Pixel Scroll 2/17/19 May The Pixels Be Always In Your Favor

(1) GRRM BOUND FOR BELFAST. TitanCon EuroCon 2019 has announced their first Guest of Honour, George R. R. Martin.

Science fiction, fantasy and horror writer George R.R. Martin began his SFF career in comics, writing letters to the Stan Lee-written Fantastic Four and Avengers in the mid-1960s, and published his first novel in 1977. A multiple winner of the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, Martin was already critically acclaimed for his novels Fevre Dream, Dying of the Light and Tuf Voyaging, and his work on the Wild Cards superhero anthology series, when released his game-changing fantasy novel A Game of Thrones in 1996….

George was instrumental in TitanCon’s creation, as you can read about in our TitanCon History page, and appeared at our first pre-con Moot. So it is only fitting that he returns to Belfast to see our take on EuroCon!

TitanCon has announced two other participants as well —

We are also proud to present our, for the first time ever, Toastmutant!

Pat Cadigan and Peadar Ó Guilín have agreed to achieve some sort of symbiosis and appear as our Toastmutant – as if there was ever any doubt that we wanted, nay needed, them both? We hope it wont be too messy! We know they are going to be wonderful hosts, and Pat will turn the party out, whilst minding Peadar and helping him curb his cannibalistic tendencies.

(2) OOPS! ChiZine Publications suffered a little bit of a disaster this weekend at Boskone:

Brett and Sandra are at Boskone 56 right now. Our entire stock of books was mistakenly put out on the freebie table.

If you grabbed a book from or see someone with a CZP, CHITEEN, or CHIGRAPHIC book, please tell them to return them to us at our dealer’s table, location A5. Or you can just come and pay for it! We are reasonably priced!

They later posted some good news:

We are quite overcome. Thank you to all the fans, readers and everyone at Boskone 56… A bunch of our missing books (that were mistakenly put out on the freebie table) were returned! We have recovered almost a full third. So our dealer’s table no longer looks so sparse. Come by and see our wares!

(3) CINEMA AUDIO SOCIETY AWARDS. Given February 16, the 2019 Cinema Audio Society Award winners were light on sff. The only genre winner was:

MOTION PICTURE – ANIMATED
Isle of Dogs
Original Dialogue Mixer: Darrin Moore
Re-recording Mixer: Christopher Scarabosio
Re-recording Mixer: Wayne Lemmer
Scoring Mixer: Xavier Forcioli
Scoring Mixer: Simon Rhodes
Foley Mixer: Peter Persaud, CAS

(4) BLACK PANTHER. Kenneth Turan, the LA Times’ revered film critic, presents his case: “Oscars: Why ‘Black Panther’ deserves to win best picture”.

…Nowhere is it written, though voters sometimes act as if it is, that the Oscars are an elitist award for which mass-appeal movies need not apply. In a sane world, intelligently satisfying an enormous audience should be one of the things the Oscars are all about.

The key word there is “intelligently,” and if you’ve watched more than your share of superhero movies, you know that quality is often in short supply in a genre dominated by business-as-usual boilerplate.

Coogler (who cowrote with Joe Robert Cole) ensured that “Black Panther” would be an exception, in part by retaining his core creative team of collaborators, including composer Ludwig Goransson and production designer Hannah Beachler (both Oscar-nominated) as well as editor Michael P. Shawver and cinematographer Rachel Morrison.

Adding costume designer Ruth E. Carter (also nominated, for the third time in a distinguished career) was icing on the cake….

(5) COMPETING MARVELS. Adam Lance Garcia, in “The Twisted Story of How We Wound Up With Two Captain Marvel Movies (And Why One is Named SHAZAM!)” on Yahoo! Entertainment, discusses the backstory of how C.C. Beck and Bill Parker created Captain Marvel for Fawcett Comics in 1940, how National Comics sued Fawcett claiming that Captain Marvel was a copy of Superman, how Fawcett killed Captain Marvel as a result of the lawsuit, and how Marvel resurrected the name for a different character in the late 1960s, forcing DC to rename the character Shazam! when they revived it in 1972.

First we need to rewind to 1938, when Superman created the superhero genre overnight, and comic book publishers, eager to get into the burgeoning superhero market, began creating countless flash-in-the-pan heroes in an attempt to recapture the magic of Superman.

Heroes such as Major Victory, Stardust the Super Wizard and Air-Male and Stampy — yes, these are all real — would only last a few issues before being tossed into the dustbin of comics history.

But in 1939, writer Bill Parker and artist C.C. Beck created a hero that, for a time, would become the most popular superhero in the world.

His name? Captain Marvel….

(6) TRAILER SPOOF. Not only does this Captain have a split personality, she can’t remember one of them…

In this animated parody of the Captain Marvel movie trailer, the titular Capitano gets her mission to eliminate Skrulls confused with her personal hatred of senior citizens, Talos reveals what a true megastar he is and Nick Fury refuses to throw the first cat-punch. Let’s war party!

(7) IDEAS. Andrew Liptak, in the February 17 edition of Wordplay, tells what he’s looking for at conventions:

…Cons can sometimes be frustrating (your milage will vary from con to con), but I’ve been finding these sorts of events excellent for networking within the SF/F field, but not so much for getting anything productive out of them when it comes to the panels and programming. My standing advice for authors — if you’re looking for inspiration / advice / information that will be useful to you as a writer — is to hit up industry conventions and conferences instead. My trip to the West Point Modern War Institute’s conference last fall generated more useful ideas and talking points than I’ve gotten at places like Boskone or ReaderCon. I did get one solid idea for a story out of one panel, and I’m going to try and write that up this week… 

(8) EXTENDED DOOM. Here’s a long-version trailer for DC’s Doom Patrol, which DCUniverse began airing on February 15.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. whose full name of Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE (née Grasemann) is quite wonderful. I know her only as an English author of very superb thrillers and somewhat disturbing murder mysteries but ISFDB lists her as doing horror as well to my surprise in the form as three novels, to wit The Killing DollThe Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid, plus a not inconsiderable amount of short fiction that is fantasy no doubt. She was also the editor of A Warning to the Curious: The Ghost Stories of M.R. James. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 17, 1939 Kathy Keeton. Founder and publisher of Omni. It was founded by her and her partner and future husband Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse. It would publish a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata”, Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” “and “Johnny Mnemonic” and George R. R. Martin’s “Sandkings” to name a few of the stories that appeared there. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 17, 1947 Bruce Gillespie, 72. He’s one of the major Australian SF fans and is best known for his long-running fanzine SF Commentary. Over the years, he’s published The Metaphysical ReviewSteam Engine Time and is currently putting out Treasure. He was fan guest of honour at Aussiecon 3, the 57th Worldcon held in Melbourne in 1999.
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 65. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person.
  • Born February 17 1974, — Jerry O’Connell, 45. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind the broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman. The latter film is kickass excellent. 
  • Born February 17, 1979 Dominic Purcell, 40. Best known as Mick Rory / Heat Wave in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, as well as Dracula from Blade: Trinity. He was lead as Tim Manfrey in Primeval where I’m assuming the giant croc ate him. Was that a spoiler? Oh well. Blood Creek, previously known as Creek and Town Creek — marketing woes? — has him as Victor Alan Marshall mixing with the occult and Nazis. Lastly I’ve got him on Beastmaster as Kelb in a recurring role.

(10) I’M SORRY, I’LL READ THAT AGAIN. “Maine farm’s bid to save ‘Game of Thrones’ goats imperiled by crackdown on semen” was a headline in the Bangor Daily News this week. The story involves efforts to sustain an endangered breed of goats. One of them was eaten by a dragon on Game of Thrones, but that was a CGI dragon and not really why they’re endangered….

Much of the semen comes from goats in Johanna Thorvaldsdottir’s flock on her farm, Haafell, in Borgarnes, Iceland. Thorvaldsdottir owns the world’s largest flock of Icelandic goats, with 208 in total. Her goats were the lucky flock featured in the 2014 “Game of Thrones” episode.

(11) HAVE AN APPLE, DEARIE? Paste Magazine delights readers with news that “Colleen Doran Adapts Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples for Dark Horse Comics”.

Today, we bring Gaiman fans even more glad tidings: “Snow, Glass, Apples”, Gaiman’s chilling retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, will join Dark Horse’s growing stable of Gaiman adaptations courtesy of The Sandman contributor Colleen Doran, who previously adapted and illustrated Gaiman’s Troll Bridge.

In typically topsy-turvy Gaiman fashion, Snow, Glass, Apples portrays a not-so-evil queen desperately trying to stop her wicked step-daughter’s “happily” ever after that was never supposed to be. Stopping ever after, however, is no small task…

(12) PLUS CA CHANGE. Despite tons of changes going on, Forbes contributor Mark Hughes thinks the DC Extended Universe is going great (“Why The Future Of DCEU Movies Looks Brighter Than Ever”). The article is long enough to strain the attention span of even those who haven’t been Twitterized, but maintains an almost uniformly positive view throughout. Some of the additions and changes below to the DC movie universe are recent and some date back a few months, but the stuff addressed in Hughes’ article includes:

  • An Aquaman spinoff, The Trench, has been announced
  • The Aquaman sequel has signed a screenwriter
  • Wonder Woman 1984 was delayed from the original mooted date, leaving only Shazam! and Joker on the 2019 slate for the DCEU
  • The Flash is still in preproduction with no start date announced
  • James Gunn—after being booted from working on the Marvel Cinematic Universe—has been hired in the DCEU
  • The next Suicide Squad movie will be a “soft reboot” rather than a sequel and will drop Harley Quinn
  • There seems to be no future for the Jared Leto version of Joker (from Suicide Squad) so don’t expect Leto to share the screen with Margot Robbie (at least in the DCEU)
  • Superman probably will not take to the screen for the next few years; a Supergirl movie is up next in that corner of the DCEU—circa 2021
  • After losing one writer-director-actor (Ben Affleck), The Batman movie has a writer-director (Matt Reeves) on board, but the script is still being polished
  • Rumors are ongoing about New Gods and Green Lantern Corps projects, but nothing is firm on either (especially the latter)
  • Tons of other potential projects are mentioned, but they’re even more speculative

(13) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]NPR: “Ph.D. Student Breaks Down Electron Physics Into A Swinging Musical” (The title is slightly misleading in that it’s about formation of Cooper pairs, superconductivity, and even delves a little into quantum computing).

It took [PhD candidate] Senarath Yapa six weeks to choreograph and write the songs for “Superconductivity: The Musical!” — a three-act swing dance depicting the social lives of electrons. The video is based on his master’s thesis, which he completed while pursuing his degree at the University of Victoria in Canada.

[…] “Superconductivity relies on lone electrons pairing up when cooled below a certain temperature,” Senarath Yapa told Science. “Once I began to think of electrons as unsociable people who suddenly become joyful once paired up, imagining them as dancers was a no-brainer!”

(14) BOOK FUNNIES. This kind of listicle can be tedious; or it can illuminate basic truths. Well, OK, not basic, but a lot of truths (“21 A+ Jokes About Books That Will Make You Snort-Laugh”). Many in Buzzfeed’s collection of tweets about books relate to genre works; many others are simply relatable.

(15) PHONE HOME. ScienceAlert.com says “An Asteroid Will Block Our Brightest Star on Monday, And Astronomers Need Your Help”.

An occultation of Sirius (by an asteroid named Jürgenstock) will be observable in parts of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean Monday 18 February and some astronomers are asking for your help. (Note the this projected path of the occultation is a major shift from that reported at the time the ScienceAlert article was written. That earlier prediction crossed a large swath of North America.)

Full instructions for how to help can be found in a post in this post by Bill Merline and David Dunham.

(16) IS THIS COOL, OR WHAT? Put me down for “What?” This idea definitely fits my notion of “counter-intutive” — “Elon Musk Says SpaceX Is Developing a Complex ‘Bleeding’ Heavy-Metal Rocket Ship”.

The spaceship is designed to be refueled in low-Earth orbit in order to propel 100 passengers and more than 100 tons of cargo at a time to Mars.

But the success or failure of the launch system – and by extension Musk’s plan to back up the human race – may boil down to the viability of two major and recent design changes, which Musk has described as “radical” and “delightfully counterintuitive.”

One change involves building the spaceship from stainless-steel alloysinstead of carbon-fibre composites.

But the most surprising shift, according to aerospace-industry experts, is the way Starship will try to keep itself from burning up in the atmospheres of Mars and Earth.

Instead of relying on of thousands of heavy ceramic tiles to shield Starship from heat, as NASA did with its space shuttle, Musk says the spaceship will “bleed” rocket fuel through tiny pores to cool itself down.

