Pixel Scroll 5/9/19 Get Your Clicks On Scroll 6-6-6!

(1) DEALING WITH DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS. Chuck Wendig, who doesn’t want people using social media to shove their negative reviews of his work in his face – point taken – goes on to make an unconvincing distinction between customer complaints about his fiction and everything else: “Hi, Definitely Don’t Tag Authors In Your Negative Reviews Of Their Books”.

…You might note also that negative reviews are one of the ways we communicate with creators of products and arbiters of service in order to improve the quality of that product or that service — which is true! If someone at American Airlines shits in my bag, I’m gonna say something on Twitter, and I’m going to say it to American Airlines. If the dishwasher I bought was full of ants, you bet I’m going to tag GE in that biz when I go to Twitter. But books are not dishwashers or airlines. You can’t improve what happened. It’s out there. The book exists. You can’t fix it now. And art isn’t a busted on-switch, or a broken door, or a poopy carryon bag, or an ant-filled dishwasher….

(2) THE PERIPHERALS WHISPERER. Ursula Vernon has many talents – this is another one.

(3) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Simon Strantzas and Kai Ashante Wilson on Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas is the author of five collections of short fiction, including Nothing is Everything (Undertow Publications, 2018), and is editor of the award-winning Aickman’s Heirs and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3. His fiction has appeared in numerous annual best-of anthologies, in venues such as Nightmare, Postscripts, and Cemetery Dance, and has been nominated for both the British Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife in Toronto, Canada.

Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson won the Crawford award for best first novel of 2016, and his works have been shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. Most of his stories are available on Tor.com. His novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey may be ordered from local bookstores or online. Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.

(4) FAT ISSUES IN ENDGAME? Adam-Troy Castro rejects complaints about Thor’s character in Avengers: Endgame. Beware Spoilers.

I am a fat guy. I will likely always be a fat guy.

Fat Thor is not fat-shaming.

Fat Thor is character humor: the man has given up. Tony Stark went in one direction, the Odinson went in another. He’s a binge-drinking, binge-eating, emotionally fragile shell of himself, and while some of the other characters make unkind (and, dammit, funny) remarks, it is his diminishment and not his enlargement that is the source of the humor.

Sure, bloody explain it to me now.

I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Fvck you, I’m a fat guy. I do know, I do understand. I have been mocked for my weight, sometimes viciously. I know it all.

(I haven’t personally encountered these complaints, I can only assume there must be some, else why Castro’s post.)

(5) JUNE SWOON. It’s 1964. the prozine pendulum is swinging, and apparently it’s getting away from Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus: “[May 8, 1964] Rough Patch (June 1964 Galaxy)”.

I think I’ve got a bad case of sibling rivalry.  When Victoria Silverwolf came onto the Journey, she took on the task of reviewing Fantastic, a magazine that was just pulling itself out of the doldrums.  My bailiwick consisted of Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, IF, and Galaxy, which constituted The Best that SF had to offer.

Ah for those halcyon days.  Now Fantastic is showcasing fabulous Leiber, Moorcock, and Le Guin.  Moreover, Vic has added the superlative Worlds of Tomorrow to her beat.  What have I got?  Analog is drab and dry, Avram Davidson has careened F&SF to the ground, IF is inconsistent, and Galaxy…ah, my poor, once beloved Galaxy

(6) TERRAIN TERROR. Laird Barron now writes crime novels set in Alaska.  But he used to be a horror writer, and “In Noir, Geography Is a Character” on CrimeReads, Barron has anecdotes about Michael Shea and the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose.

…A decade ago, bound for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, I stared out the window of a light commercial plane swooping in low over the Central Valley. Low enough I made out details of oak trees covering big hills and the rusty check patterns of the yards of individual homes. Country roads radiated like nerves from a plexus. Cars crawled along those snaking roads through golden dust. The rumpled land subtly descended toward the haze of the Pacific. I realized this was where Michael Shea got his flavor. This “obvious” revelation slapped me in the face.

Michael left us too soon five years later in 2014. His memory looms large in the weird fiction and horror fields as the man who wrote the landmark collection Polyphemus. A deep vein of mystery and noir travels through his work, grounding the fantastical tropes. I’d read him since my latter teens, absorbing the unique cadence of his prose without giving conscious thought to how echoes of the natural world inflected his grimiest urban settings, how the superstructures and sprawl of his version of LA and San Francisco were influenced by the ancient earth they occupy….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

This was a big date in sff history.

May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered.

May 9, 1986 Short Circuit debuted in theatres.

May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element arrived in movie houses.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn was the pen name of Philip Klass. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Ottman Neville. His most famous work, the novella Bettyann, is considered a classic of science fiction by no less than Barry Malzberg. He wrote four novels according to ISFDB over a rather short period of a decade and a number of short story stories over a longer period. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 68. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. 
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 40. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my faves including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) INTERZONE BEGINS. SFFDirect downloads the history of a famed sf magazine from one of the founders: “Early years of Interzone, told by Co-Ed Simon Ounsley”.

In 1981, Eastercon was held in Leeds. Four attendees were David Pringle, Simon Ounsley, Alan Dorey (then chairman of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA)) and Graham James. David Pringle was a co-chairman of the convention and Simon Ounsley was assisting with the finances. The convention made a profit of £1,300, which Simon states was completely unintentional and purely down to cautious budgeting. At Graham James’ suggestion, the committee agreed to use the money to launch an SF magazine. Simon recalls how controversial this decision was at the time, but in any event, the four men teamed up to start a magazine.

At the same time, four friends in London were also trying to get an SF magazine off the ground. They were Malcolm Edwards, who worked for SF publisher Gollancz, and SF critics John Clute, Colin Greenland, and Roz Kaveney. They had asked the BSFA if they would publish the magazine and it had declined. However, Alan made David aware of the London proposal and the two groups got together.

As Simon says, this was an ideal match because the Leeds contingent had the money and the London team had the connections. The name of the magazine was suggested by David. It was an imaginary city in the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch

(11) THE HOST WITH THE MOST. Stephen Colbert helped fans get a head start watching the new biopic: “Stephen Colbert Hosts First ‘Tolkien’ Screening With Cast and Director” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Moviegoers across the country were able to see Tolkien ahead of its release this Friday, along with a Q&A moderated by Lord of the Rings super-fan Stephen Colbert, even if they weren’t at the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey on Tuesday for the first-ever screening of the movie.

The panel, featuring the Fox Searchlight film’s stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins with director Dome Karukoski, was simulcast to select theaters following special screenings. In Montclair, Karukoski revealed what goes into a film like Tolkien, which chronicles the formative years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life as he forms friendships, goes to war and falls in love….

To close out the Q&A, Colbert praised Karukoski’s efforts and Tolkien itself. “Thank you for the film you created. It reminds me of the power of story, and how it can give us hope,” the late-night host said before citing one of Tolkien’s quotes from The Return of the King: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Continued Colbert, “I cried many times watching this film, and I want to thank you for those tears of pain and of those tears of joy and thank you for what you have given me of his [Tolkien’s] life and for your beautiful performances.”

(12) CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE. “Australia’s A$50 note misspells responsibility” – time to get the appertainment flowing Down Under.

Australia’s latest A$50 note comes with a big blunder hidden in the small print – a somewhat embarrassing typo.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) spelled “responsibility” as “responsibilty” on millions of the new yellow notes.

The RBA confirmed the typo on Thursday and said the error would be fixed in future print runs.

But for now, around 46 million of the new notes are in use across the country.

The bills were released late last year and feature Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.

What looks like a lawn in the background of Ms Cowan’s portrait is in fact rows of text – a quotation from her first speech to parliament.

(13) HEAVY METAL. Alas behind a paywall at Nature: “Collapsars  forming black holes as a major source of galaxy’s heavy elements” [PDF file]. Here scientists report simulations that show that collapsar accretion disks (in black hole formation) yield sufficient heavy elements to explain observed abundances in the Universe.

Although these supernovae are rarer than neutronstar mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence. We calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process heavy element content of the Universe.

(14) HE CALLED FOR HIS BOWL. BBC calls “Southend burial site ‘UK’s answer to Tutankhamun'”.

A royal burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed as the UK’s answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003.

Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their “best guess” is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.

It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial.

Now, after 15 years of expert analysis some of the artefacts are returning to Southend on permanent display for the first time.

When a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) excavated the site, they said they were “astounded” to find the burial chamber intact.

(15) STAR BLECCH. Matt Keeley encounters one of the earliest Star Trek parodies while revisiting a Sixties issue of MAD: “Not Just a Classic Issue, MAD #115 (December 1967) Predicted the Future”.

…Mort Drucker’s art is exquisite as always, and DeBartolo’s writing is top notch, loaded with puns and hilarious jokes. (Spook: “That’s what your MIND says! What does your HEART say?” Kook: “Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat — just like everybody else’s!”) But one of the most interesting things about this parody is the way the story wraps up — the solution is for the Boobyprize to reverse orbit and go back in time. You might recognize this plot device from the first Superman movie. Somehow DeBartolo ripped it off, despite “Star Blecch” coming out 11 years before the film.

(16) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MARVEL. Nerds of a Feather panelists Adri Joy, Mike N., Phoebe Wagner, and Vance K assemble for a “Review Roundtable: Avengers: Endgame”.

Today I’ve gathered Brian, Mike, Phoebe and Vance to chat about our Endgame reactions: what made us punch the air in glee and what had us sliding down in our seats in frustration. Needless to say, all the spoilers are ahead and you really shouldn’t be here unless you’ve had a chance to see the movie first.

Adri: So, Endgame! That was fun. Even more fun than I expected after, you know, all the dead people and the feelings about them.

Brian: First impressions are that I thought this was a great conclusion to all of the movies that came before it. The MCU could stop here (it won’t, but it could) and I would be completely satisfied.

Vance: The woman seated next to me — and I’ve never experienced this in a movie theater — started taking deep, centering breaths the moment the lights went down. And I love her for it. Infinity War was a gauntlet for fans, yet she was there opening day for whatever came next, no matter how gutting. Turned out the movie was a lot of fanservice, so she made it through. As did I!

(17) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. (If you see that sign, it won’t lead you to a fabulous new alien, I guarantee!) The LA Times tries to find out — “After hyping a $1-billion Star Wars land, how does Disney get visitors to leave?”

…Once a time window expires, park employees dressed as “Star Wars” characters will politely tell parkgoers that they need to leave the land to make way for new visitors.

Disneyland representatives say they expect that most guests will abide by the courteous directions to move on. But they remain mum about what will happen if guests ignore the requests.

“Four hours is a long time in the land,” said Kris Theiler, vice president of the Disneyland Park. “Most guests are going to find that they’re ready to roll after four hours.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 5/5/19 Endgamesters Of TriPixelion

(1) CALL FOR CLEANUP ON CHANNEL 3. TechCrunch has an eye-opening story — “Walmart’s Vudu shows off original content and shoppable ads, hints at interactive shows”.

