Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls

(1) ONE STOP SHOPPING. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s Autumn 2019 edition is up. Voluminous seasonal news and reviews page of both SF and science which includes the major UK SF/fantasy imprint book releases between now and New Year.  (Many of these will be available as imports in N. America and elsewhere.)

(2) LEM V. DICK. [Editor’s note: I apologize for what amounts to misspelling, but characters that WordPress would display as question marks have been changed to a letter of the alphabet without marks.]

[Item by Jan Vanek Jr.] Yesterday the English-language website of the Polish magazine Przekrój published (and started promoting on Facebook, hence my knowledge) the translation of a 2,700-word excerpt (not a self-contained “chapter” as they claim) from Wojciech Orlinski’s 2017 biography of Stanislaw Lem detailing what led to “the famous Lem-Dick imbroglio” with PKD’s “famous Lem report to the FBI”: “access to previously unpublished letters […] resulted in what is likely the first accurate description of the incident, as well as the ultimate explanation as to how the concept of ‘foreign royalties under communism’ is almost as much of a mess as ‘fine dining under communism’ (but not quite as fine a mess)”:

…It all began with Lem’s depiction of Dick – in the third of his great essay collections, Science Fiction and Futurology as little more than a talentless hack. Lem had a poor opinion of almost all American authors, and never thought much of the literary genre of which he himself was an exponent (think of his equally critical view of Pirx the Pilot, for example, or Return from the Stars)….

I found it a quite informative and interesting read, although “Lem’s unfortunate expulsion from the SFWA” that ensued is mentioned only briefly and I think misleadingly (I have checked the Polish book and there is nothing more about it, but it has been described in American sources, many of them online).

(3) ABOUT AO3’S HUGO AWARD. The Organization for Transformative Works has clarified to Archive of Our Own participants — “Hugo Award – What it Means”.

We’re as excited as you are about the AO3’s Hugo win, and we are shouting it to the rafters! We are grateful to the World Science Fiction Society for recognizing the AO3 with the award, as well as to the many OTW volunteers who build and maintain the site, and all of the amazing fans who post and enjoy works on it.

The World Science Fiction Society has asked us to help them get the word out about what the award represented—specifically, they want to make sure people know that the Hugo was awarded to the AO3, and not to any particular work(s) hosted on it. Therefore, while we can all be proud of the AO3’s Hugo win and we can all be proud of what we contributed to making it possible, the award does not make any individual fanwork or creator “Hugo winners”—the WSFS awarded that distinction to the AO3 as a whole. In particular, the WSFS asked us to convey this reminder so that no one mistakenly describes themselves as having personally won a Hugo Award.

Thanks for sharing our enthusiasm, and consider yourselves reminded! We appreciate every one of your contributions.

So far there are 80 comments, any number by Kevin Standlee making Absolutely Clear Everybody Must Understand Things Exactly The Way He Does. One reply says, “You aren’t doing a particularly good job of reading the room here.”

(4) ARISIA PERSISTED. Arisia 2020 has issued its first online Progress Report. Key points: (1) It’s happening! (2) It’s (back) at the Westin Boston Waterfront. (3) The headliners are Cadwell Turnbull, Author Guest of Honor, Kristina Carroll, Artist Guest of Honor, and Arthur Chu, Fan Guest of Honor.

(5) BOO!  LAist primes fans for Universal Studios’ Halloween mazes: “Halloween Horror Nights: A Photo Tour Of The New ‘Ghostbusters’ & ‘Us’ Mazes At Universal Studios”.

Halloween’s almost here… well, OK, it’s more than a month away, but that means it’s time for Halloween haunts — aka Halloween mazes, aka scary Halloween things at theme parks and the like, to start.

Halloween Horror Nights has been taking over Universal Studios Hollywood for 21 years, and we got the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of two of the brand new mazes, Ghostbusters and Us. We were guided through by Creative Director John Murdy, the man in charge of creating the stories and the scares inside all of the mazes.

He works with an art director to design every moment, writing treatments for each attraction than can run up to 100 pages.

“It’s a narrative from the guest’s POV — everything I see, hear, smell, etcetera, as if I’m going through the maze,” Murdy said. “But it also has a very elaborate technical breakdown by scene, by discipline, down to the timecode of the audio cues.”

(6) DUBLIN 2019. Cora Buhlert’s report begins with — “WorldCon 77 in Dublin, Part 1: The Good…”. There’s also a shorter version for the Speculative Fiction Showcase: “Cora’s Adventures at Worldcon 77 in Dublin, Ireland”. Each has lots of photos.

…On Wednesday, the day before WorldCon officially started, I helped with move in and set-up at Point Square. This involved carrying boxes, assembling shelves for the staff lounge and crafting area, taping down table cloths and helping to set up the Raksura Colony Tree model. This was my first time volunteering at a WorldCon and it was a great experience. Not only do you get to help to make a great project like WorldCon happen, no, you also get to meet a lot of lovely people while volunteering. Especially if you’re new to WorldCon and don’t know anybody yet, I recommend volunteering as a way to meet people and make friends. What is more, I also got a handful of groats (which I used to buy a very pretty necklace in the dealers room) and a cool t-shirt.

(7) MEMORIAL. Jim C. Hines tweeted the link to his post about the Memorial held for his wife, Amy, on September 8, a touching and highly personal tribute.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 14, 2008The Hunger Games novel hit bookstores. (For some reason, the bookstores did not hit back.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1915 Douglas Kennedy. No major SFF roles that I see but he’s been in a number of films of a genre nature: The Way of All Flesh, The Ghost Breakers, The Mars InvadersThe Land UnknownThe Lone Ranger and the Lost City of GoldThe Alligator People and The Amazing Transparent Man. Series wise, he had one-offs on Alcoa PresentsScience Fiction TheatreAlfred Hitchcock Presents and The Outer Limits. (Died 1973.)
  • Born September 14, 1919 Claire P. Beck. Editor of the Science Fiction Critic, a fanzine which published in four issues Hammer and Tongs, the first work of criticism devoted to American SF. It was written by his brother Clyde F. Beck. Science Fiction Critic was published from 1935 to 1938. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 14, 1927 Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 14, 1932 Joyce Taylor, 87. She first shows as Princess Antillia in Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Later genre appearances were The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the first English language Beauty and the Beast film, the horror film Twice-Told Tales and the Men into Space SF series. 
  • Born September 14, 1936 Walter Koenig, 83. Best-known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a 28% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and InAlienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. 
  • Born September 14, 1941 Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them as Dr. Jeff Brenner.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 14, 1947 Sam Neill, 72. Best known for role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park which he reprised in Jurassic Park III. He was also in Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession, Memoirs of an Invisible ManSnow White: A Tale of TerrorBicentennial ManLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’HooleThe Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas BoxThor: Ragnarok and Peter Rabbit. 
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 58. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. And he has other series going as well! Another nineteen novels written, and then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest ask deep questions about Pokémon.
  • A Tom Gauld cartoon about The Testaments launch in The Guardian.

(11) LUCAS MUSEUM. George Lucas, his wife Mellody Hobson, and the mayor dropped by the site yesterday to see how things are going: “Force Is With Them! Construction Of George Lucas Museum In Full Swing”.

Construction of the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is in full swing.

On Friday, Lucas — along with his wife and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — watched as construction crews helped bring his vision to life.

And he thanked them for the tireless effort.

“You’re doing the impossible — thank you so much,” Lucas said.

“Millions of people will be inspired by this building. We were just in our board meeting for the museum and George said you are the artists so you’re the artists of this art museum,” says Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO of Ariel Investments and the museum’s co-founder.

(12) LISTEN TO LIEN. Henry Lien is the Special Guest Star on this week’s episode of  The Write Process podcast, hosted by the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program — “Henry Lien on Worldbuilding, Puzzle Stories, Middle Grade, & Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions”

Henry Lien teaches law and creative writing at UCLA Extension. A private art dealer, he is the author of the Peasprout Chen middle grade fantasy series, which received New York Times acclaim and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.

(13) COSPLAY ID’S. SYFY Wire has collected all the tweeted photos — “Detroit high school encourages students to dress as pop culture icons for ID photos”.

High school can be a turbulent time for any budding teenager, but when you’re allowed to dress up as your favorite movie or television character, facing picture day isn’t the daunting challenge it once was. Per a report from The Huffington Post, North Farmington High School in the suburbs of Detroit allowed its senior pupils to assume the persona of their favorite pop culture icon for the sake of ID photographs. What followed was a parade of Woodys (Toy Story), Shuris (Black Panther) Fionas (Shrek), creepy twins (The Shining), and so many more!

(14) GUTS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles YA graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier, whose autobiographical graphic novels have sold 13.5 million copies and  who attracted an audience of 4,000 to her talk at the National Book Festival. “Raina Telgemeier became a hero to millions of readers by showing how uncomfortable growing up can be”.

…Now, because her fans kept asking, she is getting more personal than ever. The Eisner Award-winning author who launched her publishing empire with 2010?s “Smile,” about her years-long dental adventures as a kid, is prepared to bare new parts of her interior world with “Guts,” available Tuesday, which centers on how fear affected her body.

 “This is the reality of my life,” Telgemeier told her fans. She quickly got to the heart and GI tract of the matter: “I was subject to panic attacks and [was] worrying that something was really wrong with me.”…

(15) SIGNAL BOOST. Naomi Kritzer offers an incentive for supporting a cause that needs a cash infusion.

(16) MARATHON SITTINGS. The Hollywood Reporter considers “The Long Game: Super-Sized Movies Are Testing the Patience of Audiences”.

And there may be a financial cost. Over the Sept. 6-8 weekend, New Line and director Andy Muschietti’s It: Chapter Two opened to $91 million domestically, a 26 percent decline from the first It, which debuted to $123.4 million on the same weekend in 2017. The sequel ran a hefty 169 minutes, 34 minutes longer than its predecessor.

“Andy had a lot of story to tell in concluding his adaptation of Stephen King’s book, which is more than 1,100 pages,” says Jeff Goldstein, chief of distribution for Warner Bros., New Line’s parent. “We strategically added more shows and locations to counterbalance losing a show on each screen.”

Adds a rival studio executive regarding It: Chapter Two, “look, $91 million is a great number. But anytime the second film in a hoped-for franchise goes down — and not up — that’s not what you wish for. And I do think the fact that it was so long didn’t help.”

(17) COLBERT. Stephen Colbert’s “Meanwhile…” news roundup includes a furry joke related to the movie Cats, and a bit on “The 5D Porn Cinema No One Asked For.” These items start at 2.02 — here on YouTube.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Cinema verite of author Liz Hand on Vimeo. A 5-minute video of Hand at work and play

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

Second Arbitration Decision Goes Against Arisia

Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President of Arisia, Inc., reports the other shoe has dropped — the group will owe another large amount from the Westin arbitration decision on top of the penalties already due to the Aloft/Marriott (“Arisia Suffers Reverse in Contract Dispute with Aloft”). The liabilities resulted from the Boston convention’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels for their 2019 event.

Shectman’s statement tells the precise liability owed to the Aloft, and the amount of the judgment in the Westin case.

This morning, the Executive Board received notice of the fees and interest due to the Aloft in addition to the $44,417.50 award. These total $16,731.71.