In theory, putting liquid between Starship’s steel skin and the scorching-hot plasma generated while it plows through atmospheric gases would prevent the ship’s destruction

(17) HELP ME OBI-WAN SHOE-NOBI. Time to upgrade your kicks? Maybe this is what you’re looking for (DorkSideOfTheForce: “Inkkas Star Wars New Rebel Footwear Collection is now available”). They’re available in a wide range of unisex sizes, but apparently not in various widths. Most styles are slip ons, but there are also lace ups including some high tops.

These are the shoes you are looking for. The Inkkas new Star Wars Rebel Collection has arrived with characters such as Princess Leia, R2-D2, and Chewbacca.

Available for both men and women the new Star Wars Rebel Collection by Inkkas is here! Take your pick from boots, to high tops, and slip-on shoes representing both the Rebellion and The Empire….

Who run the world? Girls. Who run the universe? Also, girls. Obviously. The Future is FEMALE, y’all, and these tough and brilliant characters are all the reminder that we need to stand up and fight for what matters.

*bleep bloop bleep bloop* We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, R2-D2! That heroic droid always knows exactly what to say. In case you need some translation help: this shoe features a clean and striking representation of one of our favorite characters on a sleek, slim slip on shoe.

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

Q&A On Sci-Fi Package, Better Worlds w/ The Verge’s Editor Andrew Liptak

In January The Verge launched Better Worlds, a new series of short fiction and animation that explores how technology could shape our society and environment in better, more equitable ways. Here’s a Q&A about the series with The Verge’s Andrew Liptak.

MIKE GLYER: There are many ways of defining science fiction — one is that SF tells about the implications of science on humanity. How much emphasis do you place on the technical aspects of a story and how much emphasis on the human element?

ANDREW LIPTAK: As a science fiction writer and commentator, I certainly want to see cool future technology — handheld gadgets that we might someday hold ourselves, futuristic vehicles to take us from place to place, or advanced suits of armor that might someday protect soldiers and contractors on the battlefield. That’s always been at the heart of science fiction, ever since people like Hugo Gernsback began turning over pages of his electronics magazines to stories.

But at the same time, writing about futuristic technology on its own is just a technical manual. You need to have someone to press the button, and with that human (or alien, or robot) action, you need to have something behind it that gives it meaning. I’m a big fan of Isaac Asimov’s collection I, Robot, which explores what are very technical subjects in very emotional ways — Asimov worked through the various logical flaws with his Three Laws of Robotics, and in many instances, they hinged on ways that weren’t mechanical flaws, but emotive ones; Robbie saves a little girl, Herbie wants to try and make sure that nobody’s feelings are hurt, while Nestor’s overseers are desperate to find him when he takes their orders literally and hides. Each of those stories in the book deal with the impact of technology through a larger societal context, and that’s why that book has endured so well over the decades, because it frames those logical puzzles from the human perspective.

I think what’s most important about this balance is that science fiction at its best explores the ramifications of those technologies you’re imagining. I’m reminded of a quote from Frederik Pohl: “a good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile, but the traffic jam.” I recently read a fantastic book about the history of the iPhone that reminded me of that — The One Device by Brian Merchant. The book delved into all the technical details of how various components that make up the iPhone were invented. But alongside that, he explores the human cost of the device, from the engineers who were berated by Steve Jobs to the workers who are paid very little do mine the raw materials, or to assemble the devices. There was an anecdote that really stuck with me from the book — as the iPhone (and to be fair, other smart phones) came into widespread use across the country, there was an uptick in deaths of the workers who were installing and maintaining cell towers, because of that increased demand so that you could watch YouTube whenever you desire.

MG: “Better Worlds” is keynoted by words like inspiration and optimism. What ripple effect do you see the project having on the SF genre?

ANDREW LIPTAK: I hope that there are a lot of ripple effects! When we were designing the project, something that we came to quite a bit was that we wanted something that was essentially an anti-Black Mirror. I really love Charlie Brooker’s show, because it’s an example of really good science fiction storytelling, particularly when it comes to exploring the ramifications of technology. But it’s also so damn bleak. It’s not a show that I can binge watch, because I have to step away and decompress after watching each episode.

If there’s any big impact, I’m hoping that this highlights that “science fiction” doesn’t equate to “worst case scenario.” Charlie Jane Anders published a really excellent op-ed in The Washington Post the other day, where she highlights the need for science fiction to imagine what the future holds, and how we can get there. It’s not just parading in disaster porn where rugged survivalists find a way to survive amidst the collapse of society, but figuring out how people collectively come together to navigate a world in which the rules are continually changing.

Plus, the world is incredibly bleak right now. There’s a lot to be worried about when it comes to any number of issues, whether that be climate, politics, privacy, massive corporations, and so forth. But there’s still a lot of good that’s going on right now. The Better Worlds series isn’t about utopian futures — not by a long shot — but they do show how people coping with terrible problems can make the world better in their own ways.

MG: This is a beautifully-designed collection of multi-media works – how much of a collaborative process was involved, or were the different components produced autonomously?  

ANDREW LIPTAK: With each story that we’ve published so far, I’m constantly blown away by the creativity in the fiction, videos, artwork, and audio that come together. I was primarily involved on the editing side of this project, but I will say that it was a highly collaborative puzzle.

On one hand, you have all the authors who came up with the stories and put them down to paper (figuratively speaking), and the editors who take those stories and provide feedback and editing to make them the best that they can be. You’ve also got the artists, animators, and voice actors who interpreted those works and brought them to life.

On the other hand, you have all the unseen efforts that go on in the background: our managers, our fantastic copyeditor, business partners, social media people and our site’s leadership who help turn those stories into the fantastic finished stories that are on the website, but who also helped champion and encourage and otherwise make the series a reality that you can now read on our website.

Like any film, book, or TV show, nothing happens in a vacuum, and without the efforts of everyone involved, the series wouldn’t be what it is.

MG: What’s your advice for aspiring science fiction authors?

ANDREW LIPTAK: There’s a lot of advice out there that’s good — read a lot, write a lot, and read what you’ve written out loud, and so forth.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how incredibly valuable it is to break out of your shell / community / circle of writers / group to discover new ideas and viewpoints. I recently moderated a panel on the implications of artificial intelligence at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and I came out of that three-day experience with a notepad full of ideas for potential stories, based on what I’d seen and heard.

A lot of that came from the fact that I was surrounded by experts in military affairs, artificial intelligence, and robotics, and while a lot of them were certainly science fiction fans, they weren’t hung up on the genre’s long-standing conventions. I certainly think that if you’re out there writing science fiction, having a really solid familiarity with your subject matter is essential, even if you only use 1 percent of that. Go directly to the experts when it comes to science and technology. Spend a weekend at a conference for geologists or astronomers! Read a ton of nonfiction books about science and technology. Attend talks about ethics and social sciences that might be near you. (And take notes.) That type of multidisciplinary study and research will help bring new and useful perspectives to the genre.

Pixel Scroll 2/6/19 Pixels In The Hands Of An Angry Scroll

(1) BETTER WORLDS. Latest in the Better Worlds series on The Verge is “Skin City” by Kelly Robson.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Skin City” in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

Andrew Liptak’s Q&A with author Robson: “Kelly Robson on burlesque and privacy in a futuristic Toronto”.

Tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for “Skin City.”

One of my big fandoms here in Toronto is Nerd Girls Burlesque. They are a wonderful troupe of nerdy burlesque dancers who recently put on a Game of Thrones burlesque show, two fantastic and incredibly well-attended the Harry Potter burlesque nights, and a Doctor Who burlesque show. I love them. I think they’re fantastic. They’re so witty and so delightful. So when I think about Toronto or when I think about a better world in Toronto, it definitely includes them. I wanted to write about a nerdy burlesque dancer, and I wanted to put her front and center in the city, and I wanted Toronto to be known for that kind of thing.

(2) BEST PRACTICE. It’s just good manners:

(3) WHAT IT IS. Jeff VanderMeer reviewed the book for the LA Times: “Marlon James’ ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ unleashes an immersive African myth-inspired fantasy world”.

James certainly makes his own unique contribution to the process of decentralizing the white European experience in fantasy fiction, although it’s important to recognize that this process has been underway for some time — and in so many different ways that it’s just plain lazy to compare this novel with, say, works from the last decade by Nnedi Okorafor or David Anthony Durham or Nora Jemisin or Minister Faust or Nisi Shawl or Kai Ashante Wilson (perhaps even beyond lazy). Neither is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” Afrofuturism or even, really, “the African Game of Thrones,” as many – including James – have called it.

What it is … is the latest Marlon James novel.

(4) GOT CHARACTERS WHO ARE STILL WITH US. As the next and final season of Game of Thrones approaches, publicity is cranking up (Mashable:New ‘Game of Thrones’ pics tease Varys’ return and more surprises”). A dozen new still photos have been released.

We’re just months from Game of Thrones’ final season, and HBO has released the first stills of Season 8 to get this hype train moving.

Though mostly character shots, it’s thrilling to see our favorite characters again – alive, for the time being, and moving around Westeros with the speed and urgency established in Season 7. Most surprising is the return of Varys (Conleth Hill) to the North…or does that snow mean winter is spreading south with the White Walkers?

(5) PROTIP. Myke Cole was yanking peoples’ chains:

Of course, one person actually went looking for the list. (See Twitter thread.)

(6) VORLICEK OBIT. [Apologies for substituting certain letters in his Czech name which WordPress won’t reproduce.] Vaclav Vorlicek, a Czech director of fantasy films that are greatly beloved throughout Europe, died February 6. Cora Buhlert says he’s “definitely one of the greats of our genre who deserves to be remembered” and has written an appreciation:

You may never have heard Vaclav Vorlicek’s name until today, but if you were a kid in Eastern and/or Western Europe in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, you have almost certainly watched his films at some point. Because Vaclav Vorlicek was the man behind many of those Czech fairytale movies that were afternoon television staples for children all over Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Because – uncommon for the time – Vorlicek’s films crossed the iron curtain and entertained children on both sides.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1923 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. Stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely shitty remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1925 Patricia S. Warrick, 94. Academic who did a lot of Seventies anthologies with Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander with such such titles as Social Problems Through Science FictionAmerican Government Through Science Fiction and Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction. She did write two books of a more serious nature by herself, The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction and Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick.
  • Born February 6, 1927 Gerard O’Neill. Author, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space and though lesser known, 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future. Conceptualized ideas of permanent space habitats and mass drivers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Rip Torn, 88. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Questionable Content comic strip’s workplace is the Coffee of Doom coffeehouse. One of the baristas is highly educated.

(9) SIGNPOSTS. Wim Crusio says you should avoid The Road to Hell. No, he’s not talking theology, he’s reviewing a novel: “Recent Reads: David Weber & Joelle Presby, The Road to Hell”.

However, there are serious problems with this series, which I am afraid is symptomatic for Weber’s recent work. Like the Safehold series, this one moves at a glacial pace. In 1009 pages, we advance from November 29, 1928 CE to May 3, 1929 CE. Barely three months… And this in a multiverse where it takes months even to send a message from one end of a chain of universes to another. The use of CE dates (in addition to the calendars used by the two opposing universes) makes me fear the worst: is the story at some point going to add a gate to our own universe? Which, of course, should be at some point in our future? Meaning that at a pace of 3 months per 1000 pages we have something like 400,000 pages to look forward to? Please no!

In fact, I’m not even sure that I will by the next installment in this series, because the glacial pace with which the narrative advances is not even the worst part of this book. No, those are the endless discussions of military logistics….

(10) THANKS FOR THE PRIVILEGE. This went badly. Anand Giridharadas accepted a speaking engagement at a club for wealthy progressives. Thread starts here.

(11) SPIKE-O-SAURS. These dinos look very punk: “Newly Discovered Spiked Dinosaurs From South America Look Like Creatures From ‘No Man’s Sky’”.

Paleontologists in Argentina have uncovered a dinosaur unlike anything ever seen before. Alive some 140 million years ago, these majestic herbivores featured long, forward-pointing spikes running along their necks and backs. These spikes may have served a defensive role, but their exact purpose now presents a fascinating new mystery.

(12) CLIMATE’S INFLUENCE ON JAPANESE HISTORY. “How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future”.

Locked inside the wood of Japan’s hinoki trees is an unprecedented 2,600 year-long record of rainfall patterns that are helping to piece together how weather shapes society.

At his laboratory in a wooded grove in northern Kyoto, Takeishi Nakatsuka holds up a vacuum sealed bag. Inside, bobbing in a bath of brown water, is a glistening disk the size of a dinner plate and the color of rich gravy. This soggy circle is the remnants of a 2,800-3,000-year-old tree, recovered from a wetland – water included, so the spongy wood does not deform – in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, just north of Hiroshima. Within this ancient trunk lie secrets that can help us prepare for the future.

Nakatsuka, a palaeoclimatologist at Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, along with a diverse team of 68 collaborators, has spent the last decade developing a novel method to reveal bygone precipitation patterns and interpret their effect on society. The results offer unprecedented insight into 2,600 years of Japanese rainfall patterns. By teasing out information locked inside the preserved wood of ancient forests, they are able to reveal just how much rain fell around the country over the past two and half millennia. It is an extraordinary record.

