Pixel Scroll 7/6/19 Pixel First, Fix It In The Scroll

(1) DELANY ABOUT STONEWALL. Much about the country’s sexual history and his own informs “Stonewall, Before and After: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany” in the LA Review of Books.

…Years later, my mother and the downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Horn, whose kids had also gone to Camp Woodland, were talking about “The Jewel Box Revue,” which had returned to the Apollo Theater at 125th Street in New York. And my mother said, “You know, that’s Mary, that was Mary Davies, who was a counselor up at the summer camp.” And I realized I knew Stormé DeLarverie. And I suddenly realized this is not a person who is far away from me, this is somebody I sat next to on the piano bench, who helped me write a cantata and sat beside me at chorus rehearsal at Woodland — someone who had been very close to me.

Cut to Stonewall.

Stonewall happened when I was 27, so a decade later. And who was the person who was supposed to have thrown the first punch at Stonewall? Stormé DeLarverie!

(2) STAN LEE COMMEMORATIVE. Marvel Toy News doesn’t want you to miss this chance to spend your money: “Hot Toys Stan Lee GOTG Cameo Figure Up for Order!”

Just when it seemed as though the Toy Fair Exclusive Scarlet Spider sixth scale figure was a lock for “Fastest Hot Toys Sell-Out of 2019” after going to Wait List in under 12 hours, Hot Toys dropped a bombshell this week when they revealed an MMS that’s likely to blow poor Scarlet Spider’s sales out of the water! It’s so “out there” that many collectors never even considered it could happen, but the EXCLUSIVE Hot Toys Stan Lee in Spacesuit 1/6 figure is now up for order!

(3) WHERE THE FUR FLIES. Ursula Vernon reporting from the scene at Anthrocon. Thread starts here.

(4) THE GREAT FUR MIGRATION. “The origin of how Pittsburgh and furries fell in love with each other” is a fascinating article in the Pittsburgh City Paper.

…So, Anthrocon left Philadelphia and migrated to Pittsburgh in 2006. If there were any thoughts that the furries made the wrong choice, those were quickly assuaged the first day of the convention that year. People from Downtown restaurants, bars, and hotels all ascended to meet the furries at the convention center. [Sam Conway, the CEO of nonprofit Anthrocon] says they were there to welcome, greet, take pictures with, and even hug some of the furries.

“The city literally and figuratively ran out and gave us a hug,” says Conway.

Conway says Anthrocon and the furries have been in love with Pittsburgh ever since. He has been apologizing to Visit Pittsburgh for the last 14 years, saying he unfairly stereotyped the city of Pittsburgh. But he says that might have actually resonated stronger with furries, who have faced their own damaging stereotypes.

“Maybe that is why it resonated it,” says Conway. “We came here and realized, ‘Look at how wrong we were.’”

The TV coverage of this year’s con includes –

(5) ABOUT FANTASY. Well, when you put it that way —

(6) BERRY HARVEST TIME. John Scalzi probably doesn’t find these experiences funny, yet he is perfectly capable of treating them as the inspiration for amusing posts: “Endgames, Tinkerbell and Happily Ever After”.

In the wake of a recent mild uptick in people being angry at me for existing, a question in email, which I am paraphrasing for brevity:

What do you think these people are hoping for with these posts? What’s their endgame, and how do they think it will affect you?

…In the case of the alt-right dingleberry actively hoping for the collapse of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), which will presumably take me down with it: I think the plan there was reassuring the other dingleberries with whom he corresponds on social media that, yes, indeed, one day my virtue-signaling self will get mine, along with all of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and what a glorious day that will be for them. As this particular alt-right dingleberry self-publishes on Amazon, there’s also the implication that upon the smoking ruins of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and the dessicated bones of all the SJWs that toiled there, will come a new age where these alt-right dingleberries and their work will finally take their rightful place at the top of the science fictional heap, while I and my sort, I don’t know, maybe suck quarters out of vending machines to survive.

In case anybody cares which dingleberry is being discussed, in the Twitter thread version of this post, a redacted tweet could be traced to Brian Niemeier.

(7) SFF DISQUALIFIED AS LITERATURE? A long and interesting study of Ted Chiang’s fiction in the New York Review of Books: “Idea Man”. (Online version is behind a paywall.)

What fiction is made out of is a bit of a mystery, but an old bromide has it that ideas should not be a major component. T.S. Eliot praised Henry James for not having any in his fiction, which seems to accord with James’s own understanding of his work. “Nothing is my last word about anything,” he once wrote to a critic who had upset him by construing a particular portrait in one of his tales as a general statement. Along similar lines, George Orwell praised Charles Dickens for being “a free intelligence” who, in Orwell’s estimation, “has no constructive suggestions, not even a clear grasp of the nature of the society he is attacking, only an emotional perception that something is wrong.” Ideas, by virtue of their abstractness, are deprecated as too smooth and clean, deficient in the loam of contradictory specifics from which rich fiction grows, and the wish to demonstrate an idea is seen as dangerous because it might lead a writer to neaten her picture of the world, and thereby falsify it.

Some kinds of ideas probably should be kept out of literature. It’s understandable, for example, that Orwell dismissed political dogmas as “smelly little orthodoxies,” and that he celebrated Dickens for writing novels that were innocent of them. But does it make sense to exclude ideas drawn from science or math?

The challenge of science fiction is in its embrace of them….

(8) PILGRIMAGE. NPR reminds us that Slaughterhouse-Five  was published 50 years ago.

When it was published 50 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” was an instant hit, an anti-war novel that was searing, satirical, strange and darkly funny. It revolves around a controversial moment in World War II, the firebombing of Nazi Germany’s loveliest city.

(9) PONSOT OBIT. The late Marie Ponsot is celebrated by Samuel R. Delany:

Marie Ponsot, one of my early mentors, has passed away, well into her 90s. She was 98. She was the dedicatee of my book ABOUT WRITING, and when I was sixteen, she gave me my first hardcover copy of NIGHTWOOD, a book I read more times than any other single novel and taught again and again. 

She was a kind, generous, and wonderful poet. Her first book was True Minds, and her second was Admit Impediment. She was the pocket poet who lived on this side of the country and had known Ferlinghetti in France. Her French was excellent. Her daughter Monique remains my face book friend, and her son Antoine was the dedicatee of my third novel, The Towers of Toron. Sometime later she was the traveling companions of my wife, Marilyn Hacker.

Learn more in the Wikipedia article about her: Marie Ponsot

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 6, 1990Jetsons: The Movie premiered in theatres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • July 6, 1916 Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • July 6, 1927 Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
  • July 6, 1945 Rodney Matthews, 74. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turned became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series. 
  • July 6, 1945 Burt Ward, 74. Robin in that Batman series. He reprised the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes , and two recent films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. The latter have the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • July 6, 1946 Sylvester Stallone, 73. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the film which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Keith Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect. 
  • July 6, 1950 John Byrne, 69. A stellar comic book artist and writer. He’s done far too much to detail here so I’ll just single out that he scripted the first four issues of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was the writer and artist on the excellent Blood of the Demon from 1-17 and responsible for Spider-Man: Chapter One which took a great deal of flak. 
  • July 6, 1980 Eva Green,39. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale asVesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films are those) with a decided move sideways  into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.

(12) MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE. Seeing this tweet, I’m reminded of Sirens of Titan and how the Tralfamadorians directed the development of humanity simply to produce a needed spare part for a spaceship.

(13) BLIND BARD. Get a head start celebrating Heinlein’s birthday tomorrow by listening to the X-Minus One radio broadcast of “The Green Hills of Earth”:

“The Green Hills Of Earth”. The story of Rhysling, the blind folksinger of the spaceways! Great radio. The script was previously used on “Dimension X” on June 10, 1950 and December 24, 1950. + This is the story of Riesling, the singer of the space ways. Future generations of school children have sung his songs in English, French or German, the language doesn’t matter, but it was an Earth tongue. But the real story of Rhysling is not found in the footnotes of a scholars critique or a publishers biography. It is in the memories of the old time space men the pioneers who pushed the thundering old fashioned rockets to the far strange ports that are our common place heritage – these men know the true story of Rhysling.

(14) AWARD KERFUFFLE. Amanda Marcotte points to Slate’s coverage of the Staunch Book Prize, “Why an Award for Books Without Violence Against Women Is So Controversial”. Thread starts here.

The Slate article begins –

An award exclusively for novels that do not depict violence against women has come under fire for the second year in a row. British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless launched the Staunch Book Prize in 2018 specifically to recognize thrillers “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” The prize drew controversy almost as soon as it was announced, with crime writers such as Val McDermid arguing that “not to write about [violence against women] is to pretend it’s not happening,” and CrimeFest, the Bristol-based festival for crime novelists, ultimately withdrawing its support.

Sophie Hannah, who writes psychological thrillers as well as the continuation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, publicly announced that she would ask her publishers not to submit her books for the award. She also made the case in a lengthy Facebook post that the Staunch Book Prize muddies its message by taking an overt stand against one type of violence but not others: “If the Staunch Prize were to be awarded to a book in which a man is murdered, on the other hand, how could we avoid the conclusion that the prize, at worst, approves of this, or, at best, doesn’t disapprove of it all that much?”

(15) YOUR PLASTIC PAL. A BBC video reports “My date with a robot”:

In a place, like Japan, where workers are desperately needed, the government is hoping that robots could be the answer.

Some developers believe that instead of replacing us, robots could help get more people into work. But would you let a robot read you the news, look after your children, or even, take you on a date?

BBC’s Population Reporter Stephanie Hegarty went to Tokyo to meet them.

(16) A THOUSAND EYES. Funny bit about a peacock:

(17) NOT COMPETITION – ENVIRONMENT. “Amazon at 25: The story of a giant”

“There’s no guarantee that Amazon.com can be a successful company. What we’re trying to do is very complicated,” said Jeff Bezos in 1999, just five years after launching the online firm.

That the firm’s founder was so uncertain of its future seems surprising.

Today, 25 years on from when it started, Amazon is one of the most valuable public companies in the world, with Mr Bezos now the world’s richest man, thanks to his invention.

What started as an online book retailer has become a global giant, with membership subscriptions, physical stores, groceries for sale, its own smart devices and a delivery system which can get things to customers in just an hour.

So how has the Amazon empire been built?

(18) COUNTDOWN. BBC takes a look at “Apollo in 50 numbers: the technology”.

The Apollo programme pushed space and computing technology to its limit. Cutting edge at the time, some of the tech used seems alarmingly simple today.

74: Memory (ROM) of Apollo guidance computer, in kilobytes

Computer technology was one of the greatest – and long lasting – achievements of Apollo. From the solid-state microcomputer fitted to the lunar lander, to mighty IBM mainframes, with their flashing lights and banks of magnetic tape.

To navigate the Apollo spacecraft the quarter of a million or so miles to the Moon and then descend to a precise spot on the surface, astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Housed in a box around the size of a small suitcase, with a separate display and input panel fitted to the main spacecraft console, it was a masterpiece of miniaturisation.

Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the AGC was filled with thousands of integrated circuits, or silicon chips. Nasa’s order of this new technology led to the rapid expansion of Silicon Valley and accelerated the development of today’s computers.

(19) ON THE MOVE. In “Fairytales of Motion” on Vimeo, Alan Warburton explains how animators, with an emphasis on classic Disney films, use motion in their animation.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/19 We Always Lived In The Castle, But We’re Now AirBnB’ing It Out Instead

(1) DUBLIN 2019 WRITING WORKSHOP. To be led by GoH Diane Duane.

(2) IN THE BEGINNING. Here’s part two of Anne-Louise Fortune’s video series Worldcon 101 – Dublin 2019.

(3) MAD NO MORE. ComicBook.com originally reported “MAD Magazine to Cease Publication”:

MAD Magazine will cease publication later this year, according to reports. Blogger Jedidiah Leland reportedly discovered the news after a MAD editor confessed to the magazine’s doom in a Facebook group, and shortly thereafter, cartoonist Ruben Bolling seemed to confirm the report on Twitter….

But as it turned out, MAD – unlike the Wicked Witch of the West — is not really and completely dead: “Details Surface About Plans for MAD Magazine’s Future”:

MAD magazine will not be completely closing down, as previously reported — although most of its new content will cease, and availability for the iconic humor magazine will be reduced. Earlier tonight, the news broke that MAD was set to cease publication after two more issues of new content, with the magazine using archival content to fulfill its obligation to existing subscribers. This is a little true, and a little not, and ComicBook.com has heard from a source with knowledge of the situation who clarified what is going on.

MAD will be leaving the newsstand after issue #9, which will land on newsstands in early August with all-new content. MAD #10 will also contain new content, but will be available only via direct market comic book retailers and subscriptions. Rather than closing up shop, the plan at present is to continue publishing issues that will feature reprinted classic MAD pieces, wrapped with new covers art. Further, MAD will continue to publish its end of year specials, as well as books and special collections, capitalizing on the value of the MAD brand in spite of the loss of new content in the magazine

(4) FRIGHTENING FLICK. NPR’s Justin Chang reports that “‘Midsommar’ Shines: A Solstice Nightmare Unfolds In Broad Daylight”:

In the viscerally unnerving films of Ari Aster, there’s nothing more horrific than the reality of human grief. His haunted-house thriller, Hereditary, followed a family rocked by traumas so devastating that the eventual scenes of devil-worshipping naked boogeymen almost came as a relief. Aster’s new movie, Midsommar, doesn’t pack quite as terrifying a knockout punch, but it casts its own weirdly hypnotic spell. This is a slow-burning and deeply absorbing piece of filmmaking, full of strikingly beautiful images and driven less by shocks than ideas. It’s not interested in frightening you so much as seeping into your nervous system.

And like Hereditary, Midsommar is very much rooted in loss. It begins with a young American woman named Dani, played by the great English actress Florence Pugh, panicking over a family emergency that moves swiftly toward its worst possible outcome. As she tries to pick up the broken pieces of her life, Dani seeks solace from her boyfriend, Christian, and is surprised to learn that he’s about to go on a trip with some of his grad-school buddies. They’re headed to a remote Swedish commune that is holding a nine-day festival to observe the summer solstice. Dani presses him about why he didn’t tell her earlier, and an argument ensues.

They fly to Sweden and, after a few hours’ drive, arrive at a remote, centuries-old village where they are greeted by about 60 men and women wearing white robes embroidered with mysterious symbols. They are known as the Hårga, and they invite their American guests to participate in each day’s festivities, which include lavish feasts, silent meditations, exhausting maypole dances and the consumption of various mind-altering drugs. Aster has a gift for dreaming up fictitious subcultures, and he visualizes these ancient customs and artifacts with an almost anthropological attention to detail. The Hårga seem benevolent enough at first, and there’s something comforting about their strange rituals and their intimate communion with nature.

(5) MORE TOOLS FOR FINDING GOOD SFF. Rocket Stack Rank, says Eric Wong in “New Recommenders and Improved Scoring” “has added 10 more recommenders, improved how story scores are calculated from 13 awards, 12 ‘year’s best’ anthologies, and 11 prolific reviewers, and updated the Best SF/F lists for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 YTD.”

(6) ASTRONOMY HISTORY, The Atlas Obscura Society can get you in to see “The Second Largest Public Telescope in the World” on July 6 and 7. It’s on Mount Wilson near Los Angeles. See schedule and details at the link. (Note: Observatory is not ADA compliant,.)

Collecting ancient light in a 60-inch mirror, the Hale Telescope reflects images in your eye of beautiful objects, some that lie millions of light years away from Earth.

Join Atlas Obscura for an exclusive evening of observation with Mount Wilson Observatory’s historic 60-inch telescope. Assisted by a telescope operator and a session director, you will investigate objects in the night sky and get up close and personal with our solar system. Depending on the evening’s weather conditions, you could get a glimpse of faraway planets, a staggeringly close-up look at the moon, or star clusters looming over Mount Wilson, where the seed of the idea for this groundbreaking scientific invention was planted.

In 1903, astrophysicist George Ellery Hale went hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains. Resting at the summit of Mount Wilson, he gazed at his surroundings and realized he had found the perfect place to build an observatory. Five years later, at the very same spot, he unveiled the world’s largest operational telescope, a 60-inch reflector that attracted preeminent scientists such as Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. In fact, it was with this telescope that Harlow Shapley discovered that the Sun’s position was not the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. It now operates as the second largest telescope made exclusively for the public.

(7) MOTION IN LIBRARY. NPR’s Bethanne Patrick finds “In ‘The Ghost Clause,’ 2 Marriages, A Missing Child, And Yes, A Ghost”.

Howard Norman writes elegant prose — but really, that’s because everything about Howard Norman is elegant. The Vermont-based novelist and scholar of Native American lore sprinkles his fiction with all the things that interest him, from literary to culinary to planetary. Like many of Norman’s previous books, The Ghost Clause pays attention to Japanese poetry, binge-reading Trollope, what makes an intimate supper (mushroom omelets, salad, cherry pie with ice cream), and varieties of Northeast Kingdom moths.

The denizens of Adamant, Vt. — was there ever a better place name? — have a lot going on, even if by “a lot going on” one simply means making sure to leave time to have your cranberry scone toasted at the local café presided over by grumpy Vanessa. The first two people we meet are newly minted PhD Muriel Streuth and her husband Zach, a private investigator at the Green Mountain Agency. They’ve bought an old house with a library room, and their modern security system keeps picking up “Motion in Library.”

Investigations into the unknown motion-detector blips don’t reveal much. Fortunately for readers, our narrator soon reveals all (and this is not a spoiler): He is novelist Simon Inescort, whose widow, painter Lorca Pell, sold the house to Muriel and Zach after Simon’s untimely death by heart attack on the ferry from Maine to Canada. He also informs us of the title’s meaning, which refers to a perhaps-apocryphal Vermont statute whereby if new owners of a building discover it is inhabited by a “malevolent presence,” the sale can be nullified.

(8) CASTING FOR MERMAIDS. Here’s who they caught: “Halle Bailey: Disney announces singer to play Little Mermaid”.

Disney has cast singer Halle Bailey in the starring role of Ariel in a live action remake of The Little Mermaid.

“Halle possesses a rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance, plus a glorious singing voice,” director Rob Marshall said.

Halle, 19, half of R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle, “said it was a “dream come true”.

The film, which will start shooting in 2020, will feature new songs written by Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda.

(9) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. In 2015, Westword published an article about a community spawned from the Shaver Mystery: “Maurice Doreal and His Brotherhood of the White Temple Awaited the Apocalypse in Colorado”.

… The American science-fiction community was still in an uproar over the Shaver Mystery, “The Most Sensational True Story Ever Told,” according to Amazing Stories magazine, a publication whose circulation had skyrocketed after it published “I Remember Lemuria!,” a fantastic story purporting to be a memoir of the extraordinary subterranean-world encounters of writer/artist Richard Sharpe Shaver, in 1945.

…One of those letters, published in the October 1946 issue of Amazing Stories, came from Dr. Maurice Doreal, the Denver-based “Supreme Voice” for the Ascended Masters, super-evolved human beings who live below Tibet. Doreal had recently announced that he was moving his Brotherhood of the White Temple from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust. “Like Mr. Shaver, I have had personal contact with the Dero and even visited their underground caverns,” he now wrote. “In the outer world they are represented by an organization known loosely as ‘the Black Brotherhood,’ whose purpose is the destruction of the good principle in man…. The underground cities and caverns are, in the most part, protected by space warps, a science known to the ancients, but only touched on by modern science…. I note that many are wanting to enter these caves. For one who has not developed a protective screen this would be suicide and one who revealed their location would be a murderer….”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in a terribly convoluted manner, hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines”. The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970)
  • Born July 4, 1901 Guy Endore. Writer of The Werewolf of Paris which is said by Stableford in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers as “entitled to be considered the werewolf novel”. He also wrote “The Day of the Dragon” which Stableford likes as well. He was a scriptwriter hence for writing Mark of the Vampire starring Bela Lugosi. He also the treatment for The Raven but never got credited. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 Peter Crowther, 70. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s not really available in digital form all that much for short fiction or novels.   
  • Born July 4, 1967 Christopher McKitterick, 52. Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, a program at the University of Kansas that supports an annual series of awards, lectures, classes, workshops, the Campbell Conference, and AboutSF, a resource for teachers and readers of science fiction. He’s also a juror for and Chair of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel from 2002 onward. And yes, he does write genre fiction with one novel to date, Transcendence, more than a double handful of stories, and being an academic, critical essays such as  “John W. Campbell: The Man Who Invented Modern Fantasy and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” which was published in Steven H. Silver Hugo-nominated Argentus. 
  • Born July 4, 1977 David Petersen, 42. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. 
  • Born July 4, 1989 Emily Coutts, 30. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jumps a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A court judge and Frankenstein help Bizarro live up to its name today.

(13) SANDMAN TO TV. Deadline reports: “Netflix Orders ‘The Sandman’ Series Based On Neil Gaiman’s DC Comic”.

Netflix has given an 11-episode series order to The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s DC comic, from Warner Bros TV.

Allan Heinberg (Wonder WomanGrey’s Anatomy) is slated to write and serve as showrunner on the series, with Gaiman executive producing alongside David Goyer.

(14) THE ITALIAN SFF SCENE. The subject is Italian Science Fiction when Arielle Saiber is interviewed by Lex Berman for the Diamond Bay Radio podcast.

Lex Berman is the publisher of Diamond Bay Press.

Arielle Saiber is a professor of Italian literature and romance languages, and also a big science fiction fan!

Recorded with Zencaster on 8th May, 2019.

Find out about the history of Science Fiction and fandom in Italy, and why flying saucers would totally land at Lucca!

(15) VOX DAY AT THE MOVIES. “I look forward to the shrieks and wails,” writes aspiring moviemaker Vox Day. The Rebel’s Run Teaser Trailer has dropped, publicizing that a movie based on one of Arkhaven’s Alt-Hero characters, is now in pre-production. A one-minute trailer is followed by Chuck Dixon extolling the comics, and even a shot of Vox smiling happily. So if any of that is the kind of thing you need a warning about, you won’t click.

