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 6/28/20 No One Expects The Fannish Inquisition! Our Chief Weapons Are Filing, Scrolls, And A Fanatical Devotion To The Pixel

(1) IN POOH’S OWN PAW. Pooh may have been a bear of very little brain, but he knew etiquette.

A 1935 letter signed by “Winnie the Pooh” — actually written by illustrator Ernest Howard Shepard — fetched triple its expected amount when it sold for more than $15,000.

The note, which included a drawing of the titular bear from A.A. Milne‘s book series as well as best friend Piglet, apologizes to a young fan named “Buffkins” for missing his birthday party.

(2) COLD DECK. Vox’s Aja Romano asks: “Did Cards Against Humanity’s ironic humor mask a toxic culture all along?” Tagline: “The popular brand built its progressive ethos through a game that encouraged ironic bigotry. Now, it faces a reckoning.”

The company’s own statement begins:

Starting on June 6, several of our former employees posted reports on social media about a toxic work environment in our Chicago office. Many of them centered on one of our eight co-founders, Max Temkin, who led that office. We immediately began an internal investigation, and on June 9, we made the following commitments to our staff:

  • Max Temkin stepped down and no longer has any active role at Cards Against Humanity, effective that day.
  • We’re hiring a specialist firm to review and improve all HR, hiring, and management practices at the company. Our goal is to make these practices more inclusive, transparent, and equitable.
  • An outside organization will lead workplace training for all partners and employees of Cards Against Humanity, focusing on communication and unconscious bias at work.

Romano’s Vox article continues with an explanation of the problematic aspects of the game, and why they were not called out earlier –

…CAH’s namesake card game, a self-proclaimed “party game for terrible people,” is an off-color derivative of the family-friendly Apples to Apples, the Mad Libs-style party game. Players use a small handful of words to fill in blanks within loaded phrases for maximum comedic effect, and the appeal lies in the goal of creating a more shocking, provocative one-liner from your hand of cards than your fellow players in order to be dubbed the funniest player in the group. It’s the kind of wordplay silliness that goes over well among a lot of drunk party-goers.

But detractors have argued for years that CAH’s real appeal is, in a word, racism. A 2016 study published in the academic journal Humanity & Society found that a quarter of the cards in the original deck dealt with race, and nearly all of those cards involving minorities seemed to invite the worst readings possible. Consider, for example, the card about indigenous Rwandans, “Stifling a giggle at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis,” later reportedly changed to “Helplessly giggling at the mention …” The phrase implies that something about the names of indigenous tribes is inherently funny, and that even though we all know it’s wrong, we just can’t help but indulge in our racism just a little bit, for a laugh. (CAH removed this card from circulation in 2015.)…

(3) ANOTHER CUCKOO IN THE SLUSHPILE. [Item by Andrew Porter.]  Okay, which word in the title would you have changed?

(4) PRACTICE YOUR WORLDCON SKILLS. In the CoNZealand 2020 Worldcon Community Group on Facebook, Laurie Mann announced there will be training and practice sessions for the apps they will use to run the virtual Worldcon.

To help people learn about Grenadine, Zoom & Discord & to get practice using these apps leading up to, we will have training sessions & practice sessions over the next few weeks. The schedule, using New Zealand Time, is here: https://conzealand.grenadine.co/en/cnzpreconz/ If you plan to attend any items, don’t forget to log into Grenadine – there’s information about that on the first page of the schedule.

(5) SUMMER SCHOOL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon has started. The schedule and other nformation is at the links:

The Write-a-thon is on! Five hundred and eight participants have begun guided writing sessions, and on Tuesday, we hosted a livestream video of Andy Duncan’s reading. In the coming weeks, the world can tune in to see and hear Eileen Gunn, Nalo Hopkinson, Tina Connolly, Caroline M. Yoachim, and an editors’ roundtable featuring Scott H. Andrews, Chinelo OnwualuJulia Rios, and Wendy Wagner. These live events include ASL interpreters to help ensure that they are accessible to as many as possible. If you prefer closed captioning, please contact the Seattle Public Library. Please subscribe to our newly revamped YouTube channel for reminders about these events and more!

(6) DYSON SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. From the March 2018 New York Review of Books: “The Big Bang”. Tagline: The following letters to relatives and the accompanying headnotes are adapted from Freeman Dyson’s Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters, published by Liveright. This would be of interest in any case, all the more so to readers of Robert J. Sawyer’s new The Oppenheimer Alternative.

… Yesterday I had a talk with [Hans] Bethe about my future. Bethe told me that unless I raise objections, he will press for me to be given a second year; he said this was “in the interests of science as well as in your own interests.” He said I should spend the second year at Princeton with [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, and that Oppenheimer would be glad to look after me…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1982 — Ursula K, Le Guin’s The Compass Rose was published  by Pendragon Press, the Welsh publisher. This edition was of only 550 copies, and featured cover art by Tom Canty with interior illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert.  It would garner a Best Single Author Collection From the annual Locus Readers Poll. And a Ditmar was also awarded. It’s been in print even since, and has quite a few translations.  Most of the stories here are reprinted from elsewhere but some such as the horrific “The Wife’s Story” which is highly reminiscent of work done by Angela Carter is written for here. (CE)

(8)  TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born June 28, 1948 Kathy Bates, 72. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King derived film. Another genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1954 Deborah Grabien, 66. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1954 Alice Krige, 66. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli  and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1979 Felicia Day, 41. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears  as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1957 Mark Helprin, 73. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it.  (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1926 Mel Brooks, 94. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. And Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights, though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1951 Lalla Ward, 69. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on  Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus. (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1954 Raffaella De Laurentiis, 66. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series. She was the Executive Producer of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1918 – Martin Greenberg.  Co-founded Gnome Press with Dave Kyle (Dave’s logograph is here), publishing ninety books in hard covers including Anderson, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore, Norton, Simak.  Edited eight anthologies.  Lost his shirt to Bob Bloch at poker.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1930 – Joe Schaumburger.  Active in our two longest-running apas, the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA) and Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS).  President of the New Jersey SF Society and the Dickens Fellowship of New York.  Founded Wossname (Pratchett fans).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1944 – Peggy Rae Sapienza.  Daughter of Jack McKnight who made the first Hugo Award trophies.  Active in FAPA.  With husband Bob Pavlat was given the Big Heart, our highest service award.  Chaired Smofcon 9.  Vice-chair of ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  After BP’s death, married John Sapienza.  Chaired BucConeer the 56th Worldcon, Nebula Awards Weekend 2012 and 2014, World Fantasy Convention 2014.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  When Japanese fans bid for and won the right, privilege, or typhoon of holding the 65th Worldcon, she was the North America agent, as probably no one else on the continent could have been.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1945 – Jon Gustafson.  Co-founded Moscon (Moscow, Idaho) and the Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA); ASFA Western Region Director until his death. Wrote “The Gimlet Eye” for Science Fiction Review and Pulphouse.  Edited the Program Books for Westercon 46 and MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; the 1995 SFWA Handbook (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America); Chroma, the Art of Alex Schomburg.  Founded JMG Appraisals, first professional SF art and book appraisal service in North America.  Wouldn’t lead Art Show tours but walked around with me so I could lead them better.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1954 – Darcy Pattison, 66.  Author and quilter; “Houses and Stars” on the cover of Quilting Today (September 1991); Great Arkansas Quilt Show 2002, 2007-2008.  The Wayfinder among a dozen novels for us, a few shorter stories; thirty more books for children and adults.  Leads the Novel-Revision Retreat.  Five Nat’l Science Teaching Ass’n (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books.  Arkansas Governor’s Art Award.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1983 – Gina Damico, 37.  CroakWax, and four more novels for us.  Grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York; California now.  Hardcore crocheter and knitter.  Likes Utz cheese balls.  Even she has seized the Iron Throne.  Her Website is here.  [JH]

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

On Mel Brooks’ birthday, let John King Tarpinian tell you about attending the premiere of Blazing Saddles. Not the one in the movie, but the real one at the Pickwick Drive-in in Burbank. 

“Attending on horseback was encouraged,” says John. “It was a block from what was then called the Pickwick Stables, now the Burbank Equestrian Center.  What is now the entrance back then was a grass lawn, which is where George Burns, as God, made his final phone booth call to John Denver.”

(10) A ROSE OF TEXAS BY ANY OTHER NAME. There’s not much to it besides a map of the district and a news clipping: “Lou Antonelli for Congress – Texas 4th District”.

(11) HOW’S FOR DINNER? “Dolphins Learn Foraging Tricks From Each Other, Not Just From Mom”.

Dolphins learn special foraging techniques from their mothers—and it’s now clear that they can learn from their buddies as well. Take the clever trick that some dolphins use to catch fish by trapping them in seashells. It turns out that they learn this skill by watching their pals do the job.

The discovery, reported in the journal Current Biology, helps reveal how groups of wild animals can transmit learned behaviors and develop their own distinct cultures.

“Dolphins are indeed very clever animals. So it makes sense that they are able to learn from others,” says Sonja Wild, a researcher at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She says young dolphins spend years in close association with their mothers and naturally tend to adopt their mothers’ ways, but this study shows that “dolphins are not only capable, but also motivated to learn from their peers.”

The bottlenose dolphins that live in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been studied for decades, and scientists have identified over a thousand individuals by looking at the unique shape and markings of their dorsal fins. Researchers know what families the dolphins belong to, and keep track of their close associates. These dolphins use a variety ways of finding food—and not every dolphin uses every method.

Some dolphins, for examples, use sponges as tools. The dolphins break a conical sponge off the seafloor, and then wear it almost like a protective cap on their long snout, or beak. This apparently helps them probe into the rough sand of the rocky seafloor and search for buried prey.

(12) WE HAVE ALWAYS PUNKED IN THE CASTLE. “Shirley Jackson Meets Johnny Rotten In ‘Dark Blood Comes From The Feet'”NPR will tell you about it.

Horror isn’t many readers’ first choice during times like these. And while the prospect of wallowing in the murkier end of the emotional spectrum isn’t exactly high on the list of anyone’s self-care regimen right now, there’s a lot to be said for confronting our demons on the printed page as well as in real life. Emma J. Gibbon gets it. The Maine-by-way-of-England author’s debut collection of short stories, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is an assortment of seventeen scalding, acidic tales that eat away at society’s thin veneer of normalcy, convention, and even reality. At the same time, these horrific confections leave a sweet aftertaste of humanity.

