Pixel Scroll 7/1/20 Consider a Spherical Scroll

(1) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced June 22 that they had accepted the resignation of Charles Brownstein as Executive Director, effective immediately.  According to Publishers Weekly, Brownstein’s resignation comes after the resurfacing of allegations of sexual assault brought against him in 2006. An account of the situation and its aftermath was reported in the Comics Journal in 2006.

The CBLDF subsequently posted this update:

First and foremost, the CBLDF is grateful that Kris Simon has come forward. We also want to recognize Taki Soma for what she endured and for bringing this to light. Both have our full support. We are releasing Shy Allot from the NDA she signed in 2010 when she left the organization so that her story can also be heard.

CBLDF’s Board is undergoing a complete review of management practices and where we have fallen short. We are examining our mission to ensure it meets modern industry needs, and will do so with input from our full-time staff, expert third parties, and the comics and manga community.

And on June 29, more retirements/resignations followed.

The CBLDF announced today that Paul Levitz is retiring from our Board of Directors. In addition, the Board has accepted the resignations of Katherine Keller and Jeff Abraham.

We respect the decisions that Paul, Katherine and Jeff have made to leave the Board. We realize it will be a long path to earning back the trust of our members, supporters and the industry. We recognize that it’s been our inability to react, or act at all, that’s been the cause of  pain in our community.

Even last week, when we took the necessary action in accepting Charles’s resignation, our communications were stilted and clumsy. To everyone who has come forward, we haven’t done justice to your bravery and we are truly sorry. We vow to be better….   

(2) VIRTUALLY THERE. Locus Online has posted a highly informative report about the 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference

The 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference morphed mid-COVID from an in-person conference into an impressive online event, held May 29-31, 2020. There were 808 members from 33 countries, a record, up from 2019’s record-breaking 475 registered members.

(3) LISTEN IN ON FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of its audio recording of the “Fans Into Pros” panel at IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. (The link to Part I is here.) The participants are Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Terry Carr, Richard Lupoff and Ted White. 

This audio recording (enhanced with many images) is Part 2 of that panel. More serious than part 1, this segment talks about becoming a writer, and provides straightforward, candid insights about selling in the field. There’s less byplay but lots of good discussion. Note two things – the recording does not go to the end of the panel but stops abruptly (source material ends), and there is a section where members of the audience are speaking and you can’t hear them on the recording.  

Please be patient – the responses from the panel are worth hearing. This recording courtesy of IguanaCon chairman Tim Kyger.

(4) BRITAIN IS FINE. Rob Hansen has added a section about the 1979 Worldcon bid to his website THEN, with publications, photos, etc. Rob says, “I’ll eventually get around to tackling the con itself, but in the meantime here’s the tale of how it came to be.”

The story of how the idea of holding a UK Worldcon in the 1970s emerged, and how things came together and the bid then evolved, is worthy of its own entry. The bid also had its own series of progress reports independent of the eventual convention, all of which are included here.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(5) NOBODY MUST GET STONED. The recent launch of Avengers: Infinity War on Disney+ was promoted by a short video on Marvel’s Instagram account highlighting the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s six Infinity Stones.

(6) HEARD THAT SOMEWHERE BEFORE. A.V. Club will point you to the video: “It’s some kind of supercut of every time someone says “some kind of” on Star Trek”.

Pretty much everyone has some kind of vocal tic, some sort of repeated phrase or word they use without necessarily even realizing it in their day-to-day conversations. Pointing it out in each other is generally considered an asshat thing to do, but that doesn’t change how damn annoying it can be for all of us. On that note, here’s some sort of supercut of all 214 times someone says “some sort of” or “some kind of” on some sort of show called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot was born. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet where he had his first screen appearance on March 4, 1956. He would go to be part of a number of series including Lost in SpaceThe Addams FamilyThe Twilight Zone and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. (CE)
  • July 1, 1984 — William Gibson’s Neuromancer was published. It would win a Hugo for Best Novel at Aussiecon II. It was the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award for a paperback original. The novel opens with the new famous line of “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Deadpool director Tim Miller was chosen three years ago to direct a live-action film adaptation, and Neuromancer the Opera was written but a quarter of a century later has not been staged. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in the feud theory, Richard Lupoff wrote an articl debunking the idea. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1923 – Jean Hougron.  Indochina (as it then was) 1947-1951; a score of novels.  Two for us, The Sign of the Dog, translated into German, Italian, Portuguese; and Naguen, winning the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction.  Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie française for Death and Fraud, no. 4 in his series The Indochina Night.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 86. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 85. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally, he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1942 – rich brown.  No capital letters in his name.  By the mid-1960s known and knowledgeable enough to publish, with Arnie Katz and Mike McInerney, the fanzine Focal Point, revived with AK in the early 1970s.  Also with AK the 3rd (1971) ed’n of The Enchanted Duplicator (1994 ed’n here) i.e. not the protagonist of “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” but producing one’s fanzine, once and for some still the heart of fan activity; also with AK The Incompleat Terry Carr (a somewhat more compleat ed’n 1988 by Jerry Kaufman); contributed a study of fanspeak to Joe Sanders’ Science Fiction Fandom, eventually brought into Fancyclopedia 3.  Self-depreciatingly said “I’m everyone’s rich brother” and “I’m in The Lord of the Rings.  The Ents have my skin.  They have rich brown skin.”  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1952 – Mary Kay Kare , 68.  Edited Red Dust, clubzine of the Norman, Oklahoma, SF Society; then Seattle, San Jose. Co-chaired Potlatch 19 (literary SF con).  Innocently going overseas to Corflu 27 she found herself Guest of Honor – at Corflu this is determined by drawing names from a hat.  Hugo Awards Administrator at Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon; photo  here.  Widow of the extraordinary Jordin Kare.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1959 – Leah Zeldes Smith, 61.  Can be found under both maiden and married names; husband, Dick Smith.  Served on boards of Ann Arbor SF Ass’n, Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n.  Co-founded Michigan Soc. of (Hapless) Amateur Publishers – opinions differ on whether the H is for Hapless or silent as in bheer; anyhow, MISHAP.  Half a dozen stories in Mike Resnick anthologies.  Fanzine Stet (with Dick) 3-time Hugo finalist.  Fan Guest of Honor at Corflu 4.  Down Under Fan Fund delegate (with Dick), attended Swancon 18.  Chaired Operacon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 56. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he has edited for past six years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.  (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1965 – Kevin Maroney, 55.  Long-time managing editor, now publisher, of the New York Review of SF, 14-time Hugo finalist.  Guest of Honor at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas).  He says “Science fiction valorizes people who Know Things.”  Dilettante in the old sense.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1976 – Ketty Steward, 44.  Author, critic, proofreader.  Two dozen stories; collection, Interrupted Connections (in French, i.e. Connexions interrompoues; KS lives in Martinique). “HeLa Is Here” in English here.  Two special issues of Galaxies (in French) devoted to Africa.  Genre-mixing autobiographical novel, Black & White (Noir et blanc).  Degrees in applied mathematics, social sciences, labor science.  Student of Afrocyberfeminism.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 39. Author of the superb Persona novel, and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She also scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)

(9) IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN SMELL YOU SCREAM. According to CNN, “This is what space smells like”.

If you’ve ever wondered what space smells like, a new perfume may answer that for you. A kickstarter was recently launched for a new fragrance called Eau de Space to bring the smell of outer space back down to Earth.

The fragrance was developed by Steve Pearce, according to Eau de Space product manager Matt Richmond. Pearce is a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients, a company focused on the “creation of the highest quality, provenance driven, natural flavours and ingredients for the food and beverage industry,” its website says.

(10) IN BOOKS TO COME. Andrew Liptak told readers where to find his monthly Reading List:

As some of you know from June, Polygon has decided to discontinue the list on their site for the foreseeable future — one small casualty from COVID. Accordingly, I’ve shifted the list over to my newsletter, Reading List.

This newsletter is designed as a step-back from the day-to-day news of the SF/F world, with a couple of different types of letters. Free ones have a regular set of content: I’m aiming for a book review and/or short piece of commentary, along with a list of notable long-read articles and pieces of note, as well as a roundup of book recommendations. I’m also using it as a place to conduct longer-form interviews and this book list. This has a growing audience, with a solid reading and open rate: 50-58%, depending on the post. 

The paid version (Reading List+) is something I just launched, and it features longer or in-depth commentary or reported feature — the first was about J.K. Rowling and Richard K. Morgan’s comments online. The next is set to go out this week, about the legacy of Michael Crichton’s name. This has a smaller audience, but with a much higher open and reading rate (~80%). Future plans here include podcasting (to be called Transfer Orbit), with one long-form interview set to debut later this month, as well as a handful of other posts, ranging from essays about writing, an in-depth feature on a military war game, and more.

(11) YOUR CHAIRS ARE READY. Episode 30 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast is out: “The many trouser-legs of time”. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg are joined by Dr. Lucy Sussex to talk about alternate history novels. In particular, they discuss those alternate timelines in which the Axis powers won the Second World War. (Did someone forget to punch the Nazis?)

  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton
  • Dominion by C. J. Sansom
  • The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
  • SS-GB by Len Deighton
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

(12) AT THE CORE. In Nature, astronomers claim “Core of a gas planet seen for the first time” says the BBC.

Astronomers have found a previously unseen type of object circling a distant star.

It could be the core of a gas world like Jupiter, offering an unprecedented glimpse inside one of these giant planets.

Giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn have a solid planetary core beneath a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium gas.

But no-one has previously been able to see what these solid cores are like.

Now, a team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that’s missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature.

(13) PLANTING THE FLAG. This is a wonderful GIF — “NASA if it had the same budget as the US Military”. (I won’t embed it here, because GIFs in the Scroll drive some of you to distraction. Not that I’ll never ever do it, you understand…)  

(14) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. BBC reports:“Tesla overtakes Toyota to become world’s most valuable car maker”.

Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker, overtaking Japan’s Toyota, after its stock hit a record high.

Shares in the electric carmaker hit a record $1,134 on Wednesday morning, before falling back, leaving it with a market value of $209.47bn (£165bn).

That is roughly $4bn more than Toyota’s current stock market value.

However, Toyota sold around 30 times more cars last year and its revenues were more than 10 times higher.

Shares in Tesla have risen more than 160% since the start of 2020, as investors feel more confident about the future of electric vehicles.

(15) SPACE JAM. A 2017 NASA video called “Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K” is a really good look at the International Space Station with some smooth jazz. 

(16) BORED NOW. “Crucible: Amazon pulls ‘boring’ big-budget video game”.

Amazon has pulled its first major game release, putting it back into a testing phase after poor feedback from players.

Free-to-play shooter Crucible is now being put back into “closed beta” – a pre-release stage with a limited number of players.

Current players will be part of the beta, but new players will be unable to download the game without an invite.

Amazon said it had listened to player feedback and would “continue to make the game better”.

In May, when the game was about to be released, Amazon Games vice-president Mike Frazzini told the BBC the company wanted “to make games that resonate with a very large audience of players”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What?!

Dippin’ Dots—they’re an amusement park, zoo, aquarium and overall summertime staple. The mini balls of ice cream that melt in your mouth are also a childhood favorite. But where did the “ice cream of the future” come from? The answer has a little something to do with cow feed.

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

Amazon’s Best Books
of 2020 So Far

The 20 books picked by Amazon editors as “Best Books of 2020 so far” include works by sff authors Max Brooks, Suzanne Collins, N.K. Jemisin, and John Scalzi.

They also picked these 20 sff category books as Amazon’s Best science fiction and fantasy of 2020 so far:

  • The City We Became: A Novel by N. K. Jemisin
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  • Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel by Martha Wells
  • Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
  • Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso
  • Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward
  • Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Night Country by Melissa Albert
  • The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey
  • Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Repo Virtual by Corey J. White
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • The House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
  • A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
  • Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
  • Agency by William Gibson

Pixel Scroll 6/5/20 I’ve Got A File, You Can Comment If You Like, It’s Got A Pixel, A Scroll That Rhymes

(1) OFF SCRIPT, ON POINT. Cat Rambo was profiled by The Seattle Times today: “Fresh off a Nebula Award and kicking off a book deal, West Seattle writer Cat Rambo speaks about craft, George Floyd protests and more”

… Though her presidency ended last year, the legacy of her work was on full display during a vibrant awards ceremony and conference, a gathering forced online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s the reason that SFWA was able to do this pivot because she put the organization on such firm financial footing,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, SWFA president, during the awards, adding: “She was such an amazing president for five years. Let me say that again. She was president of SFWA for five years. Five.”

