially compared to 2017 and 2016). Go to the article to see the results, with links that also show yellow highlights for stories that are also Nebula or Sturgeon finalists.

(7) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Dale Bailey and Arkady Martine on April 17.

Dale Bailey is the author of eight books, including In the Night Wood, The End of the End of Everything, and The Subterranean Season. His story “Death and  Suffrage” was adapted for Showtime’s Masters of Horror television series. His short fiction has won the Shirley Jackson Award and the International Horror Guild Award and has been nominated for the Nebula and Bram Stoker awards.

and

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Arkady grew up in New York City and, after some time in Turkey, Canada, and Sweden, lives in Baltimore with her wife, the author Vivian Shaw. Her debut novel, A Memory Called Empire, has received starred reviews from KirkusPublishers Weekly, and Library Journal, was named a Library Journal Debut of the Month, listed on Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Spring Debuts, and has been featured on NPR’s On the Record and AM 860 Philadelphia’s Fictional Frontiers. Find her at www.arkadymartine.net or on Twitter as @ArkadyMartine.

Begins April 17 at 7 p.m., KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY. Readings are free

(8) DON’T SNIFF. I’m not going to suddenly start covering candidates here, but I was hooked by the first paragraph of Joel Stein’s opinion piece and the search for advice about the boundaries of touch (or avoiding it): “Joe Biden wants to be mindful about personal space? Get him a hula hoop”.

Our nation is dangerously divided. A house cannot stand when some people are totally into being hugged by strangers and others, who are normal, hate it.

Long ago — before the Age of Hugging — I lived in New York City, a place known for its firm handshakes and disdain for all human emotion other than anger. When I came to L.A. for vacation, my high school friend Ross greeted me at LAX with a hug. I did not know why Ross did this. Was Ross telling me he was gay? Had I disrespected Ross’ gang and he’d put a hit on me? Was there some giant insect on my back?

Joe Biden is like Ross, not me….

(9) ONE MORE MINUTE OF ENDGAME. Marvel shares another peek with the theme “It’s not about how much we lost, it’s about how much we have left.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best known for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter, in particular, has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction. (Died 1859.)
  • Born April 3, 1924 Marlon Brando. It looks like his role as Jor-El on Superman was his first venture into anything of a genre nature although his turn as Peter Quint in The Nightcomers might be considered as such. Certainly his work in The Island of Dr. Moreau as Dr. Moreau is scene-chewing at its very, very best.  His appearance in Superman Returns is CGI combined with a not terribly clever re-adaptation of footage from the previous film. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re ok. Nothing spectacular, characters flat and writing style pedestrian.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the regreening of Yosemite Valley, it is a much interesting read. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery tucking in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. (Died 2012)
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 61. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve see him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland as it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr with him. 
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 57. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m sure not anyone actually watched it on UPN that might stretching reality a bit. If you like great SF, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs of Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond and in his first genre role was Doctor Death in Zombie Cop.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

Sheldon applies the lessons of Dune at home.

(12) SUPPORT AMAZING. An Indiegogo appeal has launched for Amazing Stories – Special All-Color Issue!”. In the opening hours the Amazing team has raised $1,561 of their $35,000 goal.  The issue will include fiction by Shirley Meier, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Paul Levinson, Jack McDevitt, R.S. Belcher, Dave Creek, Adam, Troy-Castro, Sally McBride, Paul Di Filippo , Sean Chappell, and Allen Steele, and art by Melissa Des Rosiers, Ron Miller, Amanda Makepeace, Jon Eno, Tom Miller, Matt Taggart, M.D. Jackson, Chukwudi Nwaefulu, Oliva Beelby, and Vincent Di Fate.

Amazing Stories – the Special Edition

We’re Amazing Stories and we’ve been bringing you new science fiction, digitally since 2012 and also print and audio since 2018. We’re here to raise some money to go to the next level – a special all-color issue for the first issue of our second year with greatly improved print quality!

What Do You Get?

If you support our special edition campaign you will get discounts on subscriptions, but you can also get collectible cards, our famous comicbook, and lapel pins as well as the best in science fiction today. Science fiction that’s fun and entertaining!

(13) OLD NEWS MADE NEW. WED’s sexism in respect to animators’ salaries was notorious, but now “Disney accused of valuing ‘male workers more'”.

Walt Disney Co. is being sued over claims it underpays female employees.

Andrus Anderson LLP claims corporate policies, such as basing new employees’ wages on previous salaries, have a discriminatory effect on women.

The legal action, brought on behalf of two women, claims the company does not have an internal mechanism to ensure women are not paid less than male counterparts for the same work.

Disney denies the allegations calling them “without merit”.

According to the complaint, reported in Variety, financial analyst LaRonda Rasmussen raised a concern regarding her pay with Disney’s human resources after discovering six men who shared the same job title were being paid more than her.

(14) CO2 CAPTURED. “Climate change: ‘Magic bullet’ carbon solution takes big step”. The residue looks like what Thanos did to superheroes:

A technology that removes carbon dioxide from the air has received significant backing from major fossil fuel companies.

British Columbia-based Carbon Engineering has shown that it can extract CO2 in a cost-effective way.

It has now been boosted by $68m in new investment from Chevron, Occidental and coal giant BHP.

But climate campaigners are worried that the technology will be used to extract even more oil.

The quest for technology for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the air received significant scientific endorsement last year with the publication of the IPCC report on keeping the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C this century.

In their “summary for policymakers”, the scientists stated that: “All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5C with limited or no overshoot project the use of CDR …over the 21st century.”

… Carbon Engineering’s process is all about sucking in air and exposing it to a chemical solution that concentrates the CO2. Further refinements mean the gas can be purified into a form that can be stored or utilised as a liquid fuel.

(15) PARDON ME. “Mars methane surge spotted from space” reports BBC.

A European spacecraft has confirmed a report of methane being released from the surface of Mars.

The methane spike was first measured by Nasa’s Curiosity rover on the surface; now it has been confirmed by the Mars Express orbiter.

The nature and extent of methane in the Martian atmosphere is intensely debated.

The gas is of interest because terrestrial methane can be made by life forms, as well as geological processes.

Methane is only supposed to have a very short lifetime in the Martian atmosphere, so detecting it there means it must have been released very recently.

A strong signal of methane was measured by the Curiosity rover on 15 June 2013.

The measurement was confirmed in data collected the next day by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) on board Mars Express.