…[Vudu Senior Director Julian] Franco had more details to share when it came to Vudu’s plans for non-interactive, original content. He announced that the service is producing (in partnership with eOne and Bell Canada) “Albedo,” a science fiction detective series from “Rampage” director Brad Peyton that will premiere next year, and will mark “Lost” star Evangeline Lilly’s return to TV. In addition, the first three episodes of Nickelodeon’s remake “Blues Clues & You” will premiere on Vudu before they air on linear TV.

Also in the works are unscripted shows like “Turning Point with Randy Jackson” and “Friends in Strange Places,” a travel show with Queen Latifah.

In total, the service will be premiering around a dozen original movies and TV shows later this year, Franco said.

As for those shoppable ads, Vudu Chief Operating Officer and Head of Product Scott Blanksteen said the service is already testing them. These are ads that allow you to purchase the featured products through a pop-up window. He added that these ads are dynamic, changing based on viewer preferences.

(2) WESTEROS SPINOFFS. Although Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman told The Hollywood Reporter in April that his time with the franchise is over for now—because the spinoff series he was attached to is officially scrubbed, George R.R.Martin had this to say on his blog

Oh, and speaking of television, don’t believe everything you read.   Internet reports are notoriously unreliable.  We have had five different GAME OF THRONES successor shows in development (I mislike the term “spinoffs”) at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely.   The one I am not supposed to call THE LONG NIGHT will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer.   What are they about?  I cannot say.   But maybe some of you should pick up a copy of FIRE & BLOOD and come up with your own theories.

(3) WILDE MOVES INTO ACADEME. Western Colorado University’s “Graduate Program in Creative Writing” has appointed writer Fran Wilde as Director of their Genre Fiction MA / MFA Program.

View this post on Instagram

We have one more piece of exciting news to share this week. We're thrilled to announce the appointment of acclaimed writer Fran Wilde as Director of our Genre Fiction MA / MFA Program! Fran is an award-winning author of books for adults and children – including Riverland (Abrams, 2019), The Bone Universe series (Tor 2015-2017), The Gemworld series (Tor.com 2016-2019) – and numerous short stories and poems that have appeared in publications including Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, Fireside, multiple anthologies and The Best Dark Fantasy of 2017. Her work has won the Nebula Award, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award, and the Compton-Crook Award, and has been a finalist for three additional Nebulas, two Hugo Awards, two Locus Awards, a Rhysling Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Her non-fiction appears in publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, iO9.com, and Clarkesworld. Fran succeeds outgoing Genre Fiction Concentration Director Russell Davis. Russell guided the Genre Fiction program for 9 years and has decided to step down to pursue other projects. Of Fran, Russell says "As I step away, I'm very excited for the future of the program, knowing that it's in Fran Wilde's more-than-capable hands, and that she'll bring a new energy and excitement to the role." Fran will work with Russell in the coming months and into the first half of the summer residency to ensure a smooth transition. We're excited to welcome Fran to the program and agree with Russell: "She's going to be amazing!" Please join us in welcoming Fran! To learn more about Fran and her groundbreaking work, visit her website: http://www.franwilde.net/. To learn more about our program and to apply, visit our website.

A post shared by Western State CO MFA/MA CW (@western_creative_writing) on

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 5, 1908 Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon. also wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 5, 1926 Richard Cowper, penname of John Middleton Murry Jr. Christopher Priest in his obit says ‘His best SF is found in the novel The Twilight of Briareus and the books in the White Bird of Kinship series, but most of his short stories were also remarkable. His work always stood out in the SF genre: he was anachronistic, but he dazzled with his elegant, precise, bountiful prose.’ (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 5, 1942 Marc Alaimo, 77. Best known for his role as recurring villain Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine. He was also a security officer in Total Recall named Captain Everett, and the human form of an alien in The Last Starfighter
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 77. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? 
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 76. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. Though decidedly not genre, I going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 75. Known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, Macbeth in Gargoyles, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. 
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente, 40. The list thing I read by her was The Refrigerator Monologues which is a lot of fun. Space Opera is in by TBR pile and I’d like to know what y’all thought of it. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man
  • Born May 5, 1983 Henry Cavill, 46. Best known portraying Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  and Justice League. He appears next in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He did early in his career as Mike in Hellraiser: Hellworld and was The Hunter In Red Riding Hood, an interesting musical. 

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range tells a story about Noah that was left out of Genesis.
  • Frank and Ernest have questionable advice for scientists searching for extraterrestrial life.

(6) STARFLEET CREDENTIALS. SYFY Wire introduces the new recruits: “Felines join Starfleet in Chronicle Collectibles’ cool new line of Star Trek Cats”.

“To Boldly Go Where No Cat Has Gone Before” is a motto that Texas-based Chronicle Collectibles has taken to heart with its wonderfully whiskered new line, the Star Trek Cats Collection, which is based on the whimsical feline artwork of Jenny Parks.

(7) YODA, HOW YOU’VE GROWN! Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia dressed up as Yoda on Star Wars Day and helped give out bobbleheads at the park before the game.

(8) FAN MAIL FROM A FLOUNDER? Galactic Journey has reached the publication date of a fan letter by one of its contributors — [May 2, 1964] The Big Time (May 1964 Analog).

Many people harbor a desire for fame — their face on the screen, their star on a boulevard, their name in print.  That’s why it’s been so gratifying to have been given plaudits by no less a personage than Rod Serling, as well as the folks who vote for the Hugos. 

But it wasn’t until this month that one of us finally made the big time.  Check out this month’s issue of Analog, for in the very back is a letter whose sardonic commentary makes the author evident even before one gets to the byline.  Yes, it’s our very own John Boston, Traveler extraordinaire.

Bravo, Mr. Boston.  You’ve got a bright future.

As for Analog… there the outlook isn’t so clear….

(9) WHEN THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME. John Scalzi weighs in with his (spoiler free) “Review: Avengers: Endgame”.

With that said, “watchable” and “entertaining in the moment” are not precisely the same thing to me as “fun” and “enjoyable.” Watching Endgame to me felt like being on a forced march through a checklist of plot points and character moments, and after a (very short) time I began to be rather conscious of all the scenes that existed not to be an organic moment of story but to be fanservice for a particular character (or set of characters), or to make sure some barely-remembered loose end was tucked in. By the third act and its climactic and overstuffed battle scene, it stopped being clever and started being exhausting. I felt like a kid on vacation being dragged to all the sights on a tour, with no time to really enjoy any of them because look, we’re on a schedule here.

(10) HEAVY METAL. Camestros Felapton returns from his mountaintop experience with a series of Hugo nominee reviews, such as — “Hugo 2019 Novels: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”.

Spinning Silver is not “Uprooted 2” but it shares common features: based on folk tale tropes and using a (sort of) Eastern European setting to tell an original story with familiar aspects. Instead, we get a story of multiple characters navigating a world of promises, oaths and bargains and the consequences of ambiguous terms.

(11) GETTING READY TO LAUNCH. Astronaut Scott Kelly advised a New York Times reporter about “How to Prepare Yourself for Space”.

“You’ve been trying not to pee in your pants your whole life,” says the retired astronaut Scott Kelly, who wore a diaper for liftoff and landing on all four of his space missions. Going into orbit will require you to confront your body in ways you don’t have to on Earth. Get over decades of conditioning by rehearsing basic bodily functions on land: Put on a diaper, lie on the floor with your legs up on the couch, and practice urinating without shame or gravity’s assistance. (Don’t, and you’ll risk damaging your bladder when your body won’t relieve itself in space.)

Leaving Earth is dangerous; you might die, and you should acknowledge and grapple with that before you go. Kelly has spent a total of 520 days in space. Before departing, he always wrote letters to his loved ones to be opened only in the case of his death. Seek help beforehand. Don’t step foot in a spacecraft without some counseling….

(12) AN APPEAL FOR MORE MASSIVE MEDIA. The opening of BBC’s article “Why David Cameron set Tina Fey a secret mission to change British TV” is followed by interesting nitty-gritty discussion of differences in approach and economics.

It’s not unusual for TV fans to wish that their favourite shows would carry on (Fleabag anyone?). But it seems viewers who long for more have an unlikely ally – former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Speaking on David Tennant’s podcast, US writer and actress Tina Fey revealed that, while leader, Mr Cameron implored her to lobby the British TV industry to churn out as many episodes as US shows do.

“Come and convince our showrunners that they can’t just make six episodes of things. Like you guys, they should make 200 episodes,” she recalled him saying.

Fey rejected the request, however, explaining that US writers were, in fact, jealous of the less-is-more British approach.

(13) FUSSIN’ & FEUDIN’. The cold opening of last night’s Saturday Night Live is a Family Feud episode pitting the Game of Thrones against the Avengers.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/19 Pixellation Of The Scroll Nation

(1) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. John Stratman posted a 16-bit “Super Nintendo inspired version of the trailer for Star Wars Episode 9.” SYFY Wire explains

His awesome contribution to May The 4th is a sly homage to old-school 16-bit video games of yore applied to the official trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.  Stratman is notorious for his slick remastered trailers in 8-bit and 16-bit style,

(2) HE DIDN’T MEAN IT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast hastens to reassure us that “Ian McEwan Doesn’t Hate Science Fiction”. In case you care.

In a recent interview British novelist Ian McEwan seemed to suggest that science fiction is only about “traveling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots,” in contrast to his own novel Machines Like Me, which he says explores the “human dilemmas” involved with artificial intelligence. Science fiction fans bristled, questioning whether McEwan had ever actually read any science fiction, but McEwan now insists that he’s been misunderstood.

“I was a little taken aback at how some rather offhand remarks of mine should cause such a storm,” McEwan says in Episode 359 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And actually I’ve read a fair amount of science fiction over a lifetime.” …

“I actually put a nod towards Blade Runner in Adam’s final speeches, after he’s been attacked by Charlie,” McEwan says. “There’s a very self-conscious nod to that famous farewell in the rain.”

And while science fiction works like Blade Runner are a definite influence on Machines Like Me, McEwan notes that there are many other influences as well. “I’d be very happy for my novel to be called science fiction, but it’s also a counterfactual novel, it’s also a historical novel, it’s also a moral dilemma novel, in a well-established traditional form within the literary novel,” he says. “I’m very happy if they want to call my novel science fiction, even honored. But it’s much else, that’s all I’m trying to say.”

(3) MARVEL CONTENT FOR LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS. Rakuten OverDrive now offers Marvel Digital Graphic Novels to public libraries and schools.

Marvel Entertainment has teamed up with Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, to offer 600 graphic novel and comic collection titles to public libraries and schools worldwide. Library patrons and students of participating public libraries and schools can borrow digital versions of renowned titles including Avengers, Black Panther, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men and more. Visit overdrive.com to find a library or school near you.

Marvel Entertainment joins OverDrive’s catalog of millions of ebooks and audiobooks including over 31,000 graphic novels and comics from prominent publishers such as DC Comics, Image Comics, IDW, Valiant, Izneo and Titan Comics. Libraries and schools can select from this catalog to build their individual digital collections.

