Pixel Scroll 7/23/20 Flat Scrolls And Geocentric Pixels

(1) HIS DARK MATERIALS TRAILER. Decider has eyeballs on Comic-Con@Home where this new trailer was aired today.

HBO is celebrating Comic-Con@Home with a first look at Season 2 of His Dark MaterialsDuring today’s virtual panel for the show, HBO unveiled the trailer for the upcoming season of the drama, which introduces some fresh faces.

The YouTube description adds –

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.

(2) DO IT YOURSELF. There’s only one of me so I can’t write a post about every one of these items – darn it! Here is programming for Thursday, July 23, 2020, for Comic-Con International – much of it available for replay on YouTube.

(3) COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? A second trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Available On Demand and in theaters September 1.

(4) SCARES THAT CARE. Brian Keene and friends have done a few 24-hour telethons to raise funds for Scares That Care.  The most recent event was canceled due to Covid.

They are opting to do a virtual fundraiser on August 1st.  It’s only 13 hours, but it looks like it will be packed with lots of interesting panels. See the FAQ and schedule at the Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event link. Say, they get the same kind of questions as the Worldcon!

Q: I’m a celebrity who works in the horror genre. Why wasn’t I included in programming?
A: We tried to accommodate as many horror professionals as we could, but unlike our physical Scares That Care Weekend charity events, we are limited by the technological restrictions and time constraints of this virtual event. However, you can still help the cause by sharing the event with your fans and encouraging them to donate.

(5) HOLY SH!T. The New York Times shared a discovery — “How to Sell Books in 2020: Put Them Near the Toilet Paper” .

If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.

When the coronavirus forced the United States into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up.

“They sell groceries, they sell toilet paper, they sell everything people need during this time, and they’re open,” said Suzanne Herz, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor. “If you’re in there and you’re doing your big shop and you walk down the aisle and go, ‘Oh, we’re bored, and we need a book or a puzzle,’ there it is.”

Big-box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled.

Dennis Abboud is the chief executive of ReaderLink, a book distributor that serves more than 80,000 retail stores, including big-box and pharmacy chains. He said that in the first week of April, his company’s sales were 34 percent higher than the same period the year before.

“With the shelter in place, people were looking for things to do,” he said. “Workbooks, activity books and just general reading material saw a big increase.”

(6) PROMOTION TOOLS. C.E. Murphy gives readers a look behind the curtain in “Writing Career: Running The Numbers”.

…And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! 🙂

So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))

Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.

(7) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Even God Has a Place Called Home” by Ray Mwihaki, a story about environmental health, witchcraft, technophilia, and transcendence.

On Monday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they wll host another virtual event on Zoom, with Ray and science fiction author Christopher Rowe.

(8) CLARKE AWARD LOWDOWN. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter about this year’s nominees for the prize: “The Best Science Fiction of 2020”.

…In terms of who the audiences are for these books, on the one hand, if you like science fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here but if you haven’t really tried the genre before, or if you might have been put off, I’d stress that these are all books published in 2019, for a 2020 prize, so they’re very contemporary-feeling in terms of their characterisation, quality of prose, plotting and so forth. You can definitely trace their lineage through the different eras of science fiction as it has evolved as a genre, and all of these books interrogate and tease and play with that tradition in different ways, but are also respectful of it. That’s the difference between, say—insert name of mainstream author—who has discovered a science fiction concept and written a book about it, then does a press tour where they try and convince you they’ve somehow invented robots, or space travel or parallel universes, or whatever. You know: ‘Before me science fiction was just cowboys in space, but my book is about real futures…’

(9) RENDEZVOUS WITH JOHN CLUTE. In “Arthur C. Clarke’s Scientific Romances Eschew Spectacle for Dumbstruck Wonder”, John Clute takes Rendezvous with Rama as the text to explore his views for LitHub readers.

… In his rendering of the 2001 story, Clarke may be marginally more emollient than Kubrick when it comes to assessing humanity’s chances of genuine uplift at the hands of a transcendent superbeing, but compared with contemporary in-house American SF visions of the future, both novel and film are baths of cold water.

Both were tortuously understood by many genre viewers as optimistic paeans to technological progress, with a bit of hoo-ha at the end; and Clarke himself never directly contradicted Kubrick’s dramatic rendering of his own exceedingly measured presentation of his clear message—also articulated in Childhood’s End, and hinted at strongly in Rendezvous with Rama—that as a species we may simply not quite measure up.

But this calm magisterial verdict, couched smilingly, mattered little to his own career, even when understood correctly. The huge success of 2001 had both made him rich and transformed him into a world gure; an addressable, venerated guru whose declarations on the shape-of-things-to-come were now given to the world at large. The best of this nonfiction work was collected years later as Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999), a huge volume whose title perfectly sums up the coign of vantage from which he wrote: which is to say, as though from the future itself, from somewhere on the far side of the slingshot ending….

(10) MORE UK FANHISTORY ONLINE. Rob Hansen has expanded THEN’s 1961 coverage of the SF Club of London. And “I’ve also added a link to a report by George Locke on the 1960 Minicon in Kettering. I didn’t think any report beyond a couple of sentences in Skyrack existed for that con so I was quite surprised to stumble across it.” Scroll down to 1960s section for links on the THEN index.

Then there’s the 1967 London Minicon, with photos. All part of filling in the history.

(11) BACK TO BASICS. “It’s Time to Re-Re-Re-Meet the Muppets”, and the New York Times makes the introductions.

At the dawn of “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s, a visit to the Muppet Labs consisted of watching its nebbishy proprietor, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demonstrate misbegotten inventions like an exploding hat or a self-destructing necktie with a brief burst of pyrotechnics, a canned explosion sound and a puff of smoke.

Today, a return visit to those labs on the Disney+ series “Muppets Now” features Honeydew and his agitated assistant, Beaker, using a homemade device called the Infern-O-Matic to reduce everyday items — a carton of eggs, a wall clock, a guitar — to smoldering piles of ashes.

If this scene from “Muppets Now” feels manic and combustible — and even a bit familiar — that is by design: as Leigh Slaughter, vice president of the Muppets Studio, explained recently, she and her colleagues are hopeful that this series will conjure up “that true Muppet anarchy — that complete chaos.”

She added: “If they’re going to take on real-world science, we thought, we have to burn things. We have to drop things. We have to blow things up.”

“Muppets Now,” a six-episode series that debuts on July 31, is both Disney’s attempt to bring those familiar, fuzzy faces to its streaming service and a parody of internet content. Its segments feature characters like Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef in rapid-fire comedy sketches that lampoon popular online formats.

The new series also strives to reconnect the Muppets with the disorderly sensibility they embodied in the era of “The Muppet Show” and get back to basics after other recent efforts to reboot the characters fizzled out.

“The thinking is to stop trying so hard to be like everybody else and just be the Muppets,” said Bill Barretta, a veteran Muppet performer and an executive producer of “Muppets Now.” “Let’s celebrate the fact that they all have to deal with each other and just be silly and play and entertain again.”

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 23, 1995 The Outer Limits aired “I, Robot”. This is a remake of the November 14th, 1964 episode that aired during the second season of the original Twilight Zone. This is not based on Asimov’s “ I, Robot” but rather on a short story by Eando Binder that ran in the January 1939 issue of Amazing Stories. The script was by Alison Lea Bingeman who also wrote episodes of RobocopFlash GordonForever KnightBeyond Reality and The Lost World at that time. Adam Nimoy was the director and Leonard Nimoy, his father, was in it as he been the earlier production playing a different character. (CE)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 23, 1889 – Yuri Annenkov.  Illustrator, portraitist, theater and cinema designer.  Zamyatin said he “has a keen awareness of the extraordinary rush and dynamism of our epoch.”  Here is a Synthetic landscape.  Here is the photographer M.A. Sherling.  Here is Zamyatin.  Here is a frog costume.  Here is Miydodir, an animated washstand that eventually makes the boy at left wash.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1910 Ruthie Tompson, 110. An animator and artist. Her first job was the ink and paints, uncredited, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was involved in every animated from film Disney for three decades, stating with Pinocchio (Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form). Some she was an animator on, some she was admin on. She worked on Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, too. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1914 – Virgil Finlay.  Pioneering illustrator.  Hugo for that in the first year we gave them; five Retrospective Hugos.  First sale, the Dec 1935 Weird Tales; probably 2,600 works of graphic art; fifty poems, mostly published after his death.  Here is a cover for The Stars Are Ours.  Here is the Dec 56 Galaxy.  Some of his marvelous monochrome: The Crystal Man“Flight to Forever”; I haven’t identified this, can you?  SF Hall of Fame.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  See the Donald Grant and the Gerry de la Ree collections.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1926 Eunice Sudak, 94. Novelizer of three early Sixties Roger Corman films: Tales of TerrorThe Raven and X, the latter based of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. She wrote a lot of other novelizations but they weren’t even genre adjacent.(CE)
  • Found Fandom July 23, 1937 Cyril M. Kornbluth. Wikipedia says July 2 is his birthday — 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom says July 23 is the date he discovered fandom. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction which Wildside Press has all of n a single publication, available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1958.) (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1947 – Gardner Dozois.  Three novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian.  Two Nebulas.  Editor of Asimov’s 1984-2004; two dozen Asimov’s anthologies, many with Sheila Williams.  Four years editing Best SF Stories of the Year, thirty-five of The Year’s Best SF (no, I shan’t explain, and I shan’t tell the jelly-bean story, either).  Four dozen more anthologies; one Nebula Showcase.  Fifteen Hugos as Best Pro Editor; one as Best Pro Editor, Short Form.  Skylark Award.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1948 – Lew Wolkoff, 72.  Long-time laborer in fanhistory and the workings of our conventions.  Some highlights: co-chaired ArtKane IV, an art-focussed con in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1979; assembled Phoxphyre, a fanzine anthology of the 1936 Philadelphia convention, with reminiscences by Baltadonis, Goudket, Kyle, Madle, Newton, Pohl, Train, 1983; Program Book appreciation of Barbi Johnson, a Guest of Honor at Lunacon 26, 1983; helped design the base for the 1951 Retro-Hugo trophy, 2001; chaired PSFS (Philadelphia SF Soc.) Young Writers’ Contest, 2018; got 120 audiotapes of Philcon proceedings to the SF Oral History Ass’n; founded, or purported to found, the SF Union of Unpublished Authors (“ess-eff-double-U-ay”, i.e. taking off SFWA the SF Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1949 – Eric Ladd, 71.  Twenty covers for us.  Here is The Falling Torch.  Here is Convergent Series.  First suggested to Bob Eggleton that BE should exhibit in our Art Shows.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1954 – Astrid Bear, 66.  One of the great entries in our Masquerade costume competitions was The Bat and the Bitten, Karen Anderson and her daughter Astrid at the 27th Worldcon.  In 1983 Astrid married Greg Bear; they have two children.  Here is AB at the 76th Worldcon on a panel discussing the 26th (L to R, Astrid, Tom Whitmore, Mary Morman, Ginjer Buchanan, Suzanne Tompkins, Gay Haldeman).  For the 71st, since Jay Lake whom she and all of us loved had contrived to obtain whole-genome sequencing, and AB had become a fiber artist, she made Jay Lake Genome Scarves in time to give him one, as you can see here.  Fanzine, Gallimaufry.  It’s not true that this book is about her.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1970 Charisma Carpenter, 50. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancason Veronica Mars.  She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1982 —  Tom Mison, 38. He is best-known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. Currently he’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to that he Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Fresh from his Hugo voter reading, Dann writes, “In light of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, I thought this xkcd might be useful.  Check out the mouse-over/alt text.”