About every 400 years, the researchers found, the amount of rain falling on Japan would suddenly become extremely variable for a period. The nation would toggle between multi-decadal bouts of flood-inducing wetness and warmer, drier years that were favorable for rice cultivation. As the rains came and went, Japanese society prospered or suffered accordingly.

As weather patterns today increasingly defy expectations and extreme events become more frequent and severe, this window into past climate variability hints at what may be in store for us in the coming years. “Today is not different than 1,000 or 2,000 years ago,” Nakatsuka says. “We still have the same lifespans and we are still facing large, stressful multi-decadal variation.”

(13) IT’S A HIT! “Cosmic pile-up gives glimpse of how planets are made”.

Astronomers say they have the first evidence of a head-on collision between two planets in a distant star system.

They believe two objects smacked into each other to produce an iron-rich world, with nearly 10 times the mass of Earth.

A similar collision much closer to home may have led to the formation of the Moon 4.5 billion years ago.

The discovery was made by astronomers in the Canary Islands observing a star system 1,600 light years away.

One planet – called Kepler 107c – is thought to have an iron core that makes up 70% of its mass, with the rest potentially consisting of rocky mantle.

Another planet further towards the star – known as Kepler 107b – is also about 1.5 times the size of Earth, but half as dense.

(14) UPDATING KIPLING. Did you wonder? “When did the kangaroo hop? Scientists have the answer”.

Scientists have discovered when the kangaroo learned to hop – and it’s a lot earlier than previously thought.

According to new fossils, the origin of the famous kangaroo gait goes back 20 million years.

Living kangaroos are the only large mammal to use hopping on two legs as their main form of locomotion.

The extinct cousins of modern kangaroos could also hop, according to a study of their fossilised foot bones, as well as moving on four legs and climbing trees.

The rare kangaroo fossils were found at Riversleigh in the north-west of Queensland in Australia.

(15) HISTORY-MAKING DUDS. BBC takes you “Inside the museum dedicated to failure” – video.

Welcome to the home of the biggest product flops of all time, including Sony Betamax, an electrocuting face mask and a Swedish alternative to marshmallows.

(16) MOTHER COMPLEX. “Netflix Acquires Rights to Sci-Fi Thriller I Am MotherComingSoon.net has the story. The flick was mentioned in the January 27 Pixel Scroll.

(17) NEW DUMBO TRAILER. Opens in the UK March 29.

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, 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 2/4/19 Like Pixels Through File 770, So Are The Scrolls Of Our Lives

(1) COVER REVEAL. Here is The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s March/April 2019 cover. The cover art is by Kent Bash.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. The latest short story (and video adaptation) in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” series is “A Sun Will Always Sing,” by Karin Lowachee. (Video byYeah Haus.)

There’s also a Q&A: “Karin Lowachee on how humanity can peacefully coexist with AI” conducted by Andrew Liptak.

What inspired this story, and how did you construct this future?

I’d seen on YouTube a discussion from scientists about if an AI possessed an exact neural map of the human brain that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to believe that they would also be imbued with curiosity and maybe even a sense of responsibility for the Earth because now they, too, were a part of its systems. Around the same time, I stumbled on articles written by social scientists who believed that in taking care of certain economic necessities, humanity ideally could free up resources for creative problem-solving on the world scale and exploration.

These points of reference were really the general jumping-off points for me to try to logically extrapolate a human society that accommodated AIs (though not without some implied struggle) because the AIs were not, in fact, seeking a judgment day. They wanted to live and progress just as humans, and though their consciousness was not exact to humans, they were their own kind and just as worthy to be respected. We recognize this in intelligent animals, or even animals as a whole, so my thinking was it could be possible for AIs as well.

(3) WASTE NOT, WANT NOT. Max Florschutz offers advice about “Being a Better Writer: Garbage”. His ideas are far more realistic than J.K. Rowling’s.

Consider, for example, your trash. What happens to it? How do you dispose of it? Is it a garbage can next to your desk or in the kitchen? What happens to it once the can is full? Where does it go? Who deals with it? Do you know? Or does it simply “vanish?”

Well, here’s the thing. It definitely doesn’t vanish. Refuse is refuse: Someone has to do something with it or it piles up. Waste from your home, for example, at least in the US, is collected in a larger can and taken to the side of the road for a garbage truck to collect (99% of the time. The US’s coverage with this system is so ubiquitous that I’ve been to rural places where the only vehicle in town that isn’t a four-wheeler or a boat is the town garbage truck). That truck then takes it to a landfill or a processing center. At the first, the garbage is dumped out. At the second, it’s sorted and separated, usually with an end-goal in mind of dividing up the garbage into smaller, more dedicated end-states, from compost to recycling.

(4) NYRSF READINGS. Jim Freund asks, “Why waste your time with the State of the Union, when we have such a brilliant and more fulfilling alternative?”

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series resumes Tuesday, February 5.

Mimi Mondal (Bone Stew) writes about history and politics, occasionally disguised as fiction. Her first co-edited anthology, Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler won a Locus Award and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2018. In the past Mimi has worked as an editor at Penguin India and Uncanny Magazine, and spent eleven years at universities in India, Scotland and the US, from which she is currently recovering in New York and at @Miminality on Twitter.

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and others. She has published four novels and a novella, and her fourth story collection has just been published by Tartarus Press.

The events begins at 7:00 p.m. in The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.) in Brooklyn, NY.

(5) FIVE STORIES IN ONE. Syfy Wire gets to Hogwarts by way of Korea: “Geek Road Trip: Harry Potter fans in South Korea just opened a five-story cafe devoted to the boy wizard”.

Once we get inside, we’re quickly pointed to the counter. The food and drink offerings here are relatively run-of-the-mill Seoul cafe classics: Americanos, various flavored lattes and milk teas, and fruity adeS. On the menu, they promise chocolate wands are coming soon, and on select days there’s Butterbeer. Dessert-wise there’s a selection of cakes, none of which are themed, save for one: the wizard cake, a mini replica of the birthday cake Hagrid brings to Harry. We ordered the wizard cake for a cool 17,000 Won (around $15), grabbed our pager, and began to explore.

And trust me, there’s a lot to explore. Everywhere you turn there’s a poster or a reference to something Harry Potter-esque. Quotes in English and Korean line the staircases along with posters and portraits. Even the elevator is fully decked out.

(6) NO CODE FOR THIS CONDUCT.  The infosec industry conference DerbyCon is calling it quits after this year. Their explanation sounds like “We’re closing down rather than resorting to enforcing our code of conduct.”

Read their announcement here: “DerbyCon 9.0 – Every Beginning Has an End”.

…This year, we had to handle issues that honestly, as an adult, we would never expect to have to handle from other adults. Conferences in general have shifted focus to not upsetting individuals and having to police people’s beliefs, politics, and feelings. Instead of coming to a conference to learn and share, it’s about how loud of a message a person can make about a specific topic, regardless of who they tear down or attempt to destroy. To put it in perspective, we had to deal with an individual that was verbally and mentally abusive to a number of our volunteer staff and security to the point where they were in tears.

This is not what we signed up for.

Admittedly, we had no idea how to handle this person, and in fear of repercussion of removing this person, allowed them to stay at the conference in order to “not upset the masses”. The best we could do was just apologize, for other apologies, and apologize more for another’s actions. This is just one example of many we have had to deal with over the past few years, and each year it becomes increasingly harder for us to handle. We do everything as a conference to ensure the safety, security, and go above and beyond that of others. Maybe that puts us on a different level where something that would normally not be an issue explodes into a catastrophic situation on social media.

Who knows? What we do know is each year it gets harder and harder.

2019 will be our last year of DerbyCon.

Motherboard reports “Hackers Baselessly Blame Women and ‘SJWs’ for the End of DerbyCon Security Conference”.

…Some in the infosec community read the organizers’ statement and began to blame the shutdown on “Social Justice Warriors,” and women who complained too much. For example, far right blog Gateway Pundit pointed to an incident where an attendee complained that other attendees were joking about sexual assault outside of the conference’s Mental Health Village. Others on Twitter latched on to the rumor that “SJWs” killed DerbyCon.

Regardless of the reason for the conference’s cancellation, the announcement renewed a conversation about toxicity in the infosec community that has been taking place in earnest since at least 2017 (and in smaller circles before then), when the Verge reported on chat logs from well-known security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire, in which he confessed to a series of sexual assaults; the Verge and VICE corroborated that reporting with multiple women who have knowledge of the assaults.

While some women in the cybersecurity world were discussing the toxic interactions, sexual harassment, and assaults they’ve faced in the infosec community, members of a popular closed Facebook hacking group called “illmob” began to attack women who have spoken up about these issues, including Georgia Weidman, a security researcher who recently tweeted that her career was hurt by attending and speaking at DerbyCon in 2013….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Riddley Walker may well be one of the most difficult novels I’ve ever read but it’s certainly also worth it. ISFDB lists a lot of other SF works by him but I must say I hadn’t realised that he’d written any beyond this work. Had any of you known this? (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 79. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn In “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes. Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 58. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of ten thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). He’s the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1970 Gabrielle Anwar, 49. Currently Lady Tremaine on Once Upon a Time. On the BBC series Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, she once played Ramandu’s Daughter. Marti Malone in Body Snatchers which is the third film adaptation of that Finney novel.  She was Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers which I love and Emily Davenport in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Patriotic Ewoks will shed a tear over this Brevity.

(9) STAR TREK: RENT. On The Late Late Show With James Corden, the cast of Star Trek: Discovery leaves the bridge for this week’s episode of Carpool Karaoke. Sing along with Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman. Complete show is accessible through an Apple app.

There’s another preview on Twitter.

(10) WORLDCON ECONOMICS. Persistent Scribble tasks an unnamed author who feels the Worldcon should give them a free membership. Thread starts here.  

(11) VAMPING IT UP. What We Do in the Shadows, from writer Jemaine Clement and director Taika Waititi, premieres March 27 on FX.

What We Do in the Shadows is a half-hour comedy series based on the feature film of the same name by co-creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Set in New York City, the show follows three vampires who have been roommates for hundreds and hundreds of years. Stars Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen and Mark Proksch.

(11) Y? Y NOT? The Hollywood Reporter has posted that, “‘Y: The Last Man’ Ordered to Series at FX.” Much of the cast had been announced as early as mid 2018 (The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Y: The Last Man’ FX Cast Unveiled, Diane Lane and Barry Keoghan to Star”), but FX has now definitized the series order.

File this under “years in the making.”

Brian K. Vaughan’s beloved comic series Y: The Last Man is finally coming to a screen. FX on Monday announced that it has picked up its TV adaptation to series. The network has handed out a series order for the drama from showrunner Michael Green and starring Barry Keoghan and Diane Lane. It is expected to premiere in 2020.

[…] Green (American GodsBlade Runner 2049Logan) and Aïda Mashaka Croal (Luke CageTurn) serve as showrunners and executive producers. Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force (American Crime StoryPoseThe Hunger Games) and Vaughan executive produce and developed the series. Melina Matsoukas (InsecureMaster of NoneBeyonce: Formation) directed the pilot and exec produce the FX Productions drama. In addition to Keoghan and Lane, the cast also includes Amber TamblynImogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield and Marin Ireland.

(12) BLUER MARBLE. BBC story says “Climate change: Blue planet will get even bluer as Earth warms”.

Rising temperatures will change the colour of the world’s oceans, making them more blue in the coming decades say scientists.

They found that increased heat will change the mixture of phytoplankton or tiny marine organisms in the seas, which absorb and reflect light.

Scientists say there will be less of them in the waters in the decades to come.

This will drive a colour change in more than 50% of the world’s seas by 2100.

(13) AS EASY AS A. Chip Hitchcock says BBC’s article “How easy will it be to build a Moon base” is an “interesting overview despite one huge error-of-fact.” (Can you spot it?)

How can astronauts build a lunar base if traditional building materials are too heavy to load into a rocket?

In 1975, three years after the final Apollo Moon landing, Space: 1999 first aired on British television. It began with a nuclear explosion wrenching the Moon, and an international lunar colony of over 300 people, out of its orbit and into an unknown journey into space.

The TV series obviously made an impression on a young Elon Musk because, when the SpaceX founder revealed their plans for a lunar colony in August 2017, he called it Moonbase Alpha after the lunar base in Space: 1999. “Cheesy show,” Musk tweeted, “but I loved it.”

SpaceX is not alone is wanting to get humans back on the Moon. The Chinese space agency CNSA (China National Space Administration) has announced the next stages of its successful Chang’e lunar exploration missions – shortly after Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the far side of the Moon.

Chang’e 5 and 6 will be sample return missions while Chang’e 7 will survey the South Pole, a region of specific interest for human habitation because it contains water ice. “We hope that Chang’e 8 will help test some technologies and do some exploring,” deputy head of the CNSA Wu Yanhua said in January, “for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries.”