…Readers can embark on the Marvel adventure in a variety of ways. Public library patrons may download Libby or choose to read on a computer browser. Libby provides an easy, user-friendly experience and is compatible with all major devices, including iPhone®, iPad®, Android™, Windows® and “send to Kindle®” [US only]. Students of participating schools can use Sora, the student reading app, or enjoy via computer browser. Through the Sora app, students have easy access to both the school’s and local public library’s digital collections anytime, anywhere. In both cases, the title will automatically expire at the end of the lending period and there are no late fees.

Daniel Dern notes/adds:

1, Good news, free!

2, Takes a little patience. It looks like each library has a finite # of concurrent per-item licenses, so you may have to search other library systems, and hope that your credentials will let you borrow from it.

3, The price is right.

4, Like all digital comic reading, works best on a big-enough display, either your desktop, or an iPad Pro 12.9. Probably good ’nuff on slightly smaller tablets, but (I suspect) often frustrating in terms of any tiny print, etc.

(4) CINEMATOGRAPHY AS GENRE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reviews “‘Shadow’: An Epic Tale Of Feudal China That Gradually Shades Into Fantasy”.

…While Shadow is loosely based on historical events, the story’s mythic nature is announced not by the movie’s story but by its look. The ravishing costumes and sets are all in black, white, and watery shades of gray, as if they’d been conjured from Chinese calligraphy and ink paintings.

One of Zhang’s visual signatures is a billowing sheet of brightly colored cloth, a device that dates to 1990’s Ju Dou, set in a fabric dying plant. The closest equivalents in Shadow are seen in the king’s receiving chamber, outfitted with more than a dozen large banners. They’re emblazoned with black-on-white script, its loose penmanship as traditional as Lao Zai’s spare score, composed for venerable Chinese instruments.

In the film’s first half, the only bits of color are the characters’ pinkish skin and an occasional sprig of gray-green vegetation. Later, of course, there will be blood.

Shadow doesn’t rush to battle, unlike such earlier Zhang martial-arts spectaculars as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The movie spends about an hour sketching the backstory and observing the machinations that will lead to war….

(5) CUMBERBATCH LENDS VOICE TO TOLKIEN PROJECT. The Express reports: “Benedict Cumberbatch waives £7m fee for charity film”.

The star stepped in at no cost – and at short notice – to narrate the film about the death of the great-grandson of Hobbit creator JRR Tolkien from the devastating disease. Cumberbatch, who starred in the film version of the classic fantasy novel, commands up to £7.5million a film. But after hearing from Royd Tolkien, whose brother Mike died aged 39, he waived his fee in a secret deal.

The film portrays Mike’s battle with the neurodegenerative disease and the bucket list he left for actor and film maker Royd, 49, which included a canyon swing tied to a chair.

“Benedict made the most noble, private and breathtaking tribute to my brother,” Royd said. “On his deathbed [Mike] told me he’d left a secret list with 50 challenges I had to complete around the world.

“We made a film of my journey and the detailed narration is a key part.

“The budget was finished and I was devastated. It needed a big name, but I felt Mike’s spirit and just rolled the dice.

“Benedict is my favourite actor so I simply emailed to ask a colossal and free favour.

“I was on urgent deadline and realistically expected nothing in return.”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books, forty of which were children’s literature, at least some of which are fantasy or supernatural horror. I strongly recommend The Complete Book Of Dragons, the 1975 edition which collection previously unpublished material, and Man and Maid which collects most of her short story horror. (Died 1924.)
  • Born May 4, 1940 Robin Cook, 79. Well he is genre, isn’t he? Or at least genre adjacent? I’ve never actually read any of his best selling books so one of y’all that has will need tell to me how truly genre friendly he is. 
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 70. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 45. Editor along with more folk than I can possibly mention here of the Hugo-winning Journey Planet magazine from 2009 to the present. Also editor of Exhibition Hall, a Steampunk Zine he edited with Christopher J. Garcia and Ariane Wolfe for some years. 
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh, lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks by the way. I also the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 24. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here.  It’s by far the best film I’ve seen this year and I urge you to go see it now. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark remembers that Star Wars speed record a little differently.

(8) ISS BECOMES A GAS STATION. “Nasa instrument heads to space station to map CO2” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has sent up an instrument to the International Space Station (ISS) to help track carbon dioxide on Earth.

OCO-3, as the observer is called, was launched on a Falcon rocket from Florida in the early hours of Saturday.

The instrument is made from the spare components left over after the assembly of a satellite, OCO-2, which was put in orbit to do the same job in 2014.

(9) LIGO. Apparently there’s an app for that — “Gravitational waves hunt now in overdrive”.

…The alert on Mansi Kasliwal’s phone went off at two in the morning. Shrugging off the sleep, she squinted at the message. It was from LIGO, the Nobel Prize-winning scientific collaboration that operates gravitational wave detectors.

A far-off violent event had sent ripples in space-time through the Universe, to be picked up by LIGO’s sensor in Louisiana, and it looked from the data like there should be visible “fireworks”, too.

Thanks to the smartphone revolution, she could react without leaving her bed. A few taps on the screen, and the Zwicky Transient Facility, a robotic telescope on Mount Palomar, was reprogrammed to start the hunt.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and its European counterpart, VIRGO, have just completed upgrades that mean they should be spotting space-distorting events several times each week – collisions of black holes, of neutron stars, and even more exotic phenomena.

And since they started running again at the start of April, expectations are holding up: two in the second week; three last week.

(10) MONOLITH. “How Avengers put Disney at the top of the charts” – and Chip Hitchcock wants to know, “Will Endgame take the title for all-time inflation-adjusted gross from Gone With the Wind?”

Avengers: Endgame broke all box office records last weekend and has confirmed Disney’s dominance in global cinema.

More than 90% of the value of all tickets sold in UK cinemas last weekend was for Avengers: Endgame.

Within five days it had become the fastest film to break the $1bn sales barrier worldwide.

(11) EVERMORE. It may not be quite as hot a ticket as Avengers:Endgame, but the Utah theme park is making sales says David Doering: “While some suggested the park opening would be delayed, they are now selling tix for opening day on Saturday, May 25th. The show, called World of Mythos, sells regularly for $29/adult, $16/child )<14).on Saturdays,  $19 and $9 on Thursdays and Fridays. Mondays are discount day with $14/adults, $9 for kids.”

(12) SLOW HAND. Did he hurt the hand he painted with? Just which hand was that anyway? Analysts speculate that “Leonardo’s ‘claw hand’ stopped him painting”.

Leonardo da Vinci could have experienced nerve damage in a fall, impeding his ability to paint in later life, Italian doctors suggest.

They diagnosed ulnar palsy, or “claw hand”, by analysing the depiction of his right hand in two artworks.

It had been suggested that Leonardo’s hand impairment was caused by a stroke.

But in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the doctors suggest it was nerve damage that meant he could no longer hold a palette and brush.

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452-1519, was an artist and inventor whose talents included architecture, anatomy, engineering and sculpture, as well as painting.

But art historians have debated which hand he used to draw and paint with.

Analysis of his drawing shows shading sloping from the upper left to lower right, suggesting left-handedness. But all historical biographical documents suggest Leonardo used his right hand when he was creating other kinds of works.

(13) SHOUT OUT/BLOT OUT. Vanity Fair: “Mike Pence Got an Insane Game of Thrones Shout-Out During the Battle of Winterfell”.

[…] co-creator/showrunner D.B. Weiss […] shared with Jimmy Kimmel some of the challenges of their extensive production [of “The Long Night” episode]. In particular, Weiss revealed the long hours and night-shoots took a toll on series star Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), whose usual fluency with the “High Valyrian” language was reduced to improvising gibberish among his fellow Unsullied.

“At one point, Miguel [Sapochnik], the director, starts yelling at Jacob to improvise something in Valyrian … yell to your troops in Valyrian,” Weiss explained. “And Jacob was so tired and so delirious and so out of it that all he could think to yell was, ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’ So in one of those scenes when Jacob is yelling and pointing—whatever he was saying was dubbed over—but what he was actually saying was ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’”

Not only were Anderson’s lines understandably dubbed in post, but Weiss noted the mask over Anderson’s mouth prevents any recognition of the “Mike Pence!” chant regardless. Probably for the best—Game of Thrones has a history of riling up Washington. […]

(14) COP ON A STICK. A new invention, still in development, promises to make the interaction between police and motorists they pull over safer for both sides. Gizmodo: “Imagine Getting Pulled Over By This Tablet on a Stick”.

Every year, millions of drivers are pulled over and during those stops thousands of assaults and physical altercations happen, resulting in injuries and even deaths to both police officers and suspects. On top of that, there’s also the risk from other vehicles when a stop is made on the side of a busy road. Reuben Brewer […] cobbled together [the first versions] in his garage, [but] he’s now developing his police robot for SRI International in the company’s Applied Technologies and Science Department.

[…] When officers pull over a vehicle,] the robot will help create a safe distance between suspects and the police while they both remain in their vehicles during testing. It’s a telepresence robot that extends on a long arm from a police cruiser to the suspect’s vehicle, facilitating two-way video and audio communications.

[… T]he robot is […] equipped with a barcode reader allowing a driver’s license to be quickly scanned, while a thermal printer can churn out tickets and citations that drivers can tear off like a receipt. As the robot moves alongside a vehicle it also subtly deploys a spike strip under the car, so should a suspect decide to flee, they’ll shred at least one tire in the process. […]

(15) KAMERON HURLEY. Paul Weimer considers the “genre conversation” that leads to Hurley’s new novel in “Microreview [book]: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley” at Nerds of a Feather.

A future world where Corporations dominate the globe, have in effect become the superpowers that rule a rather tired Earth. For the lower classes, those who are not citizens, it’s a rather rough and precarious life. Dietz (who never gets a first name, and in a bit of ledgerdemain their gender is kept relatively unstated and understated) goes from a future and poor Sao Paulo, to fighting Martians on Mars, in what was once Canada, and far beyond. There’s just one problem: The lightspeed technology to move soldiers around has a strange effect on Dietz, and in short order starts to learn they are experiencing her future all out of order. Worse, thar futuie is a dark one in which the war they signed up for is far more terrible than they can imagine.

(16) GENRE IN NIGERIA. Charles Payseur visits a new frontier of sff in “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/29/2019”.

It’s a special release from Strange Horizons to close out April, featuring two short stories and three poems celebrating Nigerian SFF. The works bring a fresh feel to fantasy that weaves magic and creation, persecution and resistance. It finds characters who just want to be free to live their lives being pulled into plots and intrigues that they want no part of but that threaten them all the same. And only through connecting to their power, their families, and the people they have chosen to surround themselves with can they fight back and perhaps fully embrace their potential. It’s a wonderful batch of short SFF, and a treat for readers hungry for more international SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

(17) BEWARE SPOILERS. ScreenRant invites you to step inside the pitch meeting that led to Avengers: Endgame. (“Oh, it’s like Fanservice: The Movie!”) While amusing the viewers Ryan George pretty much gives everything away so BEWARE SPOILERS!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/19 Good Night, Scroll

(1) FRAZETTA ON THE BLOCK. Bids are being taken for another 13 days on Frank Frazettas’s Egyptian Queen painting (1969). The price is already up to $2.2M, and Heritage Auctions thinks it could ultimately go for $5M.