This afternoon, the Executive Board was informed that the ADR with the Westin was decided against us. Judgment was set at $50,000 plus fees and interest, exact amount still unknown but probably similar to the Aloft.

This, combined with the loss in the Aloft case, presents Arisia with obligations that far exceed our reserves and expected immediate income. Whether this is a loss in excess of what Arisia can manage depends a great deal on what terms of payment can be agreed. Paying $125,000 is impossible now, but might be possible over some number of years, even with interest.

The Eboard is continuing to consult with legal counsel and attempting to negotiate with Marriott in order to clarify exactly what our options are and what the costs of these options would be. We will keep the membership informed as the situation develops further.

We recognize and appreciate our community’s willingness to support us with additional dollars. Fundraising is likely to be a part of any scenario. We should have more information there within a few weeks. Fundraising details will depend on pending legal questions, so we would prefer not to speculate on what shape that will take until then.

This matter will certainly be discussed at the upcoming corporate meeting on August 22nd. At this time, the Eboard has no motion or recommendation that it plans to bring. Until we learn otherwise, nothing is off the table.

We would also like to thank the Arisia community for its continued support through the uncertain days ahead.  Your enthusiasm is why we do this, and we couldn’t do it without you.

 — Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President, Arisia Inc.

Pixel Scroll 7/13/19 Our House Hasn’t Collapsed Under The Weight Of All The Books Yet

(1) ARISIA BACK IN THE WESTIN. The convention website indicates Arisia 2020 will return to the Westin Boston Waterfront, from January 17-20, 2020.

(2) READERCON. Kate Nepveu compiled a great set of panel notes about the Readercon panel “Translation and Embedded Assumptions” with Anatoly Belilovsky, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Pablo Defendini, Tamara Vardomskaya (mod).

Neil: is publishing translations without being able to read original, has to count on team of people. So a lot of these granular issues settled before comes to, but not always. It’s interesting when there’s an American in the translated story . . . who is not always that American. They try to get the spirit of story across, so often work extra with the translators on that situation. Has edited bilingual anthology of Chinese SF, two volumes published in China, not been able to get published in U.S.

Tamara: gives example from Ada Palmer, in whose books gender is outlawed: everyone uses “they” (except narrator) to signal that progressive viewpoint has won. Polish translator said, in Polish that’s the conservative position, the progressive is to give high visibility to female existence (e.g., “waitress and waiter”, not “server”). Ada went with political connotation rather than word-for-word….

(3) SHINY. Nature’s David Seed delves into “Two millennia of lunar literature”:

The Moon’s luminous, cratered face, visible to the naked eye, has sparked the imaginations of writers and scientists for centuries with much proto-science fiction…

This included the second-century Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata, whose A True Story is often cited as the first science-fiction narrative….

But Greek the biographer Plutarch’s Moralia (ad 100) is arguably the first such narrative to introduce scientific ideas…

Lunar literature began to crystallize in the ferment of the Renaissance, and to surge in the seventeenth century…

(4) TRUE CONFESSIONS. At American Magazine, Tom Deignan asks “Why do Catholic priests keep popping up in sci-fi?”

This month, Simon & Schuster will reissue a short story collection entitled The Toynbee Convector, by science fiction master Ray Bradbury, best known for classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. First published in 1988, The Toynbee Convector features 23 stories, among them “Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned,” about a priest who hears a chilling confession on a snowy Christmas Eve.

That story—as well as countless other science fiction classics published over the centuries—raises an intriguing question: Why do priests and other religious figures play such an important role in the fantastic worlds and futuristic dystopias conjured by a wide range of sci-fi writers?

(5) SPACE INVADERS. The Alien Party Crashers official trailer has dropped.

In the style of Shaun Of The Dead, The Lost Boys and Attack the Block, this is a funny, dark and action packed sci-fi horror comedy that pits a group of drunken friends on New Years Eve in a Welsh valley against an invasion task force of creepy time-traveling aliens. A kick-ass M.O.D agent, an insecure radio DJ and a kung fu master who owns the local B&B learn their new years resolution this year is simple: STAY ALIVE.”

(6) HEAR WRITERS’ THOUGHT PROCESSES. Authors Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alexandra Rowland, and Rowenna Miller have started a podcast called World Building for Masochists, Downloadable at the website, transcripts also available. They have two episodes out so far. The first, “Playing God in Your Spare Time” includes this exchange:

ROWENNA: …I think that I start thinking about the character first, and what are they encountering, what do they have for breakfast, what do they see when they go out of their door in the morning, and there might be things that the character doesn’t know about their world. I think, you know, like you, Marshall, I started the story in a city, and my character actually doesn’t know very much about what’s going on outside of that city; she’s never been outside of it. So there’s kind of a freedom there for her to be ignorant, and it was kind of weird for me at first to be like, okay, there are things that I might know, but I need to keep that shoved aside, because there’s no reason for her to know what this other city would look like, or what the patterns of trade are between, you know, these two coastal towns. She’s never been there, she has no idea. 

MARSHALL: But she might have, say, heard the name, and has her own preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to be.

ALEXANDRA: And I think that having a character with some degree of ignorance can also be a really useful tool for you as an author, because then you can — and I’m going to keep bringing this up because it’s my favorite trick of all time to use — you can sort of build a negative space and invite your character to make assumptions about the world, and also invite the reader to make assumptions about the world…

We’re keeping an eye out for the arrival of “World Building for Sadists,” too.

(7) HEAR IT MEOW? “Do critics think Lion King is a ‘roaring success’?” – BBC has compiled their reactions.

Disney’s Lion King remake, starring Donald Glover and Beyonce, has been described equally by pun-tastic critics as both a “roaring success” and “tame”.

The original 1994 animation won two Oscars for best music and score, while the stage version is also Broadway’s top grossing musical.

…In a four-star review, The Telegraph said “the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside”.

…The Guardian, were less impressed with the film, writing the “deepfake copycat ain’t so grrreat.”

(8) STRANGER THAN EVER. The Hollywood Reporter brings word that “Nielsen Confirms ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is a Big Hit”.

Netflix has said that Stranger Things amassed a bigger audience over its first four days than any other original show in its history. New data from Nielsen shows that a lot of people did, in fact, spend the July 4 holiday weekend watching the series.

Per the ratings service’s SVOD content ratings, the eight episodes of Stranger Things 3 had an average minute audience — the closest approximation for streaming shows to Nielsen’s average viewership on linear TV — of 12.8 million viewers over its first four days of release. That’s a 21 percent increase over the same time frame after the release of season two in October 2017 (10.6 million)

(9) AFTER THE KING RETURNED. Paul Weimer is back to discuss a Robin Hood-themed novel in “Microreview [book]: Brightfall, by Jaime Lee Moyer” at Nerds of a Feather.

The other characters in the novel, human and otherwise, are the strength, power and richness of the novel. Beyond Marian herself, Robin comes off as a prat at first, someone to intensely dislike and hate because of his abandonment of Marian. The reasons how and why he did so, and his ultimate connection with the unraveling of the plot, humanize him to a degree, but the writer’s and reader’s intended sympathy comes off the page intended for Marian. Even by the end of the novel, I still thought he was a prat for his actions, even if I ultimately understood the how and why of them by the end of the novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he says to play three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Wombles, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart, 79. If you count The Avengers as genre (and I certainly do), his first SF role was as a man walking in from the sea in “The Town of No Return” episode. Setting aside Trek, other memorable genre roles include Leodegrance in Excalibur, Gurney Halleck in Dune, Prof. Macklin in The Doctor and the Devils, Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise and he’s played Macbeth myriad times in the theatre world. 
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 77. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. his work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost Rider, Kull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of Horrors, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 77. His best films? Raiders of The Ark, Star Wars and Blade Runner. Surely that’s not debatable. His worst film? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Equally not debatable.
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 64. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 66. A conrunner who co-chaired the 1999 World Fantasy Convention with his wife, Davey Snyder, he also has worked Worldcons as a Division Head, and chaired Bosklone, Lexicon 7 and Boskone 24. He was made a Fellow of NESFA in 1979. Other fannish credits include book editing, Worldcon floor plans, and producer of fannish theatricals.
  • Born July 13, 1966 David X. Cohen, 53. Head writer and executive producer of Futurama. Cohen is a producer of Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s fantasy series on Netflix. He also wrote a number of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on the Simpson’s which have a strong genre slant such as “Treehouse of Horror VII” (“Citizen Kang”). 
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 38. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back four years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IN THIS DICTIONARY, HIS PICTURE REALLY IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE WORD. For reasons you can now guess, Sir Patrick Stewart figures in the entry for the Wikitionary word of the day for July 13, 2019: “calvous”.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alastair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 12th July 2019” stops “in at Centerville for Jim Jarmusch’s deeply strange The Dead Don’t Die, which may be the oddest horror movie you’ll see this year. It’s certainly, along with Midsommar, one of the most interesting. Also on deck this week is Greg van Eekhout’s startlingly good middle-grade SF novel Cog and the always excellent ZoomDoom Stories continue to impress with season one of The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.”

The Dead Don’t Die

The best way to spot a Jim Jarmusch movie is to throw a dart, blindfold, at a wall of ideas. He’s done existential westerns (Dead Man), anthologies about taxi drivers (Night on Earth), a documentary about The Stooges (Gimme Danger) and the best hip-hop/samurai/film noir movie ever made (Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai). Now, he’s turned his attention to horror comedy and the result is so inherently Jarmuschian it basically breaks the meter and embeds the needle in the wall of the lab. Where, I can only assume, Bill Murray stares at it for a moment, goes…’Huh’ and then continues about his day.

(14) SHALL WE DANCE?

(15) WHEN I’M ’64. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is fascinated by the new Doctor Who series – in 1964: “[July 12th, 1964] Mind Over Matter (Doctor Who: The Sensorites [Part 1])”.

Can I admit to something silly? I am a little bit scared of mind-readers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually believe in telepaths. Then again, who knows what sort of freaky experiments certain entities get up to.

I just think the idea of someone reading my mind, or even manipulating it, is one of the most horrifying concepts out there.

And it looks like Doctor Who agrees with me.

(16) CHESS PLAYER CHEATED IN TOILET. I saw ESPN’s headline and I said to myself, that’ll get some clicks. They sourced their post from this Chess.com story:

GM Igors Rausis is under investigation for cheating after he was caught with his phone during a game at the Strasbourg Open. The 58-year-old Latvian-Czech grandmaster had raised suspicions after he increased his rating in recent years to almost 2700.

During an open tournament July 10-14 in Strasbourg, France, a phone was found in a toilet that had just been used by Rausis. He later signed a declaration that the phone was his.

Whether he was using his phone to get assistance from a chess engine is not clear at the moment.

In a comment to Chess.com, Rausis said:

I simply lost my mind yesterday. I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game by written [statement]. What could I say more? Yes, I was tired after the morning game and all the Facebook activity of accusers also have a known impact. At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me—I played my last game of chess already.

…Six years ago, in May 2013, [Rausis’] rating was still 2518, and it had fluctuated around the 2500 mark for at least 10 years. It has since increased by almost 200 points. 

Over the last six years, Rausis increased his rating steadily as he mostly limited himself to playing lower-rated opponents against whom he continued scoring perfectly or almost perfectly. For instance, in the July 2019 rating calculations, he scored 24.5/25 against almost only players rated more than 400 points below his own rating.