(16) WHAT ‘US’ MEANS. Behind a paywall in the March 28 Financial Times, Precious Adesina discusses African-Americans in horror films in a piece tied in to the release of Us.

In the 1940s, black people rarely featured in horror films, and when they did it was totally as comic relief.  ‘The depiction of black (people) as helpless creatures was undoubtedly appealing to many white Americans,’ says the social and cultural historian Ann Kordas.  Take King of the Zombies (1941), a film about an aeroplane that crash-lands on a Caribbean island, leaving the pilot, the passenger, and his black servant stranded at a mansion where the employee repeatedly encounters zombies in the kitchen.  Despite his many attempts to warn the white protagonists about the danger, he is dismissed as foolish.  This kind of simple-minded, cowardly black man was a regular trope of horror at the time…

…But of all these (horror) films, it is Us that makes perhaps the boldest statement–by making no explicit argument about race at all.  Here blackness is not integral to the plot.  By placing a black family in a story that could just as easily have featured a white one, Peele seems to suggest that people of colour no longer have to justify their existence as ordinary middle-class Americans.  They can just be.

(17) SPIDER FAN. Cat Eldridge praises “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” at The Green Man Review.

There are also a black and white noir version of the hero from a thirties Universe, a pig version and a far future Japanese tech version — just a few of an infinite possibilities. All of these heroes, which are animated in a style true to the their trope. Somehow the producers will manage to use what seems like dozens of animation styles without them clashing. They even do this while making it sometimes look like you’ve dropped into a comic book itself, or that that a few pages of a given comic are being referred to. Neat!

(18) THE WHY BEHIND THE JOKER. The Hollywood Reporter has the story:

The first trailer for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker dropped Wednesday and fans got a better look at how the Oscar-nominated actor will portray one of cinema’s most iconic villains. 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The WInd in the Willows” on Vimeo starts off as appearing to be a trailer for an animated version of the children’s classic by Andy Biddle but turns into an advertisement for the Wildlife Trusts narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Gordon Van Gelder, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy A. Collins, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #37

Bill Higgins (left) and Steven H Silver (right), photo by Chris M. Barkley at Capricon 39, 16 February 2019

Capricon 39: Information PLEASE!

By Chris M. Barkley: When I was attending Worldcon 76 at San Jose, Chicago area fan writer and editor Steven H Silver approached me with an unusual proposition: would I be interested in participating in a fantasy and sf version of an old radio show Information Please.

I had been a radio talk show host myself, which was called Bad Moon Rising and was broadcast on a public access radio station from the summer of 1976 through the spring of 1983. As an aficionado of old-time radio shows, I knew about Information Please but I had never heard an episode. But I knew about the basic premise and format and was sufficiently intrigued to agree.

According to its Wikipedia entry:

Information Please was an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938 to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called “information” but is now called “directory assistance”.

The series was moderated by Clifton Fadiman. A panel of experts would attempt to answer questions submitted by listeners. For the first few shows, a listener was paid $2 for a question that was used, and $5 more if the experts could not answer it correctly. When the show got its first sponsor (Canada Dry), the total amounts were increased to $5 and $10 respectively. A complete Encyclopædia Britannica was later added to the prize for questions that stumped the panel. The amounts went up to $10 and $25 when Lucky Strike took over sponsorship of the program.”

Mr. Silver’s idea was to present this show in a panel format at sf conventions on a regular basis. Steve Davidson, the current publisher of Amazing Stories, agreed to be the sponsor these contests and eventually offer prizes of subscriptions to winners who submitted questions that stumped the panel.

Since it was not widely publicized, there was a lack of audience material to work with and as a result, Mr. Silver wrote all of the questions himself.

Besides myself, Steven also invited Rich Horton and Bill Higgins of General Technics to participate as future hosts or participants.

There was no room on the 2018 Windycon programming schedule so it was mutually agreed that the pilot episode of “F&SF Information Please” would be held this weekend at Capricon 39.

Mr. Silver was our host and seated to his right were myself, Mr. Higgins, Chicago fan David Hirsch and Capricon 39 Author Guest of Honor Seanan MCGuire.

Unlike Jeopardy! or other quiz shows, you can’t really study for it; the questions are so arcanely phrased that you have to rely on all of the inherent knowledge you possess plus and improvisational comedy skills you can muster. And believe me, had there been an audio recording of the panel, you would have gotten an earful of both.

Mr. Silver began with a series of common knowledge questions regarding Hugo Award winners, Harry Potter characters and fan related items of interest. (I am being deliberately vague here because the questions that were used may turn up at future conventions.)

The questions became harder and more perplexing as the panel progressed, much to the delight of the 40 plus members of the audience attending. In fact, several members of the audience knew some of the tougher entries involving Disney movies, fantasy characters from novels, spaceship names and sf convention history.

At one remarkable point in the proceedings, we were all treated to the splendid singing voices of Ms. McGuire and Mr. Higgins, who both sang filk songs from memory.

I must say that I modestly held my own during the proceedings with a few swift answers and some snappy repartee. And I also also admit I laughed so hard that afterwards I thought that I had stressed my vocal chords.

Alas, all of this has been mostly lost to history because I did not think of setting up my smartphone to record the panel.

I think that this particular game show would be a welcome addition to local and regional conventions and I am urging everyone reading this to participate if and when this may show up on a programming schedule.

I can say with some certainty that Information Please will be performed at Windycon 47 this coming November (where, coincidentally, I am the Fan Guest of Honor.) I am hopeful that other venues around the country will be announced as well.

If you would like to participate and have a chance to win a subscription to Amazing Stories, please send your questions to Steven H. Silver at: infopleasesf@gmail.com 

Let the flow of knowledge, and hilarity, ensue!

Pixel Scroll 2/20/19 Ain’t No Sound But The Sound Of His Scroll, His Pixel Ready To Go

(1) STOLEN HEARTS. Another romance writer has been accused of plagiarism: the #CopyPasteCris row involves accusations that Cristiane Serruya lifted large sections of her romance novels from works by Courtney Milan and other writers, then blamed the mess on a ghostwriter she’d hired. One side-effect is that the Romance Writers of America is under pressure to either bar ghostwritten works from its awards or insist such works are identified as such when submitted. Will there be calls for sff and horror organizations to follow suit?