For a man known for his exquisite paintings, this is quite possibly his single most famous piece… the artist’s “Mona Lisa”… the enigmatic, beloved, and often imitated “Egyptian Queen” herself, a haunting image that legions of admirers have returned to time and time again…

(2) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY IS MAY 4. Free Comic Book Day is just around the corner, and Marvel is ready —

Free Comic Book Day 2019 is the perfect chance to dive deep into the Marvel Universe with new stories and exciting adventures alongside some of Marvel’s most acclaimed creators – and this year, Marvel is bringing you the biggest and boldest stories yet!

In FCBD Avengers #1, industry superstars Jason Aaron and Stefano Caselli spin in all-new tale for Marvel’s main Avengers series, while Savage Avengers, from Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato, creates one of the most dynamic, and deadly versions of the Avengers ever!

In FCBD Spider-Man #1, creators Tom Taylor, Saladin Ahmed, and Cory Smith take the superstar heroes of the Spider-Verse in a shocking new direction, with a story that will build to one of Marvel’s most fantastic and epic tales! Meanwhile, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman remind us that “everyone is a target” by bringing absolute terror to the pages of this year’s FCBD with a prelude to Absolute Carnage – the most fearsome event in the Marvel Universe!

Both FCBD Avengers #1 and FCBD Spider-Man #1 are available in comic stores everywhere on May 4th. In addition to the comic, select retailers will receive FREE Avengers promo buttons highlighting the dynamic and stunning cover art from FCBD Avengers #1 by Ed McGuinness, available while supplies last!

(3) POST-APOCALYPTIC OPS. Lorraine Berry, in “The Power and The Pain of Post-Apocalyptic Detective Fiction” on CrimeReads, looks at novels by Ben H. Winters, Hanna Jameson, and Tom Sweterlisch to see how detectives would function in a post-apocalpyptic world.

…While Winters and Jameson’s characters already know the cause of the apocalypse, such a search combined with a detective story is contained in Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World. His detective is Shannon Moss, an investigator with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) who, in order to solve the 1997 murder of the entire family of a Navy SEAL, travels through time to find an answer. But what Moss and other time travelers discover, however, is that the earth will face complete destruction in several centuries. What becomes gradually worse is that with each trip into the future, the date of earth’s destruction moves closer in time until in 1997, that destruction has become imminent. Moss must solve the murders while also solving the problem of the encroaching apocalypse.

(4) VOCATIONAL TRAINING. BBC offers to teach you “How to make an Avengers film in 11 steps”.

…But Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will continue – with new instalments of Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy already confirmed; and a new configuration of The Avengers almost a certainty.

If you somehow end up in the directors’ chair, how should you prepare? Here are 11 key lessons from the people who made the originals.

This article does not contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, but will discuss plot details from the preceding films.

1) Start out on a TV show

All three directors of The Avengers made their names in TV. Joss Whedon created Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly; while the Russo brothers worked on cult comedies Community and Arrested Development.

Those experiences were invaluable when it came to wrangling a cast of more than 20 characters, “because they are all ensemble shows,” says Joe Russo.

“Those were shows that had to be executed in 21 minutes, they had to be funny, and they had to have a plot. And sometimes, like in an episode of Community, you’d have 30 speaking parts – so that’s an exercise that certainly trained you in trying to contain as many characters as we do in two hours.”

“We’re drawn to multiple points of view and group dynamics, because we grew up in a very large Italian-American family,” adds Anthony, “so we’ve always loved working with ensembles.”

(5) #OWNVOICES. Mary E. Roach relates the background that made it hard to answer an agent’s question, “Are You Gay Like Your Character?”.

…So now we come back to the issue of querying. In the publishing world, we’re eager to read stories with the #OwnVoices label—this means that these stories are written about marginalized people by a person who shares that marginalization. Because of the choices I made, I do specify that one of my characters is queer, but I do not claim that it is an #OwnVoices story.

This week, though, I got an email reply to one of my queries in a day. Here’s what it said:

“Hi,

Are you gay, like your character?”

And then his email signature.

Um.

I had actually never been asked that before, and I didn’t know how to respond. My queer characters are two preteens from the turn of the century in Ireland, so our experiences are definitely not the same. But the timespan from writing the first line of my book I’m querying to now has been a full 15 months, and I am ready to get out of the querying trenches. So instead of ignoring him, or telling him to go fly a kite, like I probably should have, I answered, taking a chance that he’d understand. I told him I was bisexual, and so was someone else in my life whom I really loved, and that seeing more LGBTQ+ characters in media, I believe would have really helped both of us growing up. I was honest about being married to a man. I told him that I’d had a sensitivity reader, an openly gay man, go though certain passages to make sure I wasn’t being unintentionally insensitive. Everything else I kept guarded, because I didn’t really want to recount my entire queer resume, nor answer for the choices I made almost a decade ago.

He responded in about an hour:

“Thanks for the clarification. Publishing culture is in such a PC time right now, so I really think this should be #ownvoices. Hope another agent feels differently.

His email signature again.

Cue up that existential crisis.

I’m very fortunate in that I have access to an incredible group of querying and agented authors to talk me through it, queer friends to be angry for me, and a book that I’m genuinely proud of. My first thought was in gratitude for these things: if this was going to happen to anyone, I figured, it might as well have happened to me. But then I realized: if the publishing world is policing my #ownvocies story (even though I don’t claim that label) they’re policing others, too.

There are many of us who walk the line between orientation, races, nationalities, religions, cultures, and more. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell just by looking at their (perfect!) website photos and reading a bio. I like #OwnVoices stories, and I pride myself on reading them and promoting them, but what if an unintended consequence of this label is stopping genuine stories from being read? Are unrepresented authors really supposed to parade around our pain just for the sake of getting published?

(6) POP TALENT. In “Castellucci to Publish Graphic Memoir ‘Girl on Film’ in November”, Publishers Weekly interviews Cecil Castellucci.

How did you move between theater, music, and writing?

For a long time I thought that I had to choose one. I even had people in my life say to me, you have to choose a direction. But after a while, I realized that they were all the same thing. They were all different modes of telling a story. I always felt a little jealous that visual artists could choose the tool, pencil, pastel, water color, oils, ink, etc, to draw their picture. But it struck me at some point in my thirties that a song, a comic, a play, a movie, a novel, a libretto are also tools. And whichever one you use to tell your story colors the way that it’s told.

Why do you find writing more satisfactory than the other things you have done?

Writing is more satisfying because it’s the spark that can billow out into any other art form. It’s the big bang….

(7) LAST WISH GRANTED. The Providence Journal has the story of a special request and how it was fulfilled (“‘Game of Thrones’ cast members send video greetings to R.I. woman in hospice care”).

The nurses attending to an 88-year-old hospice patient regarded her request as her last wish: she wanted to watch the third episode of the current season of “Game of Thrones,” on Sunday, and maybe even meet a character from the show.

Claire Walton’s caretakers at HopeHealth in Providence tapped their network to make contact with members of the cast, who sent thoughtful greetings and best wishes to the lifelong Rhode Island resident.

[…] A total of 10 actors, including Liam Cunningham, who plays a lead character, Ser Davos, sent along good tidings, according to a spokeswoman for HopeHealth, Victoria Vichroski.

The story was picked up by CNN affiliate WJAR (“‘Game of Thrones’ actors send 88-year-old RI hospice patient video messages”) and ultimately by CNN itself (“A hospice patient’s final request was to watch the Battle of Winterfell. The ‘Game of Thrones’ cast did her one better”). She did get to see the episode as well as the video greetings from the cast members. Ms Walton died the day after the episode aired.

(8) PETER MAYHEW OBIT. Actor Peter Mayhew, who gained fame playing Chewbacca in Star Wars movies, died April 30 at the age of 74. Jason Joiner of the Kurtz Joiner Archive paid tribute —

…Peter loved playing Chewbacca as he could put away his shyness and become a roaring Wookiee when he needed to be. Meeting fans and especially the children that were into Star Wars and seeing the magic in their eyes when they got to meet Peter was something that drove him to attend public events and Comic Cons across the globe, which he continued to do up until last week. As time went on Peter was finding it harder to take on the filming commitments of Chewbacca and even though you could never replace Peter he saw Chewie live on in the way that actor Ian Whyte played the character as Peter’s Stunt Double in The Force Awakens. Ian cared about how Peter portrayed Chewie and understood that Chewie was Peter and so he watched him and learned to become Peter as Chewie. Peter felt that the character was safe for future generations of Star Wars fans with Ian’s insight and care. At 74 Peter lived to a great age for someone of his stature and this was down to the people that loved and helped him so much day to day as he grew older. Peter married his wife Angie in 1999 and from that time Peter has had a partner in life that he could share his amazing adventures and travel with. Later on Katie and Ryan, his children, also helped to enable Peter to keep on the road and attend the events he so loved to visit. In 2016 Peter set up The Peter Mayhew Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll brought on by lives traumatic events. By providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need, the foundation assist numerous charitable organisations in order to promote and boost their effectiveness and provide support where needed. On a personal note Peter was a wonderful and kind hearted friend.

Joiner asks fans to “take a look at the wonderful work Peter and his family are doing to help others — http://petermayhewfoundation.org If you feel like saying goodbye to Peter then please don’t buy flowers or gifts but instead make a difference and donate something and go here: http://petermayhewfoundation.org/make-a-donation.php.”

(9) MARK GREYLAND OBIT. Mark Greyland, son of Marion Zimmer Bradley, died unexpectedly on May 1 reports Diana Paxson. He was a well-regarded artist who specialized in computer-generated fractal designs. He made news in 2014 when he corroborated his sister Moira’s account of their abuse by Bradley and her husband Walter Breen in an interview published by Starfire Studio.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 2008Iron Man premiered on this day

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read of. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. His Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku stories , throughly throughly Hindi, is based on a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle,  Professor Challenger. You can find most of his fiction translated into English in Exploits of Professor Shonku: The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other Stories (Satyajit Ray and Gopa Majumdar). (Died 1992)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fourth season in order to play the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode, as CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in a certain The Return of the King. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favourite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 73. He is a noted literary editor and annotator of classic genre fiction. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a three-volume edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction with extensive annotations, and an introduction by John le Carré. I’d also like to single out him for his The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1, The New Annotated Frankenstein and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 47. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course, it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a Huh from me.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio waters a garden of unearthly delights.

(13) TERMINAL TRAVAIL. Ursula Vernon tweets the last stages of her international travels. One thread starts here.

Another thread starts here.