(16) LIPLESS READING. Extra Credits devotes a video to Harlan Ellison’s story and game in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – The End of the Apocalypse.

Harlan Ellison was a little dismissive of this short story that you’ve might only heard of because you saw it on a Steam summer sale, but at the time of its publication (1967) its ideas about the possibility of “evil AI,” as well as the possible degeneracy of humanity, were shocking and unexpected, and it set the stage for the wave of sci-fi we’ll talk about next season.

(17) WHAT’S BUZZING? Nature has a nice artist’s impression and short description of the drone proposed for use on Saturn’s moon, Titan — “NASA drone to soar across Titan”.

Named Dragonfly, the US$850-million mission will launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in mid-2034. The nuclear-powered drone (pictured, artist’s impression) could traverse hundreds of kilometres during its two-year mission.

(18) IDENTIFYING PROS IN THE WILD. Orbit Books tweeted an amusing guide for telling two of its similarly-named writers apart.

(19) HARD WORK. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver ripped Amazon’s treatment of warehouse employees, now Amazon is trying to recover – Deadline has the story: “Amazon Calls John Oliver’s Report On Warehouse Work Conditions ‘Insulting’ To Employees”.

Amazon is calling John Oliver’s depiction of conditions at the company’s shipping and warehouse facilities “insulting” to Amazon workers.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s SVP Worldwide Operations, responded to a harsh segment that aired Sunday on HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In the 20-minute segment, Amazon — as well as other companies with quick online-delivery systems — was lambasted for the exhausting chores required of the warehouse workers.

“The injury and illness rate in the warehouse industry is higher than coal mining, construction and logging,” Oliver said during the HBO show, in which he called Amazon the “Michael Jackson” of shipping because they’re “the best at what they do, everybody tries to imitate them, and nobody who learns a third thing about them is happy they did.”

(20) CHARACTERS WITH AGENCY. TV Sins wants you to know “Everything Wrong With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Pilot’”

This week we head into the MTU by finding everything wrong with the pilot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! It’s was a show with a lot of promise, and also a lot of sins.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/19 Just A Pixel Scroll, Filing Is Our Only Goal

(1) OVERVIEW. Neil Clarke’s “A State of the Short SF Field in 2018” from The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 4 can be read by clicking Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book” feature here. The free preview contains the whole of Neil’s summary of the short SF field. Gardner Dozois used to write something similar in his annual anthologies, and it’s nice to see Neil stepping up here. Plenty of interesting analysis and opinions.

(2) KNITTING TOGETHER A COMMUNITY. “The Raksura Colony Tree” is a project to be presented at Dublin 2019, inspired by Martha Wells’ previously Hugo-nominated series Books of the Raksura.

If you’re coming to Dublin to join in the fun and are interested in creating things with needle and thread, this is your chance to be an active part in a community art project.

Cora Buhlert recently posted something she was inspired to do:

There are examples of many different types of foliage that people have come up with here.

(3) WARTS AND ALL. James Davis Nicoll rises to the defense of “Ten Favorite Flawed Books That Are Always Worth Rereading” at Tor.com. Here’s one of them —

The eponymous station in Richard C. Meredith’s We All Died At Breakaway Station is a vital link in humanity’s communications network. It’s the facility through which hard-won information about the genocidal alien Jillies must pass. Therefore, the Jillies plan to destroy it. Absalom Bracer’s convoy is determined to defend it, despite the notable disadvantage that said convoy consists of a hospital ship and two escorts crewed by the walking wounded. The prose goes beyond purple into ultraviolet, but the novel delivers on its title with grand explosions and heroic sacrifices.

(4) BY ANY OTHER NAME. Futurism explains how “This AI Gives Other AIs Names Like ‘Ass Federation’ And ‘Hot Pie’ Because Robots Can Be Weird Too”

Ship Shape

Scottish author Iain M. Banks populated his sci-fi Culture book series with humanoid robots, alien races, and artificially intelligent spaceships that chose their own names.

So: Research scientist Janelle Shane thought it would be fun to use those ship names to train a real neural network to — what else? — conjure up new names for self-aware spaceships. The results? Hilarious. Puzzling. Generally? Great.

(5) SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE. The kickoff event of the Speculative Collective Salon on July 11 will feature best-selling authors Jennifer Brody, Rachel A. Marks, and Neo Edmund.

Join us to launch the SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Salon, a new quarterly gathering of SoCal’s growing speculative fiction community. The program will include a reading and conversation with best-selling authors Jennifer Brody, Rachel A. Marks, and Neo Edmund. The authors will have books to sell and sign, and time will be set aside to network and chat with likeminded fans of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. The event will take place at 1888 Center, 115 N. Orange St., Orange, CA. Admission is free. Come early to enjoy the venue’s art gallery and bookstore or pick up something to drink from the in-house Contra Coffee & Tea shop.

Their next event is:

October 10, 2019: The SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Salon, featuring USA Today best-selling author Russell Nohelty, YA science fiction author Merrie Destefano, and Dr. David Sandner, an English professor at California State University, Fullerton, who also publishes speculative fiction and non-fiction.

(6) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in our Future Tense Fiction series is “Space Leek,” by Chen Qiufan/Stanley Chen.

I blinked. The walls and floors of the cabin vibrated as the spaceship adjusted its docking position, waking me up from my nap. My partner, Jing, was busily checking the dashboard.

“Are we there yet?” I mumbled.

“Look, it’s the Roast Garlic. Your favorite.” She pointed to the porthole.

The floating Yutu-3 space station gradually enlarged in my sight as I gazed out the porthole. I smiled. This was my third time up here, yet my eyes still widened when I saw it.

“Roast Garlic” was the nickname I had given the space station….

There’s a response essay, “What Will Humans Really Need in Space?”, by architecture professor and space settlements expert Fred Scharmen.

…The 1975 study was on the design of large-scale space settlements. These would be located, like the Yutu-3 space station in Chen Qiufan’s story, at the Earth-moon Lagrangian points where gravity between these two bodies allows for stable orbits. Unlike the Yutu-3 (or as the characters in the story call it, the Roast Garlic), these were not intended to be purely research stations. They would be home to about 10,000 people engaged in the work of building solar-powered satellites.

The team realized that these people would need to bring, or make, all of the things they needed themselves….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 2, 1939 — The first Worldcon begins in New York, continuing to July 4. Attendance is approximately 200.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1914 Hannes Bok. He’s a writer,  artist and illustrator who created nearly one hundred and fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller. He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship,  The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1933 Gloria Castillo. She first shows up in a genre role in Invasion of the Saucer Men (which also bore the title of Invasion of the Hell Creatures). Later she would be in Teenage Monster, and had an appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1978.)
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 71. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, but he does show rather often else on genre series and films including going on EurekaMasters of Horror, Person of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship are seeming to be his only only genre films. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 Stephen R. Lawhead, 69. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which very much worth reading.
  • Born July 2, 1951 Elisabeth Brooks. She is no doubt best remembered for her role as the evil, leather-clad siren Marsha Quist in The Howling. Her other genre appearances included Deep SpaceThe Six Million Dollar ManKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Forgotten One. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 63. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read her Dark Talents series, so opinions please.
  • Born July 2, 1965 Jerry Hall, 54. She seems to wandered into a number of films down the years such as Alicia in Batman and Newswoman in Freejack, not to Woman in Park in Vampire in Brooklyn. Not real roles, just there. 
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 49. Detective Sara Pezzini on the Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role.
  • Born July 2, 1990 Margot Robbie, 29. Harley Quinn in what I consider the second best Suicide Squad film, the best being the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which also has a better Harley Quinn in it. Just saying. She both acting and producing the forthcoming Birds of Prey film. She has since played Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan, and voiced Flopsy Rabbit in Peter Rabbit

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SAD STORY. Rachel Weiner in the Washington Post reports that Pankaj Bashin pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in his murder of Bradford Jackson.  Bashin claimed that Jackson was turning into a werewolf and had to be killed to “save 99 percent of the moon and planets.” “Man who thought he killed werewolf in Alexandria pleads not guilty by reason of insanity”.

(11) PHONE SURVEILLANCE IN CHINA. Vice / Motherboard reports  “China Is Forcing Tourists to Install Text-Stealing Malware at its Border”. Tagline: “The malware downloads a tourist’s text messages, calendar entries, and phone logs, as well as scans the device for over 70,000 different files.”

Foreigners crossing certain Chinese borders into the Xinjiang region, where authorities are conducting a massive campaign of surveillance and oppression against the local Muslim population, are being forced to install a piece of malware on their phones that gives all of their text messages as well as other pieces of data to the authorities, a collaboration by Motherboard, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the German public broadcaster NDR has found.

(12) HEART OF DARKNESS. Not that we don’t have problems of our own — Vice / Motherboard covered that story, too: “How Amazon and the Cops Set Up an Elaborate Sting Operation That Accomplished Nothing” Tagline: “Behind-the-scenes emails show how Amazon and Ring worked with police in Aurora, Colorado to make people scared of each other.”

For Amazon, fear is good for business.

If customers fear their neighbors, and fear they might steal a package, customers are less likely to be mad at Amazon if they don’t get a package they ordered. They’re also more likely to buy an Amazon-owned Ring doorbell camera, which is marketed as way of surveilling your stoop for package deliveries and package thieves—especially on Neighbors, the Ring-owned “neighborhood watch” app.

(13) DEEP DIVE. Doris V. Sutherland has a set of “2019 Hugo Award Reviews: Novelettes” at Women Write About Comics. Here’s an excerpt from the review of Brooke Bolander’s story:

Parts of The Only Harmless Great Thing are written from the perspective of elephant-kind. These are framed as tales told by a mother elephant to her calves, recalling certain sequences from Bolander’s other Hugo finalist of the year, “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” – as with that story there is a distinct Kipling influence, complete with the occasional “best beloved”. Storytelling is important to elephants, we are told: “Without stories there is no past, no future, not We. There is Death. There is Nothing, a night without moon or stars.”

(14) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. “Scientists ‘speechless’ at Arctic fox’s epic trek” – BBC has the story.

A young Arctic fox has walked across the ice from Norway’s Svalbard islands to northern Canada in an epic journey, covering 3,506 km (2,176 miles) in 76 days.

“The fox’s journey has left scientists speechless,” according to Greenland’s Sermitsiaq newspaper.

Researchers at Norway’s Polar Institute fitted the young female with a GPS tracking device and freed her into the wild in late March last year on the east coast of Spitsbergen, the Svalbard archipelago’s main island.

The fox was under a year old when she set off west in search of food, reaching Greenland just 21 days later – a journey of 1,512 km – before trudging forward on the second leg of her trek.

She was tracked to Canada’s Ellesmere Island, nearly 2,000 km further, just 76 days after leaving Svalbard.

What amazed the researchers was not so much the length of the journey as the speed with which the fox had covered it – averaging just over 46 km (28.5 miles) a day and sometimes reaching 155 km.

