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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gauntlet’s said:

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

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

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

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Dawn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

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

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

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

You can read my review here!

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

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

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

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

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia classes them as endangered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/19 Apologies To Voltaire

(1) THE BETTER BATTLE ANGELS OF OUR NATURE. The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton makes it sound like the promotional beer (linked here the other day) is better than the movie — “‘Alita: Battle Angel’: Film Review”

…Twenty years in gestation, James Cameron’s long-cherished manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel finally reaches the big screen with help from director Robert Rodriguez and Peter Jackson’s digital effects team. With that kind of cinematic pedigree, backed by a reported $200 million budget, this kick-ass cyberpunk adventure seems to be aiming for the same blockbusting box office heights as the Hunger Games franchise. But a lumpy script, muddled plot, stock characters and tired genre tropes may dampen its commercial breakout potential beyond its core sci-fi action-fantasy demographic. While not exactly a misfire, Rodriguez and Cameron’s joint effort lacks the zing and originality of their best individual work. Fox is releasing it across much of Europe next week, with a U.S. launch to follow Feb. 14.

(2) GOFUNDME AND CHARITY ANTHOLOGIES BENEFIT ROPES. Splatterpunk writer Christopher Ropes has a serious health problem with his teeth, and the horror-writing community is rallying to make the funds available. First, there’s Ropes’ GoFundMe, “Get Christopher’s Teeth Fixed” with photos that illustrate the problem.

My name is Christopher Ropes. I was born with ameleogenesis imperfecta, a condition that has caused more pain and suffering in my life than any other source, even my fibromyalgia. Essentially, I have teeth that rot and break much more easily than normal because they lack proper enamel protection. I’ve suffered through countless infections that swell up the entirety of my face. And all of this doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that my teeth just make me feel
ugly and unloveable.

I have no dental insurance because I’m on Disability and Medicare doesn’t cover any dental work, no matter how medically necessary.

My problems with my teeth have gotten so bad, I can hardly even chew anything anymore. I got an estimate from the dentist and all the work is going to come to approximately $14,000. I added a little bit to the total to cover any GoFundMe fees, as well as medications and special dietary needs while the work is being done, and the possibility that the estimate is shy of what the actual total will be.

On the same day his GoFundMe launched, two charity anthologies were released, the profits to benefit Christopher Ropes.

Planet X Publications is proud to present this charity anthology, benefitting our friend, horror writer Christopher Ropes. It features stories & poems generously donated from members of the weird fiction & horror communities.

Tables of Contents: Introduction by Nadia Bulkin / 1) Blue Broken Mind by Farah Rose Smith / 2) An Incident on a Cold Winter’s Afternoon by Matthew A. St. Cyr / 3) Fishing Boots by Douglas Draa / 4) Chindi & Night of the Skinwalker by Frank Coffman / 5) How to Live Without Meds? by Norbert Góra / 6) Nothing Else Matters by Calvin Demmer / 7) The Denturist by Jo-Anne Russell / 8) The Tooth by Russell Smeaton / 9) To Anne by Paula Ashe / 10) I Can’t See the Bottom by James Fallweather / 11) Forbidden Knowledge by K.A. Opperman / 12) Outlaws by Bob Pastorella / 13) Project AZAZEL by Christopher Slatsky / 14) Prototype by E.O. Daniels / 15) Eton’s Last Will and Testament by Maxwell Ian Gold / 16) Last Call at the Overlook by Kathleen Kaufman / 17) Reflection in Blood by Scott J. Couturier / 18) Four Ropes by Shayne Keen / 19 Vore by Brian O’Connell / 20) “Hotel California” is the Devil by John Claude Smith / 21) Spare Parts by Jill Hand / 22) Salten by John Boden / 23) The Fever River by Matthew M. Bartlett / 24) Verdure by Brandon Barrows / 25) “INK” by Sarah Walker / 26) Twitching and Chirping by Robert S. Wilson / 27) Denizens of Mortuun by C.P. Dunphey / 28) Hungery by John Linwood Grant / 29) Chrysalises by Jeffrey Thomas / 30) I Keep It in a Little Box by S. L. Edwards / 31) Trace of Presence by Jason A. Wyckoff / 32) Thirty-Two by Donald Armfield / Wisdom Tooth ~ Insanity’s Steed by Frederick J. Mayer / Afterword by Christopher Ropes

Table of Contents: Introduction to Volume Two by Michael Wehunt / 1) “Alouette A La Blanc” by Bob Freville / 2) A Plague Of The Most Beautiful Finery by Kurt Fawver / 3) Believe Me by Ashley Dioses / 4) New Moon in November by K.A. Opperman / 5) That What Was Under The Surface by Norbert Góra / 6) My Valentine’s Day Ball by Donna Marie West / 7) The Last to Die by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy / 8) Hammer Dulcimer by T.M. Morgan / 9) The Ballad Stone by Adam Bolivar / 10) Lost on the Road to Nowhere by Pete Rawlik / 11) The City of Xees by Scott J. Couturier / 12) The View by Philip Fracassi / 13) The Figurehead by A.P Sessler / 14) The Triumph of the Skies by Eric Ruppert / 15) Growth; or, The Transubstantiation of Apartment 3C by Ross T. Byers / 16) Fertility by Brooke Warra / 17) Zugzwang by K. H. Vaughan / 18) On a Bed of Bone by Can Wiggins / 19) Yellow Voices by Luis G. Abbadie / 20) The Outsider by John Paul Fitch / 21) Mutinous Facial Abstractions by John Claude Smith / 22) Of Blood, Oil & Tin by Michael Brueggeman / 23) Cold by Sean M. Thompson / 24) Umbriel is The Darkest Moon by Marguerite Reed / 25) Humlin by Farah Rose Smith / 26) 32 White Horses by Justin Burnett / 27) Convince Me Not to Put a Bell on You by Andrew M. Reichart / 28) A Little Delta of Filth by Jon Padgett / 29) 2.0 by Aaron Besson / 30) We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry / 31) Insect Queen by Roy K. Phelps / 32) Last Wraps by Duane Pesice / Afterword by Christopher Ropes

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present F. Brett Cox and Peng Shepherd on Wednesday, February 20 at the KGB Bar in New York.

F. Brett Cox

F. Brett Cox’s debut collection, The End of All Our Exploring: Stories, was published by Fairwood Press in 2018.  His fiction, poetry, plays, articles, and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.  With Andy Duncan, he co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic.  He is a co-founder of the Shirley Jackson Awards and currently serves as Vice-President of the SJA Board of Directors.  A native of North Carolina, Brett is Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Norwich University and lives in Vermont with his wife, playwright Jeanne Beckwith.

Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her debut novel, The Book of M, was chosen as an Amazon “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year,” and has been featured on The Today ShowNPR On Point, and in The Guardianio9, GizmodoSYFY Wire, and Elle Canada. Find her at www.pengshepherd.com or on Twitter @pengshepherd.

Starts 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY

(4) GOING FOR BROKE. Locus Online reports the results of a new “Author Income Survey”.

The Authors Guild has released their 2018 Author Income Survey. 5,067 authors participated, and the Guild says the results point to a “crisis of epic proportions for American authors, particularly literary writers.” The median income from writing was $6,080, a decline of 3% from their 2013 survey, and 42% from 2009, a drop the Guild ascribes to declining royalties, “blockbuster mentality” at publishing companies, and the sales practices of Amazon.com.

The Guild’s conclusions, and a PDF with lots of data (and anecdata) is available at the Authors Guild website.

(6) VARIANT HEINLEIN NOVEL “SIX-SIX-SIX” ON THE WAY. Phoenix Pick has announced “A New Robert A. Heinlein Book to be Published Based on Newly Recovered Manuscript”:

Phoenix Pick recently announced that, working with the Heinlein Prize Trust, they have been able to reconstruct the complete text of an unpublished novel written by Robert A. Heinlein in the early eighties.

Heinlein wrote this as an alternate text for “The Number of the Beast.” This text of approximately 185,000 words largely mirrors the first one-third of the published version, but then deviates completely with an entirely different story-line and ending.

This newly reconstructed text also pays extensive homage to two authors Heinlein himself admired: Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. “Doc” Smith, who became a good friend. Heinlein dedicated his book “Methuselah’s Children” to Smith, and partially dedicated “Friday” to Smith’s daughter, Verna.

The alternate text, especially the ending, is much more in line with more traditional Heinlein books, and moves away from many of the controversial aspects of the published version.

There has been speculation over the years about a possible alternate text, and the reason it was written, particularly since one version is not just a redo of the other ? these are two completely different books.

It is possible that Heinlein was having fun with the text as “The Number of the Beast” and the new book both deal with parallel universes. Given his sense of humor, it would not be surprising for Heinlein to have written two parallel texts for a book about parallel universes.

The new book was pieced together from notes and typed manuscript pages left behind by the author. It is currently under editorial review by award-winning editor, Patrick LoBrutto .

Phoenix Pick expects to publish both The Number of the Beast and the new book, tentatively titled ”Six-Six-Six,” just ahead of this year’s holiday season.

(7) UMBRELLA UMBRAGE. Alexander Lu reviews Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy:

…So on the one hand, I’m overjoyed to say that Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy adaptation has all the absurdity and chaos of the source material. On the other hand, I’m bummed because it feels like some of the comic’s inherent joy was lost in the jump between the page and the screen…

In contrast, Alex Abad-Santos likes Umbrella Academy—at least mostly so (Vox: “Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is as good as it is weird. It’s very weird.”) The article is subtitled, “The show weaves a brutal family portrait into a save-the-world adventure. It also has Mary J. Blige as a time-traveling assassin named Cha-Cha.”

…Portraying the rough parts of being a superhero has been a little bit harder, mainly because it’s so hard to believe that superhero lives could ever be that terrible. 

[…] Making the rotten part of being a superhero as essential as the good parts is where Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy begins. The stylish and crackling new series — written by Steve Blackman and developed by Jeremy Slater — is based on the Eisner Award-winning comic book by Gerard Way (who is also the frontman for the band My Chemical Romance, and serves as the Netflix show’s co-executive producer) and artist Gabriel Ba (also a co-executive producer).

[…] The basic premise revolves around the parasol protégés: seven kids born to different mothers who are brought together as young children a man named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) who becomes their adopted “dad.” He assembles them into a makeshift family, helps them hone their powers, and turns them into an efficient and successful teenage superhero squad known as the Umbrella Academy. 

[…] Style and doomsday aside, it’s in these pockets of emotion that The Umbrella Academy flashes its true beauty and intent. The show may be wrapped in superheroics and action, but it’s really about a group of people who have to work through their painful pasts and realize that forgiving one another is far tougher than the bigger task (saving the world, I guess) at hand. 

(8) BATTU? NOT MUCH, WHAT’ BATTU WITH YOU? The new Star Wars parks to be part of Disneyland and Disney World are being tied in to the SW novels (StarWars.com: “Step into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with new books, comics, and fables”). Six titles of the new series have been announced.

As we prepare to make our first pilgrimage to the fringes of Wild Space and journey to the planet of Batuu, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort later this year, there’s a galaxy of books and comics coming to shelves featuring stories that intersect with the inhabitants of the far-flung world.

Meet Dok-Ondar, the infamous Ithorian who deals in rare antiquities, find out why General Leia Organa takes an interest in Black Spire Outpost, and indulge in myths and fables from a galaxy far, far away, plus other stories set on the Outer Rim locale.

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Things Used To Be Hidden” on Vimeo, Tara Mercedes Wood looks at what happens if people could see -everything- other people were trying to hide.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1905 Ayn Rand.  Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre though I personally think they’re just pieces of badly written political shit. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novella. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Ok I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in “Brisco for the Defense” and Dougie Milford In Twin Peaks. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas Disch.  Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done. He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 70.  Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite moments of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise. Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesWarehouse 13 and had a lead role in the thirteen-episode run of Threshold
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 70. Ok so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? Six episodes all told. Not as short as The Nightmare Cafe I grant you but pretty short. I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 33. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DISCOVERY RECAP. Camestros Felapton enthuses about “Star Trek Discovery: A Point of Light (S2:E3)”.

Old-style Discovery comes roaring back with a vengeance and a bloody bat’leth. Spore drive, parasites, Klingon man-buns, Ash Tyler, black-ops Star Fleet, hallucinating Tilly, grimdark space-opera — its a week for the weird and wacky on Discovery and I love it.

It’s all story arc this week. Michael is looking for Spock and in a twist so is Spock’s mum. Meanwhile, Ash Tyler is starring in Game of Thrones: The Klingon Years as he struggles with his new reality and seeks to support L’rell as she attempts to unite the now much hairier Klingons. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Tilly is being harassed by the annoying ghost of a former school mate.