(14) MORE ANCESTORS. They got there ahead of Ursula Vernon: “Denisovans, A Mysterious Kind Of Ancient Humans, Are Traced To Tibet”.

The jawbone of a little-known form of ancient human has been discovered in western China. Scientists say these people lived as long as 150,000 years ago, and they were part of a group called Denisovans.

The Denisovans are a mystery. Up until now, their only remains — a few bone fragments and teeth — came from a cave called Denisova in Siberia.

In 2010, scientists concluded from those fragments and their DNA that Denisovans were slightly different from us — Homo sapiens — and slightly different from Neanderthals, but that they lived contemporaneously. In short, they were a third kind of human.

What those researchers didn’t know in 2010 was that 30 years earlier, a Tibetan monk had found part of a jawbone in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau, home of the Himalayas. He gave it to the Sixth Living Buddha, a holy man there, who passed it on to scientists. They started studying the piece of bone nine years ago. Now they say that it, too, is Denisovan.

…So apparently, some early Denisovans lived on the Tibetan Plateau a long time ago; the jaw is 160,000 years old. They developed the low-oxygen trait, and then at some point passed it on to humans.

The BBC adds:

…Co-author Jean Jacques Hublin, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said finding evidence of an ancient – or archaic – species of human living at such high elevations was a surprise.

“When we deal with ‘archaic hominins’ – Neanderthals, Denisovans, early forms of Homo sapiens – it’s clear that these hominins were limited in their capabilities to dwell in extreme environments.

“If you look at the situation in Europe, we have a lot of Neanderthal sites and people have been studying these sites for a century-and-a-half now.

“The highest sites we have are at 2,000m altitude. There are not many, and they are clearly sites where these Neanderthals used to go in summer, probably for special hunts. But otherwise, we don’t have these types of sites.”

(15) NAMES OF THE GAME. People increasingly are giving their kids the names of Game of Thrones characters reports the New York Times: “Hello, Arya! ‘Game of Thrones’ Baby Names Are for Girls”.

…But the most popular baby name associated with “Game of Thrones” appears to be Arya. It’s not clear how much the show has to do with that; variations of Arya have been around long before the book came out (in India, Indonesia and Iran, for example). But Arya did not break into the top 1,000 names in the U.S. until 2010, and instances of the name before then appear to be mostly for boys. Since 2010, Arya has steadily risen in popularity to 135th place, with 2,156 babies born in 2017 taking the name.

…Also cropping up on birth certificates is Daenerys, which is less popular than Khaleesi despite the fact that it is that character’s given name. The year 2017 also saw the arrival of 20 Sansas, 11 Cerseis, 55 Tyrions and 23 Theons in the United States. Pet parents are joining the trend, too, with dogs named “Jorah Mormutt,” Asha and Tyrion, and cats called Lady and Drogo. 

(16) ELF DAHLIA, OLD NORSE LAGUAGE OF WITCHES. “Witch hunts, mystics and race cars: inside the weirdest village in Sweden”The Guardian has the story.

In 1926, the yearbook of the Swedish Tourism Association described the village of Älvdalen as “a community with a dark insular spirit” where locals were “shadowed by distrust and unease”. It was there in 1668 that the Swedish witch-hunts began, resulting in the execution of 19 girls and one man suspected of occult practices. 

Today, Älvdalen, in the west of Sweden, still has its own language, Elfdalian, which has been traced back to Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings….

(17) GEEK RECOGNITION. Reporters are there when the “Big Bang Theory cements its place in history”.

The cast of The Big-Bang Theory ramped up their farewell celebrations by being immortalised in cement outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.

It’s the first time in the 92-year history of the tradition that any inductees have been honoured in this way solely for TV achievements.

The show will come to an end later this month after 12 years and 279 episodes.

Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco were on hand (and knee) on Wednesday for the ceremony.

They were joined by fellow stars Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

(18) WARD DISHES ON BATMAN. Burt Ward helps celebrate Batman 80 at SYFY Wire: “Watch: Batman stories from The Boy Wonder, Burt Ward”.

When Burt Ward landed the role of Robin, the Boy Wonder, on Batman back in 1965, he beat out more than 1100 other actors who’d tried out for the part. But as far as the producers were concerned, Ward, just being himself, was the Boy Wonder….

(19) OBSEQUIES. For no particular reason, this might be a good week to remember Saturday Night Live’s sketch “Superman’s Funeral.”

Jimmy Olsen (Rob Schneider) greets superheroes and super villains from DC and Marvel come to mourn Superman at his funeral. But obscure hero Black Lightning (Sinbad) is turned away when no one recognizes him. [Season 18, 1992]

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mlex, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, 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 4/30/19 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls

(1) WEIGHING IN ON THE TOLKIEN MOVIE. In the Catholic Herald, Fr. Michael Ward’s verdict is that “This Tolkien biopic is woefully unconvincing”.

…This handsome, earnest, yet overstuffed and poorly paced film deviates frequently from the historical record. Most seriously, it ignores Tolkien’s devout Christian faith: there is no indication that he served Mass daily as a boy or ever even entered a Catholic church. His punch-ups with Wiseman and drunken night-time profanities are, in comparison, unimportant inventions.

But departures from reality are inevitable in dramatisations, and enumerating them can quickly devolve into captiousness. What’s more relevant is whether the artistic licence results in a successful story. One expects a biopic to sit somewhat loose to the facts, yet one hopes it will also hold the attention and make one care about the characters, however far from real life they may diverge.

A helpful comparison is Richard Attenborough’s Shadowlands, the story of CS Lewis’s late marriage. It’s worthless as an account of actual events, but works brilliantly as a movie: engaging, well-structured, powerful and poignant.

Here, with Lewis’s friend Tolkien, it’s a different story. Incidents come thick and fast, but are strangely uninvolving….

Ward is the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to CS Lewis.

(2) A MODEST PROPOSAL. Daniel Dern is making an offer –

Our dead tree edition of the Sunday New York Times this week (here in the year 2019 – April 28) included a special 12-page section, consisting of (a version of) Ted Chiang’s story, “Better Versions of You,” adapted from his story “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” from Chiang’s new (coming out May 7) collection Exhalation. Illustrations by Daehyun Kim/Moonassi.

According to social media, “The piece is PRINT ONLY.” (My brief searches don’t show otherwise; I’d been looking for it before I found this tweet.)

Once we’re done reading the story, I don’t feel the need to keep it. So I’m happy to pass it along to the first Filer who asks for it, via a comment to this post. (We’ll sort out snail addresses, etc. off-list. If need be, I’ll ask OGH to be the email-address intermediary.)

Beyond possibly the minor cost of mailing it, I’m not asking any $ for it.

OTOH, I’m happy if the recipient will in turn, once it’s arrived, make a modest (say, $10-$25) donation to some sf/fan related fund/fundraiser or other Good Cause (of their choice, e.g., the Gahan Wilson GoFundMe, or some WorldCon-related fundraiser — your choice, I don’t need to know what/who, how much, or whether). But this is an optional follow-through.

(I don’t see Chiang listed in the current ReaderCon Guests list, so you’d be on your own for trying to get it autographed.)

Let the clicking begin!

(3) BORDERLANDS CAFÉ CLOSES, BOOKSTORE STAYS OPEN. “After 10 years, Valencia Street’s Borderlands Cafe to shutter” reports Mission Local.

Owner Alan Beatts, also the owner of Borderlands Books — which will remain open on Valencia Street at least for the next year — said that the decision to shutter the cafe was, by and large, voluntary. He attributed the move to a confluence of factors, including staff retention, slumping sales, and his personal desire to focus on the bookstore….

(4) BLAME HIM FOR THANOS! Entertainment Weekly’s Christian Holub, in “Thanos Creator Jim Starlin Discusses His Avengers: Endgame Cameo And The Journey From Page To Screen”, has a profile of Jim Starlin, who created Thanos for Invincible Iron Man #55 in 1972, and says he enjoyed his cameo in the film and says the Thanos on screen is true to “the spirit of the character” he created.

“It’s more of a full circle than you realize,” Starlin says. “I got the assignment to draw Invincible Iron Man #55-56 because the regular penciller on it, George Tuska, had to go in for some elective surgery. So I did the first issue, which I plotted out with Mike Friedrich, and then the second one I worked with this writer Steve Gerber. We did a funny Iron Man issue, and Stan Lee hated it so much he fired both of us.”

(5) CAPTAIN AMERICA. “MIT students deck out dome with Captain America shield” – the Portland (ME) Press-Herald has the story.

MIT students over the weekend draped the university’s signature Great Dome with a giant cloth version of Captain America’s red, white and blue shield.

Their efforts drew a Twitter “Very cool!” from actor Chris Evans, the Massachusetts native who plays Captain America in “Avengers: Endgame.”

(6) HELP WANTED. Westercon bid chair Kevin Standlee posted the Tonopah [in 2021] Committee List. And they’re hoping to add more workers.

The Tonopah Westercon committee is a standing committee of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. answerable to the corporation’s Board of Directors. Our organizing committee consists of the following people, with others helping on an ad hoc basis.

Chair: Kevin Standlee (Co-chair, 2002 Worldcon, San José CA)
Assistant to Chair/Hospitality Lead : Lisa Hayes
Treasurer: Bruce Farr (Chair, Westercon 45 (1992), Phoenix AZ)
Facilities: Mike Willmoth (Chair, Westercon 62 (2009), Tempe AZ)
Website Planning: Cheryl Morgan
Travel Coordinator: Sandra Childress

Other Committee Members Without Portfolio:
David W. Clark (Chair, 1993 Worldcon, San Francisco CA)
Lisa Detusch Harrigan (Chair, Westercon 40 (1987), Oakland CA)
Kevin Roche (Co-Chair, Westercon 66 (2013), Sacramento CA and Chair, 2018 Worldcon, San José CA)
Andy Trembley (Co-Chair, Westercon 66 (2013), Sacramento CA)

(7) IT’S HISTORY. “And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.” At Gizmodo/io9, last Thursday’s Morning Spoilers column drops the news that “At Least One of the Game of Thrones Spinoff Series Is Truly Dead” and the creator is done, at least for now, at HBO. Tidbits for a dozen or so shows are shared in the column.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Bryan Cogman confirmed that his time with the franchise is over for now—because the spinoff series he was attached to is officially scrubbed…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1926 Cloris Leachman, 93. I’ve got grist in the genre in Young Frankenstein as Frau Blücher. (Strange film.) she does her obligatory mouse role when she voices Euterpe in The Mouse and His Child. Next up is being The Lord’s Secretary in The Muppet Movie. (Always a fun time.) Hmmm… she’s Millie Crown in Shadow Play, a horror film that I don’t plan on seeing. Not my cup of tea. Lots of voice work from there out and I will only note her as Mrs. Tensedge in The Iron Giant, a great film indeed. She in the live action and I assume disgusting Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse as Ms. Fielder. 
  • Born April 30, 1934 Baird Searles. Best- known for his long running review columns in Asimov’sAmazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. For a time, he managed a genre bookstore in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the Science Fiction Shop, which is no longer in business. With Brian Thomsen, he edited Halflings, Hobbits, Warrows & Weefolk: A Collection of Tales of Heroes Short in Stature, and among other publication that he wrote was the Cliff Notes on Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 81. One of my favourites author to read, be Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the the Rainbow Mars stories, there’s always good reading there. What’s your favourite Niven story? 
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 51. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging. 
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 46. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the science fiction and fantasy category. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 37. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise,  voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode! 
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman, of course, in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre… 

(9) POOH INSPIRATION BURNS. CNN brings word that “Winnie the Pooh’s real-life Hundred Acre Wood hit by forest fire”. Authorities do not think it was deliberately set.

