Pixel Scroll 5/19/19 Pixelvision: Dare to Scroll

(1) FINE DESIGN. The Nebula Award is truly a thing of beauty! (As was the winner’s dress.)

(2) SPOILER OF THRONES. Daniel Dern says, “I guarantee that, alas, this WON’T Be the closing scene in the Game of Thrones finale.”

WE SEE JON SNOW IN BED.

NEXT TO HIM, WE SEE THE BACK OF A WOMAN WITH LONG WHITE HAIR WITH LOTS OF FANCY BRAIDED HAIR ON THE BACK OF HER HEAD.

JON REACHES OVER AND TAPS HER ON THE SHOULDER. “Daeny, wake um. You won’t believe the dream I just had.”

SHE ROLLS OVER.

Vg’f Fhmnaar Cyrfurggr.

(And a tip of the hat to this classic.)

(3) BANNED BOOKS. Die Kasseler Liste/The Kassel List is a huge database of banned books which grew out of an art project exhibited at the documenta 14

Die Kasseler Liste is a growing database that presently comprises 125,000 data sets. It documents the global scale of censorship. Book bans persist across the world, on all continents, with varying reach and intensity, depending on political and social contexts.

Die Kasseler Liste covers vast territories and a large time frame. The earliest entries are taken from the „Index Librorum Prohibitorum,” which the catholic church first published in 1559 and which is represented in the database in its final version from 1948. It is but one example for censorship originating not only from government institutions. Civil and religious institutions similarly have their own history of systematically infringing on the right to freedom of expression. The Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, also featured in Die Kasseler Liste, is another case in point, where rigid and coercive reading directions provide the members with a tiered index. On the other hand, school districts and school libraries in the United States of America also have a record of systematically banning books from their collections.

(3) BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE. Cora Buhlert recently took on the Retro Hugo novelette finalists and concluded that “The Golden Age Was More Diverse Than You Think”.

…But even taking the known problems with the Retro Hugos into consideration, the breadth and variety of stories on the 1944 Retro Hugo ballot is astounding (pun fully intended), as is the fact that quite a few of them don’t really fit into the prevailing image image of what Golden Age science fiction was like. And this doesn’t just apply to left-field finalists such as Das Glasperlenspiel by Hermann Hesse in the novel category or Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Magic Bed-Knob by Mary Norton in the novella category, neither of whom I would have expected to make the Hugo ballot in 1944, if only because US science fiction fans wouldn’t have been familiar with them. No, there also is a lot of variety in the stories which originated in US science fiction magazines.

So let’s take a look at the novelette category at the 1944 Retro Hugos….

(4) HISTORY OF TOXICITY. In “‘The Phantom Menace’ at 20: How the first episode of the ‘Star Wars’ saga created toxic fandom” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter interviews Simon Pegg as part of an article about how the reaction to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999 was the first sign of “toxic fandom.”

…The message of The Phantom Menace is that even the most stable of societies can topple with the smallest push — in this case a minor trade dispute that sets the stage for the rise of a previously obscure senator with imperial ambitions. As he did with A New Hope, Lucas cloaked that larger lesson in a PG-rated adventure that’s made with children in mind … but not the children who saw Star Wars in theaters in the ’70s. And so — unhappy with a Star Wars movie that wasn’t the Star Wars they remembered — a sizable segment of the fanbase made their displeasure known, embracing an image of themselves as the keepers of the flame, which meant that their opinion of Star Wars was the only correct opinion of Star Wars.

They found an outlet on the still-young medium the internet, where like-minded critics could congregate and launch their arguments or personal attacks anonymously out on the franchise’s creator and other fans as the prequel series continued…

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

One of these movies did not feature Jar Jar Binks. I hope it isn’t too toxic of me to point that out.

  • May 19, 1966 The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters premiered in theaters.
  • May 19, 1999Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released theatrically.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens, before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of all-time favourite films. Also an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero and The Six Million Dollar Man. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 71. First genre appearance was as Stryx in Rumstryx, an Italian TV series. Her next was Zulu in Conan the Destroyer followed by being May Day in A View to Kill and Katrina in Vamp. She was Masako Yokohama in Cyber Bandits which also starred Adam Ant. Her last genre role to date was Christoph/Christine in Wolf Girl
  • Born May 19, 1948 Paul Steven Williams. Editor, Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon and the PKDS Newsletter. Writer, The Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick of Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon, Storyteller. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 19, 1966 Polly Walker, 53. She’s performed on Caprica as Clarice Willow and on Warehouse 13  in the recurring role of Charlotte Dupres, as well as performing the voice work for Sarkoja in John Carter. And she was in Clash of the Titans as Cassiopeia.
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 53. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).

(7) TO THE MOON. Oliver Morton connects sff with the ambitious efforts to reach the Moon in “Lunacy: how science fiction is powering the new moon rush” at the Guardian.

…The robot vanguard has already set forth. Later this year India will attempt to become the fourth nation to land a probe on the moon; an Israeli attempt to get there failed in April, but its backers plan to try again. China has landed two robot rovers on the moon’s surface in the past five years. One visited the near side, the familiar pockmarked face seen from Earth; the other went to the overflown-but-never-before-visited far side. The Chinese space agency has talked of sending humans in their wake, perhaps in the early 2030s.

They may be beaten to it. Last year Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur and art collector, signed a contract with SpaceX, the rocket firm founded by Elon Musk, for a flight around the moon. He intends to take a crew of as-yet-unspecified artists with him…

(8) TOUGH TOWN. Today’s celebrity accident:

(9) REMEMBER ME TO HAROLD SQUARED. Andrew Liptak tells readers of The Verge that “A Memory Called Empire is a brilliant blend of cyberpunk, space opera, and political thriller”.

…That setup is the start to a stunning story that impressively blends together Martine’s fantastic and immersive world, a combination political thriller, cyberpunk yarn, and epic space opera that together make up a gripping read. Mahit’s situation is the perfect introduction to an unfamiliar world, as Martine moves her through the gilded halls of the Teixcalaanli capitol, meeting the politicians she’s been sent to interact with, the fantastical technologies installed in the city, and the poetry that represents the pinnacle of high culture for the empire.

(10) WOMEN IN SFF. Library of America publicizes editor Lisa Yaszek’s collection “The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Bending and stretching its conventions to imagine new, more feminist futures and new ways of experiencing gender, visionary women writers have been from the beginning an essential if often overlooked force in American science fiction. Two hundred years after Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, SF-expert Lisa Yaszek presents the best of this female tradition, from the pioneers of the Pulp Era to the radical innovators of the 1960s New Wave, in a landmark anthology that upends the common notion that SF was conceived by and for men….

Visit the companion website for more on these stories and writers, including author biographies, appreciations by contemporary writers, original pulp covers and illustrations, adaptations into other media, press coverage, and more.

(11) WHEN IN CRETE. Israeli author Yakov Merkin is not impressed. I recognize his name as someone JDA interviewed for his YouTube show.

(12) CRUMB CONTROVERSY, In “Cancel Culture Comes for Counterculture Comics” in Reason, Brian Doherty looks at pioneering underground comics artist R. Crumb and the vigorous debate about whether he should still be read or is so irretreivably racist and sexist that he should be “cancelled.”

…The brief against Crumb is both specific to his famous idiosyncrasies and generally familiar to our modern culture of outrage archeology. His art has trafficked in crude racial and anti-Semitic stereotypes, expressed an open sense of misogyny, and included depictions of incest and rape. Crumb’s comics are “seriously problematic because of the pain and harm caused by perpetuating images of racial stereotypes and sexual violence,” the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) explained last year when removing Crumb’s name from one of its exhibit rooms.

Such talk alarms Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics, the premiere American publisher of quality adult comics, including a 17-volume series of The Complete Crumb Comics. “The spontaneity and vehemence” of the backlash, Groth says, “surprised me—and I guess what also disheartened me was, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people booing Crumb are not familiar with his work.…This visceral dislike of him has no basis in understanding who Crumb is, his place in comics history, his contribution to the form.”

(13) END OF A THEORY. Yahoo! Entertainment carried many articles about The Big Bang Theory series ending, several linked in the opening paragraphs of “Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ‘Big Bang’ Finale Cameo: Here’s How It Came Together”.

In the end, Big Bang Theory‘s unluckiest lovebird lost his girlfriend but gained a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, staking claim to one of the series finale’s biggest moments in the process.

As previously, lightly teased, Sarah Michelle Gellar made a surprise cameo in Thursday’s swan song (read full recap here) as Raj’s date to Sheldon and Amy’s Nobel Prize ceremony….

(14) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Walter Lantz, Woody Woodpecker’s creator, did the opening sequence animation along with the animation of Bella Lugosi’s Dracula turning into a bat for Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/19 Good Night, Scroll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Start out on a TV show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi,

Are you gay, like your character?”

And then his email signature.

Um.

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

He responded in about an hour:

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

His email signature again.

Cue up that existential crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 2008Iron Man premiered on this day

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio waters a garden of unearthly delights.

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

Another thread starts here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BBC adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/14/19 A God On The Stalk Can Be Quite Transcendental, But Pixels Are A Scroll’s Best Friend

(1) ONE ARCHETYPAL SFF AUTHOR SALUTES ANOTHER. Literary Hub excerpts “Michael Moorcock on H.G. Wells, Reluctant Prophet” from the introduction to The Time Machine & the Island of Doctor Moreau:

…In these two early books Wells gave shape to his own and his contemporaries’ anxieties and concerns. He brought a moving lyricism to his vision of the end of the world, just as he brought a harsh realism to his fantasy of vivisection and physiological engineering. Both visions were convincing to his thousands of readers who made The Time Machine one of the greatest bestsellers of the last century, as a recent New York Times feature showed, ultimately outselling even Stephen King and J. K. Rowling, and having a far more lasting effect on our common psyche. The Time Machine defined the way Edwardians saw the future, just as Nineteen Eighty-Four defined the popular vision of the 1950s, 2001: A Space Odyssey defined that of the 1960s, and Blade Runner and The Matrix define how the early 21st century perceives its future. Every book, film and play which thematically followed The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau was in some way colored by them. Every author who considers writing a time-travel story must look first to Wells. Wells has been acknowledged directly or indirectly in many books, even becoming a character in other time-travel fiction. 

(2) AMAZING BOOK. Something people like to say about a favorite book is literally part of the design here — “Just ‘Follow This Thread’: You’re Meant To Get Lost In This Book About Mazes”.

Henry Eliot’s new book about mazes and labyrinths is a printer’s worst nightmare. Follow This Thread is both a title and an instruction: To read the book, you must turn it upside down and backwards. Lines of text wrap 90 degrees on the page, and a thin red thread — illustrations by the French artist Quibe — travels playfully from page to page.

Believe it or not, this is the “reined in” version.

“When I first pitched it, the design was even more complicated …” Eliot says. “As I described this to my editor, I could see her face just kind of falling.”

They scaled it back a bit, but it still wasn’t until he got the final copy from the printer that Eliot was able to “breathe a sigh of relief.”

(3) FREQUENTLY UNASKED QUESTIONS. James Davis Nicoll demands to know “Why Does No One in SFF Ever Read the Damn Manual?” at Tor.com.

Every so often, I find it entertaining to muse about and lament the ill effects of missing or erroneous documentation. Or the ill effects of failing to read the manual…or, having read it, ignoring its wise advice.

Unsurprisingly, SFF authors have arrived at a consensus as far as technical documentation is concerned: For the most part, they’re against it, at least as part of the setting of the story…

(4) THE SENATOR FROM GOTHAM. Michael Cavna notes in the Washingon Post that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vermont) has loved Batman ever since he was a kid.  He uses Sen. Leahy’s introduction to Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman (Deluxe Edition) to profile the senator’s Batman enthusiasm, including his cameos in six Batman movies and the introduction to the humanitarian comic book featuring Batman that was designed to help lobby for banning landmines — “Sen. Patrick Leahy was in 5 Batman movies. Now he’s written the foreword for the superhero’s 80th anniversary.”

…Of his involvement in six Batman screen projects, including five films spanning 1995’s “Batman Forever” to 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (as “Senator Purrington”), Leahy especially relishes getting to appear opposite Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker, in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

In that Nolan sequel, an agitated Joker glares at the party guest portrayed by Leahy and says, “You remind me of my father,” before putting a knife to the guest’s neck and growling, “I hated my father.”

In that moment, “I was scared,” Leahy recounts of Ledger’s convincing menace. “It wasn’t acting.”

