Pixel Scroll 11/13/19 Baby, It’s Fahrenheit 451 Outside

(1) CHIZINE STORY CONTINUES TO UNFOLD. Three more writers announced they have asked ChiZine Publications to revert their rights:

I have spent the past week reading and processing the ongoing revelations and allegations about my publisher ChiZine. I honour the words and experiences and the courage of those who have come forward to speak.

Through my agent, I have requested that ChiZine revert to me the rights to all of my work that they have published.

Re: The current status of my collection Celestial Inventories and Melanie’s final novel The Yellow Wood–I’ve asked for and received a reversion of the rights for these two ChiZine titles. As soon as they are removed from such online booksellers as Amazon they will be re-issued by Crossroads Press as e-books. Hopefully, at some point they will reappear in paperback form, but I can’t be sure if and when.

  • Cat Rambo

Can*Con chairs Dererk Künsken and Marie Bilodeau have offered to use the convention’s platform to support affected authors and staffers:

Statement from Can*Con regarding recent public information about ChiZine:

A large number of detailed allegations of abusive behaviour and non-payment of authors and staff have recently come to light. Friends and members of the Can*Con community have been touched and hurt financially and emotionally. As Co-Chairs of Can*Con, we stand with the victims and offer our support, both as an organization and as Derek and Marie. We do not believe that there is a place in our community for abusive behaviour.

We would also like to offer to use what platform and resources we have to help the affected authors and staffers continue to move their careers forward. We would like to immediately offer to:

***use Can*Con’s social media presence to promote the books that affected authors may have for sale that will put money in their pockets, as well as places where the public can support their art through means such as Patreon, Ko-Fi, Drip, etc;

***waive the registration fee for Can*Con 2020 to affected authors and staffers so as to reduce the burden of participating in the community; and

***we will set aside 1-2 tables for free in the dealer’s room at Can*Con 2020, where affected authors and staffers can sell their author stock, other books, etc. without an additional conference expense. The authors could work together to organize shifts for the table, so that they can enjoy the con and network.

Any staffers or authors who would like to participate in any or all of this, please email canconchairs@gmail.com.

As co-chairs of a public event, we also have additional responsibilities in the face of this new information. We’ll take other appropriate actions to make Can*Con a place free of harassment and abuse, although it is possible that we will not be able to make public statements about that work. However, we hope that people take at face value our commitment to creating a positive, encouraging, energizing, uplifting space for SFFH folk. We are committed to always listen, learn, and act to continue to make Can*Con a space the community can be proud of.

We send our best and much warmth to those directly affected and also those triggered by these events. If we can do anything to help, please feel free to personally reach out to either or both of us.

Derek and Marie (and the whole Can*Con team)

Kerrie Byrne, after reading various posts revealing ChiZine’s finances, wrote another extended thread which begins here.

Bob Boyczuk’s November 7 post “The ChiZine Shitshow” has not previously been linked here.

I’ve been at the shit end of the stick with them ever since our relationship blew up when I withdrew my last book in Jan of 2018. My reasons for doing so were both  personal and professional. Leaving the personal reasons aside, they hadn’t given me a royalty statement or payment in three years, to say nothing of the reserves against returns they withheld, some up to 5 years after they were due. Moreover, their support of my last book was, to say the least, underwhelming. To be fair, however, most of the money owing (as well as questions of rights) has been settled since, although not without a long and frustrating back and forth which included personal attacks on me. In the few years before I severed ties with them, several other authors had complained to me about their late/non-existent royalties and/or the way they’d been treated. When this first started happening, I generally defended Chizine. But, when it became clear this wasn’t just a few isolated cases, I gave up on trying to defend the indefensible, and my advice to other authors became, “They produce a good-looking product, but be aware of what you’re getting into.”

Brian Keene says listen in Thursday –

(2) LIFELINE. “We lived long and prospered! How Star Trek saved fans’ lives “ — Duncan Barrett interviewed fans who credit Star Trek for helping them survive life crises: in The Guardian.

[Letitia Lemon:] I grew up watching Voyager, but it wasn’t until university that I made my way through the whole Star Trek back-catalogue. Studying film and TV production, I could see that the shows were products of their time, but the characters and themes were timeless.

In my final year, I had an accident in the scene-dock where the sets were kept. A huge metal pole fell on to my head, missing my eye by less than an inch. For several weeks I had concussion, with nausea and light sensitivity that made it hard to look at a TV.

Then the nightmares began. In my dreams, the accident had left me with a gaping bloody eye-socket, like something from a horror movie. I would wake gasping for breath and run to check myself in the mirror. Every time I went back into the scene-dock I froze. I didn’t realise it, but I had PTSD.

It was an episode of Discovery that finally made it all click. In a crisis, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) was having flashbacks to being tortured by the Klingons, and Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) was trying to calm him down. “You’re safe,” she told him. “What you are experiencing are the effects of past trauma.”

I stared at the screen in silence. I wasn’t watching as a film student now – or even as a fan – but as someone who knew exactly what that character was feeling. The admiral’s words gave me strength. From that day on, the nightmares stopped.

I tracked Jayne down on Twitter and told her my story. When I saw she was appearing at this year’s Las Vegas convention I knew I had to go, even though I was terrified of flying. I got through my first ever flight with Cornwell’s final line scrawled on a piece of paper in my lap: “Whatever your path may be, you can handle it.” When I arrived, she gave me a big hug. I knew it had all been worth it.

(3) OUTER LIMITS. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt’s 4-episode recap includes a classic of SF television: “[November 13, 1964] Beat the Devil (The Outer Limits, Season Two, Episodes 5-8)”

Demon with a Glass Hand marks Robert Culp’s third appearance on The Outer Limits, after his previous roles in The Architects of Fear and Corpus Earthling. The third time is absolutely a charm. In this episode, Culp transforms into Trent, a man who recalls nothing of his past, but in the present is being pursued by human-like extraterrestrials called the Kyben.

The Kyben are after Trent to gain possession of his glass computerized hand, which “holds all knowledge.” His hand speaks, providing guidance to Trent to help him avoid capture. The Kyben already possess three of his fingers, which Trent needs in order to collect more information about his past. Along the way, he meets and is helped by a charming seamstress, Consuelo Biros, played by Arlene Martel of The Twilight Zone episodes Twenty Two and What You Need.