Asked to give a speech that Saturday night, the webcast from her delightfully book-cluttered office turned into a toss-the-script moment.

“I had a pretty speech all prepared, but the news this morning convinced me to throw that all away,” she said of the developing clashes around the country between protesters and law enforcement after George Floyd was killed by arresting police in Minneapolis last week.

She noted that the SFWA was started by a small group of writers who wanted to look out for their fellow writers. The need for that mission has only been reinforced in a time of pandemic and pandemonium.

(2) THE NOT RIGHT SPEAKS OUT. Alt-right blog Bounding Into Comics did a roundup of the opinions of writers Jon Del Arroz, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Kit Sun Cheah, Yakov Merkin, and Louie Lozano. who condemned plans SFWA announced yesterday in “A Statement from SFWA on Black Lives Matter and Protests”.

(3) LEGO SOFT-PEDALS COP SETS. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertaiment story “Lego pauses marketing its police-themed playsets ‘in response to events in the U.S.'”, says Lego announced it will still sell, but not market, such kits as “Sky Police Air Base” and “Police Highway Arrest” as well as kits of the White House in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death

…Earlier this week, the Toybook published the copy of an email sent to affiliates by the marketing network Rakuten LinkShare. “In light of recent events, Lego has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP,” the letter begins. The list of more than 30 products includes such playsets as Sky Police Air Base, Police Highway Arrest, Police Handcuffs & Badge and Police Pursuit, as well as a Lego version of the White House, which has been the site of several clashes between police and protesters.

In a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment, Lego stresses that these playsets are not being pulled from sale in stores or online, but confirms that they are part of an ongoing marketing pause. No end date was specified as to when the brand would resume marketing. (Read the full statement below.)…

…There is no place for racism in our society. We stand with the black community against racism and inequality. Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and that includes inspiring them to be tolerant, inclusive and kind. There is more to do and as one small step, we are donating US$4 million to organizations in the U.S. dedicated to organizations that support black children and others that educate all children about tolerance and racial equality. …

(4) TRASH OF THE TITANS. “Elon Musk calls for ‘break up’ of Amazon”

Elon Musk has called for the “break up” of tech giant Amazon, following a dispute about a coronavirus e-book.

The entrepreneur came to the defence of an author after Amazon’s Kindle publishing division rejected his book about the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Musk tagged Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos in a tweet, saying the decision was “insane”, adding: “Time to break up Amazon.”

Amazon said the book had been removed in error and would be reinstated.

The author of the book, Alex Berenson, caught Mr Musk’s attention by tweeting a screenshot from Amazon, which told him that his book about the pandemic did not meet its guidelines.

(5) DC DEALS DIAMOND OUT. ComicsBeat brings news of a seismic upheaval in comics distribution: “DC pulls out of Diamond, will use Lunar and UCS for periodical distribution”.

…DC’s comics will be available through Lunar Distribution and UCS Comics Distributors, the companies that were set up during Diamond’s downtime, as well as Penguin Random House, which has been DC’s book distributor for many years.

…Asked for confirmation, a DC spokesperson sent this statement:

“After 25 years, DC and Diamond Comic Distributors are ending their long-standing relationship. Moving forward, comic book retailers can obtain their DC books from Penguin Random House, or their books and periodicals through Lunar or UCS comic book distributors. DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world’s greatest comic books.”

The mailer included this answer to “Why is DC Doing This?”

DC has been analyzing its Direct Market distribution for some time, long before COVID, specifically in light of sustained stagnant market growth. The timing of the decision to move on from Diamond was ultimately dictated by the fact that DC‘s contract with Diamond has expired, but incidentally, the disruption by COVID to the market has required DC to forge ahead with its larger growth strategies that will benefit both the Direct Market and DC.

… Diamond has just released a response from owner Steve Geppi….

Today, DC sent out a retailer communication indicating they are ending their long-standing relationship with Diamond. In April, we were informed that DC was going to begin distributing products through additional partners. At that time, they asked us to submit a proposal for a revised agreement with the understanding that Diamond would continue to be one of their distributors. Which we promptly did. They then requested an extension to June 30 which we also accommodated. Last week, DC requested an additional extension through July. We responded with questions and DC indicated they would reply today, June 5. Instead of receiving a response, today we received a termination notice. While we had anticipated this as a possible outcome, we, like so many others in the industry, are disappointed by their decision to end our partnership so abruptly at this time.

(6) INSIDE THE SERIAL BOX. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson scored an interview with two of the creators behind a new Jessica Jones project: “Interview: Lauren Beukes and Fryda Wolff”.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire launched on Serial Box on May 28th, with new episodes available every Thursday.   Jessica Jones’ dry sense of humor,  her brand of “self care”, and a simple missing person case, what could possibly go wrong? (well, everything of course, and that’s what makes this so addictively entertaining!).

The 16 episode season was written by Lauren Beukes, Vita Ayala, Sam Beckbessinger, Zoe Quinn, and Elsa Sjunneson, and narrated by Fryda Wolff. …

NOAF: How did the team decide who was going to write which episodes?  Any funny stories about how particular scenes were plotted out or designed?

LB: We settled it with an old-fashioned rage-in-the-cage, home-made weapons, anything goes, no backsies. No, that’s not right. We used our words and talked it out. What was interesting was how particular episodes really resonated with different writers. It was very organic and democratic. Elsa was excited to write the Matt Murdock chapters because it’s the first time the blind Daredevil has been written by an actual blind writer. Vita called dibs on the big fight scene, and Zoe wanted to delve into the psychological trauma and head games. I wanted to kick it off, set the tone and then we brought in another wonderful South African writer, Sam Beckbessinger, post-writers room, to write some of the later chapters.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 5, 1956 X Minus One’s “Project Mastodon” first aired. Based  off multiple Hugo Award wining author Clifford D. Simak’s novella from the March 1955 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, Three adventurers return to prehistoric times, found a country called Mastodonia, and try to establish diplomatic relations with the United States with somewhat mixed results. The script is by Ernest Kinoy. The cast members were Floyd Mack, Dick Hamilton, Charles Penman,  Raymond Edward Johnson, Frank Maxwell, Bob Hastings, John Larkin and Joe Julian.  You can listen to it here.                                

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; 200 covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss him in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of honor at Supermancon (the second Eastercon – British national SF con – to be held at Manchester).  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as  The Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, 89.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction….  I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book f short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 74. Einstein on Farscape (though he was uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, also a British bodyguard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1949 – Ken Follett, 71.  Five novels, as many shorter stories, in our field, under this and other names; translated into Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish; dozens more, some international best-sellers; The Pillars of the Earth, about building a 12th Century cathedral, sold 27 million copies as of 2019; film and television adaptations.  Non-fiction On Wings of Eagles about rescuing men from Iranian prison.  Four honorary doctorates.  Bass balalaika with folk group Clog Iron.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1953 Kathleen Kennedy, 67. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say at least half genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan 60.  A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locu s687.  Two Ditmars, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Singing My Sister Down.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma 56. Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1971 Susan Lynch, 49. Northern Irish actress whose career in film started off by being a selkie in The Secret of Roan Inish with her next role being an unnamed Paris Vampire in Interview with a Vampire. Film wise, her last role to date is Aunt Alice in Ready Player One. She’s got one series credit to date playing Angstrom In the Thirteenth Doctor story, “The Ghost Monument”. (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 44. South African writer and scriptwriter. Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her a August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. (CE) 

(9) UNDER THE HOOD. SYFY Wire reports: “Mark Hamill Surprises Star Wars-Loving Nurse In Heartwarming ‘Kimmel’ Segment”.

Do you need a dose of optimism and joy in such uncertain and turbulent times? We’ve got just the thing with a wonderful Jimmy Kimmel Live segment in which Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself!) surprises a California healthcare worker who also happens to be a massive Star Wars fan. That’s Chloé Ducos, a registered nurse who works in a coronavirus testing tent in San Diego.

“I’m a pretend hero, you’re the real hero. Thank you for your service,” Hamill told Ducos, who burst into genuine tears of shock and happiness when the actor appeared on the virtual call and removed his Jedi-like hood. Her heartwarming reaction alone makes the video below worth watching.

Kimmel’s YouTube intro adds:

…We are also giving her $10,000 from our friends at PayPal, who will also be sending PayPal vouchers to all of her coworkers as well.

(10) PRO TIP. Matt Wallace cannot be denied.

(11) MORE THAN CATAPULT FODDER. Paul Weimer is high on the novel and the author: “Microreview [Book] Savage Legion by Matt Wallace” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Savage Legion is most definitely the best work from the pen of an author whose skills, to my eye, are growing by leaps and bounds.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. NPR asks “Are There Zombie Viruses — Like The 1918 Flu — Thawing In The Permafrost?”

Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of that summer trip.

“I noticed a red spot on the front of my leg,” Peterson says. “It was about the size of a dime. It felt hot and hurt to touch.”

The spot grew quickly. “After a few days, it was the size of a softball,” he says.

Peterson realized he had a rapidly spreading skin infection. And he thought he knew where he might have picked it up: a creature preserved in the permafrost….

(13) JETBOY’S LAST ADVENTURE. “Combat drone to compete against piloted plane”

The US Air Force will pit an advanced autonomous aircraft against a piloted plane in a challenge set for July 2021.

The project could eventually lead to unpiloted fighter aircraft that use artificial intelligence (AI).

Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, called the test a “bold, bold idea”.

Air Force Magazine also described the development of autonomous fighter jets as a “big Moonshot” for the military.

(14) ALFRED’S GHOST. “Crows ‘terrorise’ staff at Essex Police headquarters”. BBC learns a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

Police officers and staff are being “terrorised” by a family of crows that is nesting at its headquarters.

Essex Police Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills warned visitors to the site to “beware” and “keep calm and keep walking” in a tweet about the issue.

She shared a photo of a warning sign which has been put up at Essex Police HQ.

It advises people to “take an alternative route” or “wear a hat or use an umbrella”.

The sign urges people to “not act aggressive as they will feel threatened”.

(15) IT REALLY BUGS THEM. The Harvard Gazette finds the worst problem with a lack of sleep might not center where you’d think: “Sleep, death, and… the gut?”

The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a widely cited study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers in 1989 showed that a total lack of sleep inevitably leads to death. Yet, despite decades of study, a central question has remained unsolved: Why do animals die when they don’t sleep?

Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have identified an unexpected, causal link between sleep deprivation and premature death.

In a study on sleep-deprived fruit flies, published in Cell on June 4, researchers found that death is always preceded by the accumulation of molecules known as reactive oxidative species (ROS) in the gut.

When fruit flies were given antioxidant compounds that neutralize and clear ROS from the gut, sleep-deprived flies remained active and had normal lifespans. Additional experiments in mice confirmed that ROS accumulate in the gut when sleep is insufficient.

The findings suggest the possibility that animals can indeed survive without sleep under certain circumstances. The results open new avenues of study to understand the full consequences of insufficient sleep and may someday inform the design of approaches to counteract its detrimental effects in humans, the authors said.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Looking for Mr Bond, 007 at the BBC–James Bond Documentary” on YouTube is a 2015 BBC documentary,, directed by Matthew Thomas, that includes 50 years of behind-the-scenes footage from the BBC of Bond movies, including interviews with Ian Fleming, John le Carre, and Roald Dahl, who wrote the screenplay for From Russia With Love.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/20 How Many Files To Babylon? Fifth Score Files And Ten

(1) BELATED RECOGNITION. BBC explores “Why Octavia E. Butler’s novels are so relevant today”.

The visionary sci-fi author envisaged an alternate future that foresaw many aspects of life today, from big pharma to Trumpism. Now she has a cult following, writes Hephzibah Anderson.

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”. He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

…Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

(2) HOT WORDS ABOUT A COLD CLASSIC. The report in yesterday’s Scroll about Cora Buhlert’s takeoff on a classic, “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, prompted Filers to remember Richard Harter’s epic analysis “The Cold Equations – A Critical Study” (thanks to Andrew for finding the Usenet link.)

… Science fiction has been described as a literature of ideas, a literary arena in which the idea is hero. This may well be true. Too often, however, it is a flawed literature of ideas, marked by shoddy treatments received with uncritical enthusiasm. The Cold Equations has been cited an instance of the “literature of ideas” at its best.

In the original article I argued that the story is no such thing but rather that it is an example of systemic blindness to morally obtuse assumptions. This argument is considered in detail below. Given that, one asks: Why is the story so ardently defended – and attacked? Why has the story made such an impression?…

(3) HITLER BACK ON SALE. Amazon admits it simply makes criticism-driven decisions – “Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” – the New York Times has the story.

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints.

Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

(4) IN LIKE FINN. Camestros Felapton calls it “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever” – Declan Finn’s account of touring Italy with his wife when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country. Camestros ends his I-read-it-so-you-don’t-have-to summary:

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Not that you really ought to deny yourselves – Finn fits quite an epic in between requests for money and Dragon Award nominations.

…We went to the Al Italia counter and the moderately long line. It was processed quickly. We came to the counter.

“Americans?”

I showed her the passports. 

“No,” she said.

No? What do you mean no? Are you going to cancel our flight again? Am I going to have to leap across your sad, pathetic Corona rope line and throttle you into giving us a boarding pass out of this Hell hole? How much more ransom do we have to pay to get us out of here!

She took an abnormally long breath, thought about what she had to say next, and continued, “Other check in, around the corner.”

Whew. No manslaughter charges for me today…. 

While trying to get to their flight they stepped through the wrong door at the airport, ended up on the tarmac, and were corralled by security. Talk about the cold equations — for that violation Italian authorities slapped them with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars. A friend has started a GoFundMe to try and help them recoup some of the money.

(5) WORKING AT HOME, LIKE USUAL. George R.R. Martin began his post “Strange Days” telling about how his theater and other ventures in Santa Fe are closed by the coronavirus outbreak, then gave his personal status:

For those of you who may be concerned for me personally… yes, I am aware that I am very much in the most vulnerable population, given my age and physical condition.   But I feel fine at the moment, and we are taking all sensible precautions.  I am off by myself in a remote isolated location, attended by one of my staff, and I’m not going in to town or seeing anyone.   Truth be told, I am spending more time in Westeros than in the real world, writing every day.   Things are pretty grim in the Seven Kingdoms… but maybe not as grim as they may become here.

Inverse took this to mean “Winds of Winter release finally back on track for one unexpected reason”.

 For now, we’re just excited to hear that George is back at work on The Winds of Winter (of course, it’s possible he’s referencing the script for the upcoming HBO prequel House of the Dragon, but that seems unlikely given the phrasing here).

Winds of Winter was originally scheduled for release in November 2018, but the book got delayed so Martin could focus on Fire & Blood, a “historical” account of House Targaryen that serves as the basis for House of the Dragon. Back in May 2019, he joked in a blog post that if he hadn’t finished the book by 2020 Worldcon New Zealand, he should be locked up on New Zealand’s White Island until he finished it.

In other words, Martin really wants to be done with Winds of Winter by the end of July when the annual conference takes place.

(6) HYPERFEASANCE. The Balticon committee was surprised when the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel started sending out room cancellation notices before they could make an announcement.  On March 12, the Governor of Maryland established a ban, of indeterminate duration, on all gatherings of more than 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The con had been scheduled for May 22-24. The committee told Facebook readers:

After we shut down online registration over the weekend pending a conversation with the hotel, continuing developments with COVID-19 and discussions with the convention committee had convinced the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors we likely needed to cancel the convention. However, we had not yet identified a process for doing that with minimal confusion, nor had we had a conversation with the hotel discussing the process. Today we learned that the hotel had started canceling registrations. We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about the canceled reservations and see that our reservations were getting canceled.

(7) NO ÅCON. Finland’s Acon 11 has been postponed:

…We could have waited, made the decision closer the convention, but honestly, having spent some weeks following the evolving situation, listening to epidemiologists and public officials in both Finland and Sweden, our conclusion is that the chances of the situation having stabilised in May seem very slim indeed. It’s not just a question of whether we would be legally permitted to hold the con in May, but whether we could do it in a responsible manner.

We need to spare everyone involved the unnecessary work and costs. Adlon, our hotel, will take a financial hit. We need to let them know and plan. We want to avoid our members paying for non-refundable travel at a time when the committee don’t believe it will be possible to arrange a convention.

Fortunately, we have few costs we can’t recoup. …

The con was to have been held May 21-24 in Mariehamn.

(8) A DREAMER ROLE. Trans actress Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on Supergirl, was interviewed by SYFY Wire. “Supergirl’s Nicole Maines tells us why Dreamer is more than just a trans character”.

Supergirl is not known for its subtlety. Aliens in the show are a thinly veiled metaphor for immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “others.” The current story arc is coming to a head with the Agent Liberty storyline, in which a TV personality rises through the ranks of government thanks to his anti-alien rhetoric — which sounds familiar, even his real-world equivalent doesn’t have Lex Luthor providing him with fancy gear.

That said, the show is remarkably subtle about a milestone it reached last year: Supergirl features TV’s first openly transgender superhero, Dreamer. Rather than make Nia/Dreamer’s trans-ness a huge deal, after she came out as transgender, the other characters matter-of-factly accepted her, and it never became an issue….

(9) WORDEN OBIT. Astronaut Al Worden died March 17 at the age of 88 reports Florida Today.

“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

During the mission, he orbited the moon dozens of times while astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 18, 1981 The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had  to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”).  You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliché Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J. G. Hertzler, 70. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. 
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 61. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. 
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 59. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions.
  • Born March 18, 1973 Max Barry, 37. He’s written a number of novels of which I’ve read his superb dystopian Jennifer Government and Machine Man when it was online serial. His newest is Providence which sounds fascinating though his book tour in the US got canceled he notes on his blog. 

(12) CRUSADING FOR A CAPE. The Guardian’s “80 years of Robin: the forgotten history of the most iconic sidekick” is really a call for the character to be written as a woman again – and reminds fans that it wouldn’t be the first time.

….Why we’ve not had more female Robins – or better served ones – is a symptom of a much wider problem. Of the 11 writers announced as contributing to DC’s anniversary issue for Robin, only two are women: Devin Grayson and Amy Wolfram. Between January and March last year, women accounted for 16% of the credits on comics released by DC; of writers, only 13% were women. The studio celebrated 80 years of Batman last year, but in that time not a single woman has been at the helm of Batman or Detective Comics. Aside from Grayson’s work on Nightwing and Gotham Knights, no female writer has ever written a Batman series. Given how many women are working on Batgirl, Catwoman and Batwoman, it would seem they are restricted to writing female heroes.

(13) A VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. This will make some folks cranky. Tom Morton asks “Avenue 5: Why Is Sci-Fi Comedy So Unfunny?” at Frieze.

… Given the impregnable humourlessness of most sci-fi – from the rigorously logical ‘hard sf’ of the novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951–53) to the dreamy vision of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris (1972) – the genre’s tropes should be an open goal for the comic imagination. Why, then, do so many sci-fi themed comedies fail to raise a smile? Partly, it’s that parody, as a form, is hard to sustain – witness Seth Macfarlane’s television series The Orville (2017–20), a directionless send-up of Star Trek (1966–69), or Mel Brooks’s movie Spaceballs (1987), a staggering unfunny Star Wars (1977) take-off. Comparatively better were the first two seasons of British sitcom Red Dwarf (1988–2017). Drawing on the aesthetic of John Carpenter’s slackers-in-space movie, Dark Star (1974), the show centred initially on a classic odd-couple relationship between the last human in existence, a warm-hearted scouse wastrel, and his foil, an uptight, socially ambitious hologram. However, when Red Dwarf’s popularity and budget increased, it fell into two traps familiar to makers of ‘straight’ on-screen sci-fi: an overreliance on special effects and (fatally) a fan-servicing emphasis on the lore of its own fictional universe, which destroyed any tension that once existed between the show’s ‘situation’ and its ‘comedy’.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Gizmodo says things are looking up for a NASA Mars probe: “And Now for Some Good News: The Mars InSight Heat Flow Probe Is Digging Again”.

…But the probe faced trouble on deployment. Impeded by an unexpectedly crusty soil texture that didn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig, it only made it down to around a foot and a half. 

(15) JEOPARDY! Some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants didn’t get these sff references. (Honestly, I’d have missed all three myself.)

Category: Places in Fantasy

Answer: The name of this 2-word ancestral dwelling in Tolkien is a play on the translation of the French “cul-de-sac”.

Wrong question: “What is Middle Earth?”

Correct question: “What is Bag End?”


Answer: Much of the action in the “files” of this guy, the city’s resident practicing professional Wizard, takes place in Chicago.

No one could ask, “Who is Harry Dresden?”


Answer: In Bill Willingham’s graphic novels, Bigby, this foe of Rising Hood, is the sheriff of Fabletown.

Wrong question: “What is Nottingham?”

Correct question: “What is The Big Bad Wolf?”

(16) FUN WITH YOUR NEW HEAD. Will you be The One? An interview with the CEO of Valve: “Gabe Newell: ‘We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize'”.

“The area that I’m spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces,” Newell said. “I think that that’s kind of long lead stuff, so that’s kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren’t demanding my attention.”

Human brains can already communicate with computers directly, though in very limited ways compared to the sci-fi systems of The Matrix or William Gibson’s Neuromancer, where physical reality can be totally replaced with a simulated, virtual one. But Newell doesn’t think that kind of sci-fi tech is as far off as it might seem.

“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize,” Newell said. “It’s not going to be The Matrix—The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain-computer interface world is going to be. But it’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.”

(17) I CAN GET A WITNESS. A participant remembers “Launching the Hubble Space Telescope: ‘Our window into the Universe'” – video.

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, putting into orbit one of the most remarkable scientific instruments that has ever existed.

But initially the mission ran into problems, including a flawed mirror that meant the first images from Hubble were blurry.

Nasa astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was one of the five crew members who launched the Hubble.

(18) IT’S A BIRD. Free range dino — “Fossil ‘wonderchicken’ could be earliest known fowl”.

A newly discovered fossil bird could be the earliest known ancestor of every chicken on the planet.

Living just before the asteroid strike that wiped out giant dinosaurs, the unique fossil, from about 67 million years ago, gives a glimpse into the dawn of modern birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, but precisely when they evolved into birds like the ones alive today has been difficult to answer.

This is due to a lack of fossil data.

The newly discovered – and well-preserved – fossil skull should help fill in some of the gaps.

“This is a unique specimen: we’ve been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” said Dr Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge.

“It’s the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it’s able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds.”

(19) TUB THUMPING. Don’t miss the Special “Social Distancing” Edition of The Late Show.

If you’re watching this from home right now, you’re doing the right thing. If you’re watching it from your bathtub bunker like our host, please remember to save some hot water for the rest of us. Either way, we’re glad you’re with us. So stay hunkered down and please enjoy this episode of The Lather Show with Scrubbin’ Colbath!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/10/20 We Are The Pixels, My Friend, And We’ll Keep On Scrollin’, To The End

(1) BULLISH ON JOCK. PropStore is holding an auction of alternate movie posters by Jock. In “Poster Boy”, “Mondo artist Jock talks us through five of his most impressive posters, all of which are part of the Prop Store Movie Poster Auction on March 26.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

This was an idea-led design choice. That technique of cutting out the bodies was more common in old ’50s and ’60s American magazine illustration. The goal with doing that was to elevate what would just be a drawing of the characters standing there into something that’s more design-led and more interesting.

There’s also a “Jock Q&A – In conversation with celebrated Mondo poster artist Jock”

How does your poster-design process start?
I think posters often work best if there’s an idea behind them, rather than just being an illustration of the characters in a cool position. For my most recent Star Wars posters, for example, I chose a scene from the films that we all know and love, but tried to present it from an angle that we haven’t seen before. The only thing about trying to come up with an idea is you can’t force it. You’ve just gotta kind of noodle and doodle until you maybe have an idea for something.

(2) A LITTLE NUDGE. The discussion here is an example of one of the social dynamics at work on the Hugo Awards. It begins with this tweet —  

(3) LIU ADAPTATION TO SMALL SCREEN. AMC has given a two-season pickup to Pantheon,  a sff drama from Craig Silverstein. The series is based on short stories by Ken Liu.

Written by Silverstein (Turn: Washington’s Spies, Nikita), Pantheon is set in a world where uploaded consciousness is a reality. The first season centers on Maddie, a bullied teen who receives mysterious help from someone online. The stranger is soon revealed to be her recently deceased father, David, whose consciousness has been uploaded to the Cloud following an experimental destructive brain scan. David is the first of a new kind of being: an “Uploaded Intelligence” or UI, but he will not be the last, as a global conspiracy unfolds that threatens to trigger a new kind of world war.

(4) SFF SHOW AXED. YouTube is moving away from scripted originals, and Impulse is a casualty.

…YouTube has canceled the sci-fi series Impulse after two seasons, making it the latest casualty in the video platform’s changing strategy for original programming. …

Impulse, developed by Jeffrey Lieber (Lost, NCIS: New Orleans) and with a pilot episode directed by executive producer Doug Liman, premiered in June 2018. It centers on 16-year-old Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hasson), who has the ability to teleport but can’t control where she ends up. It’s based on a novel of the same title by Steven Gould.

