Pixel Scroll 7/12/21 Your Pixel Will Be Transferred To The Next Available Scroll

(1) CADIGAN’S GOOD NEWS. Pat Cadigan put out two health updates in May. The first discussed her apprehension about her forthcoming usual blood test: “Guess What? You’re Scared!”

Life in Cancerland: no matter how well-adjusted you may think you are, you’re not. Pro tip: that’s okay. It’s not your job to be well-adjusted. Your job is to stay alive. Trust me; I‘m experienced.

The second was about the good report: “Okay. Okay. Okay, Yes, Okay!”

If you heard something you thought was a crazy banshee on party drugs, that was me.

The Macmillan Cancer Centre told me they were going to call me this afternoon. Instead, they called this morning and it’s taken me a while to calm down enough to type.

The level of cancer in my body has dropped a whole bunch of points. Everything else is okay, except I have to stop taking calcium supplements because I’ve got a little too much.

So I’m off calcium supplements and I don’t get another oncology appointment for another six months. Just as well. I need a couple of days to pull myself together after this one.

So now I know. Cancer is afraid of me. It should be.

(2) SCREEN TIME. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SF Stories About Raising the Children of the Future” at Tor.com. And his footnotes are not to be missed.

In the years following World War II, Americans celebrated the end of a global war and a recovery from a previous decade of economic crisis by producing an astounding number of children, with consequences that are still unrolling to this day. It was a veritable explosion in birthrates—someone should invent a snappy term for it. Maybe the Big Bang Theory?

This focus on children was reflected in the American science fiction of the day….

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury (1950)

Unlike Merril’s vision of the future, the America that Bradbury’s Hadley family calls home is a peaceful, prosperous nation. The parents use their impressive incomes to provide their children with the best of all possible childhoods in a fully automated Happylife Home.

Primitive Americans might have settled for plunking their kids down in front of ten-inch black-and-white TV sets showing Howdy Doody. Happylife Houses offer what we would probably call virtual reality suites. Every setting the children could possibly desire is available. The realism of the settings is astounding. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley are duly astounded…albeit very briefly….

(3) RECOVERY WORK. Erin Underwood says, “I finally wrote a blog post that should have been written 10 years ago about what it is like to be a new fan who is marginalized at a convention.” — “The Overpowering Power of Men at Conventions”.

…I was invisible. I was an obstacle that he pushed aside in order to have his more important conversation with Jack. I think about this now and I know that I am not the only person who has had something like this happen at a convention. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it is an example of how women have been treated in society for far too long, including convention society. The fact that it has taken me 10 years to publicly post about this also speaks to social issues of embarrassment and fear of condemnation by some members of our society….

(4) HOURGLASS. Abigail Nussbaum breaks down Black Widow at Asking the Wrong Questions. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… But the thing is, Natasha Romanoff is not James Bond. Her emotional reserve isn’t counteracted by the outsized place she takes in the world, and by the attention and obsequiousness of everyone she encounters. On the contrary, the character has always been defined by her ability to disappear into the crowd, to be whatever people need her to be without them ever stopping to wonder why that is. Her signature move—which is repeated in Black Widow, in the climactic showdown between Natasha and Dreykov—is to get overconfident men to spill the beans about their secret plans by pretending to be weaker and more vulnerable than she actually is. Scarlett Johansson’s genius in interpreting the role was in nevertheless finding hints of personality and humor in this reserved, centerless person. But Black Widow was an opportunity to peer beneath that façade, to let the person Natasha is when she isn’t performing for anyone take center stage (or, conversely, to grapple with what it means that that person doesn’t exist). Instead, it chooses to double down on its heroine’s chameleon quality, even in the presence of the people she considers family. The result is that Natasha might be her own film’s chief mover, but not its protagonist….

(5) THE SUSPENSE BEHIND THE CAMERA. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna, in a piece with a spoiler warning, interviews Black Widow director Cate Shortland and star David Harbour about the “family dinner” scene that has revelations about the family Natasha Romanoff grew up in. BEWARE SPOILERS. “How ‘Black Widow’ nailed its moving family dinner scene — where no action was involved”.

There are no pyrotechnic effects. The dramatic tension does not revolve around swooping aircraft or lethal hand-to-hand combat. Yet it is the most enlightening “Black Widow” scene — one that screenwriter Eric Pearson “had the most panic about.”…

 “That was our biggest scene — a megillah,” Pearson says by phone. In a Marvel movie packed with action, the dialogue-rich Family Dinner ran nine pages. Every exchange, every emotional beat had to deepen the film while explaining the personal stakes for each of these psychologically warped characters….

(6) SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Enjoy this short parody video on “How Women Are Written In Sci-Fi Movies”.

(7) FULL CIRCLE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Not genre but worth noting. Well, they did occasionally delve into Thing Supernatural.“Bryant & May author Christopher Fowler: ‘Writing the end was really emotional’” in The Guardian.

… This month London Bridge Is Falling Down, Fowler’s 20th Bryant & May crime novel, will be published, bringing to a close a much-loved series that started in 2003 with Full Dark House. The books feature the unconventional detective duo Arthur Bryant and John May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit, who solve arcane murders whose occult significance baffles more traditional detectives. Crime fiction aficionados can amuse themselves by spotting references to classics of the golden age, whose plots and twists Fowler ingeniously projects on to the era of computers and mobile phones. Everyone else can enjoy the endlessly bantering and discursive dialogue between the pair as they break all procedural rules, and the uniquely droll narrative voice with its sharp-eyed slant on modern life.

…Of course London has moved on inexorably since Fowler began his writing career, and co-founded his film marketing company the Creative Partnership at the age of 26. Soho is not the international film hub it once was, in the heady days when the company was working on 15 films a month, including marketing campaigns for Reservoir Dogs and Trainspotting. One of Fowler’s claims to fame from the time is mentioned in Film Freak. “Asked to provide poster straplines for Alien, I wrote several pages of them, including ‘In space no one can hear you scream’. I assume I wasn’t the only person to think of this – it’s an obvious line,” he writes.

“Someone else laid claim to it this month, I noticed,” he says now. “I love it! But we worked on it first, because it was shooting in the UK. Ridley Scott came to see us and gave us a drawing of an egg and said: ‘That’s really all I can tell you – and it’s going to be very frightening.’ We used to get paid £20 per page of copylines and that was the one they went with.”

(8) SEASON’S READINGS. Former President Obama continues his tradition of sharing his summer reading list, which includes some genre works:

(9) ROCHA OBIT. DC Comics artist Robson Rocha has died. The announcement came two weeks after a colleague tweeted an appeal for blood donors because the artist was hospitalized with COVID-19.

CBR.com listed the highlights of Rocha’s career:

Rocha is known for his work on titles such as Birds of PreyBatman/SupermanBatman: Arkham KnightSuperboy and more. He has also provided cover art for Aquaman (in addition to being the series’ main artist), Supergirl and Teen Titans, among other major DC books. Rocha became a breakout star following DC Rebirth in 2016, though he had worked with the publisher before that on other projects.

SYFY Wire rounded up tributes from Rocha’s colleagues in social media: “Robson Rocha: Comics world mourns passing of DC Comics artist”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 12, 1969 — Fifty-two years ago on this date, BBC 1 aired  the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode of Star Trek. It was the third episode of the first season and the second pilot shown. It was directed by James Goldstone and written by Samuel A. Peeples whose only other Trek script was for the pilot episode of the animated series, “Beyond the Farthest Star”.  (He would later write the scripts for the first six episodes for Jason of Star Command which was when James Doohan was involved.)  The primary guests were Gary Lockwood  as Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. It is notable for the absence of the series regulars of McCoy, Uhura , and Chekov.  Reception, now and then, was universally superb for the episode with it being considered one of the finest ones across all of the series.  The episode would be adapted into a short story by James Blish for his Star Trek 8 anthology, and it also became the second in Bantam’s Fotonovels series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 — Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 — James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. He won another Hugo at MidAmeriCon for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s extremely well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 — Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station which you could think of as a Clue-style novel he wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature which has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 — Carl Lundgren, 74. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1961 — Scott Nimerfro. He had an impressive production list of genre films and series he did, to wit Tales From The CryptTrekkiesX-MenPerversions Of ScienceThe GatesPushing Daisies, and the Once Upon A Time series which he produced three seasons of. He has one genre acting credit in “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” story of Tales From The Crypt in which he was Fouser. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 12, 1968 — Sara Griffiths, 53. She appeared as Ray in the Seventh Doctor story “Delta and the Bannermen”.  She was being considered as a companion to the Doctor, a role however taken by Sophie Aldred as Ace.
  • Born July 12, 1975 — Phil Lord, 46. Shared a Hugo for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at Dublin 2019. With co-director Christopher Miller, he’ll be doing the sequel to it. They also co-produced The Last Man on Earth series, and he executive produced Solo: A Star War Story.
  • Born July 12, 1976– Gwenda Bond, 45. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe.  And she penned the Dear Aunt Gwenda section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. 

(12) BRANDING. The Conversation details how “China is using mythology and sci-fi to sell its space programme to the world”.

…China’s construction of its own space station stems from the nation’s exclusion from the International Space Station, a result of US concerns over technology transfers that could enhance China’s military capabilities. Undeterred by this, China has forged ahead with its own space programmes and alliances. Since, the country has demonstrated that the Chinese “brand” of space technology is reputable and can hold its own in the international arena.

An impressive track record of remarkable space endeavours is not the only thing that distinguishes China’s space brand from other national players. The government and related organisations have made concerted efforts to establish a unique “Chinese space culture” alongside the country’s advances in space technology. While the target audience for many of these cultural creations remains domestic, China’s space ambitions are directed at global audiences in a variety of ways.

Legendary beginnings

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the naming of these programmes after China’s traditional roots.

The name Tiangong translates as “Heavenly Palace”. This was the residence of the deity who holds supreme authority over the universe in Chinese mythology, the Celestial Ruler. The name is particularly fitting for a Chinese space station, which acts as a home in the heavens for the country’s taikonauts. The meaning of Shenzhou, the missions that take taikonauts to space, is “Divine Vessel”, which is also a homophone for an ancient name for China, “Divine Land”.

China’s lunar exploration missions, meanwhile, are named after the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e. The tale goes that Chang’e flew from Earth to the Moon after stealing the elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi….

(13) ENCANTO. A trailer dropped for Disney’s Encanto. The movie will be out in November.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto,” is the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The all-new original film features the voice of Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel, an ordinary 15-year-old who’s struggling to find her place in her family.

(14) HELLO, DOLLIES. “It’s Hollywood Barbie’s Moment (and She’s Bringing Her Friends)” reports the New York Times.

[In addition to BARBIE, in which Margot (Harley Quinn) Robbie was recently announced as starring in,] The dozen other films in Mattel’s pipeline include a live-action Hot Wheels spectacle; a horror film based on the fortunetelling Magic 8 Ball; a wide-audience Thomas the Tank Engine movie that combines animation and live action; and, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a big-screen Masters of the Universe adventure about the cosmos that includes He-Man and his superheroic sister, She-Ra.

Mattel, Universal and Vin Diesel are collaborating on a live-action movie based on Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, a tabletop game introduced in 1966. Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls”) is directing and writing a live-action family comedy based on Mattel’s Polly Pocket line of micro-dolls. Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”) will play the title role and produce; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is the distribution and financing partner.

Mattel has also announced movies based on View-Master, American Girl and Uno, the ubiquitous card game. (If you think an Uno movie sounds like a satirical headline from The Onion, consider this: There are non-Mattel movies in development in Hollywood that are based on Play-Doh and Peeps, the Easter candy.)

(15) IT’S A MYSTERY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled ‘Black Widow Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant Ryan George reminds us the reason Black Widow came out now instead of several years ago was a comment (made before Wonder Woman) by deposed Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter that “superhero movies starring women don’t make money.”  But who is the mysterious character who shows up at the end credits and tells everyone to subscribe to Disney Plus?

(16) QUOTES AND SOCIAL MEDIA. This version of Groucho Marx’s quote is the best known:

I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into the other room and read a book.

Somebody sent it to File 770 today and lest any commenter prove it really originated with Abraham Lincoln, Voltaire, or some other TV watcher, I ran a Google search. Quote Investigator assures us Groucho said it first – phrased as follows:

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.

That’s a pretty cynical attitude for “the leer”—that’s me, Groucho—and now that I’m a part of television, or “TV” as we say out here on the Coast, I don’t mean a word of it.

It was in a short article he wrote to promote his own soon-to-debut TV show.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video, written by Ryan George, features Brandon Calder as Donald McDonald, Professional Audio Movie Consultant, who explains that he used to capture sounds in movies by actually duplicating scenes in movies but after breaking his ankles to provide the sound for that scene in Misery he found it safer to create sound effects! “THE Sound Effects Tutorial — Pro Tips By Pitch Meeting”.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, StephenfromOttawa, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/20 Continued
On Next Orc

(1) DIGITAL DIAGNOSIS. N. K. Jemisin tries to work out what the symptoms of social media indicate. Thread starts here.

