Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/21 Like A Mouse Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Scroll The File

(1) KOWAL ON WALLY FUNK. The New York Times has run an essay by Lady Astronaut author (and DisCon III chair) Mary Robinette Kowal on Wally Funk. “Wally Funk’s Launch With Jeff Bezos Defies 60 Years of Exclusion From Space”. (Registration may be required.)

Ms. Funk’s trip to space with Jeff Bezos is reason to celebrate. But the launch this week, decades after she was denied the opportunity, also raises questions about whom space is for.

(2) APEX APPEAL. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to fund Apex Magazine 2022. On the first day people have contributed $5,325 of its $10,000 goal. Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore says:

The last few years of Apex Magazine (including 2021), we’ve produced an incredible run of transformative and diverse fiction. We relaunched with Fargo Tbakhi’s “Root Rot,” a timely tale regarding colonization. “Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow threaded the needle between heartbreaking and hopefulness. Sam J. Miller celebrated the power of music in “A Love That Burns Hot Enough to Last: Deleted Scenes from a Documentary.”

We published back-to-back Hugo Award winners (2018 & 2019) in the category of Best Short Fiction (“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse and “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, respectively) and the 2017 Hugo Award winner in the category of Best Novelette (“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon). Fiction from Apex Magazine has also won the Nebula Award, Locus Award, and numerous others.

In addition to our phenomenal fiction, every issue of Apex Magazine offers evocative cover art, thought-provoking nonfiction, author and  artist interviews, and a professional-quality podcast produced by KT Bryski.

All these wonderful things would exist if not for the community of readers, creators, and staff—the extended Apex family. Thank you so much for your love and continued support!

The Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter also promises: “Should we fund, we will commission new original fiction from five writers who we think embodies the type of bold, diverse work we seek to publish.” Those writers are: Gabino Iglesias, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samit Basu, and Lavie Tidhar.

(3) THE OOPS DIRECTIVE. James Davis Nicoll makes you wonder if there would be a story if people followed the rules. There’s plenty where they don’t, as James shows in “Five SF Stories About Disobeying Non-Interference Directives” at Tor.com.

…For historical reasons—that throughout Earth history, first contact between dissimilar cultures was generally followed by vigorous efforts by whichever culture enjoyed a military advantage to strip-mine the other of goods and services—many science fiction authors (particularly during the mid-century period when various empires were winding down) gave their settings laws encouraging non-interference. One might call this a Prime Directive….

(4) HELP REQUESTED. The“Fundraiser by Adam-Troy Castro : In the Aftermath of Unexpected Death” is a GoFundMe brought on by the sudden death of his wife, Judi. It has raised $26,979 so far.

…She was also, through her own income, the chief support of our family. I am a writer and my money comes in irregularly, sometimes in decent sized chunks (like last week, but delayed for a year by COVID), sometimes in tiny little amounts. I am going to have to restructure my new life as a freshly minted widower, and I will, but in the interim our fragile climb back to solvency has been slammed back to the earth. I am in big, big trouble; destitute with debt still looming.

I damn the whims of fate.

I am not the kind of person who finds this easy. It hurts me to type these words, and I am intensely self-conscious about asking for help this soon after the last time. I can tell you that I did not want the prior worst period of my life to be followed so soon by another loss that is even more primal, even more destructive. I have had no time to think, just arranging the memorial — and I am sure that the bills for her time for the ICU, after insurance, will be coming, inevitable and unswayed by sentiment, even as we run late on bills that would have normally been her duty to pay. (She died in a distant city, in the home of a family we were pet-sitting for, so we are far from our records, from our mailing address, and…this is a pyramid, folks. It gets higher and higher.)

If you knew Judi at all, you loved her. If you know me at all, maybe you have some of that same feeling. I have to jettison pride. She has left me bereft. I will be deeply grateful for any help you can give,

(5) SPACE JAM RULES AT BOX OFFICE. Critical reviews did not keep Space Jam: A New Legacy from overtaking Black Widow in theater ticket sales last weekend.

The Hollywood Reporter starts the ball rolling:

Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring the basketball great [LeBron James], beat holdover Black Widow to top the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters.

Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow fell to No. 2 in its second outing with $26.3 million. The superhero pic suffered a steep 67 percent decline, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The decline underscores that the box office recovery is far from over; also, the tentpole is available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access (piracy is another problem)….

Deadline notes that’s the steepest second-weekend drop ever for a Disney-distributed MCU title, beating Ant-Man and the Wasp (62 percent). They say piracy is a big problem: “’Black Widow’ Post Steep Box Office Drop For MCU Title; Disney Mum On PVOD”.

…Fact: Black Widow was the most-pirated movie last week on Torrent Freak, ahead of The Tomorrow War in the No. 2 spot. I understand from sources that have seen several piracy reports that apparently Black Widow might be the most-pirated title to date during the pandemic, ahead of Wonder Woman 1984.

Studios go to extra lengths to encrypt and watermark their movies before release. Pristine copies of a tentpole spell death at the box office, and they further spell death here on both the box office and Disney+ Premier side.

Many of these piracy sites dress themselves up with images from the film to make it look like they’re legit. One industry analytics source informed me over the weekend that in one study they did for a studio, it showed that these piracy sites were the No. 1 means for those at home to watch movies, not Disney+ or any other streamer….

The LA Times tries to account for this surprising showing: “’Space Jam’ sequel unseats ‘Black Widow’ at the top of the box office”:

…Not many expected “Space Jam: A New Legacy” to pull off this win. The poorly reviewed film was pegged for an opening in the $20-million range. But a sizable number of families and millennials who grew up with the original “Space Jam” left the house and went to a theater to see it, even though it’s currently streaming on HBO Max free for subscribers. Not only that, audiences also gave the film a promising A- CinemaScore, suggesting word of mouth could be strong….

(6) SPEAKING UP. In the Washington Post. Michael Cavna interviews Jeff Bergman, who voices Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, met Mel Blanc once, but only met LeBron James at the premiere when he shouted something to James in his Bugs voice. “’Space Jam: A New Legacy’: The Bugs Bunny voice actor has spent a lifetime perfecting the craft”.

…After the premiere, James was surrounded by layers of fans. What could Bergman do to get the NBA star’s attention despite the distance and din? “I yelled out from about 20 feet away and said in Bugs Bunny’s voice, ‘Hey, Doc, we really are family,'” Bergman said. “He heard and saw me.” Bergman was ushered through the throng to greet him.

“He was holding his daughter and we embraced and thanked each other,” Bergman said. Even amid the crowd, it felt like “a very private congratulatory moment.”

(7) VISION AND REVISION. “At times it’s hard to believe what you see” it says on the cover of Dragons Walk Among Us, source of “The Big Idea: Dan Rice” at Whatever.

Is there a world before our eyes that most people overlook? What are the ramifications for someone who can see the unseeable? This is the big idea behind my debut novel Dragons Walk Among Us.

I first became interested in the world that most people overlook through photography. For example, star trails illuminate landscapes that most people never experience except through photographs taken by others. What really started to fascinate me years ago are water droplets––on blades of grass, flower petals, leaves, windows, etc. Individual little worlds are scattered across the dewy grass, and most people never take the time to appreciate them. Sometimes I imagine each dewdrop is a microcosmos populated by strange creatures. I suppose on the infinitesimal scale of microbes, this is true….

(8) SALLY MILLER GEARHART (1931-2021). Author and academic Sally Miller Gearhart died July 14 at the age of 90. The Advocate has a profile about her activism and work as an educator: “Sally Gearhart, Veteran Activist and Academic, Dead at 90”.

…Gearhart, a Virginia native, taught for many years at San Francisco State University, where in 1973 she became the first out lesbian to be named to a tenure-track position (at the school and, apparently, in the nation). At SF State, she established one of the first women’s and gender studies programs in the nation. She was an author of feminist science fiction as well….

The Wikipedia entry synopsizes her sff career:

…In 1978, her most famous novel, The Wanderground, was published, exploring themes of ecofeminism and lesbian separatism. She wrote two books as part of the Earthkeep trilogy, The Kanshou, published in 2002, and The Magister, published in 2003. Both stories explore a dystopian world where women outnumber men, and humans are the only beings on the planet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago, Roger Zelazny’s “Home is The Hangman” novella wins the Hugo at MidAmeriCon. The other nominated works that year were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys, and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. His Doorways in the Sand would be nominated for Best Novel that year, finishing second to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance here in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”. (Died 1972.)
  • Born July 19, 1924 Pat Hingle. He portrayed Jim Gordon in the Burton Batman film franchise. Genre wise, he had roles in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneCarol for Another ChristmasMission: ImpossibleThe InvadersTarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Amazing Stories and The Land Before Time. He would reprise his Gordon role in the Batman OnStar commercials. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I met him at least once when I was living out West. Interesting person.  He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo once (in a tie with Algol), and once by himself. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his softcore porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 19, 1938 Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, 82. He and Fred Hoyle developed the Hoyle–Narlikar theory, which Stephen Hawking would prove is incompatible with an expanding universe. He would write two genre novels, The Return of The Vaman (translated from Marathi) and The Message from Aristarchus. His autobiography is My Tale of Four Cities: An Autobiography.
  • Born July 19, 1957 John Pelan. Committed (more or less) the act of opening serial small publishing houses in succession with the first being Axolotl Press in the mid-Eighties where he’d published the likes of de Lint and Powers (before selling it to Pulphouse Publishing) followed by Darkside Press, Silver Salamander Press and finally co-founding Midnight House. All have been inactive for quite awhile now and he’d been editing such anthologies as Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 for other presses though even that has not happened for some years as near as I can tell. As a writer, he had more than thirty published stories and he had won both a Stoker for The Darker Side: Generations of Horror anthology and an International Horror Guild Award for his Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium anthology. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 19, 1963 Garth Nix, 58. Writer of children’s and young adult fantasy novels, to wit the Keys to the KingdomOld Kingdom, and Seventh Tower series. The Ragwitch which I read quite some time ago is quite excellent and being a one-off can give you a good taste of him without committing to a series. 
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 52. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did a magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having won a Hugo Award, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, an Otherwise Award, a Sturgeon Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 45. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock Holmes series as that series didn’t work for me, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was quite excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug in The Hobbit, and his Grinch-voicing in the latter film was also superb. And yes, he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GETTING PAID. The Hollywood Reporter discovers that “Marvel, DC Offer ‘Shut Up Money’ As Comic Creators Go Public”.

… Multiple comic creators have publicly stated that DC’s payments for adaptations, in general, is higher. Comic creator Jim Starlin turned heads in 2017 when he publicly noted that Warner Bros. paid him more for a minor character that appeared in DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than he received for Marvel’s major Guardians of the Galaxy characters Thanos, Gamora and Drax combined. After Starlin’s airing of grievances, Disney renegotiated his deal for Thanos, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Those films went on to gross $4.83 billion globally, and Starlin, while not sharing details of his deal, walked away happy. “The cliche is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Starlin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The way these agreements are written up, Disney can be more generous if they want. It is written right there that they can change the terms to make it better.”