(15) WORLDCON TIME OUT OF JOINT. Bill Higgins started out teasing David Levine about CoNZealand’s July 16 “Wild Cards” panel, then his imagination ran away with him:

(16) THIS JUST IN…THE ONION. “Disaster: Luigi Left His Space Heater Plugged In For 3 Days And The Entire ‘Paper Mario’ Kingdom Burned Down”.

For years, Luigi’s kindhearted nature and well-meaning oafishness have endeared him to millions of fans who were willing to look past his lengthy history of incompetence. But it seems like the iconic Nintendo character might have just passed the point of no return: The big guy in green apparently left his space heater plugged in for three days straight, and now the entire Paper Mario kingdom has burned to the ground….

(17) STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. CBS All-Access dropped a clip today.

Get an exclusive look at a hilarious scene from the upcoming series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, an all-new animated comedy featuring the voices of stars Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler) and Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner).

(18) LONG MARCH TO MARS. NPR reports “China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars”

A heavy-lift Long March-5 roared off a launch pad on Hainan Island Thursday, carrying China’s hopes for its first successful Mars mission – an ambitious project to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet in one shot.

If everything goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 will be China’s first successful mission to Mars, after a previous attempt failed in 2011 — gaining it membership in an elite club including only the U.S. and Russia, of nations who have successfully landed on the planet. (Even so, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander, which touched down in 1971, transmitted for mere seconds before contact was lost.)

…The goals of the mission are to map surface geology, examine soil characteristics and water distribution, measure the Martian ionosphere and climate and study the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

The BBC adds details: “China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth”.

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.

The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.

Called Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, the rover won’t actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.

This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.

…The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars’ equator. The rover will study the region’s geology – at, and just below, the surface.

Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.

This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.

(19) THERE WLL BE SPACE WAR. Or so Jerry Pournelle might have said.“UK and US say Russia fired a satellite weapon in space” – BBC has the story.

The UK and US have accused Russia of launching a weapon-like projectile from a satellite in space.

In a statement, the head of the UK’s space directorate said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.”

The statement said actions like this “threaten the peaceful use of space”.

The US has previously raised concerns about this Russian satellite.

In his statement, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, head of the UK’s space directorate, said: “Actions like this threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.

“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

(20) FIRST PEOPLE. “Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas”.

Humans settled in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, according to new finds from Mexico.

They suggest people were living there 33,000 years ago, twice the widely accepted age for the earliest settlement of the Americas.

The results are based on work at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude rock shelter in central Mexico.

Archaeologists found thousands of stone tools suggesting the cave was used by people for at least 20,000 years.

(21) DIH-DIH-DIH-DAH. “Secret Morse code tune sees game removed in China”.

A popular mobile game has been taken offline in mainland China for “rectification work”, after netizens discovered its musical director had written a song containing Morse code with a hidden Hong Kong pro-democracy message.

According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the Cytus II musical rhythm game, produced by Taiwan’s Rayark Games, has been removed from China’s mainland app stores.

This was done after netizens discovered a controversial song by Hong Kong musical director ICE, real name Wilson Lam, on his Soundcloud account.

The piece, Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was actually posted on his page in March, but after netizens discovered it contained in Morse code the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, many in the mainland called for him to be sacked.

(22) RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU. Floors that can scare you – a gallery of wild images at Imgur.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailers:  SpongeBob Square Pants–Rehydrated on YouTube says that “children and extremely inebriated adults” will enjoy this new version of a classic SpongeBob SquarePants game featuring “Rube Goldberg machines that require a Ph.D. in SpongeBob to complete.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/17/20 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel

(1) TALK AMONG YOURSELVES. N.K. Jemisin has some great news. This is as much of it as she can share.

(2) BEST OF THE FIRST HALF. Grimdark Magazine presents its list of “Best Sff Books Of 2020 So Far: Picked By The GDM Team”. Includes –

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

(PICKED BY MIKE MYERS)

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

(3) BEATTS UPDATE. Sponsors of Borderlands Books are among those who have signed “An Open Letter to the Borderlands Books Ownership, Staff, and Community” calling for Alan Beatts to give up ownership of the store.

We, the undersigned, have been sponsors and supporters of Borderlands Books. Alan Beatts asked for community support to keep his business operational; in exchange, we expect him to be accountable to that community.

In light of the accusations that Alan has committed acts of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, we are withdrawing our sponsorship and support for Borderlands Books. We believe the survivors. We want to support them and any others Alan has harmed, whether or not they publicly come forward.

We cannot support Borderlands while Alan might use his position as owner to do and conceal harm. We demand that he relinquish ownership of the store and divest financially from it….

(4) SFF WINS CHINESE AWARD. Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang, whose story “The Language Sheath” has been awarded the 2019 Annual Award by Shanghai Writers’ Association. The English version, published by Clarkesworld, is here.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel encounters Kit Reed:

Dry witted and lethally incisive, Kit Reed (1932 – 2017), was prolific in a variety of genres: speculative fiction, literary fiction, and (as Kit Craig) psychological thrillers. Selecting a particular work out of all the short SFF Reed published over her long career must have been challenging. Nevertheless, editor Marcus assures us 

“To Lift a Ship” is my favorite story from this era, and I think you’ll like it, too.

Did my Young People, in fact, enjoy it?

(6) ONE OF THE BIGGER IDEAS. “The Big Idea: Madeline Ashby” at Whatever begins:

“It’s a rape revenge story? Is that what you said?”

It was October of 2016. It was a rainy morning in London just days from Halloween, and I was mind-shatteringly jetlagged, getting ready to give a talk at MozFest, the festival put on each year by the Mozilla Foundation. I was answering questions put to me by a fact-checker from the Wall Street Journal, after Margaret Atwood said they should talk to me about robots, science fiction, and the future. The interviewer had asked about my series of novels called The Machine Dynasty, which started with a little book called vN. This was how Margaret and I met — we did an appearance together with Corey Redekop at the Kingston WritersFest back home in Canada. She had gently steered the interview in the way only she can, and said, “Now, Madeline, having read your book, I must ask: how old were you when you first saw The Wizard of Oz?”

Oh, I thought. She gets it. Of course she does. She’s Margaret Fucking Atwood.

This was my life in 2016. In a week or two, the world would fall apart. So would I. In both cases, it happened slowly, but faster than you might think. In both cases, it started years earlier. Collapse is not a binary state; damage occurs on a spectrum of possible repair. You might not recognize it, at first. You may not yet have the words with which to describe it….

(7) OTHER SNOW WHITES. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scholar about “Snow White and the darkness within us”.

Maria Tatar collects versions of the tale from around the world and explains how they give us a way to think about what we prefer not to

Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released as the first feature-length animated film in 1937, and decades later, the musical fantasy based on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale about the complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship is still a cultural touchstone. The story has virtually eclipsed every version of the many told the world over about beautiful girls and their older rivals, often a cruel biological mother or stepmother, but sometimes an aunt or a mother-in-law. In her new book, “The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters,” Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Folklore and Mythology and Germanic Languages and Literatures and a senior fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows, collected tales from a variety of nations, including Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Armenia, and India. She spoke to the Gazette about her lifelong fascination with the saga and how we can look to fairy tales to navigate uncertain times.

GAZETTE: Why did you decide to take up the Snow White story?

TATAR: While working on my previous book with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., “The Annotated African American Folktales,” I came across a South African story called “The Unnatural Mother and the Girl with a Star on Her Forehead.” It was basically what we call the Snow White story, but in it the “beautiful girl” falls into a catatonic trance after putting on slippers given to her by her jealous mother. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole of wonder tales and discovered stories from all over the world in which a stunningly attractive young woman arouses the jealousy of a woman who is usually her biological mother. The Brothers Grimm, whose 1812 story inspired Walt Disney to create the animated film, had many vernacular tales available to them, but they chose to publish the one in which the rival is the stepmother, in part because they did not want to violate the sanctity of motherhood. Now, decades later, it is still our cultural story about the many complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship. It has eradicated almost every trace of the many tales told all over the world about beautiful girls and their rivals.

GAZETTE: Why does this particular story remain so resonant?

TATAR: All of the tales in this collection are cliffhangers. They begin with the counterfactual “What if?” then leave us asking “What’s next?” and finally challenge us to ask “Why?” These stories were originally told in communal settings, and they got people talking about all the conflicts, pressures, and injustices in real life. How do you create an ending that is not just happily ever after, but also “the fairest of them all”? What do you do when faced with worst-case possible scenarios? What do you need to survive cruelty, abandonment, and assault? In fairy tales, the answer often comes in the form of wits, intelligence, and resourcefulness on the one hand, and courage on the other. With their melodramatic mysteries, they arouse our curiosity and make us care about the characters. They tell us something about the value of seeking knowledge and feeling compassion under the worst of circumstances, and that’s a lesson that makes us pay attention today.

(8) REPLAY. Aidan Moher has an epic retro game review at Nerds of a Feather: “Beauty, Dragons, and Isometric Horror: Revisiting Breath of Fire IV”. Lots of analysis accompanied by eye-catching art from the game. At the end —

…Despite all that. I’m nine hours into this playthrough of Breath of Fire IV and it’s going to be the first time I complete it. Maybe it’s playing on a CRT monitor, which really allows those sprites to shine. Maybe it’s sheer grit and determination. Maybe it’s a growing understanding of how to appreciate games within their context, rather than expecting them to be something more modern. Nah. It’s the sprite art.

(9) HISTORY OF WATER? Maybe. The Planetary Society highlighted this NASA public domain image of “Curiosity’s View From The Top Of The Greenheugh Pediment”:

Stitched together from 28 images, this recent view from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken from the top of a steep slope, looking out over a sandstone cap and a more distant “clay-bearing unit,” a region which scientists think contains evidence of the history of water in the area.

(10) COLE OBIT. Joanna Cole, author of more than 250 books for children, including the Magic School Bus series, died July 12 at the age of 75. NPR paid tribute: “‘The Magic School Bus’ Series Author Joanna Cole Has Died”.

She originally created The Magic School Bus in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen. The core idea of a sweet and nerdy crew of schoolchildren taking field trips into scientific concepts, bodily parts, into space and back to the age of dinosaurs — and always led by their teacher, the intrepid Ms. Frizzle — eventually spun out into dozens of tie-ins and more than 93 million copies in print, plus a beloved television show that aired for 18 years in more than 100 countries.