(2) OF THE GALAXY? “U.S. Space Force unveils name of space professionals” – and that name is: Guardians.

Today, after a yearlong process that produced hundreds of submissions and research involving space professionals and members of the general public, we can finally share with you the name by which we will be known: Guardians.

The opportunity to name a force is a momentous responsibility. Guardians is a name with a long history in space operations, tracing back to the original command motto of Air Force Space Command in 1983, “Guardians of the High Frontier.”

The name Guardians connects our proud heritage and culture to the important mission we execute 24/7, protecting the people and interest of the U.S. and its allies.

Guardians. Semper Supra!

(3) OBAMA’S READS. Former President Barack Obama tweeted a list of his favorite books from this year. Kim Stanley Robinson’s book seems to be the only genre work. Emily St. John Mandel is also here, a name well-known to fans, but not here for a sff novel.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners tobinge brownies with William F. Wu in Episode 134 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

William F. Wu

William F. Wu attended the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University in the summer of 1974 — the same year I would have gone had I not been turned down. (But don’t worry — I was accepted in 1979). I first became aware of Bill not from his fiction, but from the letters he wrote to Marvel commenting on the depiction of Asians in the company’s Master of Kung Fu comic book. He made his first professional sale in 1975, and since then has published more than 70 short stories and more than a dozen novels. He’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards twice each, as well as a World Fantasy Award. He wrote all six novels in Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time series, two entries in the Isaac Asimov’s Robot City series, and is one of the writers in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards anthology series.

We discussed how the two of us almost ended up at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop together (and why we didn’t), the reason he wasn’t terrified when he got the chance to play in Issac Asimov’s robot universe, how an assignment from Harlan Ellison gave birth to one of his more famous short stories (which was later adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone, what he found easy about writing in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, how you might never have read his science fiction if crime editors had been kinder to him, what Kate Wilhelm told him which helped fix a story problem, why Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu comic books attracted him (and how he’d have written the book if given the chance), how he manages to collaborate with other writers without killing them, and much more.

(5) WHY IT BULGES. Galactic Journey brings you a Battle of the Bulge game review, movie call-out, and F&SF issue review all in one fully-packed post! “[December 18, 1965] (January 1966 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Sitzkrieg

If The Battle of the Bulge represents the essence of the blitzkrieg, this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction is a recreation of World War 1 — overlong, with little movement, ultimately pointless.  Such a sad contrast to last month’s issue, which was the best in years.  Ah, such are the vicissitudes of war.  Come slog along with me, would you? …

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago, Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt was published by Harcourt Brace in a wonderful edition profusely illustrated by the late Francisco Xavier Mora. This tale of two boys and a most unusual cat battling the Horned God at the Winter Solstice is most excellent reading. Harper Jo Morrison who reviewed at Green Man says “Buy the book, bring it home, and luxuriate in something fresh and different. Read it aloud to your child, your cousin, your special someone; anyone who can appreciate a sense of magic in a real world.” 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 —  Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps  for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  He’s decently stocked at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1916 – Walt Daugherty.  Co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation.  Published a Directory of Fandom in 1942.  Invented Westercon, chaired Westercon 2, Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 50.  Recorded (by phonograph!) Denvention I the 2nd Worldcon, so we have all of Heinlein’s GoH speech; chaired Pacificon I the 4th; Fan GoH at Baycon the 26th; Special Committee Award from L.A.con III the 54th (chaired by Our Gracious Host).  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Also Gene Lucas Award from the Int’l Betta Congress (betta are the “Siamese fighting fish”), world champion in NY “Harvest Moon” contest (ballroom dancing), prize-winner with parakeet “King Tut” (archaeology another hobby), quick-draw demonstration in the X Olympiad (1932; 22/100 second).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1936 – Dave Hulan, age 84.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 1, Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 50.  Active in various apas e.g. APANAGEFAPAGestaltSAPSSFPA.  Served a term as editor of Tightbeam.  Rebel Award.  Mythopoeic Society.  Lived in Los Angeles awhile and made friends there too.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1937 – Fran Skene, age 83.  Chaired Westercon 30; VCON VI, 9, 14; co-chaired Rain Cinq, chaired Rain Finale.  Served a term as editor of BCSFAzine (British Columbia SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 35, MileHiCon 10, Ad Astra 8, Keycon 5.  Fanzines Love Makes the World Go AwryWhat Do You Know of Love?  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock, age 81.  Six dozen novels, fifteen dozen shorter stories, a dozen poems, a score of anthologies.  Editor of New Worlds and Vector.  Guest of Honor at LoneStarCon II the 55th Worldcon.  One Nebula.  World Fantasy Award and another for life achievement.  Campbell Memorial Award.  Five British Fantasy Awards.  Prix Utopia and Bram Stoker Awards for life achievement.  SFWA Grand Master (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  SF Hall of Fame.  Musician with the Deep Fix, Hawkwind, Blue Öyster Cult, Spirits Burning.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Hartison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 74. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,  Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film was terrible…  He’d repeated that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t.  The BFG is simply wonderful. (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 66. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 66. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on TrekStar Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work for hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1958 – Steve Davidson, age 62.  Fan, editor, publisher, often seen here.  Four reviews in Ray Gun Revival.  Interviewed in StarShipSofa.  Among his Amazing adventures, he’s currently the publisher; with Jean Marie Stine, half a dozen Best of “Amazing” anthologies 1926-1943.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1962 – Maiya Williams, age 58.  First black editor of the Harvard Lampoon.  Three novels for us.  Television writer and producer, e.g. FuturamaThe Haunted Hathaways.  Loves forests, especially old-growth redwoods.  Website quotes “A book is a device to ignite the imagination” (A. Bennett, The Uncommon Reader p. 34, 2007; fictionally attr. to Queen Elizabeth II).  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 52. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film  Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!   He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt in Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a horrible math pun. So I naturally recommend it.

(9) LIGHTS IN THE SKY. NASA advises everyone how to watch “The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn” on December 21.

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”..

(10) MALFUNCTION JUNCTION.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Allegra Frank, in the Vox story “Cyberpunk 2077, the year’s most controversial video game featuring Keanu Reeves, explained”, says that Cyberpunk 2077, years in development, has been roundly attacked for numerous glitches, including male and female wardrobe malfunctions and strobe effects that caused seizures in epileptics.

…When the game’s first reviews came out just before its December 10 release, they were mostly positive. It turned out, however, that this was because reviewers were only given early access to the Windows PC version, the one best optimized and representative of the expansive, graphically intensive game’s potential. Once the game was released on consoles as well (for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, versions that also work — much better — on the companies’ newer consoles), players discovered a litany of technical issues.

Characters’ faces were obscured, some environments were unsightly. The game would make consoles crash repeatedly, sometimes sacrificing players’ progress. One glitch even exposed characters’ detailed penises and breasts, which would poke out of their clothes. The memes and mockery were relentless and swift….

(11) BIG DEALS. If you wondered “Why Is the Star Wars Universe Full of Megafauna?” then James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post is what you’ve been waiting for.

Whilst watching an episode of The Mandalorian, I noticed something in the  background that was odd enough that I should have taken note of it ages ago: the Star Wars universe sure has a lot of large apex predators for a setting that has been civilized for tens of thousands of years.

This is not the case on present-day Earth. Biodiversity has taken a sharp nosedive in the last 20,000 years. Pretty much any large species that looks tasty, which might have a taste for humans, or lives on land for which we have other purposes in mind has vanished or been greatly reduced in numbers. Because human lifespans are so short, we take the Earth’s depleted state as normal, so are spared angst over all the cool beasts no longer extant.

In the Star Wars universe, the story is very different. When visiting a world in that setting, one should always have a contingency plan for attacks from the local whale-sized predators. What the heck is going on?

(12) YOU’VE GOT YOUR CHOCOLATE IN MY PEPSI. Mashed assures us “Pepsi is planning to release a strange new soda flavor”. Another source headlines it as a “Chocolate Marshmallow ‘Cocoa’ Cola.” (Will it go well with your McRib sandwich?)

…While seasonal sodas don’t get the love that holiday-themed coffee drinks and even cocktails do, they’re still a kind-of-sort-of thing, at least for two soda brands: Mountain Dew and Pepsi. Mountain Dew’s got their Merry Mash-Up, a surprisingly divisive cranberry/pomegranate flavor, and next year they plan to drop a gingerbread-flavored Dew. Pepsi’s gotten in the game in past years with the not-so-successful Holiday Spice flavor, while this year saw Pepsi Apple Pie just in time for Thanksgiving. Sadly this newest flavor was only available if you won a social media contest related to baking fails — it seems their version of apple pie in a bottle was maybe meant as a substitute for those unable to master the art of baking their own pies.

…The newest Pepsi flavor is meant to evoke everybody’s (well, over 40 percent of people’s) favorite wintertime beverage, hot chocolate. Sounds a bit weird? Not really — if you’ve ever had a soda fountain black cow, you already know that cola and chocolate play nicely together, and marshmallow flavor only adds more sugar.

(13) A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING. Shelf Awareness points viewers to a video of the “’First Annual Lighting of the Leg Lamp’ at Page 158 Books.”

Fans of the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story will find seasonal joy and laughs in the “first annual lighting of the leg lamp” Facebook video from Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.

(14) KNOCK-OFFS. Ranker had readers decide which are the worst among “47 Hilarious Bootleg Toys That Are Obvious Knock Offs”. Second on the list is this improbable superteam:

2. Worst. Avengers. Ever.

(15) VIDEO OF THE SEASON. “We’re Despicable–Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” on YouTube is a song written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill for a Mr. Magoo special broadcast by NBC in 1962.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Fil 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/20 007 Of Nine

(1) TO PATREON, OR NOT TO PATREON. Artist Emily Hare gives creators a lot to think about in “Should You Start A Patreon Page?”

Where To Start

Here are some questions I think would be useful for someone starting their Patreon page to ask themselves: 

Do I have a consistent style or theme?

Do I have a project to share?

Am I comfortable being held accountable for my output?

Have I got an engaged online following (small or large)

Do you want this to be full time or part time?

Are you a good teacher?

1. I believe number 1 is an important one. If you have a recognisable look to your work or always choose specific themes (like I nearly always stick with fantasy and fairytale type things) then this will help enormously. People who are paying you regularly will want to be paying for the thing they sign up for. So for instance, if they sign up for cute fluffy bunny art and then when they’re signed up you occasionally post erotic horror for example, then they will not stay a patron unless they happen to be interested in both those things. This is a very silly and extreme example, but you get my meaning! This doesn’t mean that someone doing more than one thing can’t have success with Patreon, but it is going to be much harder. Know your audience and be aware of why they are following you. Humans like the familiar and predictable. We are creatures of habit!…

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present William Gibson and Cat Rambo in a YouTube livestreamed reading on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 7 p.m. Eastern. Link forthcoming.

William Gibson

William Gibson is the author of Neuromancer and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo is the author of over two hundred stories and four novels, including upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing, from Tor Macmillan in 2021. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a Nebula Award earlier this year. She lives, writes, and teaches in Seattle.

(3) NATURALLY. “‘Some Version of the Apocalypse Is Inevitable’” – Kara Swisher interviews Jeff VanderMeer for an episode of the New York Times’ “Sway.”Transcript available.

Kara Swisher

This is a perfect way to get into your books because you sort of are creating your own Area X there, I guess.

Jeff Vandermeer

Well, people have varying ideas about what Area X is. At the end of the day, Area X is a very natural, nice, beautiful place as long as you don’t stay there too long. But I think what it is that in Area X, at least by the rules of that fictional construct, people who are more attuned to their environment and more already integrated with it have less of an issue. So it’s just like almost a metaphorical or a more direct embodiment of what we see in the real world because what is somebody — like a few streets down, I saw someone the other day doing something very disturbing. They were spraying herbicide across all their dead leaves under their pine trees. Well, they’re also increasing their own possibility of cancer. So by not living in harmony, they’re also killing themselves to some degree. So that’s kind of what I’m getting at in part there, but I also think that it’s important for Area X to have its own ultimately unknowable purpose to the point where, even though I know most of it, there are things I don’t know too.

(4) RECUSAL. Horror Writers Association President sends a message:

(5) SMILING IN THE PUBLIC EYE. Men’sHealth may not be known for its comedy, but they have unfurled “99 Star Wars Jokes That Would Even Make Darth Vader Laugh”. I don’t promise the other 97 are as good as these —

Why didn’t any of Luke Skywalker’s marriages last?
He always followed Obi-Wan’s advice: “Use divorce, Luke.”

What was Lando’s nickname before he became a skilled pilot?
Crashdo.

(6) A BIRD IN THE HAND. Heroes & Icons reminds fans that “The Original Romulan Bird Of Prey Model From Star Trek Was Trashed”.

“Balance of Terror” remains one of the most important episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. After all, this was the tale that first introduced us to the Romulans. In the adventure, a Federation outpost located in the Romulan Neutral Zone comes under attack by a Romulan warship.