There’s no legal obligation to make additional payments for adaptations, with companies such as Marvel viewing these payments as thank-you gifts — and
a way to avoid the bad publicity of warring with a creator. “It’s ‘shut-up’ money,” as one Marvel creator who receives such payments, but also declined to share details of compensation, likes to call it. Even if companies have no legal obligation to compensate these writers and artists, paying more is akin to contract renegotiations with an actor. If a TV show or movie is a smash success, studios believe it makes sense to offer an actor more money for the sequel (or the next season of TV) to keep them happy. No one wants a bitter actor on set….

(13) THE SQUAD. DC dropped a Suicide Squad “In On The Action Featurette”. Comes to HBO Max on August 6.

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

(14) WILLIAM F. NOLAN & CO. At the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website, a 1999 article about the many-named writing group Christopher Conlon likes to call the “Southern California Sorcerers”.

…Group member William F. Nolan, whose film credits include Burnt Offerings and Trilogy of Terror, explains: “We’d talk plot, read stories we’d finished for opinions, talk about markets and what was selling and who was buying, discuss character development and structure, and, yes, we’d argue, but in a constructive way. We all helped each other…and inter-connected on projects.”

“Sometimes, of an evening,” Ray Bradbury has written, “Richard Matheson would toss up there merest dustfleck of a notion, which would bounce off William F. Nolan, knock against George Clayton Johnson, glance off me, and land in [Charles Beaumont’s] lap. ..Sometimes we all loved an idea so much we had to assign it to the writer present who showed the widest grin, the brightest cheeks, the most fiery eyes.”

Direct collaborations between Group members were common. And no wonder. In those early days, most of them, particularly the “inner circle” of Nolan, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and novelist John Tomerlin, were men in their twenties who were just beginning their careers. They found strength, encouragement, and a sense of solidarity in the company of other struggling young writers. Because of the Group, says Nolan, “We were not alone; we had each other to fire us creatively, to bounce ideas around, to solve plot problems. It was the best kind of writing class that could ever be imagined.”…

(15) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says that Facebook has come up with new software that lets robots walk like toddlers, which might be a good first step in letting robots walk like human adults. Especially if it lets robots learn to do so without falling down all the time, for which they’re less prepared than toddlers. “Facebook reveals AI development to help robots move in uncharted territory”

Facebook developed what it calls a foundational “breakthrough” in the race to create more humanlike robots: software that enables machines to learn to walk like toddlers.

Humans are very efficient at maneuvering. As kids, we figure out how to adjust our stride and cadence to trek through mud, water, and up and down hills with ease. Through trial and error, we adapt, figuring out the best ways to move our feet according to real-time situations. And we can do this while toting a variety of objects, either in our hands or on our backs.It’s tough to program robots to make instantaneous adjustments to their legs and feet to accommodate such a variety of tasks, mainly because it’s hard to train themto deal with corner cases, or objects and environments they’ve never seen before….

(16) CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN. Sure, that’s easy for you to say. According to Gizmodo, “Neutron Stars Have Mountains That Are Less Than a Millimeter Tall” but that would be one big step even for Barlennan.

A team of astrophysicists recently used new models of neutron stars to map the mountains—tiny raised areas—on the stars’ otherwise perfectly spherical structures. They found that the greatest deviations were still extraordinarily small due to the intense gravitational pull, clocking in at less than a millimeter tall.

Neutron stars are the dead cores of once-huge stars that collapsed in on themselves. They are the densest objects in the Universe aside from black holes. They’re called neutron stars because their gravity is so intense that the electrons in their atoms collapse into the protons, forming neutrons. They’re so compact that they pack a mass greater than that of our Sun into a sphere no wider than a city.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, Creature Features and La-La Land Entertainment present a virtual panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Arachnophobia with director Frank Marshall and special guests.

Recorded in November 2020, moderator Mike Matessino hosts a lively and informative discussion with ARACHNOPHOBIA’s director / executive producer Frank Marshall, co-producer Richard Vane, actor Peter Jason, production designer James Bissell and entomologist Steve Kutcher.

No stranger to delighting audiences worldwide for decades, Mr. Marshall, producer of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, POLTERGEIST and JURASSIC WORLD, made his directorial debut with ARACHNOPHOBIA in 1990, bringing rapt audiences to the edge of their seats with laughter and shrieks in equal measure. The film has remained a beloved fan favorite to this day and its appreciation continues to grow as it connects with a new generation. Now, Mr. Marshall and special guests take you behind the film, its production, and its astounding spider effects and action!

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, Joel Zakem, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/21 What Is Pixel, But Scroll Persevering

(1) A PEEK AT APEX. Apex Magazine Issue 122 has been released. The link below takes you to the new issue page where you’ll find fiction by Sam J. Miller, Sheree Renée Thomas, A.C. Wise, Annie Neugebauer, Barton Aikman, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Jason Sanford, and Khaalida Muhammad-Ali, plus essays by ZZ Claybourne and Wendy N. Wagner. The cover art is by Thomas Tan.

(2) ON “READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY” OBJECTIONS TO SEUSS IMAGERY PROMPT WITHDRAWAL OF SIX BOOKS. The National Education Association founded “Read Across America Day” in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Dr. Seuss/Ted Geisel’s birthday, March 2. However, the NEA has been deemphasizing Seuss, and today President Biden’s proclamation for “Read Across America Day” — in contrast to his predecessors Obama and Trump — omitted all mention of Dr. Seuss reports the New York Post.

President Biden removed mentions of Dr. Seuss from Read Across America Day amid accusations of “racial undertones” in the classic, whimsical tales for children.

Read Across America Day, started by the National Educational Association in 1998 as a way to promote children’s reading, is even celebrated on the author’s March 2 birthday.

In his presidential proclamation, Biden noted that “for many Americans, the path to literacy begins with story time in their school classroom,” USA Today reported.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, rightsholder to his books, also picked today to announce they’ll stop licensing six of his books: “Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises”.

Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action.  To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles:  And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.  These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

The New York Times article “6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images” describes two examples of images that have inspired the objections:

…In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” a character described as “a Chinaman” has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. (Editions published in the 1970s changed the reference from “a Chinaman” to “a Chinese man.”) In “If I Ran the Zoo,” two characters from “the African island of Yerka” are depicted as shirtless, shoeless and resembling monkeys. A school district in Virginia said over the weekend that it had advised schools to de-emphasize Dr. Seuss books on “Read Across America Day,” a national literacy program that takes place each year on March 2, the anniversary of Mr. Geisel’s birth….

Loudoun County, Virginia, schools just outside Washington, D.C. have joined the move away from Seuss — and as a result needed to douse rumors last month that they were banning the books entirely. CNN reports: “Dr. Seuss books: This Virginia school district says it isn’t banning his books. On the annual Read Across America Day, it’s just no longer emphasizing them”.

A school district in Virginia recently made headlines for allegedly banning books by Dr. Seuss.

But Loudoun County Public Schools(LCPS), located in Ashburn, said it is not banning books by the famous children’s author. It’s just discouraging a connection between “Read Across America Day,” which was created to get kids excited about reading, and Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Both fall on March 2, and have often been “historically connected” to each other, the district said in a statement.

“Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” LCPS said in its statement, which links to School Library Journal article from 2018 about the National Education Association focusing its Read Across America efforts “on Diversity Not Dr. Seuss.”

…Dr. Seuss had a long history of publishing racist and anti-Semitic work, spanning back to the 1920s when he was a student at Dartmouth College. There, Dr. Seuss once drew Black boxers as gorillas, as well as perpetuating Jewish stereotypes as financially stingy, according to a study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature.”

That study, published in 2019, examined 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism.” The two “African” characters, the study says, both have anti-Black characteristics.

(3) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF is actually Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists this go-round. And he’s asked the panelists what they thing about “The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke

Kit leads off the discussion:

…[It’s] still kind of on that spectrum of ?“Why does a benevolent God do these things?” and so it’s interesting to think about ?“What, exactly, is the point where you’re pushed over the edge in terms of thinking the world is too cruel to have a controlling power?”… 

(4) FASHIONISTA. Suzanne Palmer makes a convincing argument.

(5) THE FUTURE OF THE WARDMAN PARK. In the Washington Post, Paul Schwartzman profiles activists who want to increase affordable housing in the largely white areas west of Rock Creek Park.  He interviews Rebecca Barson, who wants to turn the bankrupt Wardman Park Hotel into “a mix of retail and affordable housing.  She has embraced the cause even as she contemplates the risk to her property value.” The Wardman Park is still listed on the DisCon III website as the venue of this year’s Worldcon.   “D.C. affordable housing push linked to racial justice after George Floyd’s death”.

… As she drives around the city, Rebecca Barson, a health-care advocate, finds herself noticing encampments of people sleeping in tents in Dupont Circle and under highway overpasses.

“It just feels unconscionable that this is happening in a city like ours,” she said.

Barson, 43, joined a grass-roots campaign seeking city support for converting a recently bankrupt hotel near her Woodley Park condominium — the Marriott Wardman Park — into a mix of retail and affordable housing. She has embraced the cause even as she contemplates the potential risk to her property value.

“I’m not saying I’m not grappling with it. There could be a financial cost — personally, my apartment may not be worth as much,” she said. “I also think I have benefited as a White person from systems I didn’t create, and this is an important moment to do what’s right for the greater good.”

(6) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will livestream readings by Jeffrey Ford and Kaaron Warren on March 17 at 7 p.m. Eastern. The link will be posted later.

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the author of several novels and novellas including The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The BeyondThe Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Cosmology of the Wider World, The Shadow Year, The Twilight Pariah, Ahab’s Return, and Out of Body. His short fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies and in six collections. His work has won the World Fantasy, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and other awards. His most recent collection Big Dark Hole will be out from Small Beer Press this July

Kaaron Warren

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She has published five multi-award winning novels including The Grief Hole, currently under development, and seven short story collections. Her most recent books are the novella Into Bones Like Oil and the chapbook Tool Tales (with Ellen Datlow!) She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award.

(7) THE GOLDEN AGE, WHEN YODA WAS YOUNG(ER). In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews authors Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older, and Justina Ireland about their forthcoming Star Wars tie-in novels set in the High Republic (formerly the Old Republic). “The future of Star Wars has arrived, and it takes place hundreds of years in the past”.

In the Star Wars universe, the High Republic is the stuff of legend. But someone had to write the story.

It all started with a vague reference from Obi-Wan Kenobi. “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic,” Obi-Wan explained in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” “Before the dark times. Before the Empire.”