(5) AND THESE TWO NEVER GOT ON THE AIR. Meanwhile, Disney has changed its mind about a planned Muppets revival, and scrapped a Tron adaptation before anyone even knew they were doing one. The Hollywood Reporter has the story in “Bob Iger’s Next Priority? Streamline Disney+ Development”.

In a sign of the challenges, Disney+ has developed then scrapped three original series in the past year: scripted comedy Muppets Live Another Day from Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis and Josh Gad; Disney villains drama Book of Enchantment from Michael Seitzman; and, per sources, a never-announced Tron adaptation from John Ridley. Two other projects — TV series based on High Fidelity and Love, Simon — were moved to Hulu over their adult thematic content that executives weren’t comfortable showing on the family-friendly Disney+.

(6) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. One doesn’t have to travel too far back in time to run into certain problems: “Old episodes of Doctor Who streaming on BritBox stir up controversy” at Fansided.

Doctor Who is unique among current popular genre series in that it’s technically been around for nearly 60 years, officially kicking off on November 23, 1963….

And that can cause issues, because 1963 was a very different time, for television and the world in general. So was 1977, when Tom Baker was starring as the Fourth Doctor. That’s when the show aired the serial “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” starring John Bennett acting in yellowface as villain Li H’sen Chang, a stage magician aided by Mr. Sin, a cyborg from the 51st century known as the Peking Homunculus.

Yeah, it’s bad. And did we mention that, in the serial, Chinese people are referred to as “inscrutable ch**ks”? It’s very bad.

“It is really hard to watch because yellowface is so unacceptable now,” said Emma Ko, a screenwriter and spokeswoman for British East Asians in Theatre and on Screen. “When you are somebody who was called a “ch**k” in your childhood, as I have been, it is so hard to hear that word and not feel immediately a trigger reaction of how wrong it is.”…

(7) DOING WHAT COMES SUPERNATURALLY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Michael Koryta and Alma Katsu on Horror, Craft, and Reinvention” at CrimeReads, horror novelists Koryta and Katsu interview each other on their new novels, Katsu’s The Deep and Koryta’s The Chill (written as by Scott Carson), as they ask each other about their backgrounds and how they ended up writing horror. Alma Katsu has lived in the Washington D.C. area and has been a guest at Capclave.

Alma Katsu: After establishing yourself in mystery and crime, I have to ask, what drew you to horror for The Chill? What was the appeal? Does everyone secretly—or openly—love horror? 

Michael Koryta: Love of the storytelling world where the past is encroaching on the present. A ghost story invites the past right in and treats it as if it never left. In my experience, that’s really how we live our lives—every move made in the present is shaped by memory, right? On individual and societal levels. The idea of kicking open a door that allows the past to wander in and be active is always appealing to me. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to this when the natural world is involved in the story. The idea of turning on a faucet in Queens and receiving water that comes from a reservoir in the Catskills where once a town existed is both intriguing to me and fundamentally eerie. Drink up!

I don’t think everyone loves horror, which is a shame, because they should. A little paranoia is good for the soul. It seems so unimaginative to not be afraid of the dark.

What about you? Why are you writing for the warped minds like mine?

Katsu: I lived in a strangely Gothic world as a child. I grew up in a very spooky house in a spooky town in Massachusetts. The house was an old Victorian, long neglected, which meant it had all these period details that, being a Service brat, I’d never seen before. Pocket doors that disappeared into the walls, twisty stairs leading up to an attic filled with old trunks left by previous occupants. Overrun by mice, so the walls talked to you every night. Growing up in a house like that definitely cements the notion that the past is a frightening place.

(8) BLACK WIDOW FINAL TRAILER. Black Widow arrives in theaters May 1.

“At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”

(9) POMERANTZ OBIT. Earl Pomerantz, a two-time Emmy winner who wrote and produced for such comedies as The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Cosby ShowTaxi and The Larry Sanders Show, has died. “Earl Pomerantz, Producer and Emmy-Winning Screenwriter, Dies at 75”. He wrote two episodes of Amazing Stories — “Fine Tuning” and “Mummy Daddy”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 10, 1978 Return from Witch Mountain premiered. The sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, it was written by Malcolm Marmorstein and is based on were characters that created by Alexander Key who also wrote the novelization of the film. Ike Eisenmann, Kim Richards, and Denver Pyle reprise their roles from the first with Bette Davis and. Christopher Lee being the baddies here.  Neither critics (40% rating) or audience (50% rating) at Rotten Tomatoes were particularly fond of it. You can see it here.
  • March 10, 1995VR.5 premiered on Fox. It featured a cast of David McCallum, Anthony Head, Lori Singer and Louise Fletcher. It was created by Jeannine Renshaw. Executive producer Thania St. John stated that in press releases, “VR.5 will try to capture that same, creepy feeling of the X-Files” which was the lead-in to this series. It lasted a total of thirteen episodes with only ten shown in its first run. There is no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critic rating is very high 75%. You can see the pilot here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon  as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still  playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script oddly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydon. He’s here as he was in The Lost World, the 1960 film version, as Prof. Summerlee. He showed up in the same year in The Twilight Zone in “A Thing About Machines” as Bartlet Finchley. And he’d be Solicitor Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M. Miller”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 82. Currently the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone,  62. Damn, she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being Total Recall where she played the ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. 
  • Born March 10, 1969 Paget Brewster, 51. She was Jenny Spy on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and most of her genre roles have been voice roles: Lana Lang on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Lois Lane on Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Poison Ivy on Batman and Harley Quinn.
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 43. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 41. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a World Fantasy Award. Its sequel. Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo is making perfect sense interpreting a Philip Dick title!
  • Today’s Bizarro has everyone’s dream of heaven.

(13) LIVE LONGER, AND PROSPER. An AP newswire article about Congress trying to cope with the coronavirus situation included this interesting sidelight: “Lawmakers race to respond to outbreak; Trump comes to Hill”.

[…] Meanwhile, lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves at the Capitol, with the House’s attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings — he recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead.

(14) AMAZON’S LOTR ADAPTATION. Don’t let Yahoo! fool you – they don’t know when it’s going to air. They know some other facts, however — “The Lord of the Rings TV show release date, cast, trailer and everything we know so far about the Amazon Prime series”.

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to find out more about the Lord of the Rings TV show. Amazon’s series – the rights for which are rumoured to have cost the streaming service $250 million – may not yet have a release date, but there’s plenty of information out there: cast members, filming location, and news of a second season renewal have all been revealed.

Whether you’re a Tolkien diehard or someone who’s just eager to head back to Middle-Earth after watching the movies, we’ll break down what to expect from the Lord of the Rings TV show below. To Mordor!

(15) GET AN EARFUL. The GraphicAudio trailer makes Wasted Space, Vol. 1 sound pretty appealing.

Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying.

Too bad he couldn’t care less.

Michael Moreci (Roche Limit, Wonder Woman, Black Star Renegades) and Hayden Sherman (The Few, Cold War, John Carter: The End) have thrown Philip K. Dick in a blender with Preacher. Take a sip and get wasted.

(16) AHMED’S LATEST. Coming from Marvel in June:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1

Written by SALADIN AHMED; Art by RYAN KELLY; Cover by ALEX ROSS

In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor—but is that even possible? A young, low-level Super Hero, trying to help his neighbors—but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes, and dreams.

Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill, and more, Kurt Busiek recruits Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and all-star Ryan Kelly to uniquely retell this iconic Marvel story.

(17) DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Evidently, speculative fiction is gaining traction within many music communities. William Gibson was asked by Wire Magazine, which is one of the leading underground music magazines (behind a paywall), to take part in the Invisible Jukebox and identify a series of recordings by ear alone.

Invisible Jukebox: William Gibson: Can the visionary science fiction author hack The Wire’s mystery record selection? Tested by Emily Bick…

Steely Dan

Kid Charlemagne

[(from The Royal Scam [ABC 1976]).  

“Kid Charlemagne. I have it on my iPhone.

You’re a real Steely Dan fan, right?

Yeah, I was a Steely Dan fan from the day the 45 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” came out and continue to be this day. Lyrically, it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and it continues to be. Back in the later  80s I would be in the supermarket shopping. Sometimes I’d be the only male shopper, and “Hey Nineteen” would come on the Muzak. And so I’m listening to this, and looking around me are all these lovely young mothers, and I’m thinking holy shit, does nobody scan the stuff for what the lyrics mean, because this is the most deliberately sexually perverse and shocking material. Sometimes I hear younger people say, “Oh, Steely Dan. Everything’s been sanded off. It’s all smooth, it doesn’t sound like human beings are making it.” And then when you listen to the lyrics….

They got their name from a double-headed dildo, so you really can’t expect much else.

Yeah, that’s true. 

(19) DINO SAVINGS TIME. Gizmodo held a shell up to their ear, and guess what they heard?“Days on Earth Used to Be 30 Minutes Shorter, Ancient Shell Suggests”.

….That days were shorter tens of millions of years ago is hardly a revelation. The new study is important in that it improves the accuracy of pre-existing estimates, while providing a new way of studying the past.

“Previous estimates were based on counting daily laminae [growth layers] similar to the ones we did chemical analyses on,” de Winter told Gizmodo. “This [previous] counting yielded roughly the same number of days per year, but with different countings yielding differences up to 10 days due to human error and the difficulty in recognizing daily layers by eye.”

Key to the research was a single fossil shell belonging to Torreites sanchezi, a rudist clam. Now extinct, rudists were shaped like boxes, tubes, and rings, and they filled an ecological niche currently occupied by coral reefs. T. sanchezi grew very quickly as far as hinged, or bivalve, mollusks are concerned, exhibiting thin layers of daily growth rings.

(20) EVOLUTION IN ACTION. The satellite Pixel’d yesterday for its movie camera also does hot stills: “Anak Krakatau: Finnish radar satellite eyes tsunami volcano”.

Here’s a new view of Anak Krakatau, the collapsed Indonesian volcano that generated the 22 December tsunami that devastated local coastlines.

The picture was assembled from radar images acquired on Wednesday by the ICEYE-X2 satellite.

This is a small innovative spacecraft from Finland that will soon be part of a large orbiting network of sensors.

The volcano continues to evolve, following the cone’s catastrophic failure.

Its original height of 340m was reduced to just 110m in the disaster, but further eruptions have since begun to re-model the remnant structure.

“This image indicates the edifice is in a building phase, with the crater no longer connected to the sea as it was in images from a week or so ago,” observed Prof Andy Hooper from Leeds University, UK.

(21) ANOTHER STEP. “Second patient cured of HIV, say doctors”.

A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say.

Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy.

He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports.

The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr Castillejo, protection against HIV.

(22) GENRE L.A. At CrimeReads, Katie Orphan goes to one of the last roadhouses in the L.A. area and visits the house where Mildred Pierce was filmed in“Searching for James M. Cain’s Los Angeles”, an excerpt from her book Read Me, L.A.: Exploring L.A.’s Book Culture.

… In The Postman Always Rings Twice, for example, the fictional Twin Oaks Tavern is at the center of much of the action. The story in Cain’s debut novel revolves around the tavern’s owner, Nick Papadakis (“the Greek”), his younger wife, Cora, and Frank Chambers, a drifter they hire to help out at the place; Cora and Frank get involved and conspire to kill the Greek. The Twin Oaks is a roadhouse in the mountains above L.A., with a gas station and motel joining a restaurant to make Papadakis’s little empire. Places like that were common in the 1930s and ’40s but aren’t today, so the few that are left are treasures. Newcomb’s Ranch is one of them.

Newcomb’s opened in what is now the Angeles National Forest in 1939, only a few years after Cain wrote Postman. It’s a cheery, ranch-style wooden building set among pines, on winding Angeles Crest Highway about an hour north of Glendale, where the Papadakises would travel to do their shopping.

Newcomb’s Ranch is a popular weekend destination for motorcyclists who stop for lunch after roaring up Angeles Crest Highway, and I enjoyed the drive up as much as they do. It’s a gorgeous journey into the San Gabriel Mountains; if you go in winter, you might be fortunate enough to encounter trees flocked with snow and low-hanging clouds settling around the peaks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/29/20 Pixel, Dixel, File, My Scroll John, Did His Reading With His Sockses On, One Flew Off, One Stayed On, Does The Book Get A Hugo Nom?

(1) STÅLENHAG ARRIVES ON SMALL SCREEN. Amazon Prime dropped a trailer for Tales from the Loop.

Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.

(2) HUGO DEADLINE APPROACHING. CoNZealand sent members a reminder that the end of the Hugo nomination period is March 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:59 am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Irish time, and 8:59 pm March 14, 2020 New Zealand time.)

(3) IRISH COMICS AWARDS. The “Irish Comic News Awards Winners 2019” are out. Unfortunately Dublin 2019, nominated for Best Irish Comic-Related Event, did not win.  

BEST ARTIST (SMALL PRESS)

  • Kevin Keane (Nazferatu)

BEST WRITER (SMALL PRESS)

  • Wayne Talbot (Nazferatu)

BEST IRISH ARTIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Will Sliney (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge)

BEST IRISH WRITER (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Michael Carroll (2000AD)

BEST COLOURIST (SMALL PRESS)

  • Rebecca Reynolds (Plexus)

BEST COLOURIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Ellie Wright

BEST LETTERER

  • John Cullen (NHOJ)

BEST WEBCOMIC

  • Twisted Doodles

BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (SMALL PRESS)

  • Nazferatu

BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • 2000AD

BEST NEWCOMER / BREAKTHROUGH 

  • Cian Tormey

BEST IRISH COMIC RELATED EVENT

  • Enniskillen Comic Fest

BEST IRISH COMIC SHOP

  • Comic Book Guys

BEST IRISH ANTHOLOGY

  • Sector 13

OVERALL BEST IRISH COMIC

  • Nazferatu

BEST IRISH COMIC COVER

  • Nazferatu (Kevin Keane)

BEST PUBLISHER

  • Rogue Comics Ireland

BEST COMIC RELATED/FEATURED ONLINE CONTENT

  • Dublin City Comics Weekly Update

BEST IRISH WRITER (NON-FICTION)

  • Michael Carroll (Rusty Staples)

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The latest free read in the Future Tense series is Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm” a short story about humanity’s first encounter with a very disturbing alien.

And, as always, there’s a response essay – this time by Sarah Scoles, author of “Why Would the Government Lie About Aliens?”.

If you think the government has more information about UFOs than it’s letting on, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed 68 percent of people feel that way. Thirty-three percent of all respondents said that they believe UFOs were built by aliens from outer space.

The Venn diagram center of those two groups clings to one of the most enduring conspiracy theories: The Government (it’s always with a capital G for believers) is squirreling away information about alien spacecraft. This idea appears, and has for years, on internet forums, social media, TV shows, memes, movies, and, of course, fiction, like Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm.”

(5) FLAT PACK. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar tells us that “‘Finna’ Warns: Beware Of The Fuzzy Chairs”.

There isn’t a word wasted in Nino Cipri’s Finna. For a book about travelling through nightmarish labyrinths that cut and twist between worlds, it’s remarkably straightforward.

Ava works at LitenVärld, an IKEA-like giant box store where “the showrooms sat together uneasily, like habitats at a hyper-condensed zoo.” Her day begins with relatively minor inconveniences — being forced to come in on her day off, worrying about having to work with Jules, her ex as of a week ago — but these escalate significantly when a young woman reports that her elderly grandmother’s gone missing. It turns out that something about the haphazardly organized chaos of LitenVärld makes it an especially likely place for wormholes to open up between dimensions — to the point where there are corporate instructions (on VHS) on what to do when that happens. But corporations being what they are, the in-house division for wormhole-patrol was cut a decade ago as a cost-saving measure, so it falls to the two most junior members of staff — barely able to speak to each other, the wound of their breakup still raw — to venture into the other worlds themselves and retrieve the lost grandmother.

I tore through this book in knuckle-biting delight. The contrast between the wacky extra-dimensional (and often terrifying) hijinks and LitenVärld’s soul-depleting mundanity is fresh and lovely, and you’re never quite able to forget the fact that person-eating chairs and blood-drinking Hive Mothers are more enjoyable to spend time with than the grinding misery of minimum-wage work in our late capitalist modernity. But the shenanigans are not the point; they function best as a sly, winking backdrop to the deeply moving character work.

(6) MORE UNSEEN KUDOS. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports on “‘The Invisible Man’: When Danger Is Present — And Clear”.

Of the Universal classic monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, et al. — The Invisible Man is by far the most destructive, the most psychotic, and, not coincidentally, the most recognizably human of them all. (As played by Claude Rains, he’s also the wittiest.) When a man doesn’t have to look at himself in the mirror, he divorces himself from the moral accountability that curbs his worst instincts. Arrogance and contempt are his defining character traits, and invisibility has the effect of weaponizing them, because his scientific genius has both isolated him from other people and heightened his superiority complex.

With his ingenious updating of The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell changes perspective from the mad scientist to the terrified victim he’s stalking, which effectively turns the film into Gaslight with a horror twist. And with an actress of Elisabeth Moss’ caliber in the lead role, the film has a psychological realism that’s unusual for the genre, with Moss playing a woman who’s withstanding a form of domestic abuse that may have a supernatural component, but feels sickeningly familiar in many respects. Invisibility has the effect of elevating a person’s worst instincts, so it follows that the manipulation and torment she experiences is just a more extreme version of common behaviors.

…As Cecelia gets pushed to the brink of madness — as much by not be believed as being stalked — Whannell gives the suspense set pieces plenty of room to breathe and take on a paranoid flavor. Moss and the camera are co-conspirators in horror: She imagines Adrian watching her silently from some empty corner of a room and the camera seems to affirm her worst fears, suggesting a presence through odd angles and pans across the space. Where another actor might look foolish swatting and wrestling thin air, Moss sells it as part of the overall choreography between an immensely powerful, destructive husband and a wife struggling to leverage control over a desperate situation.

(7) MORE ABOUT DYSON. Freeman Dyson, who passed away yesterday, gave a TED Talk in 2003 which can be viewed here — “Let’s look for life in the outer solar system”.

Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that we start looking for life on the moons of Jupiter and out past Neptune, in the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. He talks about what such life would be like — and how we might find it.

And Axios Future Issue #2 carried this information about him:

Dyson never won a Nobel Prize for his work. He never even bothered to earn a PhD. 

Instead, he spent the rest of his career pursuing whatever caught his interest, migrating from atomic reactor design to nuclear bomb-powered space exploration to the mathematics of baseball

He achieved popular renown as a gifted scientific writer, publishing his final book in 2018 at the age of 95.

A dedicated contrarian, later in his career he came under fire for doubting the danger of human-made climate change.

The bottom line: Few scientists can be said to have played as important a role in the making of our present than Dyson — and even fewer could so brilliantly envision the future.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 29, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow first aired “The Children’s Room”.  A secret Children’s Room at a college attracts the attention of intellectual advanced youths. A professor uncovers that his son and other children are mutants being groomed to assist an alien race in a distant part of the galaxy. It was written by Mel Goldberg by a story by Raymond F. Jones who you’ll know as the author of This Island Earth novel. It starred Claire Luce, Una O’Connor and John Boruff. You can see it here.
  • February 29, 2000— Episode three, “Crunchy Munchy” of The Strangerers would air. This SF comedy about two plant beings who assume human form on Earth to accomplish their mission. The series was by Rob Grant, the creator of Red Dwarf. It would last nine episodes and unsurprisingly ends on a cliffhanger as it was canceled. Jack Docherty and Mark Williams played Cadet Flynn and Cadet Niven. You can see this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 29, 1920 Arthur Franz. He played Dr. Stuart Kelston in the early Fifties Invaders from Mars. He was also Jim Barker in Flight to Mars, and, on a much lighter note, Tommy Nelson in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man. He’ll have six appearances on Science Fiction Theater in six roles, play a hideous monster in Monster on the Campus, and have one-offs on The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, Land of The Giants, Mission: Impossible and The Six-Million Dollar Man. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 29, 1928 Joss Ackland, 92. A very long history of genre involvement starting with Ghost Ship, an early Fifties horror film. He’d soon after play Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and makes a stop on The Avengers. (I’m skipping over a lot of horror he did.) he’s Sapten in Royal Flash but I’ll bet you won’t consider that genre though Kage loved that scoundrel. He shows up in Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and he he’s in a Jekyll and Hyde film in that time period as well. I think I’ll stop with him voicing Black Rabbit in the Watership Down film…
  • Born February 29, 1948 Patricia A. McKillip, 72. If I was to recommend a short list of essential readings of her, I’d start with The Riddle-Master trilogy which is absolutely amazing, toss in the Cygnet series, and add in the linked novels of Winter Rose and Solstice. (The latter has the most cool stitching circle you’ll ever encounter.)  For her tasty short stories, there’s Harrowing the Dragon, Wonders of the Invisible World and Dreams of Distant Shores.
  • Born February 29, 1948 Yanti Somer, 72. Finnish-born actress who appeared in a spate of French and Italian genre films in the late Seventies: Star Odyssey, Battle of the Stars, War of the Robots and Cosmos: War of the Planets. She retired from acting in the early Eighties. 
  • Born February 29, 1952 Tim Powers, 68. He’s won the World Fantasy Award twice for Last Call and Declare, the latter of which I think is awesome. I’m also fond of The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides.
  • Born February 29, 1952 Albert Welling, 68. He played Adolph Hitler in the Eleventh Doctor story, “ Let’s Kill Hitler”. It’s one of the stranger stories they told for that Doctor. He had one-offs on Tales of The Unexpected and Outlander.
  • Born February 29, 1984 Rakhee Thakrar, 36. She also plays the Eighth Doctor’s companion, Bliss, in Big Finish’s Doctor Who: The Time War audio dramas. Have I ever noted that what I admire about the Whoverse is how expansive the the definition of accepted storytelling is? Big Finish has done hundreds of hours of new stories, all adding to the original mythos. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JOHN SCHOENHERR MASTERPIECE. One of the most iconic magazine covers in sff history is on the new – in 1965 – issue of Analog. Tweeted by Galactic Journey:

(12) CONTINUOUS UPROAR. “Telescopes detect ‘biggest explosion since Big Bang'” reports the BBC.

Scientists have detected evidence of a colossal explosion in space – five times bigger than anything observed before.

The huge release of energy is thought to have emanated from a supermassive black hole some 390 million light years from Earth.

The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster.

Researchers reported their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

“I’ve tried to put this explosion into human terms and it’s really, really difficult,” co-author Melanie Johnston-Hollitt told BBC News.

“The best I can do is tell you that if this explosion continued to occur over the 240 million years of the outburst – which it probably didn’t, but anyway – it’d be like setting off 20 billion, billion megaton TNT explosions every thousandth of a second for the entire 240 million years. So that’s incomprehensibly big. Huge.”

(13) THEY’RE BACK. But under wraps ‘til the official unveiling next month: “Rocky And Bullwinkle Statue Returns To Its Home On The Sunset Strip”.

The WEHO TIMES reported the statute’s return today, capturing its image in a brief moment during installation before it was covered. An official unveiling is planned for the end of March, but no date has been set.

The spinning statue depicts Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky. It stands on the corner where Sunset Boulevard splits into Holloway Drive. The statue was removed in 2013 for restoration work.

Today, a giant crane placed the 14-foot, 700-pound statue on its pedestal. The statue dates to 1961, but the original creator is not known. The statue was restored by Ric Scozzari with funding by Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks, and donated by the Jay Ward family for the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Art Collection. It was last seen at the Paley Center’s Jay Ward Legacy Exhibit in 2014.

(14) DEEP BLUE NOISE. BBC looks into the possibility of “Protecting whales from the noise people make in the ocean”.

There is a rising din in the oceans – and whales are having to struggle to compete with it.

“They’re spending more time or energy trying to communicate… by essentially screaming at each other – what we would have to do at a nightclub,” explains says Mark Jessopp at University College Cork.

Dr Jessopp was recently involved in a research project to study the effects of marine seismic surveys on animals such as whales and dolphins.

He and his colleagues found a “huge decrease” in sightings of such species when the work was going on, even when accounting for other factors such as weather.

Seismic surveys are carried out by a range of organisations, including oil and gas companies, as a means of mapping what lies beneath the seafloor.

Shockwaves fired from an air gun – like a very powerful speaker – are blasted down towards the seabed. The waves bounce off features below and are detected again at the surface. The signal that returns reveals whether there is, for instance, oil locked in the rock beneath.

The process creates a tremendous racket. “It’s like an explosion,” says Lindy Weilgart at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. She says that there is now plenty of evidence to show that many marine animals are negatively affected by the clamour.

…And yet a technology exists that could be far less harmful. It is called marine vibroseis and is a low-energy alternative to air guns. Instead of explosive blasts, vibroseis uses smaller vibrations to transmit waves down to the seabed. It actually emits a similar amount of energy overall but spreads it over a longer period, meaning the survey has a less “shocking” impact.