As with all great horror, Dark Blood puts its characters first. In “Janine,” a reporter interviews a broken, middle-aged woman whose experience during her prom night in the ’80s shattered lives as well as reality. It’s the doom-laden, small-town fable of rich boy romancing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as if Stephen King had written Pretty in Pink instead of John Hughes.

“The Tale of Bobby Red Eyes” is more mysterious but no less sympathetic to its titular character. In it, a group of children set out to investigate a local urban legend. The ending isn’t exactly happy. “If you say ‘Bobby Red Eyes’ three times in the mirror on Halloween, he’ll be your reflection,” whispers the story’s narrator, and Gibbon builds that incantatory force until it’s incandescently frightening. And in “The Last Witch in Florida,” Gibbon etches an endearingly weird portrait of an elderly witch who’s retired to the Sunshine State, stirring up magical mischief using pink plastic flamingoes and whatever she can scare up at the corner CVS.

(13) UNRELEASED. An NPR review: “A Painful Past And Ghostly Present Converge In ‘Tokyo Ueno Station'”.

Kazu, the narrator of Tokyo Ueno Station, had hoped that his death would bring him some rest, some sense of closure. The man led a life marked with hard work and intense pain; he spent his final years homeless, living in a makeshift shelter in a Tokyo park. But when he dies, he finds the afterlife — such as it is — is nothing like he expected.

“I thought that once I was dead, I would be reunited with the dead,” he reflects. “I thought something would be resolved by death … But then I realized that I was back in the park. I was not going anywhere, I had not understood anything, I was still stunned by the same numberless doubts, only I was now outside life looking in, as someone who has lost the capacity to exist, now ceaselessly thinking, ceaselessly feeling –“

Kazu’s painful past and ghostly present are the subject of Tokyo Ueno Station, the latest book by Korean-Japanese author Yu Miri to be published in English. It’s a relatively slim novel that packs an enormous emotional punch, thanks to Yu’s gorgeous, haunting writing and Morgan Giles’ wonderful translation.

(14) NOT UNCUT AFTER ALL. Bruce Haring, in the Deadline story, “‘South Park’ Missing Five Episodes From HBO Max Offerings Because Of Prophet Muhammad Depictions”, says that HBO Max is offering 23 seasons of South Park except for five episodes that have the Prophet Muhammad as a character.  Two of the five episodes are on the South Park website.

…The controversial episodes violate a widespread Islamic belief that depictions of Muhammad or any of the other prophets of Islam are forbidden, as they encourage the worship of idols. The prohibitions cover images, drawings, statues and cartoons.

…The episodes not available on HBO Max include season five’s Super Best Friends and season 14’s 200 and 201. Those shows had previously been removed from a streaming deal with Hulu and also were axed on the official South Park website. Also not made available to HBO Max were season 10’s Cartoon Wars Part I and Cartoon Wars Part 2, although those episodes can still be streamed on the South Park website.

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were threatened in 2010 for the prior depictions of Muhammad. That prompted Comedy Central to remove voice and visual references in the episodes, and eventually to pull the entire episodes from streaming.

(15) A SPOONFUL OF NOT-SUGAR. BBC explains “How one teaspoon of Amazon soil teems with fungal life”.

A teaspoon of soil from the Amazon contains as many as 1,800 microscopic life forms, of which 400 are fungi.

Largely invisible and hidden underground, the “dark matter” of life on Earth has “amazing properties”, which we’re just starting to explore, say scientists.

The vast majority of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world have yet to be formally classified.

Yet, fungi are surprisingly abundant in soil from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

To help protect the Amazon rainforest, which is being lost at an ever-faster rate, it is essential to understand the role of fungi, said a team of researchers led by Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

…Fungi in soil from tropical countries are particularly poorly understood. To find out about soil from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, researchers collected samples of soil and leaf litter from four regions.

Genetic analysis revealed hundreds of different fungi, including lichen, fungi living on the roots of plants, and fungal pathogens, most of which are unknown or extremely rare. Most species have yet to be named and investigated.

Areas of naturally open grasslands, known as campinas, were found to be the richest habitat for fungi overall, where they may help the poorer soil take up nutrients.

Understanding soil diversity is critical in conservation actions to preserve the world’s most diverse forest in a changing world, said Dr Camila Ritter of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

(16) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. The Locus Awards virtual ceremony video is now available at YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/14/20 To Follow Pixels Like A Sinking Star,
Beyond The Utmost Bounds Of Human Scrolls

(1) DROPPING THE PILOT. “Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World Without Its Creator” – the New York Times listened to some fans who are trying to make the division.

…Over the past week, some fans said that they had decided to simply walk away from the world that spans seven books, eight movies and an ever-expanding franchise. Others said that they were trying to separate the artist from the art, to remain in the fandom while denouncing someone who was once considered to be royalty.

“J.K. Rowling gave us Harry Potter; she gave us this world,” said Renae McBrian, a young adult author who volunteers for the fan site MuggleNet. “But we created the fandom, and we created the magic and community in that fandom. That is ours to keep.”

The essay was particularly gutting for transgender and nonbinary fans, many of whom found solace in the world of “Harry Potter” and used to see the series as a way to escape anxiety.

(2) ONE MINNEAPOLIS SFF BOOKSTORE BACK IN BUSINESS. Greg Ketter’s DreamHaven Books has reopened.

(3) TINY THEOLOGY. The Small Gods series by Lee Moyer (icons) and Seanan McGuire (stories) reported here last month has assembled quite a pantheon in the past few weeks. See them all here.

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes education isn’t enough. Sometimes you can study and study and try and try, and never quite cross the last bridge between where you are and your heart’s desire. Sometimes you need to tell the perfect little lie to get there. Once upon a time there was a small god of goldfinches named Yucan who wanted nothing more in the world than to be a god of toucans, to manifest himself as a big, beautiful, tropical bird that people would stop to ooo and ahh over when they saw it in the trees, something impressive. It was a good thing to be a god of songbirds. There weren’t as many of them as there had been before cats became quite so popular as house pets, and the ones remaining needed all the divine intervention they could get their wings on. He appreciated their attention and their worship, but he wanted, so very badly, to be more than his nature was allowing him to be. So he hatched, over the course of several slow decades, a plan, and one night, with no warning whatsoever, his faithful woke and found him gone. He had abandoned his divine duties, flown the coop, left the nest, and no one could find a single feather left behind! All the little birdies were distraught…but not for very long, as little birdies have short memories, and there were other gods of songbirds around to serve. If it wasn’t quite the same, well, nothing ever is, not even following the same god from one day to another. They adjusted. They adapted. And far away, a very small god with a very big dream put his plans into action. He donned a false face, he told everyone who met him that he was the god of endangered tropical birds, and if no one had ever seen him before, well, some of those birds were very endangered. Deforestation and poaching, don’cha know? So many dangers to evade. So many fledglings to protect. So he lied, and lied, and pretended, and did his best to live up to his own lies. He protected those who came to him, he spread his wings over the nests of species unknown to science, and he tried, and he lied, and he tried. (Continued in comments)

A post shared by Small Gods (@smallgodseries) on

(4) ESTATE SALE. There are 209 items up for bid in Everything But The House’s “Resnick Estate: Sci-Fi Writer’s World”. Sale continues through June 18.

Born in Chicago in 1942, Mike Resnick always wanted to be a writer. During his prolific career he wrote over 40 science fiction novels, 150 stories, 10 story collections, and edited more than 30 anthologies. Mike’s list of awards and recognitions is lengthy as well; they include 5 Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award, and more than 30 other awards. He was the Guest of Honor at Chicon 7, the 70th Worldcon.

Mike met his soul mate Carol, married at 19, then spent nearly 58 years side by side. In fact, when it came to his writing, Mike once said that “Nothing goes out without Carol (my wife) seeing it, editing it, and making suggestions.”

Please enjoy perusing this unique estate featuring otherworldly art, sci-fi collectibles, books and a peek into Mike & Carol Resnick’s wonderful world.

(5) Q&A & BAGELS. Scott Edelman had a vision – that fans should binge on bagels while he finishes answering listeners’ questions at Eating the Fantastic.

It’s been more than three months since I met with Michael Dirda to record the last — though it would be more accurate to instead call it the most recent — face-to-face episode of Eating the Fantastic. Since then, I also shared two episodes recorded remotely — with Sarah Pinsker and Justina Ireland — each with its own special reason for allowing me to step beyond this podcast’s meatspace culinary mandate.

But because it still seems unsafe out there for a guest to meet with me within the walls of the restaurant, you and I are now about to sequester together, just as we did four episodes ago, when we sheltered in place, and two episodes back, when we practiced social distancing.

Thirty questions remained from my original call to listeners and previous guests of the show, and this time I managed to get through all of them. 

I answered questions about whether my early days in fandom and early writing success helped my career, which anthology I’d like to edit if given the chance, what different choices I wish I’d made over my lifetime, what I predict for the future of food, how the pandemic has affected my writing, if anything I’ve written has ever scared me, whether writer’s block is a reality or a myth, which single comic book I’d want to own if I could only have one, how often I’m surprised by something a guest says, the life lessons I learned from Harlan Ellison, and much more.

(6) CLARION ALUMS ARE ZOOMING. You are invited to register for the 2020 Clarion Summer Conversations. The first two are —

Join the Clarion Foundation for conversations with writers from the Clarion alumni community about writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

This week, our guests are Catherynne M. Valente, Alyssa Wong, and Ashley Blooms, moderated by Karen Joy Fowler.

Join the Clarion Foundation for conversations with writers from the Clarion alumni community about writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

This week, our guests are Eileen Gunn, Ted Chiang, Lilliam Rivera, and Sam J. Miller, moderated by Kim Stanley Robinson.