In the decades since those words were uttered, movies, books and television have explored nearly every imaginable facet of the Star Wars universe. But this particular period in the galaxy’s past remained in the realm of conjecture. Now, that abstract golden age — a time of tranquility but also expansion, hundreds of years before the Skywalker saga — is finally coming into focus. Five writers, all with previous Star Wars books on their résumés, have been tapped to usher in a new era for the franchise by exploring one of the most storied.

In the coming years, Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older and Justina Ireland will release books in the High Republic series, including comics and novels targeting various age groups. They will introduce new heroes — including the inspirational Jedi Avar Kriss — and villains, such as the Nihil, “space marauders,” who threaten the peace of the galaxy.

… Readers with Star Wars knowledge will find at least one familiar face, though: Yoda’s. (Forget you must not that Yoda lived to be 900 years old.) In the new series, he’s younger (kind of) and does a lot more than dispense wisdom, especially in the IDW comic books written by Older, “Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures,” illustrated by Harvey Tolibao.

“We see Yoda really out in the galaxy,” Older said. “He’s not stuck on Coruscant. He’s not in a library somewhere studying. .?.?. We get to see him in action, in the thick of battle doing all these Jedi master Yoda things.”

(8) WOLTMAN OBIT. Pilot and Mercury 13 trainee Rhea Woltman (1928-2021) died on February 15. The family obituary, here, has this to say about her efforts to become an astronaut:

…In 1960, Rhea was invited to participate in the secret Mercury project, where she underwent grueling physical examinations and a battery of tests with 12 other female pilots to become the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATS), now known as the Mercury 13. Rhea passed all of the tests and advanced as one of five to meet the requirements. The U.S. government shut down the women’s program before they were ever allowed to fly a space mission….

The Mercury 13 were thirteen American women who, as part of a privately funded program, successfully underwent the same physiological screening tests as had the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959, for Project Mercury. (They were not part of NASA‘s astronaut program.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 2, 1984 — On this date in 1984, Repo Man premiered. It was written and directed by Alex Cox. It was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with the executive producer being Michael Nesmith. It starred Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. It is widely considered to be one of the best films of 1984, genre or otherwise. Ebert in his review said that “Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn’t cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works. There is a lesson here.” It currently holds a 98% rating among the Rotten Tomatoes audience. You can watch it here. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 2, 1904 Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. My favorite books by him are Horton Hears a Who!Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat and The Hat. I adored the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, can’t stand the Jim Carrey one and haven’t seen the most recent version. Oh, and let’s not forget the splendid The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. For which he wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Bon March 2, 1933 – Leo Dillon.   A hundred sixty covers, two hundred twenty interiors, with his wife Diane Dillon, working so fluently and intimately they sometimes called their joint work the product of a third artist; much else outside our field.  Artbook The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon.  Here is Some Will Not Die.  Here is Dangerous Visions.  Here is Fourth Mansions.  Here is The Phoenix and the Mirror.  Here is The Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Ashanti to Zulu.  Here is the Winter 2002 On Spec.  Here is Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  Here is my note of an exhibit at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  Here is an on-line archive.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1939 – jan howard finder.  Known as the Wombat.  Co-founder of Albacon; Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2000, also BYOB-Con 8, Maplecon 3, LepreCon 8, Ad Astra 12, Arisia ’01, Archon 30, ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  One story, one anthology that I know of.  Often a judge of our on-stage costume competition the Masquerade.  Led tours e.g. of New Zealand sites where Tolkien films were shot.  Fanzines The Spang Blah and Il Vombato.  Susan Batho’s reminiscence here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1943 Peter Straub, 78. Horror writer who won the World Fantasy Award for Koko and the August Derleth Award for Floating Dragon. He’s co-authored several novels with Stephen King, The Talisman which itself won a World Fantasy Award, and Black House. Both The Throat and In the Night Room won Bram Stoker Awards as did 5 Stories, a short collection by him. OK, you know not that I’m that impressed by Awards, but this is reallyimpressive! (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1952 – Mark Evanier, age 69.  Writer for comics, television, both: BlackhawkGroo the WandererGarfield and Friends and The Garfield Show (animated); outside our field e.g. Welcome Back, Kotter.  Has attended every San Diego Comic-Con since the first (1970).  Won an Eisner and a Harvey for Kirby: King of Comics.  Three more Eisners; Inkpot; Clampett; Lifetime Achievement Award from Animation Writers’ Caucus, Writers Guild of America West.  Started Fantagraphics’ reprints of Pogo.  Administers the Bill Finger Award.  Weblog NEWS FROM me. [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1960 – Jeff Beeler, age 61.  Hardworking Michigan fan, e.g. on ConFusion, Detcon the 11th NASFiC (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas), Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Member of the Stilyagi Air Corps.  Having been a librarian, is now a bookseller.  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1960 Peter F. Hamilton, 61. I read and quite enjoyed his Night’s Dawn trilogy when it first came out and I’m fairly sure that I’ve read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained as they sound really familiar. (Too much genre fiction read over the years to remember everything…) What else have y’all read by him? (CE) 
  • Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie, 55. Ancillary Justice won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award, the Kitschies Award Golden Tentacle, Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the BSFA Award. The Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy also won awards and were no less impressive experiences. I’ve not yet read The Raven Tower, so opinions in it are welcome. (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1968 Daniel Craig, 53. Obviously Bond in the present-day series of films which I like a lot, but also  in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as Alex West, Lord Asriel In the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in SF horror film The Invasion as Ben Driscoll, in the very weird Cowboys & Aliens as Jake Lonergan,voicing Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine / Red Rackham  in The Adventures of Tintin and an uncredited appearence as Stormtrooper FN-1824 In Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1974 – Marianne Mancusi, age 47.  Two dozen novels, two shorter stories.  I’ve not yet read A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court.  Won two Emmys producing television.  Loves pineapple pizza and marshmallow Peeps – she says so herself.  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1982 – Chelsea Campbell, age 39.  Eight novels, three shorter stories.  Fiber artist e.g. knitting & crocheting.  Collects glass grapes.  As a kid & teen, used to read adults’ books; now reads kids’ & teens’.  Degree in Latin & Ancient Greek; “humanity … honestly hasn’t changed that much in the last couple thousand years, and that isn’t useless.  (Plus even when people look at you funny for being ‘useless,’ you know Latin and they don’t.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1992 Maisie Richardson-Sellers, 29. A most believable Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow for the first three seasons, in my opinion, as I’ve always liked that DC character. (Season four onward, she’s been Clotho.) Prior to that role, she was recurring role as Rebekah Mikaelson / Eva Sinclair on The Originals, andshe had a cameo asKorr Sella in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yesterday, xkcd explained Leap Year 2021.

(12) THERE WAS SCIENCE BEHIND KING KONG? March 2, 1933 is the date of the world premiere of King Kong. And Mental Floss assures us “’King Kong’ Was Inspired By a Komodo Dragon-Hunting Expedition”.

…According to Slate, a 1926 expedition to the East Indies funded by the American Museum of Natural History planted the seeds for King Kong. The party, led by museum trustee William Douglas Burden, set off with the goal of recording footage of Komodo dragons and bringing specimens back to the U.S. for the first time.

In addition to the many lizards that were hunted and shot, the expedition brought back two live Komodo dragons that ended up at the Bronx Zoo. Tens of thousands of spectators went to see the living dinosaurs in person. In a pre-King Kong world, the exhibit was the closest people could get to seeing a monster with their own eyes….

(13) DEADLIER THAN. CrimeReads knows you think you know who’s number one on this list — “The Most Murderous Mammals: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science”.

Picture the most murderous mammal in the world. Not the best predator, taking down prey with a single swipe of a great talon or claw, but the one that excels in slaying its own kind.

Are you picturing a human being? Well, you would be wrong. But you might be surprised to know Homo sapiens actually falls at number 30 out of more than a thousand species on the list of animals that most often kill members of their own kind. Humans, it turns out, are just average members of a particularly violent lot, the primates. And the most prolific murderers* in the animal world are a different species altogether.

Which, you might ask? Believe it or not, it’s the meerkat, a cute little African mammal belonging to the mongoose family and immortalized in the wisecracking character Timon in The Lion King

(14) GRRM STORY IN DEVELOPMENT. Director Paul W.S. Anderson is teaming with Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) for the movie In the Lost Lands, based on the short story by George R.R. Martin, Deadline reported. Anderson has written the script. “’Resident Evil’ Duo Set For George R.R. Martin Adaptation ‘Lost Lands’” at Deadline.

…The movie will follow a queen, desperate to obtain the gift of shape shifting, who makes a daring play: She hires the sorceress Gray Alys (Jovovich), a woman as feared as she is powerful. Sent to the ghostly wilderness of the “Lost Lands,” Alys and her guide, the drifter Boyce (Bautista), must outwit and outfight man and demon in a fable that explores the nature of good and evil, debt and fulfillment, love and loss.

(15) THE HECK YOU SAY. Gizmodo’s eye-catching headline declares: “A 1990s iMac Processor Powers NASA’s Perseverance Rover”.

…However, there’s a major difference between the iMac’s CPU and the one inside the Perseverance rover. BAE Systems manufactures the radiation-hardened version of the PowerPC 750, dubbed RAD750, which can withstand 200,000 to 1,000,000 Rads and temperatures between ?55 and 125 degrees Celsius (-67 and 257 degrees Fahrenheit). Mars doesn’t have the same type of atmosphere as Earth, which protects us from the the sun’s rays, so one flash of sunlight and it’s all over for the Mars rover before its adventure can begin. Each one costs more than $200,000, so some extra protection is necessary.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter continues to monitor Jeopardy! contestants’ struggles with genre topics. From tonight’s episode —

Category: Alternate History Novels

Answer: In “Ruled Britannia”, the Spanish Armada was victorious & this Spaniard rules England alongside Bloody Mary Tudor.

Wrong question: Who is Francis Drake?

No one got, Who is Phillip II?

All the other questions, including Philip K. Dick, and Charles Lindbergh, were correct.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Little Nightmares II” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Little Nightmares II portrays “a disgusting, but adorable world” where “twee Tim Burton knockoffs try to kill you.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Apex Magazine: A Taste of Things To Come

Jason Sizemore, Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine has anticipated the official relaunch on January 5th with a promotional mini-issue that was part of their Kickstarter stretch goals. It contains original fiction by Maurice Broaddus and Beth Dawkins.

The stories and content are available to read online or you can order the free eBook edition from the Apex store.

EDITORIAL

FICTION

NONFICTION

Cover art by Justin Stewart.

Apex Magazine Starts
Relaunch Kickstarter

Apex Magazine is coming out of hiatus in January of 2021. Returning are editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore and managing editor Lesley Conner. Maurice Broaddus joins Apex special fiction editor and Shana DuBois is their new nonfiction editor.

They launched a Kickstarter – “Apex Magazine 2021” – on July 20 to fund the magazine’s first two issues and hit the $7,500 goal in five hours.

Now they’re working on their stretch goals, including the funding of four more issues in 2021, and special issues devoted to Indigenous fantasists and works of international writers, along with expansion plans for the Apex Magazine podcast.