In the U.S., the original Magic School Bus TV series was broadcast by PBS for 18 years; in 2017, an updated version launched in 2017 on Netflix, with the first of four specials on the way in August….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and produced by Arne Schmidt, it was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It starred Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer. It would lose out to The Princess Bride at Nolacon II for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. The movie was first given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America due to its graphic violence, but Verhoeven toned it down and got an R. Most critics loved it and gave it high marks both as a SF film and as social commentary. Director Ken Russell said he thought it was the best SF film since Metropolis  It did very well at the Box Office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an 84% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best-remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.) (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1907 – Humphry Ellis.  Double first in Classics at Magdalen (i.e. Oxford; not Magdalene, Cambridge), invited to teach at Marlborough, 1930; while there submitted to Punch, was accepted; hired there, 1933; deputy editor, 1949; resigned to protest new editor Malcolm Muggeridge, 1953; earned more selling to The New Yorker, 1954; a dozen collections.  For us “Trollope in Space”; “The Space-Crime Continuum” and one more in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1912 – Barbara Strachey.  Journeys of Frodo, an atlas; drew the maps herself.  See The Independent’s wonderful obituary, with a doll of Lytton Strachey, wine, Bertrand Russell, gardening.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1936 – John Spurling, 84.  Nairobi (not his fault this reminds me of Ernie Kovacs); Marlborough too late for H. Ellis; St John’s, Oxford; Royal Artillery; British Broadcasting Corp.; free lance.  Arcadian Nights re-imagining Greek myths; King Arthur in Avalon, play for a ladies’ college – is the Matter of Arthur fantasy?  Walter Scott Prize for The Ten Thousand Things, historical fiction about Wang Mêng (1308-1385); three more novels, nine more plays.  Franz Liszt Society.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1943 – Grania Davis.  Two novels (and three more outside our field) plus two with Avram Davidson; a dozen and half shorter stories plus four with him; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian; her collection Tree of Life, Book of Death; AD collections The Boss in the WallThe AD Treasury with Robert Silverberg, Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven with Jack Dann, The Investigations of AD with Dick Lupoff, ¡Limekiller! and The Other 19th Century with Henry Wessells; anthology Speculative Japan with Gene van Troyer; essays, letters, on China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (as it then was), Japan, M.Z. Bradley, C.N. Brown, AD, P.K. Dick, G.C. Edmondson, Judith Merril, Takumi Shibano, in LocusNY Review of SFet al.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 76. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column for Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog. He appears frequently at Boston-area Cons. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 66. Best-known rather obviously for creating and writing most of  Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics side, he’s written The Amazing Spider-ManThor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written SupermanWonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1956 Timothy D. Rose, 64. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but was in The Dark Crystal, Return to EwokReturn of The JediReturn to OzThe Muppet Christmas CarolThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1971 – Cory Doctorow, 49.  Ten novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Columnist for Locus, SF Age; anthologist; interviewed in SF Research Ass’n ReviewShimmerSteampunkStarShipSofaStrange Horizons.  Finding ourselves chatting about something or other at an SF convention we noticed that others stared; now, really, folks.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 44. Wow. Author of Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire Summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1988 —  Summer Bishil, 32. Best-known as Margo Hanson on The Magicians,  but she’s also been Azula in The Last Airbender, and Aneesa in Return to Halloweentown. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1989 – H.A. Titus, 31.  Two novels (Burnt Silver just released in February), ten shorter stories.  Paper Tigers proofreading service.  Loves legends, Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons,skiing, rock-climbing, her husband, their sons.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld captures the spirit of the moment.

(14) TIME FOR A REFILL. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 17th July 2020” takes a look at The Old Guard from the other side, exploring the important choices the movie adaptation makes and what that means for Western action/genre cinema. And after that, says Stuart —

I also take a look at Noelle Stevenson’s vastly impressive The Fire Never Goes Out, a graphic novel autobiography with clear eyes, a wicked sense of humor and incredible emotional honesty. Finally, there’s a look at Concrete Genie, a deeply lovely, and deceptively subtle PS4 game which maps personal and artistic growth onto the renovation of a small town, occasional parkour and adorable grobble monsters. Plus lots of apples.

The Full Lid is published weekly and is free. You can sign up at the top of the most recent issue and view an archive of the last six months. 

(15) TRAILER TIME. Here is the Superman Smashes the Klan Official Trailer for Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel from DC.

The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman! Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!

(16) LEARNING FROM THE CLARKE AWARD NUMBERS. “The Good News and the Bad: the Clarke Award submissions list under the lens”. Tagline: “Author and Clarke Award 2020 judge Stewart Hotston on representation and the state of contemporary SF publishing in the UK.”

…Now the bad news.

To be honest, I thought of writing something witty in place of that last sentence. Maybe ‘now the less good news’ but it’s not less good. It’s appalling and I want to be clear with my language here rather than covering over the situation with typical British understatement.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

121 submissions.

45 imprints

116 authors

14 authors of non-white descent (the specific definition of which we’ll discuss below)

3 British authors of non-white descent

Let me say that again.

3 British authors of non-white descent

Out of 116 authors.

In my view there were actually more books with problematic depictions of race than there are books by authors from those very communities (By my own count there were 9 books submitted from 7 imprints which featured unacceptable racial stereotypes or tropes).

(17) HOLD THE PHONE. “NASA Pushes Back Launch Date On Webb Space Telescope, Citing COVID-19”. NPR’s story includes video of packing the telescope for launch.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited — and long-delayed — successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, has been pushed back yet another seven months, NASA said Thursday citing, in part, delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nearly $10 billion project, which scientists hope will see back to the time when the first galaxies were formed following the Big Bang, had been scheduled to launch next March from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, but the space agency said it is now aiming for an Oct. 31, 2021, launch date.

“Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “The team continues to be focused on reaching milestones and arriving at the technical solutions that will see us through to this new launch date next year.”

(18) LIGHTS OUT. “Scientists shed light on how the blackest fish in the sea ‘disappear'”

An ocean mystery – how the blackest fish in the deep sea are so extremely black – has been solved in a study that began with a very bad photograph.

“I couldn’t get a good shot – just fish silhouettes,” said Dr Karen Osborn from the Smithsonian Institution.

Her detailed study of the animal’s “ultra-black” skin revealed that it traps light.

While it makes the animals difficult to photograph, marine scientists say it provides the ultimate camouflage.

There is, Dr Osborn explained, nowhere to hide from predators in the deep ocean, so this “ultra-blackness” renders creatures almost invisible.

(19) LITTLE TEENY EYES. “Beetle-mounted camera streams insect adventures” — the BBC’s straight-prose version. You can come up with your own filk accompaniment.

Researchers have developed a tiny wireless camera that is light enough to be carried by live beetles.

The team at the University of Washington in the US drew inspiration from the insects to create its low-powered camera system.

Its beetle-cam can stream up to five frames per second of low-resolution, black and white footage to a nearby smartphone.

The research was published in the Science Robotics journal.

The entire camera rig weighs just 250 milligrams, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card.

While the sensor itself is low resolution, capturing just 160 by 120 pixel images, it is mounted on a mechanical arm that can shift from side to side.

That allows the camera to look side to side and scan the environment, just like a beetle, and capture a higher-resolution panoramic image.

(20) CHANGING TIMES. BBC explains “Why Monty Python’s Life of Brian, once rated X, is now a 12A”.

In 1979, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was considered so controversial it was given an X certificate and banned from some British cinemas.

Last year, however, its rating was downgraded to a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

In its annual report, published this week, the BBFC said it now considered the film “permissible at a more junior category” under its current guidelines.

The film returned to cinemas in 2019 to mark its 40th anniversary.

It was rereleased in April last year with a 12A rating for “infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity [and] comic violence”.

…When it was first released, the BBFC – then named the British Board of Film Censors – rated the film AA, which meant those under 14 were not allowed to see it.

Contemporary concerns that the film was blasphemous in nature led to more than 100 local authorities opting to view the film for themselves.

This led to 28 of them raising the classification to an X certificate, meaning no one under 18 could see it, and 11 banning the film altogether.

…It is not uncommon for the BBFC to revisit films that are being reissued theatrically and reappraise their original classification.

Earlier this year Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980 with a U certificate, was reclassified as a PG for its “moderate violence [and] mild threat”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’The New World’ from RoGoPaG” on YouTube is Jean-Luc Godard’s contribution to a 1963 anthology film called RoGoPaG where he shows the subtle psychological consequences after an atomic bomb is exploded over Paris. Part I is below. Part II is here.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/20 I Know This Defies The Law Of Pixel Scrolling, But I Never Studied Law

(1) CLARKE AWARD GOES GREEN. Well, the reverse idea worked when Lucky Strike went to war… The Clarke Award has unveiled a logo redesign on Twitter via @clarkeaward.

(2) PRATCHETT’S GENESIS. “Final Terry Pratchett stories to be published in September” reports The Guardian. The stories in The Time-travelling Caveman were written for newspapers in the Sixties and Seventies. One of them, “The Tropnecian Invasion of Great Britain,” appears at the end of the article.

The final collection of early stories from the late Terry Pratchett, written while the Discworld creator was a young reporter, will be published in September. The tales in The Time-travelling Caveman, many of them never released in book form before, range from a steam-powered rocket’s flight to Mars to a Welsh shepherd’s discovery of the resting place of King Arthur. “Bedwyr was the handsomest of all the shepherds, and his dog, Bedwetter, the finest sheepdog in all Wales,” writes the young Pratchett, with typical flourish….

(3) SFF NOT QUITE IN TRANSLATION. Ann Leckie wryly announced she is —

(4) THE LID IS UP. Today Camestros Felapton advocates for another finalist in “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Alasdair Stuart”.

… Stuart manages very well to shift the distance in his writing from the observational to the personal. Character is, I’d contend, a underestimated aspect of fan-writing. Yes, fan-writing does cover the kind of community journalism style writing, as well as descriptive reviews (both valuable – I’m not knocking them) but fan-writers are by title fans and it is the personal engagement with fandom and stories that drives the world of fan-writing. You can’t genuinely know people from what they write but good fan-writing should, over the course of many examples, give a sense of a person and a perspective. I think it is something that Alasdair Stuart does very well. I’ve never met him (and it’s unlikely I will anytime soon) but his writing conveys character in a way that is very personally engaging. Yes, yes, that’s an illusion of sorts but that illusion is something I enjoy in good writing.

(5) TWO TOPICS WITH ADA PALMER. In “Uncanny Censorship Essay & Writing POV” on Ex Urbe, Ada Palmer discusses her article in Uncanny Magazine about censorship and summarizes a panel she was on at Balticon about writing point-of-view in fiction.

…Black Lives Matter has momentum now around the world, a call for change that can’t be silenced; the hate it battles also has momentum, and amid their clash another wave is gaining momentum, as it does in every information revolution: the wave of those in power (politicians, corporations, alarmed elites) wanting to silence the uncomfortable voices empowered by the new medium.  We need to fight this battle too, a battle to find a balance between protecting the new ability of radical voices to speak while also protecting against hate speech, misinformation, and other forms of communication toxic to peace and democracy.  As I explain in my essay, genre fiction, we who read it, we who write it, have a lot of power to affect the battle over censorship.  These days are hard; as someone both disabled and immunocompromised I can’t go join the protests in the streets, not without both endangering fellow protesters by getting in their way, and the risk of this one moment of resistance destroying my ability to be here helping with the next one, and the next.  But I can help on the home front as it were, working to protect the tools of free expression which those out on the streets depend on every minute, every protest, every video exposing cruel realities.  Everything we do to strengthen speech and battle censorship protects our best tool, not just for this resistance, but for the next one, and the next….

The second section of the post, about writing POV begins:

Question: What I don’t get is why they tell new writers to not have multiple POVs in a novel. I mean, if the story calls for it, and you’re clear on the change, why not?

Jo Walton: Minimizing POVs is good discipline because it’s very easy to get sloppy. So it’s one of those things that’s good advice when you’re starting out, but not a law.

Ada Palmer: I agree that minimizing POVs is often wise.  Whenever I find myself wanting a scene to be in a different POV I think really hard about it. Sometimes it’s the right answer, but the fail condition is that you have too many POVs and the reader expects each of them to have follow-through and they don’t….

(6) HAVE YOU READ THESE? Goodreads has posted “The 100 Most Popular Sci-Fi Books on Goodreads”. I’ve read 54 of them – much better than I usually do with book lists, but barely over 50% even so.