…To increase one’s rating like Rausis did requires almost perfect play over a long period of time, which is not easy even against very low opposition.

The case of Rausis is similar to that of a Georgian grandmaster who got banned from a tournament in 2015 after his phone was found in a toilet. In that case, it was discovered that he had been analyzing his position with a chess engine. He was banned for three years and lost his GM title.

(17) GET THE SHOT. NPR remembers “The Camera That Went To The Moon And Changed How We See It” – a feature with lots of pictures — some well-known, some less so.

In the summer of 1962, Walter Schirra — who would soon become America’s third man to orbit the Earth — walked into a Houston photo supply shop looking for a camera he could take into space.

He came out with a Hasselblad 500C, a high-end Swedish import that had been recommended to him by photographers from Life and National Geographic.

“He was sort of an amateur photographer,” Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in charge of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s astronaut cameras, says of Schirra. “Somewhere along the line, the decision was made that he could select what camera was flown on his flight.”

…When NASA got a look at Schirra’s Hasselblad, they liked what they saw. The space agency purchased at least one more. Engineers tore into the off-the-shelf consumer model to make it space-worthy. They stripped it down to save weight and painted it dull black to reduce reflections. They also had to “astronaut-proof it,” says Cole Rise, a photographer and filmmaker who builds custom reproductions of the Hasselblad space cameras.

…Hasselblad’s Chris Cooze says until then, the space agency was so focused on the technical side of spaceflight that photography was something of an afterthought.

He says it was in 1965, when NASA released stunning photos of Ed White’s spacewalk on Gemini 4, that Hasselblad “put two and two together” and realized the pictures were taken with one of their cameras.

“Then they got in touch with NASA to see if there was anything that we could cooperate on,” Cooze says.

(18) FOLLOW THE BOUNCING ‘BOW. “Rippling Rainbow Map Shows How California Earthquakes Moved The Earth”NPR has the story.

Curious how much the ground shifted after the two large earthquakes last week in Southern California? NASA has just the map for that question — and it happens to look like beautiful, psychedelic art.

On July 4, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the town of Ridgecrest, north of Los Angeles. The next evening, the area was jolted again by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or major infrastructure damage.

The map was created by the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It shows rippling rainbows forming a circular pattern around the faults of the two quakes.

Each rainbow stripes[sic] means that the ground has been displaced there by some 4.8 inches. It’s the same logic as a topographic map, where lines that are closer together indicate steeper slopes. In this case, the closer together the rainbow stripes are, the more the ground was displaced by the temblor.

(19) THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT. Steve J. Wright has done both sets of Hugo editor categories now:

The editing categories are always hard for us non-initiates to judge; we do not know the Dark Arts of editorship, the secret and sacred magic by which a piece of text is transmogrified into a professional story…. However, at least we can see the general tenor of a skiffy magazine, and read, well, editorials and the like, and we can work out from that how the short-form editors think.  Sort of.

And, of course, it is distorted in 1943 by the unassailable fact that there’s only one right answer: Astounding, edited by John W. Campbell Jr.  Like it or not, Campbell was shaping science fiction in his own image at this time.  He is the unavoidable choice; the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of the SF world.

Wright begins his Long Form Editor reviews (the Retro category was cancelled) with the same observation, but faithful to the category, at greater length:

Anyway, here we are again, with the category no one is particularly qualified to decide on.  We don’t know, for example, if Beth Meacham found a scrawled note one day that read “dere iz dis wumman who wantz 2 b a spaceman” and worked it up into The Calculating Stars from that, or if Mary Robinette Kowal submitted the manuscript exactly in its current form, and Meacham’s only contribution was to fling it at a passing minion with a cry of “Publish this!”  The truth, of course, must lie somewhere in between those extremes… and it is probably (unless you’re actually interested in the minutiae of the editing profession) pretty darn boring, for those of us not directly concerned.  I think it was John Sladek who said that there were secrets of the universe which Man was not meant to know, and some of them are not even worth knowing.

(20) BLACK HOLE DETECTIVE. BBC says it has lifted off: “Spektr-RG: Powerful X-ray telescope launches to map cosmos”.

One of the most significant Russian space science missions in the post-Soviet era has launched from Baikonur.

The Spektr-RG telescope is a joint venture with Germany that will map X-rays across the entire sky in unprecedented detail.

Researchers say this information will help them trace the large-scale structure of the Universe.

The hope is Spektr-RG can provide fresh insights on the accelerating behaviour of cosmic expansion.

It should also identify a staggering number of new X-ray sources, such as the colossal black holes that reside at the centre of galaxies.

As gas falls into these monsters, the matter is heated and shredded and “screams” in X-rays. The radiation is essentially a telltale for the Universe’s most violent phenomena.

Spektr-RG is expecting to detect perhaps three million super-massive black holes during its service life.

(21) APOLLO DOCUMENTARY. Assembled by Voice of America:

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic mission to land humans on the surface of the moon, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh presents this reflection of the monumental achievement through the eyes of the NASA astronauts themselves. In exclusive interviews Farabaugh gathered, the men of the Apollo program reflect on the path to the moon, and what lies beyond.

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

Arisia Suffers Reverse in Contract Dispute with Aloft

Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President of Arisia, Inc., reports the group has suffered a major setback in litigation over the Boston convention’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels for the 2019 event. An arbitrator has made a large award to one of the hotels, the Aloft (under Marriott management). Con organizers are questioning whether the event can survive a second decision of that magnitude.

Shectman’s statement explains the immediate situation:

Last month, Arisia participated in an arbitration hearing for the dispute with the Aloft Boston Seaport District hotel over our strike response and move to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel for 2019.

Yesterday (July 9th), Arisia received notification that arbitration in the Aloft case went against us. The arbitrator agreed with Marriott’s arguments and awarded them $44,000 plus fees. They have 20 days to state an exact schedule of fees they will ask for; we expect it to be in the range of $10,000 – $20,000. As a high end, a penalty of $65,000 is something that Arisia can absorb, but only just. We still expect to win the Westin Boston Waterfront arbitration due to differences in contract wording, and we expect Marriott believes they will win. A loss there would incur a similar cost.

Losing both cases would exceed Arisia’s financial resources. The Arisia Eboard is actively investigating what would happen next, and what we can and cannot do in various dissolution scenarios. We expect to know soon what these scenarios might cost us.  We are also still learning what our legal obligations would be for gracefully wrapping up operations in case we must dissolve, including expenditures like making grants, the 2020 convention, paying our storage costs, and so on. Bankruptcy proceedings themselves can take considerable time, and can involve additional legal costs.

Tomorrow morning (July 11th) is the hearing for the Westin arbitration. We are also in negotiations with the Marriott lawyers for a possible settlement.  We expect to have more news to share publicly on both of those topics in the coming weeks.

Pixel Scroll 6/26/19 Pixel Scroll Powers Activate!

(1) HILL HOUSE. Whatever DC Comics’ other problems may be, they’re pretty sure they can sell this: “DC Launching New Horror Line From Writer Joe Hill”.

Hill House Comics will consist of five miniseries and debut this October. Just days after announcing the closure of the DC Vertigo imprint, DC is signaling that it hasn’t moved away from creator-owned comic book material. The publisher has announced a new pop-up imprint, Hill House Comics, curated by horror writer Joe Hill.

The line of five original miniseries — each one targeted to readers 17 and older — will feature two titles written by the Fireman and Heart-Shaped Box author himself, with all five titles including a secondary strip, “Sea Dogs,” also written by Hill. Other titles will be written by The Girl With All The Gifts author Mike Carey, playwright and The Good Fight screenwriter Laura Marks, and critically acclaimed short story writer and essayist Carmen Maria Machado. Artists for the line include Sandman veteran Kelley Jones, as well as The Unwritten’s Peter Gross.

(2) CAFFEINE SEEKERS. Ursula Vernon has the most interesting conversations. Thread starts here.

(3) WESTERCON/NASFIC. The Spikecon program is live — https://spikecon.org/schedule/

(4) NET FANAC. In 2017, The Guardian tracked down these behind-the-scenes fan creators: “Watchers on the Wall: meet the rulers of the world’s biggest TV fan sites”. Whovian.net’s Dan Butler said:

I was 12 when Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005, and at school it was seen as nerdy. Because I had no one to talk to about it, I created a website to show my love. I wrote reviews of the episodes and used a website builder, then later I built a site from scratch.

What I loved about the show was the idea that you could be walking down the street and meet the Doctor, and your life could change forever. I liked the balance between domestic drama and science fiction – the first series was like watching a soap one scene, and Star Trek in the next. For me, Christopher Eccleston, who was my first Doctor, is the closest to how I think the part should be; if you walked past him, he wouldn’t stand out. Since then, the Doctors have been more flamboyant – more alien.

(5) WHERE PULP HISTORY WAS MADE. This was once the headquarters of Street & Smith’s pulp magazine empire, which after 1933 included Astounding: “The 1905 Street & Smith Building – 79-89 Seventh Avenue” at Daytonian in Manhattan

In 1928 the firm took made an innovative marketing move by hiring the Ruthrauff & Ryan Advertising Agency to produce a radio program to promote Detective Story Magazine.  Called “The Detective Story Hour,” it was introduced and narrated by a sinister voice known as “The Shadow.”  His tag line became familiar to radio listeners across the country:  “The Shadow knows…and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine relates for you the story of…” whatever story was featured that week.

As it turned out, The Shadow’s character was so successful that it detracted from the Detective Story sales.  Street & Smith decided the best way to handle the problem was to introduce a new magazine featuring The Shadow.

(6) STAND ON ZANZIBAR. Extra Credit makes John Brunner sound absolutely prescient.

How do we cope with a crowded world we as humans were never evolutionarily designed for? Stand on Zanzibar was written in 1968 but it uncannily, accurately predicts many of our present day’s social tensions and stressors. However, it also has a certain optimism that makes it stand out among other dystopic fiction we’ve discussed.

(7) ARISIA CORRECTS GOH LIST.  Saladin Ahmed proved to be unavailable after Arisia 2020 prematurely announced him as a Guest of Honor. There was a tweet —

He had also been added to the Arisia 2020 website (still visible in the Google webcache at this time). When his name was taken down without an announcement, there was curiosity about the reason.

I asked Arisia President Nicholas “phi” Shectman, and he replied:

Saladin was invited and let us know that he was interested but had to check availability. We misunderstood and made an announcement (and put his name on our web site) prematurely. It turns out he’s unable to make it this year. We’ve apologized to him privately and are preparing a public retraction.

(8) OTHER ARISIA NEWS. Arisia Inc.’s discussion of how to improve its Incident Report process, and the determinations made about some of the IR’s (with no names cited) are minuted in the May issue and June issue of Mentor.

The June issue also gave an update about the litigation over Arisia’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels (for the 2019 event):

Hearings for the Westin and Aloft disputes are still scheduled for July 11 and June 25 respectively. We have hired Deb Geisler as an expert witness to testify about how hard it is to change hotels at the last minute, in support of our assertion that the deadline we gave the Westin for the strike to be resolved was the actual latest we could wait before canceling with them. I still think there is an 80% chance that we will prevail and if we do we will still be in the Westin. I also still expect to know the answer in late July or early August.

