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

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

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

There’s a flock of character posters, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of those books is –

The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of those picks is –

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today In History 12/19

Apollo 17 splashdown COMPDecember 19, 1972: The splashdown of Apollo 17 marks the end of the United States’ manned moon exploration program.

The Apollo 17 spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean at 2:25 p.m. and soon after Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt were picked up and flown by helicopter to the recovery ship U.S.S. Ticonderoga.

Although that closed the first chapter in the history of manned space exploration, it is not the most famous fact about the mission.

As Apollo 17 was en route to the Moon, the crew took a photo of the Earth from space that became known as  “The Blue Marble” photo.  NASA archivist Mike Gentry has speculated that may be the most widely distributed image in human history.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17 COMP

Ironically, the photo is such an icon that it was even used in the 1995 Tom Hanks film Apollo 13 — every time the crew looked out the window that was the view, a photograph taken by Apollo 17. (This, despite there being photos of Earth actually taken by Apollo 13.)

Scott_1371,_Apollo_8The “Big Blue Marble” should not be confused with the famous “Earthrise” image taken by Apollo 8, and used in a 1969 stamp commemorating the mission.

Apollo 17 is also notable for furnishing pop culture with a couple of fictional characters. One-time astronaut Steve Austin of The Six Million Dollar Man (based on the 1972 novel Cyborg) is described in the book as watching the Earth “fall away during Apollo XVII” – indicating he was aboard the spacecraft. Likewise, in Deep Impact (1998), the President calls Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner, portrayed by Robert Duvall, the “last man to walk on the moon,” implying he was a crew member.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]