Pixel Scroll 5/23/20 Extraordinary Pixellated Derisions And The Madness Of Scrolls

(1) DOCTOR’S ORDERS. Mark Oshiro is winding down his Mark Reads videos for medical reasons: vocal cord damage. He’ll still be doing the reviews, just not the live readings. Oshiro is a two-time Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee (2013, 2014). “Announcing the next Mark Reads project and the future of videos”

First, the not-so-great news. I ask that you please respect my privacy in terms of like… not asking invasive questions about my medical stuff. Thank you in advance! The short of it is: I got sick in January 2019, did not go to the hospital (as I assumed it was a cold), and have been dealing with some ramifications of that since then. The main issue, though, is that over 2019, I sustained damage to my vocal chords. If we were not in a pandemic, I might have just taken a break from videos and then jumped back into things, but since this is not an emergency, most non-essential stuff is postponed here in NYC.

So, doctor’s orders: I need to stop doing Mark Reads videos. (Not Mark Watches, though, since it is not me continuously talking/yelling for 30-40 mins straight.)

… But also: I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE. Because it’s time to start a NEW SERIES here on Mark Reads and YES, SERIES.

…I will be reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy next!!!

There won’t be videos, but there will be REVIEWS! And it’s kinda exciting to get to go back to the old style of reviews, where I have to put my immediate reactions into the review instead of relying on videos for that part. 

(2) FREEDOM. Not a small press but a publishing cooperative – here’s how and why they did it: “Nerine Dorman on Making a Cooperative Initiative Work” a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

It all started innocently enough about five or so years ago. A fellow author sent me a link to an article about the Book View Café, and we figured: why don’t we do something like this? By this stage many of us in our small circle of writerly folks were already rather jaded about the opportunities available in the industry—especially for those of us who live in far-flung places like South Africa where there isn’t a big market for SFF fiction. Some of us had already been agented, had sold novels to big publishing houses. Some of us were not making it out of the slush pile yet… or were exhausted by all those full requests for submissions that simply vanished into a sticky silence. Added to that, some of us also had had unpleasant experiences with small presses going under, taking their back catalogue out of print. And a good handful were simply daunted by the war stories told by their author friends who’d already had a mad whirl on the merry-go-round of getting published and had their fingers burnt.

(3) SPFBO PROGRESS REPORT. Mark Lawrence says he has 192 of the 300 entries wanted to begin the sixth Self-Published Blog-Off. They are listed in the post.

(4) HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The last question of the New York Times‘s news quiz had enough information to be easy, but only 43% picked the correct answer.

The new book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” tells the story of a character named Coriolanus Snow and is a prequel to which best-selling series?

“Game of Thrones”

“Harry Potter”

“The Hunger Games”

“Twilight”

(5) HOW TO FILL UP THE VAST WASTELAND. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that it’s highly unlikely the major networks will have original dramas on this fall because no pilots were shot and Los Angeles and New York remain locked down. This could mean that the networks could broadcast more foreign or cable originals, leading to Star Trek: Picard being broadcast on CBS. “The fall broadcast season could look like nothing we’ve ever seen before”.

…Most of the roughly 50 pilots ordered this year were never shot. (Pilot-shooting usually takes place in the spring — right as lockdowns began.) That means network executives would have to order full series with nothing but a script on which to base their decision, a process they have historically resisted as too risky.

Not that they could shoot those programs — or any returning ones — if they wanted to. To make a September debut, series need to begin shooting by July or early August at the latest. Yet production is nowhere near restarting. Producers and the guilds that cover most Hollywood workers have all said they are not yet comfortable reopening sets, where hundreds of cast and crew work in close quarters for long hours.

(6) AMAZINGCON. Steve Davidson has updated the AmazingCon schedule of events. The virtual event runs June 12-14. Registration required. Donations requested, but not required.

Taking place on line (we’re calling it “AmazingCon – Virtually the First One!”) via Zoom and this website, AmazingCon will feature author readings (more than 40!), writing workshops, panel discussions, continuous musical performances, an online art show and more.

(7) TAPPING INTO THE HUGOS. Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron will begin a series of Hugo finalists live shows, over the next month hosting the finalists in various Hugo categories for panel discussions featuring their work and nominations. Registration required – no charge.

May 30David Brin and Best Professional Artist Hugo finalists

On Saturday the 30th of May we have the Best Professional Artist finalists on the show. We will further feature world-renowned author and public intellectual David Brin for a reading and an interview. This episode was created in collaboration with ASFA, and the finalists panel will be moderated by Sara Felix.

Participating in the panel: Tommy ArnoldGalen DaraJohn PicacioYuko Shimizu, and Alyssa Winans,

June 6 — Joe Haldeman and the 2020 Hugo finalists for Best Novel

On Saturday the 6th of June, we have the Best Novel finalists on the show. We will further feature genre-shaping Grand Master Joe Haldeman for a reading and an interview, along with a surprise guest.

Participating in the panel: Alix E. HarrowSeanan McGuireArkady Martine, and Kameron Hurley.

Other upcoming shows:

  • June 13: Best Novella and Best Novellette.
  • June 20: Best Short Story and Editors Short Form

(8) VETERANS. The immortal warriors of The Old Guard are coming to Netflix on July 10.

Forever is harder than it looks. Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights), The Old Guard is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 23, 1984 — George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a prequel to Raiders of The Los Ark, premiered. The second film in the now four film deep franchise, it starred Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri,  Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. It was primarily written by Lucas with assistance from  Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. It was scored by John Williams. It had decidedly mixed reviews early on but the  consensus now among critics is that it’s a very good film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes agree and give it an 85% rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1909 Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr. Son and a father and son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors.  Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  He’s on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 – James Blish.  Member of the Futurians, his fanzine The Planeteer.  Doctor Mirabilis about Roger Bacon.  In the Wonders of 1958 discussions at the 66th Worldcon we took up two of his books from that year and asked “How does Time compare to Conscience”?  Six dozen Star Trekadaptations, collected in a dozen books.  Ninety more short stories.  Twenty columns of book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  At the 38th Worldcon, I danced “Horatio’s Fancy” with his widow.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1933 Joan Collins, 87. Sister Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the sort-of Ellison-scripted Trek episode. She has an extensive number of other genre appearances including Land of the PharaohsMission: ImpossibleThe Man From U.N.C.L.E.Tales from the CryptSpace: 1999The Fantastic JourneyFuture CopFantasy Island and Faerie Tale Theatre. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat if you had one.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as our club Secretary.  Luckily Castora left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number; translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 85. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Do not go see the truly awful film. Her Scottish castle-set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and just plain fun. I’d also recommend Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1967 Sean Williams, 53. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst.  A score of fantasy books for kids, teens, adults.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea. Translated into Czech, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 41. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superb), co-authored with Bev Vincent and illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)

(11) INCOMING. The BBC asks “Could you – would you – eat in a mask like this?” “Remote controlled mask invented to allow eating” (video).

A face mask with a remote controlled mouth has been invented in Israel, allowing diners to eat food without taking it off.

The mask can be opened mechanically by a hand remote or automatically when the fork reaches the mask.

Reminds me of a way parents try to jolly a toddler into eating unwanted vegetables – “Here comes the plane in for a landing!”

(12) NOT READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Anthony Lane studies “Our Fever for Plague Movies” in an article for The New Yorker.

… Such terrors are not ours. But they are, so to speak, our regular dreads intensified—superheated, speeded up, and luridly lit. We worry about being stuck in bed with a rocketing temperature and drenched pajamas; we worry about our elders, who may be home alone and afraid to be visited, or wrestling for breath in the back of an ambulance. Such worries are only natural. Our imaginings, though, defy both nature and reason. They are as rabid as zombies, falling and crawling over themselves to fabricate what comes next. Dreams travel worstward, during a fever, and one job of the movies is to give our dreams, good or bad, a local habitation and a name.

(13) STARLORD PRAT. “Chris Pratt accidentally deleted 51,000 emails”.

Actor Chris Pratt has shared the moment he accidentally wiped clean his entire email inbox.

The Marvel star began sorting through his inbox after telling fans his son, Jack, had teased him for having 35,000 unread messages.

Unfortunately, Pratt pressed the wrong button and was forced to watch as 51,000 emails were erased.

Pratt shared the moment on Instagram, and fans rushed to poke fun at the incident.

“Yesterday my son was playing with my phone and he gasped in shock looking at the number of unread emails that I have. It’s a lot,” Pratt said.

“I’m one of those idiots who will do an IQ test and be like, ‘Wanna take an IQ test? Give me your email’. And then I do, which proves my IQ is about seven, I just get junk from everyone and I just don’t erase it.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy actor said his new goal while taking time off work due to Covid-19 would be to read through 1,000 emails a day.

He also made a promise to reply to them all.

However, his well-meaning plan fell through when he inexplicably deleted every single message he had ever received.