China is not alone in this ambition. Across the globe, 50 years after the Moon landings, the practicalities of a moonbase are taking shape. The irony is that, while only the United States of America has left footprints on the Moon, the Americans are now having to play catch up. It didn’t unveil plans for a permanent moonbase until August 2018. Nasa’s primary focus until then had been Mars. The European Space Agency (Esa) was already one step ahead.

(14) YARN V. GLASS CEILING. Pixar has a new short film that blurs the line between genre and a workplace dramedy (Mashable: “Pixar’s newest short ‘Purl’ is a must-watch for every workplace”).

Pixar’s new animation program SparkShorts has released its first short film, a powerful story about the difficulty of fitting into a workplace of human males. 

“Purl” might be about a pink ball of yarn, but its title character adopts new behaviors and aggression to be one of the boys, a transparent allegory for women trying to break the glass ceiling in corporate culture.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to ULTRAGOTHA.)

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/23/19 I Should Be Writing But I’m Sitting Home Watching Pixels Scroll

(1) PAGING MR. WIRE, MR. GUY WIRE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX had a little oopsie when one of their rockets fall-down-go-boom. Well, not so much “boom” as “crunch.” The Verge has the story (“SpaceX’s new test rocket topples over thanks to strong Texas winds”).

A prototype of SpaceX’s next big rocket fell over and sustained damage in south Texas, thanks to high winds in the area. Images from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas show part of the vehicle sideways on the ground and slightly crumpled. The damage from the mishap will take a few weeks to repair, according to CEO Elon Musk.

Since the holidays, SpaceX engineers in south Texas have been building a prototype of the company’s new Starship rocket. Formerly known as the BFR, the Starship is the next-generation vehicle that SpaceX is developing to transport cargo and people to orbit, as well as to the Moon, Mars, and maybe even beyond. The full system actually consists of two big components: a large rocket booster, named Super Heavy, which will launch a crew-carrying spacecraft — the Starship — into space.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. Cadwell Turnbull’s “Monsters Come Howling in Their Season” is the latest story in the “Better Worlds” series from The Verge.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Monsters Come Howling in Their Season” below or in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

(3) IN THE YEAR 2054. On January 30, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford discussing the topic “Foreseeing the Next 35 Years–Where Will We Be in 2054?”

Gregory Benford and Freeman Dyson

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
4:00 – 5:30 p.m. 
Roth Auditorium, Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine 
UC San Diego

This event is free and open to the public; RSVP required.

35 years after George Orwell wrote the prescient novel 1984, Isaac Asimov looked ahead another 35 years to 2019 to predict the future of nuclear war, computerization, and the utilization of space. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the Division of Physical Sciences are honored to welcome two living luminaries in the fields of physics and futurism–Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford (Ph.D. ’67)–to peer ahead another 35 years, to 2054, and share their insights into what may be in store for us.

Professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Freeman Dyson is an English-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician….

Gregory Benford is a physicist, educator, author, and UC San Diego alumnus (MS ’65, PhD ’67)…. A two-time winner of the Nebula Award, Benford has also won the John W. Campbell Award, the British Science Fiction Award, the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award.

(4) RSR ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual page that highlights work by over 100 professional artists who are eligible for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2019 Professional Artists”. Eric Wong says —

It complements JJ’s Best Professional Artist Hugo: Eligible Works from 2018 page because only 19 artists overlap, meaning 24 are unique to JJ’s list and 83 are unique to RSR’s.

It takes about a minute to browse the thumbnails on the page, or 5-10 minutes to view all 300+ large images one by one with just a key press or screen tap each (no need to close tabs or hit the back key for the next one) thanks to the “lightbox” view. Creating a shortlist of ones you like is also easy by control-clicking or long pressing the artists’ name in the lightbox. Moreover, we’ve included links to the artists’ websites and search links to find artist interviews. If an image makes you curious about the book/magazine/story, there’s a link for that, too. 🙂

Performance-wise, the page is fine on phones and tablets because it’s a bit smaller and loads a bit faster than the File 770 home page (about 5 MB, under 2 seconds). If you view all 300+ large images in the lightbox, about 40 MB will be downloaded by the time you reach the end.

(5) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. The SFWA Fantasy Bundle curated by Terry Mixon is available from Storybundle for about another three weeks. Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Pay what you want!

For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • The Twenty-Sided Sorceress – Books 1-3 by Annie Bellet
  • Ashwin by Kit Rocha
  • Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur
  • Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak
  • Genrenauts – The Complete Season One by Michael R. Underwood

You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books. (Click on each book above to check them out.) You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get SEVEN more books: Radiance by Grace Draven, The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy, The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher, Blood Dragon – Books 1-3 by Lindsay Buroker, Al-Kabar by Lee French, The Glass Gargoyle by Marie Andreas and Catching Echoes – Reconstructionist Series Book 1 by Meghan Ciana Doidge!

(6) LE GUIN ON SCREEN. Eileen Gunn has been to see the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary and paid it some compliments on Facebook:

“Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” a film by Arwen Curry, opened today in Seattle, exactly a year since Ursula died. John and I went to the first showing. It’s quite a wonderful film, lots of voiceovers by Ursula, lots of photos of Ursula, a few talking heads, and a number of interesting special effects. I was pleased to see Vonda N McIntyre there, in the film, and surprised to see a clip of Nisi Shawl and myself chatting with Ursula in an episode of our short-lived cable talk show, produced by Vonda. (I mean, we had all given our permission, but I had forgotten.) It was lovely to hear her voice again.

(7) WHAT I TELL YOU THREE TIMES IS TRUE. Andrew Liptak’s new Wordplay has as its anchor a segment titled, “Tolkien, Tolkien, Tolkien”.

…As I’ve been somewhat immersed in Tolkien’s lore, I’ve been thinking about what the future of Tolkien’s legacy might be. Clearly, there are huge Hollywood ambitious with it. Amazon is spinning up a fantastically expensive show that’s not *quite* an adaptation of LOTR, but which is said to follow Aragorn before the trilogy, which would be… interesting. It’s also supposedly set in Jackson’s particular vision of Middle-earth, which would make sense, given that that’s what the general public is most familiar with. After all, Guillermo del Toro apparently got the ax by deviating too much from Jackson’s world when he went to adapt The Hobbit.

Adapting Middle-earth is a huge challenge, and looking back on Jackson’s efforts on the first trilogy shows just how well they nailed it — Tolkien purists be damned — balancing the need for something accessible while getting the right tone of the world *right*.

(8) WHO LIVES UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Buzzfeed has a list of Twitter posts for “15 Times Meeting A Celeb Lived Up To Our Expectations,” and several of the named celebrities have genre ties. Carie Fisher appears on the list twice. Also on the list: Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, George Takei, and Guillermo Del Toro.

Over the weekend, Twitter user Doug Tilley asked his followers to share stories about meeting their heroes and having the interaction live up to the hype: The thread quickly went viral, with people from all over sharing their heartwarming exchanges with celebs. The thread starts here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg is age 80, but Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 76. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly, I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer, 75. Roy Batty In Blade Runner of course but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the vey evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation.
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 69. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it.
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 55. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in the not very good, indeed truly awful, Tales from Earthsea.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DR. DEMENTO. The LA Times interviews the Doctor about a huge tribute album that’s just been released: “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.

The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.

The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.

“I was always a fan of rock ‘n’ roll, and some of the early punk music of the ‘60s with groups like the Music Machine,” Hansen, 76, said in the cozy living room of his home in Lakewood, where he also records his shows that now reach listeners through subscriptions by way of his official website.

“So when the new punk rock showed up around 1976 and 1977, I played a few samples on my show,” he said. Hansen graduated as a classical music major from Reed College in Portland, Ore., and subsequently earned his master’s degree in folk music studies from UCLA.

“I got the Ramones’ first album and played several of those songs, including ‘Beat on the Brat,’ the song Weird Al did for this album,” said Hansen, who has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, the Comedy Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

(12) WORKAROUND. Now I Know calls it “A Fine Way to Encourage Reading”. Daniel Dern says, “I’d call ’em ‘BookBuster’.”

Imagine a bookstore that worked on a membership program — instead of buying books, you rented them. …Seems like a fancy Internetty startup? Nope. It’s your local library….

…And let’s face it, many kids with fines don’t have to have those conversations with their parents — they can avoid the fine simply by avoiding taking other books the library. (And at that point, the library is going to suspend their borrowing privileges anyway.) The result is a lose-lose situation: the kids read less and the library doesn’t get that $10 anyway.

So, the Los Angeles County library system fixed it. They call it the “Great Read Away.”

Cardholders under the age of 21 have a new way to pay their fines through the program, no money required. All they need to do is come to the library and read. For every hour of reading, the library system will forgive $5 worth of fines. And it needn’t be a book, either — magazines, newspapers, and comic books count. (Listening to audiobooks or watching movies based on novels does not, however.) Parents and caregivers can read to children to help the kids pay off the debt (but only the kids’ debt), and for those kids who don’t have the stamina to read for an hour, the librarians can give pro-rated credit.

(13) DOGGING IT. A federal worker I know spotted this clip while he was canvassing for jobs — Wienermobile drivers wanted:

Processed meats purveyor Oscar Meyer announced it is seeking a qualified “Hotdogger” to be the next driver of the famed Wienermobile.

The hot dog company said it is accepting applications until Jan. 31 to be the newest “Hotdogger,” Oscar Meyer’s term for Wienermobile drivers.

The job, which begins in June, would involve driving the iconic sausage across the United States, visiting locations including stores, military bases and charity events.

Did you know this job requires a four-year degree? Don’t ask me why.

(14) WELL-USED TECH.  “Facial recognition tool tackles illegal chimp trade”.

Wildlife criminals had better watch out! The same software that recognises you in a friend’s social media post is being adapted to tackle the illegal trade in chimpanzees.

The amber eyes in the image above belong to Manno, who was trafficked from Africa to Syria before being rescued.

Pictures of Mano are now being used to train the algorithm that could help save members of his endangered species from the same experience. It’s a first for chimpanzee conservation.

The algorithm will search through photo posts on social media looking for the faces of rescued apes.

If the technology recognises a trafficked animal, the owners of the accounts featuring the chimp can then be targeted by the authorities.

(15) BCS SIPS. Charles Payseur’s latest short fiction reviews — “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #269”.

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a lot to do with transformations, with the threat of revenge, and with the need for freedom. It finds characters who are caught in circumstances of waiting to be punished. To be found out. And trying to find a way free of the things hanging over them. Now, some of those things are no fault of their own and some of them…well, the characters aren’t always quite so innocent. But the piece looks at freedom and who can hope for it, and what it might cost. The stories deal with the weight of revenge and the feelings that can come when that weight is lifted and set down. To the reviews!

(16) DOES THAT BRAND NAME SOUND FAMILIAR? Eater reports “Furloughed Federal Workers Supposedly Surviving on Soylent Is So Very 2019”. I’m sure this is totally credible!  

It’s barely three-quarters of the way through January, and already a story has emerged that seems to perfectly encapsulate the early 2019 hellscape: According to a somewhat dubious Reddit post, two furloughed federal workers are subsisting solely on the Silicon Valley-born meal replacement known as Soylent so they can afford to feed their infant child.

Titling his post “Soylent has financially saved my family’s life amid the government shutdown,” the author thanks the company for offering a discount for affected federal employees, writing, “This has literally saved my family’s lives. I was in tears when I saw the [discount advertised] on their Instagram story.” Soylent is offering furloughed workers 35 percent off until the government resumes normal operations.

(17) IN JEOPARDY! Jeopardy! monitor Andrew Porter saw this come up on tonight’s show.

Answer: Dame Daphne Du Maurier’s works made into Hitchcock films include ‘Rebecca’ and this high-flying novelette.

Wrong question: What is “Vertigo”?

Correct question: What is “The Birds”?

(18) PERMISSION GRANTED. You know that thing about decluttering and how many books you should keep? Felipe Torres Medina of Points In Case says he heard it this way: “I’m Marie Fucking Kondo and You Can Keep All Your Fucking Books, You Ingrates”.

Hi, Marie Kondo here. Author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and host of the new Netflix show Tidying Up.

I know you guys are not used to listening to a small-framed Asian woman speak with authority, but I’m going to say this once and for all: You can keep all your fucking books, you ungrateful motherfuckers. All I wanted was to spark a little joy in your fucking miserable lives, which you’ve tried to make fulfilling by purchasing fucking stuff. But fuck me, I guess, for mentioning that I like to have only 30 books in my house.