(15) ALIEN TERRAIN. BBC will explain “How Iceland helped humans reach the moon”— photos and essay.

Fifty years after the first moon landing, a small Icelandic town celebrates its pivotal role in propelling humankind into space.

…Yet few people realise that this triumphant leap for mankind was propelled in part from an unlikely place: Iceland. In the years preceding the Apollo 11 mission, Nasa believed it was essential for its astronauts to prepare for their intragalactic journey by training in the most otherworldly terrain on Earth. After scouring the globe, officials determined that the moon’s lunar landscape was strikingly similar to that just outside Húsavík, a quiet 2,300-person fishing community on Iceland’s northern coast. Nasa sent 32 astronauts to train in its crater-filled terrain in 1965 and 1967. Incredibly, of the 12 humans who have ever walked on the moon, nine first touched down in Húsavík – including Armstrong himself.

…Next stop: Mars

For several years, Nasa has been studying geothermal sites in Iceland as a way to prepare for its ambitious plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020. According to planetary scientists, Iceland’s glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs are eerily similar to how Mars looked billions of years ago, and by studying subtle marks in Iceland’s iron-rich rocks, scientists are able to detect clues indicating where water once flowed.

“The Apollo astronauts I have met have told me that Iceland [is] an even better place to train astronauts to visit Mars than it was for the Moon,” Örlygsson said. “We know a lot about the geology of Mars because rovers have been studying the surface of Mars for some time. What they have discovered is that there are many more similarities between the geology here in Iceland and the geology of Mars.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wet Book Rescue” on YouTube offers practical advice on rescuing wet books from the Syracuse University Libraries.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/19/19 You’ve Got Mule!

(1) GREEN EYED MONSTER. Elizabeth Bear’s “Jealousy part two: what if it isn’t a friend?” is a public post from her subscription newsletter.

In response to my previous newsletter on dealing with jealousy for the career successes of friends and colleagues, I’ve had a couple of conversations about how one might deal with an even more difficult form of jealousy: jealousy for the successes of people you just can’t stand—or, even worse, who have done you some personal harm. Sometimes abusers, toxic exes, harassers, or people who got you fired go on to have brilliant careers and amass great amounts of personal power.

And that’s a hard thing to take. Especially if, every time you go to an industry event, somebody is telling you how awesome that person is.

If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has made evident, it’s that this isn’t a problem unique to publishing. It’s a terrible situation to be in—triggering, traumatizing, and grief-provoking. It can make you doubt your own experience, memories, and senses. It can prove a constant reminder of violation.

It’s also (if there’s another thing the #MeToo movement has made evident) a depressingly common situation.

So how does one deal with it, when one finds one’s self in a situation like that?

(2) BECOMING SUPERMAN. J. Michael Straczynski previews his forthcoming autobiography. Thread starts here.

(3) TWO-COUNTRY PROBLEM. Jiayang Fan profiles Liu Cixin for The New Yorker: “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”

… When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent. For the Chinese, achieving parity with the West is a long-cherished goal, envisaged as a restoration of greatness after the humiliation of Western occupations and the self-inflicted wounds of the Mao era. As Liu told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction.

In the past few years, those threats and challenges have escalated, as China’s global ambitions, especially in the field of technology, have begun to impinge upon America’s preëminence.

…As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

(4) CHANGING EXPECTATIONS. Why didn’t the latest Men In Black movie take off? Is it the chemistry of the leads, the script, or a third cause proposed by The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Men in Black’ and When Spectacle Isn’t Enough”.

There’s another potential explanation as to why Men in Black: International has failed to click with audiences, and it has to do with spectacle. Spectacle has long been a key part of the draw of big-budget Hollywood films. And for a long time, spectacle in terms of what films were using the most cutting-edge technology — had the most lifelike monsters, the most extensive battle sequences and so on — quite often corresponded with what films did well.

Think of a film like Avatar (2009). No one was writing home about the story. In spite of the various box office records it broke, the actual content of the film has left little lasting impression on popular culture in comparison to other comparable box office successes. While Jaws lives on in references like, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” and the characters of the Star Wars films or the Marvel Cinematic Universe are household names, a lot of people would have a far more difficult time recalling any characters or lines of dialogue from Avatar. And this is because Avatar is the sort of film that reached the heights it did by merit of technical spectacle — immersing the audience in what, for many, was a compellingly photorealistic alien world.

(5) AUDIO FURNITURE. The new Two Chairs Talking podcast, in which David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about sff books and movies, takes its name from the pair’s history as Worldcon Chairs — David: Aussiecon Two; and Perry: Aussiecon Three and co-chair of Aussiecon 4.

The fifth episode, “Episode 5: An Incomplete History of Serious Events”, features guest Leigh Edmonds talking about how he became a historian, and about his project to write a history of science fiction fandom in Australia.  It also features Perry on Greg Egan, and David, as he says, “talking probably for too long about the tv series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(6) CALLING DOUGHNUT CONTROL. Krispy Kreme is cashing in on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by launching a new type of doughnut. (John King Tarpinian, who sent the link, promises he’ll be sticking to his traditional Moon Pie.)

One small bite for man. One giant leap for doughnut-kind! As America prepares for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Krispy Kreme is making a giant leap for doughnut-kind by introducing a whole NEW interpretation of the brand’s iconic Original Glazed. This will be the FIRST TIME Krispy Kreme has offered another version of the Original Glazed Doughnut on the menu PERMANENTLY.

(7) GOAL EXCEEDED. The Dennis Etchison Memorial Fund at GoFundMe raised $5,445 to help Kristina Etchison with costs incurred to have Dennis laid to rest. (The target amount was $4,000.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 19, 1954 Them! released on this day.
  • June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone aired its series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool”, penned by Earl Hamner.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which including some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known for his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd. : Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 72. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 66. Best known for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape, series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film.
  • Born June 19, 1954 Kathleen Turner, 65. One of her earliest roles was in The Man with Two Brains as Dolores Benedict. Somewhat of a Fifties retro feel with that title. Of course, she voiced sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of my favorite all time films. I still haven’t seen all of the Roger Rabbit short films that were done. She voiced Constance in Monster House a few years later, and was in Cinderella, a television film where she was the lead of the Wicked Stepmother Claudette.
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 62. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Rogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok, I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer.  
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 41, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the  new Trek series and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Off the Mark could be the pilot for CSI: Springfield, if you know what I mean.

(11) SIGHTING. The commemorative Moon Landing Oreos have hit the markets. John King Tarpinian snapped this photo in a Target store.

(12) HUGH JACKMAN. Ahead of his live show in Houston, Hugh Jackman visited NASA, something he’s been dreaming about doing since childhood:

Also, in the opening number of the second act of his show, channeling Peter Allen, he brought a NASA salsa dance instructor up on stage with him. Who even knew NASA had salsa dance instructors? It’s a real thing apparently! 

“I don’t know about you guys! I’m going to Mars!” … “I’m gonna sign up to be an astronaut tomorrow!”

(13) THANKS FOR PLAYING. Kotaku: “Amazon Lays Off Dozens Of Game Developers During E3”.

Yesterday, as the video game industry’s attention was focused squarely on the final day of the E3 convention in Los Angeles, Amazon’s video game division quietly laid off dozens of employees.

Amazon Game Studios, which is currently developing the online games Crucible and New World, told affected employees on Thursday morning that they would have 60 days to look for new positions within Amazon, according to one person who was laid off. At the end of that buffer period, if they fail to find employment, they will receive severance packages.

Amazon also canceled some unannounced games, that person told Kotaku.

(14) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. BBC now knows “Why are Nike trainers washing up on beaches?”

Over the past year, from Bermuda and the Bahamas to Ireland and Orkney, hundreds of pairs of unworn shoes have washed up on beaches. But how did they get there, and why are scientists so interested in where they are being found?

…The source of all these shoes is believed to be a single ship.

“Through the research I have done,” Mr Ribeiro says, “everything indicates they may have been from some of the 70 to 76 containers that fell overboard from the Maersk Shanghai.”

…Despite the environmental damage, scientists can salvage something from such incidents – a better understanding of our oceans and the currents that drive them.

While many of the shoes from the Maersk Shanghai have been washing up on beaches, far more are likely to be doing laps of the North Atlantic ocean, stuck in a network of powerful currents.

…Even more enlightening, Dr Ebbesmeyer says, is how the shape of the shoes seems to dictate where they end up.

“The left and the right sneakers float with different orientation to the wind,” he explains. “So when the wind blows on them they will go to different places. So on some beaches you tend to get the left sneakers and on others you get the right.”

(15) VLOGBRO NOVEL. Ana Grilo’s “Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green” appears at The Book Smugglers:

…This book is a cool mixture of puzzle-solving, personal story and world-changing events.

What strikes me the most about it though is the choice of having this particular type of protagonist because April? Not exactly a super great person. She is kinda of a jerk, she is flawed, full of contradictions, she well and truly fucks up on numerous occasions. She loves AND hates all the attention and fame she receives – especially in a world that mirrors our own in terms of how social media shapes the lives of people. There is good in it, but there is also bad and there is certainly the ugly too and at different times April embodies all of these possibilities.

(16) KEEP ON DOWN THE ROAD. Andrew Liptak praises Rebecca Roanhorse’s next novel — Storm of Locusts is like American Gods meets Mad Max: Fury Road. (Beware spoilers in the body of the review.)

In her debut novel Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse introduced readers to a compelling future in which climate change and wars have wrecked North America, resulting in some fantastical transformations to the country. Native American gods walk alongside mortal humans, some of whom have developed fantastical clan powers, and magical walls have grown around the traditional Navajo homeland Dinétah. In her next adventure, Storm of Locusts, Roanhorse ups the stakes for her characters and the world….

(17) KEEPING THE SRIRACHA IN SF. This is Jason Sheehan’s advice for NPR readers: “Regular Old Sci-Fi Not Weird Enough For You? Try ‘FKA USA'” (Reed King’s new book.)

Hey, you. Did you really like A Canticle For Leibowitz but think it needed more robot hookers and a talking goat? Then FKA USA is the book for you.

Did you think The Road suffered by not having enough gunfights with Mormons? Do you have a fondness for The Wizard Of Oz but believe, deep in your weird little heart, that it suffered a crippling lack of footnotes, bad language and fart jokes? Yeah, me, too. Which is (maybe) why I liked FKA USA so much.

(18) SAVAGE BUILDS. The Verge invites everyone to “Watch Adam Savage make a flying Iron Man suit in his new show, Savage Builds.

For a limited time, the first episode of Savage Builds—in which Adam Savage (late of Mythbusters) constructs and tests an Iron Man suit—is available free on the Discovery Channel website.

