Pixel Scroll 5/6/20 Look Dave, I Can See You’re Really Upset About This. Take A Pixel Scroll, And Think Things Over

(1) CAREER PATH. At Lit Reactor, Nick Mamatas hits close to home — “Ask Nick: Publishing 201 — Do I Need to Attend Conventions or Conferences?”

…A relative handful of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions are considered “professional” and it is expected that people who work in publishing will travel cross-country or even internationally to make an appearance. In the mystery and romance genres, a greater percentage of conventions are “professional” and relatively fewer are run by and for fans. Regardless of whether the convention is fannish or professional, published writers are essentially zoo animals to be gawked at for the weekend. You can tell the writers from the other attendees because they are always clutching a drink in their hands like it was only accidentally given to them for free.

The conference, by way of contrast, has different roots. Literary conferences are often organized like other academic conferences—the focus is on writers who work in academe and the concerns of pedagogy and craft, though the keynote speakers are almost inevitably prominent writers who don’t need to grade term papers for a living. Panels at conferences are only occasionally roundtable discussions; more often the panelists read from essays, bits of memoir about the struggles of trying to either publish or teach their dumb-ass students, or their critical work. There are also lots of poets who constantly declare their identity as poets: “Oh, I don’t know how to organize my receipts to get reimbursed by my department! I’m a poet.” “I can’t be expected to know which button to press in this hotel elevator, I’m a poet!” In the sales room, university presses and university-backed literary journals that demand writers pay to submit and that have an organic audience somewhere in the low teens predominate, while at conventions you can buy ratty old magazines, leather corsets, and insipid badges with phrases such as “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” on them. So clearly, attending either kind of gathering is a fate worse than death.

(2) SUPER STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter ae having “A Super Lockdown Supermarionation Superconversation in 5…4…3” – read the transcript at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

AR: It was Gerry Anderson’s birthday a couple of days ago (he’d have been 91) so given that we’ve both watched Thunderbird Six recently -and have a shared enthusiasm for his shows – I thought it would be fun to talk about the film, as well as the puppet series more generally. Perhaps we could start by covering our introductions to the worlds of GA? I know you go back at least as far as Stingray, the series which preceded Thunderbirds – was that the first exposure to Supermarionation for you, or are we looking at the even earlier shows like Fireball XL-5, Supercar and so on? Any really early memories of the shows or even the merchandise surrounding them?

SB: As it happens I was born on the day Anderson’s first show was first broadcast,  The Adventures of Twizzle. An omen! But the first show I remember properly was Fireball, which was launched when I was nearly 5. Supercar was around but as repeats, I  guess.  Fireball was the one. It wasn’t the stories that struck me I think as much as the background world. The fantastic huge ship, and it looked huge thanks to good effects work, luxurious inside – Professor Matic  lived on it,  and how I envied him! And this was no fantasy, we were given one-century-ahead dates, 2062 and so on. Authentic SF, and I was lost forever.

(3) HYBRID PRODUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘The Blacklist’ Turns to Animation to Complete Season Finale”.

…NBC’s The Blacklist will close out its seventh season with a twist: After production on the drama was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show turned to animation to help complete the season finale.

The hybrid episode is set to air May 15 and will serve as the season finale for The Blacklist (it has already been renewed for 2020-21). 

The episode, titled “The Kazanjian Brothers,” was midway through filming in New York when production stopped in mid-March due to the pandemic. The show’s producers looked for outside-the-box ways to complete the installment and settled on graphic novel-style animation (as shown above) to be incorporated with scenes that had already been filmed. 

Actors recorded dialogue from their homes for the animated scenes, and all animation and editing was done remotely. As The Hollywood Reporter has reported, production on a number of animated series has continued largely uninterrupted during the pandemic as studios and producers have adapted to working remotely.

(4) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Lorie Shaull explains — “I assure you we’re not open,” a reference to the movie Clerks, and “You’re Still here? It’s over. Go home. Go,” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seen on the Uptown Theatre marquee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(5) AIR APPARENT. Pirated Thoughts reports “DC Comics Wants to Flatten “Swampthing” Tires”.

DC Comics is battling a tire company that is using the SWAMPTHING mark in association with its monster tires.

Transamerica Tire, Co widely distributes its “Swampthing” tires which figure some “monster” treads that allow  added traction thru sand, gravel, dirt, mud or…swamps. 

…In July 2019, Transamerica filed a trademark registration to protect the name SWAMPTHING for its tires. But there is a big green guy who has something to say about that.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. Craig Miller prefers the “Revenge of the Sixth” as a reference, and in honor of the date he’s shared a couple more things he’s remembered since his book Star Wars Memories was released.

…But I’d completely forgotten that I’d also gotten a character’s name changed. A document in my files reminded me….

(7) PROCESSING GRIEF. A writer tells the BBC “How the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped me grieve”

Since writer Hanna Flint’s grandmother died from Covid-19 complications, she has found solace in superheroes. Here she explains why the films are great for processing tough emotions.

…After my parents called me that Friday night to tell me the news, I cried myself to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up with the strongest urge to escape into the fantastical world of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Thor and the rest of these Marvel heroes – so I camped out on my sofa and binge-watched MCU movies for the remainder of the Easter Weekend.

I’ve spent more than a decade being invested in this film franchise, so it’s no wonder that it’s become the cinematic equivalent of an emotional support dog for me in my time of need. There’s a familiarity that I have with these heroic characters and their fist-pumping adventures that must cause a release of serotonin in my brain, because with each film I watched anew, I felt the thrum of grief lessen, allowing in moments of joy that lifted my spirit.

…Alongside the gags, the series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities. No longer is the focus only on white male heroes and villains – instead there is a diverse range of characters for a wider audience to connect with. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are all brilliant examples of Marvel Studios allowing the filmmakers’ voices to shine, while still staying true to the unifying structure and webbed narrative of the franchise. Ragnarok is probably the most distinctive individual Marvel offering so far – Waititi’s deadpan, self-referential humour keeps things especially grounded and accessible, despite the out-of-this-world setting. The Kiwi filmmaker flips your expectations of certain characters – as when Korg, a member of the rock alien Kronan race, turns out to be far more mild-mannered and intellectual than his previously-seen peers – but also uses comedy to make space for a deeper cultural commentary on issues like refugees, slavery and the white-washing of history.

(9) MAY THE FOURTH PROMOTION GOES AWRY. “Alberta police take down woman, 19, dressed as Star Wars stormtrooper to promote reopened restaurant” – Canada’s National Post has the story.

Police in southern Alberta are being investigated after a restaurant worker in a Star Wars stormtrooper costume who was carrying a plastic gun was forced to the ground and ended up with a bloody nose.

…The Lethbridge Police Service said officers were called to the restaurant Monday morning for reports of a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm. A news release Tuesday said when officers arrived, the person dropped the weapon but didn’t initially comply with directions to get down on the ground.

Whalen disputes the account that his employee didn’t obey police commands. When officers arrived, she immediately dropped the weapon and put her hands up, he said.

But Whalen said that the stormtrooper helmet makes it hard to hear and to be heard. It also makes it difficult to move, let alone to kneel or get down on your stomach. Whalen said this may have caused a delay in the employee getting on the ground.

“It’s not the easiest thing to kneel down in. You can’t even sit down in it. It takes 20 minutes to put on.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 6, 1956 Dimension X’s “Knock” aired. It was based on Fredric Brown’s story of the same name, first published in the December 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was the first of three adaptations of his story, with the latter ones being X Minus One and Sci Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre. This version was adapted was by Ernest Kinroy. Fred Wiehe and Edward King were the directors. Norman Rose was heard as both announcer and narrator. The entire script can be summed up as “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…” Frederic Brown is the running for two Retro Hugos this year, one for Best Novelette for “Arena” and another for Best Short Story for “And the Gods Laughed“. You can hear “Knock” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 6, 1914 Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever so charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it – you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success. But for the Federal Theatre Project he did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That it was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did with it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And, of course, he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 74. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice.” I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. 
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 6, Carlos Lauchu, 59. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film. His only other genre acting was two appearances in the Monsters anthology series. 
  • Born May 6, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 51. They are the winner of 2019 Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel while winning a Lambda Literary Award. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction, ”When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows Spider-craft.
  • Peanuts from 50 years ago today:

(13) BRUSHWORK. Cora Buhlert has an eye on some of the latest – in 1965 – high culture trends: “[MAY 4, 1965] THE OP AND THE POP: NEW MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART”

…So what do you see, when you look at a work of Minimalist art? You’ll see simple patterns, geometric shapes, hard edges, primary colours and monochromatic palettes. The so-called “Black Paintings” by the above mentioned Frank Stella consist of concentric stripes painted on raw canvas in the black wall paint that Stella uses in his day job as a house painter. Canadian artist Agnes Martin paints grids and stripes in pastel watercolours. Meanwhile, Dan Flavin eschews paint altogether and instead creates artworks from tubes of neon lights arranged in various geometric patterns.