(15) BY THE NUMBERS. “Google asked to justify Toronto ‘digital-city’ plan” – maybe it’s not just the cats that need to be wary of this much curiosity.

The “appropriateness” of Google’s sister company’s plan for a “digital city” in Toronto has been questioned.

A panel set up to scrutinise Sidewalk Labs’s plan has asked it to explain what the benefits would be for citizens in collecting large amounts of data.

The company wants to build a sensor-laden, eco-friendly neighbourhood with all the latest technology innovations.

But it has faced opposition locally. A final decision on whether it can proceed is due next month.

Public asset

Sidewalk Labs’s plans for a “city… built from the internet up” include sensors to monitor traffic, noise, weather, energy use and even rubbish collection.

But now, the Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel has questioned the “appropriateness and necessity” of some of its innovations and asked whether “sufficient benefits had been identified to justify the proposed collection or use of data”.

(16) THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE. “Coronavirus: Amazon removes overpriced goods and fake cures”.

Amazon has banned more than one million products which claim to protect against the coronavirus – or even cure it.

The online retailer told Reuters it had also removed “tens of thousands” of overpriced health products from unscrupulous sellers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings earlier this month, including fake treatments.

The virus, which causes Covid-19, has killed about 2,800 people worldwide.

The WHO said fake coronavirus claims online were causing mass confusion, and urged tech giants to combat the spread of misinformation.

A search for “coronavirus” on Amazon brought up results for face masks, disinfectant wipes and newly-published books on viral infections, revealing how some sellers are cashing in on the health crisis.

It also offered results for vitamin C boosters – a fake cure for the virus that has been widely disseminated online.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Charles M. Schulz Interview on Peanuts (1997)” on YouTube is an interview Charles  Schulz did on The Charlie Rose Show.

[Thanks to Christian Brunschen, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew. Will this be the first time the title is longer than the Scroll?]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/19 The Wendig from a Burning Pixel

(1) ANOTHER TESTIMONY ABOUT HARASSMENT AT CZP. Kelsi Morris, who rose from intern to managing editor of ChiZine Publications – all unpaid – shared a painful account of the chronic sexual harassment she endured from its owners and authors on Facebook. (Much more at the link.)

…I think we can all agree there is a clear pattern of financial mismanagement and ill treatment of authors. What has only just started to be touched on is the deeply rooted culture of bullying, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and the silencing of victims. And this is why I think it’s important I finally say something.

I started with ChiZine in 2012, when I was 22 years old and less than a week out of publishing school…

…I did move up quickly. I started as an intern (unpaid, of course), then became the head of marketing & publicity (also unpaid), then at 23 years old, became the managing editor for the biggest indie speculative fiction publisher in Canada (still unpaid). And more than that, I had somewhere I *belonged*.

…I was considered cool enough to hang, which meant I got to go to the exclusive parties, all the cons and events (at my own expense, of course), was invited to the casual pool nights, and fancy family dinners. I loved being included, and I was still young enough to be starstruck around so many amazing authors I admired.

Being cool, and eventually becoming friends with the “inner circle”, also meant that everyone talked freely around me. I heard the cruel ways they talked about their friends who weren’t around. I heard them plan out ways of breaking up couples. I attended family dinners where folks brought short stories written by their peers to read dramatically aloud and laugh. I heard the boundless misogyny, the mockery of women who spoke out about harassment at cons & the snowflakes who found comfort in content warnings, and the resentment they held towards their authors who had the audacity to expect to be paid. I sat, and listened, and internalized the implicit threat of what could happen to me.

And so I continued to just sit, and listen, with an uncomfortable smile pasted on my face, when I was hit on by male authors more than 15 years my senior. I smiled when hanging out with the inner circle and they made jokes about my body. I grimaced when one of the authors caressed my ass in full view of all my colleagues in the crowded con suite, but didn’t move away. I dressed accordingly at events when Sandra told me the only thing that mattered was “tits and teeth”. I nervously laughed along with everyone else when I was the only woman in a room full of men, and one of them started making rape jokes about me. …

…There are so many people who were complicit in, or at the very least enabled, what has accurately been described as the cult-like culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and silencing. This will continue to be a problem long after ChiZine is gone, if it’s not something we start talking about now….

(2) FIREBELL IN THE NIGHT. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has quit the professional organization SF Canada over its lack of support for the ChiZine authors who have voiced grievances. The thread here.

(3) AMAZON MAKES ITS INVENTORY PROBLEM EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. Publisher Weekly reports “Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers”. Just in time for Christmas.

In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses,Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.

…The head of yet another company said if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks, “we [could] lose the entire holiday season.” He added that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible that some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations. If Amazon starts running out of stock, he added, “maybe they’ll lose some market share to their competitors.”

(4) SEEN AT WFC 2019. Ellen Datlow has shared photos she took at World Fantasy Con and afterward on Flickr.

(5) WRITING ABOUT A DIFFERENT RACE. In “Who Gave You The Right To Tell That Story?” on Vulture, novelists discuss how they wrote about characters who were a different race than they are.  Among the writers who contribute short essays are N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, and Ben H. Winters.

Scouring Tumblr

N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth Trilogy

I’ve learned to not fear obviousness when I’m describing race or topics related to oppression. With an American audience, you have to be as in your face about it as possible because our society encourages delicate euphemism. I’d rather be accused of being obvious than allow people to get away with thinking all of my characters are white people. The truth is, when you walk into a room and you see a bunch of strangers, the first thing you notice is their appearance, their race and gender. When I first describe a character, I sometimes hang a lampshade on race. My narrator will immediately think: ‘She might be Latino, oh maybe not, she might be Indian.’ I render that mental process.

You’re not going to be perfect. In The Broken Kingdoms, my protagonist was a blind woman, and she had a superpower associated with her blindness. As I now know, disability as a superpower is a trope. I didn’t read enough literature featuring blind people to really understand it’s a thing that gets done over and over again. Ehiru, a character from The Killing Moon, is asexual, and I don’t think I explored that well. If I were writing it now, I would have made him more clearly ace. I figured this out by reading Tumblr. I am on Tumblr quietly — I have a pseudonym, and nobody knows who I am. Because lots of young people hang out there and talk about identity and the way our society works, it’s basically a media-criticism lab. It’s an interesting place to talk about identity, and I did not understand until I saw these conversations that asexuality was an identity. I thought about it as a broken sexuality. My story reflected my lack of understanding of how that worked.

(6) NEUKOM SEEKS SFF AWARD ENTRIES. The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is now “Accepting Submissions for 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Awards, now in its third year, offers prizes in three categories of speculative fiction. Each category will receive an honorarium of $5,000 at a Dartmouth-sponsored event related to speculative fiction.

The speculative fiction awards are offered for playwriting, established author and first-time author.

The deadline for all submissions is December 31, 2019. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2020.

(7) TOP DOLLAR. “Joker: How it became the most profitable comic book film ever” – let BBC tell you.

Joker has become the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having made more than $950 million (£738m) at the worldwide box office.

It tells the story of how Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) becomes the Joker, Batman’s nemesis and one of the most infamous comic book villains ever.

Joker has now made more than 15 times what it cost to make, reports Forbes.

Director Todd Phillips made the movie on a budget of $62.5m (£49m), a fraction of the budget of many comic book adaptations.

Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time, has earned close to $2.8 billion (£2.2bn) but had a budget of $356 million (£276m).

Endgame has made more at the box office overall, but Joker has made more in relation to what was spent to make it.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 11, 1951 Flight to Mars premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch for Monogram Pictures, and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz. Most of the interiors are from the Rocketship X-M shooting. It currently has a 21% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at Apple Books and Kindle for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 ?Jonathan Winters. He’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight Zone, Wild Wild West, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs.  And that’s a very selective list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1926 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 59. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Seller. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 57. Ghost, of course, getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grimmy shows why it can be disillusioning – but funny – to meet your heroes.
  • Bizarro fractures a fairy tale.

(11) DISNEY DROPS SONG FROM REMAKE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Controversial Scene That’s Not In The Live-Action of The Lady and the Tramp says that in The Lady and the Tramp remake, streaming on Disney+ on November 12, Disney decided to keep the scene where the Lady and the Tramp bond over a plate of spaghetti but decided to cut “The Siamese Cat Song” because it reflects a  “50s-era Orientalism” considered out of place today.

Interestingly, Disney+ subscribers will have the chance to watch both the the 2019 version of Lady and the Tramp and the 1955 version on the studio’s new streaming service, allowing families to compare and contrast the two films, and discuss moments like “The Siamese Cat Song.”

(12) YOUNG PEOPLE WEIGH IN. James Davis Nicoll connects the Young People Read Old SFF panel with Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon A Star”.

Judith Merril was a founding member of the Futurians, an editor, founder of what is now the Merril library and of course a science fiction writer. 

“Wish Upon a Star” is a generation ship story. By their nature, the need for a stable society able to keep a small community functioning for decades in total isolation, generation ships are forced to make some striking adaptations. In most cases, those adaptations included mutiny, cultural amnesia, barbarism and eventual extinction. 

Merril’s characters made very different choices. Let’s see what the Young People made of them.

(13) AN EARLIER STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Jeff Kingston’s “Exhuming Lafcadio Hearn” at the LA Review of Books surveys the Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Andrei Codrescu, the author’s Japanese Ghost Stories, and Monique Truong’s “mesmerizing” novel The Sweetest Fruits.

In 1890, Hearn moved to Japan, where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life, initially teaching English in remote Matsue, in Shimane Prefecture, and subsequently at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo. He also had stints in journalism and became an influential and popular interpreter for a Western audience of what was regarded at the time as an inscrutable culture and society. He is now best remembered for his traditional Japanese stories about supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons. Hearn died from heart failure at age 54, yet he was a prolific writer, despite poor health in his final years. His insights into turn-of-the-century Japan attest to his powers of observation and interpretation. Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan (1894) is a classic, conveying his rapturous appreciation for all things Japanese, especially traditions, customs, and ways of living unsullied by foreign accretions.

(14) ONE TRUE WAY. The Cut discovered this is a controversial question: “What Is the Correct Way to Eat a Cinnamon Roll?” What do you say?

Madeleine Aggeler, writer: No, you unroll and tear it apart with your fingers.

Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor: There’s no wrong way to eat a cinnamon roll.

Rachel: Incorrect, Mrs. Switzerland, only one can survive.

(15) PRESS THE BUTTON, MAX. “The switch that saved a Moon mission from disaster”.

Just a few months after the triumph of Apollo 11, Nasa sent another mission to the lunar surface. But it came chillingly close to disaster.

In November 1969, just four months after men first set foot on the Moon, Nasa was ready to do it again. Basking in the success of Apollo 11, the agency decided that Apollo 12’s mission to the Ocean of Storms would be even more ambitious.

Unlike Neil Armstrong, who had been forced to overshoot his planned landing site because it was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad was aiming for a precision touchdown, within moonwalking distance of an unmanned Surveyor probe. Conrad and landing module pilot, Al Bean, would then spend longer on the surface – with two excursions planned – while beaming back the first colour television from the Moon.

On 14 November, Conrad, Bean and Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon settled into their couches at the top of the 111-metre-high Saturn 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Meanwhile, in mission control Houston, flight director Gerry Griffin took his seat behind his console – his first time leading a mission.

At the launchpad, the ground was wet from storms that recently passed through the area and the sky is overcast. But with the rocket and crew ready to go, and US President Richard Nixon watching (for the first time) from the VIP stands, all systems were green for launch.

At 11.22, the giant white rocket slowly lifted off the pad and accelerated into the clouds.

“This baby’s really going,” shouts Conrad to his crewmates as the launcher cleared the tower and Houston takes over control. “It’s a lovely lift-off.”

Then, 36 seconds into the flight, Conrad sees a flash. All the fuel cells supplying power to the capsule fell offline and the entire alarm panel lit up….

(16) RAISING THE SUB STANDARD. The Brooklyn Paper tells how it happened: “A rough knight: Medieval fighter slashed in subway”.

Some wacko slashed a modern-day knight in the face aboard an L train in Williamsburg on Nov. 8, after the chivalrous straphanger prevented him from assaulting another man.

The victim — who dons plate armor to engage in armed duals as part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms and New York City Armored Combat League — sustained a seven-inch gash amid the attack, and said Medieval warfare has nothing on the city’s transit system. 

“My sport involves swords and axes, but the only thing I’ve gotten from that is a torn ACL and a couple broken bones, and here I finally get a scar,” said Zorikh Lequidre…. 