Milan said a reader alerted her to the wording issue in Serruya’s book, and tweeted, “I’m not exactly sure how to proceed from here, but I will be seeking legal counsel.”

Milan is a lawyer who used to teach intellectual property law at Seattle University.

Then the story became much larger. On Twitter, Milan and other authors and readers began posting passages from Serruya’s work that appeared to be lifted from other sources, sometimes using the hashtag #CopyPasteCris.

On Tuesday morning, Serruya initially seemed to deny the charges, tweeting at Milan, “Good morning, @courtneymilan I just woke up to this and I am astonished. I would have never, ever, done this. I am in this writing for a few years now and I am also a lawyer. Could we perhaps talk?”

Shortly after her first tweet, Serruya tweeted that her book did, indeed, contain plagiarism, which she blamed on a ghostwriter she had hired through Fiverr, a service that matches freelance creative professionals with those who want to hire them for gigs.

…Other authors and readers, per Milan’s advice, looked into the book to make sure Serruya had not stolen even more writers’ intellectual property. Boy howdy, the results…

…But wait, the plot thickens. Not only was this hodgepodge of a book submitted to the RITA contest, but Serruya was also judging some categories.

Let’s recap, shall we?

  1. “Author” Cristiane Serruya published a book, allegedly ghostwritten, full of stolen words and others’ intellectual property.
  2. She submitted this book for consideration to an award that Ms. Milan was previously not allowed to submit.
  3. She played a role in which books won in America’s most prestigious awards in the romance genre.
  4. When called out for it, she lied.
  5. When lies got her nowhere, she attempted to shift the blame.
  6. As of this writing, Serruya has taken down Royal Love. She has not, however, taken down Royal Affair, which apparently also contains stolen intellectual property from romance superstars.

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. SYFY Wire wishes they had the key — “Lord of the Rings writers locked in guarded room at Amazon Studios”.

The new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon is being kept more secret from fans than the One Ring was from the Elven-kings, Dwarf-lords, and Mortal Men. Apart from very vague and mysterious teases like a map laden with Easter eggs, Tolkien fans know next to nothing about the upcoming series that hopes to somehow co-exist with Peter Jackson’s fantasy films after the latter defined Middle-earth for a generation. And that’s partially because of how Amazon’s writer’s room is protected.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the team responsible for creating the first season of LotR TV has been even more isolated than Gollum in his cave….

(3) HOW AMAZING IS THAT? Steve Davidson is adding a convention to his brand: “Announcing Amazingcon® (Very Preliminary)” .

The micron itself? A one day affair, consisting of two panels, a catered lunch break, a mini-dealers room and art show, bringing in two regionally popular guests, open to attendance of between 100 and 250 (max), designed to appeal to two distinct but related audiences: local folks familiar with the GoHs who would like a more intimate experience with them and local fans who want to experience a traditional convention for the first time, without having to commit to a full weekend, the travel and lodging requirements and etc.

This is currently a test-case, is expected to take place in Manchester, NH (or relatively close by) and is expected to happen in a 2020 time frame.  (Very local helps keep associated expenses down.)

We expect to replicate nearly everything a traditional, weekend long convention does;  there’ll be membership badges and registration, panels with Q&A, an opening and closing ceremonies and even what we’re calling A “Dead Dog Dinner Party” for our GoHs, staff and selected members of the convention….

(4) HE GETS BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS. The Yorkshire Post talked to one of Interzone’s co-founders about what he overcame to write his new book: “Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis has not stopped Leeds sci-fi and fantasy writer Simon Ounsley”

…When Simon Ounsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease six years ago, he felt any chance to have a fiction book published had slipped from his grasp. But he has continued to write with the help of voice activation software and now has a children’s story on sale and another in the pipeline. “I have wanted to write fiction all my life,” he says. “But except for a few short stories, I was never able to secure the interest of an agent or publisher.

…“I had almost decided I should try to self-publish a children’s novel I had written, when an extraordinary stroke of luck led to me finding a publisher.”

That publishing firm is Journey Fiction, run by writer Jennifer Farey from Las Vegas, USA. Simon had been in touch with her husband Nic through science fiction fanzines and asked him to take a look at the book last September. He offered to show it to Jennifer and on December 1 The Shop on Peculiar Hill was released, available through Amazon and online bookstores.

It is in the sci-fi genre that Simon has done much of his writing, including for fanzines from 1978. He was one of eight people who launched fantasy and science fiction magazine Interzone in 1982. Still in existence today, it is the longest running British sci-fi magazine in history. Harrogate-born Simon was involved for six years.

(5) TROLLS HAMMER CAPTAIN MARVEL. Captain Marvel had a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% rating a few weeks ago, but the trolls went to work and pushed it down to 63%. Stylist phrased the news this way — “Sexist trolls are targeting Captain Marvel with fake bad reviews”:

Over here in the Stylist.co.uk offices we know that women are strong and smart and powerful and awe-inspiring. We celebrate this on a daily basis. But there are many out there who aren’t as comfortable watching a female superhero save the world in such spectacular fashion.

And they’re all trolls lurking in the swampy backwaters of the internet.

A campaign spearheaded by sexist social media users to target Captain Marvel with negative reviews has hit Rotten Tomatoes today. The idea, according to these users, is to ensure that the movie’s audience score is impacted and reduced.

Just to be clear, the film hasn’t even been released yet. But that hasn’t stopped people leaving negative comments on the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes’ page anyway. These reviews target the film’s female-led subject matter and star Larson’s commitment to utilise inclusion riders on the press tour for the movie to ensure that female, disabled and people of colour journalists are given preference for interview time. 

(6) HORROR’S HISTORIC SOURCES. Jess Nevins, author of the forthcoming book A Chilling Age of Horror: How 20th Century Horror Fiction Changed The Genre, illuminates “A short history of 20th century African-American horror literature”:

In a very real sense horror, in the form of slavery, was a part of the African-American experience from the beginning. Unsurprisingly, horror was a part of African-American narratives from the first as well. The folklore, legends, and myths brought over from Africa during the Middle Passage and turned into oral literature by the slaves was one significant element of pre-twentieth century African-American horror literature.1 A second, which long outlasted the African folklore and legends as a source of African-American horror, was the Gothic, which in its “Afro-Gothic” form was as popular by the end of the twentieth century as it was in its more primitive form centuries earlier.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 76. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily coloured with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1945 Brion James. Without doubt best known for his portrayal of Leon Kowalski in Bladerunner. He did have a number of genre roles including playing Stubbs in Enemy Mine, Tank in Steel Dawn, Stacy in Cherry 2000, Staten Jack Rose in Wishman, Maritz in Nemesis… Well you get the idea. He appeared in myriad low budget, not terribly good genre films after Bladerunner. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 65. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1972 Nick Mamatas, 47. Writer and editor. His fiction is of a decidedly Lovecraftian bent which can be seen in Move Under Ground which also has a strong Beat influence. It is worth noting that his genre fiction often strays beyond genre walls into other genres as he sees fit. He has also been recognised for his editorial work including translating Japanese manga with a Bram Stoker Award, as well as World Fantasy Award and Hugo Award nominations. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit scores with this Marie Kondo/Star Wars gag.
  • In Frazz, they discuss how SJW credentials view food.