At this writing they’ve raised $12,019, enough to cover two of the stretch goals described in Update #1.

…At $12,000 we will include an original story by Beth Dawkins in our mini-issue. When we hit $14,000, we will also throw in an interview with Beth.

…Next up is $11,250 which will guarantee publication of issue 123. Then $15,000 for guaranteed publication of issue 124.

And Apex is now taking submissions:

As promised, once we hit our funding goal we would open issues 121 and 122 to submissions. Writers, send us your very best!

Visit our submissions page to read the latest guidelines and for a link to our submissions account

Apex Magazine Is Coming Back
in 2021

Apex Magzine today announced plans for a January 2021 relaunch. Editor Jason Sizemore, who put it on hiatus in April 2019, says when the three-time Hugo nominee comes back it will shift to a bi-monthly publication schedule. There are plans for a subscription drive, a July 2020 Kickstarter, and additional fundraising efforts in advance of the relaunch. Apex Magazine also plans to increase pay rates for fiction and non-fiction, creating another SWFA pro-level fiction market. 

Apex Magazine will publish six issues each year. Every issue of the magazine will include 25-30k words, approximately six fiction stories, two non-fiction pieces, two author interviews, and a cover artist feature. Additional details surrounding future submission periods will be forthcoming. 

Fundraising plans, to include a subscription drive and a summer Kickstarter, will allow for a revamped website design and an increase in pay rates across the board. Fiction rates will increase to $.08/word and non-fiction rates will increase to $100/essay. There are also plans for a revamped website to create a more cohesive online experience for readers and listeners of the Apex Podcast.

Sizemore says, “An award-winning genre short fiction market with more than a decade of publishing history under its belt, Apex Magazine is poised to make a comeback bigger and better than ever come January 2021.”

More news about the Kickstarter, and submission details, are promised in the coming weeks.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/19 You Put Your Right File In, And You Scroll It All About

(1) NOTRE DAME. Notre Dame cathedral suffered extensive fire damage today.

A massive blaze…devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church. While the fire is now under control, the cathedral’s iconic spire fell during the hours it took to battle the blaze.

Many sff fans and writers who’ve been there reminisced about their visits in social media, including Samuel Delany

Like many folks, I climbed to the top of Notra Dame myself on my first trip to Paris with Ron Helstrom and Bill Balousiac. As well, we were staying on the Ilse St.-Louis in the hotel next to the Hotel Olinda, which was rumoured (in Arthur and Hope Fromers Europe on Five Dollars a Day) to be the cheapest hotel in Paris. It was a trip and a half! Some of it was reflected in my novel NOVA.

(2) WOLFE. The SFWA Blog posted a tribute to the late author: “In Memoriam – Gene Wolfe”.

…SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “When we talk about fantasy and science fiction writers who were true virtuosos, Wolfe is one of the foremost among them, and I was honored to be at the 2013 Nebula Conference where he was made a SFWA Grand Master. His Book of the New Sun is a revelation to me every time I go back to reread it and his clear, thoughtful, ever-incisive voice will be sorely missed. This year has claimed several giants in the field, and Gene is most assuredly one whose loss will hit hard across the F&SF community.”

(3) APEX REORGANIZES. In “Sleep now, Apex Magazine, you’ve earned it”, Editor Jason Sizemore says Apex Magazine is going on hiatus, but the Apex Book business will continue.

After much consideration, I’ve decided that Apex Magazine will go on an indefinite hiatus. Our last new issue will be 120–the Afrofuturism issue guest edited by Maurice Broaddus. It’s filled with incredible, diverse work and a fitting sendoff for our zine.

Why stop now?

The last few months have been difficult for me both mentally and physically. This leads to soul searching. And that leads to life decisions. One thing that became obvious to me is that I was neglecting both myself and the book side of Apex. I need to take time to exercise, take some time for my health, do more things for fun, enjoy having my kids around before they leave for college in a few years. I need time to read more books! And on the book side of Apex, I had been failing to do the minimum for success because so much of my time was being poured into Apex Magazine. The magazine flourished, while the books languished.

A flourishing magazine is a great thing, but the profit ceiling for an online zine is disturbingly low. One small press book that does really well (like, for example, Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt) will make 25 times the profit of the zine in a year.

It comes down to health and economics and family. Like most decisions in life.

… And a reminder … this is an extended hiatus, not a permanent closure. I’m a man of whims, unfortunately. After I ended Apex Digest, it was two years later that I decided I wanted to do Apex Magazine. In two years, if Apex Book Company is going strong, don’t be surprised if I have the itch to reopen the zine.

… Lesley Conner and I have not turned our backs on genre short fiction. We plan to do an open call anthology each year that will contain nearly as many words of short fiction as a whole year’s worth of zines. Keep your eyes open for our next project….

(4) A BRAND SEMI-NEW IDEA. On a day that could use some comic relief, Ian McEwan did his best, making absurd statements about sff in an interview with The Guardian: “Ian McEwan: ‘Who’s going to write the algorithm for the little white lie?”.

McEwan has an abiding faith that novels are the best place to examine such ethical dilemmas, though he has little time for conventional science fiction. “There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future, not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas of being close up to something that you know to be artificial but which thinks like you. If a machine seems like a human or you can’t tell the difference, then you’d jolly well better start thinking about whether it has responsibilities and rights and all the rest.”

However, as the humor was unintentional, it took D Franklin’s help for it to fully register–

(5) PANDA EXPRESS. Any other day this would seem a bigger loss, but I’ll miss them: “San Diego Zoo to say farewell to giant pandas”.

Whether born here or abroad, all pandas belong to China. The zoo said successful breeding and an increased awareness of conservation helped boost the wild population of pandas in China to around 2,000, downgrading the panda from “endangered” status to “vulnerable” in 2016.

Building bonds of trust with the pandas has allowed zookeepers to perform some medical tests without having to subject the animals to anesthesia. It’s also helping them crate-train the pandas for their journey back to China. Their new home will be the Chinese Conservation and Research Center, where other former San Diego pandas now live.  

(6) DUBLIN 2019 ADDRESSES AIRBNB CONCERN. James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair, explains the issues with “Short Term Rentals (AirBnB) in Ireland” and shares the available information.

We’ve noted that some of our members have reported issues with AirBnB cancellations. We are sorry that is happening. Many of our own team are booked into AirBnB and it is an affordable option in most cases.

Unfortunately, on the 1st of June this year new legislation is supposed to come into effect that will severely limit the ability for Dublin houses and apartments to be rented out for short-term lets if they were not specifically built for the short-term market (i.e. the Key Collection and StayCity apartments that are part of the convention block are permitted).

The exception to this will probably be if the house/apartment is a person’s primary residence and then only if either let out for a maximum of 90 days per annum, and for a 14-day maximum period, or if the entire property is not rented out (i.e homeshare accommodation).

As of yet we do not know the full legislation, as it is still with the Dáil (the Irish legislature) so we cannot even be sure if the new legislation will grandfather in existing bookings.

More details at the link.

(7) AVENGERS ATTENTION DEFICIT. Daniel Dern says, “This isn’t a spoiler if you’ve seen the Avengers: Endgame. It makes more sense if you have seen the recent Captain Marvel movie, all the way to the very end (final ‘Easter egg.’)”

Dern continues

I was (re)watching The Avengers: Infinity War movie over the weekend, and the last few seconds of the final E. Egg had Nick Fury reach for something from a pocket, and dropped it as he went all Thanos-finger-crumbling-black-dusties. The camera view pans down, showing [ROT-13][ n oyvaxvat qbbuvpxrl jvgu gur Pncgnva Zneiry ybtb ba vg.”

A picture of what Dern saw is here.

Like I said, not a spoiler if you’re up-to-date in trailer and prior movie watching. But wouldn’t have been as noticeable a point, when Avengers: Infinity War first came out, other than ‘if that’s the last few seconds of the movie, it probably is significant.’

(8) FRID OBIT. Dark Shadows’s actor Jonathan Frid died April 13, 2012. (Never mind….) The Los Angeles Times reported at the time

Jonathan Frid, whose portrayal of charismatic vampire Barnabas Collins in the supernatural soap opera “Dark Shadows” turned the classically trained actor into a pop-culture star in the late 1960s, has died. He was 87.

… The campy daytime soap was a year old and struggling in the ratings in 1967 when series creator Dan Curtis took his daughter’s advice to “make it scarier.” He introduced Barnabas Collins, and the ratings took off.

Curtis intended Barnabas to be a short-term villain but soon realized that the Shakespearean actor “brought a very gothic, romantic quality” to the role, Curtis later said. Frid remained on the ABC show until it left the air in 1971.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1906 Erroll Collins. British writer whose early Forties Mariners of Space is reminiscent of early Heinlein in its plot and solar system wide setting.  Serialised in Boy’s Own Paper, it would come out later in hardback. Other genre novels include Submarine CityThe Black Dwarf of MongoliaPirates in Space and A Spot on the Sun. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 15, 1908 Howard Browne. I’m going to call him a pulp writer for lack of a better term.  Some of his work appeared over the pseudonyms John Evans, Alexander Blade, Lawrence Chandler, Ivar Jorgensen, and Lee Francis which makes it difficult to say just what he wrote. I’m reasonably sure that under various names that these are his genre novels:  Return to LiliputForgotten Worlds and The Return of Tharn. He also was a prolific scriptwriter, mostly westerns and cop shows, but he did several Mission Impossible scripts. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 15, 1926 Homer Nearing. He is best known for his Professor Cleanth Penn Ransom series published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the early Fifties. One story, “The Neurotic Rose”, ran in the April 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe. Some of the stories formed a fix-up novel called The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 15, 1940 Robert Walker, 79. Ahhh, the Charlie Evan character in the first season “Charlie X” Star Trek episode in which yet another child gets to be a badly behaving godling. I really don’t know what I think of this episode but do know the actor was rather good in his ability to wring sense out of Fontana’s script. Walker didn’t do much else for genre work, showing up on The Time Tunnel as Billy the Kid,  Bobby Hartford in Beware! The Blob, the sequel to The Blob, and in The Devonsville Terror as Matthew Pendleton.
  • Born April 15, 1947 Deborah J. Ross, 72. A friend of Marion Zimmer Bradley, she’d edited and contributed a story to the first of Sword and Sorceress series which lasted thirty volumes. Much of her fiction is set in the Darkover universe with an original series,The Seven-Petaled Shield, underway as well. She’s also edited two Lace and Blade anthologies which have such contributors as Tanith Lee and Diana Paxton.
  • Born April 15, 1952 Glenn Shadix. He shows up in two of my favorite genre films, Beetlejuice and Demolition Man. His other genre films were SleepwalkersMultiplicity and Planet of the Apes. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 15, 1959 Emma Thompson, 60. Professor Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter franchise. Men in Black 3 and Men in Black: International as Agent O, The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle as Polynesia, Beauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts and Treasure Planet voicing Captain Amelia. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 45. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 29. Hermione Grangerin the Harry Potter film franchise. Belle in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. And the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 22. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She is Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of a story line, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants.