When filming began on “Balance of Terror,” producer Bob Justman placed a call to his ace up the sleeve — special effects designer Wah Chang. The uncredited artist was the brilliant creative mind behind the communicator, the Salt Vampire, the Tribbles and other iconic Trek costumes and props. Justman asked Chang to fabricate a new alien ship with a twist. He wanted something like a bird swooping down upon its enemy to wipe them out.

Chang did just that, decorating the underbelly of his Romulan Bird of Prey with a graphic fit for the hood of a vintage Pontiac Firebird. The model was put into action and became a vital part of the standout episode.

However, in a subsequent season, when another script called for the model to be pulled out of mothballs, a tragic fate had taken the bird from us.

Wah Chang was a non-union contractor. The Bird of Prey prop was returned to him after the production of “Balance of Terror.” Thinking it was a one-off use, Chang had disposed of the ship. After much back and forth, producers came to the revelation and determined the budget could not afford to rebuild the prop.

(7) HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Disney+ dropped a trailer for the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.Begins streaming November 17.

“The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day. Rey sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1985 — Thirty-five years ago this month, Robert Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners was first published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (There’s a limited edition of fifty copies done at the same time.) The cover art for the trade edition is by Michael Whelan. It might be considered a sequel to The Number of the Beast. Or not. David Langford in his White Dwarf review said, “ it’s Heinlein self-indulgence time again.” 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 82. His breakthrough series  was the Sixties’ “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” featured in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 80.  Sculptor.  Guest of Honor at Archon 27, Capclave 2004, DucKon 13, Lunacon 48, ConClave XXX.  Archon Hall of Fame.  Magic Mountain bronze (with wife Susan Honeck), 1987 Chesley for Best Three-Dimensional; see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik.  Singer and storyteller.  With Leslie Fish a novella and a short story.  This FG memorial page from a Larry Niven Website produced by LN fans has a note by Jerry Pournelle, a portrait by Kelly Freas, and several links of which some worked when (4 a.m. PST, 5 Nov 20) I tried them; about filk music, see here.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas, 76. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise. (CE) 
  • Born November 5, 1946 – Barry Gold, 74.  Famed among filkers, more widely active in Los Angeles fandom e.g. his 2017 Evans-Freehafer award (for service to LASFS the L.A. Science Fantasy Society, in his case over five decades).  With wife Lee Gold, Along Fantasy Way (Tom Digby Fan Guest of Honor Book for ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon), Alarums and Excursions (role-playing-game apa), Xenofilkia (filkzine).  Both in the Filk Hall of Fame, Interfilk Guests at OVFF 16 (Ohio Valley Filk Fest), Featured Filkers at Boskone 44.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 71. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1952 – Frankie Bailey, Ph.D., 68.  Professor, School of Criminal Justice, State University of NY at Albany.  Two novels for us; next door she has an essay in R. Lupoff’s One Murder at a Time, seven novels, shorter stories, nonfiction.  “The first speech I ever memorized was Patrick Henry’s fiery ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ – which I later recalled with some irony when I learned the truth about the founding fathers and slavery.  However, I am still a proud Virginian.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Gary Farber, 62.  Indispensable outspoken fan in the 1970s-1990s; fanzine Drift (“Have you got Gary Farber’s Drift?”).  See him as he was then (YouTube; special bonus appearances by other well-known fans of the time).  Today by his own statement largely gafiated although occasionally appearing here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 60. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange… (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 59. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1966 – Erik V. Olson, 54.  Chaired SMOFcon 21 (SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” as Bruce Pelz said a joke – nonjoke – joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better), Capricon 31.  See him in this story of how the (eventually successful) bid for Aussiecon IV the 68th Worldcon started (and note that the author K. Buehler, in much the same way, later chaired CoNZealand the 78th).  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) ALL IN COLOR FOR ALL THE MARKET WILL BEAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Secret Origin: The History Of DC Comics, a 2010 documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds and directed by Mac Carter.  This is a corporate history celebrating DC’s 75th anniversary.  Like a lot of corporate histories, the best part of it is the documentation. I didn’t realize so much footage of Siegel and Shuster from the 1930s survives.  The role of editors Mort Weisinger and Julie Schwartz is accurately described, including their origins in sf fandom of the 1930s.  There’s even an uncredited photo of L. Sprague de Camp.

Best line:  Neil Gaiman says that he told his high school guidance counselor, “I want to write American comics” and the counselor said, “Have you ever considered accountancy?”

I didn’t really learn anything from this documentary but I thought it was well-made and interesting and a good use of 90 minutes.

(12) PHONE HOME. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Saw it earlier today while there, took a picture of the cover, decided to borrow it… Hope Rides Again (Obama Biden Mysteries, #2)  by Andrew Shaffer:

“In the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel Hope Never Dies, Obama and Biden reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-detectives as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through the mean streets of Chicago–and right into a vast conspiracy.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Beastars Season 2.

Next year, BEASTARS returns with a brand-new season full of mystery, suspense, and never before seen beasts. Are you ready?

(14) KRAMER NEMESIS LOSES ELECTION. The Georgia county District Attorney who prosecuted Ed Kramer on various charges over the past decade, including child molestation, lost his re-election bid this week. (Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but has not been a co-owner since 2013.)

“After nearly 30 years in office, Danny Porter is out as Gwinnett County elects its first Black DA” reports the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post.

DA Danny Porter had held the office for nearly 30 years, going back to 1992. His bid to serve one more term in the office came up short on Tuesday, however, after he was defeated by his Democratic challenger Patsy Austin-Gatson.

… Austin-Gatson, who is one of several Democrats and people of color who were ushered into office by voters on Tuesday, will make Gwinnett history as the county’s first Black district attorney.

The county also elected its first Black sheriff.

Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, a co-defendant with Ed Kramer in a computer trespass case, had already been turned out of office by an election held in August

(15) POWER CHORD. “Great Scott! This Custom BACK TO THE FUTURE Bass Guitar Rocks” says Nerdist.

Back to the Future is, fittingly, quite timeless. It’s a perfect movie with an amazing premise. It also rocks. Not only does Marty bust out an amazing version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” but the film features two of the best songs in the history of cinema: Alan Silvestri’s theme and Huey Lewis’s “Power of Love.” And we want to hear all three tracks performed with one of the coolest instruments ever made. Because great Scott! This Time Machine Bass guitar inspired by Doc Brown’s DeLorean is heavy.

And it was built to help out Michael J. Fox’s charity.

(16) ARCHEOMUPPETRY. “The Land of Gorch: The Forgotten Muppets Sketch That Ran During SNL’s First Season”. Forgotten is right. I watched that first season when I was in college, and sure don’t remember this.

When NBC executives decided to take a chance on Lorne Michaels’s live sketch comedy show in 1975, they were a little wary about what the budding young producer might actually end up airing. So they worked some safe territory into the contract—namely, Jim Henson and the Muppets.

Henson and Michaels shared a manager (Bernie Brillstein), and the collaboration seemed promising at first. Henson was looking to broaden his work beyond Sesame Street; and Michaels, already a Henson fan, “wanted as many different styles of comedy as [he] could possibly have.”

For his weekly sketch, Henson dreamed up “the Land of Gorch,” a mystical, craggy kingdom populated with creatures that scholar Jennifer Stoessner later described as “scaly, bloated, and licentious.” Among them were: the bombastic King Ploobis; his simpering wife, Queen Peuta, and their ne’er-do-well son, Wisss; a mistress named Vazh; a bumbling henchman named Scred; and the Mighty Favog, an omnipotent god-like oracle. Together, they tackled sex, drugs, and other adult themes.

Video linked from the article.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “STAR WARS Meets INDIANA JONES in Epic Fan Film”Nerdist points the way.

George Lucas drew upon two distinct styles of classic Saturday matinee serials when creating his two epics, Star Wars and Indiana JonesStar Wars’ inspiration is straight from the Flash Gordon outer space adventures, while mostly forgotten films like Secret of the Incas inspired Indy. Now, one fan has found a way to bring those two distinct worlds together. Filmmaker Phil Hawkins has created the most expensive fan film yet, with Star Wars: Origins. Blending the styles and storylines of both worlds, it’s the mashup you never knew you needed until now.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Nancy Collins, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, N., John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/19 Who Sawed Courtney Milan’s Boat?

(1) STABBY VOTING. Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum hasopened voting for the Stabby Awards. They’ve suffered voting shenanigans in the past, too, and here’s what they’ve done to stop them —

It’s now time to vote for the /r/Fantasy Best of 2019 Stabby Awards. Due to the sub’s growth over the past year (from the time that the nomination thread went live to now, we’ve grown by over 8,000 subscribers!) and to issues we experienced with vote gaming last year, voting will be taking place off Reddit.

We’re using a Google Form (same as we’ve used for our demographic census for years) and in order to vote you’ll need to include a link to your own user profile. Profiles will need to be at least 1 month old for their votes to count – we chose this cutoff to ensure that folks who created accounts solely to nominate and thus aren’t really part of our community aren’t going to affect the results.

Voting will end January 4, 2019 at 9 p.m. PST. Results should be live by January 6, 2019 by 1 p.m. PST.

(2) SPARKS TOO MUCH JOY? In The Guardian‘s “It’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ for today’s Britain, but with antidepressants as the monster”, critic Vanessa Thorpe analyzes the filmmaker’s challenge:

…An award-winning science-fiction thriller billed by critics as a modern Day of the Triffids takes a provocative approach to Britain’s growing dependence on mood-lifting chemicals and antidepressants.

Little Joe, released in UK cinemas in February, and starring Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox, has divided reviewers with its odd, disturbing story of a newly bred plant designed to spread joy.

On set in a vast greenhouse laboratory, the acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner first told her actors to forget about finding “the truth” of their characters.

Little Joe looks at the question of how do you perceive whether someone has changed or not,” Hausner told the Observer. “That was the big issue when I talked to the actors. And so even when we were shooting, we were shooting different versions of each scene.”

(3) ENDANGERED BY IDEAS. Maria Popova tells “How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe” at Brain Pickings.

…In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death….

(4) NOT MUSED. “And it occurs to me that this is disrespectful to the Nine” at It’s Always More Complicated, (a post inspired by Anne Bilson’s piece for The Guardian, “Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve: how movies malign women by calling them muses”.)

…But is this view of the Muse, who is after all a goddess, a being at whose feet the artist is supposed to lay the offering of the art created in order that she may judge it worthy, not very disrespectful? In assuming that the muse is just some empty thing to fill up with M. L’Artiste’s (and it is M., is it not) geeenyus?

François Truffaut once said of Catherine Deneuve: “I wouldn’t compare her to a flower or a bouquet, since there is a certain neutrality in her that leads me to compare her to the vase in which all the flowers are placed.” He meant that her reserve and air of mystery enabled spectators to “fill the vase” themselves; but the history of male film directors and their female muses is also a history of vase-filling: men translating their erotic fantasies into cinematic terms while failing to get to grips with the women themselves, who are invariably depicted as quixotic and inscrutable, even dangerous.

Not that I am sure which of the Nine would be the muse of movies – or would it vary by specific genre?

(5) BLUE GENES. Cora Buhlert presents “The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

… Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut…

(6) THE MOST OF BABY YODA. You wouldn’t want to miss this! (Well, some of you would, but your loss!)

BABY YODA from The Mandalorian season 1. Best of Baby Yoda taken from episodes 1 to 8 of The Mandalorian….

(7) GRAY OBIT. Scots author Alasdair Gray died December 29 at the age of 85. His publisher, Canongate, posted this retrospective:

A renowned polymath, Alasdair Gray was beloved equally for his writing and art. His debut, Lanark, which Canongate published in 1981, is widely regarded as being one of the masterpieces of twentieth century fiction. It was followed by more than thirty further books, all of which he designed and illustrated, ranging from novels, short story collections, plays, volumes of poetry, works of non-fiction and translations – most recently, his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Trilogy.

The Guardian’s tribute said he “blazed a trail for contemporary Scottish fiction with his experimental novels.”

In 1954, Gray began writing the novel that would occupy him on and off throughout the 1960s and 70s. Lanark divides the story of a life into four books, alternating between Glasgow and a shadowy version of the city called Unthank. The novel opens with book three, in which a young man finds himself in a dark metropolis filled with strange diseases, and then jumps back to fill in the story of Duncan Thaw, who grows up in Glasgow just before the second world war. The Guardian called it “fluent, imaginative”, a novel “of undeniable quality, but rare, and not for all tastes, like an oyster, or a truffle”.

He made an indelible impression on both the literary and fannish worlds. Alasdair Gray and Russell Hoban were the guests of honor at the first Mexicon (1984) in the UK. As David Langford recalls, he made ink sketches of various fans there, and his “[John] Brosnan drawing is inscribed: ‘The Author of Slimer, a seminal work which has influenced everything I have ever written.”