Harlan Ellison has done it again. Just like with The Soldier, Ellison‘s writing has helped The Outer Limits dive much deeper into science fiction. Ellison combines a lot of different things that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, might not work as well as they do here. The episode has an interesting premise, drama, action, and just a little bit of everything. Culp and Martel deliver spectacular performances. Back in the director’s chair is Byron Haskin, director of The War of The Worlds (1953) and this summer’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

(4) WHEN THE MAGIC INGREDIENT – $$ — IS MISSING. Mark Lawrence says this is what happened when studios came knocking on his door: “Hollywood and Hollywouldn’ts – your options as an author.”

…I spent a long time on the phone with very talkative, very enthusiastic, very convincing Hollywoodians. And I HATE phone calls. Hate them.

I was even skyped by the head of the head of a major US TV network’s Hollywood studio (CBS). He talked about how many millions would be spent on the (and here I forget the terminology) short taster that would be used to drum up funding for a full film.

I had small film companies showing me their short-form work and conference calling about scripts for different scenes – filming to start in 3 months.

Here’s the thing though. All of these people wanted the option on my work. Not one of these people was prepared to pay for it.

The option is a legal agreement that for the period of the option (typically 1 or 2 years) the author will not sell the film or TV rights to their work to anyone else. That’s all it is. You haven’t agreed to sell them to the person who holds the option (though sometimes you have – more of that later), just not to sell them to anyone else….

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man premiered. Produced by Universal Pictures, the film stars Claude Rains, in his first American screen appearance, and Gloria Stuart. The movie was popular at the box office, Universal’s most successful horror film since Frankenstein. The film holds a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York; first film to attempt to use stereophonic sound.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 13, 1850 Robert Louis Stevenson. Author of for Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the New Arabian Nights collection of short stories. (Died 1894.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Philip Nowlan working for the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, was contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1930 Adrienne Corri. Mena in “The Leisure Hive”, a Fourth Doctor story. She was also in A Clockwork OrangeDevil Girl from MarsCorridors of BloodThe Tell-Tale HeartLancelot and GuinevereRevenge of the Pink Panther and Moon Zero Two which is not a complete listing by any means. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 13, 1933 James Daris, 86. He played the role of Creature in the deservedly maligned “Spock’s Brain” episode. He’d do one-offs in I Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Land of the Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible, the latter with Shatter and Nimoy. He retired from acting with a role in Larva, a horror film.
  • Born November 13, 1953 Tracy Scoggins,66. Capt. Elizabeth Lochley on Babylon 5 and its follow-up series, the short-lived Crusade. See Neil Gaiman’s Babylon 5 episode “ Day of the Dead” for all you need to know about her. She was also Cat Grant in the first season of Lois & Clark, and she played Gilora Rejal,  a female Cardassian, in “Destiny” a DS9 episode.
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 64. Best known as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Next Gen which she reprised in Generations and Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1957 Stephen Baxter, 62. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth serieswith Terry Pratchett.  I’ve only read the first three but they are quite great SF!  Ok I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of literary awards as well.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for a. Hugo for best short story. 
  • Born November 13, 1971 Noah Hathaway, 48. Best known as Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story and for being Boxey on the original Battlestar Galactica series. He was also Harry Potter Jr. in Troll, a 1986 comedy horror film which had nothing to do with that series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine suggests a near-future story about why we didn’t get coffee this morning.

(8) SHADE OF A DOUBT. Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, answered a question for the New York Times:

NYT: What’s your craziest Airbnb experience?

…We also have some really weird things. …. One day a customer calls us and says they want a full refund. We say, “Why do you want a full refund?” They said, “Because the house is haunted and there’s a ghost in the house.” And we’re, like, “O.K., well, we have to adjudicate this.”

So we call the host, and all the host has to do is deny it, because there’s no photo evidence of ghosts. Well, unfortunately the host confirms the ghost, says that it’s a friendly ghost named Stanley, and that the ghost Stanley is in the listing description.

We read the listing description, Stanley is mentioned. So we go back to the guest and the guest says, “Yes, we knew about Stanley, that’s why we booked it. But Stanley has been harassing us all night.” How do you adjudicate that? So I guess the point is in this new economy built on trust you can only imagine the kind of issues you deal with. There is no playbook for this stuff.

(9) PRESERVING FANHISTORY. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari sent out an update – he and Edie will see you next at Loscon in LA over Thanksgiving Weekend.

We brought the FANAC scanning station to Philcon last weekend, Nov. 8-10, and  scanned over 1,500 pages. We also received donations of both publications and recordings. The week before, we also received a carton of recordings from NESFA. Those cover Boston fandom going back to at least Boskone 5 in 1968! We haven’t had a chance to inventory them yet but a quick glance includes recordings of Marvin Minsky, Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and many, many others.

Lastly, and MOST IMPORTANT: Edie Stern, our webmaster is going to be a Guest of Honor at Loscon 46 in 2 weeks, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2019, at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel. Come by and say “hello” to her.

To celebrate her Honorship, we will have another FANAC Scanning Station at the con.  Bring your favorite fannish photos and fanzines to Loscon so we can scan them and add them to FANAC.org. If you have old fannish recordings or films you can bring those as well. See you at Loscon.

(10) VAMPIRE BAMBI. “Silver-Backed Chevrotain, With Fangs And Hooves, Photographed In Wild For First Time”.

The silver-backed chevrotain — a mysterious animal that’s the size of a rabbit but looks like a silver-splashed deer — has been photographed in the wild for the first time. The chevrotain is the world’s smallest hoofed mammal, or ungulate.

Scientists say they have rediscovered a type of chevrotain that had been “lost to science” for nearly 30 years.

“They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs,” says Global Wildlife Conservation, which helped back the project that recently tracked down the elusive animals in southern Vietnam.

(11) HOMEWARD BOUND. Returning to sender:“Hayabusa-2: Japan spacecraft leaves asteroid to head home”.

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft has departed from a faraway asteroid and begun its yearlong journey back to Earth.

The spacecraft left its orbit around Ryugu on Wednesday with samples of the asteroid in tow.

Hayabusa-2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020, completing its successful multi-year mission.