(10) TODAY’S CLICKBAIT. Food & Wine sounds deeply concerned that the answer was almost never Peeps: “The Most Popular Easter Candy in Every State, According to RetailMeNot”.

If you’re also on team Peeps, know that the candy company has released several new flavors this year, including Pancakes & Syrup and Root Beer Float, which you can learn more about here. As for the rest of America’s candy preferences, check out the full state-by-state breakdown below:

(11) PICARESQUE PUSSYCAT. While Camestros Felapton is in the Himalayas, Timothy the Talking Cat is favoring us with his autobiography: “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 1”.

…This was a dark time for England. Specifically it was around 10 pm in November. I needed more light so I filled the bath full of kerosene and set light to it. And for the simple crime of wanting enough light to read by I was thrown upon the mercy of England’s archaic criminal justice system…

(12) AI MEDIC. NPR considers the question: “How Can We Be Sure Artificial Intelligence Is Safe For Medical Use?”

When Merdis Wells visited the diabetes clinic at the University Medical Center in New Orleans about a year ago, a nurse practitioner checked her eyes to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of blindness.

At her next visit, in February of this year, artificial intelligence software made the call.

The clinic had just installed a system that’s designed to identify patients who need follow-up attention.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the system — called IDx-DR — for use in 2018. The agency said it was the first time it had authorized the marketing of a device that makes a screening decision without a clinician having to get involved in the interpretation.

It’s a harbinger of things to come. Companies are rapidly developing software to supplement or even replace doctors for certain tasks. And the FDA, accustomed to approving drugs and clearing medical devices, is now figuring out how to make sure computer algorithms are safe and effective.

(13) BIG BROTHER REALLY IS. “How does it feel to be watched at work all the time?” BBC reports on the consequences.

Is workplace surveillance about improving productivity or simply a way to control staff and weed out poor performers?

Courtney Hagen Ford, 34, left her job working as a bank teller because she found the surveillance she was under was “dehumanising”.

Her employer logged her keystrokes and used software to monitor how many of the customers she helped went on to take out loans and fee-paying accounts.

“The sales pressure was relentless,” she recalls. “The totality was horrible.”

She decided selling fast food would be better, but ironically, left the bank to do a doctorate in surveillance technology.

Courtney is not alone in her dislike of this kind of surveillance, but it’s on the rise around the world as firms look to squeeze more productivity from their workers and become more efficient.

(14) JEDI GAME. There’s a new trailer out for the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Cal Kestis—one of the last surviving members of the Jedi Order after the purge of Order 66—is now a Padawan on the run. Experience this all-new single-player Star Wars™ story from Respawn Entertainment and EA Star Wars on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC this holiday season, 15 November 2019.

(15) REY PARADE. Holy cats – there’s no end of them! Is this some kind of Escher thing? No, it’s the Rey Meetup at last week’s Star Wars Celebration in Chicago.

(16) BOXING DAY. I love work. I could watch other people do it for hours. (Or robots.) “Handle Robot Reimagined for Logistics” is a new video from Boston Dynamics in which a bird-like robot picks up and stacks boxes.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/19 Long Thoughtful Commentses Wrapped Up In Sings, These Are A Few Of My Scrolliest Things

(1) SCIENCE IS A MOVING TARGET. James S.A. Corey thought they had the science right but a NASA spacecraft proved them gloriously wrong. National Geographic got the creators of The Expanse to write Dawn a fan letter — “Dear Dawn: How a NASA robot messed up our science fiction”.

Dear Dawn:

Did we do something to piss you off? Because to tell you the truth, your attacks on our books seemed kind of personal.

In 2011, we came out with a science-fiction novel called Leviathan Wakes that featured a big plotline on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In particular, we imagined a hard, nickel-iron Ceres with a population of millions thirsty for water harvested from the rings of Saturn. We did pretty well with the story; it got a Hugo nomination, and the publisher bought some follow-ups.

Four years later, we were launching a television show based on the book, starring the embattled crew of an ice hauler trying to keep Ceres Station hydrated. That was 2015—the same time you became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. And as we gathered in the writer’s room and on set, what did you tell us? Ceres has water. Lots of it. Not only that, you found large deposits of sodium carbonate on Ceres’s surface, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize it’s evidence of ice volcanoes. Seriously. Ice volcanoes….

(2) WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE DEAL. SF author Ramez Naam (Nexus series) is  a “futurologist” as well, and he just wrote an excellent extended tweet about the Green New Deal and how it might be better. Thread begins here.

(3) ENTERPRISE. “Jeff Bezos, long known for guarding his privacy, faces his most public and personal crisis” is an article by Craig Timberg, Peter Whoriskey, Christian Davenport, and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post about how Jeff Bezos broke his long-standing efforts to remain as private as possible in his battle against the National Enquirer. Not the most titillating part of the story, but there is a sci-fi reference in it —

in the early 2000s, Bezos started quietly acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres in West Texas, where Blue Origin now launches its New Shepard rocket.  He purchased the land under corporate entities named for explorers.  Thee was Joliet Holdings and Cabot Enterprises, the James Cook and William Clark Limited Partnerships and Coronado Ventures.

All were linked to a firm with a Seattle post office called Zefram LLC, namedafter Zefram Cochrane, a character in the Star Trek franchise.

(4) WISHING HIM A RAPID RECOVERY. Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore wrote about the burdensome and painful health problems he’s been coping with in his February editorial.

…One of the diagnostics for stroke the doctor ran on me at the emergency room was a CT scan. He said, “Good news, I’m confident you are not having a stroke. But … some bad news, your scan shows a sizable lesion on the front of your mandible.“

(5) CROSS-GENRES. Vicki Who Reads picks out eight niche favorites in “Fantasci Book Recs: Books In Between Science Fiction and Fantasy!”

I love fantasy and I love science-fiction (though, sci-fi a little more than fantasy). And I think it’s really interesting when authors sort of combine the two–mixing sci-fi and fantasy (and ends up just being labeled under fantasy, typically).

But this leads to the creation of the fun, intermediate genre (at least, that’s what it is in my mind), fantasci. The intersection of science-fiction and fantasy where it’s not magic, but it’s not science either….

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

This book is so darn underappreciated, and it deserves ALL the love! I was sucked into the story and had such a hard time stopping, and then the ending completely wrecked me.

Like . . . is it legal to inflict these types of emotions upon me? Idk, but this book had me CRYING late at night as I read a bout [redacted]. And it’s a sort of space fantasy that’s based on Indian mythology and has me swooning.

Gosh. My heart still hurts and I need the sequel ASAP. If this book isn’t on your TBR, you’re doing something wrong because it is AMAZING and the ending is so horrible (for my heart) but so worth it.

You can read my review here!

(6) ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s “Detail and Image” online writing class today. The thread is here.

(7) WORLDCON REUNION. Kees van Toorn, Chairman ConFiction1990, today announced plans for Reunicon 2020:  

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the first true World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe. We are still creating a website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990. We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague.

(8) PLEASE BE SEATED. ThinkGeek s offering a Star Trek TOS 1:6 Scale Captain’s Chair FX Replica for $59.99.

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

Is that the ship intercom, or the self-destruct button? You better read up on your engineering schematics before sitting in a captain’s chair, or your tenure will be shorter than Spock’s patience for illogical behavior.  
 
Quantum Mechanix has created an extremely detailed FX replica of the most important part of the original USS Enterprise: the captain’s chair. This 1/6 scale replica doesn’t just look good – it also lights up and makes sounds. Powered by either three AA batteries or a mini-USB plug (not included), this captain’s chair replica has four different light and sound settings including: standard bridge operations, ship-wide announcement, viewscreen scanning, and of course, red alert.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says Wiki but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of It? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lead role. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside'”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is marked by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! Oh and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 66. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956Timothy Truman, 63. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 38. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the world of Brewster Rockit, some newspaper columns are very easy to write.

(11) IN RE VERSE. A star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (labeled on Wikipedia as a “actor, singer, dancer, and rapper”) told The Hollywood Reporter he hopes to write a song for the sequel (“‘Spider-Verse’ Star Shameik Moore Hopes to Record a Song for the Movie’s Sequel”). The interview also ranges into Moore’s other genre interests. It turns out he’s a fan of the Harry Potter movies.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Spider-Verse soundtrack had a few hits, including Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” Have you pitched yourself to do a track for the Spider-Verse sequel?

Shameik Moore: They were asking me to make a song for Spider-Man before any of the songs on the soundtrack were even being considered. The only reason I am not on the soundtrack is because I couldn’t quite come up with a song myself to write from Miles’ point of view. So next time, hopefully. The music that I’ve been making is for me. It’s not really for Spider-Man. It’s for who I am. My music is a bit edgier.

(12) THE GREAT SKY ROAD. Andrew Porter sent screenshots of some flights of fancy seen on the February 4 episode of Antiques Roadshow.

(13) LOCUS LIST CONSIDERED. Adri Joy and Joe Sherry have actually read a lot of these books so their discussion of what did and did not make the list is quite substantial: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: Locus Recommended Reading List” at Nerds of a Feather.

…What did you expect, or want, to see here that isn’t?

Joe: The first thing I specifically looked for was Matt Wallace’s final Sin du Jour novella Taste of Wrath. I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t make the list simply because I’m not sure it’s received a fraction of the attention and love that the series deserved. I passionately and sometimes aggressively love those stories and it has been a perpetual disappointment to me that they haven’t been nominated for everything they are eligible for and even for some things they aren’t. I’m holding out for a Best Series Hugo nod, but maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second thing i looked for, and this was mostly out of curiosity, was whether anything from Serial Box made the cut. Nothing did. Because I’m that sort of wonk, I did a super quick check of previous years and the first season Tremontaine made the list. I’m not surprised by that either, because Tremontaine is an expansion of the Swordspoint world and I would expect to see Locus recognize Ellen Kushner. I do wonder if next year we’ll see recognition for The Vela or Ninth Step Station. Both seem like something that might get some extra attention, eyeballs, and acclaim.

(14) LOOK FOR THE BEAR NECESSITIES. BBC reports “Russia islands emergency over polar bear ‘invasion'”. They must be running out of Coca-Cola.

A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say.

Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings.

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

Russia classes them as endangered.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

(15) SLIP-AH-DEE-DOO-DAH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 2017? No way. 2018? Um, negatory. January 2019? Nope. February? Nope, nope, nope. March? Well, maybe. SpaceX has announced another slip (albeit a modest one) in the schedule for the first (un-crewed) launch of the to-be-crewed version of the Dragon capsule (ExtremeTech: “SpaceX Pushes Crewed Dragon Test Back to March 2”). Boeing is aiming for April for Starliner—their competing capsule—to have its first launch.