Dystopias, alien invasions, regenerated dinosaurs, space operas, multiverses, and more, the realm of science fiction takes readers out of this world to tackle all-too-real issues, including oppression, bigotry, censorship, and the horrors of war. To celebrate the most inventive of genres, we’re exploring readers’ 100 most popular science fiction novels of all time on Goodreads.

As all good sci-fi readers know, the science behind the story is half the fun. To create our list, we ran the data to reveal the most reviewed books on our site. Additionally, each title needed at least a 3.5-star rating from your fellow readers to join this list. And, since science fiction is known for its continuing voyages, in the case of multiple titles from the same series, we chose the one with the most reviews.

Here are the top science fiction novels on Goodreads, listed from 1 to 100. We hope you discover a book or two you’ll want to read in this lineup, whether it’s a classic of the genre or one of the newer entries to sci-fi.

The top four books on the list are:

(7) PANTHER’S PRIEST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One of the most important comic creators you may never have heard interviewed dropped in to Marvel creative director Joe Quesada’s YouTube channel. The somewhat reclusive and iconoclastic Christopher Priest opened up about his creative process with regards to Black Panther, as well as some of the challenges he faced as the first African American to be a full-time writer in mainstream comic books. For the record, there would never have been a Black Panther movie without Christopher Priest’s stellar run on the book. 

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

July 1988 — Bruce Sterling’s Islands in The Net was published by Arbor House, an imprint of William Morrow. This hardcover edition went for $18.95 and was 394 pages in length. It would win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It was nominated for Hugo, Ditmar and Locus Awards that same year. It would lose out to C. J. Cherryh’s Cyteen at Noreascon 3. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 7, 1851 – Kate Prichard.  With her son Hesketh, whom she outlived, a dozen pioneering stories of Flaxman Low, possibly the first psychic detective in literature.  Six are at Project Gutenberg Australia (as by E. & H. Heron, pseudonyms used by the authors) here.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert A. Heinlein. I find RAH to be a complicated writer when it comes to assessing him. Is Starship Troopers a fascist novel? Is The Number of The Beast as bad as it seems? (Yes.) What do I really like by him?  The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (though I despise its sequel To Sail Beyond the Sunset), The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Rolling Stones. Lots of his short fiction such as as “…All You Zombies“ is just amazing.  And only he knows why he wrote Time Enough for Love. John has an interesting take on him here. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four-year run there, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his first roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1926 – Tom Beecham.  Five dozen interiors for Amazing, FantasticFutureGalaxyIfSF Quarterly.  Here is his illustration for “A Saucer of Loneliness”.  Here, “Weak on Square Roots”.  Here is a spaceship cover for Fury magazine.  Later well-known for Westerns, wildlife in landscape; President, Soc. American Historical Artists; 360 paintings.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1948 – Paul Doherty, Ph.D.  Fifty science columns in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with noted student of ’Pataphysics and co-founder of the Tiptree Award (as it then was) Pat Murphy.  Popped corn in David Letterman’s hand with a Van deGraaff generator.  Rock climber who climbed the face of El Capitan.  Taught with the Exploratorium, also the Science Circle which established a Paul Doherty educators’ award.  Named Best Science Demonstrator, World Congress of Museums, 1996.  His Exploratorium Teacher Institute Website is here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 61. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. By the way, IDW published a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty bucks! (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1962 Akiva J. Goldsman, 58. Screenwriter whose most notable accomplishment was that he wrote a dozen episodes of Fringe; he also wrote the screenplays for Batman Forever and its sequel Batman & RobinI, RobotI Am LegendPractical MagicWinter’s Tale (his first directing gig) and Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1964 – Kôsuke Fujishima, 56.  Famous for Oh, My Goddess! manga, with video animation, games, and like that; Kodansha Manga Award.  Of course college sophomore Keiichi Morisato calls a wrong number and reaches the Goddess Help Line.  Of course when a Norn answers and says KM gets one wish, KM thinks it’s a practical joke and tells Verthandi (which Fujishima renders “Belldandy”, not too bad) KM wants her to stay with him forever.  They have to leave KM’s dormitory.  Today is the author’s fourth wedding anniversary; he married the famous 20-year-old cosplayer Nekomu Otogi on July 7, 2016 (or at least that’s when he confirmed it on Twitter).  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1968 – Tricia Sullivan, 52.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Translated into French, German, Portuguese.  Clarke Award for Dreaming Into Smoke.  She says “Occupy Me [2016] … is the work that means the most to me….  I have a B.A. in Music … M.Sc. in Astrophysics…. working on a Ph.D…. machine learning in astronomy, which means coding most days.  I balance out this madness by talking to my vegetable garden, sometimes even as I eat bits of it.”  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1980 – Elena Vizerskaya, 40.  Illustrator; she says “surrealist photographer”, which is true.  Here is her cover for Permeable Borders.  Here is Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille (nominated for a Chesley); Brenda Cooper said “Get it in physical form, the cover is worth having.”  Here is Amaryllis.  Here is “Find new ways to change”.  Try this Website.  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 33. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. Highly recommended. Her Cassidy Blake series is also good provided you’re a Potter fan because she makes a lot of references to that series. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Death takes a holiday in Bizarro.
  • Despite the pandemic, Moderately Confused is off to see the Wizard.
  • Lio shows how to become a proper superhero.
  • And here’s some welcome news –

(11) PROTECTING COPYRIGHT. The SFWA Blog reports “Copyright Registration Rule Change Allows Flat Fee Registration of Short Textual Works Published Online”. (A complete explanation of the rule can be read here in the Federal Register.)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is extremely pleased that the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a new copyright registration rule that will allow authors to register up to fifty short textual works published online for a single flat fee. 

SFWA, along with the National Writers Union, Horror Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors, first requested the creation of such a group registration option in January 2017.  In 2018, a productive round table between authors’ groups and the Copyright Office was held, and subsequent comments from SFWA and other groups were fully integrated into the final rule. 

The rule, which takes effect on August 17, 2020, specifies that each work must be between fifty and 17,500 words in length, must have been published in the same 90-day period, and be written by the same single author or collaboration. For works that qualify, a single fee of $65 will cover the registration of up to fifty individual works…. 

(12) LEGO PORTRAITS. “Lego debuts new sets for the young at heart featuring Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Star Wars and Iron Man”CNN has photos.

Lego announced a new line of “Lego Art” — a higher-end building set geared towards adult fans.

The line, available for purchase September 1st, will launch with four themes: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, Marvel Studios Iron Man, Star Wars “The Sith” and The Beatles.

The pieces, once they are completed, form beautiful mosaics worthy of permanent display.

(13) K/S. “How Slash Fiction Saved Star Trek” has a title with a clickbait claim that tends to overshadow the video’s nuanced account of early Trek fanhistory and about a strong facet of fannish interest in the show’s characters.

Slash fiction and fan fiction in general has always been a derided part of the fandom community. But without the pioneering efforts of many fan fiction and slash fiction writers, we wouldn’t have Star Trek or science fiction as we know it today! So let’s dive into the complex relationship between slash fiction and Star Trek.

(14) SILLY SEASON. “Doncaster baby owl webcam ‘banned by Facebook over sex and nudity rule'”.

Video of nesting baby owls was temporarily removed by Facebook for apparently breaking rules on nudity and sexual activity, the page’s owner said.

The live stream was set up by Graham Moss, who started sharing cute pictures of the owls in his Doncaster garden during the coronavirus lockdown.

He claimed his Brockholes Wildlife Diary’s (sic) page was blocked despite having no inappropriate content.

While the page has been reinstated Mr Moss has yet to receive an explanation.

Facebook has been contacted by the BBC for a comment.

(15) ROYALTY QUESTION. Marissa Doyle inquires “Have You Upped a Swan Lately?” at Book View Café. I must admit I have not. But I learned that because of the pandemic, neither has anybody else.

Swan Upping is the traditional census-taking of Mute Swans on the River Thames, wherein swans are rounded up, checked for bands or banded, and released. The king or queen of England, by ancient law and custom dating back to the middle ages, owns all unmarked swans in England. And since the twelfth century or so, the swans who live on the Thames have been counted and marked by the Royal Swan Upper to enforce that ownership (though two ancient groups, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the equally Worshipful Company of Dyers also have some swan-related rights and participate as well.) Swans were once reckoned something of a delicacy, after all, and having one on your banquet table was something of a status symbol that the Crown thought ought to mostly belong to it.

(16) GET IN LINE. BBC tells how “Esa and Nasa line up satellites to measure Antarctic sea-ice”.

US and European scientists are about to get a unique view of polar ice as their respective space agencies line up two satellites in the sky.

Authorisation was given on Tuesday for Europe’s Cryosat-2 spacecraft to raise its orbit by just under one kilometre.

This will hugely increase the number of coincident observations it can make with the Americans’ Icesat-2 mission.

One outcome from this new strategy will be the first ever reliable maps of Antarctic sea-ice thickness.

Currently, the floes in the far south befuddle efforts to measure their vertical dimension.

Heavy snow can pile on top of the floating ice, hiding its true thickness. Indeed, significant loading can even push Antarctic sea-ice under the water.

But researchers believe the different instruments on the two satellites working in tandem can help them tease apart this complexity.

Nasa’s Icesat-2, which orbits the globe at about 500km in altitude, uses a laser to measure the distance to the Earth’s surface – and hence the height of objects. This light beam reflects directly off the top of the snow.

Esa’s Cryosat-2, on the other hand, at around 720km in altitude, uses radar as its height tool, and this penetrates much more deeply into the snow cover before bouncing back.

(17) ALONG CAME JONES. In “Honest Trailers–Indiana Jones Trilogy” the Screen Junkies look at the first three Indiana Jones movies and conclude that Jones “isn’t just a terrible professor–he’s a terrible archeologist!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Darrah Chavey, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

2020 Arthur C. Clarke
Award Shortlist

The 34th shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on June 18.

  • The City in the Middle of the Night – Charlie Jane Anders (Titan)
  • The Light Brigade – Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot)
  • A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • The Old Drift– Namwali Serpell (Hogarth)
  • Cage of Souls – Adrian Tchaikovsky (Head of Zeus)
  • The Last Astronaut – David Wellington (Orbit)

Clarke Award director Tom Hunter said:

Listening to the deliberations of our judges this year, I was reminded again of the depth of passion that can power and unite our science fiction community, and what shines through for me in the choices of this year’s panel is this sense of shared love for the sf genre.

There are familiar themes here, from first contact and colonisation to the ravages of war and the end of the world, but all retooled with eyes firmly fixed on science fiction’s future as well as its long history.

 Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, added:

It felt as if we were actually inside an sf novel when we chose these half dozen books – it was our first virtual shortlist meeting. I think the judges have selected a wonderful set of novels. At this point any of the six could win.

The award judges are Stewart Hotston, British Science Fiction Association; Alasdair Stuart, British Science Fiction Association; Farah Mendlesohn, Science Fiction Foundation; Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation; and Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival.

The list of 122 eligible titles submitted for this year’s prize can be found on the award committee’s Medium blog here.

The winner will be revealed in September, date to be determined.

Clarke Award Opens for Submissions

The Arthur C. Clarke Award administrators have announced they are taking submissions for the 34th presentation of the award in 2020.

The prize is open to science fiction novels that received their first UK publication in 2019, written in English by an author of any nationality.