Japan’s space agency, Jaxa, said the collected samples could shed light on the origins of the Solar System.

(12) CAT BUNGLER. Caught by social media, “‘Fat cat smuggler’ falls foul of Russian airline”.

Russian carrier Aeroflot has stripped a passenger of his air miles for breaching its rules by sneaking his overweight cat aboard a flight.

Mikhail Galin, 34, took his cat Viktor on board flight SU1702, from Moscow to Vladivostok, Aeroflot said.

Under Aeroflot’s rules, pets weighing more than 8kg (17lb) must be placed in the luggage hold.

Because Viktor was too heavy for the passenger cabin, Mr Galin devised a cunning plan.

He swapped Viktor for a smaller cat during check-in to get around the weight restrictions.

(13) AIR FROM WHERE? Independent reports “Nasa gets inexplicable new data showing unexpected oxygen fluctuations on Mars”.

…During the study, which used an instrument to analyse the air on Mars over the course of three Martian years or just under six Earth years, scientist found that gases like nitrogen and argon behave predictably through the year. The proportion of the gas rises and falls relative to the amount of carbon dioxide, which makes up 95 per cent of Martian air.

They thought that oxygen would see the same changes. But they were shocked to find that it in fact rose through the spring and summer, with a varying amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, which suggests that it is being produced and then removed from the air.

Researchers were so shocked by the findings that their first course of action was to check the accuracy of the instrument used to find the data, but found it was working fine. Other possible explanations based on what we know about the Martian atmosphere were also considered, but rejected.

“We’re struggling to explain this,” said Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led the research. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.”

The similarities between the mystery of Martian methane and Martian oxygen could be more than a coincidence, scientists speculate. It might be possible that they both have the same as yet unidentified cause.

“We’re beginning to see this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for a good part of the Mars year,” Atreya said. “I think there’s something to it. I just don’t have the answers yet. Nobody does.”

(14) STILL TRYING TO GET THE PERFECT SHOT. “Infamous Han-Greedo Showdown Has Been Recut (Again) for Disney+”Tor.com has kept count how many times that’s been done.

This is the fourth version of the scene to appear in an official release: the original 1977, where Han appears to shoot (ahem) solo; the 1997 Special Edition that added in Greedo’s wide shot; the 2004 DVD edition which has Han and Greedo shooting at the same time; and now the 2019 Disney+ version, with Greedo getting in the last, baffling word.

(15) SOUNDS LIKE BATMAN. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Batman’ composer Danny Elfman says turning down Prince was ‘biggest, most stressful gamble’ of his career” says that Elfman recalled that at one point during the production of Batman he quit rather than work on the score of the film with Prince and Michael Jackson.  Eventually producer Jon Peters heard some of Elfman’s score and rehired him to completely produce the soundtrack.  But the film had two soundtracks, one by Elfman and one by Prince.

“The studio was happy,” says Elfman. “Jon Peters, he came up to me when we were scoring it — because there was not even going to be a soundtrack album for the score; it was only for Prince’s songs, and I knew that. And he came up to me, and he said, ‘You know what? This score is so good, we’re going to release a second soundtrack.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, right. You’re just saying that.’ That had never been done. And he did it! Like I said, it was a tough sell, but once he got sold, he was really excited, and he was a huge advocate, and he personally made it a big deal to get that second soundtrack out. So, he became a really fantastic advocate for the score that he was so resistant to in the beginning.”

(16) BEST AT BEING BAD. “Thanos snapped Pennywise to win SYFY WIRE’s Best Villain award “ – which is just one of the categories in SYFY Wire’s amusing “Two-Minute Award Show.”

Although Thanos may know what it’s like to lose, the Mad Titan finally knows what it’s like to win! For the inaugural SYFY WIRE Awards, Thanos has been named the Best Villain of 2019.

But it’s not like Thanos didn’t have stiff competition. His closest competitor was none other than Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It Chapter Two. Pennywise certainly knew how to strike fear into the hearts of children, as well as their impeccably cast adult counterparts. But in the end (or should we say in the Endgame?), Thanos proved to be too much for Stephen King’s fearsome creation.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/19 Oh, Nicky, I Love You Because You Scroll Such Lovely Pixels

(1) $$$ FOR JANEWAY MONUMENT. ScienceFiction.com spotlights a fundraiser — “Fans Are Collecting Money To Dedicate A Monument To Captain Janeway”.

Fans of ‘Star Trek: Voyager‘ are hoping to raise money to erect a monument in honor of lead character Captain Janeway in her future hometown Bloomington, Indiana.  Kate Mulgrew portrayed the Captain for seven seasons on ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ from 1995-2001.  She is the only female starship captain to serve as the focus of a ‘Star Trek’ series.  The fictional character’s backstory included the fact that she was born and raised in Bloomington in the 24th century.

The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective is raising funds to install a monument to the Star Trek: Voyager character in her “future” birthplace, Bloomington, IN. Donate between Oct. 22 – Dec. 22, and your contribution will be DOUBLED! www.janewaycollective.org/donate

(2) WRITERS, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America responds to a ruthless business practice with a bromide: “SFWA Contracts Committee Advisory on No-advance Contracts”.

Recently, SFWA’s Contracts Committee was made aware of a situation in which a well-liked publisher canceled the publication of a number of books it had contracted to publish….

A publisher so well-liked that it cannot be named. (But see item #3 at the link).

And with this example of a ruthless business practice fresh in their minds what does SFWA advise writers to do?

Publishers of all sizes may find themselves unable to live up to their contractual commitments for a wide variety of reasons, some of which could not have been reasonably anticipated. Hence, the Contracts Committee urges writers to think carefully about signing a contract that provides no advance, or only a nominal advance, while tying up their work for a lengthy period of time.

So think carefully.

(3) LINE UP, SIGN UP, AND REENLIST TODAY. “Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ Enlists Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard And Jessica St. Clair”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

Netflix’s already-in-production comedy ‘Space Force’ has added three new cast members to an already impressive cast, fronted by Steve Carell and John Malkovich.  They will now be joined by Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard, and Jessica St. Clair.  Carell stars as Mark R. Naird, “a General tapped by the White House to lead a new branch of the Armed Forces with the goal of putting American ‘Boots on the Moon’ by 2024.”  Carell co-created the show with Greg Daniels (‘The Office’, ‘King of the Hill’).