(10) VERTLIEB ON TV. Film historian Steve Vertlieb appeared in an episode of Counter Culture, a local PBS talk show, that aired last night. You can watch the episode at the link.

I want to thank popular comedian and radio personality Grover Silcox for inviting me share a delightful segment of his new “Counter Culture” television interview series which aired last night on WLVT TV, Channel 39 Public Television in Allentown. We sat together at the famed Daddypops Diner in Hatboro, Pennsylvania where the wonderful series is filmed, and talked about the long history of Monster Movies. For anyone who didn’t catch it last night, the program is available on line by accessing the link below. You’ll find my segment in the middle of Episode No. 3.

 (11) SHOES FOR INDUSTRY! [Item by Andrew.] Robert Sheckley is now writing our reality. Cnet reports: “Nike’s Android app doesn’t run well with its Adapt BB self-tying shoes”.

A faulty app has tripped up Nike’s $350 self-tying shoes.

Nike released the Adapt BB, its tech-infused sneaker, on Sunday during the NBA’s All-Star game, along with an app that can control the shoe’s fit and light-up colors.

You’re able to loosen and tighten the sneakers through two buttons on the sneaker’s side, but Nike executives talked up the app experience, saying that it would also help you with your fitness activities in the future.

The Adapt BB needed a firmware update in its first week, which could only be installed via an iOS or Android app, Nike executives said in January.

But for people using Android, the app for the self-tying sneakers hasn’t been a perfect fit. Multiple reviews for the Nike Adapt app on Google’s Play Store said that it hasn’t connected to the left shoe, and an update rendered the sneaker’s main feature useless.

Usually bricking tend to render devices completely useless, at least the Adapt BB just turns into a regular pair of sneakers. You’re also still able to control the fit through the buttons on the side.

(12) THE CASTLE WILL CLOSE. The Verge: “The Man in the High Castle will end with season 4, trailer reveals”. Sean Hollister writes:

I think I’ve come to a realization — most of my current favorite TV shows are only still favorites because I’m waiting for them to come to what seems like an inevitably gruesome end. I’m a deer in the headlights, hoping that in a world where death and dismay is around every corner, the Game of Thrones cast might actually find their final rest; the handmaids in The Handmaid’s Tale might permanently escape their torture and mutilation the only way that seems plausible; Westworld will see the robots triumph over humanity (yes I’m in that camp); and that Killing Eve might, well, it’s right there in the title. 

That’s why I’m delighted to say that The Man in the High Castle will end after its fourth season, as you can see by watching this new trailer. 

(13) PAYING IT FORWARD. Award-winning and best-selling paranormal romance writer Nalini Singh wants to send a New Zealand first-timer to the Romance Writers of NZ con.

(14) CROSS-GENRE ROMANCE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast interviews Jeffe Kennedy: “SFFMP 221: Whether Awards Are Worth Trying for, Marketing Fantasy Romance, and Being Active in SFWA and RWA”. Among the many questions covered: “How much ‘romance’ has to be in a story for it to be considered sci-fi or fantasy romance?”

This week, we chatted with RITA award-winning fantasy romance author Jeffe Kennedy. She started her career writing non-fiction, shifted to romance and fantasy romance with traditional publishing, and now does some self-publishing as well. We asked her about whether awards are worth trying for, her thoughts on the professional organizations SFWA and RWA, and what she’s tried and liked for marketing over the years.

(15) SKYLARK THANKS. The full text of Melinda Snodgrass’ 2019 Skylark Memorial Award acceptance speech has been posted to her blog – click the link.

(16) SWEET SCREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS: Over at Featured Futures, Jason has incorporated Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Eleven into the “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)”.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(17) SHED A TEAR. At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur rolls out his next award: “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”.

…I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

(18) BUZZ. “Scientists Release Controversial Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In High-Security Lab”NPR has the story, a look at the pros and cons.

Scientists have launched a major new phase in the testing of a controversial genetically modified organism: a mosquito designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation lethal to its own species, NPR has learned.

For the first time, researchers have begun large-scale releases of the engineered insects, into a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy.

“This will really be a breakthrough experiment,” says Ruth Mueller, an entomologist who runs the lab. “It’s a historic moment.”

The goal is to see if the mosquitoes could eventually provide a powerful new weapon to help eradicate malaria in Africa, where most cases occur.

(19) SFF AND THE ACADEMY. BBC’s “Oscars 2019: 17 quirky facts about this year’s Academy Awards” includes some genre-relevant items:

10. In 2008, The Dark Knight helped prompt an Oscars rule change, which expanded the best picture category from five nominees to as many as 10.

It was hoped this would allow for more blockbuster superhero films (i.e. movies the public actually go to see) to be acknowledged.

However, it’s taken a decade for a superhero film to actually benefit from this rule change – in the shape of this year’s nomination for Black Panther.

12. Incredibles 2 is nominated for best animated feature this year.

But sequels have rarely won in this category since the Oscars introduced it in 2001.

The last one that did was 2010’s Toy Story 3. (Despite its misleading title, 2014’s Big Hero 6 wasn’t a sequel.)

(20) BACK TO THE HANGAR. The Hollywood Reporter has more on the cancellation of Nightflyers.

Nightflyers will not fly again for Syfy. The NBCUniversal-owned cable network has opted to cancel the expensive space drama based on the George R.R. Martin novella after one season. The cancellation arrives as one of its leads just booked a series regular role in a broadcast pilot.

Nightflyers was, without question, a big swing for Syfy….