Although the novel’s first UK publication must fall within these dates, it is still eligible if it was previously published in other territories or has been translated into English for the first time in the judging year.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is also open to submissions from authors publishing their work independently.

Here we categorize independently publishing authors as a UK publishing company of one in their own right and authors must be either a UK citizen or resident in the UK to be eligible and are subject to the same fees and levies for entry as other publishing imprints.

The last date for receipt of submissions is December 31, 2019.

For submission guidelines or any other queries please contact the administrators at clarkeaward@gmail.com

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is administered by the Serendip Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to coordinate the yearly prize, positively promote science fiction and honor the memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

Pixel Scroll 10/2/19 Many That Scroll Deserve Pixels. And Some That File Deserve Titles. Can You Give It To Them?

(1) TERMINATOR TERMINATED? The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner tracks a major development in copyright litigation: “Real-Life ‘Terminator’: Major Studios Face Sweeping Loss of Iconic ’80s Film Franchise Rights”.

Since its 1984 bow, The Terminator has spawned five sequels grossing $1.8 billion globally. The latest, Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1), again will have the future messing with the past. And that plot extends into real life as Gale Anne Hurd, the original’s writer, has moved to terminate a copyright grant made 35 years ago, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. 

As a result, per records filed at the U.S. Copyright Office, David Ellison’s Skydance Media — which acquired the rights from his sister, Megan Ellison, who bought them for $20 million in 2011 at an auction — could lose rights to make Terminator movies starting in November 2020.

Terminator isn’t an anomaly, it’s a preview of what’s to come. In the late 1970s, Congress amended the law to allow authors to grab back rights from studios after waiting a few decades. Until now, the termination provision has largely been exploited by musicians, not screenwriters. But records show a flurry of termination notices in the past year — under law, they can come 35 years after publication — which threatens to unsettle who owns the ability to make sequels and reboots of iconic films from the mid- to late-’80s.

More works that could change hands: Gary K. Wolf is looking to terminate Disney’s rights to the book that became Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The heirs of Beetlejuice screenwriter Michael McDowell aim to do the same for the script to the 1998 Warner Bros. film. The family of novelist Roderick Thorp is terminating Fox’s grip on Nothing Lasts Forever, aka Die Hard. Other works subject to termination include Predator and Nightmare on Elm Street, with authors like Stephen King and David Mamet also on the warpath.

Why now is probably best explained by the statutory clock (termination notices must be sent at precise time during the copyright term), though a judge’s decision last year confirming the validity of a termination notice sent by Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller certainly raised awareness among authors. (The producer of that film is appealing on grounds that Miller’s script was penned as a work-for-hire with no termination rights.)

(2) URRPP! I thought this kind of thing only happened in space opera — ScienceFiction.com reports an entire fantasy universe has been eaten alive: “Floo The Coup: J.K.Rowling’s ‘Pottermore’ Site Moves to ‘Wizarding World’”

Harry Potter fans have some adjusting to do, as it was recently announced that J.K. Rowling’s ‘Pottermore’ site would be shutting down, and moving over to the new ‘Wizarding World’ site, claiming that with new site enhancements and expansions, Pottermore could not longer sustain the needs of the fans of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ and WizardingWorld.com would be an upgrade. Check out the full news release from the website itself below:

Engorgio Pottermore… We’re moving to WizardingWorld.com – our new, bigger home for all of the magic you love. Here’s everything you need to know….

(3) SHOULD CLARKE’S NAME STAY ON AN AWARD? Jason Sanford’s post “Yes, Arthur C. Clarke was likely a pedophile” reviews two decades of press coverage about the issue. His closing lines are:

Now that we’re finally examining the issues around people like John W. Campbell, James Tiptree Jr., and Marion Zimmer Bradley, we should do the same for Clarke. Especially since a major genre award is named for him.

None of this changes how important Clarke’s stories were to my development as a writer or his impact on the field of science fiction. This doesn’t mean you can’t still love his books.

But the SF/F genre simply can’t ignore this issue any longer.

(4) HYPE OR WISE PRECAUTION? “The NYPD Will Be Stationed At All NY City Theaters Screening ‘Joker’ This Weekend”ScienceFiction.com supplies the details:  

…In New York City, the police department is taking a “precautionary measure” by positioning uniformed officers at every theater in the city that is screening ‘Joker’.  These officers will not be stalking up and down the aisles.  In fact, they won’t be in the theaters at all.  They will simply be patrolling in front of the theaters.  It should be stressed that there have been no “credible threats” made that anyone is planning to shoot up screenings of ‘Joker’, but just in case…

Elsewhere, ‘Joker’ won’t screen in the Aurora, CO theater where the 2012 mass shooting occurred.  Landmark Theaters has banned any Joker cosplay, masks, face paint, etc. for the weekend….

(5) FAN-FIC. Julie Beck investigates “What Fan Fiction Teaches That the Classroom Doesn’t” at The Atlantic.

N. K. Jemisin, the only author to win the prestigious Hugo Award for best science-fiction or fantasy novel three years in a row, partly credits fan fiction for her ability to draw in readers.

Jemisin started writing fan fiction, in which authors imagine new stories based on preexisting fictional works, while in grad school for counseling. “I was miserable and lonely. I didn’t have a lot of friends, or stress relief,” she told me. “Around then was when I became internetted, and one of the first communities I discovered was a fan-fic community.” Through talking  with other authors and writing her own stories about Dragon Ball Z (among other things), she found friends, got feedback, and, as she put it, “blew the cobwebs off writing abilities I hadn’t used since college.”

For instance, this writing helped her hone her ability to hold readers’ interest. “Fan fiction tends to have a built-in hook because it’s written in a world you’re a fan of; you’re predisposed to like it,” she said. “You have to find a way to make it not just the world that people are tuning in to read, so they are interested in your story.” To this day, Jemisin said, she still writes fan fiction, and treats it as a way to try out new genres and skills, such as using the second person, which she does in the Broken Earth trilogy, which earned her the three Hugos.

(6) DACRE STOKER TO APPEAR. The Rancho Mirage Writers Festival (January 29-31, 2020) has a lineup of writers including Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great-grand-nephew.

(7) ANGRY ROBOT PUBLISHES SHORT FICTION. Angry Robot’s “first foray into short-form fiction” will be released October 8.

The first novelette being produced by Angry Robot, Duchamp Versus Einsteinwhich is releasing in a few weeks’ time on the 8th October. This science fiction tale depicts a surreal chess match between two of the twentieth century’s greatest minds that could change the course of history. Within its 100 pages, several questions are posed – is science greater than art? Or is art an extension of science? And if this epic game could ever take place, would you be Team Einstein or Team Duchamp?

(8) HOLMES IS FRAMED. In “18 Best Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novels To Read Now: 2019 Edition” at Mystery Tribune there’s news of graphc novels where Holmes battles the Phantom of the Opera and Harry Houdini, as well as Sherlock Frankenstein and adaptations of the BBC Sherlock series.

(9) THE FUTURE IS NOW. Andrew Liptak’s October book list is now on Polygon. At the front of the line is –

Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow edited by Kirsten Berg, Torie Bosch, Joey Eschrich, Edd Finn, Andres Martinez, and Juliet Ulman

Over the last couple of years, some of the best short science fiction has emerged from a joint project between Slate, New America, and Arizona University. The Future Tense brings together some of the best science fiction authors writing right now, and this book collects a number of those stories in one volume. Authors here include the likes of Charlie Jane Anders, Paolo Bacigalupi, Madeline Ashby, Hannu Rajaniemi, Annalee Newitz, Nnedi Okorafor, and more. This is an essential book for those wanting cutting-edge fiction about our near future. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s full of “Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 2, 1950Peanuts comic debuted.
  • October 2, 1959 — Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone aired its first episode, “Where Is Everybody?”.  Starring cast for this episode is Earl Holliman, James Gregory and Garry Walberg. 
  • October 2, 2000  — Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda took flight in television syndication. Starring Kevin Sorbo, it would run for five seasons. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry is listed as executive-producer. 
  • October 2, 2009 Stargate Universe debuted. The third series in the Stargate series franchise, it lasted two seasons and forty episodes before ending on a sort of cliffhanger. Robert Carlye, the lead in the Hamish Macbeth series, was Nicholas Rush here. 
  • October 2, 2016 — HBO aired the much more adult Westworld as created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.  Based on the nearly fifty year old film of the same name which was a Michael Crichton endeavour, it counts J. J. Abrams among its executive-producers. It’s still going strong.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 2, 1897 Bud Abbott. Abbott and Costello did genre films, to wit Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man and Abbott and Costello Go to Mars just to list a few of them. (Died 1974.)
  • Born October 2, 1906Willy  Ley. He was a science writer who designed the rocket used with Fritz Lang’s 1929 film Die Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon). It was so accurate that in 1937 that the Gestapo confiscated not only all models of the spaceship but also all foreign prints of the picture. The crater Ley on the far side of the Moon is named in his honor. (Died 1969.)
  • Born October 2, 1909 Alex Raymond. Cartoonist, generally only known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip was has been adapted into many media, from a series of movie serials in the Thirties and Forties to a Seventies TV series and the Eighties feature film not to be confused with the American-Canadian tv series of the same vintage. Radio serials, myriad films, comic books, novels — any medium that exists has seen Flash Gordon fiction. There are at least fifteen authorized strips and a number of bootleg strips as well. Needless to say there are bootleg films and serials too. (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 2, 1911John Finney. Author of The Body Snatchers and Time and Again, two truly great novels. Of course there’s also the awesome Fifties Invasion of the Body Snatchers film too. (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 2, 1931Edmund Crispin. He’s well remembered and definitely still read for his most excellent Gervase Fen mystery series. It turns out that he was the editor of the Best SF anthology series that ran off and on between 1955 and 1972. Writers such as Kuttner, Moore, Blish, Bradbury and Von Vogt had stories there. These anthologies alas are not available digitally or in hard copy. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 2, 1944Vernor Vinge, 75. Winner of five Hugo Awards, none for what I consider his best series which is the Realtime/Bobble series. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the eighteen years worth of his work remain uncollected.
  • Born October 2, 1948 Avery Brooks, 71. Obviously he’s got his Birthday Honor for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk. He retired from video acting sixteen years ago but is an active tenured Theatre professor at Rutgers. 
  • Born October 2, 1948 Persis Khambatta. Indian model and actress who played Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She made mostly low-budget films, some genre (Warrior of the Lost WorldShe-Wolves of the Wasteland) and even showed up in the pilot of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. She died of a massive attack at the age of 49. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 2, 1950Ian McNeice, 69. Prime Minister Churchill / Emperor Winston Churchill on Doctor Who in “The Beast Below,” “Victory of the Daleks,”  “The Pandorica Opens,” and “The Wedding of River Song,” all Eleventh Doctor stories. He was an absolutely perfect Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune series. And he voiced Kwaltz in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born October 2, 1951 Sting, 68. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the Dune film. Far, far too old for the character who was supposed to be sixteen years old. He worked as a Heroic Officer in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. And he’s Martin Taylor in the horrific Brimstone & Treacle.
  • Born October 2, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 66. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that Sf or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. What else by him is worth my time? 
  • Born October 2, 1972Graham Sleight, 47. Editor of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction between 2007 and 2011, and was a Locus reviewer 2005 to 2012. He is the Managing Editor of the 3rd edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and was so when the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Related Work was given to it. He oft times writes about Doctor Who. He co-edited (along with Simon Bradshaw and Antony Keen) The Unsilent Library, a book of essays about the Russell T Davies era. His other Doctor Who work, The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who, is now available in a trade paperback edition. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot recommends Dungeons & Dragons to motivate your studying.