(14) MASKED AND CAPED CRUSADER. If you subscribe or haven’t run out of free articles (like I have) you may be able to read Kate Sidley’s  “Batman Works From Home”, one of The New Yorker’s “Daily Shouts.”

(15) TIME AFTER TIME. The Avocado has a wild story that, despite its title — “Groundhog Day Reclassified As Documentary” – feels more aligned with The Terminator.

… The panic that defined March and April had been replaced by a constant, ever-present anxiety that hadn’t spiked since he found out his job status was transitioning from furloughed to terminated. Since then the days have felt blended, broken up only by the occasional thrill of going to the grocery store for pasta or paper towels, although even those adventures have been less pleasant because his mask had really started to smell.

Jack couldn’t remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday when he woke up this morning and gave up on the analysis before deciding. …

(16) GOOD TO GO. “Nasa SpaceX crew mission cleared to launch”.

Key officials at the American space agency (Nasa) and private launch firm SpaceX have signed off next week’s historic mission to the space station.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will ride to orbit from Florida – the first time in nine years that humans have left Earth from US territory.

A review panel has found no technical reason to delay the mission.

SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket with its Dragon capsule is set to lift off at 16:33 EDT (21:33 BST) on Wednesday.

…Already, the Falcon has been rolled out to the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, and lifted into the vertical.

The transfer on Thursday allowed SpaceX engineers to conduct a static fire on Friday. This saw the vehicle ignite briefly all nine of its engines to confirm their operational status.

(17) LOOKING AHEAD AT AI. He would say we’ve been warned — “A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans” in the New York Times.

The Tesla chief Elon Musk and other big-name Silicon Valley executives have long promised a car that can do all the driving without human assistance.

But Ben Shneiderman, a University of Maryland computer scientist who has for decades warned against blindly automating tasks with computers, thinks fully automated cars and the tech industry’s vision for a robotic future is misguided. Even dangerous. Robots should collaborate with humans, he believes, rather than replace them.

Late last year, Dr. Shneiderman embarked on a crusade to convince the artificial intelligence world that it is heading in the wrong direction. In February, he confronted organizers of an industry conference on “Assured Autonomy” in Phoenix, telling them that even the title of their conference was wrong. Instead of trying to create autonomous robots, he said, designers should focus on a new mantra, designing computerized machines that are “reliable, safe and trustworthy.”

There should be the equivalent of a flight data recorder for every robot, Dr. Shneiderman argued.

It is a warning that’s likely to gain more urgency when the world’s economies eventually emerge from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and millions who have lost their jobs try to return to work. A growing number of them will find they are competing with or working side by side with machines….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mel Blanc:  Man of a Thousand Voices on YouTube is a 2007 documentary featuring interviews with directors Friz Freleng, Terry Gilliam, William Hanna, and Chuck Jones, voice actors Stan Freberg, June Foray, and Janet Waldo, long-time friend Kirk Douglas, and author Kim Newman.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/13/20 The Sun Comes Shining As I Was Scrolling, The Pixels Waving And The Dust Clouds Rolling

(1) BUTTIGIEG INTERVIEWS SIR PAT. “Recently unemployed” Mayor Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Due to public health concerns over the coronavirus, they cancelled their studio audience. Sir Patrick Stewart was a guest on the show.

Sir Patrick talks about Mayor Pete’s huge “Star Trek” fandom, civil disobedience, Sir Ian McKellen performing the multiple marriage ceremonies he had to his wife, and he surprises Mayor Pete with one of his original scripts from “Star Trek.”

They also did a sketch about “a Star Trek trivia game show for the ages called ‘Who’s the Captain Now?’” hosted by LeVar Burton.

(2) HELIOSPHERE CANCELLED. Heliosphere, which was to have been held April 3-5 in Tarrytown, NY has been called off. The committee has not yet decides whether to try and hold it later this year.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, HELIOsphere 2020 will not be running as scheduled for April 3-5. At this time, we don’t know whether we will be postponing or simply cancelling for this year. We will keep you posted as we work out the details with the hotel.

(3) STOKERCON STATUS. The Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon is scheduled to be held in the U.K. next month. HWA President John Palisano gave this update to Facebook readers today:

At this time, more than two-thirds of attendees are based in the U.K., you should all be aware that the political situation has been changing by the hour. Only in the last 24 hours has travel in Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) been generally banned. The U.K. may take a similar step, or the U.S. may prohibit travel to and from there. So it’s a very real possibility that in the next few days, the decision of whether to hold the Con may be taken out of our hands. We don’t want to cancel the event unnecessarily, because that could cause severe financial hardship to many of our attendees and volunteers. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of individual decisions about whether or not to travel. We ask for you to be patient for a few more days while we try to sort out various options, including streaming the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony.

Meanwhile, our Librarians Day event, scheduled for May 7th of this year in Chicago, is still a go at this point. The organizers are also carefully watching this pandemic and are working on contingencies should the issues stretch that far into the future. They will have an announcement tomorrow.

Know that heading my first StokerCon as President of the HWA carries no small weight, and that my main priority is and will remain our members’ safety and well-being as we navigate these treacherous and unmapped waters.

(4) UP IN THE AIR. Fans inquiring about the status of Minicon 55, planned for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, have been told there’s a committee meeting this weekend and an announcement one way or the other may follow.

(5) MORE COVERAGE. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak is also tracking the status of sff events. “Coronavirus: The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions Canceled So Far”.

Those events include major science fiction, fantasy, and gaming conventions, as well as adjacent events like conferences. We’ve compiled a list of major and regional events that have been postponed, canceled, or which are as of now still running.

(6) SMITHSONIAN’S OPEN ACCESS IMAGE COLLECTION. We ought to be able to do a lot with this: “Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain”.

Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before.

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

When I searched “science fiction” lots more photogenic things came up – from lunch boxes to C3PO – but I was intrigued by this 1951 Astounding advertising rate card:

(7) SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE. That’s candidate Brianna Wu’s latest appeal:

Media has focused on the dangers of Coronavirus. Brianna Wu speaks with Geneticist Frank Wu about the possible treatments and vaccines being developed by the biotech industry

(8) ANOTHER WORLD. Henry Lien posted this thought experiment on Facebook.

WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE YOU?
I used to play a game and ask people what the world would be like if everyone were like you. Here are some features of my world.
1. Restaurants would be filled with constant people traffic as everyone went to wash their hands after touching the menu and after touching cash.
2. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, hotel TV remotes, and ATM interfaces would all be redesigned for elbows.
3. There’d be no shoes in the house and people would bow instead of shaking hands.
4. Everyone would be at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights happily writing, making music, reading, or playing Nintendo.
5. No one would get a cold more than once every ten years.
6. Extroverts and free-spirited folks would be miserable.

(9) SPEAKER IN THE HOUSE. Cat Rambo shares her experience in “How to Stay Sane and Productive While Working at Home”. One of her eight main headings is —

Exercise is good. You may not be able to get to the gym — I’m currently avoiding it, myself — but you will be happier and healthier if you are doing something. For me, that’s walking, because I’m lucky enough to live in a great area for it. I also have a standing desk that I got from Ikea years back. Your mileage may (literally) vary, but at least stretch when you can and be mindful of your back.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 1927 Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1911 L. Ron Hubbard. Ok I’ll admit that I tried reading Battlefield Earth and really didn’t like it. Some of his early pulp fiction is actually quite good. So what do y’all think of him as a genre writer? (Died 1986.)
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here because EoSF list him as the author of  Murdercon, a1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 13, 1938 David McKail, 82. He was Sergeant Kyle in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He also was Sir Henry Roscoe in Beatrix: The Early Life of Beatrix Potter, and was in the adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road which I know is neither genre or genre adjacent but it had Peter Capaldi in it.  
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 70. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, The Night of the Headless Horseman, Jurassic Park III, Sahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 63. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. 
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 54. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City was fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to get any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series.
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 53. Hugo-winning Editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF  imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now.
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 52. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays

(12) KGB TO STREAM. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Daniel Braum and Robert Levy has been converted to a livestream. Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel invite everyone to see it here on YouTube on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We will, for the first time in our history, be live-streaming readings from both of our authors on YouTube. We hope you will join us for this historic event.

UPDATE March 13, 2020: For the safety and well-being of our readers and guests, we have decided to cancel this month’s in-person Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy.

Instead, we will be hosting a YouTube Live event with both authors, who will be reading their work. Anyone with YouTube access can watch.

(13) PIKE PEEK. We Got This Covered confirmed “Captain Pike Star Trek Spinoff Series Reportedly In Development”.

… Of course, there’ve been calls for CBS to move ahead with such a spinoff for the past couple of years. EP Alex Kurtzman has addressed the possibility in the past, refusing to rule it out and commenting that they’re trying to find ways to bring these characters back. True, they did all appear in a few episodes of the Short Treks anthology series, but this didn’t fully satiate our appetite to see more of Pike and his crew.