(Leahy, who gets a line in that film — “We’re not intimated by thugs!” — broke into Hollywood with an assist from his actor son Mark, who racked up a handful of screen credits in the ‘90s.)

(5) GONE BATTY. This might be a good time to step inside the pitch meeting that led to Batman & Robin. ScreenRant has it on tape —

Long before Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale got their hands on the franchise, there was a whole lot of weird stuff going on with Batman in the 90’s. After Val Kilmer stepped away from the role (because he didn’t know how to skate) George Clooney stepped in as the caped crusader and, along with Joel Schumacher, gave us what many consider to be one of the worst movies of all time. Batman & Robin features Chris O’Donnell being super annoying as Robin, Arnold Schwarzenegger delivering as many ice puns as he possibly can, and Uma Thurman doing… something. The movie raises a lot of questions, like why does Batman have a credit card? Why is Batgirl even in this? Why do they have retractable skate blades? How did this movie even get made?

(6) HERO ON THE HORIZON. Yahoo! Entertainment says “Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero movie ‘Shang-Chi’ bags its director”.

The character of Shang-Chi originally emerged in Marvel Comics in 1973, a half-American, half-Chinese martial arts master, the unknown son of pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu.

In latter instalments, he joined the Avengers, having mastered the power of creating multiples of himself, and has appeared in X-Men comics too.

(7) METROPOLIS MUSES. Mike Chomko spotlights “H. J. Ward, Superman Artist” on the Pulpfest blog.

Normally, when we think of Superman’s artists, people such as Wayne Boring, John Byrne, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dan Jurgens, Alex Ross, Joe Schuster, and Curt Swan come to mind. Why doesn’t pulp artist, H. J. Ward pop into our heads?

…By 1940, Donenfeld had assumed control of National Allied Publications, the publisher of ACTION COMICS, Superman’s home. Around that time, H. J. Ward was paid $100 to create a nearly life-size portrait of The Man of Steel. Ward’s painting was used to promote THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMANa radio show that debuted in New York City on February 12, 1940. The painting hung for many years in Harry Donenfeld’s office at DC Comics, and later, in his townhouse. According to Saunders, it was eventually donated to Lehman College, part of the City University of New York….

(8) BABY WE WERE BORN TO DIE. Daily Mail has a fancy graph proving what you already knew — “Star Trek’s ‘redshirts’ REALLY do die more often!”  But it is colorful!

A graph mapping the death rate of the different characters on Star Trek according to the colour of their shirt. It shows that while red coloured shirts does lead in the number of fatalities, it does so by a small degree of only 3 per cent compared to yellow shirts

(9) WAGING FUR. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Meet the most famous furry in the world”.

“My ‘real name’ isn’t a name I use anymore,” she says. “I have been going by Rika since ninth grade. Mainly because I associate my real name with a time when I was weaker, still figuring myself out, or without personality. That was like my ‘blank slate’ name, if you will.”

She goes on to explain how her different identities came to be, but that they are all a part of her in some way.

“Vix is the me now,” she says. “It is also what my fans tend to call me, while my friends call me Rika. The name and character Rika is also associated with how I want to see myself.”

… Being a furry is her sole source of income. “I do freelance art for furries. Basically, I spend all day drawing animals and it’s honestly the best. Well, when sales are good, anyway,” she says.

(10) ANTICIPATING RELAPSE. BBC reports on a Nature article: “Cancer’s ‘internal wiring’ predicts relapse risk”.

The “internal wiring” of breast cancer can predict which women are more likely to survive or relapse, say researchers.

The study shows that breast cancer is 11 separate diseases that each has a different risk of coming back.

The hope is that the findings, in the journal Nature, could identify people needing closer monitoring and reassure others at low risk of recurrence.

Cancer Research UK said that the work was “incredibly encouraging” but was not yet ready for widespread use.

The scientists, at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, looked in incredible detail at nearly 2,000 women’s breast cancers.

They went far beyond considering all breast cancers as a single disease and beyond modern medicine’s way of classifying the tumours.

(11) A HYBRID OF BOW AND WOW. “Study reveals the wolf within your pet dog” –BBC has the story.

Wolves lead and dogs follow – but both are equally capable of working with humans, according to research that adds a new twist in the tale of how one was domesticated from the other.

Dogs owe their cooperative nature to “the wolf within”, the study, of cubs raised alongside people, suggests.

But in the course of domestication, those that were submissive to humans were selected for breeding, which makes them the better pet today.

(12) ROCK ON. There’s was quite a lot of hoofin’ going on there: “Stonehenge was ‘hub for Britain’s earliest mass parties”.

Evidence of large-scale prehistoric feasting rituals found at Stonehenge could be the earliest mass celebrations in Britain, say archaeologists.

The study examined 131 pigs’ bones at four Late Neolithic sites, Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant and West Kennet Palisade Enclosures.

The sites, which served Stonehenge and Avebury, hosted the feasts.

Researchers think guests had to bring meat raised locally to them, resulting in pigs arriving from distant places.

The results of isotope analysis show the pig bones excavated from these sites were from animals raised in Scotland, the North East of England and West Wales, as well as numerous other locations across Britain.

(13) LONG DRINK. “An Irish pub born in the Dark Ages” is 2 hours’ ride from Dublin — worth a pilgrimage?

Sean’s Bar has been in business since the Dark Ages, and many locals and respected Irish historians also believe it to be the oldest in Europe and the world.

Shortly after the working day begins, a hush falls over the streets of Athlone in Ireland’s County Westmeath. Away from the banks, hotels and shopping centres, buses empty out, commuters dip from sight and moored barges and skiffs on the River Shannon are at standstill as the dark, silted water flows past.

But across the town’s arched stone bridge, in an unassuming building on the river’s west bank, a 50-year-old barman named Timmy Donovan is already pulling his first pint of the day at Sean’s Bar – and a buzz is starting to build.

When the pub closes after midnight, the pitted fireplace will have crackled since mid-morning, and scores of pints of creamy-headed stout – and as many drams of whiskey and cups of Irish coffee – will have been poured. Just as barkeepers at the dimly lit pub have done with more rudimentary forms of alcohol such as mead for the past 1,100 years.

(14) ORION SURPRISE. Ars Technica: “Here’s why NASA’s administrator made such a bold move Wednesday”.

In a remarkable turnaround, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Wednesday said the space agency would consider launching its first Orion mission to the Moon on commercial rockets instead of NASA’s own Space Launch System. This caught virtually the entire aerospace world off guard, and represents a bold change from the status quo of Orion as America’s spacecraft, and the SLS as America’s powerful rocket that will launch it.

The announcement raised a bunch of questions, and we’ve got some speculative but well-informed answers.

What happened?

During a hearing of the Senate Commerce committee to assess America’s future in space, committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker opened by asking Bridenstine about Exploration Mission-1’s ongoing delays. The EM-1 test flight involves sending an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a three-week mission into lunar orbit, and is regarded as NASA’s first step toward returning humans to the Moon. This mission was originally scheduled for late 2017, but it has slipped multiple times, most recently to June 2020. It has also come to light that this date, too, is no longer tenable.

“SLS is struggling to meet its schedule,” Bridenstine replied to Wicker’s question. “We are now understanding better how difficult this project is, and it’s going to take some additional time. I want to be really clear. I think we as an agency need to stick to our commitment. If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the Moon, I think we should launch around the Moon in June of 2020. And I think it can be done. We should consider, as an agency, all options to accomplish that objective.”

The only other option at this point is using two large, privately developed heavy lift rockets instead of a single SLS booster. While they are not as powerful as the SLS rocket, these commercial launch vehicles could allow for the mission to happen on schedule….

(15) WHATEVER IT TAKES. BBC has a fresh rundown: “Avengers Endgame: What we learned from the new trailer”. In theaters April 26. (As far as I can tell this is the same trailer I linked to in December, even though it has a March 14 datestamp on Marvel’s YouTube channel.)

A new trailer for Avengers: Endgame has premiered and the Marvel heroes are gearing up for a showdown with Thanos.

The trailer is light on plot but gives fans just enough of a hint on what to expect from Marvel’s next big blockbuster.

There are new team members, new outfits and perhaps most important of all – new haircuts….

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

Post-credits Scene #1: Video of the Day: In “The Tesla World Light” on Vimeo, Matthew Rankin theorizes that Nikolai Tesla could obtain “infinite power for all nations” with the help of a pigeon that zapped lightning out of his eyes.

Post-credits Scene #2: After the Hugo nominations deadline, I will put up a post inviting people to share their ballots in the comments.

Pixel Scroll 3/7/19 By Thy Long Grey Pixel And Glittering Scroll

(1) ANOTHER ESCAPEE FROM LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Haffner Press will release as a chapbook Manly Wade Wellman’s unpublished story “Not All a Dream,” originally commissioned for Harlan Ellison’s never released anthology The Last Dangerous Visions,

“Not All a Dream” opens with poet/politician Lord Byron (1788-1824) musing over the status of his literary canon in years to come. Admiring the lasting legacy of John Milton, Byron accepts an offer to learn the truce place of his works in centuries hence—a nightmare vision gained by traveling into a dangerous future . . .

How can you get a copy of this story? By preordering Haffner Press’ two-volume omnibus of Manly Wade Wellman’s The Complete John the Balladeer between now and its release on October 31, 2019 at the World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles. Those who do will receive the exclusive 32-page chapbook of “Not All a Dream” at no additional charge. See details here.

(2) WAR GOATS? Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, has a four book deal with Tor.

(3) BIOPIC. A second trailer for Tolkien is out. The movie arrives in theaters May 10.

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

(4) CARDS REQUESTED. Martin Morse Wooster writes, “Long-time fan Ellen Vartanoff is receiving hospice care at home and would welcome humorous cards.  Her address is 4418 Renn Street, Rockville, Maryland 20853.”

(5) ZENO’S THEOREM. Sometimes the arrow doesn’t go all the way — “‘Arrow’ to End With Abbreviated Season 8 on The CW”.

Arrow, the first of the network’s current roster of DC Comics dramas, will end with its previously announced eighth season. The final season of the Stephen Amell-led drama from executive producer Greg Berlanti and Warner Bros. TV will consist of a reduced order of 10 episodes and air in the fall. The final season will air during the 2019-2020 broadcast calendar.

The decision to wrap the series arrives as CW president Mark Pedowitz was open about needing to make way for a possible second phase of DC Comics-inspired series on the network. “Things will age and we want to get the next generation of shows to keep The CW DC universe going for as long as possible,” the executive told reporters in January at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

What Culture thinks they know the reason why:

(6) REASONS TO VOTE. Find out what Abigail Nussbaum is putting on her Hugo ballot in the media categories. Not just a list, but a substantial discussion about each choice. For example, under Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Sorry to Bother You (review) – The most original, boundary-pushing SF film of 2018 by far, not only because of its gonzo third act twist, but because of its focus on matters like labor rights and organization.  One of the things I’ve noticed in writing A Political History of the Future is that we’re seeing more and more SF addressing the future of work, from the issue of automation to the question of how labor organizing might work in space.  Sorry to Bother You fits perfectly in that tradition, as a movie in which unionizing is an important, necessary step towards building a better world.  As important as it is for the Hugos to recognize works like Black Panther, I think it’s equally vital for them to acknowledge Sorry to Bother You as a major work of science fiction film.

(7) LA FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. Hundreds of authors will participate in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books from April 13-14 on the University of Southern California campus. Here are some of the names that jumped out at me from the announcement —

(8) PORK CHOP. “Cern cuts ties with ‘sexist’ scientist Alessandro Strumia” – BBC has the story.

The European particle physics research centre Cern has cut ties with the scientist who said that women were less able at physics than men.

Cern has decided not to extend Professor Alessandro Strumia’s status of guest professor.

The decision follows an investigation into comments, first reported by BBC News, made by Prof Strumia at a Cern workshop on gender equality.

(9) ALIEN AT 40. Martin Morse Wooster, our designated reader of the Financial Times, reports from behind the paywall:

In the February 25 Financial Times Nigel Andrews, the newspaper’s film critic, has a piece on the 40th anniversary of Alien.  Andrews, collaborating with Harlan Kennedy, reported on the production of the film for American Film magazine and reprints what people involved in the film told him about the production in 1978,

Ridley Scott in 1978 said, “The story is Conradian, in the sense that you can compare the situation in Nostromo (the novel) with the situation of any group of human beings trapped in an enclosed world.  The way the same environment and events affect different people.  As for the horror, the reason I got interested in the script was that it was so simple, so linear.  It took me 40 minutes to read it.  I usually take about four days, but here it was just bang, whoomph, straight through.”