(7) FIRST CONTACT. Yesterday, Bill reminded us that the premiere of Forbidden Planet at a 1956 SF convention. The attached photo is from the local news coverage of that event – and includes Bob Madle, whose hundredth birthday we celebrated earlier this month.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • June 1965 – Fifty-five years ago this month, Arthur C. Clarke’s Prelude to Mars was published by Harcourt, Brace & World. A hardcover edition of 497 pages, it would’ve cost you $4.95. You got two novels, Prelude to Space and Sands of Mars, plus a novelette, “Second Dawn.” You also got a lot of stories, sixteen in total, many of them from his Tales from The White Hart series.
  • June 1973 — This month in 1973, Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love was first published. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama would beat it out for the Hugo for Best Novel at Discon II. It was given a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. It’s the life of Lazarus Long told in exhaustive detail. Critics including Theodore Sturgeon loved it, and John Leonard writing for the NYT called it “great entertainment”. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall. His first published  work was “The Lights on Precipice Peak“ in Galaxy, October 1955. Not a prolific writer, he’d do about twenty stories over the next quarter of a century and two novels as well, The Ramsgate Paradox and The People Beyond the Wall. “The Bear with the Knot on His Tail” was nominated for a Hugo. He has not yet made into the digital realm other than “The Lights on Precipice Peak“ being available on iBooks. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. He’s here for his delightful children’s illustrated trio of Space Cat books — Space Cat Visits Venus, Space Cat Meets Mars and Space Cat and the Kittens. I’m please to say they’re available at all the usual digital suspects. He also wrote Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller which are respectively a lost world novel and a dystopian novel. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1917 – Maeve Gilmore.  British author, painter, pianist, sculptor, notable to us for helping her husband Mervyn Peake, generally and with Titus.  After Titus Groan and Gormenghast MP’s health was declining; she halted her own career to give him a hand; he barely finished Titus Alone, published without its final polish.  Notes for a fourth book largely illegible.  After his death she wrote a memoir A World Away and worked on the notes, then she too was gone.  For MP’s birth-centennial in 2011 his children and grandchildren published one of several versions as Titus Awakes.  Michael Moorcock said it “successfully echoes the music of the originals, if not the eloquent precision of Peake’s baroque style”.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1917 – Arthur Lidov.  Illustrator, inventor, muralist, sculptor.  Did the first cover for The Martian Chronicles.  Had already done representational work; here is a 1942 mural Railroading in the Post Office of Chillicothe, Illinois.  Here is his work in a 1950 television ad.  Also real things in a way that might be called fantastic; here and here are paintings for “How Food Becomes Fuel” in the 7 Dec 62 Life.  He still did SF; here is his illustration for “The Cathedral of Mars” (by W. Sambrot; Saturday Evening Post, 24 Jun 61).  Here is a 1982 painting Alpha Universe.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1919 Gene Barry. His first genre role was in The War of the Worlds as Dr. Clayton Forrester. He’d have a number of later genre appearances including several on Science Fiction TheatreAlfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Devil and Miss SarahThe Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite, multiple appearances on Fantasy Island and The Twilight Zone. He’d appear in the ‘05 War of The Worlds credited simply as “Grandfather”. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William Hamling. Author and editor who was active as an sf fan in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His first story “War with Jupiter”, written with Mark Reinsberg, appeared in Amazing Stories in May 1939. He’d write only short stories, some nineteen of them, over the next twenty years. Genre adjacent, his Shadow of the Sphinx is a horror novel about an ancient Egyptian sorceress. He would be the editor of two genre zines, Imagination for most of the Fifties, and Imaginative Tales during the Fifties as well. He published four issues of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and contributed to the 1940 Worldcon program. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1923 – Lloyd Rognan.  After discharge from World War II (Purple Heart in the Normandy landing; served on The Stars and Stripes) and freelancing in Paris he worked for Hamling’s Greenleaf Publications, thus Imagination and Imaginative Tales; a score of covers, a dozen interiors.  Here is a biography, with a 1956 cover.  Here is a cover from 1957.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1939 Penelope Farmer, 81. English writer best known for children’s fantasy novels. Her best-known novel is Charlotte Sometimes, a boarding-school story that features a multiple time slip. There’s two more novels in this, the Emma / Charlotte series, The Summer Birds and Emma in Winter. Another children’s fantasy by her, A Castle of Bone, concerns a portal in a magic shop. (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1948 – Laurence Yep.  Twenty novels, thirty shorter stories for us; forty more novels; picture books; plays. Ph.D. in English.  Newbery Medal; Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Fiction; Woodson, Phoenix Awards; Wilder Medal (as it then was; career contribution to American children’s literature).  Golden Mountain (Chinese immigrants’ name for America, particularly San Francisco) Chronicles, though not ours, valuably tell that story from 1849.  “I was too American to fit into Chinatown, and too Chinese to fit in anywhere else.”  Married his editor and wrote books with her.  Note that dragons, which he writes about, although fantasy in China are quite different there and in the West.  Memoir, The Lost Garden.  [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1949 – Harry Turtledove.  Ninety novels, a hundred eighty shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, under his own and other names, and with co-authors.  Famous for alternative history; three Sidewise Awards.  Best-Novella Hugo for “Down in the Bottomlands”.  Toastmaster at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  Forry Award.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Loscon 23, Deepsouthcon 34, Rivercon 23, Windycon XXII and XXXII, Westercon 55, Eastercon 53 (U.K. nat’l con).  Perfectly innocent Ph.D. in Byzantine history which he then used for more fiction.  Once while I was moderating “Twenty Questions for Turtledove” audience questions ran out so I made up some; afterward I said “You should thank me”; he said “Certainly; why?” and I said “I didn’t ask Why did Byzantium fall?”  [JH]
  • Born June 14, 1958 James Gurney, 62. Artist and author best known for his illustrated Dinotopia book series. He won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at L.A. Con III for Dinotopia: The World Beneath, and was twice nominated for a Hugo for Best Professional Artist. The dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was named in his honor. (CE)
  • Born June 14, 1972 – Adrian Tchaikovsky.  Born Czajkowski, living in England.  Instead of spelling his namelike any reasonable Pole he agreed to Tchaikovsky for the convenience of English-language readers; then when his books were going to Poland he was stuck with it (“this tale of Frankish ignorance”).  Clarke and British Fantasy awards.  Honorary Doctorate of the Arts.  Nine novels in Shadows of the Apt series, two in Children of Time, three in Echoes of the Fall, five more; eighty shorter stories.  Amateur entomologist.  [JH]

(10) OFFENSIVE WEAPONRY. ScreenRant made a list to laugh at: “The 10 Most Hilariously Lame Sci-Fi Weapons In Movies, Ranked”.

Sci-fi films have weapons of all sorts and many of them might seem to be impractical or unrealistic but they still continue to fascinate us….

The absolute worst is —

1. Bat-Shark Repellent- Batman: The Movie (1966)

Adam West’s Batman gave a lighthearted avatar to the caped crusader, giving viewers some priceless ‘so bad that it’s good moments’. In 1966’s Batman: The Movie, Batman is escaping from an ocean while Robin pilots the Bat-Plane above. Robin drops a ladder for Batman to climb but right then, a shark charges at the dark knight.

In a calm and composed tone, Batman asks his accomplice to throw him a can of Bat-Shark Repellent. This random item has no match in terms of lameness and creativity.

(11) BAEN PUBLISHES JANISSARIES SEQUEL. The fourth book in Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries series has been completed posthumously. Baen has a three-part dialog between the writers who finished t.

David Weber and Phillip Pournelle discuss Mamelukes, by Jerry Pournelle. When the late, great Dr. Jerry Pournelle passed away, he left behind the nearly completed manuscript for science fiction novel Mamelukes. Now Pournelle’s son, Phillip Pournelle, and Honor Harrington series creator David Weber have completed the book. This is an entry in Jerry Pournelle’s legendary Janissaries series;

Part I:

Part II:

Part III: The third segment is only in podcast form at this writing:

(12) NEWS TO ME. Puffs “is a stage play written by Matt Cox as a transformative & transfigured work under the magic that is US Fair Use laws.”

Puffs is not authorised, sanctioned, licensed or endorsed by J.K Rowling, Warner Bros. or any person or company associated with the Harry Potter books, films or play.

Here’s the brief description:

For seven years a certain boy wizard went to a certain Wizard School and conquered evil. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of the Puffs… who just happened to be there too. A tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.

(13) NEW HORIZONS. “As California Trains 20,000 Contact Tracers, Librarians and Tax Assessors Step Up”.

After more than two months at home, Lisa Fagundes really misses her work managing the science fiction book collection of the San Francisco Public Library. She feels like she’s in withdrawal, longing to see new books, touch them, smell them. “It’s like a disease,” she says, laughing.

But recently, she’s been learning how to combat a different disease: COVID-19. While libraries are closed, Fagundes is one of dozens of librarians in San Francisco training to become contact tracers, workers who call people who have been exposed to the coronavirus and ask them to self-quarantine so they don’t spread it further.

Librarians are an obvious choice for the job, says Fagundes, who normally works at the information desk of the San Francisco Main Library. They’re curious, they’re tech savvy, and they’re really good at getting people they barely know to open up.

“Because a lot of times patrons come up to you and they’re like, ‘Uh, I’m looking for a book –’ and they don’t really know what they’re looking for or they don’t know how to describe it,” Fagundes says.

Or they’re teens afraid to admit out loud that they’re looking for books about sex or queer identity. Fagundes is used to coaxing it out of them in an unflappable, non-judgmental way. Similar skills are needed for contact tracing, which involves asking people about their health status and personal history.

“Talking about sensitive subjects is a natural thing for librarians,” she says. “It’s a lot of open ended questions, trying to get people to feel that you’re listening to them and not trying to take advantage or put your own viewpoint on their story.”

Fagundes is part of the first team of contact tracers trained through a new virtual academy based at the University of California – San Francisco. The state awarded the university an $8.7 million contract in May to expand the academy and train 20,000 new contact tracers throughout California by July — one of the largest such efforts in the country.

(14) CASE SETTLED. Possibly the final word on a Pixel from 18 months ago: “Gatwick drone arrest couple receive £200k payout from Sussex Police”.

A couple arrested over the Gatwick Airport drone chaos that halted flights have received £200,000 in compensation.

Armed police stormed the home of Paul and Elaine Gait in December 2018, and held them for 36 hours after drones caused the airport to close repeatedly.

The couple were released without charge, and sued Sussex Police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

On Sunday, their legal team announced the force had agreed to an out-of-court settlement package.

Sussex Police confirmed it has paid the couple the £55,000 owed in damages, and law firm Howard Kennedy said it has billed the force an additional £145,000 in legal costs.

Flights were cancelled in droves over a three-day period, as police investigated multiple reported drone sightings.

No-one has ever been charged, and police have said that some reported drone sightings may have been Sussex Police’s own craft.

Twelve armed officers swooped on Mr and Mrs Gait’s home, even though they did not possess any drones and had been at work during the reported sightings.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “More Creative Writing And Tips From Stephen King” on YouTube is a 2016 compilation by Nicola Monaghan of writing advice Stephen King has given in lectures at the University of Massachusetts.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/20 The Yellow Brick Road Must Roll

(1) PROZINE REJOINS THE LIVING Compelling Science Fiction has been saved from the scrapheap of history. Editor Joe Stech explains how it happened:

We’re back in business and will be open to submissions once again on Monday, January 13th!