As Discovery itself addressed, Pike is fated to meet a tragic end. As detailed in an episode of TOS, he’s eventually left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after rescuing Starfleet cadets from a delta ray radiation leak. Our intel says that this spinoff show will build up to that fate, properly filling the gap between TOS‘ pilot, “The Cage,” and his return in “The Menagerie.”

(14) WEEKEND NEWS BACKDATE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston has a 1965 news flash: “[March 12, 1965] Sic Transit (April 1965 Amazing]”.

The big news, previously rumored, is that Amazing and its stablemate Fantastic are to change hands.  The April Science Fiction Times just arrived, with the big headline “ ‘AMAZING STORIES’ AND ‘FANTASTIC’ SOLD TO SOL COHEN.” Cohen is the publisher of Galaxy, If, and Worlds of Tomorrow, but will resign at the end of next month to take up his new occupation. 

Why is this happening?  Probably because circulation, which had been increasing, started to decline again in 1962 (when I started reviewing it!).  The SF Times article adds, tendentiously and questionably, that “the magazine showed what appeared to be a lack of interest by its editors.” Read their further comment and draw your own conclusions on that point.

(15) ACROSS THE DIVIDE. Law & Liberty’s Brian A. Smith, in “Ursula Le Guin and the Persistence of Tragedy”, looks at The Dispossessed from the right.

At least when their authors avoid offering a thesis, novels acquire peculiar value in deranged times. They allow us to see cracks in our political and social foundations from another perspective, and as a result, open paths to conversation and thought that might otherwise remain closed. Lots of genres can unsettle us, but one peculiarity of science fiction is that its authors have the freedom to create worlds.

At the genre’s most stereotypical, this license to invent lends itself to both ham-fisted allegories and didacticism. But if the author happens to be coming from the “right” direction, so to speak, and has some real talent, it’s relatively easy to take an imaginative leap into their world. Reaching beyond one’s own tribe may present a challenge, however. It is difficult to read David Drake, Iain Banks, China Miéville, Robert Heinlein, or John Varley without observing how they view human nature, what they think family means, or the political order they endorse—and a lot more besides.

Critics often complain that such novels fail precisely because they think the author is stacking the deck in favor of their pet ideas. It’s easy for partisans to forgive this because such novels entertain while also fortifying our opinions against a hostile world. And it’s not surprising that sci-fi readership so often divides along partisan lines.

The Work of Sympathy

It is harder to name many great works of science fiction that offer a definitive point of view, while also presenting us with unresolvable tensions and latent anxieties that no attentive reader can quite escape. Neal Stephenson’s best work probably qualifies. Arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune or Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos also do this. We need the sympathy and broadening of horizons that such novels can cultivate more than ever, and for the present moment, the most compelling book of this kind remains Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

(16) STANDING UP. “Disney promises LGBT ‘commitment’: ‘We want to represent our audience'”.

Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.

“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.

“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”

He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.

There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.

…At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.

As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”

She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”

(17) CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN – NOT. From the BBC — “Mount Everest: Nepal’s government shuts off mountain amid virus outbreak”.

Mount Everest has shut down for the rest of the expedition season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nepal’s government announced that it would cancel all climbing permits from 14 March until 30 April.

China had already cancelled expeditions from the northern, Chinese-controlled, side of the mountain.

According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepal earns $4m (£3.1m) by issuing Everest climbing permits every year, aside from wider tourism revenue.

(18) THAT IS NOT DEAD… “Marine pollution: Russian fly spray and 1800s shoes among beach litter”.

Russian fly spray, US prohibition-era rum, shoes from the 1800s and a council bin have been among the stranger items to have washed up on British shores.

To highlight pollution, the National Trust has revealed the oddest objects to wash up on beaches it manages.

The 19th Century shoes, Russian insect spray and an aerosol from Saudi Arabia were all found at Orford Ness, Suffolk.

The National Trust saidit illustrated the “deluge” of marine litter and how long items such as plastic could last.

(19) NO PICTURES! They tore it out by the roots: “Christmas Island: ‘A giant robber crab stole my camera'” — video, including some impressively mangled equipment and a crab walking off with a coconut.

Researcher Annabel Dorrestein set up a thermal imaging camera to study flying foxes, or bats, at night on Australia’s Christmas Island.

But when she returned one morning to collect the camera, she discovered it had been stolen – almost certainly by the island’s famous robber crabs.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/20 Heavy Water, Holy Water, And Flit

(1) AMAZING STORIES BUS STOP AD. Seen in New York City. Photo courtesy of von DImpleheimer.

(2) ON THE AIR. And the show is now with us. Steve Davidson’s post “Amazing Stories TV Show Debuts” (BEWARE SPOILERS) delivers this assessment:

…All in all – production values are what you would expect, the story is in line with the target the show has always sought (families watching and sharing together) and the theme is marginally SFnal, (though time travel afficianados will have plenty to talk about) and my overall conclusions are: time was not wasted watching this episode and we ought to stick with the show to see how it develops.

(3) IAFA SAYS IT MUST MEET TO SURVIVE. International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts 41 will be held March 18-21, however, the organizers are making some new options available: “ICFA 41: COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”.

As a result of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the news about COVID-19, the IAFA board would like to take this opportunity to issue an update on ICFA 41.

The conference will meet.

We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

The first concern of the board members is members’ safety and well-being. We urge IAFA members to proactively research COVID-19 and consult status reports through reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/), and the Florida department of health (http://www.floridahealth.gov/), whose websites are continually updated. We would also advise checking for updates with your travel provider and travel insurer.

…Because of the extraordinary circumstances, we are crediting registration for those who cancel as a result of the outbreak. This credit must be used within 2 years. We will provide refunds to people from countries under travel restrictions. Because we are required to have final numbers for rooms and meals to the hotel a week before the conference, we will provide credits or refunds only to people who cancel by 5p EST on March 9, 2020.

…The board is discussing a number of ways to make it possible for people not able to attend physically but who wish to have their work included in some way to do so. We will make an official announcement before the March 9 deadline.

More details at the link.

(4) FRANK HERBERT ON CORONAVIRUS. Or so the people tweeting it around have captioned this rewritten chart —

(5) PIXAR’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin applauds a new release: “Pixar Scores With Heartfelt ‘Onward’”.

Like the best Pixar and Disney animated films, this one supplies rooting interest in its heroes from the very start. We want them to succeed because we care about them and their quest. Who wouldn’t want to be reunited with a loved one, especially when his absence has left a void in their lives?

(6) SLOW START. NPR’s Glen Weldon reviews “‘Onward’: Timid Teen On A Mythic Quest For Elf-Assurance”.

In the opening minutes of Disney/Pixar’s Onward, we are met with various manifestations of loss.

There’s the film’s setting, a world where magic once flourished, and with it, pixies, unicorns, pegasi, elves, ogres, centaurs, mermaids — your standard-issue high-fantasy mythofaunic biome. But even here, in a gimmick the film leans into juuuuust enough, the Industrial Revolution arrived. As automation increased, magic faded. Elves still live in giant toadstools, but said toadstools are now rigidly apportioned into vast, Spielberg-suburban subdivisions and cul-de-sacs. Once-splendid unicorns have gone feral, raiding raid trash cans and hissing at passers-by like peculiarly horsey raccoons. If Middle-Earth had more strip-malls, it’d look something like this.

There’s also the loss experienced by the elf-family at the film’s center: mom Laurel (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her two sons — the younger, anxious Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older, buff, RPG-obsessed brother Barley (Chris Pratt, squarely back in Andy Dwyer mode). It’s Ian’s 16th birthday, and he’s given a gift left to him by his late father, who passed away when Ian was too young to remember him: A wizard’s staff.

Finally, in these opening minutes, there’s still another feeling of loss that manifests in the viewer — that of lost opportunity.

The jokes are glib and smarmy, the family dynamics achingly familiar, and as we follow Ian to high school, his every encounter and interaction feels less Disney/Pixar and more Disney Channel — which is to say, too sweet, too cornball, too affected, too faux-contemporary. The average very young child in the audience won’t notice; the average parent will start checking the theater’s exits.

But!

On or about the 20-minute mark — not coincidentally, upon the arrival of a manticore called Corey, voiced by Octavia Spencer — the film seems to discover what it is: A testament to the remarkable degree of emotional expressiveness that Pixar’s character-animators can imbue into a story….

NPR hosts a 4-way discussion (audio, no transcript yet) here.

(7) PERSEVERANCE PLANS. BBC reports “Nasa 2020 robot rover to target Jezero ‘lake’ crater”.

The American space agency (Nasa) says it will send its 2020 Mars rover to a location known as Jezero Crater.

Nasa believes the rocks in this nearly 50km-wide bowl could conceivably hold a record of ancient life on the planet.

Satellite images of Jezero point to river water having once cut through its rim and flowed via a delta system into a big lake.

It is the kind of environment that might just have supported microbes some 3.5-3.9 billion years ago.

This was a period when Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is today.

What is so special about Jezero?

Evidence for the past presence of a lake is obviously a draw, but Ken Farley, the Nasa project scientist on the mission, said the delta traces were also a major attraction.