(8) WOLLEN OBIT. Peter Wollen (1938-2019), author of the influential film theory book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, who also directed films and wrote screenplays, died December 17. The New York Times appreciation notes:  

Mr. Wollen didn’t just talk and write about cinema; in the 1970s and ’80s he was actively involved in making it. Perhaps his best-known film, which he both wrote and directed, was “Friendship’s Death” (1987), an unusual science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial robot who is on a peace mission but takes a wrong turn and winds up in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, a time of conflict there.

Tilda Swinton, in one of her first film roles, played the robot. In a tribute to Mr. Wollen published by the film website IndieWire, she said “Signs and Meaning” was “the first seminal book I read about film that actually made sense while bopping you to bits with its braininess and taking the engine of cinema completely apart in front of you while making you even more excited to jump in and go racing about in it just as soon as you possibly could.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired. Written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon (1968) were Trek episodes.
  • December 29, 2009 Princess of Mars premiered. This film from Asylum had Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabàto Jr. as John Carter. Rather loosely based on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, the film was released in Europe as The Martian Colony Wars. Currently this film has a 10% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. in 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of Fire, Blaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 91. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing movie as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1949 Ian Livingstone, 70. Co-founder of Game Workshop whose flagship products are are Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. (Have I mentioned that Game Workshop has local shops where fans can buy their unpainted miniatures and other goodies?) He was the first Editor of White Dwarf whichyes, I read a long time ago. 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 56. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s novels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’d also be in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Neither will be mistaken for quality films. 
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 47. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow In Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I., with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians

(11) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ComicBook.com invites us to “Star Wars: Watch Mark Hamill’s Perfect Harrison Ford Impression”, rendered during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(12) TEN YEARS FROM NOW. New York Magazine did a future-themed issue in November included a batch of predictions about 2029 based on the newsmaking events of 2019: “The Weirdness Is Coming A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past.”.

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

All of the entertainment we used to consume in more independently quantifiable ways — via TV ratings, box office, album sales — has moved to streaming, where we just have to trust Netflix or Spotify or Apple to tell us how popular it is, and they will almost certainly lie. Netflix occasionally releases random stats about how many people watched something, and they usually strain credibility. In June, it claimed 30.9 million watched a new Adam Sandler movie in its first three days, which would have made it one of the biggest openings in history if it had been released in theaters. And we never know how successful any movie is when it’s released on for-pay VOD (via iTunes, Amazon, or your cable box) because nobody shares any numbers at all, which is strange because streaming is how plenty of non-superhero movies make most of their money now. Obviously, they will know — the producers and stars who benefit. But the public will be living entirely in the dark, never knowing if something is actually a hit or just totally Astroturfed. This will be really disorienting; today, at least, the popularity of an artist accounts for like half of the way we feel about them. And hard audience figures were, for a generation of barroom debaters about pop culture, the closest thing anyone actually ever got to a “fact.” —Lane Brown

(13) OBAMA’S 2019 PICKS. “Barack Obama Lists His Favorite Films And Television Shows For 2019”Deadline has the story.

Former President Barack Obama is making a list, and checking it twice. A day after he released the list of his favorite books of 2019, he’s issued a film/TV faves ledger, including one of his own creations….

(14) NOT BEWITCHED. Eneasz Brodski pans a new show in “The Witcher, Episode 1: A Festivus Airing of Greivances” at Death Is Bad.

I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.

Full Spoilers below.

(15) ROVER COME OVER. LAist reveals, “We Got A Sneak Peek At JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover Before It Heads To Its Launch Site, And It’s Rad”. Photos at the link.

… On Friday, JPL gave a rare media tour to show off the interplanetary robotic vehicle to reporters inside a meticulous dust, hair and oil-free “clean room.” It’s the last time it will be viewed before it’s shipped off to Florida for its July liftoff.

That meant this reporter had to don a full body “bunny” suit and take an air bath with jets to blow away any wayward dust or hair left on the suit.

It took a lot of time and trouble, but NASA’s Dave Gruel said it’s crucial to keep the rover from getting contaminated.

“It’ll be a real bad day for us in the future if those samples come back from Mars and guess what? They’ve got my whisker in that sample,” Gruel said. “That’ll be bad.”

(16) WITH GREAT POWER COMES MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ComicBook.com: “Minor League Hockey Team Suits Up in Spider-Man Uniforms on Stan Lee’s Birthday”.

Today, Saturday December 28, would have been the legendary Stan Lee‘s 97th birthday. To mark the occasion fans all around the world are taking a moment to reflect on and honor the prolific and influential comics figure who was responsible for helping to create many of the most iconic characters in comics history — The X-Men, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and more. It’s one of those characters that a minor league hockey team is using to help honor Lee on his birthday with special Spider-Man uniforms.

On Twitter on Saturday, the Indy Fuel hockey team shared a photo of their uniforms for the evening’s game against the Kansas City Mavericks. The special jerseys are part of the Fuel’s Marvel Super Hero Night event, which just so happens to land on Lee’s birthday. The team also posted thanking the creator for “creating a pretty awesome universe.” You can check out both posts below.

(17) BIZARRE TOY. Nerdbot wants us to know “Monty Python Black Knight Figure Talks & Has Removable Arms”. If they also make one like this for Gandalf, imagine posing them opposite one another yelling, ”None shall pass, none shall pass!”

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, David Langford, John Hertz, and Rich Lynch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dennis Howard – classic faanish reference explained here.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/19 Hairy Philosophers And The Pixel’s Scroll.

(1) MEAN STREETS. I Write Like says it analyzes a sample of your writing and determines the author you most write like. I pasted in a paragraph from my “Fourth of Sierra Madre” article and was very happy to be told —

(2) POUNDING THE KEYBOARD. Chuck Tingle’s encouraging words for those taking up the NaNoWriMo challenge.

(3) DRONE PROBLEMS. The LA Times tracks how many times “Illegal drones ground water-dropping helicopters at critical moment in Maria fire battle “.

…The interruption of the aerial firefighting underscores growing concerns about how drones can bring added dangers to pilots battling major fires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, aerial firefighting efforts have been shut down at least nine times this year because of drone use, and at least 20 drone incursions have hindered firefighting capabilities nationwide from January through October. A report shared with The Times showed that of those 20 incursions, five were in California.

While the unmanned aerial vehicles are small, drones can wreak incredible havoc. A collision with a wing, engine or any part of a larger aircraft can cause severe damage.

“A bird collision with a plane can cause a plane to go down,” said Jessica Gardetto, a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center. “These are hard plastic items.”

(4) WAKING UP THE WOKE. “Barack Obama Calls Out Woke Culture And Twitter Outrage: ‘That’s Not Activism’”Huffington Post has the story.

“This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly,” he said. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.” 

Obama also called out what he perceived as a “danger” among younger people.

“There is this sense sometimes of ‘the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough,’” he said, then offered an example: 

“Like if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb. Then, I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because, ‘Man, you see how woke I was? I called you out.’ I’m gonna get on TV. Watch my show. Watch ‘Grown-ish.’ You know, that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

(5) NYRSF READINGS. In honor of Guy Fawkes Day, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series offers two brilliant speculative fiction writers who will make sure you will remember, remember, the Fifth of November — Robert V.S. Redick and Gay Partington Terry. Event takes place Tuesday, November 5 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in The Brooklyn Commons at 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.

Robert V.S. Redick‘s fantasy novel Master Assassins, an (anti-) war epic, was a finalist for the 2018 Booknest Award for Best Novel, and was described by Daryl Gregory as “A blazingly smart thrill-ride of an adventure.” He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed nautical epic fantasy series The Chathrand Voyage Quartet. His debut novel, The Red Wolf Conspiracy, received a special commendation by the 2010 Crawford Award Committee and was translated into five languages.

Robert teaches speculative fiction writing in the Stonecoast MFA Program in Freeport, Maine, and works as a freelance editor and book coach. He has worked for international development and environmental justice organizations for many years, including Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and the Center for International Forestry Research. He has lived in Indonesia (where he wrote Master Assassins), Colombia, Argentina, London and rural France. He’s also worked as a baker, horse handler, translator and stage critic. He now lives in Western Massachusetts with his family.

Gay Partington Terry grew up in northern Appalachia but has lived in NYC ever since. She wrote screenplays for “Toxic Avenger,” and stories for anthologies, magazines, and ezines (Asimov’s, Full Spectrum, Why New Yorkers Smoke…). She’s the author of two books, Meeting the Dog Girls and Life, Death, and Beyond Smiggle’s Bottom.

Gay has been a waitress, factory worker, welfare worker, magician’s assistant, and catalogued tribal arts for a gallery. She does tai chi and is mentored by five grandchildren.

(6) BIG BANG COROLLARY. John Scalzi has posted a free short story related to his freshly finished trilogy: “And Now, A New Short Story: The Origin of the Flow”.

…I mentioned yesterday, when I wrote about writing The Last Emperox, my upcoming novel, that I sometimes write reference pieces for myself so I can give some context to myself about what I’m writing. Those pieces usually are never seen by others, but they’re useful for me, and they make a better book for everyone else.

This is one of those pieces. In the book, humans get around space via “The Flow” — a “metacosmological multidimensional space” that’s not of this universe but lets people get around in it at multiples of the speed of light. I decided I needed to give The Flow an origin story, as well as understand how people discovered it, so I wrote this piece for myself, which I am sharing with you now….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 2, 1902 John P. Fulton, A.S.C. A special effects supervisor and cinematographer.  He’s the man who parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments. Neat trick that. Genre wise, we can first find him in 1931 on Frankenstein in a career that’ll stretch through The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein and I Married a Monster from Outer Space to name a few of the films he worked on. (Died 1966.)
  • Born November 2, 1913 Burt Lancaster. Certainly being Dr. Paul Moreau on The Island of Doctor Moreau was his most genre-ish role but I like him as General James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. And, of course, he’s really great as Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 2, 1924 Michi Kobi. She was Dr. Hideko Murata in Twelve to the Moon, half of as a double feature with either Battle in Outer Space or 13 Ghosts. Unless you consider her doing voices on Courage the Cowardly Dog, an early Oughts animated series, to be genre, this is her only SF work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove.  He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 2, 1941 ?Ed Gorman. He’d be here if only for writing the script for the  Batman: I, Werewolf series in which Batman meets a werewolf. Very cool. More straight SFF is his Star Precinct trilogy with Kevin Randle which is quite excellent, and I’m fond of his short fiction which fortunately is showing up in digital form at the usual spots. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 2, 1942 Carol Resnick, 77. Wife of that Resnick who credited her according to several sources with being a co-writer on many of his novels. (Does he do this in the actual novels?) He also credited her as being a co-author on two movie scripts that they’ve sold, based on his novels Santiago and The Widowmaker. And she’s responsible for the costumes in which she and Mike appeared in five Worldcon masquerades in the Seventies, winning awards four times.
  • Born November 2, 1942 Stefanie Powers,77. April Dancer, the lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which lasted just one season. Did you know Fleming contributed concepts to this series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well?  She would play Shalon in the crossover that started on The Six-Million Man and concluded on The Six-Million Woman called “The Return of Bigfoot”. 
  • Born November 2, 1949 ?Lois McMaster Bujold, 70. First let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. She joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster.
  • Born November 2, 1980 ?Brittany Ishibashi, 39. Ishibashi played Karai in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She’s currently portrays Tina Minoru on Runaways, streaming on Hulu. And she was Maggie Zeddmore in the Ghostfacers webseries. 

(8) JOIN THE JOURNEY. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will steer their time machine to a series of Southern California destinations to present these live events in November and December. Marcus says, “They are free (at least, we don’t charge, and only LosCon has a door fee) so if you’re in the neighborhood, please stop on by!” Here’s the list:

Talking about the Women Pioneers of Space Science at a great dark sky site

  • Loscon, Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 1:00 PM

Crest of a New Wave“, discussing 1964 in science fact and fiction

Talking about “What Science Fiction got wrong…and right!

The First Moon Race“, talking about the troubles and ultimate triumph of Project Ranger.

Once more, talking about the Women Pioneers of Space Science at another great dark sky site.

(9) MARTIAN HOPS. Behind a paywall in the October 26 Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote reviews an exhibit on living on Mars that is at Britain’s Design Museum (designmuseum.org) through February 23.

Another room is devoted to off-world agriculture, with terraria and complex hydroponic closed-loop systems, though it all depends on either transporting water from Earth or finding and extracting some of the ice at the Martian poles.  Architect Xavier de Kesteller from Hasell suggests a circular economy is a matter of life and death on Mars–the extreme self-reliance necessary for a Martian mission, the need to recycle everything, might promote better use of our resources on Earth.

It all ends with an intriguing installation by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg about a Mars ‘wilding,’ populating the planet not with people but with plants, presented through a series of screens and a gaming engine which maps the development of the fauna over millennia.

(10) MONSTER MASHER. NPR introduces readers to “Rick Baker, The Monster Maker Of Hollywood”.

An American Werewolf in London. The zombies from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Bela Lugosi’s Dracula from Ed Wood. The dark fairy Maleficent.

They’re all the work of Rick Baker, who created some of the most memorable movie monsters and creatures of the last four decades. Baker is retired now, having won seven Oscars for makeup. But he’s chronicled his long career in a new two-volume illustrated book titled Metamorphosis.