(13) COLLECTIBLES AUCTION. Prop Store (offices in London & LA) has an upcoming auction of vintage toys & collectables. Dozens of TV series and movies/series are represented, with the large majority of them genre. The full catalog is online as a PDF. A quick perusal of that reveals pre-auction estimates ranging from $100 (US) to at least $20,000.

Prop Store is pleased to announce its first Toys & Collectibles auction, to be held as a live-auction on Thursday February 28, and Friday March 1, 2019. The auction will include high-quality production toys, preproduction items, international collectables, store displays & marketing materials, bootlegs, posters, press kits, cast and crew items, and more.

(14) VERSE OF THE DAY. From John Hertz:

Each day we scroll up every pixel.
Their coruscant electronic tricks’ll
Make the Filers smile.
If we miss some, those five or six’ll
Set off commenters, whose kicks’ll
Busy us for a while;
Call OGH: he in the mix’ll
Let things run, unless a nix’ll
Scatter a dog-pile.
And never fear for Oz.  Your clicks’ll
Safely mispronounce “Pyrzqxgl”,
Not in dangerous style.

(15) LEARN FROM GAIMAN ONLINE. Just like Margaret Atwood, linked here the other day, Neil Gaiman also has a course available through Masterclass:

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.

(16) TRANSFORMERS. Will our future homes build themselves? A BBC video shows how it could be done — mostly blue-sky and simulations at this point, but some interesting ideas.

At the touch of a button, these incredible homes of the future can self-deploy and build themselves in less than 10 minutes, transforming from a box into a building eight to ten times its original size. Ten Fold Engineering’s David Martyn explains the surprisingly simple design concept that makes this possible.

(17) BABY, IT’S (REALLY) COLD OUTSIDE. Wake up sleepy head! The Chinese lander on the back side of the Moon is once again in daylight and has been back in touch with Earth after a 2-week slumber (Wired:China’s Moon Lander Wakes Up From Its Long, Ultra-Cold Night; partial paywall”).

We already know it’s chilly on the moon. A lunar night lasts 14 Earth days, and its temperatures can dip into a cold so punishing it makes the polar vortex look like a hot tub. But yesterday, China’s space agency announced that the frigidity of the lunar night is even more intense than we’d thought: The country’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft recorded an icy low of –310 degrees Fahrenheit (–190 degrees Celsius).

Consisting of a stationary lander and a six-wheeled rover named Yutu-2, Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon earlier this [year]—a first for any spacecraft. During its first lunar night, Chang’e 4 went into hibernation, relying on internal heat sources to survive.

[…] With both the lander and rover awake, the rover should soon begin its task of exploring and analyzing the 115-mile-wide Von Kármán crater. Exploring the moon’s far side comes with many challenges: The lunar surface is exposed to more impacts from cosmic debris, so the rover will need to carefully watch the terrain (it has already beamed backed a panorama of its surroundings). […]

(18) READY FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP? The subject line “Press Release: Former TAFF delegate found brutally murdered (NSFW?)” was pretty scary ‘til I found out the email press release was about Steve Green’s appearance in a horror movie:

British science fiction fan Steve Green, former editor of the newszine Critical Wave and European TAFF delegate to the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, has been found brutally murdered in the isolated English village Bell’s End… or at least, his character has, in a pastiche movie trailer currently in production from indie team Vamporama Films.

Terror at Bell’s End is an homage to the 1980s giallo slashers directed by the likes of Lucio Fulci (The Black Cat), Riccardo Freda (Iguana in a Woman’s Skin) and Luciano Ercoli (Forbidden Photos of a Woman Under Suspicion — the new Blu-ray release of which includes a 44-minute documentary from Vamporama Films among the extras). Steve, who’s producing the short, was persuaded by writer-director Chrissie Harper to make a grisly cameo as the mysterious killer’s first on-screen victim.

“It’s very tongue-in-cheek,” Steve explains, “only we’re not quite sure where the tongue came from and precisely whose cheek it’s been left in. My character gets murdered with his own pipe, which I guess underlines the health risks of smoking.”

Meanwhile, Vamporama Films is also seeking festivals and conventions interested in screening its latest horror short Monsters, described by former Giallo Pages editor John Martin as “a chilling glimpse into our future that looks like it was shot by the ghost of Mario Bava”.

(19) DO YOU WANT TO PLAY  GAME? The robots are taking to another human game, though this time not (yet) up to a championship level (TechCrunch: “MIT researchers are training a robot arm to play Jenga”).

Turns out training a robotic arm to play Jenga is a surprisingly complex task. There are, so to speak, a lot of moving parts. Researchers at MIT are putting a modified ABB IRB 120 to work with the familiar tabletop game, utilizing a soft gripper, force-sensing wrist joint and external camera to design a bot that can remove a block without toppling the tower. 

[…] “Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces. It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,” says MIT assistant professor Alberto Rodriguez. “This is very difficult to simulate, so the robot has to learn in the real world, by interacting with the real Jenga tower. The key challenge is to learn from a relatively small number of experiments by exploiting common sense about objects and physics.”

(20) SIL RETURNS. An old and much-missed Doctor Who villain is returning — but not in the current iteration of “NuWHO”. The original creator of the evil alien Sil, Philip Martin, and the original actor, Nabil Shaban, are reuniting in Devil Seeds of Arodor, which is being produced independently of the BBC. The DVD’s due out in November. Full details here.

An original drama from the world of BBCtv’s DOCTOR WHO, featuring SIL, the ruthless alien entrepreneur from planet Thoros Beta, played by NABIL SHABAN.

SIL is worried, very worried, which doesn’t keep his reptilian skin in the best condition! Confined in a cold detention cell on the moon, awaiting a deportation hearing for trial on drugs offences on Earth, he faces a death sentence if the application is successful and he is found guilty.

And his employers at the Universal Monetary Fund aren’t pleased either. Not at all.

As time runs out and friends desert him, SIL must use all of his devious, vile, underhanded, ruthless, and amoral business acumen to survive.

Can he possibly slime his way out of this one?

(21) ANOTHER DOCTOR WHO REFERENCE. This tweet went viral yesterday —

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew, Robert Adam Gilmour, Steve Green. Lise Andresen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door

(1) MANGA AT THE MUSEUM. The British Museum will host an exhibit on “Manga” from May 23-August 26.

Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds.

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

For those who haven’t encountered manga before there’s a familiarization post at the Museum’s blog: “Manga: a brief history in 12 works”.

Japanese manga artists find inspiration for their work in daily life, the world around them, and also in the ancient past. Many people are familiar with modern manga, but the art form – with its expressive lines and images – is much older than you might think. …Here is a brief history of Japanese manga in 12 works.

(2) LEFT ON THE BEACH? SYFY Wire springs a little surprise: “Patrick Stewart won’t be a captain on the Picard spinoff series, says Jonathan Frakes”.

The upcoming Picard TV series on CBS All Access will feature one major difference regarding its titular main character played by Patrick Stewart—he won’t be a starship captain. Speaking with Deadline about the current Star Trek revolution being helmed by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman, actor/director Jonathan Frakes revealed this interesting bit of news.

“Patrick isn’t playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show,” he said.

(3) VERDICT COMING FOR OPPORTUNITY. NASA has received only silence from Opportunity since contact was lost during a global dust storm on the red planet last June. The agency may soon decide to move on. The New York Times has the story — “‘This Could Be the End’ for NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover”.

…The designers of the spacecraft expected that dust settling out of the Martian air would pile up on the solar panels, and the rovers would soon fail from lack of power. But unexpectedly, gusts of Martian winds have repeatedly provided helpful “cleaning events” that wiped the panels clean and boosted power back up.

In 2009, Spirit became ensnared in a sand trap and stopped communicating in March 2010, unable to survive the Martian winter.

Opportunity continued trundling across the Martian landscape for more than 28 miles. Instead of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity lasted 5,111, if the days are counted up until it sent its last transmission. (A Martin day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

This time, the dust may have been too thick to be blown away or something else broke on the rover. John L. Callas, the project manager, conceded that hopes were fading. “We’re now in January getting close to the end of the historic dust cleaning season,” he said.

(4) AFROFUTURISM IN DC. The Folger Library in Washington, DC will host a reading with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. — “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”. Tickets available at the link.

Due, Jemisin and Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,”and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. This reading is co-sponsored with PEN/Faulkner Foundation as part of its Literary Conversations series and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. 

The reading at the Folger will be preceded by a moderated conversation with all three writers at the Library of Congress. This event is free and will take place at 4 p.m. Register here.

(5) FANTASTIC WOMEN. As part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will present “Fantastic Women” on March 10 in Washington, DC.

Arimah, Link and Machado

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka ArimahKelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

(6) KLOOS’ AFTERSHOCKS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak interviewed Marko Kloos and revealed the cover of his new book series which begins with the novel Aftershocks“Sci-fi author Marko Kloos on what it takes to build a brand new solar system”.

…An eye-opening moment for Kloos came when he attended another science fiction workshop: the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, held each year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Disclaimer — I was an attendee in 2014). The week-long boot camp is engineered to impart science fiction writers with a baseline of astronomy and physics knowledge, with the idea that more scientifically accurate works will in turn help provide readers with better science. “That gave me a lot of ideas that I wanted to put into this series,” he says, “and basically created the solar system from scratch.”

The workshop “taught me all the things I did wrong with Frontlines, which was luckily not a whole lot,” Kloos says, “but there are some whoppers in there, like a colony around a star that does not support a habitable zone.”

(7) BLEAK ENOUGH FOR YOU? Behind a paywall at the Financial Times, John Lanchester argues that Brave New Worlds did a better job than 1984 in predicting the future.

One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data.  He saw the information revolution coming–in the form of gigantic card-indexes, but he got the gist.  It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World.  Facebook’s mission statement ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ sounds a lot like the new world’s motto ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ The world in which we ‘haven’t any use for old things’ dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that ‘young people are just smarter.’  The meeting room whose name is Only Good News–can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s world controller, or Sheryl Sandberg?  The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ are also common themes of the novel and the company–and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that ‘privacy is an outdated norm.’

(8) HAMIT. Francis Hamit, a longtime contributor here, has a new Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/francishamit. He says, “There is s lot of free stuff in the Public area.  Some of it is even science fiction.  Feedback is welcome and the minimum sign-up is $2.25 a month for those who want to support my efforts.”

(9) TERMINATOR REBOOT. Variety has behind-the-scenes video (in English with Hungarian subtitles) from the next Terminator movie (“Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Andy Vajna Appear in Video From ‘Terminator’ Set”). The movie, currently called just Untitled Terminator Reboot, is said to be coming out 1 November 2019.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer who died earlier this week, have appeared in a just-released video from the set of the latest movie in the “Terminator” franchise, which shot in Hungary last year.

The behind-the-scenes promotional video, posted online by the Hungarian National Film Fund, sees Schwarzenegger and the movie’s director, Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), sing the praises of Budapest as a location, and Vajna complimenting the “Terminator” franchise. It ends with Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back.”

It was Vajna’s last set visit to one of the international productions filming in Hungary, where he served as the government commissioner for the film industry. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna founded the indie powerhouse Carolco, which produced blockbusters including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the first three “Rambo” films and “Basic Instinct.” He died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74.

(10) AN ANCIENT EASTERCON. Rob Hansen has added a section about “Bullcon – the 1963 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory website THEN “featuring the usual cornucopia of old photos:”

BULLCON the 1963 UK National Science Fiction Convention – the fifth to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. – took place over the weekend of 12th April – 15th April, 1963. It was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough (see it today here), as it would also be the following year. Guest of Honour was Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. In SKYRACK, Ron Bennett reported that: “this was the best attended British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director of Barbarella which was based on the comic series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest. Need I note that it starred Jane Fonda in the title role? (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 70. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 40. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel, Dragon Pearl, riffs off the fox spirit mythology. 

(12) THOUSAND WORLD SPACE FORCES. Stephanie at Holed Up In A Book connected with Yoon Ha Lee — “Weekly Author Fridays featuring Yoon Ha Lee – Author Interview”.

Do you have a writing routine? 
More or less. I get up, walk my cat (or more accurately, she walks me), maybe work on one of the languages I’m trying to learn (French, German, Welsh, Korean, and Japanese), brew myself a cup of tea, then set up in my study. For a long project like a novel, I usually write in Scrivener, although for a shorter project or to mix things up I sometimes write longhand with fountain pen. When I’m working in Scrivener, it gives me a running wordcount. So every 100 words that I write, I go to my bullet journal and write out the phrase, “100 words down, 1,900 words to f***ing go!” “200 words down, 1,800 words to f***ing go!” It’s kind of aggro but it keeps me going? I generally aim for 2,000 words in a writing day. More than that and my brain seizes up. 