Emmerich will portray the… *ahem* interestingly named Kick Grabaston, Naird’s old commanding officer, who is now the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff.  Jealous of Naird’s new position, he does “everything in his considerable power to make Naird’s life difficult.”

(4) BUT IS IT ART? Cora Buhlert sums up the cinematic kerfuffle in “Old Directors Yell at Clouds – Pardon, Superheroes”.

…Because for all their flaws, today’s superhero movies are a lot more diverse in front and behind the camera, then the highly touted movies of the New Hollywood era, which were made by and for a very narrow slice of people. It’s no accident that directors, actors and characters of those movies are all white and male and either Italian-American or members of some other immigrant group (the characters in The Deer Hunter are all descendants of Russian immigrants). There are a lot of people who never saw themselves reflected in those movies – women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, people who are not American – and who likely never much cared for those movies either, because the big Scorsese or Coppola fanboys are mostly white dudes themselves.

Saladin Ahmed says it best in the following tweet:

(5) POP! SIX! SQUISH! Eneasz Brodski mourns a convention experience in “Why Are Your So Bad?” at the Death Is Bad blog.

I had a saddening encounter this weekend. On a panel about civil verbal disagreement, an audience member asked what to do when people use terms that are viewed by one side in a debate as slurs (such as “climate-denier”) and was told that in such a case, rather than getting upset one should stay quiet and introspect on their situation and see if they can understand why the other party would say such things….

(I know that “climate denier” is obviously drastically different. No one’s ever been kicked out of their house or beaten to death for being a climate denier. But after a failed attempt using a more analogous example, I found this was the only one that could get my co-panelist to consider how someone from the outside would view her call to ponder “why am I so bad?” rather than anything remotely realistic.)

Importantly, afterwards the panelist told me privately that she didn’t mean to be unfair or anything. It’s just that the person who asked the question was a White Man, he obviously needed to reflect on himself. And implicit both in her words and the “you know…” look she was giving me was that white men can have no legitimate complaints about how they are treated, and that was the basis of her answer. They are a class that can only ever do violence, and no verbal abuse can be visited upon them that is not morally justified. The only thing she knew about the question-asker was that he was white and male and somewhere north of his 40s, and that was enough.

(6) CARRIE FISHER BIO ON THE WAY. “Author of unauthorized Carrie Fisher biography defends it against family disavowal”Entertaiment Weekly has statements from both sides.

A new biography on the late actress and writer Carrie Fisher is generating controversy ahead of its release next month.

On Thursday, Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and her father, Bryan Lourd, issued a statement disavowing Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller. Set to be published through the Farrar, Straus and Giroux imprint Sarah Crichton Books, which falls under Macmillan — one of the Big 5 publishing houses in the U.S. — the book has generated strong buzz in the form of starred trade reviews and praise from award-winning writers including Rebecca Traister and David Maraniss.

Bryan Lourd wrote the statement. He calls the biography “unauthorized,” writing, “I do not know Ms. Weller. Billie does not know Ms. Weller. And, to my knowledge, Carrie did not know her.” He adds that Weller sold the book “without our involvement,” and that he has not read the book. “The only books about Carrie Fisher worth reading are the ones Carrie wrote herself,” he concludes. “She perfectly told us everything we needed to know.”

(7) HE’S DEAD JIM. The Guardian reports “Plan to exhume James Joyce’s remains fires international ‘battle of the bones’”. Seven cities claimed Homer dead, and all that.

… Joyce left Ireland in 1904 to live in Trieste, Paris and Zurich, never returning to his homeland after 1912. The writer had a complex relationship with the country, which in effect banned Ulysses over its “obscene” and “anti-Irish” content. He “decries Irish society’s conservatism, pietism and blinkered nationalism” in his writing, according to an essay from the Irish Emigration Museum curator Jessica Traynor. One of the characters in his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man describes Ireland as “the old sow that eats her farrow”.

Although Joyce “couldn’t bear to live in Dublin”, Traynor continues, his “spiritual and artistic engagement with the city continued until the end of his life”. When he lived in Paris, his “favourite pastime was to seek out visitors from Dublin and ask them to recount the names of the shops and pubs from Amiens Street to Nelson’s Column on O’Connell Street”.

When Joyce died aged 58 after undergoing surgery on a perforated ulcer, Ireland’s secretary of external affairs sent the order: “Please wire details about Joyce’s death. If possible find out if he died a Catholic.” Neither of the two Irish diplomats in Switzerland at the time attended his funeral, and the Irish government later denied Barnacle’s request to repatriate his remains.

If the Dublin city councillors’ motion is passed, the next step will be to ask the Irish government to request the remains be returned before the centenary celebrations around the publication of Ulysses in 2022. A spokeswoman for culture minister Josepha Madigan told theJournal.ie it was “a matter in the first instance for family members and/or the trustees of the Joyce estate”.

(8) COLLECTIBLE FANZINES. PoopSheet Foundation has details about the sale of the “Steve Ogden Fanzine Collection on eBay”.

Some of you know fanzine publisher/collector Steve Ogden passed recently. Per his wishes, I’ve begun listing his massive collection which includes comic fanzines, sf fanzines, mini-comics, underground comix, comic books and more.

Here are the current auctions and there are many, many more on the way. Please add me as a favorite seller if you’d like to stay on top of the new listings.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Science Fantasy was a British fantasy and science fiction magazine, launched in 1950 by Nova Publications. John Carnell edited the magazine beginning with the third issue, typically running a long lead novelette along with several shorter stories….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The Invaders, I Dream of Jeannie, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Science Fiction Theater, The Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in The Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also known for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long run including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 64. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent 42% at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. Have any of her films been nominated for Hugos? 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 64. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 48. Lines of Departure was nominated for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. 
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 30. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a 53% rating and the second a 29% rating.

(11) THE BOX SCORE. The Hollywood Reporter hears cash registers ringing: “Box Office: ‘Joker’ Passes ‘Deadpool’ as Top-Grossing R-Rated Pic of All Time”. I didn’t know they kept statistics for this.