An overnight fire ripped through a forest in England that provided the setting for the Winnie the Pooh children’s stories.

The blaze at Ashdown Forest, in East Sussex, started at around 9.30 p.m. on Sunday and affected an area of more than 35 acres, according to the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

Six fire crews were on the scene as flames fed on dry undergrowth in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne, who lived in nearby Cotchford Farm, Hartfield, drew inspiration from Ashdown Forest to write the popular series of children’s books in the 1920s….

(10) PACHYDERM IN FLIGHT. “Dumbo: How we made the visual effects” – BBC has a video.

Moving Picture (MPC) company’s Richard Stammers, the Overall VFX Supervisor for the Walt Disney film Dumbo, tells BBC Click how the digital effects for the movie were put together.

(11) SPOILER ALERT. “Game of Thones: Secrets behind Winterfell battle episode” – the secrets apparently include “11 weeks of night shooting,” “Too cold to snow.”

It’s taken eight years, 70 episodes and thousands of deaths to get us to this moment.

The epic fight between the living and the dead in Game of Thrones was shown in the UK on Monday.

The episode, called The Long Night, lasted 82 minutes and took viewers on a rollercoaster journey featuring our favourite characters…

HBO, makers of the fantasy drama, have also released a behind-the-scenes video giving some of the secrets of how it all came together.

(12) RETRO REVIEWS. Steven J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Novel finalist reviews:

Retro Novel

(13) BEAUTIFUL BOOK. Look at the gorgeous endpapers in the Russian edition of Goss’ novel:

(14) CELEBRATING THE RONDO WINNERS. Steve Vertlieb sends his regards:

I want to take a moment this morning to wish hearty congratulations to all of this year’s most worthy Rondo Award winners. As always, the nominated films, television shows, writers, and artists were strong and worthy contenders, and each winner was deservedly voted the absolute best in his or her field of endeavor. In particular, however, I’d like to pay respect and homage to Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, and Martine Beswick whose long overdue recognition by The Rondo Hall of Fame was enthusiastically welcomed, and for my lifelong friend and brother, Wes Shank, whose loss late last Summer shattered us all, and whose entry last night into “The Monster Kid Hall of Fame” was a most fitting tribute to a beloved friend and fan. My personal remembrance of Wes was posted on File 770. Congratulations once again to all of this year’s most deserving Rondo Award winners. 

(15) WHERE NO CAT HAS GONE BEFORE. Well, cremated cat, says Space.com: “RIP Pikachu: Ashes of Beloved Cat Will Launch to Space in Cosmic Burial”.

A cat lover and space fan is about to make history by launching the remains of a cat named Pikachu into orbit around the Earth. 

“Pikachu will have a final send-off like no cat has ever had before,” Steve Munt, Pikachu’s owner, wrote on a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising funds for Pikachu’s space memorial. Thanks to a company called Celestis — which also offers memorial spaceflights for humans — the orange tabby’s cremated remains will hitch a ride to space as a small secondary payload on a satellite launch sometime in the next 18 months, Munt told Space.com

(16) MICE IN SPACE. These mice, however, made it to orbit while still alive. Ben Guarino in “Up in space, mice found a new way to play” in the Washington Post, says a paper in Scientific Reports discusses what happened to mice that spent a month in the International Space Station on the NASA Rodent Habitat.

After more than a week in space, young mice began to psrint and glide, as though they were zooming inside invisible hamster wheels.  The scientists called this circling behavior, which they hadn’t seen before, ‘racetracking.’  Within a few days, other mice joined the fray.  As a group, they ran laps around the habitats, reaching speeds of about a mile an hour.  It’s strange to watch.

(17) HEDGEHOGGING THE ROAD. Sonic The Hedgehog is fast enough to create a blue shift.

He’s a whole new speed of hero. Watch the new trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog, in theatres this November

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/19 Heck Has No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

(1) GOOGLE GAG. Google “Thanos.” There will be a Infinity Gauntlet image on the right side. Click on it. No spoilers involved.

(2) AVENGERS BREAKS THE BANK. Yahoo! Entertainment has the numbers as “World turns out for record ‘Avengers: Endgame’ movie debut”.

Fans around the globe packed movie theaters for the debut of “Avengers: Endgame” over the weekend, pushing total ticket sales for the Walt Disney Co superhero spectacle to a stunning $1.2 billion and crushing records in dozens of countries.

“Endgame” generated an unprecedented $350 million in the United States and Canada from Thursday night through Sunday, according to Disney estimates. The three-hour action spectacle that revealed the fates of Iron Man, Thor and other popular comic-book heroes also made history in China, Brazil, France, Egypt, South Africa and 38 other markets….

(3) LIFE OF TOLKIEN. Historian John Garth’s Daily Mail article has some spoilers for the Tolkien biopic — “The forbidden love that saved JRR Tolkien from the horrors of war: A controversial new film reveals the extraordinary true story behind The Lord Of The Rings”

…It was more than three weeks before he had a chance to think. Tolkien sat out at night in a Somme wood as dark and tangled as his thoughts, then wrote to the other two survivors. ‘Something has gone crack,’ he said. ‘I feel just the same to both of you – nearer if anything and very much in need of you. But I don’t feel a member of a little complete body now.’

The four had dreamed that with God’s help they would change the world through a grand creative collaboration. They must have been mistaken, Tolkien said.

Though none of them could know it, Gilson’s death had actually put Tolkien on the road to changing the world singlehandedly….

(4) CONTROVERSY STALKS CIA PRESENCE AT CON. “Awesome Con Opens With Fans Questioning CIA Involvement”ScienceFiction.com has extensive coverage.

Awesome Con opened the doors at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, for its seventh year on Friday. Every year, Awesome Con gets bigger – more celebrities, more artists, more fans. Now, it seems like there’s also more controversy.

As first reported by the website ComicsBeat, the CIA has a large presence at this year’s con, from logos on various signage, to a large exhibit booth, to several CIA-inspired panels.

…At the convention, the CIA booth is in an area surrounded by other science, technology, and government bodies, including NASA. The messaging around the agency’s booth is clear – they are there to recruit those who are interested.

Talking to some of the attendees at the convention, the reactions to the CIA being there were mixed. Some who spoke about their displeasure would only provide their first names, citing fear of retribution.

“I think it’s just messed up, man,” said Peter, who would only say he lived somewhere ‘up north.’ “These are the same people who’ve killed and tortured innocent people, but you got them here recruiting? There are kids around here! I thought this show was supposed to be about the fans?”

“I’m not going anywhere near that area,” said Sara, who travelled with her young son from Pennsylvania. “It’s sad, too, because I wanted my son to see some of the space stuff over there. Maybe somebody will realize they made a mistake and not do this again.”

(5) BRADBURY STATUE. “Dedication planned for August as work starts on Waukegan’s Ray Bradbury statue” reports the Chicago Tribune.

Work on a Ray Bradbury statue in downtown Waukegan has begun as the final stretch of fundraising continues, a Waukegan Public Library official said.

The 12-foot-tall statue — which will feature the late Waukegan native, book in hand, on a rocket ship — will be placed outside the library once complete, with a dedication planned for Bradbury’s birthday on Aug. 22.

The statue, inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been,” is being created in stainless steel by acclaimed artist Zachary Oxman, who agreed to a contract a few months ago so he could start buying material and lining up a foundry, said Richard Lee, who saw the project begin as a conversation four years ago when he was the library’s executive director.

The Ray Bradbury Statue Committee is still $20,000 shy of the $125,000 needed to cover the statue’s cost, but the hope is that seeing the finished product will help spark the last fundraising push, library spokeswoman Amanda Civitello said.

(6) IN DEMAND. WorldCat’s The Library 100 lists the top novels available in libraries worldwide. Plenty of sff! I’ve read 41 of these, but lots of you can beat that score.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(7) TIME FOR A REFILL. In his latest The Full Lid, Alasdair Stuart says he “takes a look at the excellent narrative build of Discovery season 2 and what it shares with classic stage magic. I also listen to Monkeyman Productions’ remarkable Moonbase Theta, Out, find a lot to be optimistic about at Ytterbium and contrast that with one of my very few con horror stories. Thanks for reading.” Here’s a brief excerpt from the Eastercon report —

…Four years ago, volunteering at a convention, I had to explain to a decades-in-the-business, award winning creative you’ve probably heard of that a harassment policy was not a needless frippery but rather the equivalent of putting a roof on a house. Sooner or later, you always end up needing it. That wasn’t the only complaint we had about the policy, but it was the one that left the nastiest taste in my mouth. A taste, I notice four years later, has gone. Harassment policies are now the norm. The Overton Window of tradition has shifted and shifted, FOR ONCE, to the left.

That doesn’t just apply to cultural changes either. I’m seeing the ragged leading edge of the singularity hitting at multiple places across the industry and improving what came before it every time it does. Ten years ago I explained that I worked for a podcast and was greeted with the polite, confused expression of a relative who’s pretty certain they’ve been told a joke but have no idea whether or not to laugh. This year, I was part of the best podcast panel I’ve seen, or been on, at a convention to date….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story Quarterly, Wonder Stories Annual, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1914 Philip E. High. Made his name first in the Fifties by being published in Authentic Science Fiction, New Worlds Science Fiction and Nebula Science Fiction, and was voted “top discovery” in the Nebula readers’ poll for 1956.  A collection of his short stories, The Best of Philip E. High, was published in 2002. He wrote fourteen novels but I can’t remember that I’ve read any of them, so can y’all say how he was as a novelist? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active well into the Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Colossus: The Forbin Project , The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1929 Charles Bailey. Co-writer writer with Fletcher Knebel of Seven Days In May, a story of an attempted coup against the President.  Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for the film. ISFDB says it got one review in the trade, in Analog Science Fact & Science Fiction, February 1963 by P. Schuyler Miller. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She began played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Though she had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds which be her first genre role as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here (Wintersmith) by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 Will Murray, 66. Obviously MMPs still live as he’s writing them currently in the Doc Savage Universe to the tune of eighteen under the house name of Kenneth Robeson since 1993. He’s also written in the King Kong, Julie de Grandin, Mars Attacks, Reanimator Universe, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Tarzan, Destroyer and The Spider media franchises. So how many do you recognize? 
  • Born April 28, 1967 Kari Wuhrer, 52. Best known for her roles as Maggie Beckett in Sliders and as Sheriff Samantha Parker in Eight Legged Freaks. Her first genre role was as Jackie Trent in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. She also played Amy Klein in Hellraiser VII: Deader (There was that many films in that franchise? Really? Why?) She voiced Barbara Keane and Pamela Isley in the most excellent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and earlier in her career she was Abigail in the first live action Swamp Thing series. 
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 48. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is of the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s are two horror films, The Runestone andWarlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • With geometric logic, Candorville proves that Star Trek:Discovery is a big deal.
  • Speed Bump reveals something you didn’t know about those Little Libraries.
  • Speed Bump has a cute phone joke, too.