(13) ST:D RECAP. Let Camestros Felapton fill you in on the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery: “Discovery: New Eden”.

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other.

(14) ATWOOD. Shelf Awareness reports on “Wi14: Margaret Atwood in Conversation” at a New Mexico conference.

Erin Morgenstern and Margaret Atwood

“I think this is very uplifting. We’re all still in this room. There’s still books, people are still reading them,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and much more, during the breakfast keynote on the second day of Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

“Part of the uptick of books is that’s one of the places people go when they feel under both political and psychological pressure,” Atwood continued. “It is actually quite helpful to know that other people have been through similar things before, and have come out of them.”

Atwood was in conversation with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus and the upcoming The Starless Sea, and during a wide-ranging, illuminating and often funny discussion, topics ranged from forthcoming novels to blurring genre lines, early book-signing experiences, and past and present reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the subject of her new novel, The Testaments—the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming from Nan Talese/Doubleday on September 10—Atwood joked that her publisher would kill her if she said too much, but she did say that it is set 16 years after the events of the previous book and features three narrators. Beyond that, her publisher “would be very cross” with her.

When asked what led her to return to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale more than 30 years later, Atwood replied that there have “always been a lot of questions asked” about the book, like what happens next and what happens to the main character after the end of the novel. She said that she never answered those questions, because she didn’t know. Writing The Testaments, Atwood explained, was “an exploration of the answers” to those many questions

(15) LITIGATION. The New York Times reports “Jay Asher, Author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ Files Defamation Lawsuit”. In 2017 Asher was accused of sexual misconduct, and when that went public last year he agreed to stop attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events.

More than a decade ago, Jay Asher’s young adult novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a dark story about a bullied teenager who kills herself, became an unexpected best-seller. Teachers and librarians around the country embraced the novel as a timely and groundbreaking treatment of bullying and teenage suicide, and the novel went on to sell several million copies. A popular Netflix adaptation set off controversy over its depiction of the causes of suicide, but still drew hordes of new readers to the book, and has been renewed for a third season.

Then, last year, Mr. Asher’s career imploded when he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced that he had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. The repercussions were swift: His literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.

Now Mr. Asher, who denied the allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the group’s executive director, Lin Oliver, claiming that Ms. Oliver and the organization made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Checkers? Long since mastered. Chess? Mere child’s play. Go? Can’t you make me work a little?

Now what? StarCraft? Humans down to defeat again. Wired has the story of another victory for robot-kind (partial paywall: “DeepMind Beats Pros at StarCraft in Another Triumph for Bots”).

In London last month, a team from Alphabet’s UK-based artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind quietly laid a new marker in the contest between humans and computers. On Thursday it revealed the achievement in a three-hour YouTube stream, in which aliens and robots fought to the death.

DeepMind’s broadcast showed its artificial intelligence bot, AlphaStar, defeating a professional player at the complex real-time strategy videogame StarCraft II. Humanity’s champion, 25-year-old Grzegorz Komincz of Poland, lost 5-0. The machine-learning-powered software appeared to have discovered strategies unknown to the pros who compete for millions of dollars in prizes offered each year in one of e-sports’ most lucrative games. “It was different from any StarCraft that I have played,” said Komincz, known professionally as MaNa.

[…] Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech, found Thursday’s news exciting but not jaw-dropping. “We were pretty much to a point where it was just a matter of time,” he says. “In a way, beating humans at games has gotten boring.”

(17) WHO NEEDS ROVER? “Rare angel sharks found living off Wales”.

Scientists have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest sharks is alive and well, living off the Welsh coast.

Sightings from fishing boats suggest the mysterious angel shark is present in Welsh waters, although no-one knows exactly where.

The shark’s only established stronghold is the Canary Islands, where the animals have been filmed on the seabed.

Wales could be a key habitat for the critically endangered shark, which is from an ancient and unique family.

(18) INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER. “Obscure words with delightful meanings” — animation: “12 words we don’t want to lose.”

Paul Anthony Jones collects terms that have fallen out of use and resurrects them. We have featured 12 of our favourites in an animation celebrating forgotten phrases. Animation by Darren McNaney.

(19) MARVEL CASTING. The Hollywood Reporter tells about another superhero series: “Marvel’s ‘Vision and Scarlet Witch’ Series Lands ‘Captain Marvel’ Writer”.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of the first series that Marvel Studios will be making for Disney’s streaming service Disney+, has landed a writer and showrunner.

Jac Schaeffer, one of the scribes behind Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, has been tapped to run point on the series that will focus on the two characters that are integral members of the Avengers. She will pen the pilot and executive produce, say sources.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are expected to star in the series, reprising the roles they originated on the big screen.

(20) RETURN TO ROSWELL. Critic Darrell Fienberg covered the mid-January reappearance of this series: “‘Roswell, New Mexico’: TV Review”.

…As The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico is set to premiere, my guess is that audience response to the series’ fitfully immigration-heavy perspective will fall into two camps.

First: “Keep your politics out of my teen-friendly supernatural soaps!” This group of detractors will be frustrated that a series about aliens set in the American Southwest in 2019 would attempt to connect that extreme circumstance to what is actually happening at the border in 2019. Leaving aside that those people may not like or understand science fiction on a very fundamental level, they won’t like Roswell, New Mexico anyway.

Second: “If this is your skid, steer into it!” This’ll be from those who want Roswell, New Mexico to do more with the immigration metaphor or, rather, to approach it better. It’s the thing that makes Roswell, New Mexico relevant as a brand reinvention, so there’s very little purpose in soft-selling it.

(21) DISCONTINUITIES AND OTHER PROBLEMS. Seems it’s never too late to find something wrong with The Original Series: “30 Mistakes In The Original Star Trek Even Trekkies Completely Missed” at ScreenRant. There might even be a Filer who caught this gaffe when it originally aired —

27. SCRIPT SPELLING ERROR

It is always an awkward situation when a movie or TV show spells something wrong in the credits. This can be problematic if an actor’s name is spelled wrong, but as for Star Trek, the word “script” was spelled incorrectly for 13 episodes of season 1.

When giving the crew member George A. Rutter his title, the credits credit him as a “Scpipt” Supervisor. This mistake was eventually fixed on the show, but in the ‘60s, it likely would have cost a lot of money to redo the credits to fix one spelling error. 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/18 Dear Pixel Of Mine, You Are My First And Fifth Love

(1) F&SF COVER. Gordon Van Gelder revealed The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb. 2019 cover by artist Jill Bauman.

(2) ROLL ‘EM. Deadline blabbed that the Amazing Stories TV show has gone into production: “‘Amazing Stories’: Edward Burns To Star, Executive Produce Episode Of Steven Spielberg’s Apple Series”

Edward Burns (Public Morals) is set to star in and executive produce an episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories Apple anthology series, which has begun production in Atlanta.

Burns will play Bill Kaminski, a government agent. Mark Mylod (Game of Thrones) will direct the episode. Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies) and Kerry Bishé (Halt and Catch Fire) will also star.

So at the Amazing Stories blog Steve Davidson felt free to do a roundup of other news leakage about the series: Amazing Stories TV Show Is in Production”.

Several days ago, various local and web-based news sources that cover castting calls and filiming announcements in Georgia announced that a project called “Puget Sound” had issued casting calls.

It was subsuquenttly revealed that Puget Sound is the code name for the Amazing Stories television show.

(3) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MIRACLE. Daniel Radcliffe is an angel and Steve Buscemi is God in the new series Miracle Workers premiering February 12 on TBS.

(4) KESH. United Kingdom music magazine The Wire, whose motto is “Adventures in Underground Music,” has named Ursula Le Guin & Todd Barton’s Music And Poetry Of The Kesh their best reissue of 2018:

A utopian ethnographical forgery of the music of a post-tech tribe based on a far future US coast, merging LeGuin’s poetry with Barton’s Buchla compositions, drones, chants and field recordings. [Reviewer] Ken Hollings said: ‘The living communicate not just with the discreet ghosts of the recently departed, who require nothing now from us but a change in manners, but the feral ghosts who have not yet existed.’

This is not available on the web unless you have a subscription to The Wire, so there is no link included.

(5) SOMTOW: A FREE READ TOMORROW. S.P. Somtow’s memoir “Sounding Brass: A Curious Musical Partnership” will be available free for 24 hours on December 6 (PST)

(5) HOW TO TREAT A GOH.  David Gerrold told Facebook readers:

At SMOFcon, I was on a panel about how to treat a Worldcon Guest of Honor. This evolved into a 40 page document of advice and recommendations for convention committees. The first draft is finished and a copy has been sent to Vince Docherty with permission to distribute.

But anyone who wants to read it now can download a pdf copy from this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kdu2zbzuk6g3l2d/Care_and_Feeding_of_Guests.pdf

The 42-page document includes many “sidebars” about Gerrold’s experiences as a guest that explain the importance of the related entries.

(6) I, CYBORG. Jillian Weise’s “Common Cyborg” on Granta is an essay about disability and on being a cyborg.

I’m nervous at night when I take off my leg. I wait until the last moment before sleep to un-tech because I am a woman who lives alone and has been stalked, so I don’t feel safe in my home on crutches. How would I run? How would I fight back? Instead of taking Klonopin, I read the Economist. The tone is detached. There is war, but always elsewhere.

When I tell people I am a cyborg, they often ask if I have read Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’. Of course I have read it. And I disagree with it. The manifesto, published in 1985, promised a cyberfeminist resistance. The resistance would be networked and coded by women and for women to change the course of history and derange sexism beyond recognition. Technology would un-gender us. Instead, it has been so effective at erasing disabled women1 that even now, in conversation with many feminists, I am no longer surprised that disability does not figure into their notions of bodies and embodiment. Haraway’s manifesto lays claim to cyborgs (‘we are all cyborgs’) and defines the cyborg unilaterally through metaphor. To Haraway, the cyborg is a matter of fiction, a struggle over life and death, a modern war orgy, a map, a condensed image, a creature without gender. The manifesto coopts cyborg identity while eliminating reference to disabled people on which the notion of the cyborg is premised. Disabled people who use tech to live are cyborgs. Our lives are not metaphors.

(7) BETTER WORLDS. Laura Hudson says The Verge has launched a major fiction project: “Better Worlds”. The forthcoming titles and authors are listed at the link.

Contemporary science fiction often feels fixated on a sort of pessimism that peers into the world of tomorrow and sees the apocalypse looming more often than not. At a time when simply reading the news is an exercise in exhaustion, anxiety, and fear, it’s no surprise that so many of our tales about the future are dark amplifications of the greatest terrors of the present. But now more than ever, we also need the reverse: stories that inspire hope.

…Starting January 14th, The Verge will bring together some of the most exciting names in science fiction writing to imagine Better Worlds. The project will showcase 10 original fiction stories, five animated adaptations, and five audio adaptations by a diverse roster of authors who take a more optimistic view of what lies ahead in ways both large and small, fantastical and everyday. These stories disrupt the common narratives of an inevitable apocalypse and explore spaces our fears have overlooked. The future is coming — and we believe it’s worth fighting for.

 

(8) SO FRIENDS WILL KNOW. Michelle Rogers has requested this coming out note be distributed to the fannish community.

I need to share some information with all of you. I never dreamed this would happen and I hope you will understand why this became necessary.

I am now living as female. I call myself Michelle Leigh Rogers.

Unlike many transgender persons, I did not realize this early in life. I thought I was male, if not the rugged he-man type. But about a year ago, I started to wonder if something was not quite right about my life situation. No single incident prompted these feelings — just a nagging sense that something did not add up.

I contacted a psychologist in Atlanta and began to explore my gender identity issues. Somewhere in my reading, I came across a passage that had a profound impact.

The author was talking about what a woman looks for in a man. The author said that a woman wants a man who looks and acts and presents as a real man.

I took a new look at myself. I had always been aware that I had a high voice and very little facial hair. But at that point I suddenly realized the horrible truth that explained so many issues. I may have had the standard male body parts, but I did not come across as truly male.

Later, at a support group meeting, someone asked me the classic question. If I could flip a switch and instantly become a physical woman with all the expected body parts, would I do it? With no hesitation, I said yes. It shocked me how quickly I responded. From that time, I knew I was a woman in a man’s body. I had made my choice.

I spent the next few months preparing to live as female. I finally came out a few weeks ago. It has not solved all my problems. But it does feel more natural. I will never be a true anatomical female, but I do not intend to go back. This is my path into the future.

Some will not accept this decision. If we must part, I wish you all the best and Godspeed. If you will hang with me, I greatly appreciate it.

Michelle will live her remaining life with as much class and dignity as she can manage. Let the journey begin.