(13) SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Nobody would tease someone about this, would they? “Harry Potter and the famous name”.

“It’s probably a good thing overall, a light-hearted conversation starter,” says Harry Potter.

Far from being a wizard, Harry is a neuroscientist from the University of Manchester.

When he responded to a question on Twitter asking, “What piece of pop culture has ruined your first name?” he didn’t expect the reaction he got.

“I take your ‘first name’ and raise you my full name,” has conjured up more than 267,000 likes and 33,000 retweets.

…At work Harry’s research looks at how a woman’s immune system during pregnancy affects the development of a baby’s nervous system later in life.

But some people online have suggested some other academic papers he might have written had he branched out of his field of research.

The article includes a graphic of a real paper titled “Fantastic yeasts and where to find them”.

(14) SHORE THING. “Tsunamis linked to spread of deadly fungal disease” – BBC has the story.

A major earthquake in Alaska in 1964 triggered tsunamis that washed ashore a deadly tropical fungus, scientists say.

Researchers believe it then evolved to survive in the coasts and forest of the Pacific Northwest.

More than 300 people have been infected with the pneumonia-like cryptococcosis since the first case was discovered in the region in 1999, about 10% fatally.

If true the theory, published in the journal mBio, has implications for other areas hit by tsunamis.

(15) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. BBC says science is learning “How to weigh a whale without a scale”. Which is important, because whales don’t have scales.

How do you weigh the largest animals on the planet?

Until now it has only been possible to weigh whales once they have washed up dead on beaches.

Now scientists have solved the conundrum, with the help of aerial photographs taken by drones.

Their model accurately calculated the body volume and mass of wild southern right whales. Already being used to assess the survival of calves, it has many potential uses in conservation.

Body mass is a key factor in the success of whales as a group, determining their energy uses, food requirements and growth rates.

Yet most of what we know about the body size of whales comes from old whaling literature or from animals that end up stranded on the beach or caught in fishing gear.

“It is very difficult to measure a whale on a scale – I mean you have to kill it to do it and that’s exactly what we’re avoiding here,” said study researcher Fredrik Christiansen from the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark.

(16) HALLOWEEN SUPPLIES. While out shopping, John King Tarpinian encountered Audrey’s offspring:

(17) VERY SLOW FACT CHECKING. Somebody has far too much time on their hands: “The Signature Dish in Disney’s ‘Ratatouille’ Wasn’t Actually Ratatouille” at MyRecipes.

In the climactic scene of the 2007 Disney film Ratatouille—during which the movie’s main characters, Remy the rat and Linguine the human chef, attempt to impress an important culinary critic—Remy and his animal pals diligently prepare a mouthwatering dish of sauce and vegetables that reminds the tough food commentator of his mother’s homemade meals. The delectable-looking animated spread is presented in the film as ratatouille, a Provençal recipe that originated from Nice, France. But while we can’t fault Disney for the use of a clever pun, the beautifully arranged vegetarian dish shown during the movie isn’t, in all technicality, ratatouille. Rather, it’s a variation on another, very similar Provençal dish: tian

(18) ABOUT A MASTER OF MODERN SF. Hear a “Special Report: D. Harlan Wilson on J.G. Ballard” in this podcast at The Projection Booth.

D. Harlan Wilson discusses his book from the University of Illinois Press, J.G. Ballard. Part of the Masters of Modern Science Fiction series, Prof. Wilson provides a look at Ballard’s literary career as well as some of the adaptations of his work for the cinema.

(19) TRICK OR TREAT? Delish tells you “How To Order An Oogie Boogie Frappuccino Off The Starbucks Secret Menu”. That is, if you still want to after reading the description.

If you haven’t noticed, fall seems to be when Starbucks fans let their freak flags fly and come up with all sorts of amazing Halloween-inspired creations. Recently, we had the Jack Skellington Frappuccino, but now another Nightmare Before Christmas character is getting his (its?) time to shine with the Oogie Boogie Frappuccino.

If you’re not familiar with the film, Oogie Boogie is described as a “burlap sack filled with insects, spiders and a snake for a tongue,” which…same.

(20) ATTENTION CHURRO LOVERS. Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge attraction features thematic food: “Disney World is launching new ‘Star Wars’ treats for the opening of ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ including lightsaber churros”.

Disney is launching “Star Wars” treats for the opening of “Galaxy’s Edge,” a new 14-acre immersive “land”  based on the “Star Wars” universe and located within Hollywood Studios in Disney World.

The offerings at the Florida park include dishes such as churros that look like lightsabers, Millennium Falcon-shaped Chocolate Pops, and Chewbacca-inspired cupcakes. 

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dead End” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Victoria Vincent about a depressed high school guidance counselor.

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

Tade Thompson Wins 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award

The winner of the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on July 17.

  • Rosewater – Tade Thompson (Orbit)

The members of the judging panel were:

  • Kris Black, British Science Fiction Association
  • Andrew Wallace, British Science Fiction Association
  • Dr Kari Maund, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/27/19 You Have The Right To A Dragon. If You Do Not Have A Dragon, Or Cannot Afford One, One Will Be Provided To You Free of Charge.

(1) A DAY OBSERVED. At Book View Café, Diana Pharoah Francis marks the U.S. holiday: “Memorial Day”.

Today is the day we remember and honor those who’ve served in the military and those who continue to serve. Those who died in service to their country, and those who gave up more than any of us can possible know, even though they kept their lives.

This is the day we say thank you, paltry though that is. For me, it’s also the day to remember those who’ve fallen in service to others in all capacities. You give me hope.

(2) PLUS ÇA CHIANG. Ted Chiang authored “An Op-Ed From The Future” for the New York Times: “It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning”. An editor’s note explains, “This is the first installment in a new series, “Op-Eds From the Future,” in which science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future…”

…We are indeed witnessing the creation of a caste system, not one based on biological differences in ability, but one that uses biology as a justification to solidify existing class distinctions. It is imperative that we put an end to this, but doing so will take more than free genetic enhancements supplied by a philanthropic foundation. It will require us to address structural inequalities in every aspect of our society, from housing to education to jobs. We won’t solve this by trying to improve people; we’ll only solve it by trying to improve the way we treat people….

(3) GAME OF FORKS. “4000 misplaced forks and knives became a cutlery throne” – translated from Swedish by Hampus Eckerman:

About 300 forks, knives and spoons are separated each day from the food remains of the Uppsala populace, by their local biogas plant. In order to, in a fun way, show how important it is to sort properly, Uppsala water has built a magnificent cutlery throne.

– We believe that the majority of cutlery comes from catering establishments and schools where cutlery is easier to get lost among leftovers. But we do not know for sure, says Jasmine Eklund, Communicator at Uppsala Water.

The cutlery throne consists of about 4,000 pieces of cutlery which corresponds to two weeks of cleaning. The cutlery has been washed and then welded together.

– We do not think that people have thrown the cutlery among the leftovers on purpose. Therefore, we hope that the throne will make people more aware of what they throw out and how they sort, says Jasmine Eklund.

“Great fun that people want to come here”

Until easter Thursday, anyone who wants to visit the Pumphouse in Uppsala can sample the huge glittering throne.

 – We have had many visitors this weekend, and hope for more during the Easter week. It is great fun that people want to come here and learn more about our work, says Jasmine Eklund.

 On Monday morning, Vilgot Sahlholm, 11 years old, visited Pumphouse with his brother, grandmother and grandfather.

 – I think the throne was pretty hard, so it wasn’t so comfy to sit in, he says.

 Cutlery Throne

 Weight: 120 kg.

Number of cutlery: About 4000 pieces.

So much cutlery is sorted out each year: 3,5 tons, which means around 100 000 pieces.

(4) LANGUAGE BUILDING. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, weighs in with  “A Lesson for (and From) a Dystopian World” in the New York Times.

…Throughout his life, the American writer Russell Hoban produced a number of startlingly original novels. Perhaps the most startling of them all is “Riddley Walker,” first published in 1980. (Hoban died in 2011.) The book belongs to the dystopian genre that has become fairly popular in recent decades. What makes it unlike any other is its language — a version of English as it might be spoken by people who had never seen words or place names written down, an idiom among the ruins of half-remembered scientific jargon, folklore and garbled history. In the post-apocalyptic universe created by Hoban, words create ripples of meaning, echoes reaching into the heart of language and thought through a thick fog of cultural trauma and loss…

(5) DOES ANYONE READ THIS STUFF? Ersatz Culture has produced an ambitious set of “Charts showing SF&F award finalists and their rating counts on Goodreads”:

First off, I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no agenda here about how awards should reflect popularity, or that awards that don’t meet someone’s personal perception of what is “popular” are bad/fixed/etc, or any similar nonsense. (Although I am more than happy to point out cases where claims of representing popular opinion aren’t backed up by the statistics.)

Award pages

(6) CLARKE AWARD. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, who explains why the six Clarke nominees are worth reading.

Categorisation was something I wanted to touch on. Looking at the list of your previous finalists, I was interested to see books that I wouldn’t initially have considered to be sci fi. For example: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which won in 2017. So I wonder if you might say a bit more about the definition of ‘science fiction’ and what you consider it to encompass.

Yes. Going right back to the beginning, to the award’s creation: one of Arthur’s stipulations was that it wasn’t to be an award for the best book-that-was-a-bit-like-an-Arthur-C-Clarke-book. He wanted it to be very broad in its definition. And science fiction is a phenomenally hard thing to define anyway. It’s one of those things, like: I know it when I see it. And it changes – going back to my previous point about how publishing’s view has changed.

(7) CLOSURE FOR D&D TV SERIES. Fans of the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons TV series know that the series never truly ended. Well, Renault Brasil has decided to wrap things up in their new and rather impressive commercial for the KWID Outsider. Series creator Mark Evanier has given his blessing.

…Someone also usually writes to ask if there was ever a “last” episode where the kids escaped the D&D world and got back to their own…and occasionally, someone writes to swear they saw such an episode on CBS. No, no such episode was ever produced. One of the writers on the series later wrote a script for such an episode but it was not produced until years later as a fan-funded venture. I do not endorse it and I wish they hadn’t done that…but if you like it, fine.

The show is still fondly remembered and is rerun a lot in some countries. It’s popular enough in Brazil that the folks who sell Renault automobiles down there spent a lot of money to make this commercial with actors (and CGI) bringing the animated characters to life.

(8) WOULD HAVE BEEN 85. Adam Dodd of the Cleveland News-Herald is “Remembering Harlan Ellison: local writer and professional troublemaker”.

“I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket,” wrote Ellison, describing himself while writing the introduction to Stephen King’s ‘Danse Macabre.’ “My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrater or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Ellison’s prickly attitude was typified by the manner in which he left Ohio State University in 1953 after only attending for 18 months. After a writing professor questioned his ability to craft a compelling story Ellison physically attacked him and was subsequently expelled.

(9) THORNE OBIT. Doctor Who News reports the death of Stephen Thorne (1935-2019) at the age of 84.

In the 1970s Stephen Thorne created three of the greatest adversaries of the Doctor, characters whose influence endures in the programme today.

His towering presence and deep melodious voice were first witnessed in the 1971 story The Dæmons, where he portrayed Azal, the last living Dæmon on Earth, in a story often cited as one of the most appreciated of the third Doctor’s era and story emblematic of the close-knit UNIT team of the time.