In a bid to eventize Nightflyers, Syfy set a binge model and released the entire series on Dec. 2 on its digital platforms and aired the series over 10 straight nights on its linear network. The series hit Netflix on Feb. 1 and, unlike the breakout success that became LIfetime’s You, did not break out. The Dec. 13 season finale — which now doubles as a series finale — drew just 420,000 live viewers (down from 623,000 for the premiere).

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Smash and Grab on Youtube is a Pixar film by Brian Larsen about two robots who would rather play than perform their menial jobs.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/19/19 Pixelation, Mr. AllScroll, Is What We Are Put In This File To Rise Above

(1) ARISIA. As of Friday at 11 p.m. Boston sff convention Arisia reported 2,873 members.

The Arisia 2019 Souvenir Book is available online, and includes Jenn Jumper’s heartwarming writeup about Fan GoH’s Bjo and John Trimble.

(2) DRESSING UP THE LOCATIONS IN GEORGIA. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has been scanning the media for news of Spielberg’s namesake TV show which is now in production.  He found this report in a in the Morgan County (GA) Citizen: “Hollywood sets eyes on Bostwick”

A new filming project is sweeping through Morgan County this week for a reboot television series of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi/horror “Amazing Stories,” with shooting locations in Rutledge, Bostwick and right outside of Madison. 

Filming begin on Monday, Jan 14 off Highway 83 outside of Madison and then moved to Bostwick, behind the Cotton Jin on Mayor John Bostwick’s farm. Downtown Rutledge is getting a full makeover this week for the filming project, which will shoot on Friday, Jan 18 and run into the wee hours of Saturday, Jan 19. Rutledge’s iconic gazebo underwent a paint job for the filming, and on Wednesday, Jan. 16, crews began covering the intersection of Fairplay Road and Main Street with dirt. 

(3) GETTING BETTER. The second story in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project has been posted — “Online Reunion” by Leigh Alexander.

As an alternative to the text, you can listen to the audio adaptation of “Online Reunion” at Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

The Verge also has “A Q&A with the author” where “Leigh Alexander discusses the world of ‘Online Reunion’ and the ‘compelling, fascinating, beautiful, terrifying car crash of humanity and technology.’”

In “Online Reunion,” author Leigh Alexander imagines a world in which a young journalist is struggling with a compulsive “time sickness,” so she sets out to write a tearjerker about a widow reconnecting with her dead husband’s e-pet — but she finds something very different waiting for her in the internet ether. A self-described “recovering journalist” with a decade of experience writing about video games and technology, Alexander has since branched out into fiction, including an official Netrunner book, Monitor, and narrative design work for games like Reigns: Her Majesty and Reigns: Game of Thrones.

The Verge spoke with Alexander about finding joy and connection online, preserving digital history, and seeing the mystical in the technological.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the series’ January 16 event.

Victor LaValle and Julie C. Day entertained a huge audience with their readings. Victor read from a new novella and Julie read two of her short stories.

(5) THE FIRST DOESN’T LAST. Critics say they made Mars boring: “‘The First’ Canceled at Hulu After One Season”.

In his review for Variety, Daniel D’Addario wrote:

“After the initial statement of purpose, though, the show falls victim to both pacing problems and a certain lopsidedness. A show like this, with title and premise centered around what it would mean to be a pioneer on a new planet, encourages an excited sort of stargazing; that quite so much of it is spent exploring Hagerty’s family crisis saps the energy and spirit from a show that should have both in spades.”

(6) BRADBURY OBIT. Bettina Bradbury, Ray Bradbury’s daughter, died January 13 at the age of 64 announced the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum on Facebook.

Her son, Danny Karapetian, wrote on Facebook 1/13/19, “It is my very sad duty to report that my Mom Bettina passed away this morning. “She was an indefatigable force of nature, a talented and decorated writer, and a loving mother, sister, and friend to everyone she knew. I know how much she cared about all of you, and how much you all loved her.”

Quoting Jonathan Eller, Ph.D., Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, “Bettina was herself a successful writer, achieving great success on daytime TV dramas Santa Barbara (1987-1993), All My Children (1995-2003), Days of Our Lives (2007), and others. She won several Emmy Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards, and earned yet more nominations.”

SoapHub paid tribute: “Longtime Soap Opera Scribe Dies At 64”.

…Daughter of famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, known mostly for his stunning novel Fahrenheit 451, and Marguerite McClure, Bradbury proved that the writing gene can be passed down. She studied Film/History at USC School of Cinematic Arts

NBC’s Santa Barbara was her first soap writing team in the early 1990s. She also wrote for both All My Children (and won three Daytime Emmys) and One Life to Live on ABC and later worked on Days of Our Lives, also for NBC.

(7) DAVIES OBIT. [By Steve Green.] Windsor Davies (1930-2019): British actor, died January 17, aged 88. Genre appearances include The Corridor People (one episode, 1966), Adam Adamant Lives! (one episode, 1967), Doctor Who (three episodes, 1967),  Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), UFO (one episode, 1970), The Guardians (one episode, 1971), The Donation Conspiracy (two episodes, 1973), Alice in Wonderland (one episode, 1985), Terrahawks (voice role, 39 episodes, 1983-86), Rupert and the Frog Song (1985), Gormenghast (two episodes, 2000).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1809Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve got several several sources that cite him as a early root of SF. Anyone care to figure that out? Be that as it may, he certainly wrote some damn scary horror — ones that I still remember are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” (Died 1849.)
  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 89. Melanie Daniels In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s HarvestTales from the DarksideThe Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 87. Director best known for his 1980s Superman films. He’s got a number of other genre films including the exceedingly silly The Mouse on the MoonRobin and Marian which may be my favorite Robin Hood film ever, and an entire excellent series of Musketeers films. He also directed Royal Flash based on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel of that name. 
  • Born January 19, 1981Bitsie Tulloch, 38. Her main role of interest to us was as Juliette Silverton/Eve in Grimm. She also has played Lois Lane in the recent Elseworlds episodes of this Arrowverse season. However I also found her in R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, a fan made film that use fake interviews, fake archive photos, film clips, and behind-the-scenes footage to tell early life of that droid. You can see it and her in it here.

(9) DRAWN TO POE. Crimereads celebrates the author’s birthday with “The 25 Most Terrifyingly Beautiful Edgar Allan Poe Illustrations”. Harry Clarke and Gustav Doré are heavily represented.