H.R. Giger in 1978 said, “They asked me to design something which could not have been made by human beings.  I tried to build it up with organic-looking parts–tubes, pipes, bones.  Everything I created in the film used the idea of bones.  I mixed up technical and organic things.  I made the alien landscape with real bones and put it together with Plasticine, pipes, and little pieces of motor.”

(10) BATMAN AT 80. The Hollywood Reporter shares “Batman 80th Anniversary Plans Unveiled by DC and Warner Bros.”

With Bruce Wayne’s alter ego celebrating his 80th year of crime-fighting this month, Warner Bros. and DC have unveiled a slate of celebratory events and publications for the Bat-versary, including live events, convention plans and the publication of the landmark 1000th issue of Detective Comics.

The celebration of Batman’s 80th, which will be marked online with the hashtag #LongLiveTheBat, will launch at SXSW in Austin, Texas, with the release of new exclusive merchandise, photo opportunities and the unveiling of a mural by a local artist. The festival will also feature a special event on March 15, when more than 1.5 million bats will fly over the city’s Congress Bridge.

Immediately following, DC will release two special anniversary comic books: the hardcover Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman — The Deluxe Edition on March 19, and the extra-length Detective Comics No. 1000, on March 27. Three days after the latter, Anaheim’s WonderCon will play host to a “Happy Birthday, Batman!” panel….

(11) THERE’S NO I IN COSPLAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] No matter how many times the story uses the “i” word, these cosplayers are not really achieving the impossible… but they do achieve a very high difficulty factor (ScreenRant.com: “18 Impossible Star Trek Cosplays That Fans Somehow Pulled Off”). There seem to be several criteria in ranking the selections, you can judge for yourself if they’re in the “proper” order.

Star Trek has been a massive cultural institution since the first episode aired back in the late-1960s. Since that time, the series expanded beyond the Original Series into an animated continuation, multiple spinoff series, prequels, comics, graphic novels, books, and more than a dozen movies. Ever since the series first began, people were quick to create costumes honoring their favorite characters. In the beginning, the costumes weren’t incredibly elaborate due to the limited budget on the series, but as things progressed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and additional feature films, the aliens got more impressive and difficult to emulate. While there are thousands of cosplayers and fans who have thrown on a Starfleet uniform or two over the years, it takes a lot of work and time to manage a cosplay of some of the more detailed and impressive aliens.

Cosplayers who put in the time, money, and creativity to emulate their favorite characters deserve recognition for their efforts. To honor their work, we thought it would be fun to dig around the Internet and find some of our favorite cosplayers’ creations devoted to all things Star Trek. You won’t find a simple recreation of Captain Kirk on this list, but those costumes that pay homage to specific moments in Trek history or manage an approximation of an alien that requires a great deal of makeup and prosthetics will likely have made the cut. Here are our all-time favorite Star Trek cosplayers and their various creations in this list of [18] impossible Star Trek cosplays that fans somehow pulled off

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1934 Gray Morrow. He was an illustrator of comics and paperback books. He is co-creator of the Marvel Comics’s Man-Thing with writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and co-creator of DC Comics’ El Diablo with writer Robert Kanigher. If you can find a copy, The Illustrated Roger Zelazny he did in collaboration with Zelazny is most excellent. ISFDB notes that he and James Lawrence did a novel called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  No idea if it was tied into the series which came out the next year. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 77. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 75. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing fear by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1955 Michael Jan Friedman, 64. Author of nearly sixty books of genre fiction, mostly media tie-ins. He’s written nearly forty Trek novels alone covering DS9Starfleet AcademyNext GenOriginal Series and Enterprise. He’s also done work with Star Wars, Aliens, PredatorsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanBatman and Robin and many others. He’s also done quite a bit of writing for DC, mostly media-ins but not all as I see SupermanFlash and Justice League among his credits.
  • Born March 7, 1959 Nick Searcy, 60. He was Nathan Ramsey in Seven Days which I personally think is the best damn time travel series ever done. And he was in 11.22.63 as Deke Simmons, based off the Stephen King novel. He was in Intelligence, a show I never knew existed, for one episode as General Greg Carter, and in The Shape of Water film, he played yet another General, this one named Frank Hoyt. And finally, I’d be remiss to overlook his run in horror as he was in American Gothic as Deputy Ben Healy. 
  • Born March 7, 1961 Ari Berk, 58. Folklorist, artist, writer and scholar of literature and comparative myth. Damn great person as well. I doubt you’ve heard of The Runes of Elfland he did with Brian Froud so I’ve linked to the Green Man review of it here. He also had a review column in the now defunct Realms of Fantasy that had such articles as “Back Over the Wall – Charles Vess Revisits the World of Stardust”.
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 49. Though better known for The Mummy films, her first genre film was Death Machine is a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster
  • Born March 7, 1971 Matthew Vaughn, 48. Film producer, director, and screenwriter who is best known for Stardust, Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future PastFantastic FourKingsman: The Secret Service, and its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
  • Born March 7, 1974 Tobias Menzies, 45. He was on the Game of Thrones where he played Edmure Tully. He is probably best known for his dual role as Frank Randall and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in Outlander” Randall in Outlander. Am I the person who has never seen either series? He was in Finding Neverland as a Theatre Patron, in Casino Royale as Villierse who was M’s assistant, showed up in The Genius of Christopher Marlowe as the demon Mephistophilis, voiced Captain English in the all puppet Jackboots on Whitehall film and played Marius in Underworld: Blood Wars

(13) STAND BY FOR ADS! I received a press release which evidently is calling on me to publicize a forthcoming publicity campaign. Maybe we’ll get to the books later! Their headline is amusing –

GREAT POWER. NO RESPONSIBILITY.

Tom Doherty Associates is proudly launching the Magic x Mayhem campaign, on the heels of the 2018 Fearless Women campaign. 2018 was a year for breaking though barriers of gender and sex—but 2019 is the year for breaking all the rules. Gone are the days of simple good-versus-evil narratives; these are complicated times that call for complicated characters. From Game of Thrones to The Haunting of Hill House, pop culture has clearly shifted its attention to the messy, the morally ambiguous, and the weird. In short, fans want magic, and they want mayhem. The Magic x Mayhem campaign features an eclectic mix of daring new speculative fiction by fan favorite authors and new voices from the Tor Books and Tor.com Publishing imprints.

Magic and mayhem don’t just live on the pages of books; they’re doled out in fantasy realms and the real world alike by this impressive array of writers. Featured authors include Seanan McGuire (Middlegame), Cate Glass (An Illusion of Thieves), Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars), Duncan M. Hamilton (Dragonslayer), Tamsyn Muir (Gideon the Ninth), Brian Naslund (Blood of an Exile), Saad Z. Hossain (The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday), JY Yang (The Ascent to Godhood) and more. This illustrious group of wordslingers includes bestsellers, award-winners, scholars, and influencers. Through this campaign, the authors will have a combined organic reach of 400,000, and they’re truly a rebel force to be reckoned with.

The campaign will include extensive outreach to social media influencers, a robust marketing and advertising campaign with outlets like Den of Geek and The Mary Sue, exclusive content from select participating authors, Magic x Mayhem branded events at BookExpo, BookCon, New York Comic Con and more. Follow the chaos with #magicXmayhem.

(14) THEY ALL FALL DOWN. “Penn and Teller and Mischief Theatre to produce Magic Goes Wrong” According to Chip Hitchcock, “The Play That Goes Wrong (on tour in the US) was even funnier to a former theater techie like me — my first reaction was that I wanted to have worked on all of those gimmicks. Now I’m hoping this show will also travel.”

If you went to see a show at the theatre where actors forgot their lines, props went missing or scenery collapsed, you’d probably ask for a refund.

But plays going wrong has proved to be a recipe for huge West End and Broadway success for British company Mischief Theatre.

Their current crop of shows – including The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – are set the be joined by a new production later this year.

Magic Goes Wrong has been created by Mischief together with US magicians Penn and Teller – whose fame in the magical world is perhaps second only to Harry Potter’s.

(15) FAST FOOD. Here’s a place “Where you must catch your meal with chopsticks”.

In nagashi somen, one of Japan’s most delightful summertime food rites, noodles are sent down a bamboo chute ‘waterslide’ and you must catch your meal with your chopsticks.

It’s a sunny July day on a mountainside restaurant terrace on the island of Kyushu, Japan. A polo-shirted, 40-something Japanese businessman, a long-time friend of mine, is holding a clump of somen – thin, white wheat noodles – aloft in one hand, and beaming at me and his two foodie colleagues, who have joined us for this feast.

“Ii desu ka?” Are you ready?

“Ichi, ni, san – iku yo!”One, two, three – here they come!

He releases the noodles into a stream of water that is flowing down a 1.5m-long bamboo chute. We three are seated at the opposite end, and, as the noodles slide swiftly toward us, we plunge our chopsticks into the stream, trying to grab the slippery threads.

“Hayaku, hayaku!” – Quickly, quickly! – prim, pearl-necklaced Kimiko-san on my right exhorts herself. “Ahhh, dame da!” – Oh, missed it! – black-suited Eishi-san across from me groans. As more clumps of noodles flow toward us, we gradually lose all reserve, stabbing and laughing as we chase the elusive strands. Eventually we all raise our chopsticks, triumphantly displaying our glistening catch.

(16) WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY. BBC poses the question: “Would you want to stay in a space hotel?” “You” defined as someone with a lot of money…

Aurora Station plans to become the first hotel in space. But how likely is it we’ll be able to holiday in orbit around the Earth?

It was intended to set the travel world on fire: Aurora Station, the world’s first in-orbit hotel. The official announcement took place last April during the Space 2.0 Conference in San Jose, California. Housed aboard a structure about the size of a large private jet, guests would soar 200 miles above the Earth’s surface, enjoying epic views of the planet and the northern and southern lights.

A jaunt won’t be cheap: the 12-day-journey aboard Aurora Station, scheduled to be in orbit by 2022, starts at a cool $9.5m (£7.3m) per person. Nevertheless, the company says the waiting list is booked nearly seven months ahead.

“Part of our experience is to give people the taste of the life of a professional astronaut,” says Frank Bunger, founder and chief executive officer of Orion Span, the firm which is behind Aurora Station. “But we expect most guests will be looking out the window, calling everyone they know, and should guests get bored, we have what we call the ‘holodeck,’ a virtual reality experience. In it you can do anything you want; you can float in space, you can walk on the Moon, you can play golf.”

(17) NOT MAINLY IN THE PLAIN. “Climate change: Rain melting Greenland ice sheet ‘even in winter'”.

Rain is becoming more frequent in Greenland and accelerating the melting of its ice, a new study has found.

Scientists say they’re “surprised” to discover rain falling even during the long Arctic winter.

The massive Greenland ice-sheet is being watched closely because it holds a huge store of frozen water.

And if all of that ice melted, the sea level would rise by seven metres, threatening coastal population centres around the world.

The scientists studied satellite pictures of the ice-sheet which reveal the areas where melting is taking place.

And they combined those images with data gathered from 20 automated weather stations that recorded when rainfall occurred.

The findings, published in the journal The Cryosphere, show that while there were about two spells of winter rain every year in the early phase of the study period, that had risen to 12 spells by 2012.

(18) A PREVIOUS DELANY. At Fansided, Sarah Crocker details “20 legendary black science-fiction authors you need to know”.

…Even though some of the biggest sci-fi properties recognized today are all too often racially tone-deaf, black sci-fi authors have been producing work for well over a century. And, with the rise of more and more creators of color in sci-fi and beyond, there’s hope that the situation will get better.

What is “black science fiction”? Broadly, it’s sci-fi produced by black creators. Once you get more specific, though, it’s clear that there as many ways to write about science fiction as there are individual authors. Black sci-fi isn’t monolithic by any means. Some of the authors included here draw on American experiences, Caribbean folklore, Islamic history, modern international politics, and much, much more.

Please note that science fiction is a huge genre with many, many different subgenres, from cyberpunk, to space opera, to galactic westerns. Your own personal definition sci-fi may or may not line up totally with the one used here, but rest assured that, even if you want to quibble over particulars, these are all great works of fiction that you should read no matter what.