(14) SOCIAL MEDIA GAVEL BANGERS. BBC is there when “Facebook’s ‘supreme court’ members announced”.

Facebook has announced who will sit on an independent board, set up to have ultimate say over what controversial content should be taken down.

Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will co-chair the panel with three others.

The panel said they will judge some of the “hardest cases out there.”

One expert said it was a bold experiment, but others were more cynical about how much difference they would make.

In a blog announcing the oversight board, Facebook said it “represented a new model of content moderation”

Initially consisting of 16 members, there are plans to expand numbers to 40. It will begin hearing cases later this year.

At first this will just be deliberating on content that individuals feel has been wrongfully removed but, in following months, it will also look at appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content.

(15) BOOKS BY THE POUND. The New York Times analyzes why “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory” – provided yours isn’t filled with duds.

…In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

Similarly, Atlas Obscura reports “The Zoom Era Inspires a ‘Bookshelf Championship’ in Portugal”.

…As expected from a nation with one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the Portuguese rallied behind the Bookshelf Championship. All of a sudden, book-related opinions were all over social media. “He’s stacking books horizontally to fit more,” a Twitter user said of his preferred contestant, journalist Nuno Rogeiro, whose all-embracing bookshelf featured books wedged into every available cranny. Some contemplated the definition of a bookshelf: Should a shelf full of binders be disqualified, or was it a “spectacular variation” on the theme? Others called for the “immediate resignation” of the Minister of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, on the grounds that his video conference set-up featured zero books. It didn’t take long for the debate to make it, in an apt twist, onto the evening news. Ricardo Araújo Pereira, one of Portugal’s top comedians, submitted his formal entry by taking a conference call from a deserted university library, where he sat flanked by tidy bookshelves in perfect social isolation. Twitter deemed his entry “extremely strong.”

(16) A CRUISE IN SPACE. The original report from Deadline: “Out Of This World! Tom Cruise Plots Movie To Shoot In Space With Elon Musk’s SpaceX”.

I’m hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk’s Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film – an action adventure – to be shot in outer space. It’s not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff.

Mission: Impossible Fallout took a break, literally when he broke his ankle in a leap from one rooftop to the other and he also hung from a helicopter; he hung from the side of a jet plane during takeoff in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol he scaled the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper, and executed stunts 123 floors up. He is meticulous in preparing these stunts he does, which are frightening just to watch.

There has never been a leading man (Jackie Chan might dispute this) who puts himself at risk as often as does Cruise, in the name of the most realistic action sequences possible. If he is successful shooting a project in Musk’s space ship, he will be alone in the Hollywood record books. Stay tuned.

NPR picks up the story: “Tom Cruise And NASA Could Be A Match Made In The Heavens”.

… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed by tweet that “NASA is excited to work with @TomCruise on a film aboard the @Space_Station! We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make @NASA’s ambitious plans a reality.”

At 57, the actor is a good deal older than the run-of-the-mill astronaut (if there is such a thing) though a number “spaceflight participants” (the official NASA and Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — designation for non-astronauts) have flown before.

Cruise is demonstrably in excellent shape, and evidently fearless when it comes to doing his own stunts. That’s fortunate, as up to this point, Space X has launched only unmanned missions of its Dragon 2 craft, which is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Its first launch with a human crew is scheduled for later this month.

(17) AND BABY MAKES E=MC2. Is everything Musk does newsworthy? (Or is this just freaky enough to be interesting?) “X Æ A-12: Elon Musk and Grimes confirm baby name”.

Elon Musk and singer Grimes have confirmed they have named their baby X Æ A-12.

The Space X CEO announced the birth of their son on Monday. “Mom & baby all good,” he said on Twitter.

He posted that the child would be called X Æ A-12 Musk and his girlfriend later offered an explanation to her followers on social media.

(18) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. “‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movie 30th Anniversary Pizza Party Announced by Original April O’Neil”. Actress Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, is hosting the official 30-year cast reunion Pizza Panel Party on May 23rd, “World Turtle Day,” with the original cast and crew – Food & Wine has the story.

“It’s our 30th anniversary. We had some really great stuff planned to celebrate with you guys, and then the pandemic hit,” Hoag said. “It would be great to have a virtual pizza party with you guys, our fans […] We want to get together, hang out with you, and eat some pizza. I personally will probably be having a martini while I’m doing it.”

As of this writing, there aren’t any additional details about the Zoom event, but the TMNT Movie 1990 Facebook page says that it will post more information for online attendees in the days ahead….

(19) FROG GOT YOUR TONGUE? Delish is sure “‘Star Wars’ Fans Will Love These Fruit Roll-Ups With ‘Mandalorian’ Tongue Tattoos”.

…Giving yourself a temporary tongue tattoo from a sticky fruit roll-up is an inexplicable joy. Why is it so fun to have a blue outline of a character on your tongue? Who knows, but it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting. Star Wars-themed Fruit Roll-Ups with The Mandalorian tongue tattoos are expected to come out this fall, which means you can take your Baby Yoda obsession even further that you thought.

The Fruit Roll-Ups by General Mills are expected to be released this September, according to Nerdist. The package features two Mandalorian-themed tattoos: one of Baby Yoda with a frog in his mouth and the other of the Mandalorian’s helmet.

(20) OF HUMANS YET TO COME. John Folk-Williams applauds this developing series — “The Quantum Evolution by Derek Künsken: A Review” at SciFi Mind.

Derek Künsken’s series, The Quantum Evolution, so far consisting of two novels (The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden) is a brilliant space opera that probes the depths of a future human nature engineered to produce new subspecies. And they are wild, at times repulsive, at times capable of incredible breakthroughs in knowledge or massive deception and theft, at times mired in twisted love of false gods.I’ve rarely been so intellectually engaged by the idea of a quantum evolution of humankind and so drawn to a set of fascinating characters as they fight and con their way across various star systems.

(21) MURDER HORNET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From today’s NY Times — even more timely as Wednesdays are also when the Gray Lady does its weekly Food/Dining section (although this wasn’t in that section, hardcopywise): “In Japan, the ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both a Lethal Threat and a Tasty Treat”.

… But in the central Chubu region, these insects — sometimes called “murder hornets” — are known for more than their aggression and excruciating sting. They are seen as a pleasant snack and an invigorating ingredient in drinks….

(22) STEPHEN KING ON THE LATE SHOW. The legendary master of horror covers a lot of ground in this talk with Stephen Colbert, including how he would fare in quarantine with his most feared characters, some things he learned about pandemics when doing research for “The Stand,” and the many reasons he recommends reading The Lord of the Rings.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/20 Sufficiently Advanced Scrolls Are Indistinguishable From Pixels

(1) MURDERBOT READING TOMORROW. The New York Review of Books will host online a “Martha Wells Book Launch Party” on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. EDT

On the eagerly awaited occasion of the publication of “Network Effect,” Martha Wells’ fifth “Murderbot” story and the first full-length novel in the series, Ms. Wells will read from her work and then be interviewed by guest host/curator Amy Goldschlager.

(2) SHUFFLE AND REDEAL. At the Wild Cards blog, Bradley Denton thinks it’s time for Howard Waldrop to tell the current generation all about how “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” (which I think of as “Jetboy’s Last Adventure”) became the series’ origin story — “Fifty Minutes Over Manchaca (now Menchaca) Road!”

…HW:  Of course!  And another is – You’ll recall in “The Annotated Jetboy,” where I talk about Danny Deck writing the biography of Jetboy?  Danny Deck is the hero of Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.  And of course he writes Godot Is My Co-Pilot: A Life of Jetboy.

…Anyway, I was gonna do the Jetboy story about the A-bomb for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and either Lew or Bud (sf authors Lewis Shiner and Walton “Bud” Simons, both Austin-based at the time, like Howard), I can’t remember which, said, “You should talk to George.  George and that bunch in New Mexico have been playing a superhero role-playing game, and they’ve spent so much time and money on it that they’re trying to find a way to turn it into a book.  You oughta tell him about this Jetboy thing, because it sounds like something that would fit in there.”  If it was Lew I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Bud, and if it was Bud I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Lew.  One or the other of ‘em knew more about it than the other one did, right?

See, I didn’t even know about this.  George hadn’t mentioned it to me in a letter or anything.  So I wrote to George, and I said, “I’ve got a story that might fit with whatever goddamn thing you’re doing.  You should tell me about it.”

So he sent me the prototype Cut and Shuffle, which was all about what was going on in the Wild Cards world before anyone else even knew what it was.  And I said, “Yeah, that sounds about right, I can work with that.  But your timeline is all wrong.”  See, they were gonna start it in the 1980s, with the world having gone on for thirty years.