(17) BACK OFF. “Bird of the Year: Rare anti-social penguin wins New Zealand poll” – BBC has the story.

An endangered yellow-eyed penguin has won New Zealand’s coveted Bird of the Year competition after two weeks of intense campaigning.

The hoiho saw off more than five rivals to become the first penguin to win the annual honour in its 14-year history.

(18) RUH ROH! SCOOB! is a Scooby-Doo remake which Warner Bros. will release in the summer of 2020.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/1/19 Attention, Slans! This Is a Porgrave Pixel-Broadcasting Scroll

(1) DEEP DISH READING SERIES. The Speculative Literature Foundation will be hosting the Deep Dish Reading Series Thursday, October 3 at 7pm at Volumes Bookcafe (1474 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622).  This event is being done in partnership with the Plurality University Network as part of their Many Tomorrows Festival.

Transcending boundaries of space, time, and imagination, we will gather together in Chicago speculative fiction authors from various communities, each with their own unique vision of the world. This event is co-sponsored by SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) (www.sfwa.org) and Chicago Nerd Social Club (www.chicagonerds.org). 

The event’s Featured Readers will be Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jane Rosenberg LaForge, and Scott Huggins, with Rapid-Fire Readers Sue Burke, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Jeremy John, and Anaea Lay. Deep Dish readings are open to the public and all are welcome, free of charge.

(2) COUPLE OF AMAZON TRIBUTARIES DRYING UP. The Digital Reader reports a pair of changes will soon be made to Amazon’s marketing strategies.

On September 27 they wrote: “Amazon is Shutting Down Amazon Giveaways on 30 November”.

Amazon is shutting down its nearly five-year-old giveaway service in two weeks.

The retailer sent out an email today, informing authors and others who have run contests that the service is being wound down over the next couple months. The option to start a new giveaway contest will end on 10 October, and Amazon will end all current contests on 17 October. 

A couple days later this item followed: “Amazon is Shutting Down Kindle Matchbook, Its Print+eBook Bundling Program”.

…Launched in 2013, Kindle Matchbook was a program where authors and publishers had the option of creating ebook+print bundles that combine a Kindle ebook with a print book sold by Amazon. The ebook could be given away for free, or sold for $1.99 or $0.99.

If you’ve never heard of this program, you’re not alone. Aside from the stories about the publishing industry losing its shit when Amazon launched Kindle Matchbook, it has gotten almost no media attention.

Most authors have never heard of it, and the ones that do have books in the program report that there was little interest from readers.

(3) BREAKING A RULE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett assembles an entertaining array of authors reproving critics in “Taking Care When Biting the Bear”. Keith Roberts lights up a pseudonymous reviewer, while James Blish is racked by Anthony Boucher and Isaac Asimov.

It has often been said, and rightly so, that there is little value in an author complaining about what others say about their work. No matter how wrong-headed an author might think such opinions, in the normal course of events complaining about them rarely does the author much good. The problem for any author who feels slighted is that we all form opinions about everything we experience and few of us will happily accept being told our opinions are worthless. Thus when an author uses the argument ‘that X did not understand what I was trying to do’ most of us feel our hackles raise in empathy with the critic.

To argue about anything but clear errors of fact (as Jack Vance once did in response to James Blish) is risky business for this very reason….

(4) MARS BY WAY OF KENSINGTON. Forbes advises travelers, “From A Mars Exhibit To An Out-Of-This-World Tea Time, Here’s How To Have The Perfect Space-Themed London Day”. The itinerary begins here:

…On October 18, the London Design Museum will launch their “Moving to Mars” exhibition, which considers both the science and design behind what going to Mars will look like for humankind. The exhibit is divided into three aesthetically pleasing exhibitions – one on Mars in popular culture, one on what life and living conditions will be like on Mars, and one on what the future of Mars could look like. Guests are then invited to make their own conclusions about how and when humans should make the leap to the red planet. Because it’s a design museum, the curators have collected more than 150 Mars-related objects and commissioned an interior design firm to create a multi-sensory experience. Guests will be able to walk through a prototype of a Martian habitat and study the clothing that will need to blend style and functionality with heavy-duty protection and technical performance. The exhibit will run until February 23, 2020. It’s best to buy your tickets in advance and is recommended for children 8 and older.

(5) POLL CATS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll comments on “Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections”. (And has no trouble reaching that number even before mentioning Double Star.)

My nation (which may not be yours) is in the midst of another election. On the one hand, it’s a glorious celebration of our right to choose who runs the nation for the next four years. On the other hand, many of us view with dismay the endless election—thirty-six full days of bloviation and punditry!—and the sinking feeling that it is all an exercise in deciding which of our colourful array of parties  is least objectionable. Still, even if it feels like one is being asked to choose between the Spanish Influenza and Yersinia pestis, it is important to remember one take-home lesson from Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War: even undesirable outcomes can be ranked in order of preference. The Spanish flu is bad. The Black Death is worse.

All of which led me to consider how elections have figured in speculative fiction novels.

(6) HARLEY QUINN. The first Birds of Prey trailer has dropped. In theaters February 7, 2020

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered. Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, and Robert Fuller, it was made on a budget of $ 58,000. It went into appeared in wide distribution in 1958 as a double feature with Teenage Monster.
  • October 1, 1998Futuresport aired on ABC. Starring Dean Cain, Vanessa Williams, and Wesley Snipes, it polled 23% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 1, 2001 — The Mutant Xseries first aired. It lasted for three seasons and sixty episodes. John Shea who was Luthor in the 1990s Lois & Clark was a cast member. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1896 Abraham Sofaer. The Thasian in “The Charlie X” episode of the original Trek. He’s also been on  The Man from U.N.C.L.E in “The Brain-Killer Affair” as Mr. Gabhail Samoy, head of U.N.C.L.E. operations in Calcutta, and also had one-offs on Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s ThrillerTime Tunnel, I Dream of JeannieKolchak: The Night Stalker and Lost in Space. (Died 1988.)
  • Born October 1, 1914 Donald Wollheim. Founding member of the Futurians, Wollheim organized what was later deemed the first American science fiction convention, when a group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. As an editor, he published Le Guin’s first two novels as an Ace Double. And would someone please explain to me how he published an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings? (Died 1990.)
  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man him a nominee for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone seen that film? (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 84. Mary Poppins! I could stop there but I won’t. (Hee.) she had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncreated in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman.
  • Born October 1, 1944 Rick Katze, 75. A Boston fan and member of NESFA and MCFI. He’s chaired three Boskones, and worked many Worldcons. Quoting Fancyclopedia 3: “A lawyer professionally, he was counsel to the Connie Bailout Committee and negotiated the purchase of Connie’s unpaid non-fannish debt at about sixty cents on the dollar.” He’s an active editor for the NESFA Press, including the six-volume Best of Poul Anderson series.
  • Born October 1, 1948 Michael Ashley, 71. Way, way too prolific to cover in any detail so I’ll single out a few of his endeavours. The first, his magnificent The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, 1926 – 1965; the second being the companion series, The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1990. This not to slight anything he is done such as The Gernsback Days: A Study in the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction from 1911 to 1936.
  • Born October 1, 1953 John Ridley, 66. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority : human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that last one season in the Nineties. 
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 30. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” of Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Where are they now? Grimmy answers the question for one rainbow vaulter.

(10) AT A GLANCE. Camestros Felapton in “Cat Psychology” provides a handy chart of facial expressions so you can tell what your cat is thinking – provided yours thinks the same way as Timothy the Talking Cat.

(11) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watch a contestant lose money with this response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: What’s that award for.

Answer: The Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Wrong question: What is tennis?

(12) NEW SFF. Victoria Sandbrook praises an author’s debut novel: “Review: THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull”.

…Turnbull’s narrative is measured, calm, until it isn’t, a thundercloud too easily written off until it looms above you. The central, external conflict remains taut and ever-present, even as Turnbull explores the deeply individual experiences of each character with an awareness and love of place rooted in his own history there.

(13) DON’T MISS THE APOCALYPSE. The Daily Mail’s article “Enter the Thunderdome: 4,000 Mad Max fans and their weaponry-festooned vehicles gather in the California desert for Wasteland Weekend – the ‘world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival'” comes with myriad photos.

Roughly 4,000 people have descended on to California‘s Mojave Desert for an annual post-apocalyptic festival called Wasteland Weekend. 

The festival, which was inspired by the Mad Max film series, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year and revelers flocked to the desert in their masses. 

Created in 2010 by Karol Bartoszynski, Jared Butler and James Howard, the festival sees its participants spend the entire weekend in post-apocalyptic costume. 

They proudly note:

The permanent festival site sits between the defunct Nevada nuclear test site, where from 1951 a total of 928 nuclear warheads were tested during the cold war, and Hollywood.

(14) BEAR ANCESTRY. Scientists are “Collecting polar bear footprints to map family trees”.

Scientists from Sweden are using DNA in the environment to track Alaskan polar bears.

The technique which uses DNA from traces of cells left behind by the bears has been described as game changing for polar bear research.

It’s less intrusive than other techniques and could help give a clearer picture of population sizes.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) comes from traces of biological tissue such as skin and mucus in the surroundings.

Scientists and now conservationists are increasingly using such samples to sequence genetic information and identify which species are present in a particular habitat.

It’s often used to test for invasive species or as evidence of which animals might need more protection.

In another application of the technique, geneticist Dr Micaela Hellström from the Aquabiota laboratory in Sweden worked with WWF Alaska and the Department of Wildlife Management in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to collect snow from the pawprints of polar bears.

They tested the technique on polar bears in parks in Sweden and Finland.

“We realised that for the first time we could reach the nuclear DNA within the cells. The material outside the cell can tell what species you are and there are 1,000 or 2,000 copies. But the DNA in the nucleus which identifies an individual has only two copies, so it’s an enormous challenge to get out enough from these snowsteps,” she said.

(15) ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY.  “Babies in the womb have lizard-like hand muscles” – BBC has the story.

Babies in the womb have extra lizard-like muscles in their hands that most will lose before they are born, medical scans reveal.

They are probably one of the oldest, albeit fleeting, remnants of evolution seen in humans yet, biologists say, in the journal Development.

They date them as 250 million years old – a relic from when reptiles transitioned to mammals.

It is unclear why the human body makes and then deletes them before birth.

The biologists say the developmental step may be what makes thumbs dextrous. Thumbs, unlike other digits, retain an extra muscle.

(16) GOOD USE. BBC reports “Virtual reality PTSD treatment has ‘big impact’ for veterans”.

Virtual reality could be used to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have struggled with mainstream treatment.

It involves patients walking on a treadmill in front of a screen which projects images depicting the type of trauma experienced.

A two-year trial found some patients could see almost a 40% improvement in their symptoms.

One veteran said it had given him the “biggest impact” out of any treatment.

(17) NOT IN HAWKINS ANYMORE? Netflix has greenlighted a fourth season of Stranger Things. The announcement took the form of this video:

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

Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/13/19 It’s Far From Files And Pixels You Were Scrolled

(1) RETRO-HUGOS LIVE. The Hugo Awards site shows where to access live text reports on Thursday. “2019 Retro-Hugo Award Ceremony – Live Coverage”.

(2) LAW PRACTICE.  At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Christopher Brown” tells the history behind Rule of Capture.

…I pitched the idea to my editor—“think Better Call Saul meets Nineteen Eighty-Four”—and he liked it so much he wanted two.

Rule of Capture, out today from Harper Voyager, is the result. The story of Donny Kimoe, a burned out trial lawyer defending political dissidents hauled in front of the special emergency court of an America drifting into totalitarianism. Busy trying to save one client from the death penalty after he’s framed for aiding an attack on the President, Donny gets assigned the unwinnable case of Xelina Rocafuerte, a young journalist and eco-activist who witnessed the assassination of a grassroots political leader and is being prosecuted as a terrorist to silence her.  To get her off, Donny has to extract justice from a system in which due process has been suspended. That means breaking the rules, and risking the same fate as his clients.

Donny practices law in a world where the clients are mostly guilty. It’s the laws they violate that are unjust. In otherwords, it’s a lot like the real world, but uses the tools of dystopian fiction to tell truths more conventionally realist legal thrillers cannot. …

(3) MACHADO IN LA. ”PEN Presents: Carmen Maria Machado” on Thursday, November 21, 7-9 p.m. at Dynasty Typewriter in Los Angeles. Tickets available at the link.

Carmen Maria Machado has been hailed as one of the most talented young writers of our time. With In the Dream House, she reinvents the memoir with a gut-wrenching tale of love gone wrong, exploring her personal history of psychological abuse while bearing witness to the history and reality of violence in queer relationships. Her dark, fantastical short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.