See, the problem here is that some of you have interpreted my warm voice, bubbly attitude, and cheery disposition as a surefire sign that I will personally come to your home and build a bonfire out of your unread copies of those J. K. Rowling novels she wrote under a pseudonym that sounds like the name of a Hogwarts professor. Your ex-boyfriend gave you those for your anniversary three years ago. Had you ever mentioned wanting to read those books? Not really. But you did once tell your ex you were a Hufflepuff, so surely they must have some emotional value to you. What kind of fucking monster am I for suggesting you maybe consider donating those books to a local library or thrift shop? So yeah, go off. Enjoy the adventures of Cormoran Fucking Strike. Yeah, that’s the name of the main character. Buckle up, buddy…

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

Pixel Scroll 1/7/19 Pixels For My Men, Scrolls For My Horses

(1) MARVEL AT 80. The company will be celebrating all year —

Eighty years ago, the Marvel Universe roared into existence with the publication of the now-historic MARVEL COMICS #1.  Over the years, the company expanded mightily under the guidance of legends Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and countless other industry titans. Today, Marvel is one of the most exciting and recognizable brands shaping pop culture, modern mythology and entertainment around the world – and this year, you can join millions of fans in celebrating MARVEL’S 80TH ANNIVERSARY!

For all of 2019, Marvel will be honoring its iconic characters and stories across every decade of the company’s rich history – from the early years as Timely Comics, to the latest adventures in the Marvel Universe fans know today. Whether you have been following Marvel since the beginning or you’ve just discovered The House of Ideas, you won’t want to miss this year-long celebration across publishing, animation, new media, collectibles, games, and more!

… Visit marvel.com/marvel80 or follow #Marvel80 for more information.

(2) SFF RESPONSE TO TRUMP. WIRED Magazine’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy interviews some of the authors with stories in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy “Sci-Fi Writers Are Grappling With a Post-Trump Reality”.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley notes that many of the stories, such as Samuel R. Delany’s “The Hermit of Houston,” have a clear political message.

“In his author’s note Delany says this is his attempt to write a post-Trump science fiction story,” Kirtley says. “And there were at least two other authors—E. Lily Yu and Charlie Jane Anders—who explicitly say in their author’s notes that their stories were somehow a response to Trump being president.”

Charles Payseur, whose story “Rivers Run Free” leads off the book, agrees that the Yu and Anders’ stories will make readers think hard about current political realities. The Yu story, in which humanity declines to aid extraterrestrial refugees, and the Anders story, in which a trans woman’s consciousness is forcibly transferred into a male cadaver, both grapple with the issue of morally-compromised bystanders.

“I think that both of them do an excellent job of challenging the perspective of not taking action, or being complicit with evil,” Payseur says.

Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Charles Payseur in Episode 342 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above)….

(3) WHAT AUTHORS MAKE. John Scalzi analyzes an Author’s Guild survey in “Author Incomes: Not Great, Now or Then” at Whatever.

What’s being passed around among authors in the last few days: The latest Authors Guild survey, which shows that the median income for all authors (from their books) is $6,080, while the median income for full-time authors is $20,300. That $6k median figure is down significantly from previous years. So if you made more than $6k from book earnings last year, congratulations, you made more than half of your authorial compatriots.

Before everyone panics about the declines too much, please note: “The Authors Guild’s prior surveys were focused on Authors Guild members. For our 2018 survey, we greatly expanded the number of published authors we surveyed to provide a much larger, highly diverse pool and wider perspective,” i.e., the comparing the results this year to previous years isn’t apples to oranges, but might be comparing a Honeycrisp to a Red Delicious….

(4) TREATMENT IN PROGRESS. Sad health update from Jim C. Hines’ house – “Family Health and Ongoing Hiatus”.

I’m back home for the first time in a while, and I’ve been given permission to talk more about what’s going on. Last month, my wife Amy was diagnosed with cancer — an aggressive form of lymphoma, to be specific.

Aggressive, but treatable. We’ve done the first round of chemo, and the last scans showed some tumor shrinkage, which is a good sign.

(5) LIPTAK’S NEWSLETTER. Andrew Liptak, whose contributions to The Verge are often linked here, launched his own newsletter last year, and just published the 6th installment. Liptak says —  

The goal is to talk about SF/F, storytelling, as well as reading and writing. I’m hoping to grow it a bit, and to use it as a platform to talk about stuff that isn’t necessarily newsworthy — a bit more commentary driven about the content of SF, but also to chat a bit about the general broader SF/F community at some point. 

You can find it here: here. 5 of the 6 issues are archived: a 6th is subscriber-locked, which I’ll be using to publish short stories. 

…A while ago on Twitter, I asked for suggestions for standalone SF novels — nominally for this list — but also because I was generally interested in finding something different to pick up. One story that came up a lot was Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time. Orbit recently released the book in the US for the first time — it originally came out in the UK in 2015 and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. I picked up both the book and the audiobook, which we listened to on the drive down to PA and back between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It’s a fantastic novel, and I can see where all the praise is coming from I’ll write up a proper review of it at some point in the coming week, but something stood out for me that’s notable: Tchaikovsky’s use of suspended animation for his characters to play out a story that stretches thousands of years.

He’s not the first to do this by a long shot, but the use here reminded me of Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest, and Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution, in which several characters drop in and out of suspension, again, over decades and hundreds of years. Both stories use the technology not just as a convenient tool for the characters, but it’s also a neat literary instrument that allows both Cixin and Tchaikovsky to frame their story from one, unwavering perspective….

(6) JAPAN’S ADAPTATION OF E.E. “DOC” SMITH. The Skaro Hunting Society answers the question “Why is the Lensman anime so rare?”.

… According to Frederik Pohl, after years of lobbying and proposals a major studio bit and decided it was going to produce a series of big-budgeted Lensman films. Deals were made, contracts were written, millions of dollars were going to be invested – and the Smith family stood to profit greatly from the entire endeavor.

Then, a video tape showed up on the Smith family doorstep.

Back up. Up until the 1980s, Japan (and much of Asia) worked on a different system of copyright and licensing rights than the Western world; if a Japanese publisher bought the publishing rights to something, under Japanese law they bought the rights to EVERYTHING – including the rights to exploit that property in movies, tv, comics, or whatever. This is one of the reasons why you ended up with things like Batman manga, two different adaptations of Captain Future, etc. Western publishers knew this but worked with it anyway, reasoning that even if someplace like Japan made a TV or movie adaptation of a property it was highly unlikely that copies of it would make their way back to the west, and even if they did, who would want to watch them anyway? (Remember, this was all before the advent of the VCR, and the subsequent tape trading/collecting culture of SF/F media fandom). So when Japanese publisher Kodansha bought the rights to publish E.E. Doc Smith in Japanese in the 1960s, they considered themselves the owners of all the Japanese rights to Smith’s oeuvre. Meaning, they could make TV series or movies of any of it if they chose to, so long as it stayed in Japan….

(7) KGB.  Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Victor LaValle and Julie C. Day on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 7pm at the KGB Bar in New York.

Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle is the author of seven works of fiction and one graphic novel. His most recent novel, The Changeling won the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel. His novella, The Ballad of Black Tom, won the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Fantasy Award, the This is Horror Award for Novella of the Year, and was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards.

He lives in New York City with his family, and teaches writing at Columbia University.

Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day has published over thirty stories in venues such as Black StaticPodcastle, and the Cincinnati Review. Her genre-bending debut collection, Uncommon Miracles, was released by PS Publishing in October 2018. Julie lives in a small New England town with her family and various pets. You can also find her on twitter at @thisjulieday or on her blog stillwingingit.com 

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar,85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(8) SHEPPARD OBIT. “William Morgan Sheppard death: Star Trek and Doctor Who actor dies aged 86”The Independent has the story.

British actor and voice actor William Morgan Sheppard has died aged 86. 

He is best-known for his work on Star Trek across the years, playing the Rura Penth commandant in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the chief Vulcan Science Council minister in 2009’s Star Trek, Data’s “grandfather” Ira Graves in The Next Generation episode “The Schizoid Man,” and as Quatai in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Bliss.” 

He appeared in the opening episode of series six of Doctor Who, in an episode titled “The Impossible Astronaut”. In it, he played the older version of the character Canton Everett Delaware III, while his son, Mark Sheppard, played the younger version.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 7, 1899 F. Orlin Tremaine. He was the Editor of Astounding Science Fiction and Fact from 1933 to 1937. It said that he bought Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness without actually reading it. Later as Editor at Bartholomew House, he brought out the first paperback editions of Lovecraft’s The Weird Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Dunwich Horror. He wrote a dozen or so short stories that were published in the pulps between 1926 and 1949. (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there has been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 7, 1913 Julian S. Krupa. Pulp cover and interior illustrator from 1939 to 1971 who graced Amazing Stories and Fantastic.(Died 1989.)
  • Born January 7, 1928William Peter Blatty. Novelist and screenwriter best known for The Exorcist though he was also the same for Exorcist III. The former is by no means the only genre work that he would write as his literary career would go on for forty years after this novel and would include Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable which he renamed Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Hollywood Christmas Carol and The Exorcist for the 21st Century, his final work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 7, 1955Karen Haber, 64. Wife of Robert Silverberg. Author Of the Fire In Winter series (first co-written with Robert) and the War Minstrels series as well. With Robert, she edited three of the exemplary Universe anthologies that Terry Carr had created. Her Meditations on Middle Earth, her essay collection on J.R.R. Tolkien is quite superb. And of course her  prequel Thieves’ Carnival to Leigh Brackett’s The Jewel of Bas is stunning.
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Alan Shepherd, 48. The bar patron Morn in Deep Space Nine. His character appeared once in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager
  • Born January 7, 1982 Lauren Cohen, 37. Best known  as Maggie Rhee on The Walking Dead. She is also known as Bela Talbot on Supernatural, Rose on The Vampire Diaries, and Vivian McArthur Volkoff on Chuck. And she was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Martha Wayne. 
  • Born January 7, 1983 Ruth Negga, 36. She was Raina in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she left that show as she got a leading role Tulip O’Hare in Preacher. She was also Nikki in Misfits, Queen Taria In Warcraft and a WHO Doctor In World War Z
  • Born January 7, 1988 Haley Bennett, 31. First role was Molly Hartley in The Haunting of Molly Hartley. She was also Julie Campbell in The Hole, Stella in Kaboom and Justine Wills In Kristy

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit illustrates a little laundry problem aboard the Death Star.

(11) PROHIBITION. Camestros Felapton saw Wikileaks had issued a general prohibition to the media against saying certain things about their leading light and decided to share his own list of “40 Other Things You Shouldn’t Say About Julian Assange”.

Wikileaks has sent a list of 140 thing that the news media should not say about Julian Assange (which you can read here https://hillreporter.com/leak-read-wikileaks-list-of-140-things-not-to-say-to-julian-assange-20413 )

As a major news organisation Felapton Towers has a confidential memo listing 40 other things we are not to say about Julian Assange which at great risk to myself I am leaking to the public.

At the top of his list is —

It is false and defamatory to say that Julian Assange is or ever has been a member of Slytherin House or ever shouted “I’ll get you Potter!” across the Hogwarts dining hall.

(12) SWIRSKY’S 2018 RESUME. Rachel Swirsky has compiled a “Writing Round-up and Eligibility Post for 2018”.

…I’m really glad to be writing more again. I mean, for one thing I’m writing at least twelve pieces of poetry and/or flash fiction a year, because of Patreon. (Obligatory plug: You can get one new piece of my work each month for $1!) Some of my work has been noveling, and some isn’t out yet, so it’s not all visible in this list– but I am really happy to enjoy prose again….

(13) MODERN ARCHEOLOGY. Remembering what these were for: “The concrete blocks that once protected Britain”. Includes photos.

More than 100 years ago acoustic mirrors along the coast of England were used to detect the sound of approaching German zeppelins.

The concave concrete structures were designed to pick up sound waves from enemy aircraft, making it possible to predict their flight trajectory, giving enough time for ground forces to be alerted to defend the towns and cities of Britain.

Invented by Maj William Sansome Tucker and known as sound mirrors, their development continued until the mid-1930s, when radar made them obsolete.

Joe Pettet-Smith set out to photograph all the remaining structures following a conversation with his father, who told him about these large concrete structures dotted along the coastline between Brighton and Dover.

(14) BIG CATCH. BBC shares “Incredible ‘sea monster’ skull revealed in 3D”.

Some 200 million years ago in what is now Warwickshire, a dolphin-like reptile died and sank to the bottom of the sea.

The creature’s burial preserved its skull in stunning detail – enabling scientists to digitally reconstruct it.

The fossil, unveiled in the journal PeerJ, gives a unique insight into the life of an ichthyosaur.

The ferocious creature would have fed upon fish, squid and likely others of its kind.

Its bones were found in a farmer’s field more than 60 years ago, but their significance has only just come to light.

Remarkably, the skull is three-dimensionally preserved and contains bones that are rarely exposed.

(15) DEEP UNCOVERED. Undersea mining was once a mere cover story for Howard Hughes’ Glomar Explorer (intended to retrieve a Soviet submarine) – now it’s a real thing: “Japan’s grand plans to mine deep-sea vents”.