So, in honor of Black History Month, here are 20 incredible black science fiction authors who you should add to your reading list as soon as possible. Though this month is a good occasion to bring attention to black sci-fi and speculative fiction, don’t think this is a one-time thing. There are enough authors here to keep you reading for the rest of the year at least.

First on the list is Martin Delany:

…So, where does the science fiction come in? Starting in 1859, Delany published serialized portions of Blake, or the Huts of America, a utopian separatist novel (it wouldn’t be published in one volume until 1970). It follows Henry Blake, a revolutionary escaped slave who travels throughout the U.S. and Cuba in an attempt to organize a large-scale rebellion. The depiction of an active, intelligent, and driven black man was in strong contrast to more docile characters of the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gauntlet’s said:

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

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

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

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/19 No Screaming While The Scroll Is In Motion!

(1) MARVEL AT MOPOP. Ellie Farrell had a photo taken with a friend during her visit to MoPop’s Marvel exhibit in Seattle. Opened last Spring, the exhibit continues through March 3.

(2) SFF DOES WORK TOO. Charlie Jane Anders, in a Washington Post opinion piece “Kamala Harris is wrong about science fiction”, takes issue with Sen. Kamala Harris’s claim that “we need facts, not science fiction” to deal with climate change, saying that “science fiction creators have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future” in dealing with climate change, “the global crisis of democracy,” and “attacks on LGBTQ people’s right to exist.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign when she said we need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” The truth is, we need both. Science fiction has an important role to play in rescuing the future from the huge challenges we’re facing — and the responses to Harris’s statement illustrate this perfectly.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out the truth: Science fiction has been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. But an equal number of loud voices took issue with Harris’s warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of opinion.

And that’s why science fiction is more important than Harris gives it credit for. No amount of scientific evidence will convince deniers — or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not. No one can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel — which is why we need better stories, that, in the words of author Neil Gaiman, “lie in order to tell the truth.”

(3) SATIRE CONSIDERED. Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency podcast for January 30 takes a look back at the original Starship Troopers movie:

You’re going to love this week’s phenomenal conversation about Starship Troopers (1997) with special guests Mary Robinette Kowal and Max Temkin! Tune in for a thought-provoking discussion (and very amicable disagreement) about how successfully the film executes its satire of fascist military fantasies. Just what are the possibilities and limits of satire? What can director Paul Verhoeven’s career tell us about this “pointed critique of American imperialism”? And exactly how long will it take Anita to remember the name of the game Spec Ops without Carolyn to help?

(4) YA UPROAR CONTINUES. On Facebook, Nick Mamatas delved into the questions surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s decision to pull Blood Heir (reported in yesterday’s Scroll). His post is quoted with permission:

A YA novel called BLOOD HEIR, which sounds entirely awful, has been pulled from publication by its author Amélie Wen Zhao after complaints of plagiarism, poor “Russian rep” as it was put, and anti-blackness from YA twitter aficionadi:

1. Definitely messed up Russian naming conventions—though I am happy to point out that many of the same people complaining about this book are thrilled to go see the next Avengers film, and even agitated in the past for more action figures of the Black Widow in her sexy bodysuit (you know, for young girls!), called wrongly Natasha Romanoff in the films. So there is definitely a power relationship here; this is at least partially a game of “let’s flex on the new girl” while queueing up to consume a billion dollars worth of slop from the Disney hog trough.

2. Haven’t seen any screencaps actually demonstrating plagiarism except for a single sentence (“Don’t go where I can’t follow.”) In cases like this, often people casually use the term to mean “cliché” or even “genre trope.” Frankly if people don’t like clichés and genre tropes, they shouldn’t be reading children’s literature. That said, I may have just messed the presentation of textual evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a ton of plagiarism.

3. The author claims that her interest was exploring indenture as it is currently practiced in China and Asia; her critics complain that a major scene involves a black-coded girl with ocean-light eyes being auctioned off, and then dying while the main character sings her a lullaby. Sounds entirely awful. I think this is also a bit of what people mean by plagiarism—this character has been identified as smacking of Rue from HUNGER GAMES. The critics definitely seem to have a point.

4. As is common, moralism abounds. I’ve certainly seen more than one note fretting aloud that CHILDREN and the YOUTH will read this book and thus be exposed to its anti-blackness. Of course, all the right-wingers rallying against the “SJW mobs” and promising the author that *they* would read the book, ya know, to triggerown the shitlibs or whatever, are lying and performing their own version of “virtue signaling” as they call it. None of those kobolds would ever read a thing that doesn’t feature a photo of the author on a red-white-and-blue background.

I think the issue of Blood Heir was that it was trafficking in racist cliches and daring to do so with only a mere publishing company and not a giant media complex behind it. I’ll always feel a thrill when an author is punished for laziness and top-of-mind decision-making, but let’s be clear: moralism itself is a cliché as well, even when it’s left-moralism. YA twitter is absolutely a Pretty Person Club and Zhao was this year’s scapegoat. But Zhao’s crime of auctorial laziness is just one more datum point showing how sadly inadequate the acquisition and editorial process in big publishing is.

And Arthur Cover has written a public letter to Zhao which says in part –

I just wrote this letter to a young author named Amelie Zhao, who withdrew her YA fantasy novel from publication because of negative comments on line…. Obviously I feel very strongly about this….

A novel cannot be all things to all people. At least one comment on your novel that I read was from a person who felt it insufficiently validated his/her ideas about slavery and villains using a cane. Often when a character uses a cane it is symbolic of something and is not a commentary on people who use a cane in real life. Readers who can’t tell the difference aren’t your concern.

Decades ago I was in a conversation with Samuel R. Delany and when he learned that a writing class was divided equally on the merits of one of his stories, he was quite pleased. He knew he’d accomplished something because of the class’s reaction.

Do not stop. Please reconsider your decision regarding your novel. These critics (and I’ve been a nasty one) are throwing spitballs at a battleship….

(5) AUDIO PALS. In the Washington Post, Karen Heller has a piece about authors and their audiobook readers, “‘I can write the words. He supplies the melody’: The harmonious bond between authors and audiobook narrators”. Two of the authors Heller interviews are genre writers:  five-time Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Maberry, who says he now hears the voice of his audiobook reader, Ray Porter, in his head when he’s writing, and Canadian urban fantasy writer Kevin Hearne, who liked narrator Luke Daniels so much they’ve worked together on independent projects.

Jonathan Maberry, a fiercely prolific author of often frightening novels, hears voices rattling in his head. Specifically, one voice, that of actor Ray Porter, who narrates his audiobooks. A five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Maberry would “imagine how Ray would inflect certain things, and I started to write toward his performance.” Be it horror, thrillers, science fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, almost three dozen novels since 2006 — this is not a typo, and excludes anthologies, short stories and comics — Porter, without contributing a word, has helped Maberry accomplish the goal of most writers: selling more books. Says Maberry, “We’re very much a team.”

(6) NEW FAN FUND IDEA. Marcin Klak has written a proposal for creating a European Fan Fund to allow people from different countries to attend Eurocon. His draft of the rules and the winner’s responsibilities begins —

Purpose: The purpose of the Fan Fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has small or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

The idea: A delegate would be elected by fans across Europe to travel to Eurocon. The delegate must offer to have a talk about fandom in their country. The delegate should also offer their participation as a guest in the Eurocon Awards ceremony, Opening ceremony and Closing ceremony. Any other help from the delegate should be encouraged. It will be for the Eurocon organizers to accept that help to the extent that suits them.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1923 Norman Mailer. I never knew he wrote in the genre but he did. Ancient Evenings certainly has the elements of fantasy and The Castle in the Forest is interesting retelling of Adolf Hitler and his last days. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 82. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre bias.   
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 59. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series this fall is based on his work), Seven Soldiers and his weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1977 Kerry Washington, 42. Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Also played Medical Officer Marissa Brau in  30,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She voices Natalie Certain in Care 3. She also voices Princess Shuri in a short run Black Panther series. 

(8) MR. & MRS. Bill writes, “The 1/29 scroll item about Tiptree got me to looking things up, and I found the attached” – a bit of social news from the Chicago Tribune for January 24, 1946. Definitely still news to me.

(9) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted another bad guess on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Scribbling Siblings

Answer: Aviation writer Robert Serling helped little bro Rod with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” episode of this series.

Wrong answer: What is “Star Trek”?

(10) GALAPAGOS AIR FORCE. BBC tells how “Drones help Galapagos tackle rat infestation”.

Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.

The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.

The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.

The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.

(11) TRACING CLIMATE HISTORY. Researchers think “America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’”.

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from University College London, UK.

The team says the disruption that followed European settlement led to a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land being reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation.

This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO?) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.

It’s a cooling period often referred to in the history books as the “Little Ice Age” – a time when winters in Europe would see the Thames in London regularly freeze over.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of
the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO? and global surface air temperatures,” Alexander Koch and colleagues write in their paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

(12) THE ELEPHANT (SEAL) IN THE ROOM. Look what happens when those pesky humans aren’t around — “Seals take over California beach closed in US shutdown”.

A large herd of elephant seals has taken over a beach in California that was forced to close during the government shutdown.

The seals took advantage of the 35-day shutdown to make themselves at home on Drakes Beach, and in its car park.

So far they have been spotted lying on their stomachs, taking naps and occasionally snuggling their pups.

The beach will remain closed until the seals decide to move on – although it’s not clear when that will be.

(13) HELP WANTED. There’s a job vacancy in Gotham: “Ben Affleck signals Batman departure”.

Holy recasting, Batman! The search is on for a new Dark Knight following Ben Affleck’s apparent confirmation that he is hanging up his Bat cape.

The actor effectively said as much by retweeting a story saying Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be made without him.

“Excited for #TheBatman in Summer 2021 and to see @MattReevesLA vision come to life,” Affleck wrote.

The 46-year-old first appeared as the comic book superhero in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) DEATH RIDES A BOBBLEHEAD. Matt Monaghan, in “The Dia de Los Dodgers Skull Bobblehead is Amazing”  on Cut4 has one of the all-time greatest fantasy bobbleheads EVER.

Bobblehead nights happen all the time at baseball games. Already this year, there’s been one for a nun, one for Pitbull and one for a bald eagle that flew into a pitcher’s face. But during Wednesday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, we may have found the coolest bobblehead ever: The Dia de Los Dodgers sugar skull bobblehead.

(15) STAN LEE GIVEN POSTHUMOUS KEY TO THE CITY. Hey, it’s LA. L. Ron Hubbard put out books here for years after he died. Who’s to say Stan won’t get some use from it? That was just part of what happened at the celebrity-studded tribute to Stan Lee on Wednesday night: “Stan Lee’s Friends and Fans Pay Tearful, Funny Tribute to Their ‘Generalissimo’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Hosting the show was Lee’s long-time friend and fan, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who was sure to note that Lee was “one of the best humans to ever walk the Earth” before inviting everyone to enter the theater. The theater itself was transformed into a monument to the man, with some of his most beloved comics on display, from the first appearance of Spider-Man and Black Panther to some of the most iconic adventures of the Fantastic Four. Costumes from the Sony-led Spider-Man films were displayed inside glass cases, but it was the energy in the room that truly punctuated the evening.

Smith put it best at the beginning of the tribute: “This is not a funeral, though he’s gone. This is a celebration! That’s how religions start. We all agree that we saw him tonight and that he’s no longer gone. Stan’s spirit is here with us.” With all the outpourings of love in the room, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Copious footage of Lee played throughout the evening, including a touching clip of him singing “Cocktails for Two”, with all the energy of someone in their twenties, as his embarrassed assistants set up his microphone.

Smith kicked off the evening with the story of how he met Stan for his movie Mallrats and the grand efforts it took to convince the then less-recognizable legend to appear in his film after Lee read the script and remarked “I would never say this.” Smith admitted that Lee himself was never quite accepting or aware of his successes, despite his put on braggadocio. “This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realize that he had been successful and fulfilled his dreams one-thousand times over,” Smith said. Smith himself admitted that “it was hard to understand that we were friends” before eventually coming to realize just how much Lee loved him.

…Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came with the appearance of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who detailed Lee’s love affair with L.A. before running through a detailed catalogue of his own nerdiness, including a proclamation that no one could offer him enough money to let go of his complete collection of original copies of the Wolverine comic series. Garcetti made it clear, “Stan Lee was a mensch who always fought for the underdog”, before presenting Stan’s former company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment with Garcetti’s third ever “Key to the City”, carved from a fallen tree and engraved with Stan’s image and catchphrase “Excelsior!”