He returned to the series in 1972 playing Omega, the renegade Time Lord fighting The Three Doctors, a character that would return to confront the Doctor in later years. In 1976 he opposed the Fourth Doctor playing the male form of Eldred, last of the Kastrians in the story The Hand of Fear.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. No, the author of The Maltese Falcon did not write anything of a genre nature but he did edit early on Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills. I note there are stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long among a lot of writers of writers less well known as genre writers. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. OK, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in the House of Horrors sketch they did. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Expressand so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun,  Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 84. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also, she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will.
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1958 Linnea Quigley, 61. Best know as a B-actress due to her frequent appearances in low-budget horror films during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them no one remembers but she did play a punk named Trash in The Return of the Living Dead which is decidedly several steps up from  Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. She’s currently Joanie in the 86 Zombies series which streams pretty much everywhere.
  • Born May 27, 1966 Nina Allan, 53. Author of two novels to date, both in the last five years, The Race and The Rift which won a BSFA Award. She has done a lot of short stories hence these collections to date, A Thread of TruthThe Silver Wind: Four Stories of Time DisruptedMicrocosmosStardust: The Ruby Castle Stories and Spin which has also won a BSFA Award. Partner of Christopher Priest.
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 52. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I love even when it wasn’t terribly well-written. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HOME ON THE PULP RANGE. At Galactic Journey, Gideon Marcus tells why some big names are returning to genre (in 1964): [May 26, 1964] Stag Party (Silverberg’s Regan’s Planet and Time of the Great Freeze).

…A lot of authors left the genre to try their luck in the mainstream world.  That’s why we lost Bob Sheckley, Ted Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick for a while.  But times are tough in the real world, too.  Plus, of late, sff seems to be picking up again: IF is going monthly, we’ve got a couple of new mags in Worlds of Tomorrow and Gamma, books are coming out at an increasing rate.  And so Dick is back in force, and others who have left the field are nosing their way back in….

Robert Silverberg is another one of the authors who wrote sff like the dickens back in the ’50s and then disappeared.  He’s still writing and writing and writing, but most of his stuff doesn’t end up on our favorite shelves or in our favorite magazines.

But sometimes…

(12) THINK WESTEROSILY, ACT LOCALLY. In “Name of Thrones:  Why Baltimore-Area Parents Are Naming Their Kids After Characters From the HBO Series”, the Baltimore Sun’s John-John Williams IV reports that a lot of babies in the Baltimore area have become named Arya, Emilia, Khaleesi, Maisie, Meera, and Daenerys because their parents love Game of Thrones.

…Kucharski said she wanted to name her daughter after another strong female. (Arya’s twin is named after Maya Angelou.) The character Arya Stark stood out to Kucharski because of the heroine’s strong-willed nature and the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer.

“She was able to carve her own way,” Kucharski said…

(13) A STORY OF OUR TIMES. No idea if this is true. Have a tissue ready: “Valar Morghulis”.

Footnote – translation of “Valar Morghulis”.

(14) WHAT IS LIFE FOR. Joseph Hurtgen reviews “Holy Fire – Bruce Sterling” at Rapid Tramsmissions.

…By the way, Sterling is a master of juxtaposing the brightness of futurity with dark pessimism. And for presenting the wonder of the future and then darkening and wrecking that vision, Holy Fire might be Sterling’s apotheosis. Sterling’s analysis of the future in this novel is ahead of the curve in the spheres of tech, psychology, human culture, and art. The novel takes place in 2090, a hundred years from when he wrote it, and going on 25 years later, it still reads as if it occurs in a future several decades out. But the real beauty of the work is the pessimism about what some of the early attempts at radical life extension could look like–namely, lost souls, people shadows of their former selves living a second youth, this time more reckless because they’ve already lived a century of making good decisions, so why not?

(15) SPACE OPERA COMPANY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Microreview [book]: The Undefeated, by Una McCormack” at Nerds of a Feather.

There are many ways to tell a Space Opera story. Big space battles with fleets of ships using their silicon ray weapons to destroy the enemy. Or perhaps a story of diplomatic intrigue, where the main character journeys to the heart of an Empire , using words as a weapon to direct, and divert the fate of worlds. Or even have an Opera company tour a bunch of worlds in a spacecraft of their own.

Una McCormack’s The Undefeated goes for a subtler, more oblique approach, by using the life story of a famous, award winning journalist, Monica Greatorex,, whose journey back to her home planet braids with not only the story of her planet’s annexation into the Commonwealth, but of the enemy who seeks in turn to overthrow that Commonwealth.

(16) BREW REVIVAL. The brew that made Macchu Picchu famous: “Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results”.

The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp’s first task had been to persuade his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.

Once he got to brewing, the corn-quinoa-spit mixture gelatinized in a stainless steel tank, creating a dense blob equivalent in volume and texture to about seven bathtubs of polenta. Oops.

In another go, Rupp managed to avoid the brew’s gelatinous fate, but encountered a new problem when it came time to drain the tank. “It literally turned into cement in the pipes because the corn was so finely ground,” says Rupp. “People were a little cranky.”

These are the kinds of sticky situations that come with trying to bring ancient flavors into modern times.

A self-proclaimed beer archaeologist, Rupp has traveled the world in search of clues as to how ancient civilizations made and consumed beer. With Avery Brewing Co., he has concocted eight of them in a series called “Ales of Antiquity.” The brews are served in Avery’s restaurant and tasting room.

(17) TALL TERROR. BBC profiles “Javier Botet: Meet the actor behind Hollywood’s monsters”.

On first glance, you probably wouldn’t recognise Javier Botet.

Though not a household name, the Spaniard has a portfolio that many in the movie business would kill for.

Over the last few years, the 6ft 6in actor has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest horror and fantasy productions.

From It to Mama to Slender Man – with a Game of Thrones cameo along the way – Javier has forged a reputation as one of the best creature actors in the industry.

…At one point, he went along to a special effects workshop. Both he and the tutor suggested his frame would be perfect to try out monster make-up on.

“I didn’t realise but I was born to perform,” Javier says.

(18) HOW’S THAT BEARD COMING ALONG? Norse Tradesman would be delighted to sell you the Viking Rune Beard Bead Set (24) – Norse Rings for Hair, Dreads & Beards.

(19) IT’S NOT THE REASON YOU THINK. Advice some of you globetrotters may be able to use: “Why You Should Fly With Toilet Paper, According to the World’s Most Traveled Man”.

And when I speak to people, I always put a roll of toilet paper on the podium and let them wonder about it till the end of my lecture. I’m given maybe five to 10 bottles of wine when I travel, so how do you pack wine so it doesn’t break? You put a toilet roll around the neck, because that’s where the bottle is going to break. I’ve never had one break.

(20) SINGULARITY SENSATION. Certifiably Ingame is here to help Trek fans with the question “Fluidic Space: What is it?”

Everything you need to know (but mostly stuff you didn’t) about about the home of Species 8472, the realm of Fluidic Space. This video is mostly theory-crafting about what exactly Fluidic space is as shown in Star Trek as there are no defined answers, but like most Science Fiction, it has may have a basis in reality. Or realities in this case. The laws of physics seem the same, as seen by crossing over, but the USS Voyager also get there by flying into a singularity made by gravitons because its Star Trek.

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

2019 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist

The finalists for the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature were released on May 7.

Tom Hunter, Award Director, commented:

Our 6 shortlisted titles were selected from a record-breaking 124 eligible submissions, and as the imaginative breadth of SF publishing in the UK has grown so too has the challenge for our judges. With this shortlist they have successfully melded multiple definitions of the genre into a celebratory whole that both upholds the best traditions of science fiction literature and beckons us towards exhilarating new futures.

The finalists are:

  • Semiosis Sue Burke (HarperVoyager)
  •  Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad Ahmed Saadawi (Oneworld)
  • The Electric State – Simon Stålenhag (Simon and Schuster)
  • Rosewater – Tade Thompson (Orbit)
  • The Loosening Skin – Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)

Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, thanked the panel:

As always, the jury have given us a snapshot of the best sf: cyberpunk, military space opera, first contact, dystopian America, fantastical Britain and war-torn Iraq. The judges have really done us proud, but I can see it’s going to be a tough final decision.

The members of the judging panel were:

  • Kris Black, British Science Fiction Association
  • Andrew Wallace, British Science Fiction Association
  • Dr Kari Maund, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

The winner will be announced at a public award ceremony, held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on Wednesday, July 17. Tickets on sale soon.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/19 The Scroll Of The File King From Pixel Gynt

(1) AO3’S HUGO PACKET ENTRY. Archive of Our Own has publicly released its Hugo Voter Packet Submission. The two-page writeup is here [PDF file]. The following intro comes from Firenze to Therum:

AO3 was nominated for a Hugo Award this year for Best Related Work! This is an amazing achievement and we’re overjoyed that Hugo voters have recognised the incredible collaborative work that is the Archive.

Here’s some information about AO3, including its origins, some key features, and the team that makes it all possible. You can also check out the shiny PDF we submitted for the 2019 Hugo packet!

(2) AVENGING ECONOMIST. Behind the Financial Times paywall, economics columnist Tim Harford offers his thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.

Thanos fascinates me not only because he’s the best bad guy since Darth Vader–but because the muscular utilitarian is an economist on steroids.

Thanos’s claim to the economists’ hall of fame lies in his interest in scarce resources, his faith in the power of logical analysis, and a strong commitment to policy action–specifically, to eliminate half of all life in the universe, chosen at random…

…Thanos has convinced himself that he’s seen something nobody else can quite understand.  The truth is that he sorely needs peer review.  Like many powerful people, he regards himself as above his critics, not to mention every sapient being in the universe.  He views humans less as free-willed spirits capable of solving their own problems, and more like overbreeding rabbits, needing a cull for their own good.

(3) ENDGAME REVIEW. NPR’s Glen Weldon tells us “Mourning Has Broken Them: ‘Avengers: Endgame'”.

Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one’s expectations, and — given its three-hour-plus, intermissionless runtime — one’s fluid intake.

…The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan. Because the film’s third and final hour contains extended references to every single Marvel film that has led up to this one – yes! even Thor: The Dark World! I’m as surprised as you are! – and part of the delight Endgame provides to the patient audience member is gauging the size of the cheer that greets the entrance of any given hero, locale or – in at least once instance – item of super-hardware.

Make no mistake: There will be cheers. And boos. And gasps. The final, climactic battle (come on, you knew there’d be one) is legitimately thrilling, because every one of its manifold delights is fueled by (a cynic would say coasting on) the warm familiarity that spending a decade with these characters has engendered….

(4) GLEN WELDON HAS COMPANY. BBC does a roundup of the immediate reaction — “Avengers: Endgame ‘satisfying’ and ‘glorious’, say critics”.

Critics have been left dazzled by the latest Avengers film, describing it as “glorious”, “irresistible”, “intensely satisfying” and “masterful”….

(5) DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, seeing how few award submissions are by writers of color, says “Diversity in science fiction needs action now”.

…Many authors and industry spokespeople have talked more eloquently about the need to address this disparity in publishing than I will ever be able to. But I also suspect more than a few publishers will quietly check their new submissions piles or log into BookScan after reading this, and suggest that in order to affect any real change they need to submit more books by writers of colour.

They may argue, of course, that there needs to be more evidence of sales potential first to get those books past gatekeepers in marketing, finance and other departments. They might (just) have a short-term point, but to me this sounds more like using data to justify a current position – and I think it also misses the bigger publishing opportunity.