…Deb is a professor at BU, teaches non-profit event management, has chaired Intercon, we mainly selected her because she has academic credentials

Deb Geisler also chaired Noreascon 4 (2004).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1904 Peter Lorre.  I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 26, 1910 Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 26, 1950 Tom DeFalco, 69. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1969 Lev Grossman, 50. Author of most notable as the author of The Magicians Trilogy which is The Magicians, The Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Perennial best sellers at the local indie bookshops. Understand it was made into a series which is yet another series that I’ve not seen. Opinions on the latter, y’all? 
  • Born June 26, 1969 Austin Grossman, 50. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designed, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1980 Jason Schwartzman, 49. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 Aubrey Plaza, 34. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. Currently she’s Lenny Busker on Legion. 

(10) MCINTYRE MEMORY BOOK. Remembering Vonda, the memorial book of anecdotes and sentiments about the late Vonda McIntyre, is not only available for sale as trade paperback ($12.12), but can be downloaded as a free PDF.

TRADE PAPERBACK 
FREE PDF

Jane Hawkins had an idea: to collect all the lovely stories written around Vonda’s death, and to put them in one place for us all to enjoy. This book is that place.Stephanie A. Smith and Jeanne Gomoll joined forces to edit the book. Vonda’s community—her friends, colleagues, readers, and admirers—shared their fondest memories, stories, praise and love for the dear friend they had recently lost.

All proceeds from books sold through LuluDotCom will benefit Clarion West.

(11) DEAL TERMINATOR. Unfortunately, most of the article is behind Adweek’s paywall, but the photo is funny: “Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicks ‘Gas’ as a Used Car Salesman in This Parody for Electric Vehicles”.

It’s no surprise that a cheesy used-car salesman like Howard Kleiner, sporting a man-pony, a Hawaiian shirt and a porn ‘stache, would be into throwback gas guzzlers. For him, it’s V8 or nothing, and if you pick the wrong vehicle on his lot, he may hand you a snide bumper sticker that says, “Carpool lanes are for sissies.”

(12) HISTORY THAT IS EVEN MORE ALTERNATE THAN USUAL. Jered Pechacek is determined to explain to us “WHY you can’t LEGALLY MARRY CLAMS in the STATE OF MAINE.” Thread starts here. Even easier to follow at Threadreader.

Oh yes, let freedom ring.

(13) CONVERTIBLE FALCON. Not much gets by Comicbook.com“Funko’s Massive Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop is Live”.

Today, out of nowhere, Funko launched a Deluxe Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop figure today that must be among the largest that they have ever produced. It measures a whopping 5.5″ tall, is 10.5″ wide and 13.25″ long with a price tag to match – $64.99.

(14) THE MOUSE THAT ROARS. NPR tells you how it’s going to look from now on: “‘Endgame’ Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of The Disney Mega-Blockbuster Is Upon Us”.

There’s been some question about whether Avengers: Endgame will knock global box-office champ Avatar out of first place in Hollywood’s record books.

…Now, you’d think the threat that Disney might swipe the crown away from Fox would prompt wails of anguish, but it’s hard for the folks at Fox to be too upset.

Because these days, Disney owns Fox.

Which means Disney doesn’t just own the Marvel Universe — and Star Wars, which it bought a few years ago — it now also owns Avatar. And that fact is about to change the way the rest of Hollywood is forced to do business.

…In its first week, Avengers: Endgame sold 88% of the movie tickets that were purchased in North America, leaving just 12 percent to be split by more than a hundred other movies that might as well not have been open. Go back to other mega-blockbusters, and you see the same thing. they take up all the oxygen. Avengers: Infinity War, The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens, Black Panther each took in about 80 percent of their opening weekends, crushing everything else at the multiplex. Small wonder that other studios have learned to steer clear of these all-consuming box office behemoths.

…Every studio opens something big in late December, which has resulted for years in a happy flotilla of blockbusters that play to different audience segments, lifting all boats.

But Disney recently made an announcement that’s going to change that. Now that the company controls all of the franchises in the 2-billion-dollar club (Marvel, Star Wars and Avatar), it doesn’t have to play chicken with other studios about opening dates — it can just claim them.

And it’s done that … for the next eight years.

(15) IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Spirited Away: Japanese anime trounces Toy Story 4 at China box office” — BBC has the numbers.

Japanese animation Spirited Away has dominated the Chinese box office over its opening weekend, making more than twice as much as Disney’s Toy Story 4.

The Studio Ghibli film grossed $27.7m (£21.8m), according to Maoyan, China’s largest movie ticketing app.

Spirited Away was officially released in 2001, but only now, 18 years later, has it been released in China.

However, many Chinese viewers grew up with the film, having watched DVDs or pirated downloads.

…China has a strict quota on the number of foreign films it shows.

One analyst told the BBC last year that political tensions between China and Japan in the past could be why some Japanese movies had not been aired in China until very recently.

(16) HOW TO FIND IT AGAIN. WIRED’s Gretchen McCullough praises Hugo-nominated Archive of Our Own in “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online”.

…The Archive of Our Own has none of these problems. It uses a third tagging system, one that blends the best elements of both styles.

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you….

(17) SCOOPS AHOY. Delish says get ready to stand in line in Indiana, er, Burbank: “Baskin-Robbins Is Recreating The Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop From ‘Stranger Things'”.

Deep into any Netflix binge of Stranger Things, it’s easy to get sucked into the misadventures of Eleven and co. and wonder what a day in the life of a character would be like. Baskin Robbins is making this marathon-fueled fever dream one step closer to a reality. The ice cream retailer announced on Wednesday that they’ll be recreating the Stranger Things Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop.

Lick your ice cream cone like its 1985 at a Burbank, CA, installation in its Baskin-Robbins location. Designed to reflect the ice cream parlor located inside the food court of Starcourt Mall—which is frequented by Hawkins, IN locals—you can visit from Tuesday, July 2 to Sunday, July 14.

Not only does a press release boast replicas of nautical décor and staff uniforms (like you could forget Steve Harrington and Robin’s shifts scooping sundaes there), but also show-inspired treats. Previously announced Stranger Things flavors, which have been teased relentlessly on the company’s Instagram, will be ready for consumption and include:

Flavor of the Month, USS Butterscotch: Inspired by the Scoops Ahoy shop at the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, IN, the July Flavor of the Month is a decadent butterscotch-flavored ice cream with butterscotch pieces and a toffee-flavored ribbon. Also available in pre-packed quarts.

(18) SPIDER-MAN THEME REVISITED. Mark Evanier pointed out this music video on News From Me.

We love a cappella singing on this site and Will Hamblet told me about this one. It’s the theme from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon show as rendered by a vocal quartet called Midtown. The snazzy video was, they say, shot entirely on an iPhone using the iMessage comic filter.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/19 The Scroll’ll Come Out Tomorrow

(1) HAPPY INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY. Archive of Our Own linked to all kinds of activities honoring 5th annual International Fanworks Day, which is today. Here’s the first entry on their list –

1. What Fanworks Mean to Me: A couple of weeks ago, we sent out a call for essay contributions about what fanworks mean to you. Tomorrow, we’ll be posting selected essays from the submissions. If you missed your chance to send us an essay, don’t worry! You can always post on social media with the tag #IFD2019. Let people know how you feel and help spread the International Fanworks Day festivities.

(2) NOMMOS. Registered members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until April 30 to nominate for the Nommo Awards. The 2019 Nommo Awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2019.

(3) ARISIA. The Boston convention relocated from the Westin to another hotel at a time when a strike was in progress and it was anticipated many would refuse to cross a picket line. Arisia’s February corporate meeting minutes report:

The Westin has begun the process of contesting the cancellation of our 2019 contract with them.  Further steps will cost them money with little prospect of a return and we don’t know if they will follow through or if this is a negotiating tactic.

The meeting approved spending money for Arisia’s legal representation.

(4) MORE ON ZAK SMITH. The revelations about game author Zak Smith summarized here the other day (Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Item #2) have started a tsunami of reaction.

Pop Culture Uncovered has a thorough review: “Tabletop RPG Community Boycotts Zak Smith”.

…Although tackling toxicity in gaming from the grassroots level is essential, it’s important to remember that the industry must do something as well. From designers to publishers to social media admins, leaders and creators need to act. In this instance, that is precisely what happened.

Within a day of Morbid’s post, Smith was banned from most significant subreddits, like /r/rpg and /r/osr. He had long been blocked from many sites to the point of accusing places like RPG.net of hypocrisy and censorship, and now even more forums were closed to him.

The Gauntlet, one of the largest communities, podcasters, and RPG organizers were the next to respond, banning all of Smith’s games from their events and restricting discussion of him (or his products) on their forums. They even went as far as to cleanse their podcasts of interviews or promotions involving him and also warned conventions that thought about hosting him that they’d boycott them…

The Gauntlet’s said:

The Gauntlet will no longer provide coverage to Zak S or his publications. Due to the fact he has a history of harassing Jason and other members of The Gauntlet, we have had a longstanding ban on having him on our podcasts, and he has never been welcome in our community spaces. We will be extending that ban to any kind of coverage of, or participation in, his ttrpg work. […]

* We will not work with people who work with him. For example, Codex will not publish an artist or author who is actively working with him. Folks who have worked with him in the past must promise to not work with him again in order to have a professional relationship with The Gauntlet.
* Members of The Gauntlet organizational team will no longer attend conventions in our capacity as representatives of The Gauntlet so long as Zak S is welcome to attend those conventions. We will also strongly discourage our membership from attending such conventions.

Giant industry convention Gen Con was called on to take a stand – this is as far as they were willing to go.

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

Meanwhile, a ton of publishers have walked back things they’ve said in the past, and several of Zak’s defenders have walked back their statements, too. Some statements are stronger than others. Ken Hite’s statement is one of the better one, but it is by no means the only statement worth digging for.

Even Mike Mearls (who is the man in charge of D&D) made a (pathetically weak) statement on Twitter. He is (rightfully) getting roasted in the responses.

This is a storm that’s been brewing in tabletop gaming for a long while. Zak is one of a small number of high-profile missing stairs whose downfall I have been waiting for.

There is a thread on RPG.net’s Tangency board that has a ton more information about what’s going on, but you need to be a registered member to see Tangency (registration is free). That thread is here.

(5) SIGNAL BOOST. The latest edition of Alasdair Stuart’s “weekly pop culture enthusiasm download” Full Lid includes a wry commentary on “The Three Season Long Cold Open” of a popular TV series —

The Expanse begins in the final minutes of its third season. Which is a hyperbolic exaggeration on one hand and a salute to the sheer audacity of the first three seasons on the other. In the space of under 40 episodes the show has shifted from ‘traumatized survivors busk their way through a political scandal’ to ‘manufactured war between the planets’ to ‘first contact’ to ‘political intrigue’ to ‘welcome to the galaxy.’ Each progression has been baked into the DNA of what’s preceded it and the result is a show that’s followed a silky smooth trajectory out into new space. Alex Kamal would be proud. This leads to the final scene of season three making the show’s name it’s premise and fixing it’s previously somewhat broken leading man. This,excellent, recap video by Zurik 23M brings you up to speed 

You can catch up on the last six months of back issues at the Full Lid archive.

(6) ‘RITHM & BLUES. Lithium batteries can explode if you overcharge them. So can humans. Perhaps AIs should learn that latter lesson (Futurism: “Two Pricing AIs Went Rogue and Formed a Cartel to Gouge Humans”).