In the LA enclave Toluca Lake, Baker answers the door to his house-turned-studio wearing a t-shirt that says “I’d Rather Be Making Monsters.” Inside, the building is packed with gorilla skull casts, monster sculptures, masks of gruesome victims. There’s a mysterious room that looks from a distance like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. (“Uh, that’s a room you probably shouldn’t go in,” Baker says, with a wink.)

His massive book documents his long career, starting when he was a 10-year-old kid making monster masks in his bedroom. His parents encouraged his passion, which included his fascination with the 1931 Frankenstein movie starring Boris Karloff.

(11) IT ALL ADDS UP. Popular Mechanics advises “Use Math to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse”.

Put away the chainsaw. Stow your machete. The best zombie-fighting tool in your arsenal may be … math?

Just in time for Halloween, mathematicians at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. have modeled different scenarios that may occur in the event of a zombie apocalypse. The math the team used to model these scary scenarios is a type of modeling scientists rely on to predict and prevent the spread of infectious diseases like measles.

“These models allow us to explain real-world data, make predictions about future disease outbreaks or control measures, and to gain a deeper understanding of the natural environment,” mathematician Alex Best of the University of Sheffield said in a statement.

(12) ADDAMS FAMILY ORIGINS. Long Island Press profiled “Charles Addams: The Long Island Macabre Master Who Created The Addams Family”.

…In 1931, he enrolled in Manhattan’s Grand Central School of Art. He set his sights on The New Yorker magazine. The next year he sold them his first spot sketch for $7.50. In 1933, the magazine bought the first of many drawings.

After his father died that year, he went to work for True Detective magazine. He relished retouching and removing the blood from the pictures of corpses.

In 1935, he joined the New Yorker staff. America was transfixed by the dark, shadowy Frankenstein and Dracula films, which likely inspired Addams to create his signature subjects: a slinky, pale, black-gowned vixen and her weird-looking clan in front of a dilapidated, haunted-looking Victorian mansion. Unlike movie monsters, Addams’ characters had an eerie yet healthy sense of humor.

The New Yorker started running his immediately recognizable Addams Family artwork that year. In 1942, his first anthology of drawings was published.

(13) 404SKI. NPR reports a “New Russian Law Gives Government Sweeping Power Over Internet”.

A Russian law has taken effect that, in theory, would allow the Russian government to cut off the country’s Internet from the rest of the world.

The “sovereign Internet law,” as the government calls it, greatly enhances the Kremlin’s control over the Web. It was passed earlier this year and allows Russia’s government to cut off the Internet completely or from traffic outside Russia “in an emergency,” as the BBC reported. But some of the applications could be more subtle, like the ability to block a single post.

It requires Internet service providers to install software that can “track, filter, and reroute internet traffic,” as Human Rights Watch stated. Such technology allows the state telecommunications watchdog “to independently and extrajudicially block access to content that the government deems a threat.”

The equipment would conduct what’s known as “deep packet inspection,” an advanced way to filter network traffic.

Such widespread control is alarming to human rights groups, which fear it could be used to silence dissent.

“Now the government can directly censor content or even turn Russia’s Internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why,” Rachel Denber, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Europe and Central Asia director, said in a statement. “This jeopardizes the right of people in Russia to free speech and freedom of information online.”

(14) IN THE STARS. The Cut collected proof from Instagram showing that “Celebrities Really Went All Out on Halloween”. A bit heavy on Kardhasians, sure, but without this post I would never have seen LeBron James perfectly attired as Edward Scissorhands,

View this post on Instagram

eye of the beholder ? ?

A post shared by Ariana Grande (@arianagrande) on

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770’s collaborating contributing editors of the day Jon Meltzer, Soon Lee, and Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 8/15/19 Some Kind of Zebra Camel Hybrid

(1) JEMISIN PROMOTES INDIES. “N.K. Jemisin Named 2019 Indies First Spokesperson”Shelf Awareness has the story.

Science fiction and fantasy author N.K. Jemisin will be the spokesperson this year for Indies First, the campaign supporting independent bookstores that takes place on Small Business Saturday, which this year is November 30, Bookselling This Week reported.

Jemisin the first author in history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel, all for her Broken Earth trilogy. She is also the winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Sense of Gender Award for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first volume in her Inheritance Trilogy. She is published by Hachette’s Orbit imprint.

In November 2018, Jemisin published How Long ’til Black Future Month?, a collection of short stories that, BTW said, “sharply examine modern society with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.” The paperback edition was published on Tuesday.

Jemisin has already created a video, in which she encourages viewers to visit their local indie on November 30, the seventh annual Indies First Day. Appropriately the video was filmed at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, N.Y.

(2) SELECTED RETRO STATS. Pending the appearance of the full 1944 Retro-Hugo voting statistics, Nicholas Whyte offers lots of illuminating observations in his “Retro Hugo summary”. For example –

Closest results:
Best Fan Writer, where Forrest J. Ackerman beat Wilson “Bob” Tucker by 18 votes.
Best Fanzine, where Le Zombie beat Futurian War Digest by 23 votes, after several rounds of very close eliminations.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, where Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman beat I Walked With a Zombie by 25 votes

(3) PRACTICAL SFF. “Sci-fi as a potent political tool: How popular fiction shapes policy debates” – analysis in Asian Correspondent.

IN 2017, Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel proposed all leaders be required to read science fiction to help them understand the past and future of science and technology as well as how new innovations might affect human society.

Similarly, in 2015, his predecessor Ian Chubb said science teachers could learn a thing or two from the television sitcom The Big Bang Theory about making science fun.

This isn’t just Australian contrarianism. Britain’s former science minister Malcolm Wicks suggested in 2007 that teachers use scenes from Doctor Who and Star Wars to kickstart discussion in science classrooms.

Just last year American vulcanologist Jess Phoenix ran for Congress on a platform of linking science-based environmental action to the values of the Star Trek universe.

It may seem outlandish to talk about real science and popular fiction in the same sentence, and doing so frequently creates clickbait headlines, but there’s surprising depth to this connection….

(4) WITH GROWING HORROR. Rob Latham remembers the powerful impact of his first encounter with Dennis Etchison’s fiction in an article at LA Review of Books: “Grim Hints and Nervous Portents: On Dennis Etchison”.

…I can still remember, with piercing clarity, my first experience of reading Etchison’s work. Indeed, I can even recall precisely the place and time: a stifling summer night in 1983, in a two-room apartment in Lake Worth, Florida, with insects buzzing at the screen and the fan cranked up high. The book was the 1982 Scream Press edition of The Dark Country, the author’s first collection, and I passed from the clutching terror of “It Only Comes Out at Night,” in which a driver slowly realizes he is being tracked by a killer, to the creepy elusiveness of “The Nighthawk,” whose young heroine comes to suspect that her brother may be a shapeshifting monster, to the unremitting grimness of the title story, wherein a pack of nihilistic expats in Mexico fritter away their days and their sanity, in a sustained, breathless epiphany.

It is hard to say why Etchison connected with me so powerfully on a visceral level. Perhaps Karl Edward Wagner offers a hint, in his introduction to the next Scream Press collection, Red Dreams (1984): “Etchison’s nightmares and fears are intensely personal, and his genius is to make us realize that we share them.”

(5) BEST SF. Paul Tassi advances his 7 picks for “The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time” at Forbes. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is one of them.

Science fiction is my favorite literary genre by far—I’ve written five sci-fi books myself—so making this list was going to be difficult. I ended up going with some of my favorites, while weighing against the larger scale of some of these novels and their impact on the genre overall.

There are some truly massive series in here, as well as all-time greats that any literary fan should read, regardless of their favorite genre. Here are some of the best science fiction books of all time:

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

August 15, 1939 The Wizard of Oz premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, in Hollywood, on this day.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.)
  • Born August 15, 1906 William Sloane. Best known for his novel To Walk The Night which Boucher, King and Bloch all highly praise. Indeed, the latter includes it on his list of favorite horror novels. It and the Edge of Running Water were published together as The Rim of Morning in the early Sixties and it was reissued recently with an introduction by King. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 15, 1932Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 15, 1933 Bjo Trimble, 86. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose.
  • Born August 15, 1934 Darrell K. Sweet. Illlustrator who was best-known for providing cover art for genre novels, in which capacity he was nominated for a Hugo award in 1983. He was Illustrator GoH at 71st Worldcon, LoneStarCon III. He was also a guest of honor at Tuckercon in 2007, at the 2010 World Fantasy Convention in 2010, and LepreCon in 2011. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 76. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter” which occurs during the time of the Tenth Doctor, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton  in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 15, 1957 David Henry Hwang, 62. Writer of 1000 Airplanes on the Roof which is a melodrama in one act by Philip Glass with projections by Jerome Sirlin. The opera premiered on July 15, 1988, at the Vienna Airport in Hangar #3. The initial performance featured vocals by Linda Ronstadt. 
  • Born August 15, 1958 Stephen Haffner, 61. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell.
  • Born August 15, 1972 Ben Affleck, 47. Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League which I’ll admit I’ve not watched. IMDB claims he shows up in a uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s Matt Murdock aka The Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen — it’s pretty crappy. He’s actually in Field of Dreams, too, as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. 

(8) CATCHING UP WITH OBAMA.  A bit of sff shows up on Barack Obama’s summer reading list —

(9) CHOOSE YOUR OWN HORROR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SYFY Wire: “Alexandre Aja to helm choose-your-own-adventure horror flick from Hill House writers”.

Amidst all the big-budget mega-blockbusters this summer, Alexandre Aja managed to carve out a respectable performance from his horror flick Crawl, your timeless tale of human vs. alligator vs. hurricane.

Now, the director behind High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, and Piranha 3D is staying firmly in his horror lane as he’s signed on to make a haunted house feature for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners. But unlike most horror movies that get a theatrical release, this one will ditch its linear story and instead embrace a sprawling ‘choose your own adventure’ narrative (one seemingly unrelated to any of the actual Choose Your Own Adventure series of books). 

Mike Kennedy says, “In my opinion the true horror is all of the theatergoers using the special voting app on their smartphones continuously during the movie. You know half of them will be live-tweeting the movie and the other half getting update after update after update from the ones’ tweeting.”

(10) IS IT MORE BLESSED TO GIVE? “Someone left old TVs outside 50 homes in Virginia while wearing a TV on his head. No one knows why.” — The Washington Post has video.

It was kind of like Christmas — except it was August, the only presents were vintage television sets, and Santa had a TV on his head.

Residents of more than 50 households in Henrico County, Va., woke up this weekend to find old-style TVs outside their doorsteps, said Matt Pecka, a lieutenant with the local police department. Pecka said police began receiving reports about the TVs early Sunday. By the morning, their phones were clogged with calls.

…The givers had TVs instead of faces.

The videos reveal at least one of the deliverymen: a man dressed in a blue jumpsuit, black gloves and what appear to be brown hiking-style boots. He wears a TV set on his shoulders, positioned so it obscures his face…

(11) ROMAN SORCERER’S TOOLKIT. According to the art website Hyperallergic, archaeologists at Pompeii have discovered a wooden box full of sorcerer’s implements. They believe that the box was owned by a Roman sorceress. “A ‘Sorcerer’s Treasure Trove’ Uncovered in Pompeii”

The sorcery items include crystals, amber and amethyst stones, buttons made of bones, amulets, dolls, bells, phallic amulets, fists, human figurines, and a miniature human skull. A glass bead depicts the head of  Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility. Another glass amulet features a dancing satyr.

“The high quality of the amber and glass pastes and the engraving of the figures confirm the importance of the domus owner,” Osanna continued. But since none of the objects in this “sorcerer’s treasure trove” was made of gold, a material favored by Pompeii’s elites, they most likely belonged to a servant or a slave rather than the owner of the house, Osanna assessed in an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA .

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/18 You Got The Jong Number For That Pixel Scroll

(1) WHEN TROLLS ATTACK. The London Film and Comic Con told readers how they responded to a trolling attack.

Now to an important activity that really did affect us last week and it did catch us out for a few hours until we worked out what was going down.

Two days before the most recent big announcement, 15 new accounts were created on our forum and equally, multiple new Facebook members with brand new accounts started following our Facebook page. Then, on the announcement night, the users of these accounts started to aggressively and negatively comment and undermine the guest announcement. This was the ONLY thing they were set up to achieve.

This was not noticed by us at first and it took some time to look into these Facebook accounts. As we started to look a little closer, it was clear that we’d attracted a small vocal minority with a real and cynical agenda to purely undermine the guest announcement and belittle any fans or attendees showing any type of excitement.

I’ve since learnt this is known as ‘TrollJacking’, where internet trolls post or comment on a piece of content or an announcement to drum up negativity or just to damage the purpose of the thread. What a lovely thing to do.

This is something very new to us and it really did catch us out, in fact so much so we left the comments up online – as we believe in freedom of speech and opinion and there’s always the odd bit of negativity with every update or announcement.