To date, Joker has earned $258.6 in North America and $529.5 million internationally. It is is expected to ultimately take in close to $900 million globally, with some thinking it has a shot at approaching $1 billion. The film is an enormous win for Warner Bros., particularly considering it faced security concerns ahead of its release and that it is not a traditional comic book movie. Ultimately, Joker is expected to turn a profit north of $400 million. Village Roadshow and Bron each have a 25 percent stake in the film.

The new record for Joker puts it atop an R-rated all-time list that, in addition to Deadpool, includes 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded ($738.6 million), 2017’s It‘s ($697 million) and 2003’s The Passion of the Christ ($622.3 million), not adjusted for inflation.

(12) YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE. However, one studio is strangling a traditional revenue stream. Vulture reports “Disney Is Quietly Placing Classic Fox Movies Into Its Vault, and That’s Worrying”.

Joe Neff knew there was trouble when the horror films started vanishing.

Neff is the director of the 24-Hour Science Fiction and Horror Marathons that happen every spring and fall at the Drexel Theater, an independent venue in Columbus, Ohio. For this year’s Horror Marathon, Neff wanted to screen the original 1976 version of The Omen and the 1986 remake of The Fly, two of hundreds of older 20th Century Fox features that became the property of the Walt Disney Corporation after its $7.3 billion purchase of the studio’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, was made official this past spring. In the preceding few months, Neff had heard rumblings in his Google group of film programmers that Disney was about to start treating older Fox titles as they do older Disney titles — making them mostly unavailable to for-profit theaters. More and more film programmers and theater managers were reporting that they had suddenly and cryptically been told by their studio contacts that Fox’s back catalogue was no longer available to show. Some got calls informing them that an existing booking had been revoked.

(13) WATCHMEN AND ITS DISCONTENTS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] A segment of the fan community is voicing grievances about HBO’s Watchmen series that they complain is “too political.” Their grievance is, of course, nonsense, and Alex Abad-Santos of Vox magazine delves into exactly why Watchmen is, and always has been, a seriously political (dare we even say anti-fascist?) work of fiction. “Some Watchmen fans are mad that HBO’s version is political. But Watchmen has always been political.”  

In Moore and Gibbons’ version of Watchmen, giving someone unrestrained authority is a recipe for disaster. Lindelof pushes that question further and glances into American history to draw on that same theme, but from the point of view of black men and women — people who have been ostracized, belittled, dehumanized. People who someone like Rorschach would have loathed.

(14) LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHTENED OUT. Gareth L. Powell will explain it all to you.

(15) FOR ALL MANKIND. WIRED braves the elements to take readers “Inside Apple’s High-Flying Bid to Become a Streaming Giant”.

More than 50 buildings and soundstages sprawl across the 44 acres of the Sony Pictures lot. That’s a lot of window­less oblongs, and even more distance between them. If you need to get from, say, the Jimmy Stewart Building to Stage 15, golf carts and Sprinter vans are the customary mode—even on sunny days. On a particular Saturday in February, while an atmospheric river settled over Los Angeles, those vehicles were a necessity. The downpour was bad luck for the dozens of journalists there that day, but it was also a touch allegorical. After what felt like years of anticipation, Apple was about to take us behind the scenes of a show it was making for its still ­mysterious, still unnamed subscription streaming service. We were going to find out if Apple, maker of so many devices that have redefined the way we consume content, could finally make content—good content—of its own.

After the journalists handed their phones to Apple staffers to be taped up with camera-blockings stickers, the vans shuttled the group to Stage 15. (The Sony complex is also home to HBO’s Insecure and Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Apple may have a near-trillion-dollar market cap, but it still leases soundstages like everyone else in Hollywood.) Dryness maintained, we walked into the control room of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center circa 1969.

(16) THE NOTHINGULARITY. Vox makes a recommendation: “Zero Hours is a terrific fiction podcast about the end of the world”.

…But what feels like the end of the world happens millions of times a day on a more personal level. A marriage crumbles into ruin. Somebody loses their job. A child dies. Your favorite baseball team makes some boneheaded managing decisions and misses the World Series. You can’t find the chips you want. None of these is literally apocalyptic, but each one can be metaphorically so. Sometimes, that’s as bad as the real thing.

The space of the personal apocalypse is where the new audio fiction podcast Zero Hours thrives. It’s a seven-episode anthology series set across seven centuries and 594 years, beginning in 1722 and ending in 2316. (In between every episode, 99 years pass, so episode two takes place in 1821, episode three takes place in 1920, etc.)

Every episode depicts one of these smaller, personal apocalypses, but none of them actually end humanity (though the last takes place after we’ve gone extinct). The story is probably most similar to David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas (and the subsequent film based on it), but really, it’s not quite like any other work of fiction.

(17) WHAT’S STREAMING? Zomboat! on Hulu.

In this British sitcom available on Hulu, a cheeky group of travelers flee a zombie-infested Birmingham, England, by canal.

Daybreak on Netflix, is a comedy that “revolves around cliquey teens in a post-apocalyptic Glendale, Calif., where a nuclear blast has transformed many grown-ups into zombie-like monsters.” (Hey, John King Tarpinian’s hometown!)

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE TAILORS. A company called Full Body Armors offers custom-fitted superhero outfits including Batman, Iron Man, and Deadpool.  “The Iron Man Mark 47 suit can include a motorized mask, a voice changer, and even an integrated cooling system.”  All for five thou a suit!

Even if you order today, The Wearable Armored Batsuit Costume Suit won’t arrive in time for Halloween. Or Christmas. Maybe for Martin Luther King’s Birthday.

(19) SJWCS’ REAL STORY. “Why do we think cats are unfriendly?” If you feed them, they will come. Maybe. Eventually.

Cats are the only asocial animal we have successfully domesticated. We’re disappointed that we don’t bond with them as easily as dogs. But are we just missing the signs?

Dogs seem almost biologically incapable of hiding their inner moods – shuffling, snuffling, tail-wagging clues to contentment, nervousness or sheer, unadorned joy. Despite what the famous painting might want to tell you, dogs would be terrible poker players. We pick up their cues all too easily.

Cats also have sophisticated body language – their moods are signalled through twitching tails, ruffled fur, and the position of ears and whiskers. A purr usually (but not always) signals friendliness or contentment. They’re a usually reliable method of working out if the cat is in friendly mode or best left alone.