Off the coast of Okinawa, a slim stretch of land among Japan’s southern Ryuku islands, thousands of metres below the surface, there are the remains of extinct hydrothermal vent systems scattered about the ocean floor.

The minerals at these long-dead former vent sites are now gaining attention due to increasing international interest in deep-sea mining. Just one of these deposits is thought to contain enough zinc to supply Japan’s demand for a year. For a country that imports the vast majority of its mineral resources, seafloor sulphide deposits are seen as a tantalising potential domestic alternative. But there is a high price: disrupting these sites through mining could put unique and fragile ecosystems at risk.

(16) AMERICAN GODS RETURNS. Here’s a sneak peek.

Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) deal with the ramifications of the Season 1 finale in this exclusive clip from Season 2.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rachel Swirsky, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, 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 Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/18 Golden The Ship Was Ho! Ho! Ho!

(1) DOOM PATROL TEASER. Daniel Dern helpfully adds a Rot-13 footnote to the video: “For Filers too young and/or cool to recognize the background music’s singer, Fvatvat ‘Gvcgbr Guebhtu Gur Ghyvcf’ vf Gval Gvz , of course.”

DOOM PATROL is a re-imagining of one of DC’s most beloved groups of outcast Super Heroes: Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Crazy Jane, led by modern-day mad scientist Dr. Niles Caulder (The Chief). The Doom Patrol’s members each suffered horrible accidents that gave them superhuman abilities — but also left them scarred and disfigured. Traumatized and downtrodden, the team found purpose through The Chief, who brought them together to investigate the weirdest phenomena in existence — and to protect Earth from what they find. Part support group, part Super Hero team, the Doom Patrol is a band of super-powered freaks who fight for a world that wants nothing to do with them. Picking up after the events of TITANS, DOOM PATROL will find these reluctant heroes in a place they never expected to be, called to action by none other than Cyborg, who comes to them with a mission hard to refuse, but with a warning that is hard to ignore: their lives will never, ever be the same.

There’s a flock of character posters, too.

(2) BUMBLEBEE LIFTS OFF. NPR non-fan Scott Tobias says that in “Flight Of The ‘Bumblebee’: Transformers Flick Soars Over (Low) Franchise Expectations”

Mankind has split the atom, sent a man to the moon, and now, in arguably its most unlikely achievement, it has produced a watchable Transformers movie.

There’s really no scientific expression for how low Michael Bay’s five previous Transformers movies have set the bar, but it’s not enough to praise Bumblebee, the diverting new spin-off/prequel, for basic visual coherence or evidence of identifiable human emotion. It does better than that, imbuing the commercial cynicism of a Hasbro product with the borrowed warmth of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Splash, and a soundtrack so chock-a-block with ’80s favorites that it gets from The Smiths to Steve Winwood in a hummingbird’s sneeze.

Though Bay has stayed on as producer, director Travis Knight, who made the wonderful Laika animated film Kubo and the Two Strings, and his screenwriter, Christina Hodson, almost make a point of crumpling up his vision and tossing in the waste basket. Gone is the Bay’s risible mix of mythology and militarism, replaced by simplified conflict and an emphasis on the friendship between an outcast and an exile. Gone also is the leering, dorm-room poster sexuality, replaced by a notably chaste teen romance that doesn’t get past first base. Bumblebee seems to have more of a family-friendly mandate than Bay’s Transformers movies, but the lightness and earnestness serves the material well. Movies inspired by toys tend to crack like cheap plastic under too much weight.

(3) TOP SFF. Here’s The Verge’s list of “Our favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2018”:

The long and bleak year of 2018 is almost over. It was a year full of devastating storms and disasters, scandal after scandal from tech companies, and chaotic politics from around the world. If there was any bright point in the year, it was that 2018 also brought with it a bumper crop of fantastic science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels that served as an oasis to examine the world around us, or to escape for brighter pastures.

The best books of this year told stories of interstellar colonization, of fantastic magical civilizations, optimistic alternate worlds, and devastating potential futures. They brought us fantastic characters who sought to find their places in the vivid and fantastic worlds they inhabited.

One of those books is –

The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai

Set in the distant future, humanity survives on a planet wrecked by climate change and plagues in Larissa Lai’s latest novel The Tiger Flu, which follows a community of cloned women who are battling for their very survival waged by illness and economics.

Lai’s story follows two women: Kirilow, a doctor of Grist Village whose lover Peristrophe dies of a new strain of flu. Peristrophe was vitally important to their community — she could regrow her limbs and organs, and following her death, Kirilow sets out to Salt Water City to try to find someone to replace her. There, she meets Kora, a woman living in the city who might be able to save her community, but who resists leaving her family behind. Lai’s story is an intriguing post-apocalyptic novel, one rife with biotech and the remnants of the world from before.

(4) SPACE COMMAND. On Late Night With Stephen Colbert the USS Enterprise receives a message from an alien curious about this whole Space Command thing. (The one thought up by Trump, not Marc Zicree.)

(5) THE KING JEFF VERSION. Now in those days a decree went out from Jeff VanderMeer counting down his Facebook rules for 2019:

I’m expanding my blocking next year to people who (1) love ice cream, (2) hate vultures, (3) tag me in posts comparing me unfavorably to authors I hate, (4) post cute animal vids without checking the source, (5) think wine coolers are cool, (6) have “author” as part of their name, (7) are inept at the fine art of humble bragging, (8) tell me something’s inspired by Annihilation just to get me to retweet it, (9) send me emails about how convinced they are the biologist wanted to commit suicide, and (10) send me every goddamn photo of a weird tree every single goddamn time. – Love, Curmudgeon

(6) MOFFAT OBIT. You saw him a lot, but did you know his name? “Donald Moffat, Commander Garry in John Carpenter’s The Thing, passes away at 87” – details at Syfy Wire.

Donald Moffat, the English actor most known for playing station commander Garry in John Carpenter‘s 1982 remake of The Thing, has died at the age of 87. According to The New York Times, Moffat passed away Thursday in Sleepy Hollow, New York, after complications arose from a stroke six days before his 88th birthday.

… Born in Plymouth of the U.K.’s Devon County in December of 1930, Moffat moved to the United States at the age of 26 to pursue a full-time acting career. Besides The Thing, the actor appeared in a number of other genre projects, like Night Gallery, The Terminal Man, Logan’s Run (the TV series), Exo-ManPopeyeThe Right Stuff, and Monster in the Closet.

(7) MASTERSON OBIT. “Peter Masterson, Actor, Director and ‘Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ Writer, Dies at 84”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The father of actress Mary Stuart Masterson and a two-time Tony nominee also helmed ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ and appeared in ‘The Stepford Wives’ and ‘The Exorcist.’…

(8) ICONS LOST IN 2018. Last week, Turner Classic Movies posted its annual in memoriam video. Harlan Ellison, Jerry Maren, William Goldman, Gary Kurtz, Margot Kidder, and Stan Lee are some of the genre figures shown.

In loving memory of the actors and filmmakers who have passed away in 2018. We will remember you for all time.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

December 21, 1968 – Apollo 8 launches. The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach notes the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8.  “No space mission had ever presented so many exotic ways to kill astronauts,” Achenbach writes. “Apollo 8: NASA’s first moonshot was a bold and terrifying improvisation”.

Walter Cronkite held a tiny model of the Apollo 8 spacecraft and strode across a darkened studio where two dangling spheres represented Earth and the moon. This was the CBS Evening News, Dec. 20, 1968, and three Apollo 8 astronauts were scheduled to blast off the following morning on a huge Saturn V rocket. Cronkite explained that the astronauts would fly for three days to the vicinity of the moon, fire an engine to slow the spacecraft and enter lunar orbit, circle the moon 10 times, then fire the engine a final time to return to Earth and enter the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour.

“They must come in at JUST the right angle. If they come in too steeply, they will be CRUSHED in the Earth’s atmosphere. If they come in too shallow, they will SKIP OUT and go into Earth orbit and not be able to return,” Cronkite said….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1892Hubert Rogers. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines. His first freelance work was for Ace-High, Adventure, Romance, and West. In ‘42, he started doing covers for Astounding Science Fiction which he would do until ‘53. He did the cover art for the ‘51 edition of the Green Hills of Earth, the ‘50 edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon and the ‘53 edition of Revolt in 2100. (Died 1982.)
  • December 21, 1928Frank Hampson. A British illustrator that is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare, Pilot of The Future and other characters in the boys’ comic, The Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961. There is some dispute over how much his original scripts were altered by his assistants before being printed. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 81. Sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella? Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film. 
  • Born December 21, 1948Samuel L. Jackson, 70. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in Incredible and Incredibles 2, Mace Windu in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1962Kevin Murphy, 56. American actor and writer best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. And he does RiffTrax which are  humorous audio commentary tracks intended to be played along with various television programs and films. 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 52. My, he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Nutcracker PrinceThe Three Musketeers,  voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration,  Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes he’s in the forthcoming second Flatliners as a new character. 
  • Born December 21, 1971Jeff Prucher, 47. Won the Hugo Award for Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction which to my knowledge is still the only historical dictionary of words originating in sf, plus citations and bibliographic information for them. If there’s another one, I’d like to know about it. 

(11) DON’T JUDGE BY CHARACTERS ON TV. Ada Hoffman told Twitter readers, “[If] you are NT, I am going to explain several reasons why you SHOULD NOT EVER judge if a character is ‘autistic enough’ by how well they match autistic characters on TV. Any TV.” Thread starts here.

(12) SPACE DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH SPACE? The Man Who Sold The Moon, Delos Harriman, died before authorities could smother him with paperwork for his illegal mission – not so  Swarm co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sara Spangelo: “FCC fines Swarm $900,000 for unauthorized satellite launch”.

Swarm Technologies Inc will pay a $900,000 fine for launching and operating four small experimental communications satellites that risked “satellite collisions” and threatened “critical commercial and government satellite operations,” the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday.

The California-based start-up founded by former Google and Apple engineers in 2016 also agreed to enhanced FCC oversight and a requirement of pre-launch notices to the FCC for three years.

Swarm launched the satellites in India last January after the FCC rejected its application to deploy and operate them, citing concerns about the company’s tracking ability.

(13) COUNTERING ROGUE DRONES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] BBC chronicles “Gatwick airport: How countries counter the drone threat”. Context: per another BBC post, possibly 100,000 or more passengers grounded due to somebody flying at least one drone around the airport. It’s unclear so far whether it was a random idiot, or somebody deliberately harassing; the latter reminds of Christopher Anvil’s “Gadget vs. Trend” which is framed by quotes from a sociologist complaining first about rampant conformism and last about rampant individualism, after a device has allowed people to be … disruptive.

Rogue drones “deliberately” flown over one of the UK’s busiest airports caused travel chaos this week.

Incoming planes were forced to divert to airports up and down the country as the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), repeatedly appeared over the airfield at London’s Gatwick Airport.

The situation was so serious the Army was called in to support the local police in tackling the issue, with the runway finally re-opening on Friday morning.

For some time now, governments around the world have been looking at different ways of addressing the dangers of drone use in areas where they pose safety risks.

Here we look at some of the solutions – ranging from bazookas to eagles.

More: “Gatwick disruption: How will police catch the drone menace?”

(14) 770 FROM 770 IS NOTHING. Here’s the real reason for today’s diminished sunlight — senpai has stopped noticing me!

(15) SAD FOR REAL. No explanation why yet, but “Scientists Find A Brain Circuit That Could Explain Seasonal Depression”.

Just in time for the winter solstice, scientists may have figured out how short days can lead to dark moods.

Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether you are happy or sad.

When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed.

(16) YA DESERVING YOUR ATTENTION. Surprisingly, all six books chosen by Vicky Who Reads for “Best of 2018: Hidden Gems + Underappreciated Books” are sff.

There are so many amazing books this year that I personally think did not get enough hype or recognition, and today’s all about highlighting some of the quieter YA releases that you should definitely check out!

Every single book on this list and the ones to come are books that I’ve already read + loved, but obviously there are 2018 novels I haven’t read and could definitely qualify. But, alas. It is not to be.

One of those picks is –

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

I feel like in end of the year lists, we oftentimes forget about books that published earlier in the year, but Undead Girl Gang is a book I looooved! Not only did it star a fat Hispanic MC, but it’s also a really great book about friendship?

I mean, this girl has her mean girls revived as “zombies” of sorts (just not…flesh eating) and I loved seeing how they resolved their differences throughout the novel. It was not only super nice to read about friendship and not a lot of romance, but I also really loved the sort of fun narrative style that makes you enjoy what’s happening and not take it too seriously!

(17) OUTWARD MOBILITY. Paul Weimer makes a recommendation at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Implanted, by Lauren C Teffeau”.