To all the true fans out there, regardless of whether you are happy about the announcement or not – I am sorry that we did not pick up on it sooner and allowed this minority to cause friction at a time that should have been a time for great excitement and discussion for everyone….

This announcement on Facebook about the appearance of Christopher Eccleston seems to have been the target.

(2) CORALINE MEANING. The Guardian interviews Gaiman about the opera based on his book: “Neil Gaiman on Coraline the terrifying opera: ‘Being brave means being scared'”.

The button eyes are a macabre touch that places Gaiman’s story firmly in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales tradition. And there’s more than a touch of Hansel and Gretel in Coraline’s themes of parental abandonment, an initially appealing but evil mother figure, and a brave child who conquers her fears to win the day. “I’d wanted to write a story for my daughters,” says Gaiman in the introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition, “that told them something I wished I’d known when I was a boy: that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”

(3) A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. And The Guardian comments on the performance: “Coraline review – creepy adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s tale will turn kids on to opera”.

The Royal Opera have certainly done it proud. The supernatural rubs shoulders with the mundane in Aletta Collins’s production, in which the two worlds are placed back to back as mirror images on a revolving stage. Magic consultants Richard Wiseman and David Britland have been drafted in to provide the special effects, which drew gasps from the audience on occasion on opening night, though Collins also has a knack of suggesting unease by the simplest of means. The scene in which Kitty Whately’s Other Mother produces syringes and surgical needles in an attempt to sew buttons over the eyes of Mary Bevan’s Coraline (“just a little incision under your eyelids”) had me squirming in my seat.

(4) DUFF. SF Site News covered the Down Under Fan Fund result:

Marlee Jane Ward won DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund) in an unopposed race. She will travel to the US to attend Worldcon 76, to be held in San Jose from August 16-20….

(5) ALPHABET SOUP. James Davis Nicoll returns with: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part IV”. This time letter letters I and J, which include –

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was prolific and talented, which makes singling out a particular work as a starting point especially problematic. The fact she’s the subject of one of my review projects doesn’t help, as it only expands the number of worthy candidates. Although it is a bit of a cheat, what I would recommend is not a single novel but an omnibus: 2003’s The Dalemark Quartet. It is composed of four early secondary-world fantasy novels that recount the history of troubled Dalemark, from its age of legends to a quasi-medieval period thousands of years later.

(6) MLK. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, here is N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to CNN’s post “Who is Martin Luther King Jr. to us, 50 years later?”

N.K. Jemisin: I pray it won’t take another 50 years

In 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. sat in solitary confinement in Birmingham, he lamented the failures of white moderates, who at the time seemed to prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

It must have seemed clear to King that even white people who claim to support equality are unreliable allies — willing to talk the talk and walk a few steps, but only if their own anxieties are put first.

Which is why the civil rights movement made what progress it did by effectively shaming white moderates into doing the right thing. This makes me wonder what America is to do in 2018, when our society daily endures a shameless embarrassment of a President, abetted by his shameless party and the shameless media — and when, too often, some white liberals and moderates openly wonder if there’s some way to ease tension between themselves and … fascists.

I have no solutions to offer, other than to survive and to try and help as many others survive as possible. It saddens me that we’ve progressed so little in the 50 years since King’s death. I pray it won’t take another 50 years for all of us to know the presence of justice at last.

N.K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction. In 2016, she became the first black to win the Hugo Award for best novel for “The Fifth Season.” In 2017, she won Hugo for best novel again, for “The Obelisk Gate.”

(7) EXPANSE. The next Expanse novel will be out in December – Tiamat’s Wrath.

(8) THEY’LL BE BACK. The Hollywood Reporter brings word: “‘Riverdale,’ ‘Flash,’ ‘Supernatural’ Among 10 CW Renewals”.

The CW, fresh off news that it is expanding to a sixth night of originals for the 2018-19 broadcast season, has renewed nearly its entire lineup.

Returning for additional seasons are: Arrow, Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Supergirl and Supernatural.

Still to be determined are the fates of midseason fare The 100, iZombie and Life Sentence and fall debut Valor. Official decisions on those four — as well as The CW’s new series orders — will be determined in May.

(9) FIGURING IT OUT. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds both style and substance in “‘Legion,’ Season 2: Welcome Back To The Weirdest Corner Of The Marvel Universe”.

Legion is the story of David Haller (a perpetually rumpled and vaguely confused Dan Stevens), the world’s most powerful mutant, who’s now free of the evil psychic parasite known only as the Shadow King, who last season assumed the form of his friend Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza. David’s grown up believing himself to be schizophrenic, but came to realize his true nature when he was taken in by an organization seeking to train him — and to fight the Shadow King, who is in fact an ancient being known as Amahl Farouk (played, this season, by Navid Negahban).

(10) BEWARE SPOILERS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me, “Since you are having more troubles with computers I offer a show recap” —

Last night’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow began with a scene captioned ‘OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE–1979,”  The camera zooms in on the back of an African-American student’s head.  The student, suing an Olympia manual typewriter, dutifully types, “Obama.Political Science 100.”  We know that this scence is about Barack Obama when he was a freshman in college.  Obama looks out the window and sees a campus in springtime.

As the future president is typing, the window is smashed and a giant paw GRABS the president and holds him high in the air!  It is Grodd the gorilla, and he’s on a mission.

‘IT’S TIME TO MAKE AMERICA GRODD AGAIN!,” the beast thunders,

Fortuntately the Legends of Tomorrow show up and Grodd drops Obama, who runs off.  The Legends then blast the beast with flamethrowers, then shrink him and throw him in a Mason jar.  The future president then decides to party with the Legends on their time ship.  He holds out a hand to one of the women, saying, “Hi, my name is Barry.”  “You should call yourself ‘Barack,’ ” she responds.  Another woman swoons, “I miss you, Barry!”

I wish I could tell you how Obama gets back to California and somehow doesn’t remember how he was nearly killed by a giant talking ape and then partied with some time lords.  But this is the first of a two-part episode, so we will learn these answers next week

(11) SKYE STOMPERS. Why are the : “Dinosaur tracks on Skye ‘globally important'”? They date to the Middle Jurassic, for which there’s relatively little data.

Most of the prints were made by long-necked sauropods – which stood up to 2m (6.5ft) tall – and by theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Researchers measured, photographed and analysed about 50 footprints in a tidal area at Brothers’ Point – Rubha nam Brathairean – a headland on Skye’s Trotternish peninsula.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape but the scientists identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

(12) SMUGGLE BY WIRE. TeleCrunch reports “Chinese police foil drone-flying phone smugglers at Hong Kong border”:

Dozens of high-tech phone smugglers have been apprehended by Chinese police, who twigged to the scheme to send refurbished iPhones into the country from Hong Kong via drone — but not the way you might think.

China’s Legal Daily reported the news (and Reuters noted shortly after) following a police press conference; it’s apparently the first cross-border drone-based smuggling case, so likely of considerable interest.

Although the methods used by the smugglers aren’t described, a picture emerges from the details. Critically, in addition to the drones themselves, which look like DJI models with dark coverings, police collected some long wires — more than 600 feet long.

…So here’s what you do:

Send the drone over once with all cable attached. Confederates on the other side attach the cable to a fixed point, say 10 or 15 feet off the ground. Drone flies back unraveling the cable, and lands some distance onto the Hong Kong side. Smugglers attach a package of 10 phones to the cable with a carabiner, and the drone flies straight up. When the cable reaches a certain tension, the package slides down the cable, clearing the fence. The drone descends, and you repeat.

I’ve created a highly professional diagram to illustrate this technique (feel free to reuse):

(13) READ BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has some new work available — “A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera”.

I have an announcement of my own to make. And it’s a big announcement, because I have not one but three new In Love and War stories to announce, two short stories and one short novel.

The first of the two short stories isn’t quite that new, because it has been available as part of the anthology The Guardian for a while now. However, if you want a standalone edition, here is your chance.

Like Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift, Baptism of Fire is a prequel to the In Love and War series proper, though it is listed as Part 2 at most vendors, because they don’t support prequels very well.

(14) BLOOM. The singer of “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” continues her TV career as someone who is late.

Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame will be heading over to another CW show when she guest stars on an upcoming episode of iZombie.

Bloom will be portraying a “pretentious theater actor” whose death is investigated by iZombie’s Liv (Rose McIver) and Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), TV Line reported.

(15) GOING GREEN. The 2019 Worldcon committee wishes to apprise you of the availability of the “Finest Public Toilet in Dublin”. Or “Where All the Big Lads Hang Out…” as the post’s author Pádraig Ó Méalóid says:

It’s the middle of August 2019, and you’re in Dublin for Worldcon – a Stranger, if not in a Strange Land, at least in a strange city. A strange city with many secrets, which sometimes only the locals truly know about. You’ve heard all about our native literary giants – George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, and Flann O’Brien, to name but three – but even they were only human, prey to the wants and needs that mortal flesh is heir to. It’s only natural that you’ll want to know where they would have gone, and where you could go, too. So let me introduce you to one of the hidden architectural gems of my native city: the beautiful public toilets in the National Library of Ireland….

(16) GOING PINK. You could win this outfit and fight cancer —

Enter to win Deadpool’s Pink Suit and Send a Big F-You to Cancer at https://fox.co/DeadpoolPinkSuitYT Learn more about Fuck Cancer at https://LetsFCancer.com

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/17 The Catcher In The Quadrotriticale

I’m winding up President’s Day Weekend by assigning a Scroll entry to each of our First Executives.

(1) GEORGE WASHINGTON. He’s the foundation, the one we’ve all heard of. Just like that breakthrough Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin, who has a story coming to the big screen – just not the one we were told to expect.

“Another Story by Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Liu Cixin to Hit Screens” reports China Film Insider.

Chinese sci-fi novelist Liu Cixin is set to have another of his stories hit the big screen even as his more famous novel The Three Body Problem continues to languish in development limbo.

Local media outlet Sina Entertainment reports that filming on an adaptation of the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelist’s short story The Wandering Earth will begin in March and is expected to hit screens either in summer 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

In the short story, scientists build massive engines to propel the planet toward another star after they discover the sun is about to grow into a red giant.

…[Director Frank] Gwo told Sina Entertainment he’s already been working on the film for half a year and said the main roles had already been cast, but he declined to name names. The director hinted at the project in a new year’s day Weibo post featuring artwork for the film.

Liu’s other, more famous book, The Three Body Problem, was meant to hit screens in 2016 but has been hit by multiple delays and still has no definite release date. Liu, often referred to as China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke, has sought to temper expectations about the film.

(2) JOHN ADAMS. Before he was President, Adams served as ambassador to England, the country that now blesses us with the BBC.

And the BBC likes Logan — and even admits that some SF is very good:

For genre purists, it can be disconcerting to see comic book movies classified as sci-fi. And though the X-Men franchise, being about genetic mutation, has maybe more of a claim to that designation than, say, Thor, the outsize arcs and simplistic good vs evil binaries of the superhero film do not often lend themselves to the thoughtful curiosity that is a hallmark of the best science fiction. It would be overstating it to say that Logan reaches sci-fi heights – there’s a standard-issue British Evil Scientist (played with pale-eyed zeal by Richard E Grant), a henchman with a Terminator arm (Boyd Holbrook, good value in a relatively small role) and an albino mutant (Stephen Merchant in a rare and surprisingly decent dramatic performance) whose photosensitivity is so extreme he’ll burst into flames in sunlight like Nosferatu. So, you know, this is not Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

(3) THOMAS JEFFERSON. An inventor like Jefferson didn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem. Which is the spirit shown by computing pioneer Grace Hopper, as illustrated by “Grace Hopper’s compiler: Computing’s hidden hero”.

But what Grace called a “compiler” did involve a trade-off.

It made programming quicker, but the resulting programmes ran more slowly.

That is why Remington Rand were not interested.

Every customer had their own, bespoke requirements for their shiny new computing machine.

It made sense, the company thought, for its experts to program them as efficiently as they could.

Open source

Grace was not discouraged: she simply wrote the first compiler in her spare time.

And others loved how it helped them to think more clearly.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, relates many tales of impressed users.

One of them was an engineer called Carl Hammer, who used the compiler to attack an equation his colleagues had struggled with for months.

Mr Hammer wrote 20 lines of code, and solved it in a day.

Like-minded programmers all over the US started sending Grace new chunks of code, and she added them to the library for the next release.

In effect, she was single-handedly pioneering open-source software.

(4) JAMES MADISON. Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington when the British burned the city of Washington in 1812. Here’s a news item about a lesser artwork.

Last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” began with the traditional scene of the Simpsons rushing to the couch in the living room to take in some TV.  But the familiar painting of a sailboat, that’s been in the living room for decades, is gone.  Where is it?

Homer decides to investigate and leaves the set, giving him an opportunity to storm through other sets (including “South Park.”)  He finds the sailboat painting in the office of some geek, who gives it back after explaining that the painting was the most exciting addition to his collection “since I won a bid for a Ziploc of Jonathan Frakes’s beard trimmings.”