After I announced in September that Compelling Science Fiction would be shutting down for good, Nick Wells of Flame Tree reached out to me and suggested we work together to keep the magazine publishing our unique brand of science fiction stories. Over the last month we came to an agreement that will allow Compelling Science Fiction to continue publishing — you may recall that my issue was one of time, and Flame Tree will take over many of the most time-consuming aspects of the magazine. My role will transition to that of editor-in-chief, and Nick will take over the publishing role. I’m very excited to work with Nick and Flame Tree, and continue to support this genre of fiction that I love.

We’ll be transitioning to a quarterly schedule, and will also be accepting submissions much more often. Authors, we need your wonderful stories, so please send them our way! And readers, thanks for entrusting us with your time. I will always treat it with respect, and do my best to provide the types of stories you come here for.

(2) MORE SFF ON JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb says “The third episode of the ‘Greatest of All Time’ Jeopardy! tourney had a number of SFF-related questions.”

Here was the $800 answer in “Prequels and Sequels”:

Edited by the author’s son Christopher & published in 1977, it’s a history of Middle-Earth before “Lord of the Rings”.

Ken Jennings readily questioned, “What is Silmarillion?”

And the $400 answer:

Set for release in 2020 is Suzanne Collins’ “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, a prequel to this series.

James Holzhauer asked, “What is The Hunger Games?”

In the “TV Green Thumb” category:

$1200: On “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this wife of Commander Waterford has some pivotal scenes in her greenhouse.

Two wrong guesses, but nobody got, “Who is Serena?”

$1600: Played by Carolyn Jones in the ’60s, she loved to cut the heads off her roses, & rejoiced when her thorns came in sharp.

Crickets. “Who is Morticia Addams?”

And the $2000 featured a picture of Jean-Luc Picard and Boothby the groundskeeper: Jean-Luc Picard once helped Boothby, played by this one-time TV Martian, to replant some flowers at Star Fleet Academy.

Ken Jennings got it: “Who is Ray Walston?”

Goldfarb concludes, “The game in the second half (each day’s game is two regular games put together) had questions about Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et Le Bête’ and Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, but I’m going to call those only genre-adjacent and not quote them.”

Then, Andrew Porter saw this go down —

Category: Book Marks

Answer: In this novel, Mark Watney says, “I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did.”

Wrong question: What is “The Sun Also Rises?”

Right question: What is “The Martian.”

(3) DIAGNOSING SUCCESS. The Hollywood Reporter’s Patrick Shanley probes “The Key Difference Between Video Game and Film Remakes”.

…Video game remakes work because, in many ways, they are the antithesis of film remakes. They honor the original vision by elevating it to what it was hoping to be but unable to achieve due to the limits of technology. The best remakes (in any medium) maintain the heart and soul of their source material while simultaneously modernizing them. In that regard, games have outshone film, delivering on the promise of the original while also updating them in a way that appeals to the nostalgia of longtime fans and the discerning eye of newcomers.

(4) STREAMING SEVENTIES SFF. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Criterion Channel, a streaming service that focuses on art films and is based on the home video distributor The Criterion Collection, will be featuring a wide range of science fiction films from the 1970s for most of January 2020. The service’s sci-fi offerings for the month are:

  • No Blade of Grass (Cornel Wilde, 1970)
  • A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) [based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name]
  • The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971) [based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend]
  • THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)
  • Z.P.G. (Michael Campus, 1972)**
  • Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
    Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973) [based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room!]
  • Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)
  • The Terminal Man (Mike Hodges, 1974)
  • Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975),
  • A Boy and His Dog (L. Q. Jones, 1975) [based on the Harlan Ellison story of the same name]
  • Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
  • Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
  • The Ultimate Warrior (Robert Clouse, 1975)
  • Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)
  • God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976)
  • Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977)
  • Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Other genre-related SF films from the decade may already be available on the service (Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris are definitely there) .

(5) JAMES DAVIS NICOLL. The proprietor tells us that today’s review — of An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass — is review 1500 on James Nicoll Reviews. His career total is “something like 6600 reviews.”

(6) CROWDFUNDING WISDOM. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights from “Crowdfunding and Kickstartering with M.C.A. Hogarth.” Thread starts here.

(7) GETTING THE ROCKETS READY. CoNZealand has posted a “Hugo Awards Video” hosted by Tammy Coxen, this year’s awards administrator.

If you’d like to know more about the Hugo Awards, check out this new video from the CoNZealand team, talking about the history of the awards and why they’re so important.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 11, 1997 — in Japan, Barb Wire got released. Starring Pamela Anderson and a very brief outfit, it was based on a Dark Horse comic (written by John Arcudi and illustrated by a rotating group of artists), the film was made on a shoehorn budget (about the size of her outfit) of nine million but was still a box office bomb bringing in only four million. Excepting Ebert, most critics didn’t like it and the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are especially harsh, giving it just a 14% rating. And there’s a lot of them that don’t like it — 47, 276 so far! 
  • January 11, 2013 Survival Code (Borealis was its original name and it was called that in Canada), and it starred Ty Olsson, Patrick Gallagher and Michelle Harrison. It was directed by David Frazee. It won three Canadian Screen Awards at the Second Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Miniseries or Television Movie, Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries, and Best Original Score for a Television Program. The film was created to be a series pilot for Space, but the series never happened for reasons we can’t find but Space, its distributor, aired it instead as a television film. Yes it scored well at the Canadian Screen Awards, but the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less forgiving as it get just 33% there. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to Silverlock. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name, and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series is based, and the Isaac Asimov novel was based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film.  (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Wright King. He’s had roles in the SFF realm starting with Captain Video and His Video Rangers and including Johnny Jupiter, Twilight Zone, Out ThereThe Invaders, Planet Of The Apes , Invasion of the Bee Girls, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Logan’s Run. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 83. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 59. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted wordplay as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 57. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos”story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins
  • Born January 11, 1971 Tom Ward, 49. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”. And he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 48. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(10) BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY REMEMBERED. The London Review of Books has linked to “Operation Backfire” by Francis Spufford first published in 1999.  This history of the British space program mentions Arthur C. Clarke twice:  first in describing the British Interplanetary Society in 1944 and second a theological debate Clarke had with Lewis and Tolkien in 1958.

In November 1944 a group of men met in a London pub. In this fifth year of the war, the capital was dingy, dog-eared, clapped-out, frankly grimy. Though Britain had not shaken off its usual inefficiencies at mass production, it had converted its economy to the needs of the war more completely than any other combatant nation. For five years there had been no new prams, trams, lawnmowers, streetlamps, paint or wallpaper, and it showed. All over the city things leaked, flapped, wobbled and smelt of cabbage. It was the metropole that Orwell would project forward in time as the London of 1984.

These drinkers were not the kind of people to let an unpromising present determine the shape of things to come. They were the inner circle of the British Interplanetary Society, and in 1938 they had published a plan for reaching the Moon using two modules, one to orbit, one to descend to the lunar surface. The cost of the rocket – as much as a million pounds – was far more than they could raise, but they did have enough money to make a couple of instruments for it. ‘We were in the position of someone who could not afford a car, but had enough for the speedometer and the rear-view mirror,’ Arthur C. Clarke would remember. They constructed a ‘coelostat’, a device to stabilise the image of a spinning star-field. It was made from four mirrors and the motor of Clarke’s gramophone; it worked, and was proudly displayed in the Science Museum.

(11) “FUN” IS OVER. For awhile Jon Del Arroz branded his videos Diversity in Comics – but no more! “Why I’m Changing the Channel Name Back to Jon Del Arroz”.  Here’s the transcript of his explanation. (And remember, YouTube talking head videos really do tend to be one endless run-on sentence):

…But for here I’ve used the name Diversity in Comics over the last I guess two three months helped grow the channel quite a bit so thank you everybody came by because you saw the name and thought it was funny and all that but there comes a time where jokes have to end and we had a funny joke for a bit there and it was great and at this point I’m seeing that there’s a couple things that are an issue with this which is one that yeah it is needlessly antagonizing some people who get really worked up about this and and while I I do enjoy triggering people who get triggered for no reason and all that there there comes a time where joke a stand and it’s it’s just not funny and it’s not funny even watching somebody lose their minds over something like this anymore so definitely don’t want that happening anymore don’t want to insult anybody who might be a comic book reader who might check out the books and things like that I definitely want that to be something uh you know to where we can have are buying comic books and and we’re coming back and changing it back to just my name and the reason we’ll go with my name instead of something fancy….

(12) GIBSON INTERVIEW. William Gibson tells a Guardian writer, “‘I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was'”.

… As a Canadian writer who initially marked his territory in a future Japan, what attracted him to setting his post-Jackpot world in London? He doesn’t see it as so much of a jump. “On my first three or four visits to Japan I immediately thought that Tokyo had more in common with London than with any other city,” he says. “These disproportionately large sites of former empires, huge concentrated populations, recent wartime trauma, lots of fatalities. They’re capitals of island nations. But also cultural things: the fanatical attention paid to specific individual classes of objects. In London you could probably find a speciality shop for almost anything. And you certainly could in Tokyo. All these parallels. I’m curious that I’ve almost never seen it mentioned anywhere.”

(13) STRANGE DIRECTION. BBC reports “Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson exits over ‘creative differences'”.

Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has left the sequel over “creative differences” with Marvel.

Derrickson made the original 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and had been due to deliver Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2021.

There’s speculation that Derrickson and Marvel boss Kevin Feige disagreed about how scary the follow-up should be.

The director, whose credits include The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, had pledged “the first scary MCU film”.

He made the comments at San Diego Comic Con in July, where Feige swiftly clarified that it would still be suitable for teenage viewers. “It’s gonna be PG-13 and you’re going to like it!” he added.

Feige has since said it would not be a horror film, and that any scary sequences would be like those made by Steven Spielberg in films like Indiana Jones and Gremlins.

(14) MOMENT OF BOOM. “Popocatépetl: Mexican volcano’s spectacular eruption caught on camera” — someone caught the start of the eruption on a short video.

Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano erupted on Thursday with a dramatic show of lava and a cloud of ash and rocks that reached 3,000m (9,800ft) into the sky.

No-one was hurt. Popocatépetl is an active stratovolcano, 70km (43 miles) south-east of the capital, Mexico City.

Its name means “smokey mountain” in the indigenous Náhuatl language.

(15) OPPOSITE OF SWATTING. Or so you might call it: “Teenager having seizure saved by online gamer – 5,000 miles away in Texas”.