BD:  Oh, so they weren’t initially going to do an origin story?  They were going to jump into the world of Wild Cards three decades on?

HW:  Right, exactly.  I said, “That’s all wrong!  You gotta tell how all this came about!”  So I got them to tell me all the stuff about Dr. Tachyon, and the virus, and the whole thing, y’know.  And I stuck it sideways into the Jetboy/A-bomb story, and sent it to George.

And of course George says, “When we send you stuff, you should read it!  You got all this stuff wrong!”  I said, “Ah, that’s your job!  You can fix that!”

(3) ANIMAL CROSSING BANK FRAUD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a front-page article by Leo Lewis and Robin Wigglesworth in the April 29 Financial Times.

“Savers at Nintendo’s the Bank of Nook are being driven to speculate on turnips and tarantulas, as the most popular video game of the coronavirus era mimics central bankers by making steep cuts in interest rates…

The estimate 12m players of the Japanese gaming group’s cartoon fantasy ANIMAL CROSSING were informed last week about the move, in which the Bank of Nook slashed the interest on savings from 0.5 percent to just 0.05 percent: 1,9m bells, the in-game currency, can be bought online for about $1…

…It did not take long, however, for players to spot that they could defraud the game’s bank by depositing large sums in savings accounts and then ‘time travelling’ by tweaking the console’s internal clock.  The bank duly paid decades of interest, making rapid bell millionaires.  People familiar with the practice said the Bank of Nook rate cut was an effort to curb the practice.  Nintendo has made no official comment on the matter.”

(4) LATER THAN TWILIGHT. It’s official. When the countdown ended, this was the news, says the New York Times — “Stephenie Meyer to Publish a New ‘Twilight’ Book, ‘Midnight Sun’”.

Fans of Edward Cullen, the brooding vampire hero from Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling “Twilight” series, will have something fresh to bite into this summer.

Ms. Meyer announced on Monday that “Midnight Sun,” the new novel in her vampire romance series, will be published on Aug. 4, more than a decade after the original story concluded.

“I thought seriously about delaying this announcement until things were back to normal,” Ms. Meyer said in a statement. “However, that felt wrong, considering how long those who are eager for this book have already waited.”…

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There is a new free online workshop with instructors Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, and David Farland: “The Writers Of The Future Online Workshop”

This free intermediate level writing course includes essays, practicals, and 13 video presentations featuring Writers of the Future judges: David Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card.

By the end of the workshop, you should have a short story completed. If you are qualified (see the rules here), you can enter your story in the Writers of the Future Contest. The twelve annual winners will be flown out to Hollywood for the week-long live workshop with a full roster of Contest judges and publishing professionals teaching as well as giving you their advice on how to make it as professional writers.

Enter your email address to start the course. You will also receive Writers of the Future newsletters with writing tips and special offers. You can unsubscribe at any time.

(6) 2020 PULITZER PRIZES. Columbia University today announced the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

There was no genre work among the winners, although 2020 Fiction winner Colson Whitehead has won before for the sff novel Underground Railraod (2017). Indeed, Whitehead now is just the fourth author to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice. The others are Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike. (The winners in journalism are at the link.)

LETTERS AND DRAMA

Fiction
“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Drama
“A Strange Loop” by Michael R. Jackson

History
“Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America” by W. Caleb McDaniel (Oxford University Press)

Biography
“Sontag: Her Life and Work” by Benjamin Moser (Ecco/HarperCollins)

Poetry
“The Tradition” by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction
“The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care” by Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

and

“The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America” by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

Music
“The Central Park Five” by Anthony Davis, premiered by Long Beach Opera on June 15, 2019

Special Citation
Ida B. Wells

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

“Star Trek Fan Says ‘Happy Holidays’ Instead of ‘May the Fourth Be With You’”. Grumpy Vulcan tells Hard Drive why.

While many people are observing May 4 as Star Wars Day by saying “may the fourth be with you,” local Star Trek fan Lisa Donnelly has opted to instead just say “happy holidays.”

“Star Wars doesn’t have a monopoly on holidays that take place on May 4, you know,” said Donnelly. “There’s National Bird Day, Latvian Independence Day, and one of the non-canonical dates for Star Trek’s Federation Day is right around the corner on May 8. Those days deserve just as much recognition as some manufactured holiday celebrating a science fantasy movie series for kids.”….

And how did it all begin? According to TimeAndDate.com

The origin of the phrase is thought to date back to May 4, 1979. On this day, Conservatives in the United Kingdom published a newspaper advertisement to congratulate their candidate, Margaret Thatcher, for taking the Prime Minister’s office. The advertisement said “May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations”.

(8) NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. Naturally, this is also the logical day for announcing the franchise’s new project. Lisa Richwine, in the Yahoo! News story “Taika Waititi to direct and co-write a new ‘Star Wars’ movie with ‘1917’ screenwriter” says that Disney announced a bunch of Star Wars-related projects on StarWars Day, most notably that Taika Waititi will direct a new Star Wars and co-write it with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, nominated for an Oscar for her work on 1917.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 4, 1962 — The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with their own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull faced Bombers and fInally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. DCUniverse streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1942 CN Manlove, 78. His major work is Modern Fantasy: Five Studies which compares the work of Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien and Peake. Other works include Science Fiction: Ten Explorations, The Impulse of Fantasy Literature and From Alice to Harry Potter: Children’s Fantasy in England.
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 77. 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, 1956 Murray McArthur, 63. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Born May 4, 1914 James Bacon. He was in all five films in the Planet of the Apes franchise, the only actor to do so. He portrayed an ape in each of the films with the exception of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which he played a human, General Faulkner. This was the only film of the ‘Ape’ series in which he was credited. He also showed in Roddenberry’s Planet Earth as Partha. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh such 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 so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a terrific gag for May the Fourth.
  • Heathcliff isn’t really that funny, however, it does use a gagline drawn from the same source as one of our File 770 mottos.
  • Pearls Before Swine considers the possibility that the lockdown results in people reading more, and better, books.

(12) RIVERS COMING TO A CHANNEL NEAR YOU. For the many Filers who are fans of the series — “Stolen Picture Options Television Rights To Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London”.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s UK-based production company, Stolen Picture, has optioned the rights to Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling novel series Rivers of London.

Aaronovitch is currently working on the adaption of the first novel, also named Rivers of London. He will also serve as an Executive Producer on the series alongside Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Stolen Picture CEO, Miles Ketley. 

A Sunday Times best-seller, Rivers of London was first published in 2011, earning Aaronovitch a nomination in the New Writer of The Year category at the National Book Awards in 2011 and has spawned a popular graphic novel series. Each subsequent novel has also charted in the Sunday Times Top Ten Best-Seller list.

The crime/supernatural crossover follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a young mixed race police officer who, following an encounter with a ghost finds himself working for The Folly, a secret Scotland Yard department that deals with supernatural crime. The Times described Rivers of London as “an incredibly fast-moving magical joyride for grown-ups”.The Rivers of London franchise has been published in more than 15 languages and, to date, has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.

“Nick Frost and Simon Pegg asked me if I wanted to make Rivers of London with them – you think I was going to say no? Stolen Picture have a reputation for making creator led TV with the minimum of corporate bollocks and the maximum of fun. It’s an opportunity I would be bonkers to say no to” says Ben Aaronovitch.

(13) BITING THE SCENERY. Entertainment Weekly invites fans to “See first look at Mark Hamill embracing the dark side as vampire in What We Do in the Shadows”. Photo at the link.

[Mark] Hamill will portray an ancient vampire in Jemaine Clement‘s FX series What We Do in the Shadows and EW has your first look at the character — fangs and all. The episode titled “On the Run,” set to air May 13, will introduce a vengeful enemy from Laszlo’s (Matt Berry) past who appears without warning to settle a personal debt. This causes Laszlo to flee his home and go into hiding.

(14) A HEEP OF TROUBLE. Did Paul Weimer have great expectations for this novel? “Microreview [Book]: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry” at Nerds of a Feather.

…I should be clear and up front about something: I may be a somewhat biased reviewer in a regard, but not in the way that you might think. You see, good reader, I am a relation but not a direct descendant of Charles Dickens, so that a novel where his literary creation escapes into the real world was and is always one I would be extremely interested in. I’ve read and been interested in Dickens’ work from a young age. His work has always been part of my life.

I can happily report that this novel is extremely literate and considerate with the work of Dickens, what it means and where it comes from. The novel feels like the author’s own coming to terms with Dickens’ work in a real and palpable way, as well as Victoriana and Edwardiana in a real and palpable way.

(15) GEEKS IN ACADEME. “Top 10 Fictional Schools– Geek Culture Countdown Podcast!” – a list from 2019. These are all drawn from sff works, even though “Pop Culture” covers more territory than that.