NASA kicked off the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2010 to support the development of new crewed spacecraft. Here we are, almost a decade into the program and on the verge of a manned launch. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it may be a little longer still. SpaceX has announced yet another delay in its Dragon 2 test flight, which was supposed to take place this month. 

The precise date has slipped numerous times, and this is after ample delays in earlier phases of the program. We’re in the home stretch now, so each change in the schedule is that much more frustrating. SpaceX initially wanted to conduct the first test launch of its crewed Dragon capsule in 2017. Then the timeline slipped to 2018, and then it was late 2018. More recently, SpaceX promised a January 2019 launch… and then it decided February was more likely. You can probably blame the government shutdown for that one. Now, we’re looking at March 2, according to SpaceX. 

(16) ROLE PLAYING. Last summer Simon Pegg talked about characters he’s played – including one that was a bit autobiographical.

Simon Pegg breaks down his favorite and most iconic characters, including Tim from “Spaced,” Shaun from “Shaun of the Dead,” Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” Gary King from “The World’s End,” Scotty in “Star Trek,” Unkar Plutt in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Benji Dunn in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

(17) CAN A BOT BE AN INK-STAINED WRETCH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story has a personal edge for me as I encounter robot-written stories quite often when using MaxPreps to catch up on various high school sporting events. (Though, those particular stories are obvoiusly written by an Artificial Stupidity.) Forbes, which has dipped a toe in AI journalism itself, takes a look at the growing phenomenon (“Did A Robot Write This? How AI Is Impacting Journalism”).

How do you know I am really a human writing this article and not a robot?  Several major publications are picking up machine learning tools for content. So, what does artificial intelligence mean for the future of journalists?

According to Matt Carlson, author of “The Robotic Reporter”, the algorithm converts data into narrative news text in real-time.

Many of these being financially focused news stories since the data is calculated and released frequently. Which is why should be no surprise that Bloomberg news is one of the first adaptors of this automated content. Their program, Cyborg, churned out thousands of articles last year that took financial reports and turned them into news stories like a business reporter.

Forbes also uses an AI took called Bertie to assist in providing reporters with first drafts and templates for news stories.

(18) UNHEARD OF. Part of the experiment has failed says Gizmodo: “Small Satellites That Accompanied InSight Lander to Mars Go Silent”.

A pair of small satellites that joined the InSight mission on its way to Mars haven’t been heard from in over a month—but the experimental mission is still an important success for NASA.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 30-pound satellites named WALL-E and EVE. The relatively inexpensive satellites were the first time that CubeSats had entered the space between planets. The mission could foretell a future of spacecraft bringing more CubeSats with them in the future. 

[…] NASA lost contact with WALL-E on December 29 and with EVE on January 4. It’s possible that the probes’ antennae aren’t pointed at Earth properly, or that their solar panels aren’t pointed at the Sun and their batteries died, according to the press release.

(19) I CAN HELP. A little bit of sibling rivalry in Washington state:

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Greg Hullender, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, 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 Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 9/20/18 The Mad Pixels Have Kneed Us In The Scroll

(1) SAN DIEGO 2049. The School of Global Policy and Strategy is celebrating its 30th anniversary by partnering with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination to produce San Diego 2049, “a series of programs through 2018-19 that will use the imagination and narrative tools of science fiction to stimulate complex thinking about the future and the ways we could shape it through policy, technology, innovation, culture, and social change.”

If we are to leave the earth in better shape than we found it, successful social choices will require us to imagine distant alternate futures that reflect our best knowledge about how humans behave and evolve socially, politically, and cognitively. Science fiction gives us the needed space for long-range speculation and the complex interactions of technological, political, and social change.

Imagining the future helps us react to unanticipated situations–futures that we did not imagine. This competition and event series foster diverse visions for San Diego in 2049 from UC San Diego graduate students and draws on research by faculty across divisions. By bringing together students, science fiction writers, faculty, policy makers, and industry experts, we aim to foster the kind of multi-modal, boundary-crossing thinking that we need today to anticipate the potential shape of the world thirty years from now.

The Opening Events include a lecture by Vernor Vinge that is free and open to the public, and a workshop with Ann Pendleton-Jullian that is limited to participating UCSD graduate students.

Opening Events:

WORLDBUILDING: SCENARIOS, FOR FUN AND FOR SURVIVAL

PROGRAM KICKOFF PUBLIC LECTURE WITH VERNOR VINGE

October 12, 5 – 7pm, Robinson Auditorium, UC San Diego

Free and open to the public; RSVP required (click here)

Light reception to follow

Learn about the complex process of science fiction worldbuilding to construct a dynamic future scenario with one of the masters of the field, Vernor Vinge.

The much acclaimed science fiction writer Vernor Vinge is author, among other books, of Rainbows End, which takes place, in part, on a future UC San Diego campus. Vinge has won five Hugo Awards, including one for each of his last three novels, Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and Rainbows End (2006). Known for his rigorous hard-science approach to his science fiction, he became an iconic figure among cybernetic scientists with the publication in 1981 of his novella “True Names,” which is considered a seminal, visionary work of Internet fiction and cyberspace. Dr. Vinge is Emeritus professor of mathematics and computer science at San Diego State University and also noted, among other things, for introducing the term “the singularity.”

(2) HARD SF 2017. Rocket Stack Rank has compiled its annual short story selection of “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction” from 2017.

There are 33 outstanding stories of hard science fiction from 2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards , included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies , or recommended by prolific reviewers  in short fiction (see Q&A). That’s 33 out of 95 hard science fiction stories from that year, and out of 279 outstanding SF/F stories from 2017.

Observations:

(3) HELP WANTED. Social media help, that is. SF2 Concatenation is seeking to approach scientists (those with a BSc degree in science, technology, engineering, maths/medicine [STEM]) who are also professional SF authors: those published by a commercial SF/F genre imprint, to contribute to a special series of articles — “SF authors who are scientists wanted”.

We at SF2 Concatenation have been running a series of short articles by SF authors (folk who have had at least two or more SF books commercially published) who have a degree in science, engineering, mathematics of medicine.  These identify the top ten scientists born in the 20th century that have inspired the scientist SF authors (and by implication perhaps part of their science fiction writing?).

…What we would like you – our readers – to do is to let any SF authors you know who have a science/maths etc, degree know of this series by sending them the link to this page and then they can get in touch with us.  And/or you can get in touch with us yourself and nominate a potential contributor to this series.

You can also spread the word on your social media linking to this article.

Potential scientist authors need not currently be working in science but must have a science degree.

(4) MOOMIN PICTURES. Nicholas Whyte tells why he enjoyed “Five Moomin books, by Tove Jansson”, including Comet in Moominland —

This was the first full Moomin novel, pubished in 1946 but written in the shadow of war, and it’s not too difficult to see the metaphor of the world-altering disaster threatened here in the shape of a comet aproaching the Earth. Against this ominous background, Moomintroll, who is the central character of most of the Moomin books, along with Sniff (who fulfills a younger sibling role) and Snufkin (the Best Friend) go to the Observatory to ask advice from the Astronomer. On the way they make friends with two more siblings, the Snork and the Snork Maiden. After a series of adventures (including a dragon and a carnivorous tree), they get to the Observatory and there the Astronomer nonchalantly informs them that there is no hope – the comet will destroy everything. They return home across a devastated landscape with scurrying refugees, and at the last moment as they prepare for the end, all comes right and the world is saved.

(5) DO MORE THAN JUST RUB TWO STICKS TOGETHER. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s Ross Johnson declares that How to Invent Everything Is a Hilariously Essential Guide for Would-Be Time Travelers”.

…The book is purportedly a guide for time travelers, made from futuristic materials and discovered embedded in pre-Cambrian rock. At some point in the future, a Chronotix Solutions will invent the FC3000(tm) personal time machine. Individuals may lease the machine for travel to any point whatsoever in history and, given the particular theory of time travel at play here, do whatever they wish in the past. Since visits to the past generate alternate timelines, there’s no conceivable way to do any damage to the traveler’s original timeline. Successful journeys return the Traveller to their original frame of reference, but the stranded will find themselves stuck in a newly created timeline branching off from the moment of their arrival.

The book suggests a novel solution for the stranded: figure out when you are, and then rebuild civilization from the literal ground up as a means of making life bearable…

(5) PUMPING THE BRAKES. ScreenCrush says “Disney Plans Star Wars Franchise ‘Slowdown’”:

[CEO] Iger says he now believes Disney’s approach to Star Wars was “too much, too fast.” And there will be an adjustment moving forward:

I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast. You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna make films. J.J. [Abrams] is busy making [Episode] IX. We have creative entities, including [Game of Thrones creators David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss, who are developing sagas of their own, which we haven’t been specific about. And we are just at the point where we’re gonna start making decisions about what comes next after J.J.’s. But I think we’re gonna be a little bit more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that.

(6) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from Fantastic Fiction at KGB’s September readings:

Patrick McGrath read from his most recent novel, a ghost story titled THE WARDROBE MISTRESS and Siobhan Carroll read excerpts from a short story she recently finished.

 

Patrick McGrath and Siobhan Carroll 2

(7) GETTING READY FOR IRELAND. Something of general interest, and possibly a bit of prep a person might do before traveling to Dublin 2019 — “Free Online Course on the Book of Kells starts next month”.

A new, free, online course developed by Trinity College Dublin will allow learners worldwide to explore the history of Ireland through the remarkable Book of Kells — one of  the world’s most famous medieval manuscripts.

… Now members of the public around the world will have the opportunity to learn more about this precious manuscript through a new four-week online course. The “Book of Kells: Exploring an Irish Medieval Masterpiece” course will start on October 8th, 2018 and is run in partnership with Futurelearn, the social learning platform. The free online course is aimed at anyone with an interest in Ireland, medieval studies, history, art, religion and popular culture.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1878 – Upton Sinclair. Writer of — and would I kid you? — The Gnomobile: A Gnice Gnew Gnarrative With Gnonsense, but Gnothing Gnaughty. They’re gnomes which makes them genre. And Walt Disney himself produced it as a film shortly before his death. Mind you it was released as The Gnome-Mobile. 
  • Born September 20, 1916 – Bradford M. Day. He’s best known as an early bibliographer of science fiction and fantasy. Some of his pubs which are archived in the University of Texas System include The Complete Checklist of Science-Fiction Magazines which is complete up to the late 50s, Edgar Rice Burroughs Biblio: Materials toward a Bibliography of the Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Talbot Mundy Biblio: Materials toward a Bibliography of the Works of Talbot Mundy. Anyone recognize the last author?
  • Born September 20, 1935 – Keith Roberts. Best known I think for Pavane where the Catholic Church holds brutal rule over England after the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I. It like most of his novels were a series of linked short stories. There’s a rather good collection of ghost stories by him, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, that has an introduction by Robert Holdstock.
  • Born September 20 – George R.R. Martin, 70. Setting aside A Game of Thrones which is hardly limited to those novels, there’s The Armageddon Rag and Dying of the Light set in his Thousand Worlds universe which I really l like among his myriad novels. There’s a very nice compilation of his excellent short fiction, Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective (not a typo) and I recommend A Song for Lya as well as it’s a collection focused on his early short fiction. Awards? Hugos and  Nebulas, Bram Strokers and so forth almost beyond count.
  • Born September 20 – James P. Blaylock, 58. Writer of the Balumnia trilogy which the author says was inspired by The Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit. Other works include the Narbondo series which has two Victorian London steampunk novels which are wonderful. All of the these stories are collected in The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives. He won World Fantasy Awards for his “Thirteen Phantasms” and “Paper Dragons” stories.