The parents of a teenager who suffered a seizure while chatting online have thanked his friend who called emergency services from 5,000 miles away.

Aidan Jackson, 17, was talking to an American gamer from his bedroom in Widnes on 2 January when he had a fit.

His friend, 20-year-old Dia Lathora, from Texas, alerted police in the UK.

The first Aidan’s parents knew of the emergency was when police and an ambulance appeared at their front door, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Caroline and Steve Jackson then rushed upstairs to find their son “extremely disorientated”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. They intend to live happily ever after:

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film’s most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that’s only the beginning.

Watching David’s face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen. The set-up is great, but the magical moment when Loechler’s illustrated self tosses the engagement ring to his real-life self? That’s when we all toss up our hands and say, “OKAY, man. You win at proposing. Everyone else must bow before you now.”

The whole proposal—the re-illustrations, the heart jokes (David is a cardiologist), and the bride-to-be’s surprise when she finds surrounded by her friends and family—it’s all perfection. Just watch:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/19 The UnPixeled Scrollfession Of Jonathan Hugo

(1) THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG, CAME FIRST IT DID. Popular Mechanics takes “An Alarmingly Deep Dive Into the Science of Baby Yoda”. Tagline: “We talked to eight actual scientists to find the answers. This is a cry for help.”

There have been many famous babies throughout history: The Lindbergh Baby. The Gerber Baby. Baby Jessica. Rosemary’s Baby. But has there ever been a baby as universally loved and fawned over as Baby Yoda?

For all the joy that Baby Yoda brings us, he can also be confusing. And not because of the obvious questions, like whether Baby Yoda is the real Yoda. Obviously he’s not. The Mandalorian—the Disney+ original series that’s given us our favorite non-English-speaking Star Wars character since BB-8—is set between Return of the Jedi (when the O.G. Yoda dies) and The Force Awakens.

It’s arguable that Baby Yoda could be the illegitimate love-child of Yoda and Yaddle, the lady Yoda from The Phantom Menace, and there’s been some scholarly speculation on that topic, including an investigative report with the refreshingly blunt title, “Did Yoda F**k?”

But whether the Yoda is Baby Yoda’s true daddy isn’t what fascinates us every time we tune into The Mandalorian. What keeps us coming back for more is trying to figure out what in the actual hell Baby Yoda is supposed to be….

(2) WRITE IF YOU GET WORK. Cat Rambo tweeted highlights from the online class “The Freelancer’s Toolkit” with James L. Sutter for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. Thread starts here.

(3) MANGA REVELATIONS. In the Washington Post Simon Denyer profiles Tomoni Shimuzu’s What Has Happened To Me, a manga that tells the first-person story of Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur persecuted by the Chinese: “Japanese manga about a Uighur woman’s persecution in China becomes viral hit”

… “What has happened to me — A testimony of a Uyghur woman” recounts the story told by Mihrigul Tursun, a member of the Muslim minority in western China that has faced relentless crackdowns from authorities in Beijing.The manga — as all comic-style works are known in Japan — describes Tursun’s imprisonment and torture by the Chinese government, the death of one of her young children while in custody, and the jailing of her husband for 16 years.

(4) KINDLING HIGHER RATES. The Digital Reader announced “Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate Jumped in November 2019”. Which is a good thing if KU readers are flipping your pages.

Amazon announced on Friday that the Kindle Unlimited funding pool increased by one hundred thousand dollars in November 2019, to $26.1 million, from $26 million in October 2019.

At the same time the per-page rate royalty jumped to d $0.004925, from $0.0046763  in October.

(5) HIGH MAGIC. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer, in “Microreview: The Last Sun, by K.D. Edwards, reviews “an intriguing Urban Fantasy that uses genderqueer characters and the story of Atlantis to tell an intriguing magic-infused story.”

In a world very much like ours but where Atlantis existed, and existed into the modern era until the survivors of its fall emigrated to a new home in the New World, a scion of a fallen House is wrapped up in mystery and intrigue, as rivalries, schemes and long set plans collide with that scion’s destiny and coming into his true power.

Rune Sun is the last of his kind. House Sun, his tarot card named noble family, has long since fallen and he is the only survivor. A  sword fighter and a sorcerer, he lives doing odd jobs here and there, a down on his luck existence especially given the wealth and power of his peers, and of his life, long ago. It is doing one of those odd jobs, against another noble House, that Sun gets hooked into an intrigue that extends across New Atlantis. That hook, too and just might provide an opportunity for Rune to prove and show his capability and true abilities. If it doesn’t wreck his homeland or get him killed first, that is.

(6) FOR BETTER OR WORSE. ScreenRant, in “DCEU: 5 Best Rivalries (& 5 That Make No Sense)”, says “the characters in these movies and their conflicts are also not so black-and-white. Some of them are good, but others are not.” Here’s part of their list:

6 Makes No Sense: Wonder Woman & Ares

Another pointless final battle in the DCEU includes the one in Wonder Woman. Not only did we expect another character to be Ares, but we also focused on a different conflict, which was Diana’s belief that Ares was causing wars and the reality that people weren’t just all good.

This is why the final battle feels so odd to most viewers. It is just a CGI mess with explosions that are meant to excite those who were expecting such action. But what could have been more logical would be for Diana to finally come to the realization that she was wrong and naive.

(7) CLOSING TIME. Publisher Joe Stech is signing off with Issue 14 of Compelling Science Fiction, his magazine devoted to plausible science fiction.

Welcome to the final issue of Compelling Science Fiction!

The last 3 years have been a fun ride. I wrote a blog post about some of the highlights from my perspective, but here I’ll just say: It was a privilege working with so many wonderful authors, and I hope people enjoy these stories for many years to come. I’ll be leaving every issue up online indefinitely.

As for this issue, I’m happy to say that we’re finishing strong — here are our final five fantastic stories that you can read right now…

Stech wanted hard sf, as he thought of it, but to communicate that he came up with a less-fraught alternative term:

“Plausible science fiction,” in this context, means “science fiction that tries not to disrupt suspension of disbelief for people that have knowledge of science and engineering.” This can mean not blatantly contradicting our current knowledge of the universe, and it can also mean not blatantly ignoring how humans generally behave. It also means internal self-consistency.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 15, 1978 Superman: The Movie premiered. It would win a Hugo at  Seacon ’79 with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio program and Watership coming in second and third respectively. Likewise Rotten Tomatoes has 94% of their reviewers giving Superman a positive review.  That it was boffo at the  box office and a critical favorite is hardly surprising either. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson, 96. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. 
  • Born December 15, 1948 Cassandra Harris. She was in For Your Eyes Only as the Countess Lisl von Schlaf. Pierce Brosnan, her third husband, met producer Albert R. Broccoli while she was shooting her scenes and was cast in four Bond films as a result. Her genre resume is short otherwise, an appearance on Space: 1999, and a likewise one-off on Shadows, a YA scary show. (Died 1991.)
  • Born December 15, 1949 Don Johnson, 70. Though Miami Vice is where most will know him from, he has impressive genre creds including the lead in the Ellison-derived A Boy and Dog, voicing Wazir’s Son in Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, Office Andy Brady in the Revenge of the Stepford Wives film and another Sheriff, Earl McGraw, in the From Dusk till Dawn: The Series.
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 65. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. No, what interests me is that he’s listed as directing a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 56. She was Supergirl in the film of that name,  and returned to the 2015 TV series of the same name as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the Supergirl series.  Me? I’m not obsessed at all by the DC Universe though the DCU streaming app is my sole entertainment budget other than an Audible subscription.  Her other genre appearances include being on Supernatural, Eleventh Hour, Toothless, Drop Dead Diva and Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 49. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer Limits, Escape from Mars, Andromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), Swarmed, Mega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(10) MILES TO GO. Marvel Comics presents “Rapid-Fire Questions with Saladin Ahmed.”

Writer for Spider-Man: Miles Morales and The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, Saladin Ahmed, answers the hard-hitting questions about Kamala and Miles.

(11) OVERWHELMED BY RELATIVISM. The Chengdu in 2023 Worldcon bid prompts Steve Davidson to ask a basket of questions in “The Future for WSFS” at Amazing Stories.

As WSFS – empowered by its ever-shifting fannish membership – moves towards the greater realization of the initial word in its name – World – it will be increasingly called to task over issues and concerns that it has heretofore not had to grapple with.  No longer can Fannish politics enjoy wide separation from real world politics.  One of those questions will surely be How do we assess the fitness of a country to host a Worldcon?

That single question is replete with detail and nuance.  Previously, we’ve applauded governmental support of Worldcons;  Finland was underwritten by the Finnish government;  New Zealand’s Prime Minister recently endorsed an upcoming convention.  On the other hand Chengdou would be taking place in a city that has been designated as a center for science fiction by the Chinese Government and is undoubtedly receiving both financial and material support from the same.

When a government’s support and endorsement is limited to just a bit of funding and some promotional support, we’re unlikely to question its motives (of course they love fans), but at what point do we begin to question those motives?  At what point does our desire for such impact other aspects of our community, and how much influence are we prepared to accept?  (Remember that Scientology attempted to use promotional and financial support to co-opt as Worldcon and its awards.)…

(12) SOMETHING MISSING. Rob Latham identifies snubs and surprises in a review of Gary K. Wolfe’s Sixties novel anthology for Library of America in “An Uneven Showcase of 1960s SF” at LA Review of Books.

…The shortcomings of this set derive, in large part, from constraints not wholly of the editor’s making. Probably because the press wanted to extend its coverage as much as possible, a decision was made to exclude writers who had been featured in the earlier 1950s volumes, meaning that talents who continued to produce compelling work into the subsequent decade — Heinlein, Fritz Leiber, James Blish, Frederik Pohl — were programmatically passed over. At the same time, major authors whose work has come to define the 1960s, but who were already spotlighted in single-author collections, were barred as well: hence, this set does not include Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) or Ubik (1969), Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), or Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) or Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). And the goal of gathering as many texts as possible into two manageable volumes meant that exceptionally long books could not be chosen, which ruled out the novel often voted by fans as the best ever written in the genre, Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965). Finally, the goal of “balanc[ing] the halves of the decade” — as Wolfe puts it in his introduction — has produced a first volume that is significantly inferior, aesthetically, to the second, since (for reasons I explain below)…

(13) FURSUITING. Mara Reinstein in Parade gives an extensive background to CATS: “Cats Returns! James Corden and Rebel Wilson Take Us Behind the Scenes of the New Cats Movie”.