Since it’s the season for basking in all things dreadful, we decided to round up twenty-five of the greatest illustrations ever made for Poe’s work. Some are more terrifying, others more beautiful, but all fall somewhere on the spectrum of terrifyingly beautiful, and we can’t stop looking at them, just as we can’t stop reading the works of the great Edgar Allan Poe.

(10) FAUX POES. Emily Temple undertakes “A Brief and Incomplete Survey of Edgar Allan Poes in Pop Culture” for LitHub readers.

What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think of Edgar Allan Poe? Is it this ubiquitous one? Maybe it’s that snapshot of your old roommate from Halloween 2011, when she tied a fake bird to her arm and knocked everyone’s champagne glasses over with it. (Just me?) Or is it an image of Poe in one of his many pop culture incarnations? You wouldn’t be alone.

After all, Poe pops up frequently in contemporary culture—somewhat more frequently than you might expect for someone who, during his lifetime, was mostly known as a caustic literary critic, even if he did turn out to be massively influential. I mean, it’s not like you see a ton of Miltons or Eliots running around. So today, on the 210th anniversary of Poe’s birth, I have compiled a brief and wildly incomplete selection of these appearances. Note that I’ve eliminated adaptations of Poe’s works, and focused on cameos and what we’ll call “faux Poes.” Turns out it isn’t just my old roommate—lots of people really love to dress up as Edgar Allan Poe.

First on the list:

1949: Ray Bradbury, “The Exiles,” published in The Illustrated Man

As you probably know, Poe’s work has been massively influential on American literature. In a 1909 speech at the Author’s Club in London, Arthur Conan Doyle observed that “his tales were one of the great landmarks and starting points in the literature of the last century . . . each is a root from which a whole literature has developed. . . Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” But it’s not just his work—Poe as a figure has infiltrated a number of literary works, including this early Bradbury story, in which Poe (along with Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare) is living on Mars, and slowly withering away as humans on Earth burn his books. The symbolism isn’t exactly subtle, but hey.

(11) SHUFFLING OFF THIS MORTAL COIL. Here’s something to play on a cold winter’s night — Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

The boundaries between worlds have drawn perilously thin…

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game® set amid a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. As the Ancient Ones seek entry to our world, one to two investigators (or up to four with two Core Sets) work to unravel arcane mysteries and conspiracies.

Their efforts determine not only the course of your game, but carry forward throughout whole campaigns, challenging them to overcome their personal demons even as Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the distinction between the card game and roleplaying experiences.

(12) NO APRIL FOOLIN’. There’s a trailer out for Paramount’s Pet Sematary remake —

Sometimes dead is better…. In theatres April 5, 2019. Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.

(13) 1943 RETRO HUGO ADVICE. DB has written a post on works by Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis, and Charles WIlliams eligible for the Retros this year. It begins with an illustration —

This is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, as drawn by Mervyn Peake. Vivid, isn’t it? Peake’s illustrated edition of the Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was published by Chatto and Windus in 1943, and is the first reason you should consider nominating Peake for Best Professional Artist of 1943,1 for the Retro-Hugos 1944 (works of 1943) are being presented by this year’s World SF Convention in Dublin. (The book might also be eligible for the special category of Best Art Book, for while it’s not completely a collection of visual art, the illustrations were the point of this new edition of the classic poem.)

Though remembered now mostly for his Gormenghast novels, Peake was primarily an artist. He had in fact 3 illustrated books published in 1943, and all three of them were arguably fantasy or sf.2

(14) F&SF FICTION TO LOVE. Standback took to Twitter to cheer on F&SF with a round-up of his favorite stories from the magazine in 2018. The thread starts here.

(15) RARE BOOKS LA. Collectors will swarm to Pasadena on February 1-2 for this event —

Rare Books LA is a book fair that features more than 100 leading specialists in rare books, fine prints, photography, ephemera, maps, and more from throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. This prestigious event takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Exhibitors

Rare Books LA will compromise of numerous exhibitors. There will be 60+ exhibitors that come from around the world to showcase their rare books. Expect to discover exhibitors who also showcase photography and fine prints. To view the list of exhibitors, click here.

(16) ORIGINAL SWINGERS. CNN reports “‘Missing link’ in human history confirmed after long debate”.

Early humans were still swinging from trees two million years ago, scientists have said, after confirming a set of contentious fossils represents a “missing link” in humanity’s family tree.

The fossils of Australopithecus sediba have fueled scientific debate since they were found at the Malapa Fossil Site in South Africa 10 years ago.

And now researchers have established that they are closely linked to the Homo genus, representing a bridging species between early humans and their predecessors, proving that early humans were still swinging from trees 2 million years ago.

(17) MOON PICTURES. The Farmer’s Almanac will show you “The Oldest Moon Photo”.

On the night of September 1, 1849, the nearly full Moon appeared over the town of Canandaigua, New York. At 10:30 P.M., Samuel D. Humphrey slid a highly polished, silver-plated copper sheet measuring 2–¾x1–¾ inches into his camera, which was pointed at the Moon.

Humphrey then exposed the light-sensitive plate to the shining Moon nine times, varying the length of exposure from 0.5 seconds to 2 minutes. After developing the plate with mercury vapor, he sent his daguerreotype to Harvard College.

Louis Daguerre, the Frenchman who explained the secret of the world’s first photographic technique in 1839, had daguerreotyped a faint image of the Moon, but the plate was soon lost in a fire. John W. Draper of New York City is credited with making the first clear daguerreotype of the Moon in March 1840, but this also was destroyed in a fire.

(18) THE LONG AND GRINDING ROAD. In “NASA eyes gaping holes in Mars Curiosity wheel” Cnet shares the images.

The rough and rocky landscape of Mars continues to take a toll on the wheels of NASA’s Curiosity rover. As part of a routine checkup, Curiosity snapped some new images of its wheels this week. 

Most of the photos don’t look too alarming, but one in particular shows some dramatic holes and cracks in the aluminum. 

(19) GLASS EXIT. If you left the theater in a haze, Looper wants to help you out:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/19/18 The Black Hole Singularity’s A Feinman Private Place, But None, I fear, Do From There Escape

(1) DUBLIN 2019 ADDS FACILITIES. Next year’s Worldcon is branching out to accommodate a growing membership: “Dublin 2019 Expands: Announcing Dublin 2019’s New Creative Hub”. Chair James Bacon told fandom:

It is with excitement that I write to share that Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon is expanding.