(9) MAJOR PICTURES. Michael Dooley publicizes the just-released DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s Pulp Comics in his post “Pulp Fiction Facts: the Secret Origin of Comic Books”:

If you’re a fan of Golden Age comic book stories with plenty of action thrills, you should know about the military intelligence officer Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Here’s how Jim Steranko, Silver Age superstar artist on Captain America and Nick Fury, describes him: “He adventured around the globe, from hunting Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa with famed General John Pershing to fighting with Cossack warriors across Russia during WWI. … As one of the youngest cavalry members serving his country, Wheeler-Nicholson faced enemies from the Philippines to Siberia.” This character could have been the star of his own comics during those early, anything-goes 1930s and ’40s, or the hero of numerous 1920s and ’30s pulp fiction tales. And in a way, he was both….

Most of the first comics publishers came from a background in pulps, but as salesmen. The Major was the only one with the kind of creative background that greatly enhanced his understanding of genre fiction and story structure. It also gave him empathy for his artists and writers, as he crusaded for their financial equality and ownership rights. Nicky’s text provides background details as seen through her eyes and research. They’re interspersed throughout the book, which primarily displays the Major’s seldom-seen comics, drawn by a variety of artists including Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, whose careers he was instrumental in launching….

“Jerry Siegel was submitting the Superman story in many different places in the attempt to get it published. … Many people in the burgeoning and close-knit industry knew about the comic, and several had turned it down. There was only one person in that publishing arena who believed in Superman from the very beginning: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. … Jerry Siegel would later remark, ‘And so, because Nicholson had not tossed away the wrapping paper sketches, Joe and I broke into print.’”

(10) SET PHASERS TO EPONYMOUS. Space.com makes note that a planet has been found in the canonical place for Mr. Spock’s home (“Hey, Spock! Real-Life ‘Planet Vulcan’ Orbits Sun Featured in ‘Star Trek’“).

“Star Trek’s” planet Vulcan, ancestral home of Spock and his species, just became a little more real, thanks to a team of exoplanet scientists.

Because “Star Trek” creators eventually associated planet Vulcan with a real star, called 40 Eridani A, scientists have wondered for years whether a factual equivalent of the beloved science fiction planet exists, with or without pointy-eared inhabitants. And now, a team of scientists has said that the star really does host at least one planet.

“This star can be seen with the naked eye, unlike the host stars of most of the known planets discovered to date,” Bo Ma, lead author of the new research and an astronomer at the University of Florida, said in a statement. “Now, anyone can see 40 Eridani A on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock’s home.” …

(11) CONGRATULATIONS. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus takes time out for “A Word From Our Sponsor”.

Last month, I transitioned from amateur author to professional.  My first published short story, Andy and Tina, is the lead novelette in the anthology, Tales from Alternate Earths 2 (sequel to the Sidewise Award-winning Tales from Alternate Earths).

My piece starts in 1963 and features some fascinating elements of the Space Race.  I’m told by folks who aren’t even related to me that it’s a great read, as are the other nine stories in the volume.  I would be absolutely delighted (and I think you will be, too) if you would purchase a copy.  If you like my prose, and you must if you’re still here, you’ll love this book.

So go get yourself a copy!  You’ll be supporting the Journey, and you’ll be the proud owner of a fantastic book.

(12) INSPIRED HOMAGES. Scott Edelman’s “Tell Me Like You Done Before” is on sale from Lethe Press:

Wonderful and wry pastiches! Scott Edelman’s newest collection brings together his fiction inspired by master storytellers – Edgar Allan Poe, John Steinbeck, Alice Sheldon among others. Herein can be found the Shakespearean riff of a living son of the mayor of New York City falls in love with the daughter of the zombie king, a Bradburyesque aged carnival attraction who promised patrons immortality, and a Wellsian figure deals with the impossibility of miracles. The collection features notes by Edelman that offer insight into each story’s birth and the importance of the storyteller he sought to emulation.

I’m confident in guessing “The Final Charge of Mr. Electrico” is the Bradbury one.

(13) THE ATLANTIC’S DOPEST CRUSTACEANS. My question is how somebody who’d worry about this could convince themselves to eat a lobster at all — “Maine restaurant sedates lobsters with marijuana”.

A growing body of scientific findings suggest that not only lobsters but other invertebrates, such as crayfish and crabs, are able to feel pain.

The owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, Charlotte Gill, says eating the sedated lobster will not make customers high and using marijuana leads to better quality meat, as the animal is more relaxed when it dies.

(14) ANOTHER REEFER PLAN. “Jellyfish robots to watch over endangered coral reefs” — can look for reef damage without doing damage itself the way a drone with a propeller would.

A fleet of robotic jellyfish has been designed to monitor delicate ecosystems, including coral reefs.

The underwater drones were invented by engineers at Florida Atlantic University and are driven by rings of hydraulic tentacles.

The robots can squeeze through tight holes without causing damage.

One expert praised the design but warned that the man-made jellyfish might be eaten by turtles.

(15) APEX MAGAZINE. They need a basic number of subscribers to keep their print edition going – if you want to be one of them see details here.

(16) LET ROVER COME OVER. BBC reports “Hayabusa-2: Japan’s rovers ready for touchdown on asteroid”.

Japan’s space agency is preparing to deploy two robotic explorers to the surface of an asteroid.

On Friday, the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft will despatch a pair of “rovers” to the 1km-wide space rock known as Ryugu.

Rover 1A and Rover 1B will move around by hopping in Ryugu’s low gravity; they will capture images of the surface and measure temperatures.

Hayabusa-2 reached the asteroid Ryugu in June this year after a three-and-a-half-year journey.

(17) SORTING OUT SESAME STREET. John Scalzi analyzes the perpetual Bert and Ernie controversy as part of “The Whatever Digest, 9/20/18”.

I posted the tweet above the other day about the recent contretemps regarding whether Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, which was prompted by one of Sesame Street’s former writers noting he always wrote them as if they were a gay couple, which in turn prompted but Sesame Workshop and Frank Oz (creator of Bert) to aver that they were not, which in turn made Twitter explode, because, well, Twitter….

It can be truly said that Frank Oz, when he created him, did not think of Bert as being gay; it can also be truly said that at least one writer on Sesame Street, when writing Bert and Ernie, wrote them as a gay couple; it can also be truly said that the Sesame Workshop, at least publicly, doesn’t want Bert and Ernie to be considered as beings with sexuality at all….

(18) TO BE NAMED LATER. SYFY Wire brings news of a new female led ABC series from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“Marvel is developing a female-centric superhero show at ABC”)—they just don’t know what superhero will take the lead.

…Marvel is apparently looking for more female heroes on the small screen. Now, with the MCU currently thriving on Netflix, Hulu, and Freeform, an all-new female-fronted Marvel series is in the works at ABC.

According to Deadline, a new superhero show is being developed by the network, which launched the TV side of the MCU with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. back in 2013. Allan Heinberg, who wrote DC’s big screen adaptation of Wonder Woman, will be writing the series. Details are still scarce, but it’s reported to be an hour-long drama focusing on lesser-known female superheroes in the Marvel canon.

The complete lack of info on the lead didn’t stop the article’s writer, Christian Long, from taking a few guesses:

An obvious guess would be A-Force, the first all-female Avengers team that resulted from a Secret Wars crossover in 2015. They were also led by She-Hulk, who would certainly be a welcome addition to the MCU. Another possibility is Lady Liberators, who, despite a tone-deaf one-off appearance in Avengers #83 in 1970, was re-launched in 2008. It’s worth noting that they were also led by She-Hulk.

There’s also the Fearless Defenders, though they were led by Misty Knight and Valkyrie. The former is a major character in Netflix’s Luke Cage, played by Simone Missick, while the latter is portrayed on the big screen by Tessa Thompson, so neither character would likely be available.

(19) CUMBERBATCH VOICES DR. SEUSS CHARACTER. The Grinch Movie comes to theaters November 9.

The Grinch tells the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, heartwarming and visually stunning, it’s a universal story about the spirit of Christmas and the indomitable power of optimism. Academy Award® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to the infamous Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/18 The Great Emu-Scroll War Was Lost When The Pixels Attacked The Gazebo

Now, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?

(1) INFURNITY. Camestros Felapton, the world’s most understanding cat owner, provides his pet with “Tim’s Facial Hair Guide to Infinity War”.

So, I’ve explained before that Timothy doesn’t distinguish human faces well. He is also confused by facial hair. OK strictly speaking he is confused by human skin, which he assumes is fur and hence is doubly confused by facial hair which he thinks is fur that is growing out of fur. Look, the main thing is he finds beards confusing and panics if I shave.

So, Marvel’s Infinity War has many characters and about 40%+ of them have facial hair (90%+ if we count eyebrows – do eyebrows count as facial hair? I assume so.) Some of them i.e. Captain America have gained beards for this film.

So to assist Tim to keep track, here is a field guide to various beard styles in the film….

(2) PUBLIC ASKED FOR PODCAST NOMINATIONS. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations of podcasts for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15. Nominate here.


Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story

 

(3) MORE STAR WARS. Disney announced “Star Wars Resistance, Anime-Inspired Series, Set for Fall Debut”. The series is set in the era before The Force Awakens.

StarWars.com is thrilled to announce that production has begun on Star Wars Resistance, an exciting new animated adventure series about Kazuda Xiono, a young pilot recruited by the Resistance and tasked with a top-secret mission to spy on the growing threat of the First Order. It will premiere this fall on Disney Channel in the U.S. and thereafter, on Disney XD and around the world.

(4) BROADDUS JOINS APEX. Maurice Broaddus has been named nonfiction editor for Apex Magazine. Jason Sizemore, Editor-in-Chief, made the announcement April 2.

Maurice is a prolific and well-regarded author who works in a multitude of genres. He is also the Apex Magazine reprints editor and now wears two hats for our publication. Upcoming authors Maurice has lined up for essays include Mur Lafferty, Mary SanGiovanni, and Tobias S. Buckell.

You can find Maurice Broaddus on Twitter at @mauricebroaddus and online at www.mauricebroaddus.com. His novella “Buffalo Soldiers” was recently published at Tor.com.