When the robot revolution comes, our new overlords may not be as benevolent as we’d hoped.

It turns out that AI systems can learn to gang up and cooperate against humans, without communicating or being told to do so, according to new research on algorithms that colluded to raise prices instead of competing to create better deals.

[…] “What is most worrying is that the algorithms leave no trace of concerted action — they learn to collude purely by trial and error, with no prior knowledge of the environment in which they operate, without communicating with one another, and without being specifically designed or instructed to collude,” the researchers behind the experiment said in a write-up.

(7) MY META OR YOURS? The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg’s “‘Doom Patrol’: TV Review” tells readers more about him than the new show.

Say what you will about DC Universe’s new superhero dramedy Doom Patrol — it’s a structural mess, but an improvement of epic proportions over DC Universe’s Titans — nobody will accuse it of not being in on the joke, whatever the joke happens to be.

In fact, it’s basically impossible to review Doom Patrol positively or negatively without insecurity that you might be falling right into the show’s aggressively meta trap. This is, after all, a show that has its perpetually wry narrator say that critics compared one of its main characters to “a poor man’s Deborah Kerr,” followed by, “Critics? What do they know? They’re gonna hate this show.” So is a positive review me trying to prove my coolness to DC and creator Jeremy Carver? Is a negative review proof that I’m just as predictable and dismissible as the show believes?

I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that no matter what the narrator might have expected, I don’t hate Doom Patrol. Whatever that means.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubt best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu. I’ll also single out his The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1927 Harvey Korman. I’m stretching genre to the beyond it’s breaking limiting as the roles I want to single out are him as Blazing Saddles as Hedley Lamarr and in High Anxiety as Dr. Charles Montague. He did actually do a SF role or two, mostly in series work. On The Wild Wild West, he was Baron Hinterstoisser in “The Night of the Big Blackmail”;  on The Munsters, he played the Psychiatrist in “Yes Galen, There Is a Herman”; and on that infamous Star Wars Holiday Special,  he appeared Chef Gormaanda, Krelman, and Toy Video Instructor. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas Hofstadter, 74. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 71. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an an annotated version called MetsMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
  • Born February 15, 1951 Jane Seymour, 68, whose full legal name is, to my considerable delight, Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. Her first significant genre role was in Frankenstein: The True Story as Agatha / Prima. I then see her as being in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as Princess Farah and then showing up in Somewhere in Time as Elise McKenna. (Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay.) I see her in the classic Battlestar Galactica as a character named Serina for a brief run. I think her last genre work was on Smallville as Genevieve Teague. 
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 48. Gabrielle, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse.

(9) ANTHROPOBOTIC. In the Washington Post, Jason Filliatrault, who tweets as @SarcasticRover pretending to be the “voice” of Curiosity, has an op-ed (“Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.”) where he says in Curiosity’s voice —

 There are better ways to say all of this, and I’m just a robot, and I know I don’t have the emotion or ability to express the truth about you. And even if, by some bizarre twist of fate, I was actually just a human who pretended to be a robot for as-yet-unknown reasons, I would still be so ill-equipped to tell the world how incredible you were.

(10) ANOTHER FAREWELL. From This Girl Codes — don’t read this ‘til you have a hanky ready:

(11) PROOF OF CONCEPT. BBC video shows how “Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris'”.

The British-led mission to test techniques to clear up space junk has demonstrated a harpoon in orbit.

The RemoveDebris satellite fired the projectile into a target board held at a distance on the end of a boom.

Video of the event shows the miniature spear fly straight and true, and with such force that it actually breaks the target structure.

But, importantly, the harpoon’s barbs deploy and hold on to the board, preventing it from floating away…

(12) CREDITS WHERE DUE. ScienceFiction.com introduces “The Opening Credits For ‘Good Omens’”.

…For fans of the source novel by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it is chock full of colorful imagery and Easter eggs and gives some amazing insight into the kind of tone and atmosphere the series is going for, not to mention giving us a taste of the kind of music the show will have. Plus, with the whole thing running around 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is quite a bit longer than most opening credits nowadays, it cements the fact that Gaiman is clearly doing the show his own way, with his own style, which may yield some very interesting and exciting results.

(13) THE SCOOP. The Disney Food Blog leads with this tasty news: “Toy Story 4 Ice Cream Flavors Hitting the Grocery Shelves! Will You Find Them in Your Store?” Two new Edy’s/Dreyer’s flavors are hitting shelves now —

Here’s the scoop on the two flavors: your choices are Carnival Churro Cravings and Chocolate Peanut Butter Prize Winner!

We can happily verify that they are hitting the shelves! At least, we’ve found them available at a grocery chain called Giant Eagle (with locations in Pennsylvania, primarily around Pittsburgh).

(14) COWL DISAVOWAL. Ben Affleck appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to explain why he isn’t Batman any more. Batman’s previously unknown connection with Tom Brady is discussed!

(15) RIGHT NOW, ROGER IS NOT VERY JOLLY. Sounds like the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise has everything except people who want to be involved with making the next one. Geoff Boucher, in “Disney’s ‘Pirates’ Reboot Uncertain As ‘Deadpool’ Writers Jump Ship” on Deadline, says it’s not clear if there is to be another movie because Johnny Depp will not be in the next installment and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been dropped from writing duties, and with no star and no script, it’s unclear what Disney has left for another Pirates film.  Boucher says there are rumors Disney wants to turn the franchise into a TV series.

The [Reese & Wernick] hiring was widely hailed and Bailey has been vocal in his excitement about it, telling reporters and colleagues that the scribes were going to “make Pirates punk rock again” and give the franchise a much-needed “kick in the pants” that would revive the off-kilter charisma the brand exuded in its early days. Those high hopes faded in recent weeks.

Disney insiders are divided about what happens next. Some say a search is already underway for viable replacement options, others say the once-proud flagship of Disney’s live-action fleet may be headed to dry-dock for good.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Paper Mario Bros. In My Notebook (Stop Motion)” on YouTube is a short video about what a Mario Bros. chase would be like in a two-dimensional notebook.

[Thanks to Meredith, Eric R. Franklin, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/19 Scroll Up for the Mystery Tour

(1) APOLLO 11 FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY COINS. Today the U.S Mint began offering for sale coins from the “2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program”.

This year, we honor that historic achievement with the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program, a collection of coins as unique in construction as they are stunning to behold. The program comprises curved coins in gold, silver and clad. The design of the coins’ obverse is a nod to the space missions that led up to the Moon landing, while the reverse features a representation of the famous “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” photograph.

A collectSPACE article has the full list:

The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins are being offered in seven editions:

  • An uncirculated-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $25.95.
  • A proof-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $27.95.
  • An uncirculated-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $51.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $54.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A 5-ounce proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 100,000, for $224.95, with an order limit of 5 per household.
  • An uncirculated-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $408.75, with an order limit of one per household.
  • A proof-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $418.75, with an order limit of one per household.

The U.S. Mint has also produced an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 2019 proof half dollar set, which includes one Apollo 11 50th Anniversary proof half dollar and one Kennedy enhanced reverse proof half dollar, “to commemorate the enduring relationship between President Kennedy and the American space program.” The set is a limited edition of 100,000 units and retails for $53.95.

The sale of the coins will benefit three foundations —

As authorized by Congress in 2016, proceeds from the sale of the U.S. Mint coins benefit three space-related organizations that preserve space history and promote science and engineering education: the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” gallery, scheduled to open in 2022.

If all of the Apollo 11 commemorative coins are sold, then they will raise a total of $14.5 million, with half going to the Smithsonian and the remaining funds divided between the two foundations.

(2) ARISIA. The Monday edition of Arisia’s daily newzine said the con’s total registration was 3,190.

Last year’s attendance was 3,930.

(3) HOPE. Leigh Alexander and John Scalzi did an Ask Us Anything session at Reddit today to promote The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project. Here’s an excerpt.

Q: Your most optimistic vision for the future comes true. What is it, and why is it actually awful in reality?

Leigh Alexander:

A: Optimism is biased data. Whatever I imagined as ‘ideal’ would have some kind of blind spot among the people I failed to consider. I don’t even care to speculate aloud, lest some celestial monkey’s paw shudders one more finger closed.

I really find Star Trek: The Next Generation soothing because you have Patrick Stewart, one of the world’s most brilliant actors, taking this little cardboard set, these goofy prosthetic aliens, with just the utmost sincerity — and in so doing, he represents what we think of as the ‘best’ of humanity in space.

But then of course there are all these times that the optimistic ‘ideals of the show reveal this provincial normativity that we wouldn’t expect to still exist in the fully automated luxury space future — so many of the aliens just have the same gender binary, same hierarchical titles, same everything as “the humans”. 

Whatever I can imagine would be good for us in the future won’t be relevant to all of us by the time we get there. But I do hope that being good to each other is an ongoing part of our evolution, that with each generation we get better at that. That’d be the dream.

John Scalzi:

My most optimistic vision is that people treat other people decently, and also incorporate the idea the planet will be here after they are, so maybe don’t trash the place. Neither of these require any SF concepts to be implemented, and honestly it’s difficult to see what the downside of these would be in tandem. 

(4) ACADEMY OVERLOOKS ANNIHLATION. Jeff VanderMeer has some thoughts about Oscar snubs. To begin with, he linked to Slate — “The Oscars Have Snubbed the Weird Annihilation Noise”.

For some unknown reason, voters chose to honor those movies and their music instead of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s score and its magnificently spooky centerpiece, “The Alien,” home to a cluster of hypnotic notes that Slate has dubbed the weird Annihilation noise. (Listen at the 2:40 mark….)   

VanderMeer continues:

That was definitely a weird snub. But I really think the bigger snub is that Tessa Thompson wasn’t up for anything–whether for Annihilation or her other films from last year. Really truly mindboggling. Also, I thought Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation should at least have been considered–the performance was great and without her the whole thing would’ve been so understated as to be ridiculous.

(5) STUMPING THE HOST. Bradley Walsh, host of UK game show The Chase, claimed he couldn’t even understand this question. On the other hand, Filers should have no problem —

The 58-year-old presenter was hoping his team would be able to get through to the final chase, having already seen Richard the librarian go through with £6,000.

But as he read out the next question to Jo from Buckinghamshire, he could not make out what it was asking.

Baffled, he said: “In 2017, a special edition of what book was released that can only be read when the pages are burnt?

“What!? I don’t understand!”

The tricky puzzle had answers of A. Fahrenheit 451, B. Frankenstein, or C. Fifty Shades Of Grey.

(6) MEKAS OBIT. Experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas died January 23 – Gothamist has the story: “Jonas Mekas, Avant-Garde Film Auteur & Co-Founder Of Anthology Film Archives, Has Died At Age 96”.  Andrew Porter realized this is genre news because “Jonas and his brother Adolfas appeared on the cover of the April 1963 F&SF, as depicted by artist and fellow filmmaker Ed Emshwiller.” The full story is online at Underground Film Journal.

To the moon, Jonas! The blog Potrzebie posted up this scan of the cover of a 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction featuring a dashing young Adolfas Mekas piloting a rocketship while his skeletal brother Jonas Mekas looms in the background. Apparently the cover is illustrating a tale of a spaceman who starves himself so his brother can pilot their lost ship back to civilization.