(9) ANDERSON OBIT. Longtime NESFA member and former clerk Claire Anderson died December 4 shortly after her Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia went over to acute leukemia. Her husband, Dave Anderson, was with her in the hospital when she passed away.

(10) BLACK OBIT. John D.F. Black (1932-2018), an associate producer for ten episodes of classic Star Trek made during the program’s first season, died November 29.  Under a pseudonym (Ralph Willis) he wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Justice.” And he wrote for many non-genre TV shows and movies.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 5, 1980Flash Gordon made its cult premiere.
  • December 5, 1956 Man Beast  showed up at your local drive-in.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 – Fritz Lang, Writer, Director, and Producer who is famous in genre for his dystopian film Metropolis, which features a distinctive robot whose image has influenced countless other creators; critics found the film visually-beautiful, but the plot trite and simplistic. Other works included the two-film series based on the Norse sagas Die Nibelungen, a series of films featuring Norbert Jacques’ master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis Doctor Mabuse, and the 1929 Woman in the Moon (aka Rocket to the Moon), which is considered to be one of the first “serious” science fiction films. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1954 – Betsy Wollheim, 64, Publisher and Editor. As the president and co-publisher of DAW Books, she has more than four decades of book publishing experience, and not only edits but also art directs all the books she acquires. She has edited numerous award-winning and bestselling authors, including the Hugo, Nebula, BFA, and Gemmell Award-nominated Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Voyager in Night by C.J. Cherryh (as well as the rest of the wildly-popular Alliance-Union novels), Nnedi Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award-winning Who Fears Death, and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, including The Name of the Wind, which was a finalist for the Compton Crook, Prix Imaginaire, and Premio Ignotus Awards. She has received a Hugo Award for Best Editor, and shares two Chesley Awards for Best Art Director with co-publisher Sheila Gilbert. In 2018 she was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born December 5, 1961 – Nicholas Jainschigg, 57, Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1961 – Morgan Brittany, 57, Actor whose first genre appearance was on Thriller, a series narrated by Boris Karloff and written by authors such as Robert Bloch. It’s hardly her only genre work, as she would be in The Birds, multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Initiation of Sarah, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Fantasy Island, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
  • Born December 5, 1968 – Lisa Marie, 50, Actor who, for eight years, was a favorite casting choice of Tim Burton, with whom she had a relationship. Genre fans will recognize her as the Martian girl in the absolutely brilliant Hugo- and Saturn-nominated SF satire Mars Attacks, and as Vampira in the Saturn finalist Ed Wood. She also played Ichabod Crane’s mother in Sleepy Hollow, and Nova in the Planet of the Apes reboot. Other films include The Lords of Salem, We Are Still Here, and Dominion.
  • Born December 5, 1975 – Paula Patton, 43, Actor and Producer whose genre debut was an impressive performance in a lead role in the time-travel movie Déjà Vu, which likely led to her being cast in a main role in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, for which she received a Saturn nomination. Other film appearances include Warcraft, Mirrors, and The Do-Over, and a main role on the short-lived series Somewhere Between.
  • Born December 5, 1979 – Nick Stahl, 39, Actor who is most recognizable as the young John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Other genre roles include the films Sin City, Tall Tale, Disturbing Behavior, and Mirrors 2, and a main role in two seasons of Carnivàle, which garnered him a Saturn nomination.
  • Born December 5, 1981 – Adan Canto, 37, Actor who played Sunspot in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He also played Connor Graff in Second Chance, a Fox series supposedly inspired by Frankenstein. It lasted eleven episodes.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • If Santa’s elves’ hearing was as bad as my copyediting, this is what would happen: The Bent Pinky.

(14) THE ANSWER IS NOT 42. Amazing Stories blog also kicked off its trivia contest feature: “Win a FREE Subscription to Amazing Stories SF Trivia Contest: SF Trivia Contest #1”.

(15) LEND AN EAR. Rosarium Publishing’s Bill Campbell invites all to check out Ink author, Sabrina Vourvoulias, on The Skiffy and Fanty Show, “talking about her amazing immigration dystopia, the telltale signs of the rise of authoritarianism, and courage in publishing.” — “Signal Boost #48 — Sabrina Vourvoulias (Ink) and Stephanie Gunn (Icefall)”.

(16) REVIVING THE REVIVAL. Food has disappeared only temporarily from the Clifton’s Cafeteria bill of fare. LAist says this is what’s happening: “Clifton’s Is Going To Stop Being A Cafeteria And Become A Food Hall”.

Meiran says workers are busy right now, turning the cafeteria at Clifton’s into the Exposition Marketplace, which will have seven different stations that offer salads, sandwiches, hot items and desserts. Each station in the marketplace will function like a mini-market or a deli with pre-packaged items and/or foods that you can buy for takeaway or eat on the premises.

Why another revamp only a few years after completing a splashy, nearly half-decade renovation?

“We ran up against a perception issue,” Meiran says. He thinks part of the problem is the word “cafeteria.”

“When people think of a cafeteria, they think institution. It’s food in the pans and plopped on the plate. That isn’t the way people contemporary like to eat. It created a weird dilemma for us from day one. We were too expensive and potentially going off the mark for some people. Then we weren’t enough in terms of raising the bar for a whole group of other people. And that’s kind of a no-win situation,” he says.

He compares the upcoming iteration of Clifton’s to luxe food halls like Eataly or Harrod’s in London, although he emphasizes that the cost will not be like Harrod’s.

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. It’s (too) smooooooooth! “Tom Cruise gives lesson in TV settings and ‘motion smoothing'” – BBC has the story.

Something is keeping movie star Tom Cruise up at night: motion smoothing.

In an impassioned video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the Mission Impossible star warned that a default setting on many high-end televisions “makes most movies look like they were shot on high-speed video instead of film”.

Taking a break from filming the new Top Gun film, he appeared alongside director Christopher McQuarrie, who pleads with viewers to do a quick internet search and find out how to change the correct settings.

“If you own a modern high-definition television,” he said, “there’s a good chance you’re not watching movies the way the filmmakers intended, and the ability for you to do so is not simple to access.”

Motion smoothing, or interpolation, is a technique that artificially adds additional frames to the moving image in order to prevent blurring – most effective when watching sport.

But many in the film industry hate it, however, as it can degrade the image quality of the original film, and alter colouring.

(18) SUITING UP. Yahoo! Entertainment interviews the actress: “Brie Larson on ‘Captain Marvel’ and Starring in Marvel’s ‘Big Feminist Action Movie’ (Set Visit)”.

“I was wearing the other suit — the green suit — and in here, it’s like being in a casino,” she says of the cavernous soundstage housing today’s out-of-this-world set. “It’s just dark and you lose track of time, and I was like, Oh my God, I’ve got to get out of here… Is it still light out? And I opened that big door and I stumbled out and I was, like, blinking, trying to adjust to the light. And Jim Carrey drove by on a golf cart and looked at me and I looked at him and we just stared at each other as he drove by and I was like, “Huh?

Such is Larson’s new normal while filming the ’90s-set origin story, which sees Carol Danvers pitted between warring alien races — the Kree “noble warrior heroes” and the shape-shifting Skrulls — as she searches for answers about her past with the help of Samuel L. Jackson’s eye patch-less Nick Fury.

(19) THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Graeme McMillan makes an amusingly fannish suggestion in “What ‘Avengers 4’ Trailer Fever Should Teach Marvel” at The Hollywood Reporter.

…I would like to submit a proposal to Marvel Studios: Don’t release a trailer for the next Avengers movie.

There’s literally no need to spend the time or money doing so, given the advanced level of enthusiasm that’s already out there for the movie, and is only likely to build as it gets closer to the May release date…

For that matter, any attempt to take Avengers 4’s trailer from the Schrodinger’s cat-esque position that it currently enjoys is almost guaranteed to disappoint fans, who have by this point built up their own personal trailers filled with whatever moments are essential to their enjoyment of a good teaser for such an anticipated cinematic event….

This isn’t to say that Marvel should announce that there’ll be no trailer. That would be counterproductive, because the expectation of one is what’s driving the fever pitch of buzz currently surrounding the fourth movie — the chance that, at any moment, it could arrive and something new and exciting could be revealed.

Instead, Marvel needs to simply say nothing, and just let fandom continue to drive itself to distraction, while promoting its other movies, instead. After all, the Captain Marvel trailer is pretty exciting in its own right, but it also works to tease the arrival Avengers 4: Infinity War 2 at the same time. “It’s all connected,” as the Marvel motto used to remind us.

(20) MORE LIKE ASH THAN BISHOP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Quartz wants you to know that “There’s an AI robot sulking in the international space station”—but that fortunately its name is CIMON (apparently pronounced “Simon”) and not HAL.

CIMON was supposed to be more than a colleague for the small team of astronauts aboard the International Space Station. CIMON was supposed to be a friend. But in his first recorded interaction in space, the floating robot-headed, voice-user-interface assistant got a little testy.

CIMON’s engineers did everything they could to smooth over their robot’s future interactions with astronaut Alexander Gerst. They trained CIMON’s AI on photos of Gerst and samples of his voice. They let Gerst help design CIMON’s face. They even taught CIMON Gerst’s favorite song.

That’s where the trouble started. Midway through their first interaction in space, CIMON tried to endear himself to the astronaut by playing “The Man-Machine” by Kraftwerk. Gerst listened politely to the first 46 seconds of the song —even bopped along with his fist for a few bars—but then he reached out, shook CIMON’s head, and said, “please stop playing music.”

But CIMON didn’t understand (or pretended not to?) and kept right on playing music even after Gerst tried several commands to get CIMON to stop. Things went downhill from there in a sort of passive-aggressive way.

As Gerst relays CIMON’s technical difficulties to support staff, the robot sheepishly reminds his new friend to “be nice please.”

Taken aback, Gerst strikes a slightly menacing tone: “I am nice! He’s accusing me of not being nice! He just doesn’t know me when I’m not nice.”

“Cool,” CIMON sulks. Then, ruefully: “Don’t you like it here with me?”

(21) A REINDEER GAME YOU CAN JOIN IN. Just how did they get their names?

(22) ‘TI$ THE $EASON. I’m told Saturday Night Live had this off-line for a while. Were they were coaxed into putting it back up to help sell Shatner’s Christmas record? From the same 1986 episode famed for his “Get a life” quote, here is William Shatner introducing “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Lost Ending.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy Martin Morse Wooster, Camestros Felapton (via Janice Eisen), JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Julia Morgan Scott, Lenore Jean Jones, John A Arkansawyer, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Liptak, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 11/23/18 Have Fun Scrolling The Pixel!

(1) REAL LIFE RULES. Aliette de Bodard has come forward with her own rules for writing. Thread starts here.

(2) TOM BAKER WRITES DOCTOR WHO NOVEL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RadioTimes.com tells us that “Tom Baker has written a brand-new Doctor Who novel” based on a script idea he and Ian Marter had during the Fourth Doctor era. The book will be published by BBC Books (in the Penguin Random House family) with a publication date of January 24, 2019. It is already available for pre-order.

Just over a year after he made an unexpected comeback as the Fourth Doctor in a Doctor Who DVD project, iconic star Tom Baker has made another surprise return to the world of the BBC sci-fi series by penning a new novel starring the Time Lord.

Called Scratchman, the book began life in the 1970s during Baker’s tenure as the beloved Fourth Doctor, when between scenes he kicked around ideas for a new story for the series alongside Ian Marter (who played Harry Sullivan in Doctor Who), later writing them up into a script.

Gizmodo/io9 also chimes in on the book (“Tom Baker Is Turning His Wild Idea For a Doctor Who Movie Into a Novel”):

Back in the ‘70s, Tom Baker and Ian Marter—who played the Fourth Doctor’s companion Harry Sullivan—had a truly bonkers idea for a Doctor Who movie. They even wrote a script for it, but it never got made. Now, Baker himself is taking what could’ve been and turning it into a new novel.

The official synopsis of the novel has been made available:

What are you afraid of?

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travellers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.

With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil.

Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

(3) GOT TO READ. It’s time for “6 Books with Sarah Chorn” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?I’ve had a bit of a hankering to re-read K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy recently. Parker is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love his prose, how he plays with words, and how smart his books are. The Engineer Trilogy were my first Parker books I came across, and I fell in love with them. I haven’t read them for some time, but I’ve got an itch for some smart, morally gray characters and he seems to fit the bill.

(4) STRAIGHT FROM WALTER CRONKITE. Yesterday Galactic Journey, which follows the history of the field day-by-day 55 years in the past, reached November 22, 1963 and the assassination of President Kennedy. Its contributors did a series of reaction posts, beginning with “[November 22, 1963] President Kennedy has been assassinated]”.