(5) JAMES MONROE.  Fair point.

(6) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The first descendant of a President to be elected to the office. So although they are not related, this seems the right place for a multiple Chus question.

(7) ANDREW JACKSON. He didn’t get much of a childhood – as a kid he was slashed by a British cavalryman in return for a defiant remark. No comic books for him, either.

In the February 19 Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Margaret Atwood about the second volume of her graphic novel series Angel Catbird.  Atwood explains that she doesn’t want readers to think she’s just a ‘nice literary old lady” sitting in her rocking chair, but someone who has always loved comics and who’s loved cats ever since she wasn’t allowed to have one as a child.

She is experiencing, she says, one of her “unlived lives.”

Atwood laughs at how this apparent career pivot might be perceived. She imagines that some fans would have her fulfill the stereotype of a “nice literary old lady,” resting in her rocking chair, “dignified and iconic.” But the “Angel Catbird” series, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, realizes the creative vision of an author who has little patience for resting on her laurels.

From her earliest years in the 1940s and ’50s, as her family traveled between Quebec and other Canadian points, Atwood not only passionately read newspaper and magazine comics, from “Batman” to “Blondie” to “Rip Kirby”; she also drew them herself.

“That’s what we did in Canada,” she says. “We were living in the woods.” Her older brother’s plotted-out drawings “were more about warfare,” she says, while her characters — including rabbit superheroes — “were playing around.”

(8) MARTIN VAN BUREN. Old Kinderhook was governor of New York. Even then, theater was a big deal. From Variety, “Magic Show Produced by Neil Patrick Harris and Directed by Frank Oz to Open Off Broadway”:

“In & Of Itself,” the Frank Oz-directed magic show that played L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse last year, will get an Off Broadway run this spring from a varied team of producers that includes Neil Patrick Harris.

The hybrid show, which fuses magic with storytelling, is created by Derek DelGaudio, the magician whose “Nothing to Hide” (seen in New York in 2013) was directed by Harris. Joining Harris and his Prediction Productions on the project are Werner Entertainment led by Tom Werner, the prolific TV producer (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” “Survivor’s Remorse”) who is also the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, as well as Gary Goddard Entertainment (Broadway’s “The Encounter”).

Oz, who’s directed movies including “In & Out” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and voiced characters from “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” stages “In & Of Itself” with an interdisciplinary creative team that encompasses conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, on board as artistic producer; composer Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of the band DEVO; and A.Bandit, DelGaudio and Kaino’s “performance-art collective” credited as production designer.

(9) WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. Another general whose war record vaulted him into the Presidency, he died only a month into his term of office.

“San Diego native Greg Bear uses science fiction to explore military culture, war”

Q: What got you started on the “War Dogs” trilogy?

A: Since I was a Navy brat, I got to hang around with a lot of people who were Marines, Navy officers, pilots. A lot of them were in my family or extended family. I was fascinated by the whole culture, the attitudes, that kind of stuff. Plus I’m a big fan of history. I’ve read a lot about World War II. I taught a class about World War II from the Japanese theater perspective in the 1980s.

I started writing this while looking back at a lot of classic military science fiction like “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War,” all these different approaches to wars in space. I’d already written the “Halo” trilogy, but that was set 100,000 years ago. What I wanted to do this time was take a look at how things had changed and what happened to the whole idea of the military with the no-draft, all-volunteer forces. I wanted to do a serious examination of the modern-day military and the military attitude that goes back centuries.

(10) JOHN TYLER. The first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency. And here’s a news item about the character who succeeded Peter Pan – “’Hook’ Prequel Film ‘Bangarang’ Reaches Kickstarter Goal”.

A Hook prequel film centering around Lost Boy Rufio will become a reality thanks to Kickstarter.

The campaign. started by Dante Basco who portrayed Rufio in Steven Spielberg‘s original 1991 film, has reached over $40,000 on Kickstarter from its original $30,000 goal.

… The story has been reverse engineered from what was set-up in Hook. We answer all the questions you’ve ever wondered — How and why is Rufio the leader of the Lost Boys? Where does ‘bangarang’ come from? And of course, how he gets the mohawk.”

(11) JAMES POLK. The President whose acquisitive policies were lauded as “Manifest Destiny.”

Is it your destiny to grab all the Nebula nominees you can read for free?

Every year I have trouble finding a hyperlinked list of all the free Hugo and Nebula reading, so this time I’m going to take the initiative and make one myself right away instead of waiting….

Nothing in the novel or novella categories is free yet.

(12) ZACHARY TAYLOR. Judging by James Michener’s portrait of him in the novel Texas, “Old Rough & Ready” as he was known was not famed for having natural, let alone artificial, intelligence.

WIRED reports:“The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet, It’s the End of the Middle Class”.

In February 1975, a group of geneticists gathered in a tiny town on the central coast of California to decide if their work would bring about the end of the world. These researchers were just beginning to explore the science of genetic engineering, manipulating DNA to create organisms that didn’t exist in nature, and they were unsure how these techniques would affect the health of the planet and its people. So, they descended on a coastal retreat called Asilomar, a name that became synonymous with the guidelines they laid down at this meeting—a strict ethical framework meant to ensure that biotechnology didn’t unleash the apocalypse.

Forty-two years on, another group of scientists gathered at Asilomar to consider a similar problem. But this time, the threat wasn’t biological. It was digital. In January, the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers walked down the same beachside paths as they discussed their rapidly accelerating field and the role it will play in the fate of humanity. It was a private conference—the enormity of the subject deserves some privacy—but in recent days, organizers released several videos from the conference talks, and some participants have been willing to discuss their experience, shedding some light on the way AI researchers view the threat of their own field.

The rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. It’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers.

Yes, they discussed the possibility of a superintelligence that could somehow escape human control, and at the end of the month, the conference organizers unveiled a set of guidelines, signed by attendees and other AI luminaries, that aim to prevent this possible dystopia. But the researchers at Asilomar were also concerned with more immediate matters: the effect of AI on the economy.

(13) MILLARD FILLMORE. In American history. Millard Fillmore was credited for “the opening of Japan” by sending Commodore Perry there with an exhibition of trade goods and inventions. So we’ll just drop this news item here.

“McDonald’s release new ‘Yakki’ burger based on a popular Japanese meal” reports Rocket 24.

To make sure nobody misses the new burger announcement, McDonald’s has also unveiled a promotional event designed to stimulate all five senses, with the announcement of Yakki The Movie, which is being billed as “the world’s first-ever 4-D Hamburger Movie“. Screening on 21 February, the day before the burger’s official release, the five-minute movie can be viewed at Toho Cinemas at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills…

 

(14) FRANKLIN PIERCE. An item matched up with one of the most forgotten Presidents. Because nobody expects snark like this to be paid any attention, right?

(15) JAMES BUCHANAN. Every Sunday he went out and picked up a 10-gallon jug of whiskey from a distillery. I’m guessing his NASA would have looked a bit different than today’s –

Prohibition in space? The BBC chronicles why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space. I dunno, it’s not as if there’s anything to run into up there.

While Nasa has long had strict rules on alcohol in space, the Russians appear to have been more relaxed in the past. Cosmonauts on board its Mir space station were allowed small amounts of cognac and vodka. There were apparently grumblings when they found out the ISS would be dry.

The odd tipple, however, does still find its way onto the ISS. In 2015, Japanese brewer Suntory — which has its own Global Innovation Center — shipped some of its award-winning whisky to the space station. It was part of an experiment aimed to monitor “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment”. In other words, the way booze ages in microgravity could be different, causing it to taste better, faster. And that’s something every distillery on Earth would want to learn more about.

(16) ABRAHAM LINCOLN. This President was a storyteller known for his endless fount of humorous anecdotes.

In the YouTube video “Pixar in a Box: Introduction to Storytelling,” produced for the Khan Academy, Monsters Inc.director Pete Docter discusses the Pixar approach to storytelling.

(17) ANDREW JOHNSON. Helping keep eastern Tennessee in the Union during the Civil War led Andrew Johnson to become Lincoln’s second-term running mate. He wasn’t pliant and the postwar Congress tried to oust him from office.

Inverse recommends “The 7 Sexiest Science Fiction Novels About Dystopias”:

George Orwell’s 1984 has ascended bestseller lists again. If its place on your high school syllabus makes it a turn off, this is a list of sexy dystopian novels…

  1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous dystopia, and it, too, has garnered comparisons to the current American political climate. If you’ve missed it, it’s a must read, and it’s soon coming to television. However, if that’s the only Atwood title you know, you should also try The Heart Goes Last. It’s completely bonkers and off-the-wall. In between its commentary on income inequality and corporate corruption, it packs in sex robots, a torrid affair, ritualistic murder, a hint of bestiality, sex with inanimate objects, and Elvis impersonators. No one can walk away from this book with the notion that dystopia is just something you read in school and frown about.

(18) ULYSSES S. GRANT. This president’s book was published and made everyone involved a lot of money, beginning with the publisher, Samuel Clemens.

In contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, for which he was given a quarter-million dollar advance, has been canceled by the publisher.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous was canceled abruptly Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he seemed to condone sex between men and boys.

In a terse statement released Monday afternoon, the right-wing provocateur’s publisher said: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Minutes later, Yiannopoulos posted this on Facebook: “They canceled my book.”

Vox Day is defending Milo and he proposes that Castalia House publish Dangerous.

According to The Guardian, “It is the third book that Yiannopoulos has announced that has not eventuated, after he flagged forthcoming titles on the Gamergate controversy and Silicon Valley that never appeared.”

(19) RUTHERFORD B. HAYES. Roll your own here. I’ve no idea….

CinemaBlend’s “Guardians 2 Poster Features A Hilarious Baby Groot” leads us to —

(20) JAMES GARFIELD. This President might have survived an assassin’s bullet if his doctor hadn’t been secretive and incompetent.

CheatSheet refutes “5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Trek”.

  1. Star Trek fans are nerds

What do you think of when you picture a Star Trek fan? Most likely it a nerd in their parents’ basement who spends their free time dressing up as their favorite character and throwing the Vulcan salute at anyone who passes by. The concept of a “Trekkie” — a Star Trek fan that shies away from normalcy and social interaction — has long been part of our pop culture, but the stereotypes that have been perpetuated are both inaccurate and unfair.

Sure, fandom can be nerdy; but these days, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to embrace geekiness of all kinds. And Star Trek, like any other big entertainment franchise, has an impressively diverse fan base. NASA scientists, billionaire Richard Branson, and celebrities like Mila Kunis all count themselves as Trekkies. In other words, there’s no wrong way to be a Star Trek fan — and absolutely nothing wrong with being one, either.

(21) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. He is the answer to a trivia question – and so is this:

The phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was first uttered on screen by Bert Lahr in the 1944 comedy “Meet the People.” Lahr is also the main influence for the voice of the cartoon lion Snagglepuss.

(22) GROVER CLEVELAND. This is from Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes.

It is said that when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Stand By Me (1986) was in theaters, some audiences howled in visceral anguish when, at the very end of the film, the adult Gordie, now a writer, switches off the computer he is using to type without any visible evidence of having hit Save.

(23) BENJAMIN HARRISON. The grandson of William Henry Harrison. You could look it up, in a library.

Atlas Obscura recalls “Library Hand: the Fastidiously Neat penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs”.

 “The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

(24) GROVER CLEVELAND. The only President to serve non-consecutive terms of office, but never a superhero.

The actress who played Wonder Woman on TV is now Supergirl’s President. “Supergirl: Lynda Carter Returns in Kevin Smith’s Second Episode”.

Carter previously appeared on Supergirl as President Olivia Marsdin on ‘Welcome To Earth’. Carter’s appearance in the episode was a huge fan-pleaser, and even included a reference to Carter’s most famous role on a superhero TV show: as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince on the iconic ’70s Wonder Woman series. In the episode, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) complimented the President on her private plane… to which she replied that Supergirl should see her other jet – a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!

We’re thrilled to see Carter return to the series as President Marsdin, especially with Smith behind the wheel on this episode. We don’t know yet exactly what this episode will be about, but it is set to air in late March, and will presumably be involving both the President and a little of Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) backstory or involvement (based on the inclusion of Daxamite tech in the second image). We may even discover whether Marsdin’s reference to the jet was just an easter egg for comic book fans, or if she might actually be Wonder Woman in this universe!

(25) WILLIAM McKINLEY. David Klaus call this infographic the Okudagram table of elements. “ The table of elements in the Star Trek universe is a little…different from ours.”

(26) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I prefer the Teddy bear.

“WTF? They’ve renamed the Tasmanian Devil as Theodore Tasmanian”

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. ill-tempered but much-loved Tasmanian Devil is being renamed as Theodore Tasmanian.

And he’s an Accountant!

In the upcoming Looney Tunes series Wabbit, airing on Boomerang from next month, the character will be working in an accounting department, repressing his true wild and crazy self.

(27) WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT. He was the first President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season.