(7) PAVLOW OBIT. British actress Muriel Pavlow (1921-2019) died January 19, aged 97. Genre appearances included Hansel and Gretel in 1937, Project M7 in 1953 and one episode of R3 in 1965.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911C.L. Moore.  Author, and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written as a collaborative undertaking, resulting in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. I’m  the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1942Gary K. Wolf, 77. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 75. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I still love, wrote the amazing patch up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting aside his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 52. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. Oh I’ve got to see that! 
  • Born January 24, 1978Kristen Schaal, 41. Best known as Carol on The Last Man on Earth, the post-apocalyptic comedy. Other genre creds includes her role as Gertha Teeth in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, an adaptation of Darren O’Shaughnessy’s The Saga of Darren Shan, Miss Tree In Kate & Leopold, Pumpkin / Palace Witch in Shrek Forever After, Tricia in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, The Moderator in The Muppets film and the Freak Show series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MISSION POSSIBLE. The South FloridaSun Sentinel reported on January 18: “Holy heist, Batman! Thief drops through roof to nab $1.4 million in comics”.

A fortune in Batman comics has been stolen from a West Boca man and he is reaching out to the comic-collecting community around the world in the hopes of getting nearly 450 prized books back.

In a letter posted on social media sites, Randy Lawrence said his registered collection was valued at $1.4 million and that it was stolen from an indoor air-conditioned, double-locked storage unit.

A later Sun Sentinel story says that some of the collection has since been recovered: “Comic book collector ‘hopeful’ after small part of his stolen $1.4 million collection is found”.

It’s only a few checks off his list of missing pieces, but Randy Lawrence is hopeful he’ll get his $1.4 million in comic books back.

Police in Phoenix arrested a man who tried to sell four of Lawrence’s nearly 450 missing comic books.

(11) TOLKIEN’S FELLOWSHIP. Extra Credits continues its new season with episode 2 of “Extra Sci Fi” – “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

J. R. R. Tolkien wasn’t *just* a fantasy author–he was a mythology master. As a result, he ended up inventing some of the most popular genre tropes that science fiction heavily draws upon. Fellowship of the Ring introduces the theme of the “lessening of the world” and the decay of humanity.

(12) GERMAN CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s oldest crime fiction award, have been announced. Cora Buhlert, who sent the link, adds: “One of the runners-up in the national crime novel category, Finsterwalde by Max Annas, is actually sort of science fictional.”

Winner national:

  • Mexikoring by Simone Buchholz

Runners-up national: 

  • Tankstelle von Courcelles by Matthias Wittekindt
  • Finsterwalde by Max Annas

Winner international:

  • 64 by Hideo Yokoyama

Runners-up international: 

  • Krumme Type, Krumme Type (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) by Tom Franklin
  • Blut Salz Wasser (Blood, Salt, Water) by Denise Mina

(13) SPACE, THE FINAL FRONT EAR. Another day, another Star Trek opinion piece. Writing at FilmSchoolRejects.com, Charlie Brigden takes a turn “Ranking The ‘Star Trek’ Themes.”

Music has always been a huge part of Star Trek, from 1966 and that fanfare to the modern stylings of Star Trek: Discovery, which begins its second season this week. Over the course of 13 movies and seven television series, not to mention a boatload of video games, various composers have tried their best to musically represent Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of gunboat diplomacy and utopian societies. But which theme reaches maximum warp first? Which of the many pieces of music can deal with the most phaser hits and deciphering technobabble? Let’s find out.

Brigden says a good bit about each of the themes, but stripping it down to just the list:

15. Enterprise
14. The Animated Series
13. The Voyage Home
12. Deep Space Nine
11. Generations
10. Discovery
9. Nemesis
8. Star Trek ’09
7. The Undiscovered Country
6. Insurrection
5. Voyager
4. The Wrath of Khan
3. First Contact
2. The Original Series
1. The Motion Picture

(14) GOING TO THE WELLS ONCE TOO OFTEN. “War of the Worlds – as explained by Timothy the Talking Cat” is on feature at Camestros Felapton. It’s all amusing, and the ending is an especially droll bit of satire.

…Meanwhile, across the vast emptiness of space incredible minds were watching Earth and thinking “I know, let’s invade Surrey”. You have to remember that this wasn’t the 1950s when invading aliens preferred to target sleepy small towns in America. This was the nineteenth century and if you were an alien and you were thinking of making a trip to Earth, your first thought was “Surrey”. It’s a case of a local tourist board being just a bit too successful with their promotion of local sights. “Visit Sunny Woking” said the brochure that a Martian advance scout had picked up at Waterloo Station in an extremely brief visit in 1885…

(15) JEOPARDY! PATROL. Andrew Porter saw it on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: Potent Poe Tales

Answer: This Poe story’s title is realized as the narrator flees the “House” as it cracks and is torn asunder.

Wrong question: “What is the house with a crack in its wall?”

(16) PITCH MEETING. ScreenRant adds to its series with “Glass Pitch Meeting: Shyamalan’s Sequel To Split And Unbreakable.”

(17) FLY BY NIGHT. Where’s your flying car? Here’s your flying car… if you have a license to fly experimental aircraft and if you can settle for a few feet up for a few seconds. At least so far. Yahoo! Finance has the story (“Boeing’s flying car lifts off in race to revolutionize urban travel”).

Boeing Co said on Wednesday its flying car prototype hovered briefly in the air during an inaugural test flight, a small but significant step as the world’s largest planemaker bids to revolutionize urban transportation and parcel delivery services.

Boeing is competing with arch-rival Airbus SE and numerous other firms to introduce small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

[…] Boeing’s 30-foot-long (9 meter) aircraft – part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing plane – lifted a few feet off the ground and made a soft landing after less than a minute of being airborne on Tuesday at an airport in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said.

Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight.

“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, said in a news release announcing the test flight.

(18) CHINA BLOCKS BING FOR A DAY. The BBC found “Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China” on Wednesday.

US tech giant Microsoft has confirmed that its search engine Bing is currently inaccessible in China.

Social media users have expressed concern that the search engine might be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.

Chinese authorities operate a firewall that blocks many US tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft hasn’t said if the outage may be due to censorship, or is merely a technical problem.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

A BBC correspondent in China attempted to visit the site, and was able to access it through a Chinese internet provider on a desktop, but not on a smartphone.

Many US tech companies are keen to tap into the Chinese market, but have a difficult relationship with the authorities in Beijing.

The government’s internet censorship regime, often known as the “Great Firewall”, uses a series of technical measures to block foreign platforms and controversial content.

Chinese authorities have also cracked down on Virtual Private Networks, which allow users to skirt around the firewall.

NPR reports Bing was accessible again in China on Thursday.

The Microsoft search engine, Bing, is back online in China after apparently being blocked on Wednesday, a company spokesperson told NPR.

“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

…Microsoft President and Chief Legal Counsel Brad Smith explained that it’s not the first time the search engine has been blocked. “It happens periodically,” he said in an interview with Fox Business News from Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

(19) SPIRITS IN THE VASTY WOODS. See video of “The giant trolls hidden in the woods of Denmark”.

Cheeky trolls that tower over passers-by can be found in the Danish wilds. Constructed using wood found around the city, the sculptor behind them wants to bring people into nature.

Go for a walk in a Danish forest and you may spot a giant troll peeking out from behind a tree, or lounging luxuriously across the ground. These folkloric creatures are made by recycling artist, designer and activist Thomas Dambo, who sculpts the enormous beings from reclaimed wood.

(20) RED DWARF RETURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Red Dwarf is back, baby! Or anyway, it will be. Den of Geek had the story (“Red Dwarf Series 13 Confirmed”) all the way back in April 2018.

The boys from the Dwarf will be back for a thirteenth series…

Red Dwarf XIII is happening! Dave has ordered a brand new series of our favourite space sitcom, as confirmed by Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules at Thames Con, and then duly reported by British Comedy Guide shortly thereafter.

Baby Cow Productions are set to start filming series XIII in the first few months of 2019, and Doug Naylor will be back to write all the new episodes. Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie will, of course, all be along for the ride.

Now there’s an update at Den of Geek (“Red Dwarf: the Dave era, Series XIII, and beyond”) which considers history and possible future projects.

With more Red Dwarf on the way, [columnist] Mark [Harrison] ponders how the sci-fi sitcom’s revival on Dave has secured its future…

For a show that’s three million and 31 years into deep space, Red Dwarf is in pretty rude health. It’s been just over a year since the programme came to the end of its 12th series, the second of a two-series production block shot in early 2016, on UK TV channel Dave, and it looks as if there’s still plenty more to come from Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Your Cocoon” on Vimeo, Jerry Paper explains why you can’t have any fun if you’re a detached head.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:

https://robin-anne-reid.dreamwidth.org/50424.html

(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/19/19 Pixelation, Mr. AllScroll, Is What We Are Put In This File To Rise Above

(1) ARISIA. As of Friday at 11 p.m. Boston sff convention Arisia reported 2,873 members.

The Arisia 2019 Souvenir Book is available online, and includes Jenn Jumper’s heartwarming writeup about Fan GoH’s Bjo and John Trimble.

(2) DRESSING UP THE LOCATIONS IN GEORGIA. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has been scanning the media for news of Spielberg’s namesake TV show which is now in production.  He found this report in a in the Morgan County (GA) Citizen: “Hollywood sets eyes on Bostwick”

A new filming project is sweeping through Morgan County this week for a reboot television series of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi/horror “Amazing Stories,” with shooting locations in Rutledge, Bostwick and right outside of Madison. 

Filming begin on Monday, Jan 14 off Highway 83 outside of Madison and then moved to Bostwick, behind the Cotton Jin on Mayor John Bostwick’s farm. Downtown Rutledge is getting a full makeover this week for the filming project, which will shoot on Friday, Jan 18 and run into the wee hours of Saturday, Jan 19. Rutledge’s iconic gazebo underwent a paint job for the filming, and on Wednesday, Jan. 16, crews began covering the intersection of Fairplay Road and Main Street with dirt. 

(3) GETTING BETTER. The second story in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project has been posted — “Online Reunion” by Leigh Alexander.

As an alternative to the text, you can listen to the audio adaptation of “Online Reunion” at Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

The Verge also has “A Q&A with the author” where “Leigh Alexander discusses the world of ‘Online Reunion’ and the ‘compelling, fascinating, beautiful, terrifying car crash of humanity and technology.’”

In “Online Reunion,” author Leigh Alexander imagines a world in which a young journalist is struggling with a compulsive “time sickness,” so she sets out to write a tearjerker about a widow reconnecting with her dead husband’s e-pet — but she finds something very different waiting for her in the internet ether. A self-described “recovering journalist” with a decade of experience writing about video games and technology, Alexander has since branched out into fiction, including an official Netrunner book, Monitor, and narrative design work for games like Reigns: Her Majesty and Reigns: Game of Thrones.

The Verge spoke with Alexander about finding joy and connection online, preserving digital history, and seeing the mystical in the technological.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the series’ January 16 event.

Victor LaValle and Julie C. Day entertained a huge audience with their readings. Victor read from a new novella and Julie read two of her short stories.

(5) THE FIRST DOESN’T LAST. Critics say they made Mars boring: “‘The First’ Canceled at Hulu After One Season”.