“A delta is extremely good at preserving bio-signatures – any evidence of life that might have existed in the lake water, or at the interface of the sediment and the lake water, or possibly things that lived in the headwaters region that were swept in by the river and deposited in the delta,” he told reporters.

Jezero’s multiple rock types, including clays and carbonates, have high potential to preserve the organic molecules that would hint at life’s bygone existence.

Narrated flythrough of planned route here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 6, 1936 — The “Income from Immigrants” episode of the Green Hornet radio show originated from WXYZ in Detroit. (It is also called “Ligget’s Citizenship Racket”.) The show was created by Fran Striker & George W. Trendle, and starred Al Hodge as the Green Hornet at this point, and Tokutaro Hayashi who had renamed Raymond Toyo by initial series director James Jewell. You can download the episode here.
  • March 6, 1938 — RKO first aired “The Bride of Death” with Orson Welles as  The Shadow. Welles prior to his War of The Worlds broadcast would play the role for thirty three episodes in 1937 and 1938 with Blue Coal being the sponsor. You can download it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1918 Marjii Ellers. Longtime L.A. fan active in the LASFS. Her offices in the LASFS included Registrar and Scribe. She is known as well for her costumes at cons. Indeed, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the International Costumers Guild. An avid fanzine publisher and writer, some of the fanzines she edited were Masqueraders’ Guide, More Lives Than One, Nexterday, One Equal Temper, Thousands of Thursdays, and Judges’ Guide. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan, 92. Author of the long running Logan’s Run series (only the first was written with George Clayton Johnson). He started out in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including one dedicated to Bradbury. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. He’s done far too much writing-wise for me to sum it him up. 
  • Born March 6, 1930 Allison Hayes. She was Nancy Fowler Archer, the lead role, in The Attack of The 50 Foot Woman. Her first SF role was the year as Grace Thomas in The Unearthly. She’d be Donna in The Crawling Hand shortly thereafter. She died at age forty-seven from the result of injuries sustained from early on Foxfire, a mid Fifties Western that’s she’s actually in. That she made three SF films while in severe pain is amazing. (Died 1977.)
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 83. Editor and publisher who’s best known as the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1966 to 1991.  He also edited a zine I’ve not heard of, Venture Science Fiction Magazine, for two years 1969 – 1970). And, of course, he’s edited myriad anthologies that were assembled from F&SF
  • Born March 6, 1942 Dorothy Hoobler, 78. Author with her husband, Thomas Hoobler, of the Samurai Detective series which is at least genre adjacent. More interestingly, they wrote a biography of Mary Shelley and her family called The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein which sounds absolutely fascinating. Note to ISFDB: no, it’s not a novel. Kindle has everything by them, alas Apple Books has only the biography.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 63. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.
  • Born March 6, 1972 K. J. Bishop, 48. Her first book, The Etched City, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It won the Ditmar Award.  She is a recipient of the Aurealis Award for best collection, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote. Both works are available from the usual digital sources. 
  • Born March 6, 1979 Rufus Hound, 41, Ok, I’ll admit it was his name that got him here. He also on the good fortune to appear as Sam Swift in “The Woman Who Lived”, easily one of the best Twelfth Doctor stories. He’s also played Toad in the world premiere of the musical, The Wind In The Willows in Plymouth, Salford and Southampton, as written by Julian Fellowes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BIERYOGA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If Worldcon, SMOFcon, etc. are looking for a new way to encourage fans to exercise at the con… well, it seems like a good fit for much of fandom. That said, notice the source of the article. — Funny or Die claims “‘Beer Yoga’ Is A Real Thing That Exists, Namaste”.

Although it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds, there are a couple things that are pretty much guaranteed to happen with each new year. First, we’re all going to make resolutions. Second, we’re all going to abandon those resolutions.

One of the most common goals we make for ourselves when January rolls around is hitting the gym more often, and that’s also one of the toughest things to stick with for more than a few months. Life gets in the way, gyms are far or expensive, and let’s be honest — working out sucks. Yeah, yeah, you get a rush of endorphins and you feel good afterward, but actually dragging your butt there and the entire process of exercising leave much to be desired. However, this year might be the year things change.

If you’re like everyone else on earth and struggle to hold fast to your New-Year-New-Me resolutions, look no further than Bieryoga….

(12) THE BINDING THAT TIES. NPR praises a documentary: “‘The Booksellers’ Speaks Volumes About Old Books And Those Who Love Them”.

As we hurtle closer to a time when little kids will look up from their tablets to inquire, “What was a book, Mommy?” much as they now ask, “What’s a record player?,” it may cheer you to learn, from a charming new documentary about bookselling, that while the middle-aged tend to play on Kindles these days, millennials are to be seen in droves reading print books on the New York subway. They’re probably also the ones ordering “vintage” turntables, and they may be driving the encouraging current renaissance of independent bookstores serving cappuccino on the side, to lure us back from Amazon.

The books being bought, sold and read there, though, are unlikely to be the kind found at the New York Book Fair in a gorgeous old building on the city’s Upper East Side: ancient tomes, some with curled and peeling pages, others gorgeously illuminated. The handlers of those books are the subject of D.W. Young’s beguiling film, The Booksellers, about the world of New York antiquarian book dealers. They’re a vanishing breed who, with some exceptions, regard their work more as consuming passion than as career.

(13) CREDENTIAL CAPTURE. Here’s a bizarre GIF – “Cat UFO Abduction”.

(14) FROZEN TWO. “Destination Uranus! Rare chance to reach ice giants excites scientists”. Tagline: A planetary alignment provides a window to visit Uranus and Neptune — but time is tight.

Momentum is building among planetary scientists to send a major mission to Uranus or Neptune — the most distant and least explored planets in the Solar System. Huge gaps remain in scientists’ knowledge of the blueish planets, known as the ice giants, which have been visited only once by a space probe. But the pressure is on to organize a mission in the next decade, because scientists want to take advantage of an approaching planetary alignment that would cut travel time.

(15) DON’T PANIC, I’LL BE BACK. Science Alert “Japan Is Sending a Lander to a Martian Moon, And It’ll Be Back by 2030”.

Sending a mission to moons of Mars has been on the wish list for mission planners and space enthusiasts for quite some time. For the past few years, however, a team of Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) engineers and scientists have been working on putting such a mission together.

Now, JAXA announced this week that the Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) mission has been greenlighted to move forward, with the goal of launching an orbiter, lander — and possibly a rover — with sample return capability in 2024.

For the past three years, MMX has been in what JAXA calls a Pre-Project phase, which focuses on research and analysis for potential missions, such as simulating landings to improve spacecraft design. Now that the mission has been moved to the development phase, the focus will be on moving ahead with the development of mission hardware and software.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dreamworks Animation dropped a trailer for Trolls World Tour. In theaters April 2020.

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return in an all-star sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2016 musical hit: Trolls World Tour. In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/1/20 Sometime Ups Outnumber The Downs, But Not In Pixlingsham

(1) UNREAL/UNFIT/UNFINISHED. Yoon Ha Lee observed that Unreal / Unfit magazine, which aroused the ire of writers by listing and scoring their rejected submissions, continues to respond defensively (or offensively) to complaints. Thread starts here.

David Steffen of Diabolical Plots tweeted another observation: “Convenient that comments posted on thinkerbeat from writers who dont like the practice mysteriously disappeared!”

(2) FURRY AWARD LOSES LEADER. Mary E. Lowd resigned as chair of the Cóyotl Awards in January. The awards are given for excellence in anthropomorphic literature.

After a great deal of soul searching, I must regretfully step down from chairing the Cóyotl Awards. I apologize for the awkwardness of this timing with awards season at hand. Unfortunately, until the season arrived, I didn’t realize how much the newer commitments in my life (among others, editing the furry e-zine Zooscape and a 3-book deal for a space opera trilogy) had conspired to take up every last minute of my time for the foreseeable future, extending into the next few years.

The Cóyotl Awards have survived awkward transitions before. The year when I took over, we held voting for two years’ worth of awards at once and hosted a double awards ceremony to cover the previous year that had been missed. So, even if this transition is rocky, it is survivable.

(3) THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Fanac.org has posted video of Dave Kyle being interviewed by Joe Siclari in 2012.

Dave Kyle was an enthusiastic and productive science fiction fan and professional, with an 80+ year tenure. 

In this 2012 interview conducted at Philcon 2012, Dave talks about how fandom started, the first Worldcon, fandom in the 1930s (and 40s and 50s and …), the Science Fiction League, decades of controversies, Gnome Press, chairing his Worldcon and much, much more. 

The interviewer, Joe Siclari, is an able and knowledgeable fan historian, and asks all the right questions. 

Thanks to Philcon 2012 and Syd Weinstein for providing the video. 

(4) AN AMAZING EDITOR. At First Fandom Experience, wonderful artwork illustrates “Palmer’s Ascension: A True Story From Early Fandom”.