We have watched as membership increases beyond our expectations, and have been working for some time now on how to ensure we can welcome and accommodate everyone.

We also want to ensure that any expansion works to improve the experience for members who come along, while taking into account that there is not a building directly next to the Convention Centre Dublin that we can expand into.

Eight hundred and fifty meters from the CCD, or just over half a mile, are a number of facilities that we have decided to hire and use at a wonderful location called The Point. Conveniently, there is a Luas stop outside the CCD and one outside our new facilities, with direct tram travel between them. The facilities include hotel function rooms for over 300 people, auditorium space in the Odeon Cinema for 1,000 people, 2,600 sq metres of extra exhibits space, and a number of bars, social spaces, and restaurants, all in one ‘Block’.

The additional space is not only desirable to accommodate our members, but also to accommodate everything we want to celebrate and bring to our members. It allows elements such as our art show to increase their footprint, it allows programme to programme more items for the 800 potential participants who have signed up already, it allows us to include an amazing installation from a featured artists, it will allow us to have more large displays, and it will allow us to increase dealers’ space and our ‘creative alley’.

The new spaces are the Odeon Cinema, The ‘Warehouse’, and the Gibson hotel.

More details at the link.

(2) MAPPING IRELAND’S MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Guardian’s Jack Fennell (@JFennellAuthor), who literally wrote the book on Irish science fiction, shared his list of the “Top 10 Irish science fiction authors”. If you’re looking for some reading to get you in the mood for Dublin 2019, this might be a good place to look. It is surprising to note that he omitted mention of James White’s media tie-in novel for the TV series Earth Final Conflict

9. Sarah Maria Griffin (1988-)

Spare and Found Parts is a homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a feminist dissection of creativity and interpersonal relationships, and a dystopian critique of Irish society. Set in a disease-ravaged future Dublin, the story follows Nell Crane, a talented roboticist who decides to construct a companion for herself out of items she salvages from a nearby beach. Griffin refers to herself as a “spec”(speculative) writer, rather than declaring allegiance to any one genre, but her appreciation for sci-fi, horror and fantasy bleeds through all her work.

(3) NO NINE WORLDS IN 2019? Former committee member Steve Lacey casts doubt on the chances of there being a Nine Worlds next year. Thread starts here. (The London convention Nine Worlds announced in August that they are “beginning a process of reconstitution”.)

(4) HELLBOY TRAILER. In theaters April 12, 2019.

(5) UNALLOYED PLEASURE. Steve Carper revisits a comic that fascinated me as a kid in “Elementary, My Dear Metal Men” at Black Gate.

It’s 1962. You are Irwin Donenfeld, executive vice president for DC Comics, the 800-pound gorilla of superhero comics. You are riding high on the Silver Age of comics, having revived superhero comics from their near-death experience at the hands of Fredric Wertham, the New York District Attorney, and Congress itself. A dozen new versions of 1940s legends have poured from your offices since 1956 along with brand-new successes. The secret? Showcase, a comic invented purely to give tryouts to comic concepts and get the fans, the readers, the buyers to write in insisting that one or another of them be given their own titles. The Barry Allen Flash emerged from Showcase #4, The Challengers of the Unknown in #6, Lois Lane in #8, Green Lantern in #22, Aquaman in #30, the Atom in #34.

(6) WHAT HORROR WRITERS EAT. The “Winners of the 2018 Cookbook Contest” have been announced by the Horror Writers Association. They’ll publish the winning recipes and photos in their January newsletter.

1st Place

  • Owl Goingback – Indian Pumpkin Fry Bread

2nd Place – Tie

  • Dan Rabarts – Slow-Cooked Minotaur Shanks
  • Kelly Robinson – Blue Hubbard Squash Tarts & Cemetery Quiche

3rd Place – Tie

  • Frank Coffman – Hungry for man Goulish
  • Bruce Boston – WASP Pizza (with story)

(7) IN TRANSLATION. At Speculative Fiction in Translation, Rachel S. Cordasco is assembling a list of sff in translation due out in 2019.  See the spreadsheet for complete information [Google Docs].

(8) IT CAN GET WORSE. That’s Phoebe Wagner’s takeaway: “Microreview [Book] Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias”at Nerds of a Feather.

…Ten years ago when Ink first hit shelves, it would have been a difficult read. Now, the images of tattoos, GPS trackers, internment camps, border dumps are all too mainstream. Just like Twitter in the novel, these stories fill my timeline. This past weekend, a brief discussion popped up on my timeline regarding good speculative fiction: it’s not meant to predict the future but warn against a type of future…

(9) WHERE DID UNIONS GO IN SFF? Olav Rokne begins a short series about “Imagining the future of organized labour (part one of two)” at the Hugo Award Book Club.

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

(10) BOWDLERIZING HARLAN. Amazing Stories’ SF Trivia Context #3 poses this question:

True or False:

Harlan Ellison once stated that the “hideous neologism”…”SciFi”…“sounds like grasshoppers f***ing”.

I know the answer – though I’m curious about the attempt to clean up the quote.

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The late Penny Marshall was the first-ever guest star on The Simpsons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 19, 1918 — Marylou Tousignant in the Washington Post notes that Robert Ripley started the comic strip that, re-named, became “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” in December 1918.
  • December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke:The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball. And a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 58. Best known for his Fractured Europe series which consists of Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight, Europe in Winter and Europe at Dawn. Great reading! He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 49. Her first starring genre film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe PhantomNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 46. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre, an excellent animated short.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 43.Best known for the Mistborn series . He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time .OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of these series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979Robin Sloan, 39. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it  is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing,  Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 38. First genre role was the lead in Donnie Darko. Later roles have included The Day After TomorrowPrince of Persia: The Sands of TimeSource Code and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) THE SOUND OF M.R. JAMES. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie recommends these Christmas short audio ghost stories from the BBC and M.R. James (grandmaster of horror). “They are only 14 minutes long and perfect to bring a delightful shiver to the festive season.  Yesterday’s was this one –“

“Casting the Runes” by the master of the ghost story, M.R. James. The tale of a curse passed on by a curiously inscribed slip of paper.

This story inspired the film Night of the Demon (1957). You can hear it online for the next 28 days.

(15) READING BY GASLIGHT.Did somebody hack JDA’s blog? There’s a new post, “On Bullying And ComicsGate” [Internet Archive ink], which begins —

One of my main principles is I’m anti-bullying…. 