(10) ROUGH JUSTICE. Yahoo! Entertainment says “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Spoiler Man Beaten Outside Hong Kong Cinema”.

A man who obviously didn’t get the memo on Avengers: Endgame – or chose to ignore it – was beaten outside a Hong Kong cinema for shouting out spoilers to fans waiting in line to see the film.

(11) BACK IN TIME. Intercot documents EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth attraction, which was created with the help of Ray Bradbury and many others.

Spaceship Earth opened on October 1, 1982 and “celebrates communication as the key to human progress and survival.” (Walt Disney World – A Pictorial Souvenir © 1984 Disney) “For EPCOT’s signature structure, the Imagineers needed an image as unique as the Magic Kingdom’s castle. Something that would say, ‘Here’s a place that’s global in scope and futuristic in design.’ They made an inspired choice, Spaceship Earth.”

You can read and listen to recordings of the Spaceship Earth narrative, too.

Passing directly beneath the remarkable structure, we proceed up a short ramp passing two posters, a sign, and a large mural before entering the pavilion. The two posters on either side of the entrance queue show a painting of Spaceship Earth with stars in the distance behind it. Both say “Ride the Time Machine from the Dawn of Civilization to the Beginning of Our Tomorrow. SPACESHIP EARTH.” The sign which is along the right side of the ramp reads “Spaceship Earth is a slow moving attraction that explores the history of human communications. Since travelers will be transported to the furthest regions of our solar system, the attraction is not recommended for those who experience anxiety in dark, narrow or enclosed spaces.” The mural depicts astronauts working on a satellite with Earth in the distance. Surrounding them are smaller images of cavemen, the Egyptians, the Romans, Gutenburg and his printing press, and modern day people. These announcements are heard as we near the entranceway:

(12) YOUR MPH MAY VARY. According to Gizmodo, “Hubble Measurements Confirm There’s Something Weird About How the Universe Is Expanding”.

…But other measurements don’t agree. Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope recalculated the Hubble constant with the help of a recent high-accuracy measurement of the distance to a nearby satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, as well as new observations of 70 Cepheid variables, a kind of pulsating star. Cepheids’ pulsation rate and brightness are closely enough related that their distance can be calculated. Combined with other improvements, they calculated the Universe’s expansion at 74 kilometers per second per megaparsec.

Basically—when scientists look farther away, the Universe seems to be expanding more slowly than when they look at the local Universe….

(13) STARBIRTH. Jonathan Cowie says of Gaia DR2 reveals a star formation burst in the disc 2–3 Gyr ago” – “It’s a bit technical for non-science types but they in Gaia DR2 data an imprint of a star formation burst 2–3 Gyr ago in the Galactic thin disc domain, and a present star formation rate.” Nature summarizes it thus:

…A burst of star formation that peaked two billion to three billion years ago spangled the Milky Way with a new generation of stars.

To understand how the Galaxy formed and evolved, astronomers need to know the rate at which its stars are born and how that rate has changed over time. But there is no way to measure the age of individual stars directly.

Roger Mor at the University of Barcelona in Spain and his colleagues turned to data from the Gaia satellite, which precisely measures the distance from Earth to millions of stars. These measurements allow researchers to calculate a star’s true brightness and size, which can be fed into models to infer its age.

The team simulated star formation in the Milky Way over time, and found it was in steady decline until roughly five billion years ago, when production suddenly ramped up. The researchers estimate that half the total mass of all the stars ever created in the Milky Way’s thin disk — which contains most of the Galaxy’s stars — was produced during this period.

(14) RADIO 4. FutureProofing episode “The Apocalypse” is a 40-minute programme on BBC Radio 4 which is not your usual prepper fare as it touches a number of SF tropes including the singularity, post humanism, AI as well as the basics such as asteroids.

Will 21st century technology avert or accelerate the Apocalypse? FutureProofing discovers the dangers and risks of existential disaster in the 21st century.

(15) COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER. Core Ideas explains how the Heroes TV show was on the verge of becoming classic sci fi and then didn’t.

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #40

The Avengers: Endgame, A (SPOILER FREE) Review.  

By Chris M. Barkley:

The Avengers: Endgame (2019, ****, 181 minutes) with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin. Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely based on The Avengers by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.


When we last left The Avengers, catastrophe had struck; the mad titan Thanos had managed to collect all of the Infinity Stones for his Gauntlet and obliterated half of ALL lifeforms in in the galaxy.

That included a significant number of Earth protectors, leaving only the original members, Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Helmsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) of the Guardians left to pick up the pieces.

Life on a decimated Earth is hard and most of society is traumatized and mournful. Even the rescue of Tony Stark and Nebula (Karen Gillian) from deep space and the arrival of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who was summoned by Nick Fury in the final moments of Infinity War, brings them any hope or a promise of moving on. They CAN’T move on; they’re The Avengers.

And just as things look as bleak as possible, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) (who was last seen trapped in the Quantum Realm in The Ant-Man and The Wasp), shows up at the Avenger’s front doorstep with a fantastic story and an even more incredible theory about to try to restore the Universe from Thanos’ deadly snap…

When you have a movie this that is so widely anticipated, with such a large cast and a running time of just over three hours, even a seasoned film reviewer such as myself had to wonder in the furthest reaches of my mind, can they pull this off?

Well…

Not only did screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo pull it off, they did it in a monumental, jaw dropping and dare I say, EPIC manner.

In the space of 181 minutes, you experience more callouts, call backs, call ups, fabulous cameos, easter eggs, and some of the most satisfying character arcs and revelations than you can possibly stand.

At the the sold out, first showing audience I attended with I head audible gasps, raucous laughter, and in the most unexpected places, sobs and a lot of tears. Some of them were happy and some were sad. Because sometimes, heroism is great to witness but it comes with steep price to pay.

But it was as satisfying a movie experience, in an actual theater, that I have had in quite a while.

The Avengers: Endgame is a bittersweet and beautiful film to behold, a bold and impressive end to this long and monumental story which began eleven years ago with the first Iron Man film. I don’t know what Marvel Studios has in mind next (besides Spider-Man: Far From Home in July), but my only piece of advice I have to offer them is NOT to try and top this emotional and fulfilling movie.

Because it CAN’T be done!

EXCELSIOR!!!!!

Pixel Scroll 4/25/19 When Other Pixels Have Been Fifthgot, Ours Will Still Scroll Hot

(1) A CLOCKWORK REWIND. After Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World (1932), he wrote a book of essays about issues raised in the novel, Brave New World Revisited (1958). Anthony Burgess planned to do the same for his novel A Clockwork Orange (1962) in A Clockwork Condition. Burgess evidently decided he was a better novelist than a philosopher and never published his 200-page typescript, which now has been rediscovered by The Anthony Burgess Foundation: “Unseen Clockwork Orange ‘follow-up’ by Anthony Burgess unearthed”.

A previously unseen manuscript for a follow-up to writer Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange has been unearthed in his archive.

A Clockwork Condition, which runs to 200 pages, is a collection of Burgess’ thoughts on the human condition and develops the themes from his 1962 book.

The novel told the story of the state’s attempt to cure a teenage delinquent.

The unfinished non-fiction follow-up is described as “part philosophical reflection and part autobiography”….

He then published a short autobiographical novel tackling some of the same themes, The Clockwork Testament, in 1974.

On Friday, the Design Museum in London launches a major Stanley Kubrick exhibition, which will include material from his Clockwork Orange film.

(2) COSPLAY: A HISTORY. Andrew Liptak has one on the way to the press says SYFY Wire. “First Look: Cosplay expert Andrew Liptak examines fandom fashion in Cosplay: A History”.

Cosplay: A History is a deluxe upcoming release from Saga Press celebrating the colorful kingdom of cosplay being compiled by writer/historian Andrew Liptak

Inspiration to craft this upcoming book came from his interest in the history of the 501st Legion. At the same time, he was working closely with The Verge colleague Bryan Bishop and realized that costumers working today occupy a fascinating place between the intersection of fandom, entertainment, and technology.

Liptak’s own press release says –

Seth Fishman at the Gernert Company brokered the deal with Joe Monti of Saga Press. The initial goal as it stands right now is to have it turned in by next March, with it to hit stores in 2021. I’ll be doing quite a bit of research and writing in the coming months, and expect to see more about cosplay as I write. 

The book is going to cover the broad history of cosplay and the state of the field. I’m looking at a lot of things: renaissance fairs, masquerade balls at science fiction conventions, groups like the 501st Legion, 405th Infantry Division, historical reenactors, protestors, and more. 

The goal is to talk about why people dress up in costumes, and how they interact with the story that they’re reimagining. It’s a wonderful popular culture phenomenon, and there’s a lot to delve into with the intersections of fandom, the making and entertainment communities, and technology. 

(3) SWAMP THING TEASER. A new original series DC Universe Swamp Thing premieres May 31.

SWAMP THING follows Abby Arcane as she investigates what seems to be a deadly swamp-born virus in a small town in Louisiana but soon discovers that the swamp holds mystical and terrifying secrets. When unexplainable and chilling horrors emerge from the murky marsh, no one is safe. Based on the DC characters originally written and drawn by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.

(4) SF CONCATENATION. The summer edition of the SF2 Concatenation is now up, with its seasonal summary of SF news as well as a survey of the primary research journals, for science philes, plus forthcoming SF/F and non-fiction book releases from the major British Isles SF imprints.

And the regular articles include film charts and Gaia for this season, another in the series of scientist-turned-SF-authors inspiring scientists, a swathe of standalone fiction and non-fiction reviews. The next seasonal edition will appear in September.

(5) PACKET ITEM AVAILABLE. Bogi Takács has released eir Hugo Voter’s Packet for Best Fan Writer – the material is at this link: “Hugo award voter packet 2019 (works from 2018)”.

I successfully produced my Hugo award voter packet! ….I hope. It features some highlights from 2018, but I had a lot more stuff in 2018, so please feel free to browse around.

The packet only has reviews and other forms of fan writing, because it is for the Fan Writer category. So no original fiction or poetry!…

(6) TICKETS TO RIDE. There’s an Omaze fundraiser for The Planetary Society — “Win a One-of-a-Kind 1958 VW® Bug Powered by Tesla® Batteries”. Buy tickets for a chance to win at the link.