Raymond A. Palmer began his pioneering work in science fiction fandom in 1928 at age 18. In 1938, his amateur accomplishments as a club organizer, fanzine publisher, author, editor and promoter of science fiction launched his professional career when he became editor of the iconic pulp magazine Amazing Stories. This is his story, an excerpt from The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s.

(5) SKY HIGH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 28th February 2020” is all about the high frontier.

In New Model Astronauts we take a look at how Hollywood’s perception of the astronaut as mythical figure has changed and continues to do so. Our other main story, Boldly Going, takes a look at how what we remember something as being and what it was changes over time and what that means for us as viewers in a modern age. 

This week’s Women in Horror Month spotlights directors, including Karyn Kusama, Chelsea Stardust, Julia DeCourneau and Issa Lopez. 

This week’s Signal Boost includes  Zinequest 2 by Kickstarter. You can find them here. Also this excellent piece by Dave Jeffrey from the always-great Ginger Nuts of Horror on the way horror fiction deals, or too often fails to deal, with mental illness. We’ve also got Better Than IRL, a collection of writing about what it’s like to find your chosen family online. and TG Shepherd going through the John Wick movie fight scenes 30 seconds at a time. Then there’s Dominion: An Anthology of Black Speculative Fiction, and the Princess World RPG and live plays and podcasts from Haggis and Dragons.We also have John Miereau‘s Serving Worlds and an excellent new Magnus Archives fan project.  lilnan’s work is amazing and this is going to be something special.

Finally, the brilliant Tim Niederriter has work in a StoryBundle right now. Do check it out and fellow Word Make Gooder, Kat Fowler is part of a really fun D&D livestream you should check out. They’re on Twitch and YouTube..

(6) AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS. Darcy Coates knows her readers because she knows herself: “Don’t Go Into the Basement! (Let’s Be Honest, We’re Going Into the Basement)” at CrimeReads.

…Inadvisable behavior is a well-known trope in horror films and fiction, whether it’s investigating strange noises in the basement, or splitting up, or ignoring enormous neon warning signs.

But how do real humans react in those situations? How would I, someone who writes horror fiction for a living and who is in possession of a long list of rational and irrational fears, react?

Not much differently, as it turns out….

(7) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. Snopes is called upon to answer the question “Is the ‘Umbrella Corporation’ Logo Oddly Similar to a Wuhan Biotech Lab’s?”

Claim

The fictional “Umbrella Corporation” from the game “Resident Evil” shares a logo with a biotech lab in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, where a new coronavirus is believed to have originated….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1, 1978 — The Crime Traveller series premiered on BBC. It was produced by Carnival Films for the BBC. The premise being of time travel for the purpose of solving crimes. It was created by Anthony Horowitz, and starred Michael and Chloë Annett. It would last but eight episodes being caught in the change of guard in the BBC Head of Drama position. You can watch the first episode here.
  • March 1, 1991 Abraxas, Guardian Of The Universe premiered. directed by Damian Lee and starring Jesse Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorsen, with a cameo by James Belushi. premiered. It directed by Damian Lee. It starred Jesse Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorsen, with a cameo by James Belushi.  Critics used the words “cheesy, low budget, shoddy effects and dreadful acting” to describe it. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes reflects that at 19%. You can see it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 1, 1885 Lionel Atwill. He had the lead roles in Thirties horror films Doctor X, The Vampire Bat, Murders in the Zoo and Mystery of the Wax Museum but his most remembered role was the one-armed Inspector Krogh in Son of Frankenstein which Kenneth Mars parodied in Young Frankenstein. He would appear in four subsequent Universal Frankenstein films. (Died 1946.)
  • Born March 1, 1915 Wyman Guin. Ok, occasionally doing these Birthdays results in me being puzzled and this is one of those times. In 2013, he was named as recipient for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award at ReaderCon 24. When I look him up, I find that he wrote a single novel and seven stories according to the folks at ISFDB. I’ve not read him. So, was he that good? Should I seek out his novel, The Standing Joy,and add it to my reading list? His short stories are available at the usual digital publishers but the novel isn’t. (Died 1989.)
  • Born March 1, 1918 Roger Delgado. The first Master in the Doctor Who series. He would appear only with the Third Doctor as he died in car crash in Spain. Other genre appearances were Quatermass II, Danger Man, The Mummy’s Shroud and First Man into Space. (Died 1973.)
  • Born March 1, 1923 Andrew Faulds. He’s best remembered as Phalerus in Jason and the Argonauts in which he was in the skeleton fight scene that featured model work by Ray Harryhausen. He appeared in a number of other genre films including The Trollenberg Terror, The Flesh and the Fiends and Blood of the Vampire. He had one-offs on Danger Man and One Step Beyond. Oh, and his first acting gig was as Lysander in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 1, 1938 Michael Kurland, 82. The Unicorn Girl which he pennedis the middle volume of the Greenwich Village trilogy by three different authors, the other two being by Chester Anderson and T.A. Waters. Kurland has also written other genre novels including Ten Little Wizards and A Study in Sorcery, set in the world of Garrett’s Lord Darcy. His other genre novels are Ten Years to Doomsday (written with Chester Anderson), Tomorrow Knight, Pluribus and Perchance.
  • Born March 1, 1941 Martin Greenberg. Founder of Gnome Press who’s not to be confused with Martin H Greenberg. My research for this Birthday note shows that he’s definitely not on Asimov’s list of favorite people despite being the first publisher of the Foundation series. Not paying authors is a bad idea. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 1, 1946 Lana Wood, 74. She’s best remembered as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. She was in The Wild Wild West as Vixen O’Shaughnessy in “The Night of the Firebrand” and Averi Trent in “The Night of the Plague” episodes. She was in both up the CBS televised Captain America films playing Yolanda, and she was still active in the genre as little three years ago playing a character named Implicit in Subconscious Reality. It’s very suspicious that all the Amazon reviews of the latter are five stars. 
  • Born March 1, 1954 Ron Howard, 66. Director of Cocoon and Willow. Also responsible for the truly awful thing that is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And opinions are I believe are definitely divided on Solo: A Star Wars Story. As a producer only, he’s responsible for Cowboys & Aliens and The Dark Tower.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The way Rich Horton sees it, “Olivia Jaimes takes a bit of a swipe at epic fantasy/cyberpunk in today’s Nancy. (Perhaps it’s affectionate, but I confess I took a bit umbrage.)” But he adds, “That said, Sluggo’s strategy for reading at school seems like a good one!”

(11) BAKED BOOKMARK. Does Cambridge make library users take an oath, like the Bodleian does? If so, I guess they better add a prohibition about snacks: “Librarians stunned after opening 500-year-old Tudor manuscript and finding a half-eaten 50-year-old biscuit” reports The Sun.

LIBRARIANS opened a rare Tudor manuscript yesterday — and found a half-eaten biscuit stuck between pages.

The find stunned staff and academics at Cambridge University.

It is believed a clumsy schoolboy dropped what appears to be a chocolate chip cookie while leafing through the book more than 50 years ago.

The manuscript — which dates back almost 500 years — was given to the university by a grammar school in 1970.

The 1529 volume from the complete works of St Augustine is stored inside the university’s rare books archive, where no food, drink or even pens are allowed.

Emily Dourish, deputy keeper of rare books and early manuscripts, discovered the biscuit….

(12) GETTING READY FOR ST. AQUIN. “Catholic leaders call for ethical guidelines around AI”Axios has the story.

Catholic leaders presented Pope Francis with a broad proposal for AI ethics, education and rights on Friday as part of an AI conference at the Vatican in Rome.

Why it matters: Algorithms are already starting to replace human decision-making, but ethicists and activists say now is the time to speak up on the values those algorithms should embody.

Driving the news: Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a group of scholars that studies bioethics, are calling for AI to be developed in a way that protects the planet and safeguards “the rights and the freedom of individuals so they are not discriminated against by algorithms.”

  • IBM executive vice president John Kelly and Microsoft president Brad Smith are signing the “Rome Call for AI Ethics” on behalf of the two tech companies.
  • The group outlined ethical principles related to transparency, access and impartiality — what they call an “algor-ethical” framework.
  • It is a “first step toward awareness and engagement” with other companies and international institutions for a public debate about AI ethics, a spokesperson for the Academy told Axios in an email.

(13) EIGHT ARMS GOOD? “The Tentacle Bot” — some short videos.

Octopus-inspired robot can grip, move, and manipulate a wide range of objects

Of all the cool things about octopuses (and there’s a lot), their arms may rank among the coolest.

Two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are in its arms, meaning each arm literally has a mind of its own. Octopus arms can untie knots, open childproof bottles, and wrap around prey of any shape or size. The hundreds of suckers that cover their arms can form strong seals even on rough surfaces underwater.

Imagine if a robot could do all that.

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Beihang University have developed an octopus-inspired soft robotic arm that can grip, move, and manipulate a wide range of objects. Its flexible, tapered design, complete with suction cups, gives the gripper a firm grasp on objects of all shapes, sizes and textures — from eggs to iPhones to large exercise balls.