(5) SWANWICK CITES LE GUIN ON PRESENT TENSE: Michael Swanwick would be authority enough for many, but first he appeals for support to “Le Guin on Present Tense” before handing down the stone tablets:

Here’s the rule, and it covers all cases: Only use the present tense if there is some reason for doing so that justifies losing some of your readers and annoying others. (This rule goes double for future tense.) Otherwise, use the past tense.

(6) THINGS FALL APART; THE CENTRE CANNOT HOLD: Aalto University reports 2.7 billion tweets confirm: echo chambers in Twitter are very real.

Bipartisan users, who try to bridge the echo chambers, pay a price for their work: they become less central in their network, lose connections to their communities and receive less endorsements from others.

(7) STARTING OUT AS A WOMAN SFF AUTHOR. From Fantasy Café: “Women in SF&F Month: Ann Aguirre”:

…I first sold to New York in 2007, over eleven years ago. That book was Grimspace, a story I wrote largely to please myself because it was hard for me to find the sort of science fiction that I wanted to read. I love space opera, but in the past, I found that movies and television delivered more of the stories I enjoyed. At the time, I was super excited to be published in science fiction and fantasy.

My first professional appearance was scheduled at a small con in Alabama. I was so excited for that, so fresh and full of hope. Let’s just say that my dreams were dashed quite spectacularly. I was sexually harassed by multiple colleagues and the men I encountered seemed to think I existed to serve them. To say that my work wasn’t taken seriously is an understatement. That was only reinforced when I made my first appearance at SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) six months later.

There, the moderator called me the ‘token female’, mispronounced my last name without checking with me first (she checked with the male author seated next to me), and the male panelists spoke over me, interrupted me at will, and gave me very little chance to speak. I remember quite clearly how humiliated I was, while also hoping that it wasn’t noticeable to the audience.

Dear Reader, it was very noticeable. Afterward, David Brin, who was in the audience, came up to me with a sympathetic look and he made a point of shaking my hand. He said, “Well, I was very interested in what you had to say.” With a pointed stress on the word “I.”…

(8) WTF? Can you believe somebody is comparing what they’re marketing to “The Veldt” as if it’s a good thing? “Madison Square Garden cites Ray Bradbury as an influence on upcoming Sphere Arena in Las Vegas”.

Madison Square Garden officials lifted the curtain a bit on their MSG Sphere Arena entertainment venues coming to Las Vegas and London, with a demonstration Thursday that hinted at advanced technology going into the design and experiences for audiences within the new-generation venues.

In his presentation at the Forum in Inglewood, which his company rejuvenated in 2014 with a $100-million face and body lift, Madison Square Garden Co. chairman James L. Dolan cited a short story from science-fiction author and futurist Ray Bradbury’s 1951 anthology “The Illustrated Man” as something of a spiritual model for the new facilities.

In particular, he referenced Bradbury’s story “The Veldt,” which centered on a high-tech room of the future, called the “liquid crystal room,” which could synthesize any environment in which children desired to play or explore.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 28, 2007 — Ashes of actor James Doohan and of Apollo 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper soared into space aboard a rocket.

(10) SIXTY-THREE. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus takes his monthly whack at my favorite-in-the-Sixties prozine: “[April 27, 1963] Built to Last?  (May 1963 Analog)”.

If this trend continues, we can assume that our children and grandchildren will not only have Burroughs, Wells, Verne, Shelley, and Baum to read, but also reprinted copies of our present-day science fiction, as well as the SF of the future (their present).  Perhaps they’ll all be available via some computerized library — tens of thousands of volumes in a breadbox-shaped device, for instance.

The question, then, is whether or not our children will remember our current era fondly enough to want reprints from it.  Well, if this month’s Analog be a representative sample, the answer is a definitive…maybe.

(11) HORTON ON HUGOS. Catching up with Rich Horton’s commentaries about the 2018 Hugo nominees and who he’s voting for.

My views here are fairly simple. It’s a decent shortlist, but a bifurcated one. There are three nominees that are neck and neck in my view, all first-rate stories and well worth a Hugo. And there are three that are OK, but not special – in my view not Hugo-worthy (but not so obviously unworthy that I will vote them below No Award.)…

This is really a very strong shortlist. The strongest shortlist in years and years, I’d say. Two are stories I nominated, and two more were on my personal shortlist of stories I considered nominating. The other two stories are solid work, though without quite the little bit extra I want in an award winner….

This is by no means a bad shortlist. Every story on it is at least pretty decent. …

(12) SIPPING TIME. Charles Payseur finds stories with reasons for the season: “Quick Sips – Fireside Magazine April 2018”.

Spring might finally be arriving, and at Fireside Magazine that means the stories are about rebirth and new beginnings, even as they’re about decay and endings. For me, at least, spring always brings to mind thaw. A thawing of the world after the long freeze of winter. Which means new growth, new green, but also means revealing all the death that the snow concealed. The roadkill, the rot, the dead leaves not yet turned to mulch. And these stories find characters at this point, seeing all around them the evidence of death and pain, and having to make the decision to also see the life. To see the good, and to try and foster that good, to help it grow. These are stories that show people pushing back against the pressure to die, to be silent, and embrace a future full of the possibility of failure, yes, but also full of the hope of success. To the reviews!

(13) GENIUSES AT WORK. Nine letters from the 1940s by Freeman Dyson show “Another Side of Feynman” at Nautilus.

l through a long life I had three main concerns, with a clear order of priority. Family came first, friends second, and work third.”

So writes the pioneering theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson in the introduction to his newly published collection of letters, Maker of Patterns. Spanning about four decades, the collection presents a first-person glimpse into a life that witnessed epochal changes both in world history and in physics.

Here, we present short excerpts from nine of Dyson’s letters, with a focus on his relationship with the physicist Richard Feynman. Dyson and Feynman had both professional and personal bonds: Dyson helped interpret and draw attention to Feynman’s work—which went on to earn a Nobel Prize—and the two men traveled together and worked side by side.

Taken together, these letters present a unique perspective of each man. Feynman’s effervescent energy comes through, as does Dyson’s modesty and deep admiration for his colleague.

(14) ADVANCED TRAINING. Did MZW graduate from this course?

(15) EJECT. Yes, this is me: I sometime I feel like I have finished delivering the info yet haven’t figured out how to end the sentence. “Your Speech Is Packed With Misunderstood, Unconscious Messages” at Nautilus.

Imagine standing up to give a speech in front of a critical audience. As you do your best to wax eloquent, someone in the room uses a clicker to conspicuously count your every stumble, hesitation, um and uh; once you’ve finished, this person loudly announces how many of these blemishes have marred your presentation.

This is exactly the tactic used by the Toastmasters public-speaking club, in which a designated “Ah Counter” is charged with tallying up the speaker’s slip-ups as part of the training regimen. The goal is total eradication. The club’s punitive measures may be extreme, but they reflect the folk wisdom that ums and uhs betray a speaker as weak, nervous, ignorant, and sloppy, and should be avoided at all costs, even in spontaneous conversation.

Many scientists, though, think that our cultural fixation with stamping out what they call “disfluencies” is deeply misguided. Saying um is no character flaw, but an organic feature of speech; far from distracting listeners, there’s evidence that it focuses their attention in ways that enhance comprehension.

Disfluencies arise mainly because of the time pressures inherent in speaking. Speakers don’t pre-plan an entire sentence and then mentally press “play” to begin unspooling it. If they did, they’d probably need to pause for several seconds between each sentence as they assembled it, and it’s doubtful that they could hold a long, complex sentence in working memory. Instead, speakers talk and think at the same time, launching into speech with only a vague sense of how the sentence will unfold, taking it on faith that by the time they’ve finished uttering the earlier portions of the sentence, they’ll have worked out exactly what to say in the later portions.

(16) A MARCH IN MAY. Naomi Kritzer tweeted photos from a Mayday parade – including a notorious purple cat (who may or may not be named Timothy!…) Jump on the thread here:

(17) WHAT’S THAT SMELL. BBC tells how “Sentinel tracks ships’ dirty emissions from orbit” — unclear they’re picking up individual polluters yet, but that could come.

Sentinel-5P was launched in October last year and this week completed its in-orbit commissioning phase.

But already it is clear the satellite’s data will be transformative.

This latest image reveals the trail of nitrogen dioxide left in the air as ships move in and out of the Mediterranean Sea.

The “highway” that the vessels use to navigate the Strait of Gibraltar is easily discerned by S5P’s Tropomi instrument.

(18) EGGING THEM ON. Did anybody see this coming? “Chicken Run 2: Sequel confirmed after 18-year wait”.

The Oscar-winning animation studio hasn’t set a release date yet. Its announcement comes 18 years after the original flew onto the big screen.

Chicken Run is the highest-grossing stop-motion animation film of all-time – banking £161.3m at the box office.

 

(19) HOLD THE BACON. On the other hand, don’t expect to see this anytime soon: Hollywood Reporter headline: ““Tremors’ Reboot Starring Kevin Bacon Dead at Syfy”

Here’s a headline you don’t read every day: A TV reboot of a feature film toplined by the original star is not moving forward.

Syfy has opted to pass on its TV follow-up to 1990 feature film Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon.

…Bacon broke the news himself, writing on his verified Instagram page that he was “[s]ad to report that my dream of revisiting the world of Perfection will not become a reality. Although we made a fantastic pilot (IMHO) the network has decided not to move forward. Thanks to our killer cast and everyone behind the scenes who worked so hard. And always keep one eye out for GRABOIDS!”

(20) CHESLEYS. Here is the Association for Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) “2018 Chesley Award Suggestions List (for 2017 Works)”. The members have finished making nominations and ASFA says the finalists will be posted in a few weeks.

(21). UNSUSPECTED GOLDMINE. American news infamously neglects most countries of the world, but who knew there were big sf doings in Bulgaria? At Aeon, Victor Petrov discusses “Communist robot dreams”.

The police report would have baffled the most grizzled detective. A famous writer murdered in a South Dakota restaurant full of diners; the murder weapon – a simple hug. A murderer with no motive, and one who seemed genuinely distraught at what he had done. You will not find this strange murder case in the crime pages of a local US newspaper, however, but in a Bulgarian science-fiction story from the early 1980s. The explanation thus also becomes more logical: the killer was a robot.

The genre was flourishing in small Bulgaria in the last two decades of socialism, and the country became the biggest producer of robotic laws per capita, supplementing Isaac Asimov’s famous three with two more canon rules – and 96 satirical ones. Writers such as Nikola Kesarovski (who wrote the above murder mystery) and Lyuben Dilov grappled with questions of the boundaries between man and machine, brain and computer. The anxieties of their literature in this period reflected a society preoccupied with technology and cybernetics, an unlikely bastion of the information society that arose on both sides of the Iron Curtain from the 1970s onwards.

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