In his review for Variety, Daniel D’Addario wrote:

“After the initial statement of purpose, though, the show falls victim to both pacing problems and a certain lopsidedness. A show like this, with title and premise centered around what it would mean to be a pioneer on a new planet, encourages an excited sort of stargazing; that quite so much of it is spent exploring Hagerty’s family crisis saps the energy and spirit from a show that should have both in spades.”

(6) BRADBURY OBIT. Bettina Bradbury, Ray Bradbury’s daughter, died January 13 at the age of 64 announced the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum on Facebook.

Her son, Danny Karapetian, wrote on Facebook 1/13/19, “It is my very sad duty to report that my Mom Bettina passed away this morning. “She was an indefatigable force of nature, a talented and decorated writer, and a loving mother, sister, and friend to everyone she knew. I know how much she cared about all of you, and how much you all loved her.”

Quoting Jonathan Eller, Ph.D., Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, “Bettina was herself a successful writer, achieving great success on daytime TV dramas Santa Barbara (1987-1993), All My Children (1995-2003), Days of Our Lives (2007), and others. She won several Emmy Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards, and earned yet more nominations.”

SoapHub paid tribute: “Longtime Soap Opera Scribe Dies At 64”.

…Daughter of famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, known mostly for his stunning novel Fahrenheit 451, and Marguerite McClure, Bradbury proved that the writing gene can be passed down. She studied Film/History at USC School of Cinematic Arts

NBC’s Santa Barbara was her first soap writing team in the early 1990s. She also wrote for both All My Children (and won three Daytime Emmys) and One Life to Live on ABC and later worked on Days of Our Lives, also for NBC.

(7) DAVIES OBIT. [By Steve Green.] Windsor Davies (1930-2019): British actor, died January 17, aged 88. Genre appearances include The Corridor People (one episode, 1966), Adam Adamant Lives! (one episode, 1967), Doctor Who (three episodes, 1967),  Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), UFO (one episode, 1970), The Guardians (one episode, 1971), The Donation Conspiracy (two episodes, 1973), Alice in Wonderland (one episode, 1985), Terrahawks (voice role, 39 episodes, 1983-86), Rupert and the Frog Song (1985), Gormenghast (two episodes, 2000).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1809Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve got several several sources that cite him as a early root of SF. Anyone care to figure that out? Be that as it may, he certainly wrote some damn scary horror — ones that I still remember are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” (Died 1849.)
  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 89. Melanie Daniels In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s HarvestTales from the DarksideThe Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series
  • Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 87. Director best known for his 1980s Superman films. He’s got a number of other genre films including the exceedingly silly The Mouse on the MoonRobin and Marian which may be my favorite Robin Hood film ever, and an entire excellent series of Musketeers films. He also directed Royal Flash based on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel of that name. 
  • Born January 19, 1981Bitsie Tulloch, 38. Her main role of interest to us was as Juliette Silverton/Eve in Grimm. She also has played Lois Lane in the recent Elseworlds episodes of this Arrowverse season. However I also found her in R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, a fan made film that use fake interviews, fake archive photos, film clips, and behind-the-scenes footage to tell early life of that droid. You can see it and her in it here.

(9) DRAWN TO POE. Crimereads celebrates the author’s birthday with “The 25 Most Terrifyingly Beautiful Edgar Allan Poe Illustrations”. Harry Clarke and Gustav Doré are heavily represented.

Since it’s the season for basking in all things dreadful, we decided to round up twenty-five of the greatest illustrations ever made for Poe’s work. Some are more terrifying, others more beautiful, but all fall somewhere on the spectrum of terrifyingly beautiful, and we can’t stop looking at them, just as we can’t stop reading the works of the great Edgar Allan Poe.

(10) FAUX POES. Emily Temple undertakes “A Brief and Incomplete Survey of Edgar Allan Poes in Pop Culture” for LitHub readers.

What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think of Edgar Allan Poe? Is it this ubiquitous one? Maybe it’s that snapshot of your old roommate from Halloween 2011, when she tied a fake bird to her arm and knocked everyone’s champagne glasses over with it. (Just me?) Or is it an image of Poe in one of his many pop culture incarnations? You wouldn’t be alone.

After all, Poe pops up frequently in contemporary culture—somewhat more frequently than you might expect for someone who, during his lifetime, was mostly known as a caustic literary critic, even if he did turn out to be massively influential. I mean, it’s not like you see a ton of Miltons or Eliots running around. So today, on the 210th anniversary of Poe’s birth, I have compiled a brief and wildly incomplete selection of these appearances. Note that I’ve eliminated adaptations of Poe’s works, and focused on cameos and what we’ll call “faux Poes.” Turns out it isn’t just my old roommate—lots of people really love to dress up as Edgar Allan Poe.

First on the list:

1949: Ray Bradbury, “The Exiles,” published in The Illustrated Man

As you probably know, Poe’s work has been massively influential on American literature. In a 1909 speech at the Author’s Club in London, Arthur Conan Doyle observed that “his tales were one of the great landmarks and starting points in the literature of the last century . . . each is a root from which a whole literature has developed. . . Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” But it’s not just his work—Poe as a figure has infiltrated a number of literary works, including this early Bradbury story, in which Poe (along with Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare) is living on Mars, and slowly withering away as humans on Earth burn his books. The symbolism isn’t exactly subtle, but hey.

(11) SHUFFLING OFF THIS MORTAL COIL. Here’s something to play on a cold winter’s night — Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

The boundaries between worlds have drawn perilously thin…

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game® set amid a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. As the Ancient Ones seek entry to our world, one to two investigators (or up to four with two Core Sets) work to unravel arcane mysteries and conspiracies.

Their efforts determine not only the course of your game, but carry forward throughout whole campaigns, challenging them to overcome their personal demons even as Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the distinction between the card game and roleplaying experiences.

(12) NO APRIL FOOLIN’. There’s a trailer out for Paramount’s Pet Sematary remake —

Sometimes dead is better…. In theatres April 5, 2019. Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.

(13) 1943 RETRO HUGO ADVICE. DB has written a post on works by Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis, and Charles WIlliams eligible for the Retros this year. It begins with an illustration —

This is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, as drawn by Mervyn Peake. Vivid, isn’t it? Peake’s illustrated edition of the Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was published by Chatto and Windus in 1943, and is the first reason you should consider nominating Peake for Best Professional Artist of 1943,1 for the Retro-Hugos 1944 (works of 1943) are being presented by this year’s World SF Convention in Dublin. (The book might also be eligible for the special category of Best Art Book, for while it’s not completely a collection of visual art, the illustrations were the point of this new edition of the classic poem.)

Though remembered now mostly for his Gormenghast novels, Peake was primarily an artist. He had in fact 3 illustrated books published in 1943, and all three of them were arguably fantasy or sf.2

(14) F&SF FICTION TO LOVE. Standback took to Twitter to cheer on F&SF with a round-up of his favorite stories from the magazine in 2018. The thread starts here.

(15) RARE BOOKS LA. Collectors will swarm to Pasadena on February 1-2 for this event —

Rare Books LA is a book fair that features more than 100 leading specialists in rare books, fine prints, photography, ephemera, maps, and more from throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. This prestigious event takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Exhibitors

Rare Books LA will compromise of numerous exhibitors. There will be 60+ exhibitors that come from around the world to showcase their rare books. Expect to discover exhibitors who also showcase photography and fine prints. To view the list of exhibitors, click here.

(16) ORIGINAL SWINGERS. CNN reports “‘Missing link’ in human history confirmed after long debate”.

Early humans were still swinging from trees two million years ago, scientists have said, after confirming a set of contentious fossils represents a “missing link” in humanity’s family tree.

The fossils of Australopithecus sediba have fueled scientific debate since they were found at the Malapa Fossil Site in South Africa 10 years ago.

And now researchers have established that they are closely linked to the Homo genus, representing a bridging species between early humans and their predecessors, proving that early humans were still swinging from trees 2 million years ago.

(17) MOON PICTURES. The Farmer’s Almanac will show you “The Oldest Moon Photo”.

On the night of September 1, 1849, the nearly full Moon appeared over the town of Canandaigua, New York. At 10:30 P.M., Samuel D. Humphrey slid a highly polished, silver-plated copper sheet measuring 2–¾x1–¾ inches into his camera, which was pointed at the Moon.

Humphrey then exposed the light-sensitive plate to the shining Moon nine times, varying the length of exposure from 0.5 seconds to 2 minutes. After developing the plate with mercury vapor, he sent his daguerreotype to Harvard College.

Louis Daguerre, the Frenchman who explained the secret of the world’s first photographic technique in 1839, had daguerreotyped a faint image of the Moon, but the plate was soon lost in a fire. John W. Draper of New York City is credited with making the first clear daguerreotype of the Moon in March 1840, but this also was destroyed in a fire.

(18) THE LONG AND GRINDING ROAD. In “NASA eyes gaping holes in Mars Curiosity wheel” Cnet shares the images.

The rough and rocky landscape of Mars continues to take a toll on the wheels of NASA’s Curiosity rover. As part of a routine checkup, Curiosity snapped some new images of its wheels this week. 

Most of the photos don’t look too alarming, but one in particular shows some dramatic holes and cracks in the aluminum. 

(19) GLASS EXIT. If you left the theater in a haze, Looper wants to help you out:

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/19 While I Just Sit At Home And Pixelate

(1) RECONCILIATION AT ARISIA. When Arisia, the controversy-plagued Boston convention, takes place this weekend they plan to face up to their troubles with a Reconciliation track of 15 program items —

Arisia 2019 will offer a special Programming track called “Reconciliation”. These sessions will provide attendees opportunities to communicate about recent events involving the Arisia community, the convention itself, and Arisia, Inc. (our parent corporation).

Sessions use several approaches, allowing space for our community’s diversity. These methods range from silent work an attendee can do with trained facilitators, to town-hall discussions allowing community members to share their feelings, reactions and desire for change. We will also have a set of “chill out” programming for people who want to decompress after this kind of emotional labor as well as training and workshops for people who want to contribute to making change happen and being part of rebuilding our community.

Arisia will be collecting all feedback given by attendees at the sessions listed below, and will attempt to address salient items at the State of Arisia Community Update on Monday. Arisia Leadership from both the Convention and Corporation will be in Feedback sessions to provide our community the opportunity to talk directly with them.

You can learn about the backstory by reading File 770’s posts tagged “Arisia”.  

(2) RSR’S POLL INFO RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong has created a central place to find ballots for SF/F awards that are open to all or open to members (of associations or conventions). It has links to ballots, shows due dates, links to RSR resources to help with voting such as longlists with story blurbs and scores and covers. http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/2018-best-sff.html

Here are the ones currently open for voting.

Open to All

Coming soon are Clarkesworld, Apex, and the Locus Awards.

Open to Members

The info will be updated as ballots for some awards close and others open.

Also of interest to fans is the Best SF/F section (below the SF/F Ballots), which if you expand it, shows the progress of the various award finalists + winners, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers recommendations that contribute to the score of each story. Currently, the scores are 32% complete, based on 0/26 awards announced, 1/7 year’s best anthologies TOCs shared, and 14/14 reviewers posted. The table shows expected dates for each award and year’s best, and the story scores will be updated with each release. Clicking on a completed award/year’s best/reviewer link will highlight the stories whose score was increased by that award/year’s best/reviewer.