(16) SAD PUPPY DNA. Gizmodo says “Don’t Take the DNA Test You’ll Probably Get for Christmas”.

… there’s no guarantee that the results you get back from a DNA-testing company are particularly meaningful or even accurate. Earlier this year, a company called Orig3n, which claims to offer fitness and lifestyle advice based on your genes, failed to note that a sample of submitted DNA actually came from a Labrador retriever.

(17) EXPLAINING THAT FLOPPEROO. Looper would be delighted to have you watch their video explaining why Mortal Engines tanked, although by the time you’ve read the “hook” you may already know all they have to say:

Mortal Engines was a massive flop at the box office. What was the reason that this potential series builder bombed so hard at the box office, really? There’s a lot to unpack with this movie – which potentially just killed a franchise. Despite a $100 million budget, and a marketing budget of more than $120 million, Mortal Engines pulled in a measly $7.5 million domestic in its opening weekend – only good enough for fifth place. What went wrong exactly? Well, we can start by looking at the marketing. Despite a lot of cash and ads, unless you were familiar with the 2001 Philip Reeve book (and books after), the idea of cities on wheels that roll around and gobble up smaller cities sounds… well… silly. The ads didn’t do a very good job explaining what exactly was going on. Another issue was the presentation: Is this a drama? An action movie? Is it a teen drama? If you went with teen drama for Mortal Engines you’d be correct, and we are at a time when teen/young adult dramas are flopping left and right; the timing was rather poor. Then Mortal Engines had the misfortune of opening against Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and The Mule – which eliminated two major age groups from seeing it. Add in a surprise exclusive showing of Aquaman via Amazon Prime and holdovers like Ralph Breaks The Internet, it’s not a surprise at all that the city on wheels movie never got rolling.

(18) GENIE-US. ScienceFiction.com liberated Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery so that you can “Get Your First Look At Will Smith And The Cast Of ‘Aladdin’”.

In May of next year, Will Smith is hoping to enchant audiences with his depiction of the Genie in the latest live action remake of a classic Disney animated film, ‘Aladdin’.  This project is directed by Guy Ritchie (‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’) and also stars Mena Massoud (‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’) as Aladdin, Naomi Scott (‘Power Rangers’) as Princess Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari (‘Murder on the Orient Express’) as the villainous Jafar, as well as Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen, Navid Negahban, and Nasim Pedrad.

To prepare you for your trip to Agrabah, Disney has released a series of first-look photos from the film…

(19) CLEAR ETHER. BBC assures everyone “Nasa’s New Horizons probe on course for historic flyby”.

The American space agency’s New Horizons probe remains on course for its daring flyby of Ultima Thule…

When the mission sweeps past the 30km wide object on New Year’s Day, it will be making the most distant ever visit to a Solar System body – at some 6.5 billion km from Earth.

Mission planners decided at the weekend to forego a possible trajectory change.

It means the probe will get to fly 3,500km from icy Ultima’s surface to take aseries of photos and other data.

There had been some concern that the object might be surrounded by large debris particles which could destroy the probe if it were to run into them. But nothing of the sort has been detected and so a wider, safer pass will not be needed.

(20) WHICH CAME FIRST? Maybe neither the chicken nor the egg – it may have been the feathers: “Pterosaurs: Fur flies over feathery fossils”.

Two exceptionally well preserved fossils give a new picture of the pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs.

Scientists believe the creatures may have had feathers, and looked something like brown bats with fuzzy wings.

The surprise discovery suggests feathers evolved not in birds, nor dinosaurs, but in more distant times.

Pterosaurs were the closest relatives of dinosaurs, sharing a common ancestor about 250 million years ago.

“We would suggest – tentatively – that it would be worth considering that feathers originated much earlier than we thought,” Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, told BBC News.

(21) THE CONQUEROR BEFORE WILLIAM. “Hastings dinosaur footprints exposed by cliff erosion”. “Yes, technically the conqueror before William was Claudius,” admits Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, “but he didn’t land at Hastings.”

Dozens of well-preserved dinosaur footprints from at least 100 million years ago have been uncovered in East Sussex.

At least seven different species were identified by University of Cambridge researchers during the past four winters following coastal erosion along the cliffs near Hastings.

They range in size from less than 2cm to more than 60cm across, and are so well-preserved that even the skin, scales and claws are easily visible.

There are more than 85 markings, all of which date from the early Cretaceous period.

(22) WHAT’S UP, DOCS? The American Chemical Society sent out a story about how “Rabbit gene helps house plant detoxify indoor air.”

A genetically modified houseplant can efficiently remove toxins from the air.

Our homes are supposed to be safe havens from the outside world. However, studies have shown that household air is more polluted than either office or school air, exposing children and home workers to higher levels of carcinogens than the general population. Now, researchers have made a genetically modified houseplant that can efficiently remove at least two toxins from the air. They report their results in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Indoor air often contains volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform. These toxins come from many sources, including cooking, showering, furniture and smoking. House plants can remove some toxins from the air, but they aren’t very efficient: A homeowner would need more than 20 plants to remove formaldehyde from a typical room, researchers estimate. Stuart Strand and colleagues wondered if introducing a mammalian gene called CYP2E1 to a common houseplant, pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum), would boost the plant’s detoxifying potential. his gene encodes cytochrome P450 2E1, an enzyme that breaks down a wide range of volatile organic compounds found in the home.

The team introduced rabbit CYP2E1 to the ivy’s genome and injected benzene or chloroform gas into closed vials that contained growing plants. After 3 days, the concentrations of these compounds in the vials had dropped dramatically, and by 8 days, chloroform was barely detectable. In contrast, the compounds’ concentrations in vials containing unmodified ivy or no plants did not change. The researchers estimate that a hypothetical biofilter made of the genetically modified plants would deliver clean air at rates comparable to commercial home particulate filters.

(23) MORE SEASONAL VERSE. Submitted by Anna Nimmhaus, inspired by item 14 in the December 17 Pixel Scroll. (Apologies for the formatting — I have not yet conquered the WordPress 5.0 update of a week ago.)

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll,

Pixels all the way.

Oh, what fun it is to rhyme

With Camestros today.

Scrolling pixels through

With Camestros today,

Internets we view,

Laughing all the way.

Trolls will fail to sting,

Making spirits bright.

Camestros and we shall sing

A scrolling song tonight.

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