(14) A LITTLE MEME THINGY.

(15) OFF BROADWAY. Last night on Saturday Night Live the sketch “Airport Sushi” has the Phantom of LaGuardia emerging to warn someone boarding a flight at LaGuardia airport that he really shouldn’t eat the airport sushi.

(16) LEAP YEAR LEFTOVER. Comicbook.com frames the next item:

Reynolds owns Aviation Gin, and the recent ads for the alcohol company have been nothing short of hilarious… Now, Reynolds’ latest ad, which features his voiceover, is celebrating Leap Day, which happens every four years in February. Of course, that means folks born on February 29th have an especially interesting birthday. In the new ad, Reynolds enlists a woman who was born on Leap Day 84 years ago, which means tomorrow is technically her 21st birthday.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/17/20 From Rishathra With Love

(1) NOT FAR FROM THE TREE. Apple TV+ has dropped the Amazing Stories — Official Trailer. The show debuts March 6 on the Apple TV app – if you have an Apple TV+ subscription: Amazing Stories.

From visionary executive producers Steven Spielberg and Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, this reimagining of the classic anthology series transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility, and imagination

(2) IN THE AUDIENCE AT BOSKONE. Filer Mlex posted a report about the sessions he attended at this weekend’s “Boskone 2020”.

Fairy Tales from the Dark Side

Theodora Goss started off this session by noting that she spent some years of her childhood in Budapest and that she takes particular interest in the fairy tales of Hungary, with their typical strong heroines. She went on to say that fairies vary quite a lot, not only in different cultural traditions, but depending on the date and conditions where they were formed. Victorians had their small flower fairies, for example, and subtle messages could be presented in the form of fairy tales about feminism or other social and political movements. Think of the women brewing eels, bats, herbs, and potions. The fairy represents the human encounter with the magical other.

Isabel Yap noted that Fillipino fairies do not play by human rules. They are not so clearly anthropomorphized and might often turn into fish, or other creatures. These fairy tales might be quite violent, and the fairies are not on our side.

(3) LISTENING TO A CULTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There is something of a theme taking place in British culture this spring.

Second Sleep

First we had The Second Sleep by Robert Harris which then became BBC Radio 4’s book at bed time last month (and still downloadable in 15 minute episodes. Here the end of the world was IT related (not really a spoiler as it is hypothesized in first few chapters).

Then on the non-fiction front a vaguely respected Brit senior politician (i.e. pre-Boris /Trump) is to have a book published next month warning that our IT society has no fall-back back-up system in place. This book uses an SF novelette interspersed with factual comment and explanation to elucidate such things as Black Swan events among much else.

And finally, back at the BBC, Radio 4 has just launched another season of its SFnal Dangerous Visions the first episode of 4 is ‘Blackout’ and concerns what happens when the internet (hence power as the grid is web managed) crashes…

Be thankful you can still read this post….

Dangerous Visions

(4) VISUALIZING THE CULTURE. I don’t know how I missed this — The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod is set for a November 26 release date.

Iain M. Banks, the modern master of SF, created many original drawings detailing the universe of his bestselling Culture novels. Now these illustrations – many of them annotated – are being published for the very first time in a book that celebrates Banks’s grand vision, with additional notes and material by Banks’s longtime friend and fellow SF author Ken MacLeod. It is an essential addition to the collection of any Iain M. Banks fan.

(5) CROWDFUNDING. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to publish Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds That Hold Us edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner.

No matter who you are or where you come from, there are boundaries and barriers that dictate what you can do, where you can go, and who you can become. Invisible threads running through society, pulling you this way or that, tripping you when you try to better yourself, ensnaring and holding you back.  Invisible Threads is an anthology of dark sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories that examine these barriers.

Confirmed authors include Alix Harrow, Andi Buchanan, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Chesya Burke, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Stephanie Malia Morris, Jordan Kurella, K.T. Bryski, ZZ Claybourne, A.C. Buchanan, Damien Angelica Walters, Beth Dawkins, Geoffrey Girard, Sabrina Vourvoulias, A.C. Wise, and Michael Wehunt. We plan to hold an open submissions call should we fund.

(6) EVEN IF IT IS JOSHI. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2020-2021 S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 13, 2020.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2020 and June 2021. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

(7) DOOM IN BLOOM. In “The Pleasure (Reading) of Impending Doom” at CrimeReads, Tosca Lee recommends novels by Ben H. Winters, William Fortschen, A.G. Riddle if you want to read novels about global apocalypses.

As a lifelong lover of a good doomsday story, I’ve always considered the tenacity and resourcefulness of the human spirit to be the category’s major appeal—along with the it-could-really-happen scary plausibility and ingenious “prepping” specifics, of course. But it wasn’t until I started writing my apocalyptic thriller, The Line Between, that the real charm of the genre became apparent to me. 

I’d recently married a single father and become an insta-mom to four. Life was busy and crowded with details. But as I began to plot my literary cataclysm, the chaos of daily life—work, bills, school schedules, errands, house stuff, holidays, political noise, grocery lists, social media, bucket lists, and those ever-elusive last ten pounds—fell away in the face of a story with a single goal: survival. Suddenly, that looming list of to-dos doesn’t seem so insurmountable—or even important—compared to savoring time with those we love while we’re all here on earth together.

(8) NAKAHARA OBIT. Kellye Nakahara, best known for her work on M*A*S*H but who also had several genre roles, died February 17. Consequence of Sound paid tribute: “R.I.P. Kellye Nakahara, M*A*S*H Actress Dies at 72”.

…Nakahara portrayed Nurse Kellye Yamato for 167 episodes of the hit show (according to IMDb). It would go on to be her largest and most memorable role. She followed it up with bit parts in television series such as At Ease, Hunter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and with film roles in Clue (the cook, Mrs. Ho), Black Day Blue Night (as Fat Mama), and Eddie Murphy’s version of Doctor Dolittle (credited as Beagle Woman).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 17, 1959 The Cosmic Man premiered. It produced by Robert A. Terry and directed by Herbert S. Greene. The film stars John Carradine, Bruce Bennett and Angela Greene. The film was shot quickly, primarily on a hotel lobby set, and in Griffith Park in L.A., where the Griffith Observatory was used as stand-in for the Pacific Institute of Technology. At least in Los Angeles, it played on a double bill with House on Haunted Hill. With the notable exception of Variety who really didn’t like it, most critics at the time found it to be a pleasant, fun experience. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes does not reflect that — it has a 0% rating from the very few, only thirty four, who’ve given it a score. You can see it here.
  • February 17, 1966 — On this day in Dublin, The Projected Man premiered. It was directed by Ian Curteis from a script by Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, and Frank Quattrocchi, and starred Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, and Derek Farr. Universal Studios released it on a double bill with Terror Island. Critics noted the monster’s resemblance to that of one in The Fly but those involved here denied that film inspired the look of the creature in this movie. It was featured in a ninth season episode of  Mystery Science Theater 3000, and currently the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 3% rating. You can see it here.

February 17, 1966 — In the United Kingdom, Episode Twenty-one of the first season of The Thunderbirds,  “The Duchess Assignment”, aired. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and. filmed by their production company. The electronic marionette puppetry which they called Supermarionation  was combined with scale-model special effects sequences.  It was the fifth such project by their company. You can see this episode of the Thunderbirds here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1903 Kenne Duncan. He’s got a number of genre credits starting with the 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars serial where he was the Airdrome Captain. He’d play Ram Singh, the butler to the Spider, in The Spider’s Web and The Spider Returns serials, and he’d be Lt. Lacy in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. Several years later, he’d be Cheney Hencheman Barnett in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial. You can see him in the first chapter of Spider’s Web serial here. (Died 1972.)
  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre  Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with some fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1920 Curt Swan. He’s the artist most associated with Superman during the Silver Age, and he produced hundreds of covers and stories from the Fifties through the Eighties. He would be let go in the DC reorganization of the Eighties with his last work as a regular artist on Superman being the 1986 story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” that was written by Alan Moore. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her mysteries down the decade but am not familiar at all with the three listed as genre by ISFDB (The Killing Doll, The Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid). Who of you is familiar with these? (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 17, 1931 Johnny Hart. The creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id. (Brant Pant was the other creator of the latter strip.)  He certainly wasn’t without controversy as this strip attests. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 66. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 49. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. She’ll be a few years later Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She’s been announced as playing Victoria Darw in the still to be scheduled Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1974 Jerry O’Connell, 46. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind the broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent. 

(11) SH-BOOM. High Seas Trading Co. has reason to brag about its “Outer Space” design:

The Hawaiian Shirt that the Astronauts wore on Aloha Friday on the International Space Station.This space themed Hawaiian shirt is out of this world.

(12) FRESH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 14th February 2020” maps the abstractions of nautical horror with Underwater and The Lighthouse, take a look at the amazing Parasite and shows him learning to Hack the Panic!