Susan and Kitty are schooling you on the Top 10 Fictional Schools in pop culture. From prestigious prep academies to borderline lethal boarding schools, which esteemed educational institutions will make the grade?

For example —

2. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

Located at 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Westchester County, New York, this school for mutants has gone by many names- Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, X-Haven, and most currently the Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach.

This school provides a safe place for young mutants to receive education both in traditional schooling and also the control and understanding of their powers. Kitty Pryde is currently the headmistress. The school motto is “Mutatis Mutandis” meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”.

(16) WHY PROTECTING MOSQUITOS IS A GOOD IDEA. BBC has the answer — “Malaria ‘completely stopped’ by microbe”.

Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.

The team in Kenya and the UK say the finding has “enormous potential” to control the disease.

Malaria is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, so protecting them could in turn protect people.

The researchers are now investigating whether they can release infected mosquitoes into the wild, or use spores to suppress the disease.

…”The data we have so far suggest it is 100% blockage, it’s a very severe blockage of malaria,” Dr Jeremy Herren, from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Kenya told the BBC.

He added: “It will come as a quite a surprise. I think people will find that a real big breakthrough.”

(17) USE THE FORK, LUKE. Or the blowtorch. Do something to save us.  “General Mills Is Releasing A ‘Star Wars’ Cereal With Baby Yoda-Shaped Marshmallows” – the Best Products blog has the story.

…General Mills took to Instagram to reveal its newest creation. As described on the packaging, the cereal consists of sweetened corn puffs with marshmallows. All of the green marshmallows are in the shape of The Child’s head, which is reason enough to give this bite a shot, if you ask us.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/9/20 And There’s Hamburger All Over the Information Superhighway

(1) HOPE IS ON THE WAY. There’s a brand new podcast, If This Goes On (Don’t Panic), themed around hopepunk. The first episode is hosted by Cat Rambo and Alan Bailey, interviewing Alexandra Rowland, who coined the term “hopepunk.”

In this episode, Cat and Alan discuss the concept of Hopepunk with Alexandra Rowland, coiner of the term. Other topics include the hopeful nature of Lord of the Rings, why there has to be a protagonist in fiction, and why sometimes you have to sell out.

Alan also reviews the second season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold published by Serialbox

(2) FREE DOWNLOAD. Elizabeth Bonesteel just released a free ebook of her short fiction Survival Tactics:

(3) ARROWVERSE EXPANDS. CBR.com thinks “Stargirl: The CW’s Newest Series Could Be Its Best Yet”.

The next TV series based on a DC Comics property is Stargirl, which is receiving a dual release on both The CW and the DC Universe streaming app. While this might be a drawback for DC Universe, which could benefit from the show’s exclusivity, it could be a boon for The CW.

The network’s lineup of Arrowverse shows continues to grow, something that will only continue now that the groundbreaking “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover has come and gone. Despite their seeming popularity, the shows have their fair share of detractors and common criticisms. Since it’s technically a DC Universe show, however, Stargirl may just be able to avoid those pitfalls, and thus become the best superhero series on The CW yet.

(4) CAPTIONS CASE CLOSED. Publishers Lunch tells readers “The Audible Settlement Is Finally Public”.

The case brought by seven publishers against Audible over their planned Captions feature is now formally concluded, with Judge Valerie Caproni’s signature in place on the permanent injunction barring the audiobook company from displaying text from e-books without the permission of copyright holders. Audible will pay each litigating publisher an undisclosed sum, after which both parties will file final documentation to the court.

(5) DOES THIS MEAN GETTING FOUND IN SPACE? ComicBook.com brings the shocking news that “Lost in Space Cancelled After Season 3 on Netflix”.

[Showrunner Zack] Estrin revealed that the plan for Lost in Space was always meant to be told in three parts, so this ending really is a conclusion of the story rather than a cancellation by Netflix.

“From the beginning, we’ve always viewed this particular story of The Robinsons as a trilogy,” Estrin said. “A three part epic family adventure with a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s also worth noting that, with what these characters go through just trying to survive each episode — if anyone deserves to catch their breath before their next mission — it’s Will, Penny, Judy, Maureen, John, Don West, Dr. Smith… and The Robot. And, of course, Debbie the Chicken. So while this chapter of Lost In Space is coming to a rousing conclusion, I’m excited about continuing to explore new stories with my friends at Netflix, and for all of the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”

(6) SHERYL LERNER. Condolences to Lofgeornost’s faned Fred Lerner, who sent out this message today:

I am sorry to report that my wife Sheryl died last night. Many of you will have met her at various conventions, or read about her in my Lofgeornost trip reports. Although she did not read much science fiction, she enjoyed convention programming and the conversations we had with Lofgeornost readers.

(7) VON SYDOW OBIT. Actor Max Von Sydow died March 9. He was the only male Swedish actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. The New York Times tribute is here: “Max von Sydow, Star of ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90”.

Mr. von Sydow, widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.” He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

The National Review reminded readers about a few of his other popular roles:

Sydow was 44 when portraying the wizened old priest [in The Exorcist] whose stalwart faith combats the film’s antagonistic demonic presence; he reportedly required more makeup to appear old than Linda Blair required to appear possessed in the role of Regan MacNeil.

King Osric in the underappreciated Conan the Barbarian. Sydow, along with James Earl Jones (as the villain Thulsa Doom) was brought onto the production of the 1982 John Millius film in the hope that their stately presence would inspire the mostly novice crew of actors (including Arnold Schwarzenagger, in one of his first major productions) to greater heights.

He also played emperor Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980), and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983).

(8) TUCCI OBIT. Actor Nicholas Tucci died March 3 — The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Nicholas Tucci, ‘You’re Next’ and ‘Channel Zero’ Actor, Dies at 38”.

Nicholas Tucci, an actor who appeared in the horror film You’re Next and SyFy’s Channel Zero, died Tuesday after battling an unspecified illness, according to his father, who shared the news on Facebook. Tucci was 38.

(9) NEELY OBIT. Mystery author Barbara Neely, named Mystery Writers of America’s 2020 Grand Master just last December, has passed away. USA Today profiles her career: “Barbara Neely, author of first black female series sleuth Blanche White, dies at 78”.

Award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely, who created the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, died last week after a brief illness, according to her publisher, Brash Books. She was 78.

Neely is perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1933 –This month was when the first Doc Savage novel was published. The Man of Bronze was by Lester Dent writing under the house name Kenneth Robeson. It would publisher in the March issue of the Doc Savage magazine. It was the basis of the Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze film that starred Ron Ely. You can see the film hereThe Man of Bronze is available at the usual digital publishers. 

March 9, 2011 — Dynamite Entertainment published the  first issue of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris. It was set on the world of Barsoom 400 years before John Carter went there, with her being of the focus of the story.Arthur Adams and Joe Jusko were the writers, with Paul Renaud, and Alé Garza being the artists. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman“ (co-written with Howard Browne),  “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1930 Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber:“ attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“.  I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 65. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating.
  • Born March 9, 1959 Mark Carwardine, 61. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also was called Last Chance to See
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 55. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child Thief. The Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 42. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo creates a clever image for what sff fans think of as the multiverse.
  • Free Range points out a challenge of producing the 1960s Batman TV show that’s obvious if you think about it…
  • Off The Mark has a very amusing library gag.  
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(13) MONSTER ART COLLECTION. Lonely Planet shows where “Metallica fans can visit Kirk Hammett’s traveling sci-fi and horror art collection”.

… Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, its final stop is at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) in Columbia, South Carolina, where it runs from 15 February to 17 May, 2020 and includes an interactive guitar experience and programming schedule with appearances by Hammett himself.

…On display are 135 works from twentieth century cinema including posters, rare art by master artists and related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes. As described by his biographer Stefan Chirazi, Hammett was a self-described shy kid obsessed with monsters, ghouls, toys, movies and guitars; he first connected with Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein followed by Godzilla, the Mummy and other terrifying creatures that tap into our psychological response to fear. He admits it’s his collection that has primarily sparked his creativity over the years. “The stuff of horror has a mojo that always works on me,” he says. “I start producing ideas…they just flow like liquid.”

(14) PRESCRIPTION ROBOT. “Former MythBuster’s adorable Baby Yoda robot will cheer up sick kids”CNET has a Q&A with the designer.

Baby Yoda captured hearts everywhere when it debuted on Disney Plus Star Wars live action series The Mandalorian. Count former MythBusters cast member Grant Imahara among the fans. He thinks the character’s so cute he built his own life-like animatronic Baby Yoda to cheer up sick kids. 

Imahara currently works as a consultant for Disney Research and a mechanical designer at Spectral Motion. He helped build Disney’s animatronic Spider-Man that will be flying over the upcoming Marvel Campus in Disney’s California Adventure.