Adam Savage became a household name as the cohost of Mythbusters, and now, he’s returned to the Discovery Channel with a new show: Savage Builds. In each episode of the series, Savage goes out and builds something, consulting with other experts and builders. The series just began airing on Discovery, and the first episode, in which he builds a flying Iron Man costume, is available for free online (at least in the US) for the next two weeks

Think of it like a builder’s version of Mythbusters: take a thing from pop culture or history, and make a version that functions as closely as possible to its on-screen counterpart. In the show’s first episode, Savage sets out to build a real, flying Iron Man costume that’s also bulletproof. 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Woke Up Looking” on Vimeo is a love song Gideon Irving sings to his robot.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/19 Heroic Struggle Of The Little Guys To Finish The Scroll

(1) SCRAMBLED WHO. “Neil Gaiman Shares That There Are Multiple ‘Doctor Who’ Easter Eggs In ‘Good Omens’”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

So, what kind of Easter Eggs might we see appear on the screen? Gaiman chimed in and shared:

“Jack Whitehall plays Newton Pulsifer, and the first time you see him going off to do a job he’s about to be fired from, his tie is actually the fourth Doctor’s scarf — really small, as a tie.

You know he must be an enormous Doctor Who fan, because he only owns one tie”

There’s also a new teaser trailer for the show –

(2) SINGING GEEKS! “Batman! Spider-Man! Marvel! DC! The Geeks are back this Sunday night in NYC!” The Off Broadway production of Geeks! The Musical! opens April 21 at St. Luke’s, 308 W 46th Street in New York. The music is by LASFSian Ruth Judkowitz.

David Bratman reviewed the 2014 production in San Diego.

…The story takes place over several days at a Comic-Con, though it could be any large generic media-oriented SF con – the coincidence of running into somebody and the difficulty of finding them when you’re looking for them plays some role in the plot. It’s the story of three pairs of friends who come to the convention, one set specifically in hopes of selling the avant-garde comic they’re working on, the others to buy collectibles or to attend programming or just to people-watch. They interact, and romantic pairings, both straight and gay, ensue….

The material has been updated for the 2019 production.

(3) TYPECAST ON TWITCH. Half a dozen sff and game writers will launch TypeCast RPG on Twitch this coming April 23. The continuing role-playing game will stream live Tuesday nights from 7-10 MST.

The members of TypeCast RPG will adventure in a world they’ve collaboratively created named Vaeron. Throughout the sessions, the dungeon master and five game players will make use of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rule system to take their characters through a dark and heroic world in which cities have been built on the backs of slumbering eldritch monsters, stone-age dangers lurk in the lands below, and sky-ships plunder both land and air! 

The cast includes: 

  • Dan Wells will serve as the Dungeon Master for the group.
    • Notable Works: I am Not a Serial Killer, the Partials series, the Writing Excuses podcast. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Charlie N. Holmberg will be playing Fleeda, a Stone Age human druid with complicated family problems.
  • Alan Bahr brings forth Seggrwyrd, the gentlest (and biggest) Jotunnblut barbarian you’ve met.
  • Robison Wells is Grummund, a scoundrel sky dwarf pirate you’ll cheer for.
  • Mari Murdock is Grisk, a half-orc rogue torn between profit and faith, and willing to switch allegiances for the right reward.
    • Notable Works: Legend of the Five Rings Contributor, RPG Writing, Whispers of Shadow and Steel. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Brian McClellan is Krustov, the necromancer cleric and atheist (yes, it’s that confusing).
    • Notable Works: The Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, Uncanny Collateral. TwitterFacebookWebsite

After the livestream wraps up, video viewing will be available on YouTube, as well as a podcast intended to launch on Wednesday afternoons. Various bonus content such as interviews, industry discussions for both fiction writing and gaming, and guest stars will be part of the live stream and other formats!

(4) AMAZON WILL PUBLISH SFF COLLECTION. The AP service carried the announcement of a prestigious collection:

Amazon Original Stories, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, announced today the forthcoming six-part science-fiction collection Forward, featuring original short stories from some of today’s most celebrated voices in fiction, including Blake Crouch, N. K. Jemisin, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles, Paul Tremblay, and Andy Weir. Forward will be available for free on September 17 th, 2019 to Prime and Kindle Unlimited customers. Readers can download the collection as a Kindle eBook or Audible audiobook.

Forward explores a central theme: the resounding effects of a pivotal technological moment. While each author started with this same prompt, readers will discover that each story unearths a unique corner of the sci-fi genre, ranging from intimate to epic, grounded to far future, hopeful to harrowing.

 Andy Weir ( Artemis, The Martian ) imagines a high-tech Las Vegas casino heist; Paul Tremblay ( The Cabin at the End of the World ) immerses readers in a patient’s mysteriously slow healing process; Amor Towles ( A Gentleman in Moscow ) explores a fertility clinic’s god-like abilities to alter an unborn child’s life path; Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) spins a story of finding connection in the face of our world’s certain destruction; N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth series) subverts all expectations when an explorer returns to the ravaged Earth his ancestors fled; and Blake Crouch ( Dark Matter) follows a video game designer whose character Maxine unexpectedly “wakes up.”

(5) BLADE. Is this the sword that Claire Ryan’s pen was mightier than? Authors thanked Claire Ryan for her work helping to expose #CopyPasteCris. (A list of 40 plagiarized authors is posted at the link.)

(6) RAISING A WRITER. Stuart Anderson’s Forbes profile “Isaac Asimov: A Family Immigrant Who Changed Science Fiction And The World” starts with a topical hook but is mainly a literary biography.

Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, came to America as a family immigrant. In fact, he came as part of what some people, sometimes those not particularly in favor of immigrants, today call “chain migration.”

(7) NO SURPRISE. You will not be shocked by this BBC news item — “Hellboy: David Harbour remake fails to fire up box office”.

The latest remake of Hellboy has failed to catch fire, mustering a mere $12m (£9m) at the US box office in its opening weekend.

The turnout falls short of Lionsgate’s $20m (£15m) estimated figures.

Directed by Neil Marshall, the film stars Stranger Things’ David Harbour as a demon who switches satanic allegiance to protect humanity from evil.

Based upon Mike Mignola’s graphic novels, tensions reportedly plagued the R-rated superhero production.

Its poor performance with audiences, (underlined by its disappointing C-rating on Cinema Score), was also reflected by critics.

The Chicago Sun-Times described it as “loud and dark – but almost instantly forgettable,” while the Washington Post lamented its “flat performances and incoherent story”.

(8) PICARD. Three additions to the CBS All Access “Picard” series have been announced. Variety: “‘Star Trek’ Jean-Luc Picard Series Adds Three to Cast”.

Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Isa Briones have jumped aboard as series regulars alongside Sir Patrick Stewart in the upcoming untitled “Star Trek” series.

They join previously announced cast members Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora.

…Pill, who is represented by CAA and The Burstein Company, is best known for playing Maggie Jordan on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom.” Treadaway is known for playing Victor Frankenstein on “Penny Dreadful.” He is represented by Principal Entertainment LA. Briones, who recently starred in “American Crime Story: Versace,” is repped by Piper/Kaniecki/Marks Management.

(9) ALIEN  RETURNS TO STAGE. “Date announced for North Bergen High School’s ‘Alien’ encore performance” reports NorthJersey.com.

There will be an encore performance of the stage version of the classic 1979 sci-fi movie, which became a viral sensation when some enterprising North Bergen High School students produced it with eye-popping sets and effects.

On April 26 at 8 p.m., North Bergen will reprise the show, which was staged for only two performances in March. Those performances caused a tsunami of interest when a video posted the weekend of March 23 got some 3 million hits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 77. It’s his Who work that garners him a Birthday honour.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as the actor who was the First Doctor that made him worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 60. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area of interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark which purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.)  Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. 
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 47. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra Natchios and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil.
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 46. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of  Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? 

(11) SOMEONE BLEW THE BUGLE. Do cats really have nine lives, or do they make up the other eight? The question is inspired by the latest installment of Timothy the Talking Cat’s autobiography — “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 3”

Chapter 3: Marine Sergeant Tim

…My first attempt failed as I had mistaken the Post Office for the Marines. In my defence “Royal Mail” and “Royal Marines” look very similar if you are reading a sign from cat height. Further confusion at the Salvation Army ended more violently as I attempted to attack a uniformed man with a trumpet in an attempt to show my martial temperament….

(12) RIGHT THERE IN THE TAX RECORDS. CNN reports: “Shakespeare home in London, where he wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ found by historian”.

…Marsh’s quest began after The Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered in 2008. The historian wondered where Shakespeare was living when his plays were performed there, which predated The Globe as the playwright’s workplace.

It had previously been identified that the Shakespeare lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station, then known as the parish of St. Helens, after he was listed on taxpayer records in 1597/98, but the exact location was never identified….

(13) UNQUOTE. This 1975 letter from Thornton Wilder mentions the Dinosaur from “The Skin of Our Teeth” while illustrating a classic writers’ problem:

Before leaving for Europe (hope you had a lovely time) you sent me a beautiful American Wildlife Calendar. I was enjoying the pictures – the timber wolf, the woodchuck, the bison – and the mottos, Job, Walt Whitman. Dostoievsky, Dante – when I was thunderstruck to see my name-my birthday month, April … subscribed to a howling idiocy: “The best thing about animals is  that they don’t say much.” I never wrote that! I never thought that! I yelled for Isabel and pointed it out to her, the tears rolling down my face. “Isabel! Somebody’s played a cruel joke on me.  WHEN DID I SAY SUCH A THING? Let’s move to Arkansas until the laughter dies down.”
 
      “Don’t you remember that Mr. Antrobus says it in The Skin of Our Teeth when the Dinosaur is whining about the Ice Age.”
       “But l, I didn’t say it.”
       Then I thought of all the damaging things that could be brought up against me from that same play:
The Child Welfare Calendar: “A child is a thing that only a parent can love” Thornton Wilder.
The Anti-War Calendar: “God forgive me but I enjoyed the war; everybody’s at their best in wartime.” Thornton Wilder.

X

No more playwriting for me.

(14) DREAMSNAKE. Adri Joy gives a very fine overview of the book and its influence in “Feminist Futures: Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre” at Nerds of a Feather.

Executive Summary: Snake is a healer in a fractured post-apocalyptic world, travelling through various communities which live out relatively isolated existences in a world which appears to have gone through nuclear war. As you might guess from her name, the title, and almost every book cover Dreamsnake has been released with (except for a 1994 edition which decides to focus on the book’s stripey horse. There’s also… this.) this healing involves snakes: Mist, an albino cobra, and Sand, a rattlesnake, are both bred to synthesise various cures and vaccinations for illnesses, representing a combination of genetic engineering and on-the-spot biochemistry. The third snake is even more special: Grass is a dreamsnake, an extremely rare “offworlder” breed able to create hallucinations and pleasant dreams which are most often used to ease the pain of the dying.

(15) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Spacefaring Kitten bring Nerds of a Feather readers up to speed about the series of which this new Reynolds work is a part: “Microreview [Book]: Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds”.

There’s something in the dying (or at-least-super-old) Earth subgenre that has always resonated with me: a storyworld littered with weird and wondrous leftovers from times so far past that people are not quite sure what to make of them. In those stories, the massive weight of history hangs over the world and makes it alien in a very specific way….

(16) NO SHORTAGE. Charles Payseur uncorks more short fiction reviews in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #275”.

The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!