Lauren C Teffeau’s Implanted combines future cyberpunk beats with a climate changed ravaged future, a vertically oriented arcology setting, and a strong central character with a thriller chassis for an entertaining read.

…The strength of the novel is Emily as a flawed, complicated character with lots of fiddly bits to her personality and story. Far from being a smooth operator when dropped into her new, unwelcome situation, and on the other hand, avoiding the trap of making her a completely clueless newbie without any skills, the author creates Emily as someone with strengths and weaknesses, in terms of skills and personality, that become plot relevant and interesting to her development and growth. Her desire to reconnect with her former life, damn the consequences, is a major driver of the plot as well.

(18) FELINE NAVIDAD. Camestros Felapton’s “Carols with Catnip” features seasonal music behind a video visage of Timothy the Talking Cat. It’s sort of like that Sauron eye fireplace video, except even more horrifying!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Liptak, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, 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 James Moar.]

Pixel Scroll 12/9/18 Harry Pixel And The Forgotten Click of Tickbox

(1) 2020 REVISION. Radio Times sets off weeping and wailing with news that “Doctor Who series 12 WILL be delayed to 2020”.

Doctor Who series 11 just came to an end – but fans will have quite a long wait until the next full selection of adventures for the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends.

The BBC have confirmed longstanding rumours that the sci-fi series won’t be back on screens for a full series in 2019, with the twelfth season of the revived series instead airing in “early” 2020.

(2) DECK THE DALEK. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society completed decorating their Dalek at the end of the December business meeting, as they have done every year since 2001. Dale Arnold says –

Andrew Bergstrom made this lifesize Dalek for a playat Balticon 35 in 2001 and it was too nice to throw away…so we started decorating it for the holidays and have done so on with new decorations addedto the mix every year.

(3) EDITOR’S INSIGHTS. “Interview: Guest Lecturer Neil Clarke” at Odyssey Writing Workshops.

As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

I don’t think there’s anything I’d raise to that level, but I do often recommend that developing writers and editors volunteer as slush readers somewhere. The experience gives you insight into the common mistakes most writers are makingand the distance you might need to start recognizing them in your own work.You’ll also see the current trends and get a good sense of your own place inthe field. I’ve yet to meet a slush reader who hasn’t underestimated their skill level. The rule for writers is to quit when you stop learning. Potential editors should keep going a few more months, just to see if they can hack the experience when it becomes routine.

Bonus advice: If you are still seeking your first sale, every editor I know wears their “discoveries” as a badge of honor. Saying “I am previously unpublished” in a cover letter is not a bad thing. When you do sell your first story, make sure the purchasing editor knows.

(4) INVERSE ROUNDUP. What would you think are “The Best Depictions of Real-Life Science in Science Fiction”? Inverse plans a series stretching through most of December discussing the best (not the most accurate) such depictions.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments seen in science fiction this year, whether it be on the big screen or small, in books, on stage or in the immersive worlds of video games. Our science and entertainment writers have teamed up for this year-end series to show how real-life science has been memorably —though not always accurately! — portrayed in the culture. Watch this space for more additions all month long. 

On the list is – “‘Pokémon: Let’s Go’s Fake Poké Ball Science Is Absolutely Terrifying”:

Poké Balls have been a key part of the Pokémon experience, from the original GameBoy games to the recently-released Pokémon: Let’s Go, which even works with a specially-designed Poké Ball Plus accessory that lets you simulate the experience. And yet we still have no idea how Snorlax (a giant fat cat-like creature that’s 6’11” and weighs around 1014 pounds) fits inside a metal object roughly the size of a baseball.

The canonical — and nonsensical — pseudoscientific explanation is that Poké Balls shoot out a beam that converts the Pokémon into a form of energy. Sounds fun, right? Except it’s not. The only known way to legitimately convert matter into energy is through nuclear fusion. Even in that process, less than 1 percent of the matter is converted into energy, and the reaction is so volatile that it causes massive explosions.

(5) ODDEST TITLE. The winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker. The Bookseller, which sponsors the prize, noted that “for the first time in the 40-year life of the world’s most prestigious literary gong, a foreign-language tome” has won. Published in Austria by Asche Verlag, the book is eligible for the prize despite being in German because its title is in English.

(6) THESE BOOTS AREN’T MADE FOR TALKIN’. Was there ever anybody more impressed with Harlan Ellison than himself? Perhaps Gay Talese. Now available on YouTube is Harlan’s version of this legendary pop culture confrontation: “Harlan Ellison on Esquire’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ by Gay Talese.”

An excerpt and unused interview from the feature doc “‘Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris” by director Raymond DeFelitta (2007) || RIP Harlan Ellison

(7) CASTING CALL. Dublin2019 will be staging “Jophan!,” Erwin Strauss’ musical adaptation of the great classic of Irish fanwriting, The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, a fannish parody of John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Strauss is reaching out to the community for people interested in participating, either on stage, or in the orchestra pit, or wherever. There is no travel budget, so participants will have to already be planning to be attending Dublin 2019. Contact Strauss or the Dublin Theatre team at theatre@dublin2019.com.

(8) NETFLIX SHELL GAME. Reporting for SYFY Wire, Christian Long says, “Netflix announces a new Ghost in the Shell series as part of its growing anime slate.”

It looks like Netflix is reviving another groundbreaking anime for its ever-expanding platform.

The streaming giant just announced Ghost in theShell: SAC_2045, which is set to premiere sometime in 2020. Based on Masamune Shirow’s classic manga Ghost in the Shell, which premiered back in 1989, it explores themes of consciousness and individuality through the lens of artificial intelligence.

(9) GLOWING BLACK HOLES. On December 14, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Sir Roger Penrose: Lecture on Hawking Points”.

Sir Roger Penrose

In this special lecture, we are very pleased to welcome Sir Roger Penrose back to the Clarke Center to explore how Hawking Points –Stephen Hawking’s prediction of glowing black holes– explain the nature of how our universe was formed and if there are others like it.

Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated mathematician and physicist, is an Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford and winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics — which he shared with Stephen Hawking. He has made profound contributions in geometry, blackhole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, the nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe.

Friday, December 14, 2018 — 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Kavli Auditorium, Tata Hall forthe Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences & the Clarke Center, UC San Diego. RSVP required; pleaseRSVP here

(10) TESSER OBIT. [Item by Mark Blackman.] Gary c Tesser (1952-2018). NY fan Gary c Tesser (small “c” with no period to be demure) died on Saturday night, December 8, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was one of the first 2 people in SF Fandom I met (in September 1970; he was recruiting for the Brooklyn College SF & Fantasy Society) and introduced me to apas (notably TAPS) and to Lunarians, of which he later (in the early ’90s) became President.  He was my closest friend for many years.  Dubbed “Captain Doom” and self-dubbed “The Plucky Red Ace”, he was a fannish legend, his habitual lateness (“the Tesser Effect”) and unique sense of logic were the inspiration for a slew of “Tesser Stories.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900Margaret Brundage. Illustrator and painter. Working in pastels on illustration board, she created most of the covers for Weird Tales between 1933 and 1938. Her work is collected in The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-UpArt. She was one of the very few women artist in the industry, a fact not known as she signed her work as M. Brundage. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1934Judi Dench, 84. M in the Bond films GoldenEyeTomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not EnoughDie Another DayCasino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie.
  • Born December 9, 1953John Malkovitch, 65. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decide that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series.These are selective highlights. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) OUT OF A HUNDRED. AbeBooks.com list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, says Steve Davidson, is 25% genre or genre-adjacent. Davidson continues —

The genre titles listed are classic works that have endured on bookshelves for decades, if not centuries.

Isn’t in interesting (?) that of these titles that have demonstrated longevity, continued relevance (and, as a side note, continued sales that dwarf just about everything else) each and every one ofthem is not only “science fiction”, but each and every one of them is social commentary?  “Political messaging in fiction” as somehave called it?

Not trying to resurrect a dead horse here, but it’s interesting nonetheless that SF’s enduring works — the classics — are all united in this way.

(14) THEY’RE NOT RELATED. James Davis Nicoll worries about these things. Your mileage may vary: “SF Novels That Get Special Relativity All Wrong” at Tor.com.

I gravitate towards certain SF sub-genres, such as stories featuring relativistic travel. I’ve encountered a fair number of such sub-genrebooks in which it is clear that the authors did not, emphatically NOT, understand relativity. This article features novels in which authors have wrestled with Mr. Einstein and lost three falls out of three.

As you know, there are two essential foundations of relativity.The first is that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. The second is that the speed of light is invariant regardless of one’s frame of reference. Every single SF novel in which reference is made to time as measured by the ship as “subjective” and time measured by the Earth “objective” is wrong: everyone’s clocks are right, even if they don’t agree with each other.

(15) PLEONASM DETECTED ON JUPITER. The Traveler is a bit jaded about Poul Anderson’s prose in the latest IF: “December 9, 1963 Indifferent to it all (January 1964 IF)” at Galactic Journey.

Some examples: Anderson likes to wax poetic on technical details.  He spends a full two pages describing what could have been handled with this sentence: “I used a neutrino beam to contact the Jovians; nothing else could penetrate their giant planet’s hellish radiation belts or the tens of thousands of thick atmosphere.”

Two.  Pages.

(16) ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: Jason has compiled another “year’s best” at Featured Futures, which includes 29 stories of science fiction, fantasy, and their various permutations: Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy #2 (2018 Stories).

This second annual virtual anthology of the year’s best speculative fiction differs in four primary ways from last year’s Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories) and Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories). Rather than restricting my coverage to web magazines as in 2017, I added coverage of several 2018 print magazines which created a much larger pool of stories to choose from. Thus, the word count for the “best” stories has increased from 140,000 to 250,000 words. Further, those words were evenly divided between two volumes of science fictional and fantastic stories but have now been combined into a single volume with three sections of uneven story and word counts. Finally, because of some of this, I renamed it to Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy.

What hasn’t changed is the principle of selecting (to repeat the first introduction’s quote of the late Gardner Dozois) “only those stories that honestly and forcibly struck me as being the best published during that year, with no consideration for log-rolling, friendship, fashion, politics, or any other kind of outside influence.” And there’s still the same qualification to that: for variety’s sake, if multiple stories are by the same author or have strikingly similar elements, I try to select only one. Similarly, I’ve attempted to sequence the stories for a varied reading experience rather than any other principle.

(17) THE ONLINE PALEONTOLOGIST. BBC reports “‘Digital museum’ brings millions of fossils out of the dark”.

The bid to create a “global digital museum” has been welcomed byscientists, who say it will enable them to study valuable specimens that are currently “hidden” in museum drawers.

(18) MR. RICO’S ARTIST. Andrew Liptak interviews Stephen Hickman for The Verge: “An artist on creating the retro art for a new edition of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers”.

You’ve provided cover illustrations for some of Heinlein’s works before — how did working on this edition stack up to those works?

The main difference is that I had quite a bit more time on each of my previous illustrations to refine and finish the paintings, which were done just for book cover images.

A cover is like a small movie poster, designed to compete with literally hundreds of similar tiny posters for the attention of potential buyers in bookstores. On the other hand, illustrations for the interior of a book should be approached a bit differently. They can be more quiet and thoughtful in their presentation, in terms of color mood and content, which is relative in the case of a book like Starship Troopers, naturally.

(19) YODA CLAUS. Business Insider tips readers to “27 creative and unexpected gifts for ‘Star Wars’ fans of all ages”. Two examples –

PANCAKE STAMP

LUGGAGE TAGS

(20) TODAY’S HERESY. An NPR writer throws down the challenge — “Dear Internet: Goats In Sweaters Are Cuter Than Kittens In Mittens”.

The goat pics turnout to be about more than making people go “awwwwww.”

The caprine fashionistas are featured on a calendar, the sales of which have benefited local organizations in Varanasi, India, where most of the images were taken.

Christy Sommers, who takes the photos, first noticed the cuteness that is clothed goats in 2010, while living in a village in northwestern Bangladesh as a Fulbright scholar studying rural primary education. Now she considers the project as adding “net happiness” to the world and helping to share a little slice of life from parts of the world that Americans don’t often get to see.

(21) THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Netflix dropped a trailer. The show airs February 15.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dale Arnold, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Jason, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Alan Baumler, Steve Davidson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/18 One Of Our Pixels Is Scrolling

(1) CHOP SHOP. Derrick Boden shares the secret of  “The Revision Machete” on the Odyssey Workhops blog.

…It has become so helpful to me that I’ve permanently integrated it into my revision process, and every story I’ve written since has seen improvement as a result.

I like to call it the revision machete.

Here’s the scenario: you’ve squeezed every ounce of blood and grit and wit into producing a story packed with multidimensional characters, a gripping conflict, deeply extrapolated world-building, and heart-wrenching emotional resonance. You’ve tidied it up and sent it off to a critique group, only to discover that everyone has summarily missed the point. Rather than commenting on the story’s thematic impact, they seem to have overlooked the theme altogether. Instead of suggesting ways to make the ending more powerful, they wonder, aloud, What exactly are you trying to say? They tell you the story is too slow, too long. They tell you it didn’t win them over….