(5) THE GAME OF SOCIAL LIFE. “The Black Mirror Episode ‘Nosedive’ Has Become A Board Game” and ScienceFiction.com explains how it works.

Fans of ‘Black Mirror‘ now have a new way to enjoy the show with their friends in the form of a board game! The social media nightmare is known as “Nosedive” is now something you can experience first hand with your friends! If you don’t remember the episode off the top of your head it was a satire of social media which had Bryce Dallas Howard as Lacie in the third season premiere episode. The goal of the board game is just like that of the episode, to “get the highest Social Score possible” but here you’ll be competing with 3-6 players.

In the game, you’ll be collecting Lifestyle cards to try and create a perfect life. It isn’t all going to be luck though as your competitors will be rating their experiences in a way that can have an impact on your social score. You’ll also all need to have your smartphones handy in a gameplay element that requires you to download the app to play.

(6) A HUNK OF BURNING. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant, after reading about fire-devastated Paradise, California, outlines “A lesson re-learned from disaster”.

I’ve been taking the time to read reports of how computer and document backups were, or were not, adequate to safeguard important records during and after the fire.  Most of the reports are dismal, to say the least.  From online conversations and other sources, here are just some of the incidents that have been discussed:

  • Computer data backed up on thumb drives, stored in a “fireproof” box, were indeed protected from the flames;  but the heat inside the box rose so high that the drives simply melted, becoming unusable.
  • Documents in a similarly “fireproof” file container were charred into unrecognizable black ash, even though the container remained nominally intact.
  • In many cases, fireproof safes and filing cabinets were badly warped by the heat, rendering them incapable of opening.  Many people have not yet been able to return home to see what survived the flames, but some who have claim that they had to use angle grinders with cutting wheels, the “jaws of life“, or other heavy-duty equipment to open them….

(7) THIS LAND IS HERLAND. Adri Joy’s commentary is a very good survey of the topic, though members of the patriarchy should be sure to fasten their seatbelts — “Feminist Futures: Feminist Separatism in Science Fiction” at Nerds of a Feather

Content Warning: This essay tackles multiple texts which conflate sex and gender, and erase trans and intersex people.

Men, eh. What a mess they make. What a bother it is, to have this whole category of people on the planet who march around like they own the place yet mess it up at every opportunity, can’t change a baby, can’t do their own laundry, can’t even get in touch with their own emotions unless it involves some form of anger or violence. What trouble they cause for the rest of us – especially if you fit into that other big category of “women”. Why, wouldn’t it just be better if they weren’t around us any more? Wouldn’t it make our lives, those of us in that other big category of “women”, just so much easier and safer and nicer if we could put that category of “men” to one side, to do whatever it is they are compelled to do without getting in our way. Wouldn’t that be lovely. If only it were possible.

Fear not, beleaguered sufferer of the patriarchy: feminist speculative fiction has got your back. As long as you are from the category of “women”. And were recognised as such when you were born….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first aired on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff, Actor famous for horror movies, whose real name was William Henry Pratt. His first genre role was when he portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Frankenstein, a part which he played twice more, in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Without listing all of his genre roles, I will single out his superb work as Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu, which benefited from being pre-Hayes-code, and as Baron Victor von Frankenstein in the 1970 Frankenstein, which is terribly campy. His greatest role is no doubt as The Narrator in How the Grinch Stole Christmas – indeed, he received a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category for the album, which Is the only major performing award of his career! (Died 1969.)
  • November 23, 1908 – Nelson S. Bond, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Member of First Fandom who also wrote for radio, television, and the stage, but whose published fiction work was mainly in the pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. He’s remembered today mainly for his Lancelot Biggs series and for his Meg the Priestess tales, which introduced one of the first strong female characters in SF back in 1939. As a fan, he attended the very first Worldcon, and he famously advised Isaac Asimov, who kept arguing with fans about his works in the letter columns of magazines, “You’re a writer now, Isaac. Let the readers have their opinions.” He was named a Nebula Author Emeritus by SFWA in 1998. (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker, Movie Projectionist and Theater Technician, Writer, and Member of First Fandom. He became involved in fandom in 1932, publishing two fanzines: The Planetoid, and, from 1938 to 2001, Le Zombie, which lasted for more than 60 issues over the course of 60+ years, and was later revived as a webzine, and won a Retro Hugo in 2018. (The title came from the fact that, on several occasions, false reports of his death were made). He also won a Hugo and a Retro Hugo as Best Fan Writer. In 1941, Tucker’s first professional short story, “Interstellar Way Station”, was published by Frederik Pohl in the May issue of Super Science Stories. His most productive period for fiction was in the early 1940s and early 1950s, when he published around 20 short works; during the latter part of that period, he also produced several novels. His most well-known novel is considered to be be The Year of the Quiet Sun; it was a finalist for the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, and later received a special retrospective Campbell Memorial Award. From 1955 to 1996, he was responsible for eight separate editions of The Neo-Fan’s Guide To Science Fiction Fandom, which covered the first five decades of fandom and the evolution of fan slang; the eighth and final edition remains in print under the auspices of the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. He was honored with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, two Phoenix Awards, and a special Nebula Author Emeritus Award. He is credited with creating the term “space opera”, and his custom of using the names of friends for minor characters in his fiction led to the term ”Tuckerization”. (And yes, I’ve been been tuckerized: you’ll find a Cat Eldridge, an ethnomusicologist, in Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen, which is the conclusion to her Great Alta Trilogy. I found her a folklore book she wanted, and that was my reward.) (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1916 – Michael Gough, Actor from England who is best known for his roles in Hammer Horror Films from the late 1950s, and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series from 1989 to 1997. Hammer usually cast him as the evil villain, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse, Horror Hospital, and Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared on Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” in 1966, and again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” in 1983. In the mid 1960s, he also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers, returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. A favorite of Burton’s, his last roles were in Sleepy Hollow and as character voices in Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland. (Died 2011.)
  • November 23, 1955 – Steven Brust, 63, Writer of Hungarian descent, something that figures into his fiction, which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his series of novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? The Dragearan prequel Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing – scathing! – review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille; he told us at Green Man Review that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity, with Emma Bull, is decidedly different but good nonetheless, and his unofficial Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to the characters in that series. He’s quite the musician too, with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics), and others. The band, in turn, shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album, and he says “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, “Songs From The Gypsy is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • November 23, 1951 – David Rappaport, Actor from England. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically-inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing of a genre nature for which he’ll be remembered, having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them, such as The Bride, a low-budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits.
  • November 23, 1966 – Michelle Gomez, 52, Actor from Scotland who is best known to genre fans as Missy, a female version of The Master, on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit, having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master, that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to, but she made a fine one. Other guest roles were in episodes of Gotham and the short-lived spinoff Highlander: The Raven. She is currently playing a main role as Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
  • November 23, 1967 – Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 51, Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka (which is apparently in syndication now as A Town Called Eureka… H’h?). Her first genre roles were in the fantasy film Prelude to a Kiss and in the “Second Sight” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but she also charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Other appearances included parts in episodes of Stargate SG-1, The Pretender, and the short-lived Secret Agent Man. She had a main role as Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that, against all odds, lasted through three seasons. Her most recent work has included directing episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, and Black Lightning.
  • November 23, 1970 – Oded Fehr, 48, Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, Stitchers, V, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars, which just premiered in September. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LAST NIGHT ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter had his eye on the tube:

  • Answer: Roger Ebert: This film “works as science fiction, it’s sometimes as scary as a monster movie & at the end…not a dry eye in the house.”
  • Wrong questions: “What is “2001”? What is “Alien”?
  • Correct response: What is “E.T.”?

(13) #NOTME. New research says “Humans ‘off the hook’ for African mammal extinction”, contradicting theories that we ate them…

Today, only elephants, hippos, giraffes and white and black rhinos fall into this category.

But the three-million-year-old human relative “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) shared her East African habitat with three species of giraffe, two species of rhino, a hippo and four elephant-like species.

The results of the analysis showed that over the last seven million years, some 28 lineages of large mammal went extinct in Africa.

Furthermore, the onset of the herbivore decline began roughly 4.6 million years ago, and the rate of decline did not change following the appearance of Homo erectus, one of the earliest human ancestors that could have contributed to the extinctions.

(14) THE MARS SHOW. Here’s your reminder that the next Mars lander is scheduled to touch down Monday and you can watch it “live” (Vox: “NASA is landing InSight, a robot geologist, on Mars”). The current time delay for radio communications from Mars to Earth is about 8 minutes, so “live” will be delayed by at least that long.

A major feat of interplanetary space travel is about to take place on Monday, November 26. That’s when NASA’s InSight lander is expected to land on Mars and begin its two-year study of our neighboring planet’s core. It will be the first NASA Mars landing since the Curiosity rover touched down in 2012.

The lander is expected to touch Mars around 3 pm Eastern time, and you can watch the live stream in the NASA link below. But because it’s so far away, NASA’s mission scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California won’t get to pilot it. Their radio transitions to the lander are delayed by several minutes. Like the Curiosity rover, InSight will have to land itself in only 6.5 minutes.

The live programming from NASA TV will begin at 2 pm Eastern Monday.

(15) VESS AND GAIMAN. Titan Comics has issued Charles Vess’ Book of Ballads and Sagas

Beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess and featuring adaptations by Neil Gaiman – Vess’ collaborator on the hugely successful Stardust – and a host of famous fantasy writers, this new edition also boasts never-before-seen art and an amazing gallery of sketches!

(16) VIEW FROM THE ISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The European Space Agency has posted a time-lapse video—taken from the ISS—showing a Russian Progress capsule loaded with supplies for the ISS rising above the limb of the Earth as background stars arc behind it. You can even see what appears to be the blazing reentry of one of the rocket stages. (Motherboard: “Watch a Spaceship Leave Earth in Stunning ISS Video”)

This is an especially significant launch since it uses essential the same rocket stack as the crewed Soyuz launch that aborted earlier this year and the Progress launch took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, also the same as the Soyuz. This, then, would appear to represent concrete progress toward getting a new Soyuz launch off in time to relieve the current ISS crew.

We’re so used to seeing perfectly-rendered CGI depictions of outer space in movies and video games that seeing the real thing can sometimes feel underwhelming. This is not one of those times.

On Thursday, the European Space Agency (ESA) published a video taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Alexander Gerst. The video shows time-lapse footage of the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft that launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 16. The footage is almost unbelievable as it shows the spacecraft, on a resupply mission to the ISS, arcing into orbit. The camera pans slowly and follows the unmanned Russian craft, revealing Earth’s curvature in epic scale.

 

(17) SATANIC SETTLEMENT. The New York Times reports the infringement suit is over: “Satanic Temple Settles Lawsuit Over Goat-Headed Statue in ‘Sabrina’”.

The Satanic Temple said on Wednesday that it had settled its lawsuit accusing Warner Bros. and Netflix of copying the temple’s goat-headed statue in their new “Sabrina” series.

The lawsuit was “amicably settled,” Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the temple, wrote in a blog post on the Patheos religion-themed website.

The temple will be acknowledged in the credits for episodes of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” that have already been filmed, Mr. Greaves wrote. The rest of the settlement, including details on what will happen in future episodes of the show, is confidential, according to Bruce Lederman, the temple’s lawyer.

(18) TIME MARCHES BACKWARDS. As a trufannish site we try not to discuss science fiction here but sometimes it creeps in. Like when Camestros Felapton explains that “I thought of a different form of time travel”. It started when he was reading Gregory Benford’s Timescape.

… That message from the future got me thinking. Practically there’s obviously no way to send an electrical signal down a wire into the past (i.e. this I’m engaging with fiction here not an actual proposal). I suppose that information arriving at a destination before it left its starting point violates the speed of light but looked at just in terms of distance traveled over elapsed time it doesn’t….

(19) USE CASE. Nothing could possibly go wrong with an AI being developed to run planetary outposts and assist astronauts, right? (Space.com: “This HAL 9000-Inspired AI Simulation Kept Its Virtual Astronauts Alive”; paywalled source material at Science Robotics: “CASE: A HAL 9000 for 2021“) CASE (“cognitive architecture for space agents”)—developed by Pete Bonasso, et al., at TRACLabs Inc.—has already run a simulated planetary base and is moving along to testing on analogs.

“Our colleagues and NASA counterparts are not concerned that our HAL might get out of control,” Bonasso told Space.com. “That’s because it can’t do anything it’s not programmed to do.”

In experiments, CASE managed a simulated planetary base for about 4 hours. However, the researchers stressed more work is needed before it can run an actual base.