(16) IN THE SPIRIT OF IAIN M. BANKS. A funny thread about pet names for weaponry – begins here.

(17) DEALING WITH A FOOD EVANGELIST. “Dear Mother Goose”, an advice column for children’s book characters, by Slate’s Emma Span. Here’s the problem, click to read Mother’s answer:

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/19 Scroll Up for the Mystery Tour

(1) APOLLO 11 FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY COINS. Today the U.S Mint began offering for sale coins from the “2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program”.

This year, we honor that historic achievement with the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program, a collection of coins as unique in construction as they are stunning to behold. The program comprises curved coins in gold, silver and clad. The design of the coins’ obverse is a nod to the space missions that led up to the Moon landing, while the reverse features a representation of the famous “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” photograph.

A collectSPACE article has the full list:

The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins are being offered in seven editions:

  • An uncirculated-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $25.95.
  • A proof-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $27.95.
  • An uncirculated-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $51.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $54.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A 5-ounce proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 100,000, for $224.95, with an order limit of 5 per household.
  • An uncirculated-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $408.75, with an order limit of one per household.
  • A proof-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $418.75, with an order limit of one per household.

The U.S. Mint has also produced an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 2019 proof half dollar set, which includes one Apollo 11 50th Anniversary proof half dollar and one Kennedy enhanced reverse proof half dollar, “to commemorate the enduring relationship between President Kennedy and the American space program.” The set is a limited edition of 100,000 units and retails for $53.95.

The sale of the coins will benefit three foundations —

As authorized by Congress in 2016, proceeds from the sale of the U.S. Mint coins benefit three space-related organizations that preserve space history and promote science and engineering education: the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” gallery, scheduled to open in 2022.

If all of the Apollo 11 commemorative coins are sold, then they will raise a total of $14.5 million, with half going to the Smithsonian and the remaining funds divided between the two foundations.

(2) ARISIA. The Monday edition of Arisia’s daily newzine said the con’s total registration was 3,190.

Last year’s attendance was 3,930.

(3) HOPE. Leigh Alexander and John Scalzi did an Ask Us Anything session at Reddit today to promote The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project. Here’s an excerpt.

Q: Your most optimistic vision for the future comes true. What is it, and why is it actually awful in reality?

Leigh Alexander:

A: Optimism is biased data. Whatever I imagined as ‘ideal’ would have some kind of blind spot among the people I failed to consider. I don’t even care to speculate aloud, lest some celestial monkey’s paw shudders one more finger closed.

I really find Star Trek: The Next Generation soothing because you have Patrick Stewart, one of the world’s most brilliant actors, taking this little cardboard set, these goofy prosthetic aliens, with just the utmost sincerity — and in so doing, he represents what we think of as the ‘best’ of humanity in space.

But then of course there are all these times that the optimistic ‘ideals of the show reveal this provincial normativity that we wouldn’t expect to still exist in the fully automated luxury space future — so many of the aliens just have the same gender binary, same hierarchical titles, same everything as “the humans”. 

Whatever I can imagine would be good for us in the future won’t be relevant to all of us by the time we get there. But I do hope that being good to each other is an ongoing part of our evolution, that with each generation we get better at that. That’d be the dream.

John Scalzi:

My most optimistic vision is that people treat other people decently, and also incorporate the idea the planet will be here after they are, so maybe don’t trash the place. Neither of these require any SF concepts to be implemented, and honestly it’s difficult to see what the downside of these would be in tandem. 

(4) ACADEMY OVERLOOKS ANNIHLATION. Jeff VanderMeer has some thoughts about Oscar snubs. To begin with, he linked to Slate — “The Oscars Have Snubbed the Weird Annihilation Noise”.

For some unknown reason, voters chose to honor those movies and their music instead of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s score and its magnificently spooky centerpiece, “The Alien,” home to a cluster of hypnotic notes that Slate has dubbed the weird Annihilation noise. (Listen at the 2:40 mark….)   

VanderMeer continues:

That was definitely a weird snub. But I really think the bigger snub is that Tessa Thompson wasn’t up for anything–whether for Annihilation or her other films from last year. Really truly mindboggling. Also, I thought Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation should at least have been considered–the performance was great and without her the whole thing would’ve been so understated as to be ridiculous.

(5) STUMPING THE HOST. Bradley Walsh, host of UK game show The Chase, claimed he couldn’t even understand this question. On the other hand, Filers should have no problem —

The 58-year-old presenter was hoping his team would be able to get through to the final chase, having already seen Richard the librarian go through with £6,000.

But as he read out the next question to Jo from Buckinghamshire, he could not make out what it was asking.

Baffled, he said: “In 2017, a special edition of what book was released that can only be read when the pages are burnt?

“What!? I don’t understand!”

The tricky puzzle had answers of A. Fahrenheit 451, B. Frankenstein, or C. Fifty Shades Of Grey.

(6) MEKAS OBIT. Experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas died January 23 – Gothamist has the story: “Jonas Mekas, Avant-Garde Film Auteur & Co-Founder Of Anthology Film Archives, Has Died At Age 96”.  Andrew Porter realized this is genre news because “Jonas and his brother Adolfas appeared on the cover of the April 1963 F&SF, as depicted by artist and fellow filmmaker Ed Emshwiller.” The full story is online at Underground Film Journal.

To the moon, Jonas! The blog Potrzebie posted up this scan of the cover of a 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction featuring a dashing young Adolfas Mekas piloting a rocketship while his skeletal brother Jonas Mekas looms in the background. Apparently the cover is illustrating a tale of a spaceman who starves himself so his brother can pilot their lost ship back to civilization.

(7) PAVLOW OBIT. British actress Muriel Pavlow (1921-2019) died January 19, aged 97. Genre appearances included Hansel and Gretel in 1937, Project M7 in 1953 and one episode of R3 in 1965.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911C.L. Moore.  Author, and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written as a collaborative undertaking, resulting in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. I’m  the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1942Gary K. Wolf, 77. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 75. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I still love, wrote the amazing patch up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting aside his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 52. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. Oh I’ve got to see that! 
  • Born January 24, 1978Kristen Schaal, 41. Best known as Carol on The Last Man on Earth, the post-apocalyptic comedy. Other genre creds includes her role as Gertha Teeth in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, an adaptation of Darren O’Shaughnessy’s The Saga of Darren Shan, Miss Tree In Kate & Leopold, Pumpkin / Palace Witch in Shrek Forever After, Tricia in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, The Moderator in The Muppets film and the Freak Show series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MISSION POSSIBLE. The South FloridaSun Sentinel reported on January 18: “Holy heist, Batman! Thief drops through roof to nab $1.4 million in comics”.

A fortune in Batman comics has been stolen from a West Boca man and he is reaching out to the comic-collecting community around the world in the hopes of getting nearly 450 prized books back.

In a letter posted on social media sites, Randy Lawrence said his registered collection was valued at $1.4 million and that it was stolen from an indoor air-conditioned, double-locked storage unit.

A later Sun Sentinel story says that some of the collection has since been recovered: “Comic book collector ‘hopeful’ after small part of his stolen $1.4 million collection is found”.

It’s only a few checks off his list of missing pieces, but Randy Lawrence is hopeful he’ll get his $1.4 million in comic books back.

Police in Phoenix arrested a man who tried to sell four of Lawrence’s nearly 450 missing comic books.

(11) TOLKIEN’S FELLOWSHIP. Extra Credits continues its new season with episode 2 of “Extra Sci Fi” – “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

J. R. R. Tolkien wasn’t *just* a fantasy author–he was a mythology master. As a result, he ended up inventing some of the most popular genre tropes that science fiction heavily draws upon. Fellowship of the Ring introduces the theme of the “lessening of the world” and the decay of humanity.

(12) GERMAN CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s oldest crime fiction award, have been announced. Cora Buhlert, who sent the link, adds: “One of the runners-up in the national crime novel category, Finsterwalde by Max Annas, is actually sort of science fictional.”

Winner national:

  • Mexikoring by Simone Buchholz

Runners-up national: 

  • Tankstelle von Courcelles by Matthias Wittekindt
  • Finsterwalde by Max Annas

Winner international:

  • 64 by Hideo Yokoyama

Runners-up international: 

  • Krumme Type, Krumme Type (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) by Tom Franklin
  • Blut Salz Wasser (Blood, Salt, Water) by Denise Mina

(13) SPACE, THE FINAL FRONT EAR. Another day, another Star Trek opinion piece. Writing at FilmSchoolRejects.com, Charlie Brigden takes a turn “Ranking The ‘Star Trek’ Themes.”

Music has always been a huge part of Star Trek, from 1966 and that fanfare to the modern stylings of Star Trek: Discovery, which begins its second season this week. Over the course of 13 movies and seven television series, not to mention a boatload of video games, various composers have tried their best to musically represent Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of gunboat diplomacy and utopian societies. But which theme reaches maximum warp first? Which of the many pieces of music can deal with the most phaser hits and deciphering technobabble? Let’s find out.

Brigden says a good bit about each of the themes, but stripping it down to just the list:

15. Enterprise
14. The Animated Series
13. The Voyage Home
12. Deep Space Nine
11. Generations
10. Discovery
9. Nemesis
8. Star Trek ’09
7. The Undiscovered Country
6. Insurrection
5. Voyager
4. The Wrath of Khan
3. First Contact
2. The Original Series
1. The Motion Picture

(14) GOING TO THE WELLS ONCE TOO OFTEN. “War of the Worlds – as explained by Timothy the Talking Cat” is on feature at Camestros Felapton. It’s all amusing, and the ending is an especially droll bit of satire.

…Meanwhile, across the vast emptiness of space incredible minds were watching Earth and thinking “I know, let’s invade Surrey”. You have to remember that this wasn’t the 1950s when invading aliens preferred to target sleepy small towns in America. This was the nineteenth century and if you were an alien and you were thinking of making a trip to Earth, your first thought was “Surrey”. It’s a case of a local tourist board being just a bit too successful with their promotion of local sights. “Visit Sunny Woking” said the brochure that a Martian advance scout had picked up at Waterloo Station in an extremely brief visit in 1885…

(15) JEOPARDY! PATROL. Andrew Porter saw it on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: Potent Poe Tales

Answer: This Poe story’s title is realized as the narrator flees the “House” as it cracks and is torn asunder.

Wrong question: “What is the house with a crack in its wall?”

(16) PITCH MEETING. ScreenRant adds to its series with “Glass Pitch Meeting: Shyamalan’s Sequel To Split And Unbreakable.”

(17) FLY BY NIGHT. Where’s your flying car? Here’s your flying car… if you have a license to fly experimental aircraft and if you can settle for a few feet up for a few seconds. At least so far. Yahoo! Finance has the story (“Boeing’s flying car lifts off in race to revolutionize urban travel”).

Boeing Co said on Wednesday its flying car prototype hovered briefly in the air during an inaugural test flight, a small but significant step as the world’s largest planemaker bids to revolutionize urban transportation and parcel delivery services.

Boeing is competing with arch-rival Airbus SE and numerous other firms to introduce small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

[…] Boeing’s 30-foot-long (9 meter) aircraft – part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing plane – lifted a few feet off the ground and made a soft landing after less than a minute of being airborne on Tuesday at an airport in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said.

Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight.

“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, said in a news release announcing the test flight.

(18) CHINA BLOCKS BING FOR A DAY. The BBC found “Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China” on Wednesday.

US tech giant Microsoft has confirmed that its search engine Bing is currently inaccessible in China.

Social media users have expressed concern that the search engine might be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.

Chinese authorities operate a firewall that blocks many US tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft hasn’t said if the outage may be due to censorship, or is merely a technical problem.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

A BBC correspondent in China attempted to visit the site, and was able to access it through a Chinese internet provider on a desktop, but not on a smartphone.

Many US tech companies are keen to tap into the Chinese market, but have a difficult relationship with the authorities in Beijing.

The government’s internet censorship regime, often known as the “Great Firewall”, uses a series of technical measures to block foreign platforms and controversial content.

Chinese authorities have also cracked down on Virtual Private Networks, which allow users to skirt around the firewall.

NPR reports Bing was accessible again in China on Thursday.

The Microsoft search engine, Bing, is back online in China after apparently being blocked on Wednesday, a company spokesperson told NPR.

“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

…Microsoft President and Chief Legal Counsel Brad Smith explained that it’s not the first time the search engine has been blocked. “It happens periodically,” he said in an interview with Fox Business News from Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

(19) SPIRITS IN THE VASTY WOODS. See video of “The giant trolls hidden in the woods of Denmark”.