Ask the Cats cast members why they wanted to be a part of the movie, and the answers all circle back to, well, memories—of the original musical.

Corden, 41, a Tony and Emmy winner perhaps best known for belting out music with celebrities on the hugely popular “Carpool Karaoke” segments on his Late Late Show on CBS, recalls seeing the production with his parents as a 13-year-old in London in the early 1990s. “I remember thinking, Man, this is a spectacle,” he says. “I knew the movie would be great fun.” Wilson, who attended theater school in her native Australia, was visiting London in the early 2000s and caught a performance from the cheap seats. “I had to watch it with little binoculars,” she recalls, “and I was still blown away.”

For Dench, 85, the film served as a Cats homecoming. Back in 1981, she was slated to be part of the original production but had to pull out because of an injury. “We were concentrating every minute of every day on behaving like cats and trying to translate that into a way of moving,” she says. “But I snapped my Achilles tendon during one of the rehearsals, and as anyone knows, that can take a while to heal.” She was “very pleased” to be invited to join the movie production.

(14) OUT OF BREATH. An interview conducted with Richard K. Morgan in 2018 by Professor Sara Martin Alegre is presented in “Thin Air, Deep Dive”.

The novel is called Thin Air partly because this refers to how the ‘terraform eco-magic’ has failed to generated atmospheric conditions beyond ‘four percent Earth sea level standard’. Why this pessimism? Can you also tell a little about the ‘lamina’ and about the role of nanotech in developing Mars?

There is a central conceit that I keep – not consciously, I swear! – returning to in my work. It takes different metaphorical guises, but at root it’s always the same sense of something grand and worthwhile being abandoned by vicious and stupid men in favour of short-term profit and tribal hegemony. You see it in the regressive politics of the Protectorate in the Kovacs novels, the way both the Yhelteth Empire and the – so-called – Free Cities fail their duty as civilisations in A Land Fit for Heroes. So also with Thin Air – the landscape is littered with the markers of a retreat from the grand scheme of terraforming and building a home for humanity on Mars, in favour of an ultra-profitable corporate stasis and an ongoing lie of highly emotive intangibles sold to the general populace in lieu of actual progress. Take a look around you – remind you of anything?

(15) FOUND FOOTAGE. In the “news to me” department – a 2010 episode of Pawn Stars featured a clump of silver rupees recovered from a shipwreck found off the coast of Sri Lanka by Arthur C. Clarke and Mike Wilson in 1961. The discovery became the basis for the book The Treasure of the Great Reef. Clarke’s name is mentioned several times in episode’s “Taj Mahal sunken treasure” segment, which starts around 1:10 of this video:

(16) THE PERILS OF BLABBING. YouTuber TheOdd1sOut’s review of “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” was #1 on the trending tab. Apparently because its anecdotes revolve around why Jim Henson’s daughter was peeved at an earlier review and the nondisclosure agreement he had to sign before screenings of the new series.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/19 You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Pixel Scrolls

(1) VIEW TRANSIT OF MERCURY ON MONDAY. These occur on average about 13 times each century.  The next one won’t be until the year 2032. Let EclipseWise tell you about Monday’s event in “2019 Transit of Mercury”.

On Monday, 2019 November 11, Mercury will transit the Sun for the first time since 2016. The transit or passage of a planet across the face of the Sun is a relatively rare occurrence. As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible….

Observing the Transit

Since Mercury is only 1/194 of the Sun’s apparent diameter, a telescope with a magnification of 50x or more is recommended to watch this event. The telescope must be suitably equipped with adequate filtration to ensure safe solar viewing.

(2) SUPERNATURAL EPISODE RECAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the latest episode of Supernatural a character was introduced who said she made her living as “the number-one purveyor of non-authorized ‘Supernatural’ collectibles on Etsy.”  She also wrote fiction set in the Supernatural universe, although it wasn’t clear if this was fan fiction or professional fiction.  But what made the fiction distinctive was that instead of the typical Supernatural episode, which has, for 15 thunderous seasons, pitted Sam and Dean Winchester against vampires, assorted monsters, and the forces of Hell itself, the fan fiction had the Winchester brothers doing laundry and other chores.  This made the stories very popular.

The episode didn’t do much with the main character other than having her deal with another character who was struggling with writer’s block.  “The only way to deal with writer’s block is to write,” she said.

This is the first TV episode I’ve seen where fan fiction characters were referred to in the episode…

(3) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. When John Hertz looked at Walter Day’s Science Fiction trading cards he noticed that a photo of Isaac Asimov appears on both Asimov’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s cards in the online gallery. It brought to mind an anecdote about the two authors which is retold in the “Isaac Asimov FAQ” at Stason.org.

5.5 What is the Asimov-Clarke treaty?

The Asimov-Clarke Treaty of Park Avenue, put together as Asimov and Clarke were travelling down Park Avenue in New York while sharing a cab ride, stated that Asimov was required to insist that Arthur C. Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Isaac Asimov was the best science writer in the world (reserving second best for himself).  Thus the dedication in Clarke’s book Report on Planet Three reads “In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the second-best science-fiction writer”.

(4) SIGHTS TO SEE. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari called attention to recent additions to their online collection, photos from the 1959 Worldcon, and scans of calendars featuring work by two great fanartists, George Barr and Tim Kirk.

Thanks to Karol DeVore Sissom, we are scanning photos from the collecton of Howard DeVore. Today, we put up 19 photos from Detention from Howard’s collection.Scans by Joe Siclari. http://www.fanac.org/worldcon/Detention/w59-p00.html

We also added two calendars today, one from 1960 (George Barr) and the other from 1969 (Tim Kirk). They’re now in a directory set aside for calendars, and I’m sure there will be more as we go forward. Scans by Joe Siclari. You can see it at: http://fanac.org/fanzines/Calendars/.

(5) CAREER CHANGE. “In today’s political climate, battling supervillains might seem an easier gig“ — “X-Men’s ‘Rogue’ is now a Liberal MP”and The Star has the story.

Actor-turned-politician Lenore Zann is finding a second act in politics just as one of her most well-known roles finds a second life on the streaming screen.

Zann, a longtime New Democrat MLA from Nova Scotia, arrived in Ottawa this week as a newly elected Liberal MP.

Rogue, the character Zann voiced in the iconic 90s X-Men: The Animated Series, will be on Disney’s new streaming service along with the rest of the superhero team when that service launches in Canada next week….

(6) MALTIN PODCAST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s podcast with James Gray, they talk about cosplay beginning at minute 14, when Gray asks, “At what point did adults start dressing up like Captain America at Comic-Con?” and then segue into Martin Scorsese’s complaint about the MCU films not being cinema.  Gray argues that the decline in the humanities in the past decade meant that more young people don’t have as deep a knowledge of film as previous generations do. At minute 20, they switch to deep and interesting film talk.

Gray never discusses why he decided to make a sf film with Ad Astra, although he did say he enjoyed working with Donald Sutherland.

Also, Leonard Maltin revealed at the end of the podcast that he always sits through the credits because “the movie isn’t over until you’ve been threatened with civil and criminal prosecution.”

(7) MEET MARY SUE. The Rite Gud podcast introduces listeners to a bit of fanspeak in “Writing Mary Sues, or What Even IS a Mary Sue?”. Go direct to the podcast here.

In this episode, special guest Jennifer Albright of Have You Seen This?  drops by to talk about Mary Sues, a term used to describe an overly-perfect female character created as a self-insertion wish fulfillment vehicle for the author. The discussion traces the expression Mary Sue back to its origin in Star Trek fanfiction and tries to grapple with its current usage. Does Mary Sue mean anything anymore? Is it a misogynistic term? Is Rey from Star Wars a Mary Sue? Is James Bond a Mary Sue? Does it really matter if a character is a Mary Sue?

(8) BOOKS FRANK MILLER LOVES. Shelf Awareness brings you “Reading with… Frank Miller”, best known for Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300. 

Favorite book when you were a child: 

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, because he went for impossible adventure.

Your top five authors: 

Isaac Asimov: He was the godfather of modern science fiction. He took us beyond the rocket ships and bug-eyed monsters.

Raymond Chandler: For his urban romantic poetry that celebrated 1940s Los Angeles.

Dashiell Hammett: His town was San Francisco; his dialogue was clipped, yet wildly evocative. His heroes were tough and very, very alone.

Dorothy B. Hughes: She brought a distinctly feminine edge to the hard-boiled genre and, in her own way, was ready to take us to darker places than any of the rest.

Mickey Spillane: For his pounding and frenetic portrait of New York City in the post-World War II era.

(9) URBAN MYTH. Snopes debunks “The Strange Case of Time Traveling Rudolph Fentz” – for a very genre-related reason.

In 1950, a New York City police officer who was working missing-persons cases examined the body of an approximately 30-year-old man that was brought into the morgue. The man had shown up in the middle of Times Square at 11:15 p.m. that evening, “gawking and looking around at the cars and up at the signs like he’d never seen them before,” then was quickly hit and killed by cab when he tried to cross a street against the traffic lights.

The pockets of the deceased’s clothing held multiple pieces of coinage and currency of forms that had not been produced for several decades, yet many of them were in mint condition. His possessions also included items from types of businesses that no longer existed in New York City (i.e., a bill from a livery stable and a brass slug from a saloon), a letter postmarked in 1876, and cards bearing the name Rudolph Fentz with an address on Fifth Avenue….

(10) SERLING DOCUMENTARY. The Hollywood Reporter learned from a film that will hit theaters next week that “‘Twilight Zone’ Creator Rod Serling Feared He’d Be Forgotten”.

Rod Serling remains one of the more influential writers in the annals of science fiction. As creator of The Twilight Zone, he took took viewers to strange dimensions and pushed the boundaries of what the genre could do. Yet, part of him feared he would not leave a lasting legacy. That’s one of the topics tackled in Remembering Rod Serling, a new documentary that will be unveiled Nov. 14 in theaters via Fathom Events to celebrate The Twilight Zone‘s 60th anniversary.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1886 Ed Wynn. He appeared on The Twilight Zone in “One for the Angels” which Sterling wrote specifically for him. He appeared one more time on the series in, “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”.  He provided the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and played The Toymaker in Babes in Toyland.  No doubt his best-remembered film appearance was in Mary Poppins as Uncle Albert. Bet you can name the scene he’s best remembered for! (Died 1966.)
  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Alan Caillou. The Head in the Quark series. If you have to ask… Last role was Count Paisley in Ice Pirates and his first was on the One Step Beyond series. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited Nebula, Infinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 65. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1973 Gabrielle Miller, 46. Her first genre series was Highlander: The Series.  And yes, she had long red hair in it.  That’s followed by M.A.N.T.I.S., Outer Limits, X-Files, The Sentinel, Dead Man’s Gun, Stargate SG-1,  Viper, Poltergeist, Welcome to Paradox… oh, you get the idea.
  • Born November 9, 1974 Ian Hallard, 45. He was on Doctor Who as Alan-a-Dale in “Robot of Sherwood”, a Twelfth Doctor story; in Sherlock as Mr Crayhill in “The Reichenbach Fall”; and he played one of the original directors of Doctor Who, Richard Martin, in An Adventure in Space and Time. And he wrote “The Big Four” episode with Mark Gatiss for the Agatha Christie series.