“Pleased to present my newest creation: a fully animatronic Baby Yoda,” Imahara posted on his Facebook on Friday. “It’s been three months of hard work and countless revisions. I did all the mechanical design, programming, and 3D printed the molds. He’s currently running a continuous sequence, but soon I’ll be able to trigger specific moods and reactions, as well as incorporate sound.”

To find out more about how this adorable moving animatronic Baby Yoda was created, I chatted with Imahara about what went into building it. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. 

Q: How did the idea come about to build an animatronic Baby Yoda?
After the third episode of The Mandalorian, I knew I had to make my own Baby Yoda. I was an animatronics engineer in the ILM model shop before MythBusters, and worked on the Star Wars prequels as well as the Energizer Bunny, so I had the required skill set. And it could be a character I could bring to children’s hospitals for charity work, which is something I’ve been committed to doing.

(15) GIBSON BOOK REVIEWED. Thomas J. Millay explains “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Superintelligent AI: On Wiliam Gibson’s ‘Agency’” at LA Review of Books.

NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO, Mona Lisa Overdrive; Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties; Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History: William Gibson works in threes. Agency is the second novel of what is almost certainly going to be a trilogy. The first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions. Given the novel’s formal innovations and literary qualities, it is the pace of The Peripheral that is most remarkable, with Gibson moving readers rapidly toward the novel’s utopian conclusion, in thriller-like fashion….

(16) ZONING OUT. When you live near a radio telescope, it turns out you have to give up certain things. The New York Times takes you there: “No Cell Signal, No Wi-Fi, No Problem. Growing Up Inside America’s ‘Quiet Zone’”.

…Welcome to Green Bank, population 143, where Wi-Fi is both unavailable and banned and where cellphone signals are nonexistent.

The near radio silence is a requirement for those living close to the town’s most prominent and demanding resident, the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. To protect the sensitive equipment from interference, the federal government in 1958 established the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area near the state’s border with Virginia.

The observatory’s telescope “could detect your phone on Saturn in airplane mode,” states a sign outside its science center building, but is rendered much weaker if anyone uses electronics that emit radio waves. For those who live within 10 miles of the observatory, the limitations also include a ban on Bluetooth devices and microwaves, unless they are contained in a metal box, known as a Faraday cage, which blocks electromagnetic fields.

Nearly 15 million Americans live in sparsely populated communities where there is no broadband internet service at all, a stark digital divide across America between those with access to uber-fast connections and those with none.

(17) COUNTRIES REJECT ‘ONWARD’ OVER GAY CHARACTER. BBC reports “Pixar’s Onward ‘banned by four Middle East countries’ over gay reference”.

Pixar’s latest animation Onward has been banned by several Middle Eastern countries because of a reference to lesbian parents, according to reports.

The family film will not be shown in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hollywood media have reported.

Police officer Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, has been heralded as Disney-Pixar’s first openly gay character.

Her lines include: “It’s not easy being a parent… my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?”

Other Middle East countries like Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.

And according to Deadline, Russia censored the scene in question by changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner” and avoiding mentioning the gender of Specter, who is a supporting character.

Speaking to Variety, Waithe explained that the line about “my girlfriend” was her idea.

And Variety’s story about it is here.

(18) MMM-MMM-BAD? BBC inquires “Why plastic is a deadly attraction for sea turtles”.

Scientists have new evidence to explain why plastic is dangerous to sea turtles: the animals mistake the scent of plastic for food.

Thus, a plastic bag floating in the sea not only looks like a jellyfish snack, but it gives off a similar odour.

This “olfactory trap” might help explain why sea turtles are prone to eating and getting entangled in plastic, say US researchers.

…Garbage patches

Once plastic has been released into the ocean, microbes, algae, plants and tiny animals start to colonise it and make it their home. This creates food-like odours, which have been shown to be a magnet for fish and possibly sea birds. The new research suggests sea turtles are attracted to plastic for the same reason.

(19) LOOK UP AND SAY CHEESE. “Space radar movies track motion on Earth’s surface” – the BBC coverage features several short sample clips.

Satellite operator Iceye is now making videos that can show the Earth’s surface through cloud and at night.

The short, 20-second movies are an extension of the standard still radar images it already produces.

In the examples released by the Finnish company on Monday, planes are seen taxiing across Britain’s Heathrow airport and heavy plant vehicles are observed working in a Utah mine.

The videos are said to be a first for a commercial space operator.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology is already appreciated for its ability to “see” the ground irrespective of the weather or lighting conditions. Retrieving motion in a scene literally now gives Iceye’s products another dimension, says CEO Rafal Modrzewski.

(20) WHO NEEDS GOOGLE? Patrick Stewart answers the web’s most searched questions for WIRED.

“Star Trek: Picard” star Patrick Stewart takes the WIRED Autocomplete Interview and answers the internet’s most searched questions about himself. How did Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen meet? Was Patrick in Harry Potter? How many awards has he won? Does he own a vineyard? Sir Patrick answers all these questions and much, much more.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/4/20 Bring Me My Book Of Divine Stalk: Bring Me My Feline On A Pile: Bring Me My Fifth: O Readers Talk! Bring Me My Pixel Scrolls Of File!

(1) SF IN TRANSLATION. An overview of the year’s output at Locus Online: “SF in Translation in 2019 by Rachel S. Cordasco”.

In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the century. Not since the 1960s and ’70s have we seen such an increase, and while I can’t point to any one factor as an explanation, I imagine that the unprecedented worldwide connectivity brought about by the internet at the end of the last century, coupled with the increase in small and micro-presses and magazines that regularly publish speculative fiction, may offer a partial answer. Perhaps another factor is the growing interest of speculative fiction fans in stories that are written from a non-Anglophone perspective…

(2) LONDON’S OFF THE HOOK. Yesterday, the London Book Fair planned to carry on, even in the face of businesses dropping out because of coronavirus fears. Today, The Guardian reports it’s been cancelled.

One of the world’s biggest international literary events, the London book fair, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, amid growing anger that the delay in calling it off was putting people’s health at risk and an unfair financial strain on publishers.

Organiser Reed Exhibitions announced on Wednesday that the escalation of the illness meant the fair, scheduled to run from 10 to 12 March, would be called off. Around 25,000 publishers, authors and agents from around the world had been due to attend the event, where deals for the hottest new books are struck.

But the event was already set to be a ghost town when it opened its doors, after publishers and rights agencies began withdrawing en masse over the last week. Some of the world’s biggest, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette had already pulled out, as had Amazon and a host of literary agencies including Curtis Brown.

(3) NO TIME TO DEBUT. Another British institution, Agent 007, has also been affected by fears of the spread of the COVID-19 flu: No Time to Die’s Release Is Delayed Seven Months Because of Coronavirus”. The 25th James Bond movie was supposed to premiere in April, but GQ reports it now will open in November. The date has been pushed back so the film can make money in Asian countries whose movie theatres are currently in trouble because of the coronavirus.

(4) ANOTHER DELAY. Even Baby Yoda is feeling the effects — “Coronavirus Has Now Affected Baby Yoda’s Impending Arrival in the U.S.”.

Now there are reports that the spread of the illness—and subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions in China—will likely impact the arrival of Baby Yoda toys.

Hasbro, which has the license for several Star Wars toys, including some dolls and figures of The Mandalorian’s breakout star, is very concerned about the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt its toy-making supply chains. CNN Business spoke to toy-industry expert Jim Silver, who said that the first batch of Baby Yoda toys, which are supposed to arrive later this month, are mostly in the clear so far. However, if things don’t return to normal by the start of the summer, Silver predicts “shortages on a litany of toys.”

In a filing released on Thursday, Hasbro admitted that it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China, where more than 80,000 people have been infected. The company added that the flu “could have a significant negative impact on our revenues, profitability, and business.”

(5) NEXT YEAR IN HORROR. The StokerCon 2021 website has gone live. Next year’s Horror Writers Association gathering will take place in Denver, CO from May 20-23. Memberships go on sale April 20 for $150 (Early Bird Special). The next rate hike is June 30, 2020.

(6) TURNOVER ON THE MASTHEAD. Sean Wallace, Publisher of The Dark Magazine, told followers about some recent and upcoming personnel changes.

Just before the start of the new year, our reprint editor Michael Kelly stepped back from his duties to put more time and energy in his small press company, Undertow Publications, and we wish him all the best in his endeavours. And then in other somewhat-related sad news, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is also soon leaving The Dark Magazine to focus on her writing career, which is really taking off, and rightfully so. As such, her last month will be with the July 2020 issue, which we are putting together the original lineup as we type this out.

Beyond that, we have no immediate plans to hire a new co-editor, at least for the remainder of 2020, but I will be sending out a further update on this closer to the end of the year.