The Washington Nationals have announced their promotions schedule, and will hold Star Wars Day on May 27. The first 25,000 fans will receive a “Chewbacca koozie,” which is a hairy thing for holding a soft drink. Martin Morse Wooster says he will gladly miss that opportunity in order to attend Balticon, which is the same weekend.

(28) WOODROW WILSON. He was the first President to travel to Europe while in office.

And Randy Byers is asking for votes for a candidate for another trans-Atlantic trip.

I’m one of Sarah Gulde‘s TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of CHUNGA (#25) before we’ve mailed out the paper copies. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah’s delightful article about the Nerd Camps she’s organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Please pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Get your digital copy of Chunga at eFanzines.

(29) WARREN G. HARDING. Scoffers claimed this handsome President was elected by women just recently given the vote. He must have been a good-looking dinosaur. And that gives us a smooth (ha!) segue to….

JJ says “This guy saying ‘never mind Raquel’ and squeeing over the dinosaurs instead is hilarious.” Ryan Harvey, One Million Years B.C. on Blu-Ray—Because You Love Dinosaurs Too” at Black Gate.

I once read a customer review on Amazon for the One Million Years B.C. DVD that remarked at the end, “If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for Raquel.” I wonder if the reviewer nodded off during stretches of the film and somehow failed to notice that there are dinosaurs all over it? Dinosaurs created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen!

I’m not casting aspersions on the appeal of Raquel Welch; she has a enough screen presence to fill in a rock quarry and was a massive part of the movie’s marketing and initial global success. She adds a tremendous amount to the film and helps hold up the human action between stop-motion sequences. Yes, she is stunningly gorgeous on screen to the point that she almost seems unreal. But Raquel Welch has never been as popular as dinosaurs. Sorry, there’s no contest.

Let’s be honest: if One Million Years B.C. had no stop-motion Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs, it would be remembered today for the famous Raquel Welch image and that’s it. People wouldn’t still be watching the film or buying new releases of it more than fifty years later. The film itself would be a side-note, something discussed in terms of Welch’s career and popular 1960s sex symbols, but not anything viewers today would sit down to enjoy in full. Harryhausen’s effects make One Million Years B.C. a perennial.

(30) CALVIN COOLIDGE. The original pinball games would have been familiar to Calvin. But nothing like this. From CBS Sunday Morning.

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows it takes skill, and a little luck. Now the blast from the past is catching on with a new generation. Ben Tracy delivers his hands-on report.

 

(31) HERBERT HOOVER. Pluto was discovered during his Presidency. Surely that ought to count for something?

A BBC video investigates — How earth-like are “earth-like” exoplanets? “The Earth-like planets we have found may not be like Earth”.

There are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, says science writer and astrophysicist Adam Becker. He explains what these “exoplanets” are like to BBC Earth’s Melissa Hogenboom and Michael Marshall, with help from the animators at Pomona Pictures.

Chip Hitchcock warns, “Dippy animation to an interview, but the speaker is clear and concise.”

(32) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He inherited a country in bad economic shape, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a thought experiment — “Mapping ‘The Hunger Games’: Using location quotients to find the Districts of Panem,”. Even if the process doesn’t result in a map of literal, contiguous regions, the process is enlightening.

“…Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.” –The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press)

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins never reveals the exact locations of the Districts of Panem. What if you could map them by using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

Fans of the popular The Hunger Games trilogy know that the stories are set in Panem, a futuristic area previously called North America, with a capital located somewhere in what was known as the Rockies. Panem is divided into districts, each of which has a primary industry. BLS employment data can help you solve the puzzle of where in North America those districts would be.

Keep reading to learn how to use BLS data to identify 12 districts of Panem. Because BLS data cover the United States, this article uses clues from U.S. locations rather than from North America as a whole.

District 1: Luxury goods

District 2: Rock quarrying

District 3: Electronic goods manufacturing

District 4: Fishing

District 5: Power generation

District 6: Transportation manufacturing

District 7: Lumber

District 8: Textiles

District 9: Grain

District 10: Livestock

District 11: Crops

District 12: Coal mining

(33) HARRY S.  TRUMAN. He dropped The Bomb.

“A Million People Live in Thee Underground Nuclear Bunkers” at National Geographic.

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

(34) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Eisenhower’s memoir was titled Waging Peace.

Cat Rambo talks about communication under the influence of one of the masters: “Another Word: Peacetalk, Hate Speech” for Clarkesworld.

Here’s something that makes me sad—at a time when there’s so much contention and arguing about fandom, one of the most helpful books is out of print and unavailable electronically. One of the smartest, savviest voices I know was stilled a few years back. Suzette Haden Elgin, who understood how language works, wrote multiple SF works, but also a series on communication that has changed a number of lives, including my own: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and the other verbal self-defense books that followed it.

But one of her last books, Peacetalk 101 was a simple little story, with twelve maxims about how to communicate with other people….

Elgin’s book is a slim little thing, a series of incidents in the daily existence of a man named George who’s given up on life. He meets a homeless man. (I am aware that the trope of the magic disadvantaged is problematic. I will simply acknowledge it in passing and otherwise cut Elgin a little slack.) Over the course of a number of days, George learns how to communicate effectively in a way that changes his life and restores his hope. The maxims are simple, and I’m actually going to provide them out of order, because one speaks to the heart of this essay. It’s this:

Choose your communication goals. What do you want out of your part in the great conversation? I want to offer people interested in better communication a set of tools that I’ve found handy and to make people think before typing every once in a while—not so they silence or self-censor, but so they know what their communication goals are and have a reasonable chance of achieving them. Do you want to give information? Persuade the reader? Change their behavior? Help them? That will affect what you say and how you say it.

This is why the tone argument is—at least to my mind—both right and wrong. The truth of an argument is unconnected to the tone in which it’s delivered, and yeah, there are people in the world who will perceive something as hostile no matter what that tone is, but another fact of the matter is that tone affects reception and that’s part of the equation that you have to consider. I will defend to the death the right of someone to sing their truth however they want, to express things and experiences that may otherwise not get sung, but if you want that song to be an act of communication, to be composed of more than one voice, you must consider the key in which the other voices are singing and perhaps bring yours down an octave….

(35) JOHN F. KENNEDY. Soon after this date in history, the author of Profiles in Courage began a friendship with the astronaut and his wife.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(36) LYNDON JOHNSON. As Vice-President, he was closely identified with the space program.

The real stories behind the “hidden figures” of the movie, and of others at that time in the BBC Magazine.

In 1943, two years after the US joined World War Two, Miriam Daniel Mann was 36 years old. She had three children, aged six, seven and eight – but she also had a Chemistry degree.

Job opportunities for married women were limited then, especially for those with children, and even more so for African-American women.

But as men went off to war, there was a skill shortage in vital industries. The president signed an executive order allowing black people to be employed in the defence sector for the first time, and Nasa’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started looking for black women to work on mathematical calculations.

Through her husband, a college professor, Mann heard about the recruiters visiting black college campuses. She registered to take an exam, passed it, and became one of the first black women to work as a “human computer” at the NACA aeronautics research facility at Langley in Virginia.

(37) RICHARD NIXON. This President ran afoul of Judge Sirica in the Watergate case.

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the judges for its Australian Shadows Awards.

The awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australian or New Zealander for the calendar year of 2016. Works are judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of a story. Previous winners have included Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, and Amanda Spedding.

Entries are open across seven categories including short fiction, long fiction (novellas), novels, collected works and edited works, The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism – named after former HWA president and AHWA member Rocky Wood – and graphic novels/comics (for works written by an Australian or New Zealand writer).

2016 Judges

This year’s awards will be adjudicated by a panel of judges comprising of:

The Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction: William Cook, Brett McBean, Lee Pletzers

Edited Works: Dmetri Kakmi, Piper Medjia, Craig Hughes

Collected Works: Lee Murray, Michael Pryor, Tracie McBride

Short Fiction: David Hoenig, William Cook, Lucy A. Snyder, Silvia Brown

Comics/Graphic Novels: Gareth Macready, Lee Pletzers, Steve Herczeg

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: Piper Mejia, Maree Kimberley, David Kernot

Novels: Chris Pulo, Lee Pletzers, Steven Casey, Robert N Stevenson

(38) GERALD FORD. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Apparently nobody in charge of programming thought about the effect of 24/7 Pokestops on the neighbors. ISTM that a curfew would have been easy to code….

“Pokemon Go away: Troublesome Sydney Pokestop shut down”

One of Australia’s best places to catch Pokemon has been deleted in the latest update to the augmented reality game.

Three Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, attracted hundreds of players to a park in inner Sydney.

Nearby apartment residents endured traffic jams, piles of rubbish and noise until the early hours.

The creators of the game are working to remove some real-world locations that do not wish to be included in the mobile game.

(39) JIMMY CARTER. Has an American President ever written a work of fiction? You guessed it. Carter wrote The Hornet’s Nest (2004) set in the Revolutionary War.

Jasper Fforde is auctioning a Tuckerization in his upcoming novel on eBay.

Hello. Jasper Fforde here. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, ‘Early Riser’, a thriller set in a world where humans have always hibernated, and the book centres around a Novice Winter Consul named John Worthing, who finds himself stranded in a lonely outpost known as Sector Twelve. The Winter is not a kind master, and before long he is embroiled in Nightwalkers, Villains, the mythical WinterVolk, sleepshy somniacs, other deputies each one more insane than the next, pharmaceutical companies and a viral dream. It’ll be out in either later 2017, or early 2018.

So why is this on eBay? Well, I have a character who could do with a name and likeness, and I thought I would offer the part up for sale in order to raise some money for two causes: Firstly, the friends of my kid’s primary school, which needs to make up the shortfall of the education authority’s current ‘leaning towards frugality’. Second, our local branch of the Sanctuary for Refugees, whose work can be found at http://hbtsr.org.uk/

So what do you get for your cash? The character is a personal assistant to Dr Hektor, the head of HiberTec, a pharmaceutical company that markets Morphenox, a key plot line in the book. You’re not a bad person, just doing their job – and very much a corporate person. You have one appearance.

(40) RONALD REAGAN. Would this President, the grandson of immigrants from County Tipperary, have enjoyed this variation on a theme? “McDonald’s Thinks it’s Time for a Sci-Fi Milkshake Straw!”

We all know McDonald’s classic St. Patrick’s Day beverage, in five flavors this year. Turns out, it has more in store for us then an expanded line of Shamrock Shakes! McDonald’s has hired aerospace and robotic engineers to redesign the regular straw to deliver the fifty-fifty ratio of flavors of its new Chocolate Shamrock Shake…

(41) GEORGE BUSH. Jerry Pournelle was among the sf writers predicting our “weapons’ of mass culture would democratize the Middle East. But of course, it could go the other way, too. “Jeddah: Scifi fans flock to first ever Comic Con expo” reports Al-Jazeera.

It is not every day that young Saudis wander down the street dressed as the Hulk or Doctor Doom.

But for three days over the weekend, some 20,000 Saudis decked out in costumes and face paint queued to get into the kingdom’s first-ever Comic Con, where robots, video games and giant anime figures filled a tent in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The global comics expo was held under the auspices of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosted a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

Saudi Arabia is trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of an economic and social reform drive aimed at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil….

The CNN report says the idea met with resistance.

Setting up the event took over a year, and a balance was struck to keep the spirit of the Comic Con while adhering to the country’s religious regulations.

Indecent symbols or logos that went against Islamic teachings were prohibited and attendees were not allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar online against what was considered a Western phenomenon in the traditional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comic Con a “devil worshipping” festival became popular on Twitter and some called for boycotting it.

(42) BILL CLINTON. “’A Wrinkle in Time’ Soars in Amazon Sales After Chelsea Clinton’s DNC Speech”.

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday night, she delivered a moving speech that painted her mother as big-hearted, patient and scholarly, driving home the fact that reading played a big role in the former first daughter’s upbringing.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug, and reading me Goodnight Moon,” Clinton said.

Later in her speech, she relayed another literary anecdote about talking to her mother incessantly for a week straight “about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time.”

(43) GEORGE W. BUSH.

(44) BARACK OBAMA. Disney will adapt another of its animated hits — “James Earl Jones and Donald Glover to star in live-action ‘Lion King’ movie”.

The original classic about an animal kingdom in Africa starred Jones as Mufasa and Matthew Broderick as his son Simba. Jones will reprise his character in the re-make, while Glover will take over the Simba role.

(45) DONALD TRUMP. Can you imagine him buying a cheap pen? Never.

Choose your clan:  “Luxury company Montegrappa releases line of Game of Thrones-inspired pens”.

Montegrappa’s pens come in several varieties, including ones inspired by several of the Great Houses of Westeros: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen. The barrels and caps of each pen are made with colorful lacquered surfaces while the trim is made from palladium or yellow and rose 18k gold-plate. The cap ring has Game of Thrones engraved on it. The nibs of the fountain pens are stainless steel and are decorated with a sword. Each fountain pen is both cartridge and converter-fed and is available in several writing grades: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, Peer Sylvester, Camestros Felapton, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day (F7CEOTD for short) Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]