(17) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. The BBC will supply a soundtrack for the anniversary of the first Moon landing — “The BBC Proms are going to outer space: 2019’s season highlights”.

The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

Alongside classics like Holst’s The Planets, the season will include a Sci-Fi Prom, featuring scores from films such as Gravity and Alien: Covenant.

A CBeebies concert will take children on a journey to the Moon, including a close encounter with The Clangers.

And the season opens in July with a new piece inspired by the first Moon walk.

Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory will be premiered on Friday 19 July, under the baton of Karina Canellakis – the first female conductor to oversee the First Night of the Proms.

Meanwhile, art-rock band Public Service Broadcasting will play their concept album Race For Space in a special late night Prom.

The record, which combines sparse electronic beats with archive audio recordings from the US-Soviet space race, will be presented in a new arrangement with the Multi-Story Orchestra.

(18) DESERVES A TOUNGELASHING. “Star Wars: George Lucas names Jar Jar Binks as his favourite character”. Check the calendar – nope, it’s not April first.

George Lucas’ has revealed that Jar Jar Binks, one of the most reviled characters in the Star Wars saga, is actually his all-time favourite.

The 74-year-old director made the surprise announcement at a fan event marking the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

“[It] is one of my favourite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favourite character,” he said via video.

(19) A.K.A. Maybe George was just creating a distraction to keep us from noticing that “Disney Has Officially Renamed The First Star Wars Movie”. Let Gamebyte explain:

Just when you think you’ve got your life sorted and you know what’s what with the world, Disney has to go and screw with all our heads and rename the original Star Wars movie.

Heading back to 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was our first trip to that galaxy far, far away and made household names of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Jump to 2019 and we’re on the cusp of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX.

We’ve come a long way since A New Hope, but now, the House of Mouse is renaming George Lucas’ epic space opera. The movie is now called Star Wars: A New Hope, fitting with Disney’s current naming of the movies since Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

(20) COMIC RELIEF. Philip Ball’s 2014 post “The Moment of Uncertainty” translated his interview on uncertainty, with Robert Crease, historian and philosopher of science at Stony Brook University. The interview appeared in the French publication La Recherche. Amid the serious scientific stuff is this little joke —

There’s even an entire genre of uncertainty principle jokes. A police officer pulls Heisenberg over and says, “Did you know that you were going 90 miles an hour?” Heisenberg says, “Thanks. Now I’m lost.” 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/19 Old Rossum’s Book Of Pixelated SJW Credentials

(1) APOLLO REUNION. Forbes tells how the picture came to be: “Buzz Aldrin Dazzles In Photo Of Apollo Astronauts”. John A Arkansawyer, who sent the link, says, “But gosh, I love the suit Buzz Aldrin is wearing! It makes me want to go out and punch a goddam liar right in the face.”

The only man between here and the moon capable of pulling off a rocket ship patterned suit, four gold rings, American flag socks, and a double watch combo is Buzz Aldrin, 89. Aldrin was one of eight Apollo astronauts to attend the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner March 16. The dinner also celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969, by Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong who died in 2012. Aldrin and his astronaut brethren were photographed in New York by Felix Kunze whose composite image rocketed to the top of Reddit Sunday evening.

(2) MY TYPE. That item in a recent Scroll about getting your cat its own keyboard? Kalimac sounds like his cat is overdue for one:

I came home from a quick visit to the library to find that a reply, fortunately unsent, had been opened to the e-mail that happened to have been sitting on my desktop at the time I left. The text read:

5v44444444444444444444444jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkumuuuuuuu

Just so you know.

(3) FUNEREAL POSTER. SYFY Wire makes an observation as “All those dusted heroes return(?!) in latest poster for Avengers: Endgame “.

Walt Disney Studios marketing president Asad Ayaz tweeted out the new Chinese poster for Endgame, and aside from giving us some new looks at the living heroes the post-Infinty War team will have to rely on, it also features 14 of the ones who are no longer with us. As with all the rest of Endgame’s intentionally mysterious marketing teases, though, there’s a catch to the way the two groups are presented:

(4) VISA CATASTROPHE ENDS MALAYSIAN CON. Eleven cosplayers from four Asian countries plus the con organizer were taken into custody: “A Dozen Cosplayers Arrested During Immigration Raid at Cosplay Convention”.  

Twelve people without proper work visas were arrested during an immigration raid at a cosplay convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its first day over the weekend.

The event, Cosplay Festival 4, had a line-up of performances on March 23 when officers from the Immigration Department of Malaysia (Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia/JIM) stormed its venue at the Sunway Putra Hotel around 2 p.m. after receiving a tip.

(5) AMAZON DEVELOPING BUTLER BOOK FOR TV. “‘Wild Seed’: Viola Davis Developing Adaptation Of Octavia Butler Novel At Amazon, Scripted By Nnedi Okorafor And Wanuri Kahiu”: Shadow and Act has the story.

“We love Octavia Butler and her work and have for decades. But Wild Seed is our favorite. It’s expansive, disturbing, and unique. Wild Seed stays with you. It’s a love/hate story of African immortals that connects people on the African continent to the Diaspora. It merges the mystical and the scientific seamlessly. You’re going to see shape-shifting, body jumping, telepaths, people born with the ability to defy the laws of physics, all in the context of our past, present and future world,” said Kahiu and Okorafor.

(6) THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Leonard Maltin says “‘Dumbo’ Begs the Question: Why?”

Disney’s new live-action Dumbo isn’t awful….but it isn’t very good, either. Why waste so much money and talent on a film that is foredoomed to take second place to a classic? I know it’s all about making money, yet surely there are new ideas to pursue instead of constantly reproducing past successes. In this case the bar is set impossibly high. Dumbo is my favorite animated Disney feature. It’s got heart, humor, and originality. What’s more, it tells its story in just over an hour’s time. It’s a perfect movie.

Why Tim Burton would devote himself to a mediocre remake with a bloated script I can’t imagine….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1918 Robert J. Serling . Brother of that Serling. Author of several associational works including Something’s Alive on the Titanic. He wrote “Ghost Writer” published in Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian tinged space opera that was the universe that of the Rim World and John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1942 Mike Newell, 77. Director whose genre work Includes The AwakeningPhotographing Fairies (amazing story, stellar film), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (popcorn film — less filling, mostly tasty), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to wit “Masks of Evil” and “The Perils of Cupid”.
  • Born March 28, 1981 Gareth David-Lloyd, 48. Best known for playing as Ianto Jones on Doctor Who and Torchwood. John Watson in (what is referred to as a steampunk version by Wiki) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, also known simply as Sherlock Holmes. I also see him in Dark Signal, a supernatural thriller.
  • Born March 28, 1983 Natalie Lander, 36. I adore the amount of characterization that a performer brings to an animated character in the voice work they do. So it is with her work as Stargirl in the Justice League Action series of short animated works done recently. She created a smart and stubborn character who wasn’t going to be second to anyone. 

(8) REDDIT REELING AFTER MCDONALD SMEAR. A moderator of Reddit’s r/Fantasy group was one of the individuals engaged in the character assassination of Ed McDonald. The other moderators, trying to find a way forward, have posted a timeline of what they knew when, plus an apology. Here are excerpts.

WEDNESDAY

All hell broke loose within r/Fantasy. Up became down.

The r/Fantasy mods received information from multiple sources that there appeared to be a smear campaign against Ed McDonald. Retractions were posted from those who had put things out there involving Ed.

Later on Wednesday, we received information that one of the two individuals involved was a longstanding r/Fantasy moderator. WTF.

The r/Fantasy mod team shifted communications to remove that moderator from conversations and, during that process, that mod appears to have deleted his account. No information or other from that former mod.

TODAY – THURSDAY MORNING

We took time to try and sort things out. Again – looking to people across the industry and reputable sources. At this time there are retractions related to Ed McDonald across the internet from those who posted and information building that indicates mis-information was put out there against Ed McDonald. It also appears that one of those individuals was (a former) moderator of r/Fantasy.

The remaining r/Fantasy mods are reeling a bit with this crazy information.

NEXT STEPS

We would like to issue a formal apology to Ed McDonald for what has transpired. Go buy his books and give him a virtual hug. The information out there is incomplete but, at the very least, Ed is owed an apology for the call to ban him for 2019. Of course, he has been reinstated as an active r/Fantasy member.

Ed McDonald

No ill will should be borne towards those that were brought to be a part of something unwittingly. The level and scale of deception used to influence and coerce those that were used against me was extraordinary. And when I say that, unless you have seen the evidence, what you’re imagining by ‘extraordinary’ probably does not even begin to cover it. I’m going to go on stating this because even describing it that way does not begin to explain the lengths, depths and time investment that were put into this. The people who were coerced have been abused and they are also survivors of online stalking. Some of them have posted publicly to say that the perpetrator has groomed them for an entire year.

It is not right to be angry towards those whose trust has been abused. Those that have come forward and publicly apologised must not be blamed or attacked. Not in my name. Not because of this incident.

While I was the target, and the consequences of that targeting would have been life altering and devastating for me if not for the actions of those who believed in me and brought the truth to light, I am not the only survivor of online abuse. The people now discovering that they have spent months, or years, talking to and confiding in someone they believed to be a friend, only to discover that they have been played, are survivors as well.

Secondly, this has nothing to do with gender. I was not targeted because I was male. Due to the nature of the campaign, and because I have never met or spoken to the perpetrator, I do not know whether the person responsible is male or female. Please do not make this a platform for unrelated issues. The issue is entirely one of online harassment and falsification, which could happen to anybody irrespective of who they are.

Be kind to one another. If there’s at least one lesson we can all agree on, it’s surely that.

Author Mark Lawrence, creator of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, shared his own experience with being attacked.

[–]MarkLawrenceStabby Winner, AMA Author Mark Lawrence 136 points 2 hours ago 

It’s remarkably easy to raise a reddit lynch mob.

It happened to me (on a vastly smaller scale) in one thread. Half a dozen accounts – all started that day and all sharing the same word in their title – started calling me a cancer and accusing me of unspecified crimes against new authors.

Most people looking at the thread just saw lots of names saying I was the bad guy and me not lying down and taking my lumps. The one guy with many accounts got lots of upvotes and I was down in negative double digits.

Mods removed my replies.

It was unfortunate but not malicious on anyone’s part but the instigator. Modding a group is hard and there is often a lot going on at once.

The developments of the past few days have actually helped some people discover the author’s work for the first time, while others are trying to counter the toxicity with positive attention, such as Mark Timmony’s review of McDonald’s Blackwing.

(9) SJWC CRISIS. Not all cats live up to their reputation as companions in the quest for social justice…. BBC asks: “Should cats be culled to stop extinctions?”

Scientists are calling for a widespread cull of feral cats and dogs, pigs, goats, and rats and mice to save the endangered species they prey upon.

Their eradication on more than 100 islands could save some of the rarest animals on Earth, says an international team.

Islands have seen 75% of known bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile extinctions over the past 500 years.

Many of the losses are caused by animals introduced by humans.

Not naturally present on islands, they can threaten native wildlife.