(7) PARSONS OBIT. Aly Parsons (1952-2020) died February 9, reports Locus Online. With her husband Paul Parsons (d. 2008), she hosted the Potomac River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and worked on Unicons and the 2003 World Fantasy Convention. She cofounded a Washington DC writers’ group that met for decades. Her pro sales included a short story published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthology Sword of Chaos (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 4, 1956 The Atomic Man premiered. If you saw it in the U.K., it was Tinmeslip. It was directed by Ken Hughes, and produced by Alec C. Snowden from The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. It starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. You’ll need to watch it for yourself here to see how it is as there’s no Rotten Tomatoes ratings for it. 
  • March 4, 1958 Cosmic Monsters  (The Strange World of Planet X in the U.K.) premiered. It was produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn. It starred  Forrest Tucker and Gaby André. It was a double bill with The Crawling Eye. It bombed at the Box Office, critics at the time hated it and it currently has a 6% rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • March 4, 1977 Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four films. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you  a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 4, 1905 Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing of thing.” Despite that, he’s here because, he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour.“ And he was in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1933 Bernie Zuber. A fan artist who was the original vice president of the Mythopoeic Society. He was also a long-time member of LASFS who joined in the Fifties. He served as one of the first editors of Mythlore, but leftafter a falling out with the Mythopoeic Society, and became the founder and president of the Tolkien Fellowships. He published Butterbur’s Woodshed, Germinal and The Westmarch Chronicle. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 4, 1938 Paula Prentiss, 82. One of the wives of the original Stepford Wives, she also appears as Sonia Dracula in the second Mr. and Mrs. Dracula pilot in 1981 after the first pilot was deemed not workable by the network. That pilot was also not brought to series either. 
  • Born March 4, 1958 James Ellroy, 72. Ok Filers. ISFDB lists two novels by him as being genre, Blood Moon and American Tabloid. I’ve read neither but nothing that I can find on the web suggests that either is even remotely genre adjacent. Who’s read them? 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even the forthcoming Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Daniela Amavia, 54. She appeared as Alia Atreides in the Children of Dune series.usually I wouldn’t include a performer fir just one genre credit, but she made a most perfect Alia that I will make an exception and do so in her case. 

(10) MAGICIANS SERIES WINDING UP. “‘The Magicians’ to End With Season 5 on Syfy”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The show’s April 1 season finale will now serve as a series ender.

Syfy will say goodbye to one of its signature shows in the spring, bringing The Magicians to a close after five seasons.

The series from Universal Content Productions, based on Lev Grossman’s novel of the same name, will air its final episode on April 1. The decision comes with five episodes remaining in the season.

(11) NAILING THAT GALLIFREYAN JELLO TO THE WALL. The finale of Doctor Who’s twelfth season prompts Paste Magazine to consider “Doctor Who and the Difficulty of Rewriting Your Own History”. BEWARE SPOILERS.  

…But sometimes, Doctor Who’s willingness to play fast and loose with things we previously knew to be true just makes its stories unnecessarily complicated without adding anything of value to them. (See also: Clara’s status as the Impossible Girl, Melody Pond growing up to be River Song or the Hybrid mystery.) It certainly feels like that’s the case in the Season 12 finale, an episode which gives the Doctor an entirely new origin story, destroys her race (again!) and creates what feels like an almost limitless number of incarnations of the character that we, as viewers, will likely never meet.

Because the question at the end of all this is: So what?

After promising a game-changing finale that would upend everything we, as viewers, understood about the show, “The Timeless Children” didn’t really live up to that promise. It actually changes very little. By the time the closing credits roll, the entire series’ universe is supposed to be different. The problem is, it’s not. Not really. There are new pieces to the story, sure. But largely those pieces exist in the same places the old ones did. So, it’s hard to tell precisely why this story matters….

Because you can’t have it both ways: Either existing Doctor Who lore is important enough that shaking it up and turning it inside out and fighting strangers on the internet about it matters, or it doesn’t. If we change the rules, those changes need to mean something, and the story that comes out of those has to be worth rewriting the things that have come before. (And you have to respect that there were rules that existed in the first place.) It’s not clear that this episode does that, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Master’s characterization, the Doctor’s past, or the apparent erasure of Rassilon from existence. If nothing is truly different in the aftermath of stories that supposedly change everything, then what’s the point of telling them? Sure, “The Timeless Children” dropped the bombshell that the Doctor is functionally immortal, but we all sort of knew that already, since she was given a new set of regenerations back when she was Eleven.

(12) FRAUD, HE SAYS. While Paste Magazine is dubious, John C. Wright is absolutely outraged (as one might expect) and calls the season-ending episode “The Death of Doctor Who”. Again, BEWARE SPOILERS.

…So the Doctor turns out to be, not an eccentric Time Lord who stole a broken TARDIS to flee into time and space for madcap adventures helping the helpless, nay.

He is in fact a foundling, a poor little black girl, who is the sole source of the regenerative ability of the Time Lords, hence the true founder of their society, not Rassilon.

…The point of message fiction is twofold.

The first, like Aesop, attempts to convey a moral maxim or lesson in a palatable fashion to influence young minds.

This can be done well or poorly, depending on whether the story rules the message, or the message rules the story.

The message itself, like any sermon, can also be well written or poorly written.

But if the message derails the story, that is fraud. The author who promises an entertainment, but delivers a lecture instead, is just as much a cheat as a bartender who charges for a mug of beer but puts a glass of buttermilk before you. Buttermilk may be better for your health, but, honestly, the bartender is not your mother, and he is not doing the job you paid him for.

Wright proceeds to condemn all of this in the strongest terms. I can only imagine how upset he might have been if he had actually watched the show, but he assures his readers —

I have not seen the episode, nor, indeed, the season, nor ever will I.

Okayyy….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants strike out on this one:

Category: America’s Richest Self-Made Women

Answer: Part of this author’s nearly $400 million fortune came from books she wrote under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.

Wrong question: Who is J.K. Rowling?

Right question: Who is Nora Roberts?

(14) FANTASTIC VOYAGE. NPR reports, “In A 1st, Scientists Use Revolutionary Gene-Editing Tool To Edit Inside A Patient”.

For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.

The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.

“We’re really excited about this,” Dr. Eric Pierce, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, who is leading a study that the procedure launched, tells NPR.

“We’re helping open, potentially, an era of gene-editing for therapeutic use that could have impact in many aspects of medicine,” Pierce says.

The CRISPR gene-editing technique has been revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. It’s also raising high hopes of curing many diseases.

Before this step, doctors had only used CRISPR to try to treat a small number of patients who have cancer, or the rare blood disorders sickle cell anemia or beta-thalassemia. While some of the initial results have been promising, it’s still too soon to know whether the strategy is working.

In those other cases, doctors removed cells from patients’ bodies, edited genes in the cells with CRISPR in the lab and then infused the modified cells back into the volunteers’ bodies to either attack their cancer or produce a protein their bodies are missing.

(15) THE DOOR INTO BUMMER. Did you know? “Amazon’s Ring logs every doorbell press and app action”.

Amazon keeps records of every motion detected by its Ring doorbells, as well as the exact time they are logged down to the millisecond.

The details were revealed via a data request submitted by the BBC.

It also disclosed that every interaction with Ring’s app is also stored, including the model of phone or tablet and mobile network used.

One expert said it gave Amazon the potential for even broader insight into its customers’ lives.

“What’s most interesting is not just the data itself, but all the patterns and insights that can be learned from it,” commented independent privacy expert Frederike Kaltheuner.

“Knowing when someone rings your door, how often, and for how long, can indicate when someone is at home.

“If nobody ever rang your door, that would probably say something about your social life as well.”

She added that it remained unclear how much further “anonymised” data was also being collected.

“This isn’t just about privacy, but about the power and monetary value that is attached to this data.”

Amazon says it uses the information to evaluate, manage and improve its products and services.

(16) CLUMSY FILTER. BBC looks at it from his point of view: “Luton filmmaker warns over over TikTok and Facebook extremism rules”.

A filmmaker says social media rules to prevent extremist material going online are thwarting his attempts to tackle hatred and extremism.

Rizwan Wadan said algorithms used by Facebook and TikTok were making it hard to promote his films.

Mr Wadan, 38, of Luton, said automatic filtering of words such as “jihad” and “terror,” forced users underground to learn about and discuss the issues.

Facebook said his trailer broke its ban on “sensational content” in adverts.

Mr Wadan, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, developed camera stabilisation systems and has worked on films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

He set up a £1.2m project called The Error in Terror to “give Muslims a voice,” and made films intended to deter acts of terrorism and challenge people to rethink their views.

But he said trailers for his work have been “restricted” on Facebook and said TikTok removed the content because it was deemed to break its guidelines.

“If we have algorithms that pick up words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad,’ if we’re not allowed to discuss these things on social media platforms, then people who need to learn about this get pushed underground,” he said.