(12) JFK. Gideon Marcus (Galactic Journey) is lining up fans who are interested in a free alternate history story.

(13) C.S. LEWIS BIOGRAPHY. Publishers Weekly does a Q&A with Harry Lee Poe: “New Biography Examines C. S. Lewis’s Earliest Reading Life “.

Harry Lee Poe, a professor of faith and culture at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., pores over the first 20 years of C. S. Lewis’s life in Becoming C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Young Jack Lewis (1898-1918), the first of a three-volume biography of Lewis by Poe.

Why did you decide to look so closely at these first 20 years of Lewis’s life?

Virtually all of Lewis’s biographers have puzzled over why he devoted most of his spiritual biography, Surprised by Joy, to his first 20 years. As I first began to read the letters of young Jack Lewis from the time when he first went away to school, I realized why Lewis thought his childhood and youth were so important in his conversion. During this period, he developed all of his major tastes about what he enjoyed in life and what he hated. Many of the ideas that he would pursue in both his scholarly work and his popular writings have their genesis in his teenage years. Whether books like The Allegory of Love and A Preface to Paradise Lost, or The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, many of the ideas found in these books were topics of Lewis’s interest in letters to [lifelong friend] Arthur Greeves when he was 16 and 17….

(14) THEY DIDN’T JUST HANG AROUND. BBC reports “‘Astonishing’ fossil ape discovery revealed”.

Fossils of a newly-discovered ancient ape could give clues to how and when walking on two legs evolved.

The ability to walk upright is considered a key characteristic of being human.

The ape had arms suited to hanging in the trees, but human-like legs.

It may have walked along branches and even on the ground some 12 million years ago, pushing back the timeline for bipedal walking, say researchers.

Until now the earliest fossil evidence for walking upright dates back to six million years ago.

(15) VINTAGE MOONDUST UNCORKED. Smithsonian Magazine: “NASA Opens Pristine Tube of Moon Dust From the Apollo Missions”. Tagline: “Studying the lunar material will help scientists understand the best way to analyze new samples from future missions to the moon”

NASA scientists recently opened a sample tube of rock and soil collected on the moon during Apollo 17. The tube remained unopened for nearly 47 years, and it is the first time NASA scientists have broken in to a fresh moon sample in over four decades. Researchers are using the lunar dirt to test next-generation sampling tools in preparation for the next time humans fly to the moon.

The sample tube holds about 15 ounces of lunar regolith, or loose rocky material from the surface. Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt collected the material during mission in December of 1972, NASA’s last crewed mission to the moon. The sample, 73002, was taken from a two-foot-long tube that the astronauts drove into a landslide deposit in a feature called the Lara Crater. A second sample, 73001, is scheduled to be opened in January.

(16) A WIDE CANVAS. SYFY Wire’s video series is after big game this time — “Behind the Panel: On the hunt for Treasury Editions”.

In the latest installment of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel, we’re roaming the halls of New York Comic Con while searching for an elusive Treasury Edition: MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz. True story: That was the first-ever collaboration between Marvel and DC. But their second collaboration was a true game changer: Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.

That’s right, the unthinkable crossover already happened in 1976, with a follow-up sequel in 1981. Only the Treasury Edition format could fully capture the twin heroic icons of comics as they had their inevitable battle before their equally inevitable team-up to save the day. For the time, Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man was the comic book equivalent of a blockbuster movie. That Treasury Edition is long out of print, but fans may be lucky enough to spot it at comic conventions.

(17) FROM THE LETTERZINE ZEEN. Kim Huett shares another gem from his files with readers of Doctor Strangemind. “One of the reasons I find nosing through old fanzines so worthwhile are the contemporary reactions to stories and authors. It’s always fun to discover reviews of the big names back when they were just starting out. As you can probably imagine I was most pleased to find what I suspect was the first critical reaction to Ursula Le Guin.” — “In the Beginning”

… Take for example consider the following comments by US fan, Earl Evers, who reviewed the contents of the April 1964 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination in his fanzine, Zeen #2 within weeks of it hitting the shelves. In the process of reviewing this magazine, story by story, he had the following to say about what was one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s earliest published stories…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kim Huett also shared this link for… reasons:

Here’s an #Owlkitty video which more than adequately explains exactly why Tolkien didn’t feature cats in either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Yes, the right cat would make a great Balrog or an excellent Nazgal mount except cats have minds of their own and I can’t imagine Sauron would like that (besides, they would stare right back at him and it doesn’t take an All Seeing Eye to find that sort of behavior annoying):

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, RS Benedict, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Kim Huett, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

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.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/18 In Her Own Special Way To The Pixels She Calls, Come Buy My Scrolls Full Of Crumbs

(1) CRUMB NUMBER ONE. Four people sent me this link, so even though I don’t like the article, this unscientific survey says you probably will: “The True Story of the Lost Sci-Fi Movie ‘Brainstorm,’ Natalie Wood’s Last Film” at Popular Mechanics.

…We’re guessing you’ve never heard of it, anyway. In writing this article, we asked several dozen people if they had. One guy said he might have maybe seen it, a long time ago.

It was called Brainstorm.

Anyone? No?

Brainstorm was supposed to be huge. The director—himself a three-time Oscar nominee—was Douglas Trumbull, a visual-effects genius who had already worked on some of the most monumental films of all time: as Stanley Kubrick’s special photographic effects supervisor on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and as visual effects supervisor on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).

Brainstorm starred Christopher Walken, who two years earlier had won the best supporting actor Oscar for The Deer Hunter; Louise Fletcher, an Oscar winner for her unforgettable role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; and Cliff Robertson, who had won a best-actor Oscar for Charly in 1968.

The fourth leading actor was Natalie Wood.

(2) UTAH’S CON CALENDAR JAMMED IN 2019. The five-year-old Salt Lake Gaming Con is moving to the Salt Palace in SLC and expects a 60% increase in attendance over their 25,000 last year. Their dates are just the week before the Westercon/NASFiC in Layton, UT on July 4th So, in one month within 20 miles of each other there will be:

  • June 7-9: Ogden UnCon–pop culture
  • June 21-23: FyreCon–general SF/F con
  • June  27-29: Salt Lake Gaming Con
  • July 4-7: Westercon/NASFiC

(3) 2017 COMPILATION. Eric Wong alerts readers to Rocket Stack Rank’s annual short story selection of “Outstanding SF/F by People of Color” from 2017. (Thanks to the recently-installed WordPress 5.0 I can no longer take layout blocks already formatted with numbered lists and also display them as quotes, so I am going to stick lines before and after the excerpt….)


There are 59 outstanding stories by people of color from 2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction (see Q&A).

Observations

  1. 40 are free online, and 21 have podcasts (click links to highlight them).
  2. The default Length/Rating view shows RSR reviewed 45 of the 59 stories (76%), recommended 18 of the 45 (40% 5-star or 4-star), and only recommended against 6 of the 45 (13% 5-star or 4-star).
    1. Compared to other prolific reviewers, RSR’s 18 recs is more than STomaino’s 8 and JMcGregor’s 6.
    2. Among Year’s Best anthologies, JStrahan and PGuran tied with 10, followed by GDozois, NClarke and RHorton with 8, then BASFF with 7.
    3. Among awards, Locus had the most with 13, followed by Hugo (8), Nebula (5), Sturgeon and World Fantasy (4), Shirley Jackson (3), Eugie (2), and British Fantasy and British Science Fiction Association with 1 each.
  3. The Length/Score view shows the top scoring novella is “The Black Tides of Heaven” by JY Yang, novelette is “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, and short story is “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” by Tobias S. Buckell. (The top score for novellas is typically less than the other two lengths because there’s room for few of them in year’s best anthologies and they’re usually not covered by prolific short fiction reviewers.)
  4. The Publication/Length view shows the top three magazines with the most stories here are Lightspeed (6), Clarkesworld (5), and Tor Novellas (5), out of 29 magazines, anthologies, collections, and singles.
  5. The New Writer/Score view shows 9 stories by Campbell Award-eligible writers (15%).
  6. The Author view shows Aliette de Bodard and JY Yang with the most stories here (3 each) out of 47 authors.

(4) 200K TO ADD TO YOUR TBR. Vajra Chandrasekera has compiled a list of links to all Strange Horizons’ “Original Fiction in 2018”.

2018 was an excellent year for original fiction at Strange Horizons! We published over two hundred thousand words in five novelettes and 42 short stories, including three themed special issues featuring original fiction, focusing on work by trans and nonbinary writers in January; by writers from India in April; and an extra-large issue with work by writers who are black, indigenous, and/or people of color from the Southeastern USA in July, the fiction selections for which were curated and edited by guest editors Sheree Renée Thomas, Rasha Abdulhadi, and Erin Roberts.

(5) YEAR OF NO JACKPOT. Norman Spinrad looks back on “2018 Year of Dread”:

…No regrets, no surrender, I would gladly do it again until I died with my boots on. But my voice, at least in English, has been silenced, though not in translations, particularly in French. My last novel to be published in English, THE PEOPLE’S POLICE, was shamefully shit-canned by internal politics in the publisher, rendering the next one, WELCOME TO YOUR DREAMTIME, a commercial dead duck, and the one after that, NOWHERELAND sitting in first draft until I find the courage to finish it and spec it. That I am far from the only novelist frantically swimming on the event horizon of this terminal black hole does not exactly prop up my spirits with schadenfreud.

(6) CLARKE AT 101. Mark Yon reviews “The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke” at SFFWorld.