…One clue to the cat’s image may come from how they were domesticated in the first place. It was a much more gradual process than that of dogs – and cats were very much in the driving seat. The earliest domesticated cats started appearing in Neolithic villages in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. They didn’t depend on their early human hosts for food – they were encouraged to fetch it themselves, keeping crops and food stores safe from rats and other vermin. Our relationship with them was, from the outset, a little more at arms’ length than dogs, who helped us hunt and relied upon humans for a share of the spoils.

The cat that may be currently curled up on your sofa or glaring at you from its vantage point on top of the bookcase shares many of its instincts with that of its pre-domestic ancestors – the desire to hunt, to patrol territory, guarding it from other cat; they are much closer to their old selves than dogs. Our taming of cats has only partly removed them from the wild.

(20) THIS ONE’S REAL. Not a link to an Onion surrogate this time: “JK Rowling calls for end to ‘orphanage tourism'”.

JK Rowling has told young people not to become volunteers in overseas orphanages, because of the risk that they might be unwittingly supporting places that are cruel to children.

The Harry Potter author warned that children in orphanages in poorer countries often still had parents – but they had been separated by poverty rather than the death of their parents.

“Do not volunteer in orphanages. Instead, look at what drives children into institutions,” she told a conference in London.

The author set up a charity, Lumos, in response to cases of neglect in Eastern European orphanages, which is campaigning to remove children from orphanages and return them to their families.

It operates in countries including Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Colombia, Haiti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

(21) NOW IN PAPER. Well, yes, it is a commercial. But this is a pretty book! Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy preview.

Presented in a dynamic 360-degree format that enables the action to be viewed from all sides, the book also opens up to form a displayable 3D diorama of the entire saga. Packed with amazing Star Wars moments and hidden surprises to discover, Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop-Up Galaxy represents a whole new level of sophistication and interactivity in pop-up books and is guaranteed to thrill fans of all ages. Matthew is the King of Paper Engineering and returns to the franchise with this new, deluxe pop-up.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/24/19 Is He In Dublin Or Is He In Well-(ington), That Fifth And Filed Pixelnel

(1) EXTERMINATE REPAIRS! We know what to look for next season: “Daleks spotted on Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge ‘closed for inspection'”.

Daleks have been spotted on Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge ahead of a new Doctor Who TV series.

The bridge website had published an advanced closure notice saying it would shut overnight on Tuesday for an inspection of the chain anchorages.

But photos of Doctor Who’s nemeses with production crew on the structure have been widely shared by fans online.

A spokeswoman for the BBC programme refused to say why they were on the bridge but said: “Watch this space”.

(2) DANGER TOY. When it goes up for auction next month, “Rare, ‘holy grail’ Star Wars toy could be worth $500G”.

The “Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype” was never produced because of safety concerns from the shooting mechanism, SWNS reports. However, between 80 and 100 of them were made for testing, but only 24 of them are believed to have survived, adding to the collectible’s scarcity value.

(3) WHEEL OF TIME JEWELRY DEADLINE. Badali Jewelry makes officially licensed jewelry for fantasy authors — Jim Butcher, Pierce Brown, Naomi Novik among others — however this is the last weekend they can sell their Wheel of Time jewelry before the license ends because of the new TV show. October 28 is the last day. Badali’s designs were approved personally by Robert Jordan. They are a family-owned business and everything is hand-crafted. 

(4) BEZOS THE TREKKER. A profile of Jeff Bezos by Franklin Foer in the November Atlantic: “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan”.

Before Bezos settled on Amazon.com, he toyed with naming his unlaunched store MakeItSo.com.  He entertained using the phrase because he couldn’t contain a long-standing enthusiasm.  The rejected moniker was a favored utterance of a man Bezos idolizes: the captain of the starship USS Enterprise-D, Jean-Luc Picard.

Bezos is unabashed in his fanaticism for -Star Trek- and its many spin-offs.  He has a holding company called Zefram, which honors  the character who invented warp drive.  He persuaded the makers of the film Star Trek Beyond to give him a cameo as a Starfleet official.  He named his dog Kamala, after a woman who appears in an episode as Picard’s ‘perfect’ but unattainable mate.  As time has passes, Bezos and Picard have physically converged.  Like the interstellar explorer, played by Patrick Stewart, Bezos shaved he remnant strands on his high-gloss pate and acquired a cast-iron physique.  A friend once said that Bezos adopted his strenuous fitness regime in anticipation of the day that he, too, would journey to the heavens.

(5) WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO TURN GREEN. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “‘Deadpool 3’ is ‘still in the works’: Writers give us MCU update, envision ‘Pool opposite Peter Parker” has an interview with Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who also wrote Zombieland: Double Tap) who say that Deadpool 3 has not been greenlit but they have hopes of working within the MCU eventually.

“It still is,” Reese, who with his writing partner has another new sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, currently in theaters. “We sat with [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] Kevin Feige before the merger and we’re not allowed to talk to him about it. I think Ryan sat down with him more recently. But it’s still in the works. … They’re trying to work something out and then hopefully we can come through with something cool.”

“I think the promise is that Deadpool will live in his R-rated universe that he was living in at Fox,” Wernick added. “And then over time hopefully we can play with some of those MCU toys in the sandbox, and bring that into his world and have him brought into their world. So we’ll see, it’s a fun, exciting time.”

(6) ATTENTION FUTURE ASTRONOMERS. The Planetary Society is encouraging people to support the Kickstarter for The Search for Planet X game. The makers have reached their funding goal but there are fun stretch goals and rewards in store (especially for Society members). The campaign ends on 30 October.

Inspired by Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin’s “Planet Nine” hypothesis, Foxtrot Games has created a game capturing the thrill of discovery and the puzzling process of astronomical investigation.

You’ll play the role of an astronomer making observations and using deduction to determine the location of a hypothetical planet. The board game uses a companion app to randomly determine the location of the objects each game, and players interact with the app during the game to conduct their research.