Cheeky trolls that tower over passers-by can be found in the Danish wilds. Constructed using wood found around the city, the sculptor behind them wants to bring people into nature.

Go for a walk in a Danish forest and you may spot a giant troll peeking out from behind a tree, or lounging luxuriously across the ground. These folkloric creatures are made by recycling artist, designer and activist Thomas Dambo, who sculpts the enormous beings from reclaimed wood.

(20) RED DWARF RETURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Red Dwarf is back, baby! Or anyway, it will be. Den of Geek had the story (“Red Dwarf Series 13 Confirmed”) all the way back in April 2018.

The boys from the Dwarf will be back for a thirteenth series…

Red Dwarf XIII is happening! Dave has ordered a brand new series of our favourite space sitcom, as confirmed by Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules at Thames Con, and then duly reported by British Comedy Guide shortly thereafter.

Baby Cow Productions are set to start filming series XIII in the first few months of 2019, and Doug Naylor will be back to write all the new episodes. Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie will, of course, all be along for the ride.

Now there’s an update at Den of Geek (“Red Dwarf: the Dave era, Series XIII, and beyond”) which considers history and possible future projects.

With more Red Dwarf on the way, [columnist] Mark [Harrison] ponders how the sci-fi sitcom’s revival on Dave has secured its future…

For a show that’s three million and 31 years into deep space, Red Dwarf is in pretty rude health. It’s been just over a year since the programme came to the end of its 12th series, the second of a two-series production block shot in early 2016, on UK TV channel Dave, and it looks as if there’s still plenty more to come from Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Your Cocoon” on Vimeo, Jerry Paper explains why you can’t have any fun if you’re a detached head.

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

DC Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:

  • Upcoming DC animated films
  • Batman description

“See DC, that’s all we want.  A definitive portrait of a beloved character that balances multiple tones across dozens of hours that can only happen with a perfect creative team and lands at the perfect time in the cultural zeitgeist.  Is that so hard?”

More items follow the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 11/5/18 Pixeltopia By James Scrolley

(1) VISIONS OF WFC 44. Ellen Datlow’s photos from World Fantasy Con 2018 are up on Flickr.

(2) DESIGNING WAKANDA. Black Panther designer Hannah Beachler spoke to the CityLab Detroit conference about what went into designing the capital city of Wakanda for the blockbuster movie. Social responsibility and connection to culture were critical in her designs of everything from street plans to public transit — “The Social Responsibility of Wakanda’s Golden City” at CityLab.

… It took ten months and 500 pages to design Golden City, the thriving Afrofuturist capital of Wakanda. The result is a stunning, complex metropolis that has delighted urbanist nerds and city-dwellers alike. Behind it all is Beachler, a production designer whose job is to act as “cinematic architect” and to create the “landscape of a story.”

…“You know what’s keeping us together: the connectivity of people, not the connectivity of users. We’re not users; we’re people, but we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re users,” she said. “So I took all of that, and I just chucked it out of Wakanda, because the people were the most important thing about it, and we’re forgetting it. And I think that’s why people responded to Wakanda on this massive level: people.”

(3) BOOK BUCKET BRIGADE. “A Store Had to Move Thousands of Books. So a Human Chain Was Formed” – the New York Times has the story:

The plea went out a few weeks ago from the bookstore in a port city in southern England: “Care to lend a hand?”

Volunteers were needed for “heavy manual work” in shifts. It was “essential” that they be able to lift and carry boxes and office supplies. Among the supplies: thousands upon thousands of books.

The appeal from October Books, a nonprofit that began 40 years ago as a “radical” bookshop, came after a rent increase forced it from its old home in Southampton, Jess Haynes, a member of the collective and one of the few paid employees, said on Wednesday.

The shop was looking to move lock, stock and barrel about 150 meters (just under 500 feet) to a three-story building that used to house a bank. Would anybody respond to the call for help?

This past Sunday, the bookstore got more than a helping hand — it got hundreds. A human chain began forming from the old October Books stockroom, snaking past 54 doors to the new building. The shop stopped counting after about 250 people showed up…

(4) GLASS UNIVERSE. Dava Sobel, the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, will be talking about her latest book The Glass Universe in the Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory (in Laurel, Maryland) on Friday, November 9 at 2 p.m. This talk is open to the public held at the Parsons auditorium (directions here). A summary of the talk is below (taken from this link):

Edward Pickering, who took over as director of the Harvard College Observatory in 1877, was a physicist, not an astronomer. Pickering quickly moved to expand activities beyond determining the positions of stars and the orbits of asteroids, moons, and comets. He invented new instruments for studying stellar brightness to help quantify the changes in variable stars. He introduced photography as a boon to celestial mapping and a key to characterizing the spectra of stars. The images that Pickering began amassing on glass plates in the late 19th century came to number in the hundreds of thousands and are currently being digitized to preserve their enduring value. Their abundance of pictures necessitated a special building to house them and a large team of assistants – nearly all women – to analyze them.

Pickering’s glass universe gave these women the means to make discoveries that still resonate today. Williamina Fleming, Antonia Maury, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Annie Jump Cannon, and Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin, the most famous members of the group, all played a part in the early development of astrophysics.

(5) BABY. Heath Miller and Cat Valente share their parental discoveries:

(6) OPIE’S SPACE PROGRAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the Beeb (no, not this one), Science Editor Paul Rincon talked to Ron Howard, who was wearing his Executive Producer hat for the National Geographic series, Mars (Ron Howard: Creating vision of a future Mars colony). Season 2 begins 11 November.

“When I first began the series a couple of years ago, I thought it was a great idea to do an adventure about going to Mars and we should make it as real as we possibly could,” Mr Howard says.

“But I wasn’t sure I believed in the idea of going to Mars. I knew I believed in the idea of space exploration… and any show that advocated that was making a statement that was healthy and positive for human beings – to inspire their imaginations to look outward.

“But as I have gone through the process of working on the show and interviewing some of the big thinkers, I now really do believe in it strategically – I don’t mean that from a military standpoint, I mean it from the point of the ongoing evolution of the human species… I not only believe it’s viable, I’m a big supporter.”

Season one of Mars followed the crew of the spacecraft Daedalus, as the astronauts attempted to create a pioneer settlement on the Red Planet in 2033. Season two is set nine years later and follows the fortunes of the first fully-fledged colony. The script tackles the everyday challenges of the settlers, including the first births on the Red Planet, outbreaks of disease and mechanical breakdowns.

(7) ARMSTRONG AUCTION RESULTS. NBC News totes up the results: “Neil Armstrong memorabilia fetches $7.5 million at auction”.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions says the item that sold for the highest price, $468,500, at Saturday’s auction was Armstrong’s spacecraft ID plate from Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle. Also sold were a fragment from the propeller and a section of the wing from the Wright brothers’ Flyer, the first heavier-than-air self-powered aircraft, which each sold for $275,000.

The flight suit Armstrong wore aboard Gemini 8, the 1966 mission that performed the first docking of two spacecraft in flight, brought the astronaut’s family $109,375.

(a) In a separate auction, a gold-colored Navy aviator’s helmet once owned by John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, sold for $46,250.

(b) It appears there were some flown artifacts in the Armstrong auction (but not the Glenn auction)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 – H. Warner Munn, Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry.
  • Born November 5, 1938 – James Steranko, 80, Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 78, Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik, Writer, Filker, and Fan who was a close friend to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was Tuckerized as a character in several novels, including in Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, in Footfall as Harry Reddington (aka Hairy Red), and in Fallen Angels. His own genre writing in collaboration with filker Leslie Fish resulted in a novella in Pournelle’s Co-Dominium universe, and an unfinished work which Fish completed for him after his death, at John F. Carr’s request. He was a well-known filker in that community; here he is doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. He died in 2007.
  • Born November 5, 1944 – Carole Nelson Douglas, 74, Writer and Editor who has produced a fantasy series and several genre series which are mysteries with a supernatural twist, including one which showcases Arthur Conan Doyle’s minor Sherlockian character Irene Adler as a brilliant investigator. But I’m here to pitch to you her SJW credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series, which was inspired by a classified ad seeking an adoptive home for a big black cat. Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie; the cat himself speaks in a style which some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise.
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Robert Patrick, 60, Actor and Producer best known in genre as FBI Special Agent John Doggett in The X-Files series, as the T-1000, the main adversary of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and a main role in the alien abduction movie Fire in the Sky  –  all of which netted him Saturn nominations. He has had a main role in the TV series Scorpion, and recurring roles in True Blood and From Dusk till Dawn. He has also appeared in a lengthy list of genre movies, including The Last Action Hero, Asylum, Future Hunters, Warlords from Hell, Alien Trespass, and Double Dragon, and episodes of Stargate: Atlantis, Lost, Tales from the Crypt, and The (new) Outer Limits.
  • Born November 5, 1960 – Tilda Swinton, 58, Oscar-winning Actor who is well-known to genre fans as the evil White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia films, for which she received a Saturn nomination; roles in the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doctor Strange won her Saturn trophies. She played the long-lived main character in Orlando, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace in the film Conceiving Ada, and had parts in Constantine, Snowpiercer, The Zero Theorem, and the upcoming zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die.
  • Born November 5, 1964 – Famke Janssen, 54, Actor who started out as a fashion model, and then had an acting career breakthrough as an unknown in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was followed quickly by appearances in genre films Lord of Illusions, Deep Rising, and House on Haunted Hill, then her 15-year genre role as Jean Grey / Phoenix in the numerous X-Men films, for which she won a Saturn Award. Since then, she has had main roles in the horror series Hemlock Grove and the supernatural social media film Status Update.
  • Born November 5, 1968 – Sam Rockwell, 50, Oscar-winning Actor who is probably best known as !Spoiler alert! (just kidding) Guy Fleegman, a redshirt in the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, whose character initially simply exists for comic relief but transcends that casting by the end of the Hugo-winning film. He also played Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, had parts in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cowboys & Aliens, and voice a lead role as a guinea pig in the animated Disney film G-Force.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark cleverly juxtaposes James Bond and Poe to trigger this punchline.

(10) MALIBU TREK. Deadline found a home on the market with some celebrity history in its own right: “‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Home For Sale In Malibu, Part Of ‘The Survivors’ Episode”.

(a) House is listed for $5.695 million

(b) This appears to be the listing — https://www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/ca/malibu/27553-pacific-coast-hwy/pid_27011186/

(c) A photo from that listing is:

(11) LOOKING FOR THE GOLDEN AGE. David M. Barnett (@davidmbarnett) of the UK-based Independent newspaper uses Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding as a jumping-off point to explore the ongoing diversification of science fiction authorship and audiences. In “Out of this world: The rise and fall of Planet Sci-fi’s ‘competent man’” he offers a perspective on John W. Campbell’s legacy, both negative and positive, and puts recent events in science fiction fandom in context for a popular audience. Registration required.

Campbell was what he was, and he did what he did. He didn’t create science fiction, nor did he own it. It was an important period in history, but one that has passed. Science fiction today is new and wondrous and inclusive, and perhaps, in years to come, historians will be referring to this, not the Campbell era, as the true Golden Age.

(12) APOCALYPSE TUESDAY. The Rumpus says this is “What to Read When the World Is Ending”. A few sff works made the list.

…The above cataloguing of recent atrocities isn’t exhaustive. If the world isn’t truly ending, it’s certainly in the midst of several significant crisis. And in moments of crises, we at The Rumpus find solace in, and draw strength from, literature. Below is a list of books our editors think are especially appropriate to read right now, in this fraught political moment….

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okrafor
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means “Who fears death?” in an ancient language. Even as a child, Onye manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

(13) ARE YOU TRACKING WITH ME? There will be a Traincon to the 2019 NASFiC / Westercon / 1632 Minicon happening in Layton, UT next July. Well, two Traincons might be more accurate, since organizers want to have one running to the con from Chicago and another from the San Francisco Bay Area (and return). More information at the link.

Join your fellow fans on Amtrak for the trip to Spikecon and then back home. We’ll have fun on the train, getting together periodically to discuss SF, the con, or anything that comes to mind. Games and filk, too, if anyone is so inclined – all with old friends and new. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The train from the Bay Area (Traincon West) crosses the Sierra Nevada, the one from Chicago (Traincon East) crosses the spectacular Rockies, both in full daylight.

There will be no group reservation for this Traincon; members will need to make their own individual Amtrak reservations; early reservations are recommended for the best prices…..