Here are four cultural tipping point trends that show what I mean.

  • From the SF&F bookshelves: N.K. Jemisin wins a record-setting third consecutive Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with the final part of her Broken Earth trilogy (parts one and two having taken the prize in their own respective years).
  • From the ‘respectable’ bookshelves: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad wins the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature.
  • From the Box Office: The Marvel Universe film Black Panther makes over a billion dollars at the box office in record time and gets nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture (it doesn’t win that one though, of course).
  • From an adjacent cultural sector: The Musée d’Orsay in Paris opens their major exhibition Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse, challenging our historic perceptions of French masterpieces by reframing and renaming them to foreground attention on their black subjects, gaining both critical acclaim and a big upswing in first time visits from new audiences (new readers to you and me) along the way.

(6) HOPEPUNK AND HUGOS. Yes! takes a look “Inside Science Fiction’s Compassionate Revolution”.

…In 2018, almost every category of the Hugos were won by women, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first person ever to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row. Before Jemisin, no Black person of either gender had ever won the top award.

Then came this year’s historic collection of nominees, which are notable not just for the elevation of a more diverse field of storytellers, but for the specific type of story that many of them represent.

Rowland coined the term “hopepunk” on a whim in a 2017 Tumblr post, having no idea that it would catch on so strongly within the community. She defined it initially as “the opposite of grimdark,” referring to a popular dystopian subgenre characterized by nihilism, amorality, and a negative view of human nature. Hopepunk, in contrast, is optimistic about humanity and sees kindness as “an act of rebellion” against a power structure that benefits from people giving up on compassion.

In an essay for the Winter 2019 issue of The Stellar Beacon zine, Rowland expanded on hopepunk, emphasizing the resistance element. Unlike another subgenre dubbed “noblebright”—characterized by the belief that righteous heroes can and will prevail over wicked villains—hopepunk does not deny the inherent injustices of the real world. However, it also recognizes the potential for justice within humanity. Compassion and empathy are weapons in the eternal fight between good and evil within the human heart. Hopepunk acknowledges that that fight will never be won, but insists on fighting anyway, because, as Rowland wrote, “the fight itself is the point.”

(7) BIZARROCON PERSPECTIVE. Brian Keene interviewed Jeff Burk on a recent episode of The Horror Show With Brian Keene (“Jeff Burk Unchained – The Horror Show with Brian Keene – Ep 215”.)  Part of the discussion centered on the events at BizzaroCon where Chandler Morrison performed a section of one of his works; complete with a dead (toy) baby covered in blood (ketchup) — events covered in File 770 posts “A Reckoning for BizarroCon” and “Changes in Store for Bizarrocon”.

Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these notes —

During the interview, Burk categorically denied having anything to do with abusive/predatory behavior that had been an issue at past cons.  He was incensed at the post-con attempts to tie abusive behavior with himself or Morrison.    Burk suggested that the tone/perspective of comments that he received at the con were decidedly different from what was seen on the Internet in the days that followed.  The people complaining most loudly online had appeared to have substantially different perspectives while at the con.  He also denied that Morrison ever exposed himself during his performance.  A prosthetic/prop was used during the performance.

Burk acknowledged that he had made the mistake of thinking that BizarroCon was an appropriate venue for Morrison’s performance.  Similar (and perhaps more gross) performances have been a long tradition at KillerCon.

Brian Keene indicated that he had acted as a consultant/mediator after the BizarroCon performance, but he had no direct input on Deadite Press’ decision to fire Burk.

Burk indicated that he disagreed with the decision by Eraserhead Press’ decision to terminate him.  But he also said that he is still on good terms with the executives in charge and has a positive opinion of them.

He also discussed his new imprint “Section 31 Productions”.  Star Trek fans will recognize the homage in the company’s name.

(8) DRAGON CHOW. Eater’s article “How Much Do the ‘Game of Thrones’ Dragons Actually Need to Eat? An Investigation” kind of reminds me of the Lilliputians trying to feed Gulliver.

In the Season 8 premiere, Winterfell leather goth Sansa Stark questions her brother Jon Snow’s decision to bring his pushy new girlfriend (and aunt!) Daenerys and her two dragons to the north, wondering out loud what precisely the dragons are going to eat. The Mother of Dragons smugly replies, “Whatever they want.” (Which, judging from past episodes, includes a lot of animal herds and the occasional shepherd boy.)

Later in the episode, two of Dany’s Dothraki footmen inform her that her dragons only ate only “18 goats and 11 sheep” for lunch, a sign that they are losing their appetite as a result of the move up north. Considering that Game of Thrones scribes D.B. Weiss and David Benioff love foreshadowing, we couldn’t help but wonder if the dragon’s dietary needs will play some key role in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell. To better understand the dragon hunger situation and how it could impact the impending war with the Night King, Eater got in touch with a bona fide expert on large reptiles and flying animals, and asked her a few questions about how these aerial beasts might act during the epic battle ahead.

(9) CONNOR TRIBUTE. Graham Connor (1957-2018) co-founded SF² Concatenation at the 1987 Eastercon and remained one of its co-editors until his death in December 2018. Jonathan Cowie and other friends have assembled an illustrated profile of his life in SF and space communications in “A life in SF and space”, an advance post ahead of SF² Concatenation’s summer edition.

Graham was born in the Cumbrian, coastal town of Workington, in the shadow of Windscale (now Sellafield).  1957 was the year of the Windscale nuclear disaster.  And so the scene was set for Graham to potentially have been bitten by a radioactive spider and become a superhero. But, alas, that did not happen….

He did make it to several Worldcons — Brighton (1979), Brighton (1987), The Hague (1990) – he subsequently worked a couple of years for ESA nearby, and Glasgow (1995).  Sadly, chronic illness prevented further attendance beyond the mid-2000s.

(10) BARNES OBIT. From BBC: “Dick Barnes, pioneer behind oldest working computer, dies”. The 98-year-old died April 8.

One of the co-designers of a machine later recognised as the world’s oldest working digital computer has died.

Richard “Dick” Barnes helped to create the Harwell Dekatron, which was first put to use in 1951 by Britain’s fledgling nuclear research establishment.

He was also involved in the 2.5-tonne machine’s restoration, which saw it switched back on in 2012.

…He and two colleagues, Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, began their work on the Harwell Dekatron in 1949.

It was initially used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, where its tasks involved solving equations used to design the structure supporting the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor at Calder Hall.

…In November 2012 the machine was successfully switched back on after a three-year restoration project.

The revived machine functioned as planned, which is to say, very slowly.

It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers – but Mr Barnes and his co-designers had wanted a machine that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.

Indeed, it was known to calculate continuously for periods of up to 80 hours.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 89. Oh, now he’s credited in directing Superman as making the modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies (really not genre but fun) and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh and the first X-Men film which was superb.
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she was in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise”. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 73. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2005) covers some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction (2006) and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction (2009) are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 72. Author with Michael Moorcock of, naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 66. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: cute canine involved! 

(12) WILSON FUNDRAISING UPDATE. The “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” GoFundMe is now up to 1300 contributors and just over $60,000 raised. Gahan Wilson is suffering from severe dementia, and the goal is to pay for his memory care.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, he must move to a memory care unit.

…Gahan will be in our care at the casita, and we will also find him a memory care unit in Santa Fe since he also needs daily medical care.

Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.

That’s what this is all about. Making the rest of Gahan’s days as wonderful as they can be.

(13) OVERLOOKED. In its review of a new sff collection, The Hugo Award Book Club faults “A People’s Future Without Labour”.

…Any author or editor attempting to claim the mantle of [Howard] Zinn’s work has an unenviable task ahead of them. But when SF luminaries John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle — both of whom have produced top-quality works — announced a short story collection whose title is an homage to Zinn, we were very excited. 

Given the provocative and timely premise of A People’s Future Of The United States, we approached the collection of stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the collection as a whole failed to live up to the grand ideas described by the editors.

…Questions of race, class and gender are important to explore and have all-too-often been ignored in science fiction. 

We would argue that because science fiction is an inherently political genre, it is of paramount importance to create inclusive futures we can believe in. Some of the stories in this volume do indeed ably tackle topics of race, class and gender. But the topic of labour is almost entirely neglected. 

It is disappointing that an anthology that so explicitly aims to address cultural blindspots has reproduced one itself. 

In comparison, the index to Zinn’s classic history book includes a full page of references to organized labour movements. At a rough estimate, 30 per cent of the book deals with the struggles of traditional union movement organizing, and workers rights are integral to much of the rest of the text…. 

(14) ROBOTS LIKE ME. James Wallace Harris reviews Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me in “Why Should Robots Look Like Us?” at Auxiliary Memory.

McEwan’s story often digresses into infodumps and intellectual musings which are common pitfalls of writing science fiction. And the trouble is he goes over the same well-worn territory. The theme of androids is often used to explore: What does it mean to be human? McEwan uses his literary skills to go into psychological details that most science fiction writers don’t, but the results are the same.

I’ve been reading these stories for decades, and they’ve been explored in the movies and television for many years too, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Why can’t we go deeper into the theme? Partly I think it’s because we assume AI robots will look identical to us. That’s just nuts. Are we so egocentric that we can’t imagine our replacements looking different? Are we so vain as a species as to believe we’re the ideal form in nature?

…Instead of writing stories about our problems of dealing with facsimiles of ourselves, we should be thinking about a world where glittery metallic creatures build a civilization on top of ours, and we’re the chimpanzees of their world.

(15) POWER VOCABULARY. BBC’s science news “‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech” includes recorded sample.

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is “exhilarating”.

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

(16) KRUGMAN’S WORLDCON TALK. At Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman spoke and then took questions. Scott Edelman has posted an audio recording on YouTube.

(17) PROP MAKER. Kenneth Spivey is “The Swordsmith to the Stars”. Great Big Story has a video (just over 3 minutes) about this artist and prop maker who is “working on Hollywood films like the ones he’s always loved—and likely inspiring the next generation.” Chevy trucks are featured prominently since they are the corporate sponsor.

(18) GEMINI MAN. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Can ‘Gemini Man’ Revive the Golden Age of ’90s Sci-Fi?” That is, can it be “an event unto itself?” Will Smith stars opposite a CGI-ed 23-year-old version of himself in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man—a property with a long history of previous stars being attached. The movie opens October 11.

This morning Paramount had us seeing double with the first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed sci-fi/action film Gemini Man, starring not one, but two Will Smiths. The long-gestating film, which began development as a Tony Scott feature in 1997, centers on assassin on the verge of retirement Henry Brogen (Smith), who is forced to combat a younger clone of himself (Smith) in the not-too-distant future. Since the film’s inception in the late ’90s, a number of big names have been attached to star, including Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. When Ang Lee took over the project in 2017, he cast Smith in the lead role, giving the actor the unique opportunity to play both his current 50-year-old self and his 23-year-old self, who, thanks to the film’s revolutionary technology, looks like he just stepped right off the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If the trailer for the film, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong, is any indication, Gemini Man may be just what the science fiction genre needs.

[…] Big-budget original science fiction needs a win, and hopefully Gemini Man can recapture the spirit of the ’90s where a big-name director, producer and actor were an event unto themselves, regardless of preexisting material. Gemini Man looks appealing not simply because of its concept and slick action sequences, but because it looks to simultaneously tap into our nostalgia with a sunglasses-wearing Smith, and also our desire for an original, high-concept property that doesn’t require any prior knowledge. It’s a double threat.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, Jonathan Cowie, Scott Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]