Our partners at Foxtrot Games are committed to providing engaging, interpersonal experiences through beautiful and approachable tabletop games that celebrate what’s good in the world(s).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 24, 1997 Gattaca premiered. Starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, it was written, directed and co-produced by Andrew Niccol who did the same for The Truman Show save directing it. It did exceptionally well with audiences and reviewers rating 82% at Rotten Tomatoes. It lost to Contact in the Best Dramatic Presentation Award at the 1998 Hugo Awards given out at BucConeer. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Writer and artist co-creator with Bill Finger of Batman. Member of both the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 24, 1939 F. Murray Abraham, 80. Setting aside Star Trek: Insurrection which you know he’s been in, he’s had a fair amount of other work as well appearing in SlipstreamBeyond the StarsLast Action HeroMimicMuppets from SpaceThe All New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy in For Love or MummyThirteen Ghosts and Robin Hood.
  • Born October 24, 1952 ?David Weber, 67. Without doubt, best known for the Honor Harrington series which is most excellent. I really can’t say I’m familiar with his other work, so do chime in and tell what I’ve been missing. 
  • Born October 24, 1955 ?Jack Skillingstead, 64. Husband of Nancy Kress, he’s had three excellent novels (HarbingerLife on the Preservation and The Chaos Function) in just a decade. I’ve not read the new one yet but I’ve no reason not to assume that it’s not as good as his first two works. He’s due for another story collections as his only one, Are You There and Other Stories, is a decade old.
  • Born October 24, 1958 Liz Mortensen, 61. An LA con-runner fan. Chair of Loscon XXV.  She’s been involved in many LA area conventions. She’s a member of LASFS and SCIFI.  She was one of the organizers of the Roswell in 2002 hoax Worldcon bid. LASFS awarded her the Evans-Freehafer Trophy in 1998 and she was the Artist Guest of Honor at, and I kid you not, Fa-La-La-La-La-La-La-La Con, #7, a relaxacon.
  • Born October 24, 1971 ?Dervla Kirwan, 48. Miss Hartigan in “The Next Doctor”,  a Tenth Doctor story.  She’s Maeve Sullivan in the Shades series, and she played Petra Williams in the “Painkillers” episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).
  • Born October 24, 1971 Sofia Samatar, 48. She’s the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria, winner of William L. Crawford Award, British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award, and The Winged HistoriesTender (short stories)and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. 
  • Born October 24, 1972 Raelee Hill, 47. Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu (called Sikozu) on Farscape. Genre wise, she’s also been on The Lost World series, Superman Returns, BeastMaster and Event Zero.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto have an unexpected conversation in Bizarro.

(10) DRAWN THAT WAY. SYFY Wire tries to untangle “The complicated legacy of Batman co-creator Bob Kane”.

Should October 24 be a day of celebration in the comics world?

That happens to be the birthday of Bob Kane, the co-creator of Batman. Kane, who died in 1998, helped bring to life one of the most popular characters in popular culture. That type of achievement should merit an annual parade being thrown in one’s honor.

Except that according to nearly all accounts, the man who reaped the greatest rewards for the creation of the Dark Knight did so at the expense of others. To say Kane’s legacy is complicated is to massively understate things.

…Kane’s early vision of the character included red tights and a winged costume. It was Bill Finger, who worked at Kane’s studio as a ghostwriter, who would help create the visual aesthetic that would define Batman for all time. The cowl, the cape, and the darker color scheme for the costume all came from Finger. He came up with Gotham City, the Batcave, and the Batmobile, as well as Robin, Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon. Finger even came up with the origin story of Bruce Wayne.

You tell me: Remove all those elements, and is the Bat-Man still Batman? …

(11) HOW DO YOU GET THIS OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Connor Hoffman, in “Porsche ad Star Wars Teaming To Build Taycan-Inspired Starship” in Car and Driver says that Porsche engineers are teaming with Star Wars to come up with a Porsche-inspired starship that will both be in The Rise of Skywalker and a subtle product placement for the Porsche Taycan, an electric sedan.

Lucasfilm creative director Doug Chiang says that the design will be a recipe featuring ingredients from the X-wing, Y-wing, and U-wing starships from the Star Wars movies, combined with pieces of Taycan design. The designers were given specific instructions: there must be two front entries, a large rear cargo door, and room for two pilots and a maximum of five crew members. It also needs to have a minimum of two and a maximum of four engines, the company said.

The spaceship will be shown off at the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker premiere in December alongside Porsche’s very own spaceship: the 2020 Taycan.

(12) READ IT BEFORE IT FADES AWAY. Fanac.org has started uploading issues of my ancient genzine Prehensile. Say, Issue 9 has some awfully funny bits! And plenty of other bits! Read at your own peril, especially “Dark Alleys of Fanhistory” by Dan Goodman.  

(13) LAST NIGHT ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter tuned into Jeopardy! yesterday in time to watch the contestants bomb again.

Final Jeopardy: 1930s Novel Characters.

Answer: Prior to a murder in a 1934 book, he says he hasn’t been a detective since 1927 & that his wife inherited a lumber mill.

Wrong questions: “Who is Sam Spade?” and “Who is Dick Tracy?”

No one got it right: “Who is Nick Charles?”

(14) ALL TOGETHER NOW. “Bezos floats ‘national team’ to build Moon lander”.

Jeff Bezos has announced the formation of a “national team” that will aim to build the lander that will take astronauts back to the Moon in 2024.

Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has teamed up with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to bid for the landing system.

The White House has set the ambitious goal of sending a man and a woman to the lunar South Pole within five years.

Bezos outlined the plan at a meeting in Washington DC.

The Amazon founder called the partnership “a national team for a national priority”.

Nasa had originally planned to mount the Moon return mission in 2028. But earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence announced the administration’s plan to accelerate that timeline by four years.

(15) GOING DARK. “BBC News launches ‘dark web’ Tor mirror”.

The BBC has made its international news website available via the Tor network, in a bid to thwart censorship attempts.

The Tor browser is privacy-focused software used to access the dark web.

The browser can obscure who is using it and what data is being accessed, which can help people avoid government surveillance and censorship.

Countries including China, Iran and Vietnam are among those who have tried to block access to the BBC News website or programmes.