The organizers are Bill Thomasson and Nancy Alegria.

(14) HOTEL WATCHING IN NZ. The Comfort Hotel in Wellington (venue for some recent NZ NatCon’s and about a km from WorldCon venues) will be renamed and refurbished.

Renovations for the 115-room Comfort Hotel will begin after March 2019 with expected completion at the end of that year, for rebranding as Naumi Heritage Wellington.

The Quality Hotel renovations will also be completed about the same time, and be rebranded as Naumi Suites Wellington with 62 rooms.

…The theme of the hotel refurbishments in Wellington will be “romantic Edwardian age meets literary bohemian”, according to a Naumi media statement – “a space that embraces diversity and steadfastly refuses to be boring”.

(15) LOVE OFF THE CLOCK. SYFY Wire’s “FanGrrls” columnist Alyssa Fiske extols “The appeal of the time-travel romance”:

While some may accuse the genre of being formulaic (fools), romance does indeed have some of the greatest tropes of any kind of story. Enemies to lovers, fake dating becoming real, the good old “oh no there’s only one bed in this hotel room I guess we have to share,” all of these tropes are at once familiar and thrilling. The building blocks may be the same, but each swoony outcome has its own sense of magic.

In particular, time travel and other time-related complications pop up again and again. Whether they’re communicating via time bending mailbox (The Lake House), kept apart by centuries as a plastic centurion (Doctor Who), or powered by genetic anomalies both charming (About Time) and devastating (The Time Traveler’s Wife), this obstacle has long been a popular stalwart in the romantic canon.

(16) GHOST MOONS. NBC News goes for the clicks with its headline “‘Ghost moons’ discovered in orbit around Earth”. These are patches of “dust” at the Earth-Moon L4 & L5 (Lagrange) points

Astronomers in Hungary say they’ve detected a pair of what some call “ghost moons” orbiting our planet not far from the moon we all know.

The hazy clouds of dust — tens of thousands of miles across but too faint to be seen with the naked eye — were first detected almost 60 years ago by a Polish astronomer, Kazimierz Kordylewski. But the patches of light he found were too indistinct to convince some scientists that the clouds were really there, and the existence of the “Kordylewski clouds” has long been a matter of controversy.

Now the astronomers, Gabor Horvath and Judit Sliz-Balogh of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, have obtained clear evidence of the clouds using a specially equipped telescope in a private observatory in western Hungary.

(17) MORE IMPORTANT — IRON OUTSIDE OR IRON INSIDE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the A.V. Club, Tom Breihan is considering “the most important superhero movie of every year” in a series entitled “Age of Heroes.” Breihan is up to 2008 and asks, “Does the most important year for superhero movies belong to The Dark Knight or Iron Man?

Midway through Christopher Nolan’s 2008 movie The Dark Knight, the Joker gets himself arrested so that he can then break out of his holding cell and continue his grand experiment in human darkness. While he’s locked up, he’s placed in the custody of the Major Crimes Unit, the police force that’s supposedly been devoted to locking up Batman. In the movie, people keep referring to the Major Crimes Unit as the MCU. As in: “There’s a problem at the MCU!” Watching it today, you might hurt your neck doing double-takes at those initials every time. The Dark Knight, as it happens, came out at the last moment that “MCU” could possibly refer to anything related to Batman.

Today, of course, we know the MCU as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the steamrolling blockbuster-generating engine that has become the dominant commercial force in all of moviemaking. It was never a given that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would work. By the time the people at Marvel got around to establishing their own movie studio, they’d already sold off the rights to many of their most-famous characters: Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four. Only the relative dregs were left over, and nobody knew whether a relatively minor character like Iron Man could anchor a whole movie, let alone a franchise. It was a gamble.

It was a gamble, too, to cast Robert Downey Jr., a faded star who’d spent years battling his personal demons. […]

Breihan lavishes much praise on Iron Man and notes how well it set up much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that followed, but in the end he picks The Dark Knight as the more important movie. His reasoning may surprise you and you may or may not agree with it. In part, he say:

[…] The Dark Knight made money, too; it was the highest-grossing movie of 2008. But it didn’t just make money. It was, in its moment, widely hailed as something resembling a masterpiece. When, for instance, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences failed to nominate The Dark Knight for a Best Picture Oscar, there was such a wide public outcry that the Academy changed its roles to allow for more nominees. That is an impact.

It should probably be noted that Breihan doesn’t believe The Dark Knight actually was a masterpiece, but that doesn’t diminish the impact such a perception may have had in the moment. Some of Breihan’s highest praise goes to Heath Ledger’s performance (sadly, his last) as the Joker.

[…] Ledger is legitimately disgusting: dirty and scarred-up, with yellow teeth and a tongue that’s constantly darting in and out of his mouth, like a lizard’s. But he’s magnetic, too. He tells different stories about his scars, just so we’ll know that he’s always lying. He confounds criminals as badly as he does police. He dances his way through a hospital explosion and intimidates a roomful of mob bosses. His voice—the best description I can manage is a tweaked-out Richard Nixon impression—is chilling and alien. And he seems to be in love with Batman in ways that make even Batman uncomfortable: “Don’t talk like you’re one of them. You’re not.”

Besides Iron Man and The Dark Knight, Breihan devotes a fat paragraph to a handful of other superhero movies from 2008, plus a sentence or two to several others. Finally, he promises a look at 2009’s Watchmen in the next Age of Heroes installment.

(18) GAIMAN’S SANDMAN. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky on a new printing of Neil Gaiman’s Preludes and Nocturnes: “Enter ‘Sandman’: Anniversary Edition Celebrates 30 Years Of Dream-Spinning”.

When Neil Gaiman first envisioned the Sandman, the supernatural dream lord he created 30 years ago, he thought about prison. “Before I even knew who he was,” Gaiman writes in the afterword to The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, he had the image of “a man, young, pale and naked, imprisoned in a tiny cell, waiting until his captors passed away, willing to wait until the room he was in crumbled to dust.”

Dreams and imprisonment? It’s not a connection most would make. True, dreams are just about the only thing a prisoner has of his own, but it seems odd to imagine the bringer of dreams himself trapped in a cell. As so often happens with Gaiman, though, meditating upon one of his intuitions leads you to a whole new way of thinking

(19) TUNING UP DEADPOOL. Daniel Dern recommends “Deadpool The Musical 2 – Ultimate Disney Parody!”. “The songs aren’t the best… but, among other things, it’s arguably one of the best representations of the X-Men (about halfway in), and many of the Avengers. And the last minute or two is great.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/16/18 Pixel Me, Ray Bradbury!

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON PRELIMINARY PROGRAM. WFC 2018 takes place in Baltimore from November 1-4. Their draft program is now up — World Fantasy 2018 Preliminary Program Grid.

This is the Preliminary program schedule. These are the program items we’re planning on having. New things may emerge, and any of these may disappear in puff of logic, all without warning. The program will be updated as information changes, but please check for official notifications during the convention.

(2) LE GUIN’S EARTHSEA ON RADIO. From SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie we learn: “Beeb Beeb Ceeb Radio 4 Extra has just started season 2 of Le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea.

Episode 1 of season 2 here.

On the island of Gont, Tenar saves a remarkable young girl from certain death. She also makes a dangerous enemy.

Ursula K Le Guin’s enduring fantasy saga – based on the novel Tehanu adapted by Judith Adams.

“And the lovely folk have re-posted the 1st season on here on BBC i-Player so you can catch up.  But note: season 1 will only be up on iPlayer for another 3 weeks.”

(3) DEVICES INCLUDED. The audience for the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut grows to record-setting levels when stats from devices are rolled in — “Doctor Who: Biggest first episode for new Doctor”.

Jodie Whittaker attracted a record audience for a new Doctor in the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who.

The episode was watched by 10.9 million viewers, which makes it the highest Doctor Who series opener since the show was relaunched in 2005.

The consolidated figures from ratings body Barb includes the number of people watching on devices as well as TV.

Barb only began counting ratings for phones, PCs and tablets last month.

The previous highest series launch episode for the drama was in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, which attracted 10.8 million.

That number obviously didn’t include device figures.

(4) SPECTRUM 25 CEREMONY. John Fleskes has just posted a story with photos about the Spectrum 25 awards ceremony last May in Hollywood: “Spectrum 25 Awards Ceremony Stories and Pictures”

To be able to create a gathering where the Spectrum community can get together and celebrate is not only meaningful, it helps to encourage others. All the award recipients had an emotional response and made sincere and expressive acceptance speeches. Everyone who attended left with a want to do more to create and inspire others to do the same. This is why Spectrum exists and why we find the awards ceremony to be so important to have and to share.

(5) GAME ART MASHUP. Fans in Japan get all the cool stuff. Well, at least if you think crossing Edvard Munch and Pokémon is cool (The Verge: “Pokémon’s upcoming ‘The Scream’ cards capture 2018’s existential horror”).

The world is running out of clean water, climate change continues to ravage the planet, and politics everywhere are a total nightmare: nearly every day of 2018 has carried the emotional weight of an entire year. It’s fitting, then, that this is also the year The Pokémon Company is announcing a partnership with the Tokyo Art Museum to produce special trading cards based on The Scream, the iconic expressionist painting by Edvard Munch.

According to the official release [Google Translate version], the promotional cards will be available starting October 27th to celebrate a special exhibition at the Tokyo Art Museum. Each card, which will retail for 450 yen, will feature a pocket monster with a scream attack that causes confusion (hence the crossover between the game and the painting). Cards will be available through official Pokémon centers in Japan when fans purchase booster packs, though there will also be other Munch / Pokémon-related merch up for sale, too.

(6) THIS IS MONSTROUS. A special exhibition—De Monstris—at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto caught the attention of  Brigit Katz, writing for Smithsonian.com (“Rare Book Library Summons Tales of World’s Oldest Monsters”).

In December 1495, Rome was devastated by four days of heavy flooding. After the deluge subsided, rumors began to swirl about a terrible monster that had washed up onto the banks of the Tiber. The creature was said to be a grotesque pastiche of human and animal body parts: it had, among other peculiarities, the head of a donkey, the breasts of a woman, the bearded visage of an old man on its behind, and a tail crowned with a roaring dragon’s head.

This was the era on the cusp of the Reformation, and many were convinced that the monster had been conjured as an ominous portent of papal corruption, with each of its hodge-podge body parts representing a different vice. (The creature’s “feminine” breasts and belly symbolized “the sensuality of the cardinals and ecclesiastical elites”; the old man on its hind parts marked a “dying regime.”) Printed images of the so-called “Papal Ass” were circulated widely in the years after the flood. Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, even commented on the monster in his railings against the Catholic Church.

(7) SPACE VS. SCI-FI. In the Washington Post, Elahe Izadi tries to separate space movies from sci-fi flicks, with one difference being if space is “a pretty easy and chill place to hang out” then it’s sci-fi and not a space movie — “Sorry, your favorite ‘space’ movie is not actually a space movie”.

… But what, exactly, makes a movie a space movie? Is it merely the location? What if only a few scenes are in space? What about the involvement of aliens? Is it a space movie if the movie title has a space-y word, like “galaxy” or, say, “space”?

…These are the kinds of questions you have to grapple with before you even try to rank the best space movies. So, below is a system on how to tell whether your favorite movie is actually a space movie — including a handy, totally professional flowchart!

(8) LEARNING TO SPELL. WIRED’s Jason Kehe says he’s seen this before – plenty of times: “Why So Many Fantasy Novels Are Obsessed With Academia”.

The best fantasy debut of 2018 has a problem. It was also the best fantasy debut of 2009. And 2007. And 1997, 1985, 1982, and 1968.

Authors change; the story stays the same. In the darkness a child is born. The child suffers, but he has mysterious power. Posthaste, destiny leads the child to the same place it herds all the courageous orphan-protagonists of speculative fiction: a storied and exclusive institution of magical learning, where he unnerves the faculty, demonstrates arrogance, and forms lasting friendships on his way to vanquishing evil.