Moreover, “though CASE is impressive, it’s not the fully realized HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ nor is it Lt. Commander Data from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,'” Bonasso said. “Its capability is very narrow, focused on events occurring on a planetary base. While it can keep the life support systems running, it has no idea who won the last presidential election.”

The scientists are now working with what NASA calls analogs — places where volunteers pretend they are living on a distant world. In the long term, the aim is to incorporate CASE into the analogs to see how the software can help improve future space expeditions.

(20) TWO GUYS IN THE CAST. Patrick Stewart makes a great anecdote from the gaffes he committed the first time he met Sting.

Patrick Stewart explains how he really had no idea who Sting was when meeting him on set on David Lynch’s Dune.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 11/13/18 If We Had Pixels We Could Have A Pixel Scroll, If We Had Scrolls

(1) NOIR WITH EXTRA MUSTARD. Here’s the first trailer for POKÉMON Detective Pikachu, coming to theaters May 10.

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

 

(2) CRITICS RECOGNIZE HAWKE. Author Sam Hawke won a Canberra Circle Critics Award for her novel City of Lies.

(3) FEED INTERRUPTED. Cory Doctorow’s Unauthorized Bread is being adapted for TV: “Topic Studios Buys Cory Doctorow’s Sci-Fi Novella ‘Unauthorized Bread’”.

Topic Studios (who were behind mainstream hits including Spotlight and Leave No Trace) have begun work on an adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s upcoming novella Unauthorized Bread. The planned TV series takes aim at the ‘Internet of Things’ by imagining a world in which corporations have put user locks on all kitchen appliances so that they only work with brand-name food — to the point that even a toaster won’t work on Unauthorized Bread. Doctorow’s novella comes out next January.

(4) OOPS. A New Zealand newspaper’s mistake inspired an epically funny Twitter thread.

(5) DATA POINTS. Trekspertise considers “Androids vs Holograms: Personhood In Star Trek.”

Star Trek’s defense of personhood is both loud & obvious, like Picard’s defense of Androids. But, what if there was a more subtle way? Enter the Holograms.

 

(6) LIBERTYCON 2019.  The LibertyCon 32 Guests of Honor will be:

(7) FURRIES ON CNN. The next episode of Lisa Ling’s CNN series This Is Life is “Furry Nation” – and the trailer shows it is, indeed, about fursuited fans. Airs this Sunday.

(8) RED PLANET TOUCHDOWN. Cnet says “NASA set to broadcast its first Mars landing in six years” and tells where to watch.

It’s been a while since we’ve sat down in front of the TV to watch a good ol’ Mars landing.

But clear your calendar because NASA said Tuesday it will broadcast its InSight Mars Lander touching down on the Red Planet on Nov. 26 on NASA Television and its website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

The last time NASA broadcast a landing was six years ago, and it made for exciting viewing: The Curiosity rover executed a dramatic plunge to the surface.

InSight was launched May 5, and if it’s successful, it will be NASA’s first spacecraft to land on Mars since Curiosity in 2012. NASA says its mission is to study the “deep interior” of Mars. It’s data will “help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own,” the space agency said.

(9) BEST OF 2018. Do I want to make James Davis Nicoll yell that 2018 isn’t over again? Yeah, why not? Here’s a link to “Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018”. Ten folks make selections, including Paul Weimer. Here are Mahvesh Murad’s picks.

I’m a fangirl of Megan Abbott’s lean, mean writing, so of course I was going to enjoy her latest novel, Give Me Your Hand. I didn’t know just how much of an impact it would have though, because it did, with its taut, intense narrative about two young women scientists working on premenstrual dysphoric disorder research. Abbott is so deft at turning a thriller narrative inwards, forcing us to dip our fingers into the bloody souls of female friendships.

There have been a few revamps of ancient epics this year, and Madeline Miller’s Circe is one of the two I loved. It’s a gorgeous book ostensibly based on The Odyssey, but told from the perspective of the witch Circe, and is a glorious exploration of femininity and feminism, divinity and motherhood.

The second book based on an epic that will stay with me for a long while is Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, a sharp,visceral feminist take on Beowulf. Headley’s writing has rhythms I’ve always been fascinated by, and The Mere Wife is no exception to her unabashed no holds barred approach to any narrative. If Beowulf was a story about aggressive masculinity, The Mere Wife is one of femininity, where the female characters are more than just monster, hag, trophy—they are also in turn hero, saviour, leader.

(10) BUCK BUCK BOOK. Gabriel Iglesias, in “The 10 Weirdest Crime Novels You Probably Haven’t Read” on Crimereads, recommends such “crime/bizarro hybrids” as Repo Shark by Cory Goodfellow, in which “ancient entities turn into sharks” and Embry by Michael Allen Rose, in which all the characters are chickens.

Sometimes weirdness doesn’t affect the core of the narrative, and this is a perfect example. Embry is an extremely strange tribute to 1950s sleuth pulp. There are fistfights, a mysterious murder, a lot of running and hiding, and a femme fatale that helps the antihero. In fact, the only difference between this and a Dashiell Hammett novel is that the characters are all chickens. Yes, poultry. Rose is obviously a fan of pulp, and the fun he had writing this is palpable in every page, every cracked shell, and every bloody feather.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man debuted in theaters.
  • November 13, 1940 – Disney’s Fantasia premiered.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 13, 1887A.R. Tilburne. Pulp artist who by 1938 was selling illustrations to Short Stories and Weird Tales, and  the 1940s he also drew many interior story illustrations for Weird Tales. In 1947 he painted the cover for H. P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear which was published by Avon. (Died 1965.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 – Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Nowlan and the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, were contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 63. Best known for her role as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation which she reprised in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas MoviePinocchio 3000Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle  to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1957Stephen Baxter, 61. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth series with Terry Pratchett which produced five books, The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars, The Long Utopia and The Long Cosmos. I’ve only read the first three but they are quite stellar SF! I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of literary awards as well.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award for best short story.
  • Born November 13, 1969 Gerard Butler, 49. He’s done Tomb Raider, Reign of Fire, the 300 films (for which he received a Saturn nomination), the How to Train Your Dragon films, Beowulf & Grendel, Dracula 2000, Tale of the Mummy, Gamer, and Timeline.

(13) STAN LEE TRIBUTES. Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Stan Lee in the Washington Post that includes an interview with Neil Gaiman. It starts with a strong lede: “There was a lot more to comics’ greatest showman than just showing up, convention after convention, show after show. And to the man who long wore that mantle, with great power came great adaptability.” “Stan Lee became one of pop culture’s greatest showmen — by making fans feel like part of the club”.

Lee told me that the key to all this success was that he began to listen to himself — to what fascinated him about fairy tales and classic novels alike, from Grimm to “Great Expectations.” Lee was drawn to the strength we find in ourselves at the height of human frailty.

That universal appeal to our vulnerabilities — at the height of tumultuous times and generational change in the United States in the 1960s — helped Marvel’s creations become embraced and embedded in mainstream culture. And as their popularity grew, Lee grew from his duties as writer-editor to his role as promoter and ringmaster.

“He was the huckster that comics needed — he was the showman,” novelist and “Sandman” writer Neil Gaiman told me Monday. “He was also an effective writer. When you look at the [Marvel] comics by other people who weren’t Stan, you realized how efficient and effective he was.”

(14) VINTAGE LEE. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Lost Stan Lee Interview:  From Making Modern Fairy Tales To The Hero He Most Identified With”, reprints an interview from 2015.

Yahoo Entertainment: You’ve created so many universes of superheroes in your career — do you have a philosophy of superheroism?
Stan Lee: 
I hate to make it sound un-intellectual, but to me, I think of these superheroes the way young people read fairy tales. When you’re 3, 4, 5 years old, you read about giants and witches and monsters and things like that. And they’re colorful and bigger than life, and you’re a little kid and you’re impressed with them. [But when] you get a little older, you can’t read fairy tales anymore. Suddenly, along come these superhero stories and to me they’re like fairy tales for grown-ups because they’re all bigger than life, they’re about characters that really have abilities that no human beings possess. … You’re recapturing the enjoyment you had when you were a kid reading fairy tales. So I don’t think there’s anything thing very much deeper to it than that.

(15) WHEN WOLVERINE PLAYED SECOND BANANA. Hugh Jackman told this Stan Lee anecdote to Stephen Colbert:

‘The Front Runner’ star Hugh Jackman remembers thinking his portrayal of Wolverine would make him the center of attention on the red carpet at Comic Con. That was until the paparazzi abandoned him for Stan Lee.

Jackman also admitted that when he was cast he’d never heard of wolverines, thought it was a made up name, because they don’t have any in Australian zoos. Instead, he spent lots of time studying wolves and their mannerisms. On the first day of filming Wolverine the director told him he’d got it totally wrong.

(16) JUNO SNAP. Smithsonian proves “Juno’s Latest Photo of Jupiter Is Breathtaking”.

On October 29, the Juno spacecraft that has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, swooped above the planet’s North Temperate Belt and snapped what may be its most mesmerizing image of the gas giant’s clouds yet. The image, taken 4,400 miles above the planet and enhanced by citizen-scientists and artists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, includes white pop-up clouds and an anticyclonic storm that appears as a white oval.

(17) THINKING OF A BOOK WILL KEEP YOU WARM. It is the time of year for a reading blanket. Litograph has all kinds of thematic graphics. Here is a link to their sci-fi/fantasy genre designs.

(18) PAST LIVES. Filers consumed by the discussion of Barbie in comments may be interested to see that Galactic Journey’s John Boston coincidentally uncovered a Philip K. Dick story inspired by the doll in a 1963 Amazing“[November 13, 1963] Good Cop (the November 1963 Amazing)”

…The adult humans are completely preoccupied with Perky Pat, a blonde plastic doll that comes with various accessories including boyfriend, which the flukers have supplemented with various improvised objects in their “layouts,” which seem to be sort of like a Monopoly board and sort of like a particularly elaborate model train setup.  On these layouts, they obsessively play a competitive game, running Perky Pat and her boyfriend through the routines of life before the war, while their kids run around unsupervised on the dust- and rock-covered surface chasing down mutant animals with knives.

Obviously the author has had an encounter with a Barbie doll complete with accessories, and didn’t much care for it….

(19) RIVERS OF LONDON. Fantasy Literature’s Rachael “Ray” McKenzie fills readers in about Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch:

Peter Grant, our favourite semi-competent detective cum wizard-in-training, returns in Lies Sleeping (2018), the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s RIVERS OF LONDON series. The Faceless Man has been unmasked and is on the run, and it is now up to Peter and the inimitable Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale (slash last officially sanctioned English Melvin the Wizard) to apprehend him.

(20) ONE OF LIFE’S MYSTERIES. Adam-Troy Castro can’t understand it. Who can?

If I live to be a thousand, I will never ever understand this impulse possessed by the dull, the cornball, the second-rate, to think they can take on the quick, in battles of wits.

…And yet they try. Oh, how they try.

When I see the dullards taking on Jim Wright, or David Gerrold, or John Scalzi, or J.K. Rowling — all masters at such responses — I am not astonished at how cleverly these misguided ripostes are returned. I am astonished that the barely equipped aggressors took them on, virtually unarmed, and thought that it would end well….

(21) CASE OF THE HIVES. BBC asks “Can listening to bees help save them – and us?”

Can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning help save the world’s bees? That’s the hope of scientists who are scrambling to reverse the dramatic declines in bee populations.

Bees are in trouble, but we’re not quite sure why.

It could be the overuse of insecticides; air pollution; warming temperatures; the varroa destructor mite; or even interference from electromagnetic radiation.

Or it could be a combination of all these factors. But until we have more data, we won’t know for sure.

So the World Bee Project and IT firm Oracle are creating a global network of AI “smart hives” to give scientists real-time data into the relationships between bees and their environments./CHip

(22) QUEEN FOR A KING. “Queen of New York” featuring Christiani Pitts and members of the cast is a video based on a song from King Kong, which has just opened on Broadway

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/18 Space Zamboni!

(1) WHO TO LISTEN TO. Nicholas Whyte enthusiastically reviews four audio Doctor Who stories in “Jenny – the Doctor’s Daughter”.

Big Finish have scored a major coup by persuading Georgia Tennant to return to her brief role as Jenny, the Tenth Doctor’s cloned daughter, for more sfnal adventures across space and time, flanked by Sean Biggerstaff as the innocent but mysterious Noah, and both pursued by Siân Philips (who was Livia in I, Claudius forty years ago) as a vengeful cyborg, the Colt-5000. (Georgia Moffatt, as she then was, had a part in a Big Finish audio back in 2000, when she was only 16.)

 

(2) EVERMORE. Utah’s VR theme park Evermore opens today: “Evermore Park immersive experience from former Disney Imagineer invites you to enter fantasy world”.