(4) MASTER CLASS. What Does Not Kill Me presents an “Interview with Ellen Datlow: Queen of Horror, Master Editor”.

QUESTION ONE: What is your process like for Best Horror of the Year? I know you read the big name magazines, and then get all of the top anthologies sent to you, the obvious projects on your radar, but do you have any help with pre-screening stories, or looking outside of the genre (horror) into fantasy and science fiction, for example? And how do you start whittling the work down to your long-list, short-list and final TOC. That’s a daunting task. Must be hundreds of stories a year, if not thousands.

ANSWER ONE: Yes, it’s hundreds of stories. As I read during the year, I create a “recommended” list and if there’s a story I really like, I’ll put an asterisk by the title/author and ask the publisher to send me a word doc file of the story so I can keep it in a separate email folder labeled “considering.”

With regard to where I find the stories, I attempt to keep track of all venues that might publish horror or very dark fiction and request copies of magazines, literary journals, anthologies, collections, and novellas/chapbooks (plus appropriate nonfiction titles). I currently have two readers who help me sift through the material I think unlikely to contain much horror. One reads online/e-zines not specifically geared toward horror. And the other reads print magazines/anthologies that don’t look like they contain dark material. They suggest stories that they judge to be horror or very dark fantasy so I can check them out.

Once in a while (mostly because it’s a story I originally published, I’ll know immediately that I’m going to take a story, so I’ll send out the contract and move the story into my “story” folder, adding it to my Table of Contents.

But usually, I’ll begin rereading the stories I’ve noted toward the end of the year. I know how many words I have to work with—I usually begin the rereading process with twice the word count I’m allowed and read/reread each story until I whittle my choices down to my word limit.

(5) SFF IN THE SUBCONTINENT. “One giant leap for Indian cinema: how Bollywood embraced sci-fi”  — The Guardian has the story.

…Kumar says. “Unfortunately, it’s a genre that hasn’t been explored in Bollywood.”

One reason might be the box office failure of Love Story 2050 in 2008. A frenzied time travel movie, it broke India’s film-budget record, but its mix of Mad Max futurism, slushy romance and traditional Bollywood song-and-dance routines was a flop.

…Then again, last year Kumar played the villain in 2.0, a Tamil-language thriller about Chennai’s mobile phones going berserk and arranging themselves into creatures that devastate the city – a bit like a Vodafone version of The Birds. Reportedly with a budget of $76m – costing more than ISRO’s entire mission to Mars – it was a visual rollercoaster and a big commercial success.

Another key factor over the last decade has been the boom in India’s visual effects industry – to which Hollywood outsources much of its own special effects – that has enabled higher quality film-making…

(6) ALIEN INVASION FLOPS. In contrast, “China’s Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film ‘Shanghai Fortress’ Crashes After Liftoff” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Shanghai Fortress, China’s latest big-budget science fiction tentpole, crashed and burned shortly after liftoff over the weekend.

The expensive film’s flop is a blow to the Chinese industry’s efforts to ramp up production values so that it can begin competing with Hollywood’s effects-heavy blockbusters on more equal footing. After the colossal success of sci-fi tentpole The Wandering Earth earlier this year — it earned $700 and rave local reviews — hopes were high that Shanghai Fortress might be the next big breakthrough.

Costing an estimated $57 million (RMB 400 million), Shanghai Fortress was developed and produced over a period of five years. The movie is an adaptation of a 2009 novel of the same name, about a group of young people hiding out in Shanghai, which has become humanity’s last redoubt against a devastating alien invasion. It stars Taiwanese actress Shu Qi and pop star-turned-actor Lu Han (the latter previously Disney’s marketing ambassador for the Star Wars franchise in China).

Shanghai Fortress briefly opened at the top of China’s box office during the first half of Friday, but its ticket sales quickly plummeted as negative reviews and harsh word of mouth began to course through local social media…

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 13, 1942 — The Walt Disney classic, Bambi, premiered on this day at Radio City Music Hall.
  • August 13, 1953 The War Of The Worlds was premiered in New York City.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1422 William Caxton. He was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. Its widely thought that he was the first British individual to work as a printer and also the first to introduce a printing press into England. He published The Historye of Reynart the Foxe (from the Dutch, 1481) which is sort of genre. (Died 1491.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done Alfred Hitchcock Presents, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honours. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tris Coffin. I’d say he’s best known for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a late Forties production, the first of three serials that he did starring the Rocketman character, who would later be paid homage to through the Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer character.  He would show in two episodes of Batman as The Ambassador, “When the Rat’s Away, the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1932 John Berkey. Artist whose best-known work includes much of the original poster art for the Star Wars trilogy. He also did a lot of genre cover art such as the 1974 Ballantine Books cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (I read that edition), and the 1981 Ace cover of Zelazny’s Madwand which I think is the edition I read. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 13, 1945 Patricia McNulty, 74. She played Yeoman Tina Lawton in the “Charlie X” episode of Trek. Like many performers on Trek, she had a brief acting career at time, barely six years. 
  • Born August 13, 1950 Jane Carr, 69. Most current genre role is the recurring one as Tabitha the Fairy God Mother on The Legends of Tomorrow.  She also appeared as Malcolm Reed’s mother, Mary Reed in the “Silent Enemy” episode of Enterprise, and was Timov, one of the three wives of Londo Mollari in the “Soul Mates” episode of Babylon 5.
  • Born August 13, 1971 Heike Makatsch, 38. Dr. Lisa Addison in Resident Evil, and Alicia Wallenbeck in A Sound of Thunder. The latter being loosely based on the short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury. On Rotten Tomatoes, it got a six percent score! 
  • Born August 13, 1972 Crystal Allen, 47. Green skinned Orion slave girl D’Nesh on the “Bound” episode of Enterprise. These characters originally showed up in “The Cage” episode of Trek. She went to be one of many Trek performers from all series appearing in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, the non-canon and not Paramount-sanctioned fan mini-series where she played Conqueror Navigator Yara.
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 29. She’s Nadia Fierro/Baldwin, a mysterious assassin from the Prime world in Counterpart. She was nominated for the Autostraddle TV Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress Playing an LGBTQ+ Character in a Sci-Fi Series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows some really devoted music fans.

(10) POTTER CHOW. WCYY says A Perfect Spell, “A reservation-only wizarding restaurant in the theme of Harry Potter”, will open in Pownal, Maine is September – then after a year, will magically disappear…

The Perfect Spell will do just that. When customers show up, they’ll be put into wizard training by the head master of the restaurant. In order to eat, you’ll have to pass your first class. From there, diners will enjoy a delicious meal while the performance takes place in front of them. Each “show” will be for a maximum of 30 people, and performances will only take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The Eventbrite description adds —

THE PERFECT SPELL … A POP UP MAGICAL THEATRICAL RESTAURANT! 

ONLY OPEN 1 YEAR & ONLY TAKING 3,744 TABLE RESERVATIONS!

If you Love HARRY POTTER, WIZARD’S, WITCHES, MAGIC, THEATER then you’re going to love this magical theatrical restaurant. Let our leading Head Master Wizard guide you through a magical Theatrical Dinner experience with Wizards, Witches, Magic and much more!

A very magical theatrical feel right from the candle entrance designed to bring magic to life. This restaurant is packed full with the art of Magic, Singing, Dancing, and Acting. All while having a delicious meal.

Location is in a small cute country setting going with the whole awesome magical theme of the restaurant in North Pownal.

(11) THOUGHTS HE CAN’T GET OUT OF HIS HEAD. Timothy the Talking Cat finds much to admire in the fiction of Hewlett Packard Lovercraft as the feline explains in “Timothy Reads The Call of Cthulhu” at Camestros Felapton.

By far his greatest work is The Call of Cthulhu. Now you might think this is about a phone call from somebody called Cthulhu or you might thing this is about the sound a cthulhu makes when it is lost in the woods after maybe you had got a pet cthulhu for Christmas but then decided you didn’t want it after all because you can’t handle the responsibilities of keeping a pet, so you take it out into the woods and abandon it and afterwards you here it’s plaintive cry as you run back to the car and tell you driver to drive away but when you get home you can still here the lonely cry in your sleep but no. That would be too obvious and that’s why I didn’t think those things, particularly not the last one. Lovercraft is just messing with your head with that title because that is how good a writer he is.

(12) ANOTHER SWATTING INCIDENT. BBC reports “Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf: Fortnite world champion ‘swatted’ mid-game”.

Newly crowned Fortnite world champion Kyle Giersdorf has been confronted by police in the middle of a game.

Giersdorf, who plays under the name Bugha, disappeared for 10 minutes while the game was live-streamed on Twitch.

He later said he had been “swatted” – where someone makes a hoax report so the special weapons and tactics (Swat) police raid a target’s house.

Giersdorf, 16, won the $3m (£2.4m) top solo prize at the Fortnite World Cup in New York last month.

Twitch is a streaming site where fans can watch gamers play live. More than 38,000 people were watching Giersdorf’s game when he was interrupted by the police.

(13) BEARIVERSARY. If you haven’t made up your mind whether Paddington – now you can decide by the flip of a coin: “New Paddington Bear 50p coins enter circulation”.

They may not be enough to buy a decent jar of marmalade, but new 50p coins featuring Paddington Bear have entered circulation.

Two new coins – featuring the bear from darkest Peru at the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral – have been released by The Royal Mint.

On Tuesday, they filled the tills at the Mint’s museum in Llantrisant, South Wales, and will be circulated more generally in the coming weeks.

The coins mark 60 years of Paddington.

The first Paddington book was published in October 1958 and the series following his adventures have become classics of children’s literature. Last year, the Mint released 50p coins depicting the fictional bear visiting other London landmarks – the train station after which he was named, and the guards outside Buckingham Palace.

(14) PARTS WELL-KNOWN. Culinary adventurer John Scalzi goes the distance —

(15) FOR ESME, WITH LOVE AND TABLETS. BBC reveals “JD Salinger novels finally to be published as ebooks”.

The works of The Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger are finally being published in ebook format, nearly 10 years after his death.

Salinger’s work has remained offline because the writer hated computers and technology, his son Matt told the New York Times.

But he said he now wanted his father’s work to be more accessible.

Matt Salinger said a letter from a disabled fan, who found it difficult to read print, changed his mind.

“Ebooks and audiobooks are tough… he clearly didn’t want them,” said Matt, who helps run the JD Salinger Literary Trust.

…”My father always did what he could to keep his books affordable and accessible to as many readers as possible, especially students,” said Matt.

(16) BUT COULD HE WITHSTAND ADMANTIUM? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The source of this article is the New York Post tabloid, so use the largest grain of salt possible. That said, pay attention to the final sentence below. Headline: “Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant, DNA research proves”

Lede: “In 2010, when scientists at Knome Inc. were looking to study a remarkable human’s DNA, they didn’t ring up Steve Jobs or Beyoncé. Instead, the Cambridge, Mass.-based human genome company reached out to Ozzy Osbourne. They wanted to know what genes had kept the rocker alive through decades of heavy drug and alcohol abuse.”

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Amazon quizzed over ‘Choice’ ratings” – BBC tells why.

Amazon is being told to reveal how it decides which products get the “Amazon’s Choice” label in its online store.

Two US senators have written to Amazon asking it to say whether people or algorithms are making decisions about what gets the label.

They are worried that the Choice category can be manipulated via fake reviews and can mislead customers.

Amazon has been given until 16 September to respond to the letter.

Sales jump

The letter was written following an investigation by news site Buzzfeed which claimed many products in the “Choice” category are of poor quality or have their ratings boosted by fake reviews.

Research suggests products getting the Choice label sell better. OC&C Strategy Consultants found that products awarded the Choice label see a sales jump of about 300%.

This is partly because anyone using their Amazon Echo smart speaker to buy products in a category in which they have never shopped before, will get a product bearing the Choice label.

“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” wrote Democrats Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal.

(18) YOUR NARRATOR, ADAM SELENE. BBC reports that in China “AI used to narrate e-books in authors’ voices”. A skeptical Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “I’ll believe this is worthwhile when they can mimic someone who can read well — e.g., Gaiman.”

…It is now a simple process to use text-to-speech technology to quickly generate an audio version of a book, using digitised, synthetic voices.

But most people prefer audiobooks that are “professionally narrated” by authors, actors or famous public figures.

And now, advances in machine learning and speech-to-text technologies mean that digitised voices are becoming more lifelike.

For example, the company Lyrebird allows clients to create custom “vocal avatars” from just a one-minute recording of their voices.

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