  • Score a rare, custom Zelectric 1958 Classic VW Bug with an electric motor and Tesla batteries (the only one of its kind!)
  • Enjoy 102 HP thanks to its electric motor and a nearly 100 mile range battery that’ll keep you moving
  • Rock this car’s classic style and upgraded perks like new leather seats, high-quality flooring, ragtop sunroof and more
  • Support The Planetary Society’s work to advance space science and exploration

(7) NICK TREK. The Hollywood Reporter informs fans — “‘Star Trek’ Animated Series Gets Green Light at Nickelodeon”.

The cable network has given a series order to an animated Trek show from Emmy-winning writers Kevin and Dan Hageman and Star Trek franchise captain Alex Kurtzman. The untitled, CG-animated series will follow a group of teenagers who discover a derelict Starfleet ship and use it to search for adventure, meaning and salvation.

(8) MORE ON MCINTYRE. Kate Schaefer sent a roundup of time-sensitive Vonda McIntyre news.

Vonda N. McIntyre’s memorial will be held Sunday afternoon on June 9 at The Mountaineers Goodman Auditorium at 7700 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle, Washington.

Doors will open at 1:45, an event will start at 2:30, and the memorial will end at 4:30pm.

After short introductory remarks, we’ll have a microphone to pass around so that folks can share brief reminiscences of Vonda.

Further information about the memorial will be posted on Vonda’s CaringBridge page at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/vondanmcintyre/journal.

Also — Jeanne Gomoll and Stephanie Ann Smith are still collecting memories of Vonda for a tribute book to be distributed both as a free electronic document and as a print-on-demand physical book. Send your memories to Jeanne at jg@unionstreetdesign.com before May 11.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 25, 1897 Fletcher Pratt. Pratt is best known for his  collaborations with de Camp, the most well-known of which is the Harold Shea series which is collected as The Complete Enchanter. His solo fantasy novels The Well of the Unicorn and The Blue Star are also superb. Pratt established the literary dining club known as the Trap Door Spiders in 1944. The club would later fictionalized as the Black Widowers in a series of mystery stories by Asimov. Pratt would be fictionalized in one story, “To the Barest”, as the Widowers’ founder, Ralph Ottur. (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 25, 1925 Richard Deming. Ok, I think that all of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novellas, or in this case the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. novellas, in the digest-sized Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine, were listed under the house name of Robert Hart Davis. Deming was only one of a very long list of writers (I know of Richard Curtis, Richard Deming, I. G. Edmonds, John Jakes, Frank Belknap Long, Dennis Lynds, Talmage Powell, Bill Pronzini, Charles Ventura and Harry Whittington) that were the writers who penned novellas in the twin U.N.C.L.E. series. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 25, 1929 Robert A. Collins. Scholar of science fiction who founded the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. Editor of the Fantasy Newsletter & Fantasy Review from 1978 to 1987, and editor of the IAFA Newsletter from 1988 to 1993. Editor, The Scope of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the First International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film and Modes of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Twelfth Annual International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 25, 1939 Rex Miller. Horror writer with a hand in many pies, bloody ones at that. (Sorry couldn’t resist.) The Chaingang series featured Daniel Bunkowski, a half-ton killing-machine. Definitely genre. He contributed to some thirty anthologies including Hotter Blood: More Tales of Erotic HorrorFrankenstein: The Monster WakesDick Tracy: The Secret Files and The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 25, 1950 Peter Jurasik, 69. Ambassador Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 who would be Emperor one day and die for his sins. (Yes spoiler.) He has also very short genre credits other than Babylon 5 — Doctor Oberon Geiger for several episodes on Sliders and Crom, the timid and pudgy compound interest program, in the Tron film. 
  • Born April 25, 1952 Peter Lauritson, 67. Long involved with the Trek franchise starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He became the producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and supervising producer for Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. He directed three episodes of those series, including the Hugo Award-winning “The Inner Light”, as well as being second unit director for two Star Trek films.
  • Born April 25, 1969 Gina Torres, 50. The first thing I remember seeing her in was Cleopatra 2525 where she was Helen ‘Hel’ Carter. Her first genre was in the M.A.N.T.I.S. pilot as Dr. Amy Ellis, and she actually was in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as a character named Cas but I’ll frankly admit I remember almost nothing of those films. She’s had a number of DC voice roles including a recurring Justice League Unlimited run as Vixen / Mari McCabe. And, of course, Zoe in the Firefly verse. Lastly anyone remember her on the Angel series as Jasmine?

(10) ACONYTE. Asmodee is a leading global games publisher and distributor. Its game brands include Catan, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Arkham Horror, and Legend of the Five Rings. More recent hits have included the innovative fantasy card game KeyForge and the co-operative zombie survival missions of Dead of Winter.

Asmodee Entertainment has created their own fiction imprint — Aconyte, it will be publishing novels based on many of Asmodee’s best game properties. Aconyte are also actively pursuing licenses for third-party tie-in fiction, with the first of these at the contract stage. Aconyte will start a monthly publication schedule from early summer 2020, producing paperbacks and ebooks for the US, UK and export trade.

To helm the imprint, Asmodee has appointed Marc Gascoigne, lately publisher & MD of award-winning global scifi imprint Angry Robot. He’s hired assistant editor, Lottie Llewelyn-Wells, and publishing coordinator, Nick Tyler, to join him in new offices in Nottingham.

(11) PEAK GEEK. Vox suspects “Geek culture may never again be as all-consuming as it is right now”. “Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones make this moment feel like a series finale for geek pop culture too.”

…But if this moment in pop culture started around 10 years ago, it’s coming to some sort of peak now, as two massively beloved pop culture properties reach endpoints. And there’s a definite finality to it. Here’s the curious thing about this moment: So much of this geek culture apotheosis revolves around the question of which of our favorite fictional characters are going to die. Call it geekpocalypse now….

(12) PAST ITS PEAK. From Wisecrack — “Harry Potter & The Plague of Twitter: Why JK Rowling Should Leave Harry Alone.”

JK Rowling has been regularly updating the Harry Potter lore; not through more books, not through movies, but through twitter. Fans voraciously consume extra-textual canon on works like Harry Potter, Star Wars and much more. But does this desire for an all-encompassing knowledge of how fictional worlds tell us something about our own anxieties? In this Wisecrack Edition, we’ll dive in to the works of philosopher Martin Heidegger to discover why people are so consumed by the desire to understand the nitty gritty details of fictional worlds, and to how it reflects an essential element of our humanity.

(13) SHELVES FULL OF BOOKS. Laura Lee expounds on “Women’s Bookshelves and Clutter”.

I don’t have strong feelings about Marie Kondo and her theories of decluttering. I know a number of people who have found her “does this object spark joy” way of relating to stuff to be meaningful and if feeling overwhelmed by too many possessions is an issue for you then it might be just what the doctor ordered. I have no problem with Kondo giving this advice, take it or leave it…

I did, however, have some opinions on the Electric Lit article defending Kondo and decrying “bookishness.” The background is that in an episode of Kondo’s TV series she suggested that people get rid of books that do not “spark joy” and book lovers began to write think pieces about whether or not books are clutter. Some people had strong feelings on the subject.

Book buying, and book writing, have long been feminine activities. As I have pointed out here a number of times, in Victorian England female authors outsold their male counterparts, but their works were not deemed worthy of serious study and the memory of many once influential women has not found its way down to us. (A number of scholars are now trying to recover these “lost” works and bring them to our attention.) Books by women or which women appreciated have consistently been written off as fluffy, sentimental, non-intellectual and unimportant. If Egginton is correct, women were not only major consumers of popular literature, they were also creating “serious” libraries and archives to rival men’s, but their efforts, like their books, were denigrated.

It is interesting then to see a feminist writer contrasting the masculine “highly discriminating form of curated library collection” with the feminine “highly personalized, almost fannish, engagement with books.” Then following this with an argument that the feminized form of consumption led to the emotional engagement with middlebrow literature that book blogs now celebrate.

…Is it at all possible a century of being judged by the cleanliness of their homes, being told that this was more important than their intellects, and that their taste in literature is trivial might have colored their reactions to an authority suggesting their books might be clutter?

(14) COMING TO A BOIL. Here’s the new poster for GeyserCon, the 40th New Zealand National Convention happening in another six weeks:

(15) OUR MARCHING ORDERS. In “Timothy’s Hugo Picks”, Timothy the Talking Cat’s recommendations bear all the marks of a slate – because he put them there.

I’m going to come right out and say it: this is a slate. Vote for each of these in this order or else.

(16) NEUTRON LONGEVITY. Nature reports “Physicists close in on neutron puzzle” [PDF file].

Physicists are drawing nearer to answering a long-standing mystery of the Universe: how long a neutron lives. Neutrons are electrically neutral particles the nucleus of atoms.

Some neutrons are not bound up in atoms; these free-floating neutrons decay radioactively into other particles in minutes. But physicists can’t agree on precisely how long it takes a neutron to die. Using one laboratory approach, they measure the average neutron lifetime as 14 minutes 39 seconds. Using a different approach, they get 8 seconds longer!

Pinpointing the lifetime of a neutron is important for understanding how much hydrogen, helium and other light elements formed in the first few minutes after the Universe was born 13.8 billion years ago. 

(17) BEEN TO SEE THE DRAGON. Doctor Science is right, there aren’t too many eyewitness accounts like this — “A first-hand description of a dragon”.

The observations were made by the Chinese scholar Xie Zhaozhe (1567–1624)…

Obviously this account is extremely useful for writers of fantasy and science fiction. I don’t know if the (vast) Chinese literature contains any other first-person accounts of dragons, much less ones recorded by such a careful and specific observer. I’m pretty sure there are no good first-person descriptions from the other end of Eurasia.

Then there’s the question of what Xie Zhaozhe “actually” saw….

 (18) BEHIND THE SCENES WITH HALDEMAN. The Partially Examined Life podcast talks to one of the field’s greats: “Constellary Tales #7: Interview with Author Joe Haldeman”.

SFWA Grand Master Joe Haldeman takes Brian and Ken behind the scenes of his storied career in an exclusive interview. Among other conversation topics…

  • How “I of Newton” went from the page to The Twilight Zone
  • The unusual origins of Hugo Award–winning short story “Tricentennial”
  • Getting The Forever War published (and bootlegging the stage production)
  • Details about Joe’s new novel in the works (!!!)

(19) MAD, I TELL YOU. A TED-Ed presentation written and narrated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: “Titan of terror: the dark imagination of H.P. Lovecraft.”

Dive into the stories of horror savant H.P. Lovecraft, whose fantastical tales, such as “The Call of Cthulhu,” created a new era of Gothic horror

Arcane books of forbidden lore, disturbing secrets in the family bloodline, and terrors so unspeakable the very thought of them might drive you mad. These have become standard elements in modern horror stories. But they were largely popularized by a single author: H.P. Lovecraft, whose name has become synonymous with the terror he inspired. Silvia Moreno-García dissects the “Lovecraftian” legacy.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Liptak, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, JJ, Mlex, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Doctor Science, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these notes —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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