…This year’s Potter, though it pulls from a number of related sources, is The Poppy War, the first of a planned trilogy set in the Empire of Nikan, an evocation of 20th-century China in everything from geography and mythology to military history. Written by the scarily proficient newcomer R.F. Kuang—she was 19 and a student at Georgetown University when she sold it—the book adds to a recent wave of East Asian fantasy with a sad, gifted orphan of its own.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 16, 1854 – Oscar Wilde, Writer, Journalist, Playwright, and Poet from Ireland whose only novel, the supernatural gothic horror work The Picture of Dorian Gray, has been translated into more than a dozen languages, made into countless radio plays, musicals, TV films and movies — the 1945 version of which was awarded a Retro Hugo — and had enduring influence on modern popular culture as an examination of morality. His long list of short fiction credits includes some fairy tales and genre stories, of which the best known is “The Canterville Ghost”, which has likewise undergone a copious number of translations and adaptations into various media.
  • Born October 16, 1874 – Lucien Rudaux, Astronomer, Artist, and Illustrator from France who in the 1920s and 30s created famous space-themed paintings featuring planets and moons rendered according to the state of astronomical knowledge at the time, as well the illustrated work Sur Les Autres Mondes (On Other Worlds). The Rudaux crater on Mars and the asteroid 3574 Rudaux are named for him, as is the Lucien Rudaux Memorial Award, given by the International Association of Astronomical Artists to creators of space-themed works (recipients have included Chesley Bonestell and Rick Sternbach).
  • Born October 16, 1925 – Angela Lansbury, 93, Actor from England who emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. Though perhaps best known now for her long-running Miss Marple homage TV series Murder, She Wrote, her early career included movies of some import, and she received Oscar nominations for genre films The Manchurian Candidate and the Retro-Hugo-winning The Picture of Dorian Gray. Other genre roles include Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Nanny McPhee, and The Mirror Crack’d (for which she received a Saturn nomination), and she has lent her distinctive voice to a number of animated features including the Saturn-nominated adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, the Hugo-nominated Beauty and the Beast, Anastasia, Fantasia 2000, The Grinch, and Heidi 4 Paws, which is, interestingly, a retelling of the well-known Heidi where all of the roles are played by dogs.
  • Born October 16, 1926 – Ed Valigursky, Artist who created more than 200 pulp magazine and novel covers, mainly for Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, and Ace Books, including Ace Doubles, along with dozens of interior illustrations. The more-than-50 covers he did in 1955 earned him a nomination for the Best Artist Hugo the following year. During the 1960s he contributed illustrations to classic trading cards sets, including the Topps titles Batman and Battle!. In the 1970s and 80s he created covers illustrating NASA’s space program for Popular Mechanics.
  • Born October 16, 1927 –  Claire Necker, Librarian and Writer. This might be going a little astray from genre birthdays, but I think not, given that most of us have SJW credentials. She wrote a number of feline-related academic works including The Natural History of Cats, Supernatural Cats: An Anthology — which includes stories by writers such as Fritz Lieber, C.L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, August Derleth, and H.P. Lovecraft — and Four Centuries of Cat Books; Cat’s Got Our Tongue is a collection of feline-centered proverbs.
  • Born October 16, 1940 – Barry Corbin, 78, Actor whose face will be familiar from his many character roles — frequently as gruff military officers or crusty eccentrics — including those in genre movies WarGames, My Science Project, Ghost Dad, Race to Space, Dawn of the Crescent Moon, Curdled, Critters 2, and Timequest, which appears to be an uncredited version of Greg Benford’s Timescape (which provided the name for the Pocket Books line of science fiction novels helmed by David G. Hartwell in the early 1980s). He narrated Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, based on the book by Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard.
  • Born October 16, 1963 – Glenn Glazer, 55, Conrunner and Fan who has been on the concoms for many Worldcons and regional conventions, chaired a Smofcon and a Westercon, and was one of three vice-chairs for Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. He has been involved in a number of APAs, including SWAPA, Mutations, The Calling, LASFAPA, APA-69, and APA-FNORD.
  • Born October 16, 1966 – Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, 52, Actor, Writer, and Director. Aside from appearing in episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Trek: Voyager, and Quantum Leap, she’s credited with more than 500 voice acting roles in animated movies, TV series, and videogames, including The Avengers, Ghost in the Shell, X-Men, Steven Universe, and Bleach. She directed 18 episodes of the long-running anime Naruto, and has been Guest of Honor at Anime Expo.
  • Born October 16, 1971 – Lawrence Schimel, 47, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. He is a founding member of The Publishing Triangle, an organization promoting fiction by LGBTQ authors and/or with LGBTQ themes, which inform many of his short fiction works. He has edited, mostly in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg, at least 10 anthologies. His solo anthology, Things Invisible to See, and one of his short fiction collections were both recognized with Lambda Award nominations, and his speculative poetry has garnered a Rhysling Award nomination and a win.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

A classic Trek-themed joke in Monty.

(11) DON’T LOOK DOWN. In an article at The Verge, astronaut Nick Hague recounts “What it’s like to fall 31 miles to Earth after your rocket fails”—and fortunately he’s here to tell his own tale.

For the first few minutes, the ride to space had been routine. NASA astronaut Nick Hague and his fellow crew mate, Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, were pressed into their seats inside a Russian Soyuz capsule as the vehicle rapidly climbed through the atmosphere. Then then there was a jolt.

“The first thing I really noticed was being shaken fairly violently from side to side,” Hague said during a round of broadcast interviews [16 October 2018].
The vehicle carrying Hague and Ovchinin had just taken off from Kazakhstan at 4:40AM ET (2:40PM local time). Just two and a half minutes into flight, the vehicle began to break apart. It’s still unclear what triggered the failure, but Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos thinks that there was some unintended contact during stage separation. On the Soyuz, four boosters surrounding the center core of the rocket are meant to break away during flight, but it’s possible one of the four crashed into the middle of the vehicle.

(12) SOYUZ. If the previous item doesn’t curb your enthusiasm, The Space Review points the way to joining the Russian space program — “So, you want to become a cosmonaut? Inside the 2018 cosmonaut selection process”.

For more than 50 years, Russia (and, previously, the Soviet Union) selected the majority of its cosmonauts from the ranks of Air Force pilots or engineering and scientific bureaus and agencies closely linked to the space program. There were exceptions, such as the four female parachutists (and one engineer) selected in 1962, but generally, this approach served the requirements of the Russian space effort.

This changed in 2012, when Roscosmos launched the first ever “open selection” for cosmonauts, to which any Russian citizen could apply, subject to having a higher education in certain specified fields, generally good health, and be under the age of 35.

As a result of this process, eight new cosmonaut candidates were presented to the media in August 2012. This group included candidates from a more diverse range of backgrounds, than the traditional careers mentioned above: mostly engineers, as well as two instructors from Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre and a solitary military pilot.

(13) FACT CHECKING FIRST MAN. Christian Davenport in the Washington Post says the scene in First Man where Neil Armstrong leaves a bracelet with the name of his dead daughter Karen on the moon is almost certainly a dramatization that did not actually take place: “‘First Man’ shows Neil Armstrong mourning his daughter on the moon. But did that really happen?”

Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian, said questions about the scene came up recently during an event for the movie at the Kennedy Space Center. The conclusion, he wrote in an email to The Washington Post: “The scene was created for the movie, and there is no specific evidence that Neil Armstrong left any ‘memorial items’ on the moon.”

(14) GRRM & PEOPLE WHO LOVE HIS BOOKS. Charles Yu profiles “George R. R. Martin, Fantasy’s Reigning King” for the New York Times.

MARTIN WAS RAISED in Bayonne, N.J., the son of a longshoreman and a factory worker. He has talked in the past about his childhood growing up in a federal housing project, gazing across the water at Staten Island, watching ships coming into port, imagining them traveling from distant lands he would never see.

He’s now based in Santa Fe, where he moved in 1979 from Dubuque, Iowa, where he was teaching journalism at Clarke College. After Tom Reamy, a friend of his and a fellow SFF author, died suddenly in 1977, at the age of 42, Martin was galvanized: “I thought, ‘Do I have all the time in the world? I want to write all these stories.’” He decided to quit teaching to write full time in New Mexico, spending the next decade and a half as a well-received, if not yet famous, fantasy author. He lives with Parris McBride, his second wife; the two of them are ardent supporters of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization that rescues and provides sanctuary to captive-bred wolves. When it’s time for him to focus on his books, Martin heads to what he calls his “hideaway” in an undisclosed location.

(15) GRRM SIDEBAR. In this side feature, the writer discloses where he gets his signature hats and the “Game of Thrones” character that reminds him the most of Trump. Watch the video or read the transcript — “George R. R. Martin Answers Times Staffers’ Burning Questions” at the New York Times.

We selected a handful of staffers’ queries for Martin to field on the set of his cover photo shoot, in Santa Fe, N.M., and filmed a number of his responses for the video above. Below are all of the questions that Martin answered — or, in some cases, tellingly declined to answer. Here’s what he had to say about his favorite books, where he gets his signature hats and the “Game of Thrones” character that reminds him the most of Trump.

Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist

Dowd: Who reminds you most of Trump? Dan Weiss [one of the “Game of Thrones” creators and writers] told me that the character that reminded him the most of Trump is Hodor because he endlessly repeats his own name.

Martin: Well, that’s amusing. But I think even during the campaign I said that Trump reminded me most of Joffrey. They have the same level of emotional maturity. And Joffrey likes to remind everyone that he’s king. And he thinks that gives him the ability to do anything. And we’re not an absolute monarchy, like Westeros is. We’re a constitutional republic. And yet, Trump doesn’t seem to know what that means. He thinks the presidency gives him the power to do anything. And so, yeah, Joffrey is Trump.

(16) TIME PASSAGES. Inverse reports on an anomaly seen around the shooting of the upcoming Joker origin film (“Batmobile Sighting on the ‘Joker’ Set Hints at Time-Related Shenanigans”).

The new Joker movie, which stars Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role as Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, takes place before Batman ever existed. It’s a world where Bruce’s dad, Thomas Wayne, is still alive and running for mayor. So what’s the Batmobile doing on set?

That’s the question Batman fans are reckoning with after a video from the Joker’s New Jersey set revealed what looks a lot like the original Batmobile from the Adam West TV show.

So, sly TV reference aside, how does the Batmobile exist in a pre-Batman world? The Inverse article explores three possible—and very comic-book-esque—explanations.

(17) DOES GOOD FENCING MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS? Russia may be leading the lightsaber race. DW has the story — “Moscow Star Wars school trains novice Jedi”.

But saber fighting is more than a Star Wars fantasy for those training here. It is a style of stage fencing, which has been considered an official sport in Russia since 2008. And here at the school, the novice Jedi say it is a real workout, particularly because the movie fight scenes they are emulating are very dynamic. “I came out of my first training session and my knees were shaking — I thought I was going to sit down now and never get up,” Daria says, thinking back to when she started in January. “But it gets easier with every session.” Now she says she loves the physical challenge. “And also — it’s Star Wars!”

(18) MOVIE STAR DINOS. Scientsts suspect “The ‘ugly duckling’ fossil from the deep” is a juvenile rather than a progenitor of the species.

The mosasaurs recently took a star turn in the Jurassic World movie, showing off the Hollywood version of their fearsome jaws.

Now an “ugly duckling” from 85 million years ago is shedding new light on the giant marine reptiles that lived at the time of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Scientists have long puzzled over how the diminutive fossil fitted into the family tree.

They now think it was still developing the distinctive long snout of its clan.

(19) THE DATING GAME. Was Pliny the Younger too old to remember the right date? “Pompeii: Vesuvius eruption may have been later than thought” – an on-site graffito challenges Nth-generation copies of Pliny’s letter, but matches findings of harvested plants in ashes.

Historians have long believed that Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79 AD, destroying the nearby Roman city of Pompeii.

But now, an inscription has been uncovered dated to mid-October – almost two months later.

Italy’s culture minister labelled it “an extraordinary discovery.”

(20) BITS IS BITS. When the BBC asks “Would you eat slaughter-free meat?” it means feather cells grown into chicken nuggets – a company says the product will be in restaurants “by the end of this year”

In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted that the human race would one day “escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”.

Eighty-seven years later, that day has come as we discovered at Just, a food company in San Francisco where we tasted chicken nuggets grown from the cells of a chicken feather.

The chicken – which tasted like chicken – was still alive, reportedly roaming on a farm not far from the laboratory.

(21) ROBOT FRIENDS. Dara Elasfar in the Washington Post notes how the Smithsonian now has four robots named Pepper as helpers at four of its museums, a gift from SoftBank Robotics of Japan.  Kids like them; Asa Bernstein, 6, said  “If I had a robot named Pepper, I would make it do my homework, and make sugar cookies with me!” Video — “Meet the Hirshhorn’s newest staffer, Pepper the robot”.

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