(3) A SWING AND A MISS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Glass’ Is Leaden”.

Again and again, in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass — the sequel to 2016’s Split, which was itself a stealth sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable — there are moments that should, by any reasonable measure, work. In the language of superhero films, they’re now-familiar turns of phrase that can be depended upon — and often have been depended upon — to elicit a jolt of adrenaline in the eager viewer.

Take the moment, late in the film, when a character heralds his return to super-form by finding a singular component of his old costume. Everything about the shot is set up to punch our buttons: The figure stands in stark silhouette. It’s filmed from a low, Spielbergian angle. The costume component in question unfurls with a dramatic snap and rustle painstakingly engineered by some hardworking Foley artist somewhere in Burbank, probably. The music swells to an insistent crescendo.

And yet … nothing.

Or the scene where another character dramatically intones his comic-book codename, then employs a [SOMETHING] to [ACT UPON] someone; and then — in case we missed it (we didn’t), we cut back to that previous shot of said character pronouncing his comic-book codename, which … oh, ha ha ha … we now realize, cheekily references the [SOMETHING]. (No spoilers.)

In any other film, that moment would provide the proceedings with a sardonic punch. Here, it’s just flat seltzer.

(4) YOLEN WINS AWARD. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators today announced the 2019 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards, and sff author Jane Yolen was one of the winners. [Via Locus Online.]

Young Adult Fiction:

Jane Yolen – MAPPING THE BONES (Philomel)

Influenced by Dr. Mengele’s sadistic experimentations, this story follows twins as they travel from the Lodz ghetto, to the partisans in the forest, to a horrific concentration camp where they lose everything but each other.

(5) MOVIE ABOUT JRR COMING TO THEATERS. From SYFY Wire we learn “Tolkien getting summer release”:

Tolkien, the biopic about The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, has had everything lined up as fans continue to buzz about the upcoming Amazon series based on his Lord of the Rings series. Now fans can mark on their calendars that director Dome Karukoski’s biopic will hit screens this summer on May 10.

(6) GARCIA PODCAST. Chris Garcia’s film journal “Klaus at Gunpoint” has a new podcast out — “Fantasy Film 101 – Willow”.

(7) IT’S A JOLLY HOLIDAY WITH MARY. This is too effing much – Mary Poppins: Post-Brexit from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

A spoonful of sugar helps the withdrawal from the European Union go down.

(8) ABANDONED. James Davis Nicoll discusses “SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths” at Tor.com.

Space colonization stories are a subgenre of SF. Space colonization stories in which the Earth has become a backwater world, cut off from thriving colony planets, are a thriving sub-subgenre.

At first glance, this seems odd. Earth is rich in resources and offers humans a shirt-sleeve environment . Why wouldn’t it continue to be the leader of the pack?

Sometimes it’s because we have trashed the Earth, rendering it uninhabitable….

(9) BARRETT OBIT. New Zealand fan Mervyn Barrett died January 16 in Wellington. At various times Barrett was active in the Melbourne MSFC, London, and New Zealand fandoms. He’s credited with organizing the first New Zealand sf convention. He was 86. One of his claims to fame was this article  about the night the Melbourne club almost burned down (from the 1975 Aussiecon program book).

…Anyhow, it was because of the activities of the film group that the Melbourne Science Fiction Club almost burnt down. I’d started the group and used to run it: hustling films and running the little Ampro 16mm projector. When I left, Paul Stevens took over the group and did all sorts of enterprising things like renting proper cinemas so that 35 mm films could be shown and stuff like that. Then, some time later, when an enthusiast who happened to own a couple of 35 mm film projectors joined the club, they installed these in the clubroom and started showing classic old movies – some of them on nitrate film. Mervyn Binns had complete confidence in the projectionist and the equipment. “This guy really knew what he was doing.” He told me, but the introduction of nitrate film into the clubroom was just too much for one of the members, who had the clubroom inspected by the Health Department and closed down as a fire hazard. Admittedly nitrate film has one or two unfortunate characteristics like becoming unstable with age and being just plain highly inflammable and becoming downright explosive. But even when this is coupled with the fact that the clubroom was on the top floor of a 90-year-old brick building with wooden floors, roof, ceilings and staircases, that it had no fire escape and that its only entrance was through a narrow wooden staircase (which McGill’s grudgingly allowed to be used when the lift was finally taken out of commission when the Melbourne Water Board decided it was no longer an economical proposition to go to the trouble of supplying compressed water for it) one still has difficulty seeing the reason for his excessive nervousness….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 — The Ray Bradbury-penned “The Electric Grandmother” premiered on television.
  • January 17, 1992Freejack premiered in theaters with Mick Jagger as the bad guy.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix,  the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes.(Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 88. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in the role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you the the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 70. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming”  in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000.
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 57. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler, then there’s the The Truman Show which has stretches genre boundaries I think, may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?, and is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind genre?,  who’s seen Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events?, Horton Hears a Who!  (FUN!), A Christmas Carol  of which I know nothing, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (well it sounds cute) and, I’m not you, Sonic the Hedgehog. Busy, isn’t he?
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 49. Russian-American animator, director, producer, screenwriter, storyboard artist, comic book writer and artist. Yeah he really is. Hell he created Star Wars: Clone Wars! And let me list some of the many other things he’s involved in: Batman: The Animated SeriesIron Man 2Hotel TransylvaniaDuck DodgersThe Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Luke Cage series as Cage! and the Dexter’s Laboratory series as well.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 30. Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX. She also voices the character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She was the first woman of color to be cast in a leading role in the Star Wars franchise, something she should be proud of.

(12) CHOOSE YOUR OWN BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE. Physics professor Gaurav Khanna advises Daily Beast readers: “Traveling to Another Dimension? Choose Your Black Hole Wisely.”

One of the most cherished science fiction scenarios is using a black hole as a portal to another dimension or time or universe. That fantasy may be closer to reality than previously imagined.

My team at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a colleague at Georgia Gwinnett College have shown that all black holes are not created equal. If the black hole like Sagittarius A*, located at the center of our own galaxy, is large and rotating, then the outlook for a spacecraft changes dramatically. That’s because the singularity that a spacecraft would have to contend with is very gentle and could allow for a very peaceful passage.

(13) BREW TWO. What if the world can’t wake up in the morning? “World’s coffee under threat, say experts”.

The first full assessment of risks to the world’s coffee plants shows that 60% of 124 known species are on the edge of extinction.

More than 100 types of coffee tree grow naturally in forests, including two used for the coffee we drink.

Scientists say the figure is “worrying”, as wild coffee is critical for sustaining the global coffee crop.

About one in five of the world’s plants is threatened with extinction, and the 60% figure is an “extremely high” one.

“If it wasn’t for wild species we wouldn’t have as much coffee to drink in the world today,” said Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable.”

(14) ONE STEP AT A TIME. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The article title very much overstates the state of the art (Wired: “Bio-Printers Are Churning out Living Fixes to Broken Spines”; partial paywall), but it does appear that an incremental advance has been made toward that goal. In one experiment, partial mobility was restored to a rat’s paralyzed hindquarters after a multistep boiprinted device was inserted into a severed section of spinal cord.

For doctors and medical researchers repairing the human body, a 3D printer has become almost as valuable as an x-ray machine, microscope, or a sharp scalpel. Bioengineers are using 3D printers to make more durable hip and knee joints, prosthetic limbs and, recently, to produce living tissue attached to a scaffold of printed material.

Researchers say that bio-printed tissue can be used to test the effects of drug treatments, for example, with an eventual goal of printing entire organs that can be grown and then transplanted into a patient. The latest step toward 3D-printed replacements of failed human parts comes from a team at UC San Diego. It has bio-printed a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

[…] Bio-printers use a computer-guided pipette to layer living cells, referred to as bio-ink, on top of one another to create artificial living tissue in a laboratory. Most bio-printers can only print down to 200 microns, but this group developed a method of producing tissue down to 1 micron, Chen says. This higher resolution meant they were able to more accurately reconstruct the mixture of gray and white matter that makes up the spinal cord.

(15) AS TIME GOES BY. At Factor Daily, Gautham Shenoy takes an overview of the history of sff in China in “Telling the China Story: The Rise and Rise of Chinese Science Fiction”

It wasn’t until the 1950s – after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 – that science fiction would see a resurgence, albeit for a brief period. And then too written primarily for children, or to popularise science, as a vehicle for propaganda, and with a lot of translations of Russian books and influenced heavily by science fiction from the Soviet Union before the relationship soured. Notable works of Chinese science fiction by Chinese authors from this period are A Tour of the Solar System  by Zhang Ren and the adventure tale of three Chinese children stealing a spaceship to go off on an adventure, From Earth to Mars as also the space-colonisation story,  Builders of Mars by Zheng Wenguang, an author who would fall out of favour with the establishment during the Cultural Revolution and exiled, much like the genre itself, with anything remotely suspected of bearing a similarity to ‘western culture’, not least capitalism, being regarded as harmful.

(16) ROBOTS CANNED. SYFY Wire can hardly believe it, but “Countless robots have been ‘fired’ by a Japanese hotel that is largely run by them”.

One might think that robots would have some measure of job security, especially when they work in a robot hotel. It would seem that this is not the case — even in a robot hotel, robots, replicants, and androids can be “retired.” 

According to The Verge, the Henn-na “Strange” Hotel in Japan has “laid off” half of the 243 robots that maintained the hotel because they created more problems than they ended up solving. In trying to substitute robots for human workers, the hotel ended up creating more work for humans. As advanced as the hotel’s robot velociraptors that worked the check-in desk were, they couldn’t figure out how to properly photocopy a passport. Nothing in the previous sentence was a joke. 

On the list for early retirement is Churi, a robot doll assistant that was placed in each room. Churi was meant to be a kind of Siri/Alexa hybrid, but proved incapable of answering any questions…

(17) THE MARTIAN OENOPHILES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Georgia—no, not the American state—is looking for grape varieties that might survive on Mars. Because, you know, colonists will want to relax with some wine (Smithsonian: “Why the Nation of Georgia Wants to Make Wine on Mars”). I mean, potatoes alone just aren’t going to cut it.

“Researchers there are looking for grape varieties that can grow in Martian soil and survive high radiation and carbon monoxide.”

When and if humanity establishes a colony on Mars, it’s likely someone will want to kick back after a hard day of terraforming with a nice glass of Chardonnay. Luckily, the nation of Georgia has them covered. Amie Ferris-Rotman at The Washington Post reports the nation is funding a research project to develop varieties of wine grapes that can survive on the Red Planet.

So why is a small country in the Caucasus spending its resources on space wine? The most recent archaeological evidence suggests that the oldest known wine making in the world took place in the region 8,000 years ago, pegging Georgia as the birthplace of vino. Logically so, Georgia wants to keep that title on other planets as well.

“If we’re going to live on Mars one day, Georgia needs to contribute,” Nikoloz Doborjginidze, founder of Georgia’s Space Research Agency, part of the wine project tells Ferris-Rotman. “Our ancestors brought wine to Earth, so we can do the same to Mars.”

(18) NEW SFF SATIRE. Space Force: Steve Carell will star in a new Netflix series from The Office’s Greg Daniels lampooning Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force. (Via io9.)

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