When a reader misses the point, it’s easy to write that reaction off as an impatient read. This is rarely the case. And when a reader says a story is too slow or too long, the tendency—for me, at least—is to think: I just need to cut some flab. Tighten it up. Break out the scalpel. Slice some adverbs, transplant some clauses, excise the slow parts.

The solution, sadly, is rarely this simple. Here’s why….

(2) STEP IN AND OUT OF TIME. Parade Magazine questions “Dick Van Dyke & Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Magic of Making Mary Poppins Returns”.

During a gray London afternoon last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda was in musical paradise: He was watching Dick Van Dyke, then 91, on the set of the new movie Mary Poppins Returns, singing and hoofing—on a desk!—with the energy of a man half his age.

“I was geeking out!” the Hamilton star says. As for Van Dyke? “Everyone on the set was surprised I could do it,” the iconic actor says. “And nobody was more surprised than I was!”

(3) TIRED AND EMOTIONAL. John Scalzi dries the tears of some writers who are sure their failure to make the NYT Bestseller list is unjustified: “Some Observations on Bestseller Lists, December 2018”.

* Another thing about the NYT lists these days is that in the last few years they’ve cut the number of slots on the list themselves; the lists used to go into the thirties (my first NYT bestseller ranking was #33 on the Mass Market Fiction list), and now they publish only the top fifteen in any category. There are fewer slots to go around, and thus it’s more difficult to hit the list at all. Again, that’s nothing about politics, and everything about the lists themselves becoming more selective.

* The NYT lists are targeted for complaint because they are the most famous bestseller lists, and also because, if you’re of a conservative bent, a bit of a bete noir, being that the NYT is all full of liberals and shit. But other publications track sales as well, and there does happen to be a correlation between the appearance of a book on the NYT list, and its appearance on other lists as well. It’s relatively rare for a book to show up on a Times list, especially these days in their shorter format, and not on another bestseller list somewhere else.

(4) SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN SFF DATABASE. On a Reddit thread someone was asking for Fantasy series low on violence toward women was pointed to a Google docs “Sexual violence in sff database” that has been set up. It has a Google page where people can submit information on books they’ve read — Submission form.

(5) ALIEN VISITORS TO THE FORMER SOVIET UNION. On This Day In Science Fiction History reviews a Russian movie — “’Attraction’ Might Make You Believe In Love … but Probably Not Aliens”.

Somehow, mankind always finds itself at odds with intelligent extraterrestrial life.  If you believe the movies, then we’re doomed to never get along socially with whatever we inevitably find ‘out there.’

George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds (1953) showed Earthlings on-the-run from these Martian aggressors who eventually succumb to the smallest threat previously known to man in the finale.  During the 1980’s, TV audiences were treated to a pair of miniseries and a spin-off series around V (aka Visitors), a Reptilian race intent upon seeing mankind used to fill the opening of their dietary requirements.  Then, in 1996, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich re-invented the ‘alien invasion’ feature with their big screen Independence Day: aliens came to Earth and got their butts kicked in a rousing finale that brought all nations of the world together for the ultimate throwdown.

There have been other films – some big and some small – that have mined similar territory; but 2017’s Attraction has the unique advantage of exploring an alien encounter that doesn’t involve any other nation on Earth except the former Soviet Union.  That alone was enough to pique my interest … but, sadly, what I found was much more spectacle than it was substance.

(6) THE COLLECTOR’S FRIEND. Moshe Feder pointed to this Indiegogo appeal — “Aura: Speeds & Simplifies ALL Your Scanning Needs” – saying, “An interesting scanner for bound books and magazines. Has a built-feature to renormalize curved pages. Portable! Doubles as a lamp! Reasonable price. This should have some obvious uses with old zines, pulps, and books.”

(7) JOIN THE NZ POLICE. The latest NZ Police recruiting campaign includes a shout-out to Wellington Paranormal (40 seconds in).

(8) WHO REVIEW. Camestros Felapton reviews the latest episode: “Doctor Who: It Takes You Away”.

A weird spooky episode, with a bit of a Sapphire & Steel style spooky British TV sci-fi mixed with a bit of a Neil Gaiman vibe. This one is a bit hard to review without spoilers, so click for more if you’ve seen it.

The crew are in Norway for no specific reason and spot a remote house by a lake. The exterior of the house is boarded up but there’s movement inside and possibly something monstrous outside…

(9) BERRY OBIT. Actor Ken Berry, best known for F-Troop and Mayberry RFD, died December 1. Variety notes his genre connections as well:

He also appeared in comedy films “Herbie Rides Again” and “The Cat From Outer Space” and made frequent guest appearances on shows including “The Golden Girls,” “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” and “CHiPs.”

Born in Moline, Ill., Berry started out as a singer and dancer. He served in the U.S. Army special services under Sergeant Leonard Nimoy, entertaining the troops and winning a slot on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

Nimoy helped introduce him to studios after he left the Army, and soon Berry was under contract to Universal to appear in movie musicals.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

December 2, 1979Star Trek became a comic strip, giving new meaning to “see you in the funny papers.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston, Actor and Comedian who is best known, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby; he was given a cameo role in the 1999 reboot movie, which starred Christopher Lloyd in the titular role. Younger fans may know him for his role as Boothby, the mysterious gardener at Starfleet Academy, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which he reprised in Voyager. His many genre appearances included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories, Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series, and Addams Family Reunion. In a sly callback to their earlier collaboration, he appeared in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician, in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. He was given a Saturn Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2001).
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, 81, Writer of Horror who came to distinction in the 1970s, both with his writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the 1980s, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on speaker-to-the-dead Harry Keogh. His short story “Necros” was adapted into an episode of the horror anthology series The Hunger. His works have received World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations; the short story “Fruiting Bodies” won a British Fantasy Award. Both the Horror Writers Association – for which he was a past president – and the World Fantasy Convention have honored him with their Lifetime Achievement Awards.
  • Born December 2, 1952 – O.R. Melling (aka G.V. Whelan), 66, Writer from Ireland. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner, whose The Owl Service is also a frequent read of mine. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series, consisting of The Hunter’s Moon, The Summer King, The Light-Bearer’s Daughter, and The Book of Dreams are quite excellent; the first won a Schwartz Award for Best YA-Middle Grade Book. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey: Would You Go if You Were Called? – featuring a fantasy writer who is invited to take part in a week-long retreat on a magical, remote Scottish island – I’d highly recommend.
  • Born December 2, 1971 – Frank Cho, 47, Artist and Illustrator from South Korea who is best known as creator of the Liberty Meadows series, as well as work on Hulk, Mighty Avengers, and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. His works have received Ignatz, Haxtur, Charles M. Schulz , and National Cartoonists Society’s Awards, as well as Eisner, Harvey, and Chesley Award nominations, and his documentary Creating Frank Cho’s World won an Emmy Award.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How stars get their names (and whether they like them), as explained by Over the Hedge.

(13) THE JDA VERSION. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to Jim C. Hines’ post about Jon Del Arroz’ comments being taken down from a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Cat Rambo. Today JDA blogged his version of events — “Banned by r/fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

r/fantasy is censoring your favorite humble Hispanic author (me).  This group, supposedly about books and fiction in the genre I write, is removing comments when I make them. I’ve violated no rules, I simply posted the following to this thread…

(14) FLYING SAUCER INVENTOR PROFILED. In “The Forgotten Legend of Silicon Valley’s Flying Saucer Man” on Bloomberg, Ashlee Vance profiles outsider artist Alexander Weygers, who created designs that looked like flying saucers during the 1920s and also in 1930 painted visions of San Francisco in 1985.

…Things got bad enough that Larry Fischer, the owner of a sculpture foundry, decided to auction off pieces he’d held on to for years to help make ends meet. Ahead of the auction, he invited Hunter to come see if there was anything he liked. He guided his friend through the gritty warehouse toward a collection of bronze sculptures he thought might be of particular interest.

He chose well. The first sculpture Hunter saw, Up With Life, was a foot tall and depicted an adult’s face morphing vertically into a hand cradling an infant. Fischer explained that the sculpture, made by an unknown artist named Alexander Weygers after World War II, represented humanity rising up to find hope in the darkest of times. Its beauty overwhelmed Hunter, leaving him giddy and a little dazed. “I freaking started crying,” he later said. As he surveyed the room and saw one magnificent work after another, Hunter knew he had to have them. “I bought the whole collection of 30 Weygers statues.”

The sculptures came with an incredible story. Weygers spent close to half a century as the valley’s hidden da Vinci, crafting his home over the years from reclaimed wood and junkyard scrap metal, using tools he made on the premises. In separate workshops he produced sculptures, highly stylized photos, wood carvings, and home finishings. He also wrote books on blacksmithing and toolmaking and shared his talents firsthand with youngsters willing to camp on the property. He taught them to make their own tools, sculpt, and embrace his minimalist, recycling-centric philosophy. And amazingly, Weygers was a world-class engineer who in the late 1920s designed a flying saucer, a machine he called the Discopter.

(15) THERE’S GOLD, OR SOMETHING, IN THEM THAR HILLS. While InSight’s been getting all the ink, Curiosity has been prospecting for something that might be valuable – to science, anyway: “Curiosity Rover Just Spotted This Super-Shiny Object on Mars” at Gizmodo.

Immediate suspicions are that the rock, dubbed Little Colonsay, is a meteorite, but NASA scientists won’t know for sure until Curiosity performs a chemical analysis. The rover’s ChemCam instrument, which consists of a camera, spectrograph, and laser, offers an on-the-spot chemistry lab.

That Curiosity may have stumbled upon a meteorite isn’t shocking. The rover has sniffed out several such objects over the course of its travels, including a huge metal meteorite in 2015 and a shiny nickel-iron meteorite the following year.

(16) NIGHTFLYERS. Vice reports Vice: “George R.R. Martin’s ‘Nightflyers’ Is an Imaginative, Brutal Gorefest”. Subhead: “‘Game of Thrones’ fans will feel right at home in Syfy’s bloody psychological horror show.”

Martin compared the dark, 10-episode first contact series to Alien in the New York Times. As in Thrones, the balance of power is practically a character in Nightflyers. Instead of a loose coalition of warring nation-states, the factions are a ragtag group of scientists and the residents of a colony ship called the Nightflyer enlisted to investigate a mysterious alien entity called “The Volcryn.” Earth is dying, and rugged researcher Dr. Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken) thinks tapping into its powerful energy will save the planet.

Andrew Liptak interviewed the showrunner for The Verge: “Nightflyers’ showrunner explains why George R.R. Martin’s massive worlds are ideal for TV “.

Series showrunner Jeff Buhler explains that to bring the show to Syfy, the creative team had to make some changes to the original story. “One of the big changes from the novella that we tackled in making the TV series was to roll back the timeline that existed in the Thousand World universe.” Martin’s story is set centuries far in the future, after humanity has colonized the galaxy. Along the way, humanity made contact with numerous other aliens, and wound up nestled between two hostile alien factions. For the show, Buhler explained that they wanted to go back to the point where humanity first made contact with aliens.

(17) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the chance to join Jo Walton for a seafood lunch in Episode 83 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Jo Walton

I don’t know what you were doing last week on Black Friday, but as for me, I was taking this year’s Chessiecon Guest of Honor Jo Walton out to lunch at the nearby Bluestone Restaurant. And, of course, recording the conversation so you’d be able to join us at the table!

Jo Walton won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002 and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in 2004. Her novel Among Others won both the 2011 Nebula Award and the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and (according to those who keep track of such things) is one of only seven novels to have been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and World Fantasy Award.

Her novel Ha’penny was a co-winner of the 2008 Prometheus Award. Her novel Lifelode won the 2010 Mythopoeic Award. Her incisive nonfiction is collected in What Makes This Book So Great and An Informal History of the Hugos. She’s the founder of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, something which we never quite got around to talking about, so if you want to know more about that holiday, well, Google is your friend. Her next book, Lent, a fantasy novel about Savonarola, will be published by Tor Books in May 2019.

We discussed how Harlan Ellison’s fandom-slamming essay “Xenogenesis” caused her to miss three conventions she would otherwise have attended, why Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside is really a book about menopause, the reason she wishes George Eliot had written science fiction, the ways in which during her younger days she was trying to write like Poul Anderson, her technique for getting unstuck when she’s lost in the middle of writing a novel, why she loathes the plotter vs. pantser dichotomy, how she developed her superstition that printing out manuscripts is bad luck, the complicated legacy of the John W. Campbell Award (which she won in 2002), how she managed to write her upcoming 116,000-word novel Lent in only 42 days, and much, much more.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Liptak, Carl Slaughter, Moshe Feder, Scott Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]