“Eradicating invasive mammals from islands is a powerful way to remove a key threat to island species and prevent extinctions and conserve biodiversity,” said Dr Nick Holmes, from the group Island Conservation.

(10) SPACESUITS AREN’T THE ONLY PROBLEM. BBC finds way too much science gear is available only in large sizes: “One small step for man, but women still have to leap”.

Nasa has cancelled plans for its first all-female spacewalk this Friday, citing a lack of available spacesuits in the right size.

There are not enough suits configured on the International Space Station for both Christina Koch and Anne McClain to go out at the same time, so male astronaut Nick Hague will replace Lt Col McClain.

Last week, Lt Col McClain went on a spacewalk with Col Hague and learned that a medium-sized spacesuit fitted her best.

However, Nasa said in a statement: “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday 29 March, Koch will wear it.”

For many women working in science, a choice between using equipment designed for men or missing out altogether is all too familiar.

(11) BITS BECOME BITERS. Or something like that: “Britain’s ‘bullied’ chatbots fight back”.

UK chatbot companies are programming their creations to deal with messages containing swearing, rudeness and sexism, BBC News has learned.

Chatbots have received thousands of antisocial messages over the past year.

One financial chatbot has been asked out on a date nearly 2,000 times and to “send nude [picture]s” more than 1,000, according to its makers, Cleo AI.

The chatbot now responds to the request by sending an image of a circuit board.

(12) MORE INTERNET TOXICITY. Apparently it far exceeds the ratio predicted by Sturgeon’s Law: “‘The biggest, strangest problem I could find to study'”.

Businesses are under siege every second of every day, bombarded by a “grey noise” of potentially harmful web traffic seeking access to their networks. But IT staff often can’t tell the malicious traffic from the benign. Why?

If your office building were visited thousands of times a day by criminals peering through the windows seeking a way in, you’d be understandably nervous about hanging around.

Yet any organisation with an online presence gets exactly this type of unwelcome attention all the time.

Security researcher Andrew Morris calls this constant barrage “grey noise” and has started a company of the same name with a mission of logging, analysing and understanding it.

…In 2018, Mr Morris’s network was hit by up to four million attacks a day. His honey-pot computers process between 750 and 2,000 connection requests per second – the exact rate depends on how busy the bad guys are at any given moment.

His analysis shows that only a small percentage of the traffic is benign.

That fraction comes from search engines indexing websites or organisations such as the Internet Archive scraping sites. Some comes from security companies and other researchers.

The rest of the internet’s background noise – about 95% – is malicious.

(13) MAKING A SPECTRE OF HERSELF. TIME Magazine dutifully published the official disclaimer. But the truth is out there! “‘As Far As We Know All Our Stores Are Ghost-Free.’ Supermarket Responds to Frozen Aisle Haunting Post”.

The employee, Christiana Bush, who works in the store’s bakery department, posted about the ghost sighting in a local, private Facebook group. ”This is going to sound really strange….but has anyone seen a ghost in the Wilmington market basket?” she wrote according to the Boston Globe. Adding that after she saw the woman, she looked to see if anyone else was catching a glimpse of the apparition and when she looked back she was gone.

“She looked kind of like melancholy and a little angry. So it was kind of a creepy kind of sense, but it was something,” Bush said Monday, according to the local NBC affiliate. She believes the woman was a ghost and asked the Facebook group whether anyone else had a paranormal experience in her store. The modern day ghost story has since gone viral with people across the country weighing in on the likelihood of a Victorian era ghost choosing to haunt a Market Basket.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/19 Flow My Peanut Butter, The Panini-Maker Scrolled

(1) HIDDEN FIGURE HONORED. A NASA facility has a new name: “NASA Renames Facility in Honor of ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson”.

NASA has redesignated its Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility, in honor of the West Virginia native and NASA “hidden figure.”

“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”

… Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918, Johnson’s intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers led her to a distinguished career — spanning more than three decades — with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Among her professional accomplishments, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961. The following year, Johnson performed the work for which she would become best known when she was asked to verify the results made by electronic computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. She went on to provide calculations for NASA throughout her career, including for several Apollo missions.

At a time when racial segregation was prevalent throughout the southern United States, Johnson and fellow African American mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who was later promoted to engineer — broke through racial barriers to achieve success in their careers at NASA and helped pave the way for the diversity that currently extends across all levels of agency’s workforce and leadership. Their story became the basis of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  

(2) THE ART OF SIGNING. CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) GoH Larry Dixon shares some wisdom in a Twitter thread that begins here.

(3) A GHOST SPEAKS. Sean McLachlan rises “In Defense of Professional Ghostwriting” at Black Gate.

…I’m acquainted with Cristiane Serruya. She was part of the Kindle Scout program, having won an advance, 50% royalties, and publication for at least one of her works from Amazon’s imprint Kindle Press. Two of my books are also in the program. We chatted numerous times on the Kindle Scout Winners Facebook group and we even traded critiques. She read the first two books in my Masked Man of Cairo mystery series and I read Damaged Love, which turns out to contain plagiarized passages too. At the time I was surprised she would want me to be a beta reader on a romance novel, a genre she knew I didn’t read and knew nothing about. Now I know why.

…It’s true that some unscrupulous people are hiring teams of underpaid ghostwriters to churn out dreck in order to game Amazon’s algorithms, which tilt in favor of newly publishing titles and prolific authors.

Unfortunately, professional ghostwriters like me are being lumped in with the hacks. There is a place for a professional ghostwriter in indie publishing, and it is a valid one.

Ghostwriting has been around since the days of the dime novel. It was strong throughout the pulp era and the post-war paperback boom. In the modern world, house names such as Don Pendleton (The Executioner) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew) have been used by pools of ghostwriters to make some of the most popular series around.

Ghostwriting is my day job. To date, I have ghostwritten 18 novels, 7 novellas, and one short story for various clients, and am currently contracted for another series of novels. The clients are generally independent publishers who put out work under a variety of pen names. I get one or two pen names, and other ghostwriters get other ones. Thus each pen name keeps the specific tone of a particular writer. I have worked for one guy who used several ghostwriters writing for the same house name, but we all were given strict instructions as to tone, style, etc. None of my clients put their real name on their books, and all of them were looking for quality work….

(4) UP THE AMAZON. Nora Roberts expands on what she’s been learning about the environment for indie authors at Amazon: “Let Me Address This”.

A Broken System. Then came the scammers, and with the methods discussed in previous blogs, who flooded the market with 99 cent books. What a bargain! Readers couldn’t know these books were stolen or copied or written by ghostfarms. Couldn’t know about the clickfarms, the scam reviews.

At this price, the author receives only 30% (there’s a price point cut off on royalty rate). So all those out of pocket expenses may or may not be covered.

The legit indie saw her sales suffer, her numbers tank, her placement on lists vanish. To try to compete, many had to struggle to write faster, to heavily discount their work. Some had to give up writing altogether.

One other scamming method is to list a book–forever–as free. Not as a promotion, or incentive, but to toss up hordes or free books, so the reader wants–and often demands–free. They make their money off the scores of cheap and stolen books, and destroy the legit writer. Why pay when there are scores of free books at your fingertips?

(5) SFF ROMANCE AWARDS. The winners of genre interest for the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards are:

Favourite Paranormal Romance

  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Favourite Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Cursed by Keri Arthur

(6) FANHISTORY. Here’s a link to Archive.org footage from the 1975 Star Trek convention in New York. William Shatner’s appearance takes up the first few minutes – you can see Ben Yalow among his escorts at the 30-second mark. The latter half of the film shows a woman in front of art show panels – I think I should recognize her, but I can’t come up with a name. Maybe you can. [Update: Adrienne Martine-Barnes, maybe?] [Now identified as Jacqueline Lichtenberg.]

Yalow is on the right.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • On November 1, 1884 Bat Masterson published his first newspaper article in Dodge City. The newspaper was called Vox Populi.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 Wilhelm Grimm. Here for two reasons, the first being the he and his brother were the first to systematically collect folktales from the peasantry of any European culture and write them down. Second is that the number of genre novels and short stories that used the Grimms’ Fairy Tales as their source for source material is, well, if not infinite certainly a really high number. I’d wager that even taking just those stories in Snow White, Blood Red series that Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow co-edited would get quite a number based the tales collected by these bothers. (Died 1859.)
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like), not to overlook being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 86. Well known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a VA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1942 Sam J. Lundwall, 77. Swedish writer, translator and publisher. He first started writing for Häpna!, an SF Zine in the 50s. In the late 60s, he was a producer for Sveriges Radio and made a SF series. He published his book, Science Fiction: Från begynnelsen till våra dagar (Science Fiction: What It’s All About) which landed his first job as an SF Editor. After leaving that publisher in the 80s, he would start his own company, Sam J. Lundwall Fakta & Fantasi. Lundwall was also the editor of the science fiction magazine Jules Verne-Magasinet between 1972 and 2009. He has been active in fandom as he organised conventions in Stockholm six times in the 60s and 70s. And I see he’s written a number of novels, some released here, though not recently. 
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 72. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realise it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) he has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the new Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 53. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 51. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEGAL EAGLE. John Scalzi has been doing his due diligence this afternoon.

(11) ROLE OF A LIFETIME. Cleveland.com has a conversation with the actor: “Wil Wheaton wraps up run as Wil Wheaton on ‘Big Bang Theory’”.

…Then “Big Bang” executive producer and co-creator Bill Prady offered him the ideal role. Would he be interested in playing, well, Wil Wheaton . . . an evil Wil Wheaton?

“If they had actually wanted me to play myself, I don’t think I would have been interested,” he said. “First, it would have felt like a cheat. So what? Show up and be yourself? There’s no challenge in that. But when Bill said, ‘We want you to play an evil version of yourself,’ I immediately got and loved that idea.”

(12) PAPERS PLEASE. Spikecon has put out a “Call for Academic Submissions”:

Westercon 72, NAFIC 2019, 1632 Minicon, and Manticon 2019 are together inviting submissions of academic papers for presentation at Spikecon to be held on July 4th-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah. We are seeking 30 minute papers which raise the level of dialogue and discussion in the Science Fiction/Fantasy community and seek to empower fans as well as creators.

Topics of Interest Include:

  • Literary analysis/criticism of science fiction or fantasy works including those of our Spikecon Guests of Honor
  • Historical events impacting science fiction and/or fantasy works
  • Fandom
  • Developments in science and technology
  • Craft of writing
  • Cultural impact of scifi/fantasy
  • Fan and creator relationship
  • Studies of individual creators/universes

(13) PLAY BY MALE. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky says “Chronin’s Elegant, Minimalist Samurai Adventure Is – Literally – Timeless”.

Let’s hear it for cleverness! Sometimes a few modest, well-thought-out ideas can add up to an artistic creation as impactful as — and even more appealing than — the weightiest projects. That’s the case with Chronin, Alison Wilgus’ new graphic novel. Like a miniaturist or scrimshaw engraver, Wilgus has a keen appreciation for the power of constraints. By setting careful limits on what her book will look like and what kind of story it will tell, she’s achieved an aesthetic balance that’s a thing of beauty in itself.