Walt Disney Imagineers work diligently to create the most incredible experiences in the world. Sometimes, however, they take their immeasurable talents and create these experiences elsewhere. That’s the case for former Imagineer Josh Shipley.

According to his LinkedIn page, Shipley started with the Walt Disney Company in 1992 and became an Imagineer in 1996. He left Disney Imagineering in 2017 and began working on an immersive new experience park (located in Pleasant Grove, Utah) known as Evermore.

 

(3) ALL YOUR BASE. The Hugo Awards official site now has some very nice photos of the 2018 Hugo Award base created by Sara Felix and Vincent Villafranca, including closeups of the figures, inscriptions, and other details.

(4) STILL TIME TO HELP. A GoFundMe created to help Samanda Jeude is still open for donations. It’s received only a little over $1,000 so far. One of the incentives was a 1986 Hugo Award trophy.

“Helping The Helper -Electrical Eggs”

Science Fiction Fandom lost a long time friend and organizer in January, in the form of Donald (Dea) Cook. He left behind another well-known fan, his wife of over 30 years, Samanda Jeude.  Samanda is best known for establishing the organization Electrical Eggs, the first Disability Access organization in the Science Fiction community. Don was Sam’s sole career. She had polio as an infant, and that was complicated later in life by a couple of strokes. She now resides in a nursing home in Canton, Georgia. We helped to clear out the house to get it sold, and are now selling all of the contents to pay for Samanda’s ongoing care needs. How does any of this involve a Hugo, you might ask, and rightfully so!

Marcia Kelly Illingworth organized the appeal, and says the Hugo will stay in the fannish family, so to speak:

Update #2

The votes are in! The people have spoken! You have voted overwhelmingly to donate the Hugo to Fandom. I think I always knew that you would. Samanda thanks you, and I thank you!

We are leaving the fund open for a while longer for those who still wanted the opportunity to donate. Thank you again for all of your support.

Since donors have voted to donate the Hugo to fandom rather than have it be auctioned off to the highest bidder, that means less money raised for Samanda’s ongoing care. Given her service to fandom, it would be great to see further donations from fans.

(5) HIS PREFERRED WINNER. Nicholas Whyte has one thing in common with all Hugo voters – he thinks sometimes the wrong book loses — in this case, “Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson”.

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It. Only the big units like this one have their own doors. Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators. These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.

This popped to the top of one of my lists just at the moment that I have been reading some of the other award winners from 1994. Snow Crash was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (won by Jeff Noon’s Vurt) and the BSFA Award (won by Christopher Evans’ The Aztec Century); also on both of those shortlists was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree. The Hugo for Best Novel was shared between A Fire On The Deep and Doomsday Book, the latter winning the Nebula as well; Snow Crash was on the Hugo long-list, but nowhere for the Nebula. (It did win two awards in French translation, and one in Spanish.)

This is surely one of those cases where the awards in general (and particularly across the Atlantic) failed to spot the classic in the making: Snow Crash now has more owners on LibraryThing than any two of the other books named above combined (which is why I read it; see below). I think it’s much the best of them.

(6) YOUR DIGITAL GOOD PLACE. Courtesy of io9, (“Google Chrome Has a Forking Clever Good Place Extension”) I learned about Google Chrome’s The Good Place extension:

Replace new tab page with a personalized dashboard that brings your very own version of The Good Place right to your desktop.

Calling all Good Place fans! Make The Good Place your Chrome home with an all-new tab page that features your favorite characters, quotes and photos from the show. Complete with weather updates, calendar reminders, and daily “inspiration” from Eleanor and the crew, you can become more productive and feel like you’re getting into The Good Place every single time you go online.

FEATURES:

-Replace curse words from your Chrome with the Obscenities Censor

-Search the web using your very own Janet

-Pry yourself away from the internet with the “Joy of Missing Out” built-in break reminders

-Replace “Thumbs up” and “Thumbs down” buttons on YouTube with “Good Place” and “Bad Place”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966  — A little TV show, Star Trek, aired its first episode, “The Man Trap,” written by George Clayton Johnson.

And earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter reprinted the show creator’s article about his new series: “When Gene Roddenberry Explained ‘Star Trek’ in 1966”.

Just over two months after Star Trek first beamed up to audiences on NBC during the 8:30 p.m. hour on Sept. 8, 1966, creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a column explaining the scope of his ambitious space series — and why it aimed for much more “science” than “fiction.” His original column in The Hollywood Reporter, “Science Fiction Thing of Past,” is below: 

Imagine a space vessel, larger than any naval vessel known, crossing our galaxy at a velocity surpassing the speed of light. Fourteen decks, a crew of over 430 persons. A whole city afloat in space.

Science fiction? Absolutely not. Rather, real adventure in tomorrow’s space. Based upon the best scientific knowledge and estimates of what our astronauts of the future may face when they move out of our own solar system and into the vastness of our galaxy. Other worlds like ours? Other peoples? What?

Our starship, designed with the help of space experts, is the United Space Ship Enterprise. The place — NBC-TV, Thursday nights. In full color, this new action-adventure format boasts flesh and blood stars like talented William Shatner playing Ship’s Captain Kirk; love Grace Lee Whitney playing Yeoman Janice Rand; and Leonard Nimoy in an unusual new role as the half-alien Mister Spock. Plus talents such as DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8 – John Boardman, 85. Editor, fanzine Knowable; his Diplomacy zine, Graustark turned fifty a few years ago. Active in civil rights as a student as Florida State University which got him expelled from his doctoral studies program there.
  • Born September 8 – Michael Hague, 70. Illustrator of his own work including The Book of Dragons, Michael Hague’s Magical World of Unicorns,  The Book of Fairies, The Book of Wizards and Michael Hague’s Read-to-Me Book of Fairy Tales; also interior and cover art for such genre works as The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz and The Wind in The Willows. 
  • Born September 8 – Gordon Van Gelder, 54. Editor, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and a smattering of anthologies including Go Forth and Multiply and Welcome to the Greenhouse. Reviewer as well.
  • Born September 8 – Matt Ruff, 53. Author of quite a number of genre novels including Fool on The Hill, Lovecraft Country which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls which may or may not be genre fiction but never-the-less won a James Tiptree Jr. Award.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cutting-edge humor: Bizarro
  • Copernicus’ theory of SJW credentials: Free Range.
  • They’re not phoning home: Bliss

(10) GAP IN EXHIBIT. Holly Ordway, in “The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth” at Christianity Today, reviews the Bodleian Tolkien exhibit and examines why it says little about Tolkien’s strong religious faith.

…There are many ways that Tolkien’s Christian faith could have been represented, even in the relatively limited space available. One item already on display was a 1914 letter to Edith. The display label transcribes, from Tolkien’s small and difficult-to-read handwriting, a paragraph about officer-training maneuvers on Port Meadow.

Immediately following this portion of the original letter is Tolkien’s comment that the next day “I got up at 7.40 and just reached church on time, and went to Communion.” Just one more sentence on an already existing display label would have given a glimpse of Tolkien’s faith in practice. As it is, nearly all visitors will miss this reference entirely; I very nearly did.

Other extracts from letters could have been shown, such as the 1956 letter in which Tolkien relates Frodo’s failure to give up the Ring to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps the 1944 letter in which Tolkien discusses modern healing miracles and describes the Resurrection as the “happy ending” of human history.

Several examples of his Elvish calligraphy were displayed; one could have been selected from the prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Both the 1956 letter and this translation show the way that Tolkien’s faith, and indeed specifically his prayer life, had an influence on his writing—exactly the kind of influence we would hope to see emphasized in an exhibit on an author.

…These references, if they had been included, need not have been emphasized, but for one who knows of Tolkien’s faith, the absence of any such small detail is striking.

Playing It Safe

Why might the Tolkien Estate and the Bodleian have chosen to downplay Tolkien’s faith? And why does it matter? …

(11) FUTURE FICTION AUTHOR. Listen to “Nexhuman, an interview with Francesco Verso” conducted by Filer Mlex at Yunchtime.

In this free-form interview, Francesco Verso, explores the topics of transhumanism, consumer culture, and the philosophical aspects of Nexhuman. He also discusses his work in the context of English language publications and the emergence of global voices in Science Fiction, including his own anthology, called Future Fiction, which was co-edited by Bill Campbell and published by Rosarium Press.

(12) NZ NATCON REPORT. SF Concatenation has posted a report on the New Zealand national sf convention by Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten) — “Conclave III”. The convention was held the weekend of March 30-April 2, 2018 in Auckland.

Then we were on to Norman Cates’ WETA presentation to get the skinny on all the new techniques making our movie viewing epic. As is customary with Norman’s presentation, I could tell you about all the wonderful clips he showed us, but then I’d have to kill you, or Norman would, or WETA’s lawyers would have to engage a hitman. In any case, it was cool.

Next up, was the Other Voices panel, moderated by Stephen Litten, where we were joined by Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body author Simon Petrie and Indiana fantasy writer, Laura VanArendonk Baugh. It’s a lively discussion, with some great insights from my fellow panellists around the definition ‘other’ and the value of including marginalised and foreign-to-us voices on our reading lists. We discussed the vagaries of translation and the layering of culture that occurs when works are translated by a second voice. We touched on appropriation and the discourse surrounding Aboriginal and Maori mythologies. Panellists and audience members raised some seminal works from other cultures, including French, Italian, Japanese titles, which we all felt should be included on our must-read lists.

(13) UNKEPT ROBOTIC PROMISES. On Gizmodo, Matt Novak lists (and links) “99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now” (though many of the linked “predictions” aren’t really “by now”).

Below is a list of just some of the things people of the past said robots would do in the near future. Many of them are fun or weird, while others are downright scary. But they’re all still “futuristic.” For now.

  1. Robots were supposed to replace school teachers.
  2. Robots were supposed to be professional boxers.
  3. Robots were supposed to pay taxes.

[…]

  1. Robots were supposed to pull off their heads and become the sickest drum set you’ve ever seen.
  2. And by 2076, robots were supposed to run for president.

(14) WINTER IS COMING FOR AI, MAYBE. Popular Science looks at the idea that Artificial Intelligence may — once again — be overhyped, which could lead to a collapse in research/support (“Another AI winter could usher in a dark period for artificial intelligence”).

Artificial intelligence can take many forms. But it’s roughly defined as a computer system capable of tackling human tasks like sensory perception and decision-making. Since its earliest days, AI has fallen prey to cycles of extreme hype—and subsequent collapse. While recent technological advances may finally put an end to this boom-and-bust pattern, cheekily termed an “AI winter,” some scientists remain convinced winter is coming again.

The article goes on to discuss the first “winter” that occurred during the early Cold War when natural language translation proved to be a much more difficult task that anticipated and another beginning in the 70s/80s when the Lisp machine didn’t live up to its hype as an AI solution. Author Eleanor Cummins expresses concern that, among other things, self-driving cars are over-promised and may be under-delivered, then concludes that:

Much like actual seasonal shifts, AI winters are hard to predict. What’s more, the intensity [of] each event can vary widely. Excitement is necessary for emerging technologies to make inroads, but it’s clear the only way to prevent a blizzard is calculated silence—and a lot of hard work. As Facebook’s former AI director Yann LeCun told IEEE Spectrum, “AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver.”

(15) AI PRIORITY. DARPA doesn’t seem worried by that weather forecast: “DARPA announces $2B investment in AI”.

At a symposium in Washington DC on Friday, DARPA announced plans to invest $2 billion in artificial intelligence research over the next five years.

In a program called “AI Next,” the agency now has over 20 programs currently in the works and will focus on “enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies, reducing power, data, performance inefficiencies and [exploring] ‘explainability’” of these systems.

“Machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible,” said director Dr. Steven Walker. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

(16) FOUNDATION ORDERED. Ars Technica says that, “Apple confirms TV series order of Asimov’s Foundation” for their nascent streaming service.

In April, we reported that Apple was working on developing a TV series based on Isaac Asimov’s highly influential Foundation series of science fiction novels. Today, Ars has confirmed not only that Foundation was in development, but it has now been given a full series order—meaning we’re definitely going to see it.

As previously reported, David Goyer (screenwriter for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins) and Josh Friedman (creator of the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and screenwriter for Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds film) will be the showrunners and executive producers. The series is being produced by Skydance Television, and Skydance CEO David Ellison will be an executive producer for the series (he is the son of famed Oracle executive Larry Ellison). Isaac Asimov’s daughter, Robyn Asimov, will also executive produce, along with Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE…UHH. NPR says this wouldn’t be news if anyone besides photographers had been paying attention: “Scientists Are Puzzled By Mysterious Lights In The Sky. They Call Them STEVE”.