For a man known for writing about science, the first surprise is that the book begins in faux-ancient History and spends much of its time telling us a two-thousand-year-old story of the kingdom of Taprobane (clearly a fictional version of Clarke’s new home, Sri Lanka.) Although much of the book is set in the 21st century, the first few chapters are about how a mountain on the island of Sri Kanda became the Buddhist temple of Yakkagala and has frescoes around its perimeter. This is also based on a real place known to Clarke, actually Sigiriya, which Clarke in his Afterword states is a place “so astonishing that I have had no need to change it in any way.” The reason for this is soon revealed – that the mountain site is the best location for the creation of a space elevator that, once built, will allow cheap travel into space. This first part of the book reflects Clarke’s own interest in the real Sigiriya and his curiosity into religion, in this case Buddhism. Whilst not religious himself, Arthur was interested in the importance of such things to the wider world and the influence they have upon human cultures and society.  This part allows him to respectfully examine such matters.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1951Charles de Lint, 67. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer, so let me offer you instead our Charles de Lint special edition that we just updated this past Sunday: http://thegreenmanreview.com/2017/01/03/charles-de-lint-edition/. My favorite novels by him? That would be Forests of The Heart, Someplace To Be Flying, Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart in our Words menu. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 67. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics whose played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series. 
  • Born December 22, 1954 Hugh Quarshie, 64. First genre role was as Sunda Kastagirin in Highlander followed by being Detective Joyce in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Lieutenant Obutu In Wing Commander. He’s Captain Quarsh Panaka In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He’s got a log tv history starting with playing Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with being Professor John Galt in the pilot for The Tomorrow People and Solomon in the Doctor Who episodes of “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. 
  • Born December 22, 1961 Ralph Fiennes, 57. Perhaps best known genre-wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, he’s been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly shit. He shows up in Red Dragon, prequel to The Silence of the Lambs. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it! I’ve prolly overlooked something but I’m sure one of you will add it in. 
  • Born December 22, 1965David S. Goyer, 53. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark City, Man of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForward, ConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, Krypton, Blade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1978George Mann, 40. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that  he’s written a lot more  fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading  by him. 

(8) IN COMICS TO COME. A recommendation:

(9) AFROSTEAMPUNK. Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay reviews “The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark” at Strange Horizons.

P. Djèlí Clark’s debut fantasy-alternate history Afrosteampunk novella features a young teen lead, which, together with the general pitch of the whole narrative, puts The Black God’s Drums firmly in the teen/YA category. In the brief space of a hundred pages, Clark successfully combines Haitian mythology, magic, and a rich real and fictional history of New Orleans, while keeping the reader entertained with a lively cast of characters even in an otherwise typical plot.

(10) ANAKIN, I AM YOUR FATHER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] DorkSideOfTheForce says that “Star Wars comic finally reveals Anakin’s father.” You may recall that Anakin Skywalker’s mother, Shmi, basically said she just woke up pregnant one day. Well, kinda… The DorkSide post opens with a well-deserved Spoiler Alert, then continues:

The topic of who Anakin’s father has been a subject of discussion for some time. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace touched on this by explaining that there was no father. His mother Shmi told Qui-Gon this by simply explaining that she carried him, gave birth, and raised him. She can’t explain how it happened but there was definitely no father.

This then led Qui-Gon to believe that Anakin was born from the force itself and that Anakin was a creation of Midi-chlorians […]

Fast forward 19 years, seven movies, and a bucket load of comics and other Star Wars-related releases later, and Darth Vader No. 25 has provided us with the answer.

If you want to know badly enough, you’ll click.

(11) THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Leap before you look: “Researchers Show Parachutes Don’t Work, But There’s A Catch”.

Research published in a major medical journal concludes that a parachute is no more effective than an empty backpack at protecting you from harm if you have to jump from an aircraft.

But before you leap to any rash conclusions, you had better hear the whole story.

The gold standard for medical research is a study that randomly assigns volunteers to try an intervention or to go without one and be part of a control group.

For some reason, nobody has ever done a randomized controlled trial of parachutes. In fact, medical researchers often use the parachute example when they argue they don’t need to do a study because they’re so sure they already know something works.

(12) WOLVES DISCOVER FISH. NPR reveals “The Secret Fishing Habits Of Northwoods’ Wolves”. Well, once you’ve eaten the fishermen, what else is left?

Wolves, as it turns out, might not be the bloodthirsty, moose-slaughtering, northwoods-roaming carnivores you always thought they were.

New research on wolf packs at Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is challenging the conventional wisdom on wolves: Their diets are a lot more varied than scientists previously thought.

Researchers with the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a collaboration between the park and the University of Minnesota, have for the first time documented wolves hunting freshwater fish as a seasonal food source — and they have video to prove it.

(13) PROGRESS REPORT. “‘We Are Here’: Questions For Comics Creator Taneka Stotts” on NPR.

When comics creator Taneka Stotts accepted an Eisner Award — the comics industry’s highest honor — this year for her anthology Elements: Fire — A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, she was fired up.

“I hold this award,” she said, “and I declare war on the antiquated mentality that tells us our voices and stories aren’t ‘profitable’ enough … we’re not waiting for you to catch up anymore. We are here, we have always been here, and we will do as you’ve always told us. We will make it ourselves.”

And she’s doing just that. Not only is Stotts a creator and a writer, she’s a self-publisher and an editor, organizing anthologies like Elements: Fire, which features 23 stories from creators of color based in the United States and around the world. She’s already working on a follow-up anthology Elements: Earth. I sat down with Stotts the afternoon before the Eisner awards ceremony, and we talked about why she calls Elements “the little book that could,” and about whether it gets tiring, being a voice for change in the comics community.

(14) ROCKY ROAD. WIRED tells about “The Mad Scramble to Claim the World’s Most Coveted Meteorite”.

On the popular meteorite-list listserv, scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike debated the nature of the Carancas event. People were skeptical about both the illness and the crater itself. The only way to make a proper determination was to see it in person, collect samples, or retrieve the impact mass. The rock itself would be enormously valuable, both for scientific inquiry and also to collectors in the brisk, high-end market for meteorites, in which a rare, crater-­producing landfall could command especially steep prices. But this crater was in a remote area, difficult and expensive to reach. And there were only so many people in the world willing to head to the highlands of Peru at a moment’s notice to look for things that fell out of the sky….

(15) FULLY LOADED. In the December 15 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Sam Leith, literary editor of the Spectator, discusses a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia by a research team led by Nick Wilson of New Zealand’s Otago University about James Bond’s drinking habits.

As well as the inevitable martinis, and his own invention, the ‘Vesper Martini’ (three measures gin, one measure vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lillet shaken and garnished with a large sliver of lemon peel), Bond will chug-a-lug anything that comes to hand:  neat vodka, Champagne and once, in an instance of utter depravity to which he was driven by product placement, Heineken.

In one on-screen binge he knocks back six Vesper Martinis–more than a week’s worth of units in a session–and in one of the books, apparently, he manages 50 units (of alcohol) in a day, which would kill most of us stone dead.

(16) OUT OF HIS DEPP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While talking about many other projects, Disney’s Sean Bailey (“chief architect of Disney’s live-action film studio”) dropped the news that Johny Depp will not appear in the rebooted Pirates of the Caribbean films (The Hollywood Reporter: “Disney’s Film Production Chief Talks Mary Poppins and His Big Bet on The Lion King: ‘It’s a New Form of Filmmaking’”):

The Hollywood Reporter: You’ve hired Deadpool scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to work on a possible Pirates of the Caribbean reboot. Can Pirates survive without Johnny Depp?

Bailey: We want to bring in a new energy and vitality. I love the [Pirates] movies, but part of the reason Paul and Rhett are so interesting is that we want to give it a kick in the pants. And that’s what I’ve tasked them with.

SYFY Wire took that short quote and ran with it, disregarding the metaphorical scissors they were figuratively carrying (“Johnny Depp officially out as Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise”):

Pirates of the Carribean movie without Jack Sparrow is hard to imagine, especially after he became the most famous and popular character of the five films. It’s ironic when you consider that the top Disney brass initially hated his performance in Curse of the Black Pearl, which Depp based on Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The actor’s reasoning was that pirates were the rock star renegades of the Seven Seas, and sure enough, his gamble paid off. Richards even appeared as Sparrow’s father in At World’s End.

[…] That said, the quality of the movies began to decline once [director Gore] Verbinski left and Sparrow was placed at the forefront of the subsequent sequels. Pirates really is in need of a good reboot, but we wouldn’t say no to a nice little cameo from Depp.

(17) SILLY COMMERCIAL. Macaulay Culkin finds himself “Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant.”

Even Kevin McCallister needs a little help. Add aftershave to your shopping list, set reminders, and fend off bandits, hands-free:

[Thanks to David Doering, Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.] )

Classics of SF at Loscon 45

By John Hertz:  We’ll take up three Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLV, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

We’re still with “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our three is famous in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when first published.  Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space (1951)

Halfway between the end of World War II and the rise of Sputnik – I warned you about these puns – is this fine instance of giving the touch of reality to what had never yet been, as SF hopes to achieve.  Today, knowing many things happened otherwise, we can watch the author at work.

Hal Clement, Iceworld (1953)

Interstellar traders return to a world where they’ve been operating with great difficulty.  Its inhuman cold hinders everything.  It seems to have intelligent life, but how could that be?  The world is so cold it freezes zinc – yes, Earth: the protagonists’ world is hundreds of degrees hotter.

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959)

An extraordinary novel, terrifyingly grim, prodigiously imaginative, richly comic – well, that’s true.  Also we’re not long on stories that well paint any mainstream religion.  Here the Catholic Church is at center stage, the light relentless, but not ruthless, on Catholics and everyone else.

Pixel Scroll 7/7/18 It’s My Pixel, And I’ll Scroll If I Want To

(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —

(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.

With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?

Well, take the following as a rumor.

Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.

What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.

I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.

However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.

(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.

MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?

(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.

There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.

The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.

No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 7, 1955 — The sf radio program X-Minus One aired Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills Of Earth” for his birthday.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 7 – Shelley Duvall, 69. Executive Producer of Faerie Tale Theatre, performer in Popeye as Olive Oyl, also Twilight Zone, Time Bandits, The Shining, and Ray Bradbury Theater to name some of her genre work.
  • Born July 7 – Billy Campbell, 59. The Rocketeer of course, but also series work in STNG, Dead Man’s Gun, The 4400, and Helix, plus a role in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found out how monsters cosplay in Bizarro.

(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.

Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.

 

(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.

A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.

The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.

The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….

(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.

2 July:    “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.

I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..

Arthur “Ego” Clarke

(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.

…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.

Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.

First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.

Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.

Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….

(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.

…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.

The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.

Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….

Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”

(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.

If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….

 

(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”

This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017  something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it?  Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!

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