Chronin is lighthearted but not frivolous, simple but not simplistic. Since it’s set in 19th-century Japan, you could compare it to a netsuke: A tiny sculpture whose beauty lies in what it does with so little. Chronin’s narrative and visual themes are rather basic, but it explores them in a way that’s precise, insightful — and supremely clever.

Wilgus has experimented with artistic constraints before. A Stray in the Woods, published in 2013, originated as a Tumblr webcomic driven by suggestions from readers. And, of course, much of her work has been shaped by the will of her employers, including DC and the Cartoon Network. Plenty of creators try to blow the doors off with their first solo graphic novels, but Wilgus takes the opportunity to go small. Chronin’s story of a time-travel screw-up is familiar, even a bit of a chestnut. Protagonist Mirai Yoshida, a New York City college student in 2042, travels with some classmates back to 1864 Japan to conduct research. An accident leaves her trapped there, so she masquerades as a male — and as a member of the warrior class — for safety while she tries to figure out a way back.

(14) SURVEYING THE FIELD. Rich Horton winds up his Hugo discussion with “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2019: Summary Post”. One item he touches on is —

Best Series

Here’s JJ’s list of eligible series posted at File 770: http://file770.com/best-series-hugo-eligible-series-from-2018/. Much props to JJ for the tireless work of maintain this list, but … I think the list itself speaks to problems with the whole concept of this award.

I was skeptical about this award from the start, and I don’t think its history helps it. I’m really bothered by the way adding one short story to a very old series, for example, makes it again eligible (as with Earthsea, objectively by far the most worthy and influential eligible series, but does “Firelight”, beautiful as it absolutely is, really mean we should give it an award now?) Also, the endless parsing of “series” vs. “sub-series”. The way an award can be for, really, semi-random assemblages of related works. I could go on and on.

(15) TWEETING HISTORY. Myke Cole is running a giveaway, and has been retweeting some of the choicer quotes people are submitting. For example:

(16) BACKING UP TO THE MOON. CNET: “Thirty-million-page backup of humanity headed to moon aboard Israeli lander”.

If the apocalypse strikes, the Arch Mission Foundation wants to be sure all the knowledge we’ve accumulated doesn’t disappear.

On Thursday night, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization built to last billions of years into the future.

The backup for humanity has been dubbed “The Lunar Library” by its creator, the Arch Mission Foundation (AMF).

“The idea is to place enough backups in enough places around the solar system, on an ongoing basis, that our precious knowledge and biological heritage can never be lost,” the nonprofit’s co-founder Nova Spivack told [CNET] via email.

(17) THE FLYING DEAD. Salon: “Zombie stars shine on after mystery detonations”.

It should have been physically impossible. Millions of years ago, a white dwarf—the fading cinder of a sunlike star—was locked in a dizzying dance with a bright companion star. The two had circled each other for eons, connected by a bridge of gas that flowed from the companion onto the white dwarf allowing it to grow heavier and heavier until it could no longer support the extra weight. At this point, the white dwarf should have exploded—blowing itself to smithereens and producing a supernova that briefly shone brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way combined. Then once the supernova faded and the white dwarf’s innards were dispersed across the galaxy, there would quite literally be nothing left save for its companion star. But against all odds, the explosion did not fully rupture the white dwarf. Instead, it survived.

…Raddi’s team made these discoveries after combing through data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which is particularly well suited for finding high-speed stars—an important characteristic of ones like LP 40-365 (because a supernova explosion has the power to slingshot stars across the galaxy). Two are destined to escape the Milky Way entirely, and one is orbiting “backward” against the usual rotation of stars in our galaxy. Additionally they all boast large radii, presumably because they were puffed up by the extra energy they received from the failed explosion. And yet they possess relatively small masses, likely due to the loss of much of their material during the explosion. But perhaps the most compelling evidence these stars are supernova survivors is that they brim with heavier elements. Whereas typical white dwarfs comprise carbon and oxygen, these stars are mostly composed of neon. “That’s absurd,” Hermes says. “That’s like some barroom beer sign just flying through the galaxy.” The stars’ second-most common element is oxygen, followed by a sprinkling of even heavier elements such as magnesium, sodium and aluminum. “This is about as weird as it gets,” Hermes says…

(18) IT’S A THEORY. Orville’s season 1 Rotten Tomatoes critics score was 23%.  Season 2 is holding at 100%.  Nerdrotic theorizes that the explanation is Disney’s purchase of Fox.

(19) BLADE RUNNER COMICS. Launching this summer, Titan Comics’ new Blade Runner 2019 series will be set during the exact timeframe of the original Blade Runner film, and feature a (mostly) new set of characters and situations.

Titan also confirmed that noted artist Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) will be joining acclaimed Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) and veteran collaborator Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Super­man/Batman) to breathe life into their all-new Blade Runner comic books.

(20) AND HE’S NOT EVEN WELSH! CBR.com checks out “Superman’s Less Legendary LL’s!”.

In Drawing Crazy Patterns, I spotlight at least five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Note that these lists are inherently not exhaustive. They are a list of five examples (occasionally I’ll be nice and toss in a sixth). So no instance is “missing” if it is not listed. It’s just not one of the five examples that I chose. 

Today, we look at the less legendary LLs in Superman’s life. 

Unless you hate me and all that I stand for, you know that Superman has an inordinate amount of notable people in his life whose names are double Ls. 

Names (etc.) mentioned in the 2-page article include:

* Lori Lemaris

* Lightning Lad

* Little League (seriously)

* Lita Laverne

* Lester Link

* Liza Landis

* Lyrica Lloyd

* Lorraine Lewis

(21) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF DRAGONS. HBO puts out mashup trailer to coincide with the Oscars — SYFY Wire: “Arya Stark beholds dragon for first time in HBO mashup trailer; new Watchmen footage also included”.

Just like it did during the Golden Globes, HBO has released another mega-trailer featuring new footage from all of its new and returning shows airing this year. Of course, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones was among the shows included in the tantalizing teaser.

[…] Game of Thrones Season 8 debuts on HBO Sunday, April 14. There’s no set premiere date for Watchmen just yet, but it will arrive sometime this year.

(22) FROM THE BEEB TO THE BO. BBC released a trailer of His Dark Materials, which will air on HBO in the U.S.

We’re keeping our daemons close. Here’s an early sneak peek of His Dark Materials. Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, Clarke Peters and Lin-Manuel Miranda star in this thrilling new series. Adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s acclaimed series of novels.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Your Supreme Awesome Royal Majesty Highnessness JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter.  Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Amazon Reopens Castalia House’s KDP Account

Castalia House’s Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing account was restored yesterday within hours after Vox Day told readers it had been taken down (see “Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account”.) The problems were caused by Castalia’s Collapsing Empire parody Corrosion by “Johan Kalsi” with the look-alike cover, which has brought Day’s business into conflict with Amazon’s rules many times since the book came out in 2017.

Collapsing Empire author John Scalzi seems to have had this news in mind when he tweeted on Thursday —

Although the Amazon account was reopened, Markku Koponen of Finland, where the Castalia House entity is based, told readers of Vox Day’s blog that the “Kalsi” book will no longer be sold on Amazon.

But the sales had dropped so low on it (because people seem to connect it only with the Scalzi events, which isn’t really fair. Again, it’s an actual, serious book) that removing that tool from them had more value than having the title there. And it’s still available on our own site, from which we keep 100% of the revenue instead of 70%.

And he said they have asked Audible to take down the audiobook.

Vox Day also contacted File 770 “to set the record straight,” saying —

  1. CORROSION by Johan Kalsi was cleared of being “misleading” no less than 7 times by the highest-level managers at KDP. The previous time it was depublished by the Quality Assurance employee, in September 2018, it was republished before we even received the email telling us it had been depublished.
  2. The reason we were given for our account was terminated was a claim of copyright infringement. This claim was incorrect and was subsequently acknowledged to have been incorrect when our account was restored.
  3. What Amazon did yesterday affected more than 60 authors, and any author who was feeling schadenfreude would do well to keep in mind that not every employee at Amazon with access to their account is fully in agreement with them either. We are very far from the first to have our account terminated, even if it was only for 20 hours in our case.
  4. We sold more copies of Corrosion via our direct store yesterday than we had sold in the previous three months on Amazon. We’ve sold even more copies of it today. That is why we decided not to republish it on KDP and why we will remove it from Audible as well. It’s simply not worth the potential conflict.

When one of his fans encouraged him to initiate legal action against Amazon. Vox Day replied —

No. We’re already in a significant legal battle with Indiegogo. We will not take on any additional conflict unless it is forced on us. Nor are we interested in going to war against our own distribution channel.

Day was referring IndieGoGo’s action last October, shutting down Arkhaven’s current fundraiser for Alt-Hero: Q, and refunding backers’ money (see “After Bleeding Cool Interviews Vox Day, IndieGoGo Axes Latest Alt-Hero Comic Campaign”.) Arkhaven is Castalia’s comics imprint.

Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account

Update: Vox Day says his Amazon KDP account is now “Reinstated” [Internet Archive link.]


Amazon told Vox Day they have shut down his Castalia House Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account because of the latest issues about its goon book Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1), a parody of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire which Castalia markets with a look-alike cover.

Castalia House’s efforts to sell the book have repeatedly brought it into conflict with Amazon rules since the work first appeared in March 2017 (see “Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s ‘The Corroding Empire’”). According to Vox Day (“Amazon Takes Down Castalia House” [Internet Archive link]): “This is the second attack on that book this month, as ten days ago, they pulled the book itself down for the sixth or seventh time due to claims that it was ‘misleading’.”

Day says he received the following message from Amazon on January 21. At that time they only removed the one book from sale on Amazon.

From: Amazon.com [kdp-quality-assurance@amazon.com]
Sent: 21 January 2019 21:59
Subject: Notification from Amazon KDP

While reviewing the following books we found the title, cover image, descriptions and/or authors of the following book(s) are misleading to our customers:

Title: Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)
ASIN: B06XFQ24QC

As a result, the book(s) have been removed from sale from Amazon.

However, today Amazon shut down the Castalia House KDP account and banned Day from opening any others. Not only that, Day was told he will not receive any unpaid royalities that he may be owed on sales.

As last communicated in the message on January 21, 2019, we have identified the submission of content for which you did not have the necessary rights. Due to this and previous violations, we are terminating your account and your Agreement effective immediately.

As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account and remove the books you have uploaded through our channels from sale on Amazon. Note that you are no longer eligible to receive unpaid royalties for sales that occurred prior to this termination.

Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open any new KDP accounts.

Despite the message, Day sounded confident the account would be reopened.

Of course, there were no previous violations that internal SJWs did not invent as we’ve been repeatedly cleared of the “misleading” charge for that book. Needless to say, we will not be taking this latest SJW attack lying down. I won’t be surprised if the account is rapidly restored once we contact the manager who has been repeatedly dealing with this issue, especially since we were promised that it would never happen again after the last time.

Or he did before he updated the post with this calamitous discovery —

UPDATE: Amazon can’t even find the account information. It looks like whoever was responsible actually wiped all the data.

[Thanks to rcade for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

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