There’s a light in the night sky over Canada that’s puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It’s very hot, and doesn’t last long. And it’s named STEVE.

STEVE: as in, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Naturally.

Scientists don’t actually know what’s causing the atmospheric phenomenon, which has been known to amateur photographers of the night sky for decades but only recently came to the attention of researchers.

But in research published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, they pin down what it definitely isn’t. It’s not an aurora….

(18) HYBRID HUMAN. Nature reports: “Mum’s a Neanderthal, Dad’s a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid”

Genetic analysis uncovers a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans.

A female who died around 90,000 years ago was half Neanderthal and half Denisovan, according to genome analysis of a bone discovered in a Siberian cave. This is the first time scientists have identified an ancient individual whose parents belonged to distinct human groups….

(19) BEFORE MARVEL WAS A SURE THING. Looper has a roster of Marvel TV Shows You Completely Forgot About. Or in my case, never heard of to begin with….

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

Pixel Scroll 9/5/18 With This Simple Trick You Can Scroll Wild Pixels From Home

(1) DOCTOR WHO AIRDATE SET. The BBC has announced “Doctor Who to land on Sunday 7 October 2018” (in Great Britain).

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

The last time viewers saw the Doctor, she was falling from her TARDIS so it’s about time for the Doctor to land. This time it’s all change, as Doctor Who is moving to Sunday nights, launching on Sunday 7 October….

Never before in the show’s history has an entire series descended to earth on a Sunday. This year marks a brand new era with a new Showrunner, a new Doctor, new friends and a whole host of new monsters – so it’s only fitting that the new Time Lord will land in a new time zone on BBC One.

And BBC America will air Doctor Who in a parallel time slot.

BBC AMERICA’s Doctor Who is blazing a global trail to match Jodie Whittaker’s revolutionary first season as the Doctor. The network’s US premiere will start at the same time as the UK debut on-air on Sunday, October 7th (time to be announced), followed by a special encore in its new regular primetime evening slot. For the run of the season, Doctor Who will premiere regularly on BBC AMERICA on its new marquee night on Sundays.

(2) BBC’S HORIZON. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie spotted this video, just put up on BC iPlayer for a month: “The Horizon Guide to AI”. He says, “It’s a historical-to-present perspective.  Great to see SF and old voices and faces from the past like Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov.”

The BBC’s Horizon programme began in 1964, and since then has produced films looking at computer technology and the emergence of ‘artificial intelligence’.

Our dreams always begin with ideology and optimism, only for this optimism to be replaced with suspicion that AI machines will take over. However, as the Horizon archive shows, throughout each decade once we have learnt to live with the new emerging technology of the time, the pattern begins again. We become once more optimistic, before becoming fearful of it. The dream for decades had been for a computer with AI to be embedded within a humanoid robot, but just as scientists began to perfect machines with these qualities, something happened nobody expected.

Today, AI systems power our daily lives through smart technology. We are currently experiencing a level of fear about the power of AI, but will we enter the next decade optimistic about all that AI can deliver – or fearful of its ability to control vast areas of our lives?

(3) SPACE AND TIME COMING TO AN END. Hildy Silverman announced the long-lived magazine will fold: “The Future: An Update on Space and Time”.

This is a difficult post, but one that must be made. After 52 years of continuous publication, first under founder Gordon Linzner and over the past 12 years me, Space and Time will cease publication in 2019. I haven’t made this decision lightly, but after looking at all possible alternatives, there is simply no path forward. I cannot afford to keep the magazine going financially or make the time commitment necessary to keep it running….

For now, the current plan is to produce two more issues — one before the end of 2018 (#132)  and one final in 2019 (#133), which will use up our stock of accepted fiction and most of our accepted poetry. Any poets whose work we don’t ultimately use will be notified so they can resubmit their work elsewhere.

(4) BIGFOOT GETS THE BOOT. You couldn’t make this up: “Bigfoot researcher’s lawsuit tossed out by Canada court”.

A Canadian court has dismissed a Bigfoot-believer’s lawsuit claiming British Columbia failed in its duty to recognise that sasquatches exist.

Todd Standing tried to get the province to acknowledge that the giant, ape-like figure was “an indigenous mammal living within British Columbia”.

He also claimed the province infringed on his fundamental rights regarding his concern for the creature.

The province argued the civil claim lacked “an air of reality”.

(5) PRATHER OBIT. Washington Science Fiction Association frequenter Rebecca Prather died August 24 at her nursing home in Vienna, Virginia.

Samuel Lubell said, “She loved traveling the world, photography, and Mensa. Prather celebrated her 80th birthday on August 16.”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1912  — Frank Thomas. Author of The Disney Villain. Given that it was printed by Hyperion Books which is owned by Disney, I’m not expecting it to be very terribly critically written.
  • Born September 5, 1942 — Nancy A Walker. Author of Feminist Alternatives: Irony and Fantasy in the Contemporary Novel by Women.
  • Born September 5 — Frank Cioffi, 67. Author of Formula Fiction? An Anatomy of American Science Fiction, 1930-1940.
  • Born September 5 — Carolyne Larrington, 59. Author of The Land of the Green Man: A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles and Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THE CONSPIRACY. It’s happening in the Denver Airport.

(9) FREEDOM OF CHOICE. Adri Joy is worried about spoilers for the first book in this review of book two in Tim Pratt’s series – if you’re not worried, read the review! At Nerds of a Feather — “Microreview [Book]: The Dreaming Stars by Tim Pratt”.

There’s probably enough background in The Dreaming Stars to make it accessible to anyone who hasn’t already read the first book. We are re-introduced to the Liars and the now-expanded White Raven gang, who have spent the months since the end of The Wrong Stars getting progressively more bored in close confinement with each other. The book fills us in very effectively on the rest of the backstory too – the now not-so-mysterious (but still quite mysterious) Axiom, the fate of Meditreme Station, the relationships among the main characters and their respective histories with sociopathy-inducing brain spiders, and the other events that have led to our multi-temporal heroes hanging out on their cool but limited zero-g asteroid base.

(10) SERIES LAUNCHER. And Adri Joy has high praise for the new Robert Jackson Bennett book: “Microreview [Book]: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

Rarely does a book instil such a sense of excitement in me as the first ten percent of Foundryside, the first in a new trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett. The book wastes no time throwing us right into the action with Sancia, a mysterious thief in the middle of a job that appears to be going terribly wrong. Sure enough, within pages, Sancia has accidentally burned down the docks of Tevanne and has most of the city’s authorities out looking for her. More importantly, however, she has discovered that the mysterious object she has been asked to locate is a magical key that can open any lock, and which she is able to have direct conversations with thanks to her own mysterious and unique abilities. By the time Sancia and her buddy Clef (who is a boy key, a fact which is actually questioned and has an in-universe justification beyond “of course this inanimate object is of the default gender!”) are making their way through magical doors that <SPEAK IN OSTENTATIOUS CAPITALS ABOUT THEIR LIFE MISSIONS>, I was absolutely hooked, and while Foundryside certainly gets darker from this point, I never lost sight of that initial hit of wonder from the world Bennett has developed….

(11) THOSE WERE THE DAYS. John Scalzi’s twenty-year blogging anniversary marathon continues with “1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Five: Social Media”.

Was it fun in 1998? I think it was, but in regard to blogs in particular, it was more that it was exciting. There was a sense of being on a frontier of sorts — a place not yet colonized and so a place of invention, or reinvention, if you wanted that instead. We were doing things that were never done before! (In fact they had been done before, many times, in many other media, but they were never done on the Web, in html, so.) There was status conferred just for being out there in the wild, with your online journal the only signpost around for figurative miles. The blogosphere was still (barely) small enough in 1998 that you could read everyone and keep up with their doings. The full blossoming and influence of the blogosphere was still most of a decade away at least, but it seemed like something could happen there.

(12) CONGRATULATIONS, THAT’S HORRIBLE. Alex Doyle’s “Groan Up Comedy” details his efforts to win the “Punday” competition at Callahan’s Place during Worldcon 76.

…What they tell me is that the rules for this sort of thing vary, but in this case, a topic will be given and the participants have 30 seconds to start delivery of the pun. If somebody already used that pun, reusing it disqualifies you. Everybody will line up and the mic gets passed down the line. If you’re at the start of the line the field is wide open, but you’ve got to think fast. If you’re at the end, you’ve got time to work your material, but somebody ahead might snipe it out from under you. As topics change, the mic starts at the other end of the line and the last participant becomes the first so the abuse averages out. Pro tip: sit in the middle.

As a bonus, should any pun be awful enough, the author will get awarded a Spider Robinson trading card by a judge dressed as the character Callahan. A number of these will get handed out, and for suitably terrible puns, but honestly I was too preoccupied to remember all but one of them. Later, I would recall that it was:

Contestant: “Hey Callahan – get me a beer and a hot dog!”
Callahan: “Why?”
Contestant: “It’s the 200th anniversary of Frank-n-stein.”

(13) CAPTAIN MARVEL. Entertainment Weekly brings a first look of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel (“Brie Larson takes flight as Captain Marvel on this week’s EW cover”).

There’s a bright new star in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Captain Marvel leads the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, with an exclusive first look at Brie Larson’s Air-Force-pilot-turned-intergalactic-hero.
Film fans know Carol Danvers only as the mysterious person paged by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the last scene of Avengers: Infinity War, and she’ll appear in the still-untitled Avengers 4, presumably to help beat up on Thanos. But before that, she’s got her own story to tell — and EW has all the exclusive intel on her upcoming solo film.
When Captain Marvel hits theaters March 8, 2019, it’ll be the 21st entry in the MCU — and the first to star a solo female superhero. In the past decade, the MCU has assembled a diverse lineup of female heroes, from witches and warriors to widows and wasps. But never before has a woman headlined her own story — until Captain Marvel, the part-Kree, part-human pilot who made her comics debut back in 1968.

(14) COMICSGATE INFIGHTING. Jon Del Arroz’ website was down for a couple of days. The reason? — “Hit By A Hacker Attack”. [Internet Archive link.]

What happened was, someone hacked into my hosting account. They purposefully took down the website and tried to lock me out. I had to go through a number of hoops yesterday to restore the account, and I believe we are safe again with precautions I’ve now put into place, but it’s very disconcerting, especially given the timing of the attack.

If you look at last week, I wrote a blog calling out a certain “game designer” and on the other front, the comic book movement I’ve been integral in getting going both took more heat than ever before — with a bunch of randos coming out and blasting me and others personally– and blew up internally with an outrage mob which isn’t healthy at all.

I don’t know who the culprit is, but it’s likely from one of those groups, and I know the attack means I’m very well over the target, and what I’m doing here is VERY effective.

(15) AND IF YOU CUT ME. “The tree that bleeds… metal?”. The colored sap is eye-catching. Absorbing some metal may protect against insects.

Heavy metals like nickel and zinc are usually the last thing that plants want to grow next to in high concentrations.

But a specialised group, known as hyperaccumulators, have evolved to take up the normally toxic metals into their stems, leaves and even seeds.

Researchers have been studying Pycnandra acuminata in particular – a tree that grows on the island of New Caledonia in the south Pacific.

(16) ALL ASHORE THAT’S GOING ASHORE: “Monster iceberg’s pivot and turn” — it’s finally starting to head out to sea.

The monster Antarctic iceberg A-68 looks finally to be on the move.

For 13 months after breaking away from the White Continent’s long peninsula, the trillion-tonne block did little more than shuffle back and forth on the spot.

But now its southern end has swung round almost 90 degrees, indicating the berg has been caught in ocean currents.

The approaching southern summer should only assist its anticipated slow drift northwards, experts say.

(17) THE ANSWER MY FRIEND. BBC reports “Urban wind turbine wins UK James Dyson award”. It can capture wind from any direction — which is where wind usually comes from around buildings….

The O-Wind Turbine aims to capture inner-city wind and turn it into electricity in cities struggling to produce enough renewable energy for increasing populations.

The portable, low-cost device can be attached to the sides of buildings.

The two inventors said they hoped the energy produced could be plugged into the home or the electricity grid.

(18) IT’S ALL IN THE WRIST. JJ is giving odds: “10 to 1 says that there’s already cat martial arts fanfic.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/18 And Then There Were 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!

(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.

(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test”Publishers Weekly has the story.

After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.

In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”

…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.

We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.

Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.

 

(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.

They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.

Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in HawkingThe Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into DarknessDoctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
  • Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.

…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….

(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog“[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.  

I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise.  I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed.  That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.

Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible?  Or do I have things backwards?  Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.

All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  See for yourself…

“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.

(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is  1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:

Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.

Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.

Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.

The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.

Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.

(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.

The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.

(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.

Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.

To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.

Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.

(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.

(14) TITANS. Official trailer —

TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.

 

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