“They might start to learn about these things from people abroad where jihad is applied very differently and it could encourage individuals to get into revenge and retaliation, and this is very dangerous for us.

“It’s the responsibility of social media platforms to allow this kind of discussion to take place.”

(17) COOL STORY. “Star Wars fan gets bionic R2-D2 arm, meets Luke Skywalker [via Skype]”CNN has video.   

11-year-old Star Wars fan Isabella Tadlock was born with a nub on the end of her left arm and no fingers on her right hand. Actor Mark Hamill saw her story on Twitter and helped her get a R2-D2 bionic arm.

(18) BOOKSHOPPING LEADS TO BOOKHOPPING. Powell’s Books Blog presents “Portrait of a Bookseller: Dana P.”, who recommends V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman, and confesses a habit that will probably sound familiar to some of you.

Do you have any odd reading habits?
I definitely have a bad habit of hoarding books and then starting too many of them at once. I love the feeling of just starting a book, when it holds so much potential, so I’ll often have about six books I’m in the middle of — but I’ll bounce back and forth between them so none of them feel neglected.

(19) THE INTERNET OF REBELLIOUS THINGS. Connected is about —

…an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When nature-loving dad Rick… determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time…. the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!

It arrives in theaters September 18.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

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

Pixel Scroll 1/19/20 All That Is Scrolled Does Not Pixel, Not All Those Who File Are Fifth

(1) A MIGHTY LONG LIST. List Challenges presents “1000 Books You May Have Actually Read” — “Based on the number of ratings each book has on Goodreads. And if you haven’t read them, maybe you can use for a literature bucket list.”

I scored 169. The list has certain biases. If I’d read every book by Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King, I think I could have doubled my number. On the other hand, I got credit for a whole bunch of books I read aloud to my daughter when she was little.

(2) SINCE 9/11. At LA Review of Books, Yxta Maya Murray mines the applications of 2002 Creative Capital awardees to look at how these artists imagined a post-9/11 future: “Art Matters Now — 12 Writers on 20 Years of Art: Yxta Maya Murray on Artists’ Responses to 9/11”.

2002 was a historical hinge. Just a moment earlier, the United States had seemed to be enjoying a period of peace; now it was at war. The art of that year offers a time capsule that reflects the millennium’s complex transitions. Reeling from 9/11 but working on projects begun during the Clintonian boom, before the Towers fell, some artists in 2002 were still able to romanticize millenarianism and the future: rather than imagining the specifics of the violence that would descend with the war presidency of George W. Bush, artists such as Sawad Brooks and Sabrina Raaf, for example, revealed a fascination with a speculative tomorrowland that resembled the visions of sci-fi writers such as Isaac Asimov, Iain Banks, and William Gibson. But others, such as Tana Hargest, Sujata Bhatt, Suzanne Lacy, and Nick Cave, forecasted a more difficult future.

(3) DISNEY’S ARMY OF LAWYERS. IndieWire reports “Disney Is Cracking Down on Sellers of Unlicensed Baby Yoda Dolls”.

Ever since “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney+ in November, the adorable “Baby Yoda” character has melted hearts and minds around the world. However, despite fervent requests for Baby Yoda dolls, Disney has been rather slow to respond to product demands, reportedly in order to keep Baby Yoda’s reveal in “The Mandalorian” pilot a secret per Jon Favreau’s request.

But the cat was out of the bag after the show’s premiere, and “The Child” quickly became a social media sensation. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that impatient fans have already taken matters into their own hands, with Etsy crafters and sellers creating their own unofficial Baby Yoda toys to capitalize on the demand. And for a while, the bootleg Baby Yoda market seemed to flourish.

Of course, it didn’t take long before Disney discovered this, and began issuing takedown notices, reminding Etsy that it owns the intellectual property rights to all Star Wars characters. And Etsy businesses with popular Baby Yoda products suddenly found their listings deactivated, at the request of Disney, according to The Verge.

(4) LEGO NEWS. In the Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to market itself to Generation X people as a stress reliever, thinking that Gen X types “are more likely to drop $800 on a 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon set or $400 for a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle.” — “Lego sets its sights on a growing market: Stressed-out adults”.

Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to appeal to Gen X nostalgia by offering items such as the Central Perk cafe from “Friends” or a “vintage 1989 Batmobile.”  Also next month LEGO Masters will premiere as a competition show on FOX.

Another connection to sf:  Bhattarai says Lego posted a loss in 1998 but was saved when they got the license to produce Star Wars products

(5) BRICKS IN SPACE. And io9 spotted a massive Lego Star Wars fan project:  “This Custom Lego Version of Echo Base Is Ready for the Empire’s Siege”.

The sheer ambition of Lego creators never ceases to amaze me. Far from being satisfied with what Lego’s sets provide, these sculptors create incredible things. Like this version of Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back, which is ready for battle.

Hopefully, this version will have a better fight than the one in the film, however. Clocking in at over 16,000 pieces, this Echo Base, created by YouTuber The Lego Room, is a custom build featuring the base’s hangar, medical chamber, and pretty much every other part you see in the films. It even has a fully motorized gate to keep the snow and the Empire out. Capping it off is an elaborate build of the Millenium Falcon, taking up a lot of hangar space.

(6) SAD STORY OF HARASSMENT. LA Times columnist Julia Wick writes: “A female mayor denounces the harassment she receives. Hours later, a man is arrested at her office”.

 If you are a woman who is so bold as to inhabit a vaguely public stage, chances are high that you will be called a lot of things that can’t be printed in a family newspaper. And then some.

It’s a truism that unfortunately appears to transcend industry or geography. Exist in public, and eventually an online mob will nitpick your looks, rate your sexual desirability in relation to your ability to do your job, and probably make threats vague and specific — regardless of whether you’re a female journalist, the founder of an indie game studio or trying to run a small city in the Central Coast region of California.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was fed up when she finally took to Facebook last Monday morning to call out the constant harassment she received.

(7) FIRST TIMER. Twitter user Yubi had never actually seen The Princess Bride and knew very little about it. Until now, when they did a watch through, and livetweeted their reactions. It’s really entertaining seeing them find out where so many common fan phrases and gifts came from. Thread starts here.

(8) MORE ABOUT STEVE STILES. The Baltimore Sun paid tribute to one of their own: “Steve Stiles, Hugo Award-winning comic fan artist of ‘Xenozoic Tales,’ dies at 76”.

…He did a two-year Army stint in the mid-1960s. A commanding officer told him: “If you can draw my girlfriend, you won’t get orders to go to Vietnam.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Elaine Stiles, his wife of 38 years. He was stationed instead at bases in Missouri and Virginia Beach.

Mr. Stiles was tasked with using his artistic talents to liven up the Army manuals for rifles and other equipment — following in the footsteps of one of his idols, the legendary comic artist Will Eisner, who had done similar jobs in the service during World War II.

More than 20 years later, while they were serving together on a science-fiction panel at a 1988 convention in Florida, Mr. Eisner complimented Mr. Stiles on his art.

“He was talking about it for the rest of his life,” Mrs. Stiles said.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 19, 1967 Star Trek’s “Arena” episode first aired on NBC. It was written by Gene L. Coon  but after the episode aired , it was found to almost identical to one Fredric Brown had published in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction. Coon then bought the rights to his story and Brown has been retroactively given a story writing credit. Not one but two actors play Gorn (Gary Combs and Bobby Clark), both uncredited, and Ted Cassidy is the Voice of Gorn Captain, also uncredited. This episode, aired in the first season is where the Federation is first mentioned.
  • January 19, 1990 — The first Tremors film premiered. It was directed by Ron Underwood and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, as written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire. It was the only film of six in total to get a box office release. It did poorly at the box office even though critics thought it well of it and thought it has a Fifties throwback vibe to it. It has an 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an astonishing almost two hundred and forty thousand votes! 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 90. Melanie Daniels In Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s Harvest, Tales from the Darkside, The Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 19, 1942 Michael Crawford, 78. He was the first Phantom of the Opera in Andrew Lloyd Opera’s play.  He did thirteen hundred performances in total. He did two other genre plays, Dance of the Vampires and The Wizard of Oz. He did an episode of One Step Beyond as well, though I’m not sure that was genre.
  • Born January 19, 1948 Michael J. Jackson, 72. Shows up on Dr. Who in the Fifth Doctor adventure, “The King’s Demons” as Sir Geoffrey. He played Sean Burns in a recurring role on Highlander, and played Richard I in The Legend of Robin Hood series. He was in The Morons from Outer Space as the Second Scientist.
  • Born January 19, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
  • Born January 19, 1957 Roger Ashton-Griffiths, 63. He’s no doubt best known for his role as Mace Tyrell on Game of Thrones. And yes he was on Doctor Who in a Twelfth Doctor adventure, “The Robots of Sherwood” as Quayle. He’s also had roles in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic,Tales from the Crypt, Torchwood, Brazil and Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files
  • Born January 19, 1981 Bitsie Tulloch, 39. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths even a year later.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows a certain kind of gourmand in action.
  • The Duplex took a photo of my dating life from back in the day.
  • Free Range has a new idea for a nature park.