Signal Boost this week is Mockery Manor ,Mike UnderwoodKevin Petker‘s Princess World is live on Kickstarter from next week. Be sure to check it outRosarium are currently crowdfunding ‘Hellraiser meets Black History Month’ graphic novel, Box of Bones.. Gordon B. White‘s splendidly titled anthology As Summer’s Mask Slips, and Other Disruptions just got a starred PW review!!

Finally Tracacy Barnett’s current project, This Thing We Started is crowdfunding now. They’ve also recommended Descent into Midnight, launching on Saturday and VERY much my sort of thing.

(13) SPATIAL DELIVERY. James Davis Nicoll found copies of “Five SF Stories About Teleportation Systems Gone Awry” at Tor.com. At least.

In Thomas Disch’s 1967 novel Echo Round His Bones, Nathan Hansard is transmitted to America’s Camp Jackson Mars via teleporter. This is a routine operation…or so it is believed. Wrongly. Hansard is surprised to discover himself somewhere other than Mars. Teleportation creates phantom duplicates on Earth, living ghosts dependent on the phantom duplicates of supplies sent to Mars. Food is in short supply, but no matter. Some of Hansard’s predecessors have solved the problem in a straightforward manner: by eating their fellow phantoms….

But if they eat The Phantom, who will remain to leave comments on Lela Buis’ blog?

(14) EASY DOES IT. So, more like smushing together mudpies? “New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation'”.

Scientists say they have “decisively” overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

…The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System emerged 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

Scientists obtained high-resolution pictures of Arrokoth when Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to it just over a year ago. It gave scientists their first opportunity to test which of the two competing theories was correct: did the two components crash together or was there gentle contact?

The analysis by Dr Stern and his team could find no evidence of violent impact. The researchers found no stress fractures, nor was there any flattening, indicating that the objects were squashed together gently.

(15) HIGH FLIGHT. BBC is there: “Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base”.

Sir Richard Branson has moved his rocket plane from its development base in California to what will be its operational centre in New Mexico.

The transfer of the Unity vehicle and its mothership, Eve, to the Spaceport America complex signals the start of final testing.

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic company is now close to beginning commercial service.

More than 600 individuals have paid deposits to ride Unity to over 80km.

The trip will enable them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness around the top of the rocket ship’s climb.

Already almost 100 Virgin Galactic staff have moved to the southern New Mexico spaceport to prepare it – and themselves – for operations.

Unity will now perform a series of test flights above the desert.

Some of these will see it dropped from altitude to simply glide back to the runway. Others will involve firing its rocket motor to power skyward.

(16) WHAT A CAST. Does a show about Skeletor and He-Man deserve this array of talent? “Mark Hamill and Lena Heady Lead Expansive Voice Cast for Kevin Smith’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ Series”.

Netflix and Mattel TV announced an expansive voice cast for its upcoming “Masters of the Universe” series from Kevin Smith. The cast is led by Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn and Chris Wood as Prince Adam aka He-Man.

The new series, “Masters of the Universe: Revelations,” will focus on the unresolved storylines of the original 1982 TV series, picking up many of the characters’ journeys where they left off decades ago.

In addition to those three, the cast also includes Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), Liam Cunningham (Man-At-Arms), Stephen Root (Cringer), Diedrich Bader (King Randor/Trap Jaw), Griffin Newman (Orko), Tiffany Smith (Andra), Henry Rollins (Tri-Klops), Susan Eisenberg (Sorceress), Alicia Silverstone (Queen Marlena), Justin Long (Roboto), Jason Mewes (Stinkor), Phil LaMarr (He-Ro), Tony Todd (Scare Glow), Cree Summer (Priestess), Kevin Michael Richardson (Beast Man), Kevin Conroy (Mer-Man) and Harley Quinn Smith (Ileena).

(17) INSPECTOR SPOT-ET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spot may not be designed to follow the Three Laws (yet?), but it is starting to protect humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. Of course, some people would argue that it’s also starting to threaten humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. SYFY Wire: “Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog gets a job working an offshore oil rig”.

See Spot walk. See Spot sit. See Spot roll over. See Spot run onto a Norwegian oil rig to sniff out lethal gas leaks!

Boston Dynamics’ next-generation robotic device, affectionately nicknamed Spot, will soon be embarking on a new test mission aboard an offshore oil rig for petroleum product producer Aker BP and AI software company Cognite. The newly announced project will be rolled out to test a number of advanced robots and drones on Aker BP’s Skarv installation in the Norwegian Sea later this year.

[…] “Our vision is to digitalize all our operations from cradle to grave in order to increase productivity, enhance quality, and improve the safety of our employees,” Aker BP’s CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said in a press release. “Exploring the potential of robotics offshore underpin our digital journey.”

(18) COLLECTIBLE ROBOT. Michael Crawford provides a review and photos of Wal-Mart’s “Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet action figure” at Captain Toy.

Sculpting – ****
The sculpt isn’t particularly detailed, but the original robot had a lot of smooth surfaces.

What sets this guy apart is all the individual pieces that went into making him, particularly inside and attached to the dome. Check out the levers and doo-dads which would spin and turn and clack along as he spoke and moved, demonstrating the very analog way we looked at robots back then. You could almost see the zeroes and ones flitting through his mechanical brain. Of course none of the interior dome pieces on this figure move, but the detail work is quite impressive for this price point.

The body recreates the original look quite well, although the proportions are a smidge off. Still, at a solid 14″ tall, he’s about the right height and scale to fit in great with other sixth scale figures, including the old Lost In Space characters.

(19) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. (A) Vous Regardez Un Film on Vimeo is a cartoon by Jon Boutin about the drudgery of going to the office.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/20 Please Vasten Your Seatbelts

(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.

A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.

(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles. 

Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”

(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get, the process, etc.

(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

(5) SFF ZINES. Jason Sanford today posted three more interviews with editors done in conjunction with his fine “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines” report.

Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….

Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?

Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance;  a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history.  But that brings with it two difficulties.  One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise.  We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …

Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?

Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….

(6) BURNED OUT. Australian fan Don Ashby, who lost his home to one of the fires now raging Down Under, was interviewed by The Age: “The sky turned black. The beast had arrived in Mallacoota”. (Via Irwin Hirsh.)

When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.

Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.

It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.

“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.

When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.

“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.

“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”

(7) BABY IT’S GOLD OUTSIDE. Plagiarism Today reports from the front in “The Battle Over ‘Baby Yoda’”.

…However, those were just the first drops of a tidal wave that came crashing down on the internet. Etsy, for example, is swarming with unauthorized Baby Yoda merchandise of all types and eBay is much the same way.

This has become the subject of a lot of media coverage as well, such as this article on The Nerdist highlight a Baby Yoda plush toy.

This glut of unauthorized toys isn’t due to a lack of effort on Disney’s part. Several artists have reported receiving takedown notices after selling Baby Yoda merchandise on such sites and even the toy referenced above was also removed. Still, it’s clear that the Baby Yoda craze has outpaced even Disney’s capacity for control.

And the issues aren’t just related to physical items. Back in November, the popular gif website Giphy pulled all of its Baby Yoda gifs. Though Disney was initially blamed for this, it turned out it was a proactive move by Giphy that aimed to head off potential legal action by Disney. Disney hadn’t done anything.

(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until 11.59 pm NZT on March 31.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.

…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.

Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here. Eligibility list is here.

(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the Washington Post “Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely ignored.

The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 3, 1970 Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
  • January 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 3, 1898 Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 3, 1930 Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre. 
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, ManimalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
  • Born January 3, 1956 Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will. 
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. 
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. 

(12) ALL ROBOT DOGS GO TO THE CLOUD. BuzzFeed: “While Americans Worry About The AI Uprising, People In Japan Are Learning To Love Their Robots — And Be Loved Back”.

It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.

Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.

Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….

(13) BOOKMARKS. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books With Yoon Ha Lee”.

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

Thor: Metal Gods
is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself.  It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer.  There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem.  We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

(14) CLEANER OR MEANER? Daily Beast writer David Axe contemplates whether “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon”.

… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.

That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon. 

Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it. 

(15) AMAZONS! A growing body of archaeological evidence shows that legends about the horseback-riding, bow-wielding female fighters were almost certainly rooted in reality. The Washington Post has the story: “Amazons were long considered a myth. These discoveries show warrior women were real. “

…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.

(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in Paris.

Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.

(17) 2019. Joe Sherry explains his choices for the “Top 9 Books of the Year” at Nerds of a Feather.

7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

(18) IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. Publishers Weekly declared “Dav Pilkey Is PW’s Person of the Year for 2019”.

Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  From Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, R.S. Benedict, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/17/19 Maybe Quality Time With the Cats Would Be Better

(1) XKCD ANSWERS. A New York Times interviewer learned that “Randall Munroe Loves Outdated Views of the Future”.

Your web comic XKCD counts a lot of science fiction fans among its audience. Are you a science fiction fan yourself?