(12) PIXEL PACKIN’ POWER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 15 Financial Times, Tom Faber reviews a concert at the O2 Brixton Academy in London by Hatsune Miku, a hologram who has a repertory of 100,000 songs.

Here, on her second European tour, she was performing to a mixed crowd:  ‘otaku’; Japanese subculture obsessives dressed in elaborate aqua wigs and microscopic skirts; other excited teens; and a smattering of baffled dads.  There was a real four-piece band on stage to support the synthesized vocals, but the players were left mostly in the dark as they tore through the signature J-pop genre crush of pop, metal, techno and trance.  The dreams and emotions were turned up to 11 from the first chorus, and for two hours they did not come back down  She sang big hits such as the buoyant, melodramatic ‘World is Mine’ and the English-language ‘Miku’ (sample lyric:  ‘Blue hair, blue tie, hiding in your WiFi’).  The misses outnumbered them, though, with an excess of polite guitar shredding and a particularly bloodless salsa number.

…While the 10-year-old hologram technology used in the show was not particularly impressive, Miku’s star continues to rise; she has just been added to the line-up at Coachella 2020.  Her name translates from Japanese as ‘first sound of the future,’ and while she doesn’t convince as a harbinger of the future of pop, she does suggest the future of fandom. After her last song, Miku exploded into a thousand cyan pixels.  The house lights came up and the crowd roared.  Next to me a man, sweaty and euphoric, screamed, ‘Thank you, Miku!’ into the empty air.

Hatsune Miku’s website is https://piapro.net/intl/en.html .

(13) RADIX OFFERS COPIES FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION. Radix Media is offering review copies (printed or PDF) to anybody interested in considering their 2019 releases in the Futures: A Science Fiction Series for awards: “2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Eligibility”.

(14) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. MovieWeb talked to somebody who attended the screening: “First Dune Remake Footage Earns Big Praise, Gets Compared to Lord of the Rings”.

The first Dune footage has screened. The preview footage was shown to a small group of industry insiders and has already been hailed as “epic.” Principal photography wrapped not that long ago and Denis Villeneuve is currently in the post-production phase to prepare the long-awaited movie for release at the end of the year. As for the footage that was shown, it was mixed in with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes shots. It does not seem like it was intended for public release, so don’t expect to see it any time soon.

Sci-fi novelist Brian Clement was one of the lucky viewers of the first Dune footage and he has shared his thoughts online for fans. First of all, the footage did not have completed special effects, though Clement describes the cinematography as “beautiful,” while stating, “I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot of people will have goosebumps/tears when they see this movie (I might!). Heck, when they see the footage I saw they will.” The author had to choose his words wisely as not to catch any trouble with Warner Bros.

…A small amount of footage of Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen was seen also seen in the Dune footage, along with a tiny bit of Jason Momoa. Brian Clement went on to tease that the choice of actor for playing Kynes will be a surprise for audiences, while Dave Bautista apparently looks “creepy” in the footage.

(15) OUT FOXED. “Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand”.

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

(16) AVENUE 5. This is going to be longer than a “three-hour tour” — “Review: HBO’s ‘Avenue 5,’ a Tale of a Fateful Trip (in Space)” in the New York Times.

How far is Armando Iannucci’s new HBO comedy, “Avenue 5,” from his previous one, “Veep”? About a billion miles, give or take, or the distance from earth to Saturn, where the spaceship of the title is thrown off course, greatly increasing the time its load of unlucky tourists will have to spend on their interplanetary cruise.

Set 40 years in the future aboard a vessel that looks like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and a high-end mall, Iannucci’s new show would seem to be a radical departure from the acrid, of-the-moment political satire of “Veep” and his earlier British series “The Thick of It.” (Several of those shows’ writers, including Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Will Smith, have joined him on “Avenue 5.”)

But there are recognizably Iannuccian things about this space-com, which debuts Sunday. Like the politicians and operatives guiding the ship of state in “Veep,” the crew members of the Avenue 5 are an often amoral, small-minded and quarrelsome bunch whose constant sniping provides the bulk of the humor. Leading them is a captain, played by the “Veep” alumnus Hugh Laurie, who, like Vice President Selina Meyer, is not ideally qualified for his post.

(17) SAFETY FIRST. “SpaceX completes emergency crew escape manoeuvre” — includes video.

SpaceX has conducted a test of the abort manoeuvre it would use if one of its crew-carrying rockets ever developed a problem during flight.

The rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center saw a Falcon-9 vehicle’s ascent into the sky deliberately terminated just 80 seconds after lift-off.

The Dragon astronaut capsule on top fired its escape engines to carry itself clear of the “faulty” booster.

Parachutes brought the vessel to a safe splashdown some 30km off Florida.

No humans were involved in the practice abort; the only occupants of the Dragon ship were a couple of Anthropomorphic Test Devices, or “dummies”.

This was considered to be the last major milestone for California’s SpaceX company before the US space agency (Nasa) certifies the firm to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

(18) NOT FOREVER MAN. Hey, don’t laugh, these’ll be very useful the first time there’s a mission to take over an integral tree: “US Space Force mocked for unveiling camouflage uniforms”.

The US Space Force has defended its newly unveiled camouflage uniforms after they were roundly mocked on social media.

The force, officially launched by US President Donald Trump last month, posted a picture of the uniform to its Twitter account.

The uniform in the picture has a woodland camouflage design with badges embroidered on the arm and chest.

Reacting to the uniform, many critics had the same question: “Camo in space?”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/20 Please Vasten Your Seatbelts

(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.

A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.

(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles. 

Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”

(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get, the process, etc.

(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

(5) SFF ZINES. Jason Sanford today posted three more interviews with editors done in conjunction with his fine “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines” report.

Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….

Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?

Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance;  a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history.  But that brings with it two difficulties.  One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise.  We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …

Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?

Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….

(6) BURNED OUT. Australian fan Don Ashby, who lost his home to one of the fires now raging Down Under, was interviewed by The Age: “The sky turned black. The beast had arrived in Mallacoota”. (Via Irwin Hirsh.)

When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.

Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.

It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.

“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.

When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.

“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.

“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”

(7) BABY IT’S GOLD OUTSIDE. Plagiarism Today reports from the front in “The Battle Over ‘Baby Yoda’”.

…However, those were just the first drops of a tidal wave that came crashing down on the internet. Etsy, for example, is swarming with unauthorized Baby Yoda merchandise of all types and eBay is much the same way.

This has become the subject of a lot of media coverage as well, such as this article on The Nerdist highlight a Baby Yoda plush toy.

This glut of unauthorized toys isn’t due to a lack of effort on Disney’s part. Several artists have reported receiving takedown notices after selling Baby Yoda merchandise on such sites and even the toy referenced above was also removed. Still, it’s clear that the Baby Yoda craze has outpaced even Disney’s capacity for control.

And the issues aren’t just related to physical items. Back in November, the popular gif website Giphy pulled all of its Baby Yoda gifs. Though Disney was initially blamed for this, it turned out it was a proactive move by Giphy that aimed to head off potential legal action by Disney. Disney hadn’t done anything.

(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until 11.59 pm NZT on March 31.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.

…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.

Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here. Eligibility list is here.

(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the Washington Post “Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely ignored.

The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 3, 1970 Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
  • January 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 3, 1898 Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 3, 1930 Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre. 
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, ManimalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
  • Born January 3, 1956 Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will. 
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. 
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. 

(12) ALL ROBOT DOGS GO TO THE CLOUD. BuzzFeed: “While Americans Worry About The AI Uprising, People In Japan Are Learning To Love Their Robots — And Be Loved Back”.

It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.

Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.

Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….

(13) BOOKMARKS. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books With Yoon Ha Lee”.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome? 

Thor: Metal Gods
is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself.  It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer.  There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem.  We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

(14) CLEANER OR MEANER? Daily Beast writer David Axe contemplates whether “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon”.

… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.

That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon. 

Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it. 

(15) AMAZONS! A growing body of archaeological evidence shows that legends about the horseback-riding, bow-wielding female fighters were almost certainly rooted in reality. The Washington Post has the story: “Amazons were long considered a myth. These discoveries show warrior women were real. “

…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.

(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in Paris.

Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.

(17) 2019. Joe Sherry explains his choices for the “Top 9 Books of the Year” at Nerds of a Feather.

7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

(18) IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. Publishers Weekly declared “Dav Pilkey Is PW’s Person of the Year for 2019”.

Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  From Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, R.S. Benedict, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]