I grew up reading Asimov short stories, and I’ve read some miscellaneous stuff over the years, but I never feel like I’ve read more than a tiny fraction of what’s out there. I honestly don’t read all that many books, at least not compared to a lot of writers I know, and that extends to sci-fi too. But I do occasionally read high-concept/hard sci-fi — the kind of book where something big and physics-y is threatening to destroy the planet and/or universe. I’m also a total sucker for time travel stories.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Whatever was lying around my house or our town library. I read lots of newspaper comic collections, like “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” and an awful lot of “Star Wars” novels…

(2) TAKEI Q&A. Rosanna Greenstreet, in “George Takei: ‘My dream dinner party? My colleagues from Star Trek, with one exception’”, in the Guardian, doesn’t have George Takei name the exception, but you learn his favorite show tunes.

What would your superpower be?
Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek, said that the strength of the Starship Enterprise was its diverse team working in concert. I would like to have the superpower to bring that kind of society to ours today.

(3) NAMES TO CONJURE WITH. “13 ‘Avengers: Endgame’ actors submitted for Oscars contention” — Disney submitted 13 actors/actresses from Endgame to the Oscars… All in the supporting categories.

Even Martin Scorsese would have to admit that Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest cinematic achievements of 2019. 

…It looks as though Disney are going to give Avengers: Endgame  a big Oscar push, too, as it has just been revealed that the studio aren’t only aiming for a Best Picture nomination but they’ve also submitted 13 actors in the the Best Supporting categories, too.

That means that Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Josh Brolin, Paul Rudd, and Don Cheadle will be hoping for a Best Supporting Actor nomination, while Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, and Brie Larson will be aiming for the Best Supporting Actress category.

(4) HEAR IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS. After working on it for six years, Gene Weingarten has a book coming out, and has been sharing all kinds of advice with readers of the Washington Post Magazine.

2. As you are bringing the book in for a landing, resist the urge to assemble your 23 chapters into one long document, because that will make it possible to idly search for words and phrases that you think you might overuse. And that is when you will discover just what a shocking, tedious hack you are. For instance, the number of times I had written “slap-to-the-forehead revelation” (five) was a slap-to-the-forehead revelation to me. Not in a good way.

… So things were going swell, right up until something happened. I think you might suspect what it is.

Man on phone, from TV company: Hi, I’m a lawyer, and …

Me: GO AWAY. (Hangs up.)

Okay, I didn’t really hang up. We kept talking but my nerve endings were atingle. It turned out that the company required me to sign a contract, which they assured me would be routine, simple and no problem whatsoever. It turned out to be seven single-spaced pages. It required me to agree to surrender my work to the company “in perpetuity,” which, from context, as near as I could tell, includes all future time up to and including the eventual Heat Death of the Universe. 

(5) MOUSE AUCTION. “Disneyland ‘Tiki’ birds among vast theme park auction” – Reuters has the story.

The History of Disneyland and Walt Disney World auction will be held in Los Angeles over two days starting on Dec. 7.

There will also be familiar characters up for sale, including animatronic birds from the Enchanted Tiki Room, a bronze statue of Mickey Mouse, and an “It’s a Small World” animatronic doll.

The animatronic birds are estimated to sell between $80,000 and $100,000, while the doll is estimated to sell for between $15,000 and $20,000.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 17, 1978 — The Star Wars Holiday Special premiered on CBS. Directed by Steve Binder, it was the first Star Wars spin-off film, set between the events of the original film and The Empire Strikes Back. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently has a rating of nineteen percent. 
  • November 17, 2001 Justice League began on the Cartoon Network. It would under this name and and Justice League Unlimited last five seasons. Ninety one episodes would be produced a cross the two series. Among the voice actors would Kevin Conroy, George Newbern and Susan Eisenberg. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1925 Rock Hudson. Best known genre role was as Col. John Wilder in The Martian Chronicles series. He also played President Thomas McKenna in the World War III miniseries which you may or may may not consider SF. That’s it.   (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 17, 1956 Rebecca Moesta Anderson, 63. Wife of Kevin James Anderson with whom she collaborates more often than not. They’ve done dozens of Star Wars novels including the Young Jedi Knights series, and even one in the Buffyverse. 
  • Born November 17, 1965 Sophie Marceau, 53. Elektra King In The World Is Not Enough, the 19th Bond Film. Also Eloïse d’Artagnan in Revenge of the Musketeers, Hippolyta in that version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamandLisa / Belphegor in Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre. She’s also one of the voice actors in Nature is Speaking, a Gaian series. 
  • Born November 17, 1958 Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, 61. She had a recurring role on Grimm, playing Kelly Burkhardt, mother of Nick Burkhardt. And she had a leading role in Limitless as FBI Special Agent in Charge Nasreen ”Naz” Pouran. In the Marvel Universe, she played Marion James, CIA Deputy Director on Marvel’s The Punisher
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 53. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The Authority, Batman, Captain America, Daredevil, Catwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1978 Tom Ellis, 41. Currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the rather excellent Lucifer series  created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg from The Sandman series. It’s quite good. Also had roles in Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, Messiah, The Strain and Merlin
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 36. He is the author of the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance. In December of last year, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out in 2006.

(8) NO SMOKING PLEASE. Speaking of the burning issues of the day — “John Lewis and Waitrose unite for 2019 Christmas ad – the fiery fairytale of Excitable Edgar”.

In a first for the two ‘& Partners’ brands, John Lewis and Waitrose have combined their festive creative efforts and released a joint Christmas ad, opting for a fairytale spot that – true to form – features a loveable mascot in Edgar the excitable dragon.

The heartwarming story of a little girl, Ava, and her friendship with an excitable young dragon opens ‘far, far, away’ in a quaint, snow-engulfed town as it prepares for Christmas.

Edgar – a toddler-sized, winged and unequally horned dragon – struggles to control his flame breathing. And while he loves Christmas, unfortunately for the town, his over-eagerness often gets the better of him.

(9) AUTHOR READINGS IN ORANGE. The Speculative Collective reading series will convene in Orange, CA on January 23, 2020.

The SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Winter Salon will celebrate steampunk, weird westerns, and mad science fiction with readings and conversation with local authors Eddie Louise, Michelle E. Lowe, and Jonathan Fesmire. The authors will have books to sign and sell, and time will be set aside to chat and network with like-minded fans of science fiction, fantasy, and all otherworldly genres. Costumes and cosplay welcome. Also, we’ll be discussing the new critique group and writing contest.

SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE is an author reading series devoted to science fiction, fantasy, and all otherworldly genres.

(10) WHO NEEDS IT? The LA Review of Books presents Isaac Bashevis Singer’s 1963 essay “Who Needs Literature?” translated from Yiddish for the first time by David Stromberg.

…As for literary prose, we often feel like it’s doing well. Books of prose are still bought in hundreds of thousands of copies. But when we look a little deeper into the matter, we see that what we nowadays call “literary fiction” is often far from literary fiction. Works are often sold under the label “novel” that are in fact three-fourths or a 100 percent journalism.

At no other time has the boundary between journalism and literature been so thin and so blurred as in ours. It often seems to me that modern critics suffer from amnesia. They’ve forgotten the elementary rules of the game called literature. It’s no feat to score grand victories in a chess game if, right from the start, one player gets more pieces than another, or if the rules of the game change with each round.

(11) AMAZING. Slashfilm says fans will have one more shot at seeing this actor: “Robert Forster’s Final Performance Will Be in ‘Amazing Stories’ for AppleTV+; Here’s What the Episode is About”

Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) passed away two weeks ago, but it turns out he completed one final performance before his death that will make it to the screen. Forster will appear in an episode of Amazing Stories, the resurrected anthology series that will debut on AppleTV+. 

When Forster died on October 11, myself and many of his fans thought the last time we’d see him on screen would be in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, the Netflix film which debuted the same day as his death. But according to Deadline, he had also completed work on an episode of Amazing Stories, and the episode will be dedicated to the late actor.

“Dynoman and The Volt,” the relevant episode, is “about an awkward tween boy and his grandpa (Forster) who wrestle with feeling powerless. When a superhero ring Grandpa ordered out of the back of a comic book arrives 50 years late, they discover it has the power to turn them into actual superheroes.” That’s a really fun premise for an episode of television, and in his older age, Forster was so great at playing characters who felt like they were sturdy enough to take what the world threw at them, but also had a tinge of sadness behind the eyes. I eagerly await the opportunity to experience one final performance from him, even if I am exhausted of the conversation around superhero-related media that still seems to be dominating every waking moment in our culture right now.

(12) BANGERS AND MASHUPS. The Wrap looks back: “‘The Big Bang Theory’: 23 Most Memorable Guest Stars, From Stephen Hawking to Carrie Fisher”, a 2018 post.

Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones: James Earl Jones told IGN that amazingly, before this Season 7 “Big Bang” cameo, he and Carrie Fisher had never met, with Jones always doing his scenes as Darth Vader inside a sound booth. The segment features Jones and Sheldon pranking Fisher, but even funnier is their story that when they finally met, Fisher greeted Jones as “Dad!” 

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