(16) 007 LICENSE TO DRIVE. The annual Nieman Marcus fantasy catalog offers seven Aston Martin DBS Superleggeras each personally designed by Daniel Craig, each for $700,007.  But with the car you get an edition of an Omega Seamaster limited to seven copies with 007 stuff on the watch case, two tickets to the premiere of No Time To Die in London along with airfare and hotel, and airfare (and nothing else).

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/19 All I Said To My Wife Was That That Pixel Scroll Was Good Enough For Jehovah

(1) EARLY RETURNS ON STAR WARS FINAL TRAILER. Jeff VanderMeer is a tough audience:

I’m crying over the new Star Wars trailer. I’m bawling and overcome. I’m shaking like a performative baby over this trailer.

Finally. Finally it will be over and I will never have to encounter this mediocre piece of crap franchise again…until the next time.

While Chuck Tingle tries to exert a calming influence:

(2) FLEET OF REFERENCES. Io9 is hyping “The First Big Cameo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Has Been Revealed”. Here’s what they spotted —

…Now, that’s almost certainly the Ghost. Not a Force Ghost, THE Ghost. What’s the Ghost?

It’s the customized VCX-100 light freighter flown by Captain Hera Syndulla, which was kind of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars Rebels. Later, it appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, thanks to the epilogue of Rebels, we knew it survived until the timeline of the sequel trilogy. Now, it seems the Ghost, and probably even Hera herself, are standing with the Falcon in what we can only assume is the Resistance’s final stand against the First Order.

And they saw even more ships in that brief scene that you’ll probably need to look up in the Wookieepedia.

(3) BETTER CAPERS. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks says a well-known comic has turned the corner – in 1964 – thanks to the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz: “[October 22, 1964] Introducing a “New Look” for Batman”.  

I have some good news for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to comic books: Batman comics are finally readable!

That’s a major change from the puerile adventures which editor Jack Schiff has been presenting in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. For all too many years, Schiff and his team of seemingly subpar creators have delivered a never-ending stream of absurdly juvenile tales of the Caped Crusader and his steadfast sidekick. He gave us ridiculous and dumb tales in which Batman gallivanted in outer space, Robin was romantically pursued by the pre-teen Bat-Girl, and the absurdly awful Bat-Mite showed up at random times to add chaos to Batman’s life. Even adventures which featured classic Batman villains (such as last fall’s Batman #159, “the Great Clayface-Joker Feud,”) fell far short of even the most basic standards of quality. Great they were not.

(4) FILER Q&A. Today Speculative Fiction Showcase’s Jessica Rydill interviewed “Heather Rose Jones, author of Floodtide, a novel of Alpennia”.

Have there been any particular books or writers who influenced you, whether in or outside the genre? [I’m a Jane Austen fan and live in Bath, which has featured in many dramatizations of her work]

As I mentioned previously, one of the inspirations for Daughter of Mystery was wanting to write a Georgette Heyer novel with lesbians. But the other major inspiration–if maddening frustration can be a form of inspiration–was Ellen Kushner’s novel The Privilege of the Sword. That book came so close to being the perfect novel of my heart…and then turned out to be a different novel. A perfectly wonderful novel, but not the book I desperately wanted. So that was another influence, not so much in writing style, but in the “feel” of the story–a story about brave and clever girls who love and rescue each other.

Jane Austen is something of an underlayer, if only in providing examples of the world of women in early 19th century Europe. One of the historical realities that modern readers aren’t always aware of is how strictly gender-segregated 19th century life was. Women–especially unmarried women–spent most of their lives socializing with other women and living with them in intimate proximity. It makes setting up same-sex relationships much easier! It’s been very important to me to center the series on women and their connections and community with each other. Too many historical stories allow women only as isolated characters, always interacting with men. In reality, if a woman had a problem or a puzzle or a project, the first people she’d turn to would be other women. I wanted the series to reflect that.

(5) MORE ON DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist Brad Foster and his wife Cindy also escaped injury, however, they were almost right in the tornado’s path and their home suffered roof damage, while in the yard trees and fences took a hit.

(6) HEARING FROM OKORAFOR. AudioFile’s article “Author Nnedi Okorafor on Personal Experiences & Fantastic Worlds” hears from the author of Akata Witch and many other fantasy titles about narrating the audiobook of her autobiography Broken Places & Outer Spaces.  

Narrating her memoir was more difficult than revisiting her words in the editing process. “There’s something to the art of reading it out loud, and it being an oral telling as opposed to written, that brings [those experiences] even more to the forefront. Reading it out loud in the booth, it was just even more intense. I was reliving it that much more.” The memoir details how she became a writer, showing “the idea that those things we think will break us can actually be the things that make us. All of these experiences that we have are useful, even the terrible ones. It’s just a matter of how you choose to use them. Because they are going to be there regardless. Do you want to just let them fester there, or do you want to make something out of them?”

(7) ROYALTY STATEMENT. James Davis Nicoll provides Tor.com readers with introductions to “Science Fictional Rulers, from Undying Emperors to Starlike Sovereigns”

Science Fiction is famous for the bewildering variety of worlds it imagines. This is particularly true for its political systems. A newcomer to SF might well be astounded by the diverse range of governmental arrangements on display. Let me provide some examples…

(8) HARI PLOTTER. Io9 promises“Apple’s Long-Anticipated Adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Casts Some Familiar Faces”.

It’s been a long road from page to screen for Isaac Asimov’s iconic Foundation series, with the first real foothold coming last year when Apple announced it had snagged the rights for the streaming service now known as Apple TV+. Today, more news: Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel) have joined the cast.

And even better, we know who they’ll be playing, per Deadline: “Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the Empire.”

(9) MORE MARVEL PRO AND CON. Rosy Cordero, in “Here’s What Marvel Directors And Stars Are Saying About Martin Scorsese’s MCU Criticism,” in Entertainment Weekly, rounds up comments, including ones from Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau.

Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out [James] Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese earlier this month. He tweeted, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).

Meanwhile, a British director joins the dogpile — “Ken Loach Says Marvel Films Are ‘Made as Commodities Like Hamburgers’” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Speaking to Sky News, the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Brit described Marvel’s output as “boring” and cynically produced.

“They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said, ‘When money is discussed, art is impossible.'”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 22, 1936 — According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, today is the day, “Fandom gathering at Milton A. Rothman’s home in Philadelphia, 1936, declares itself to be the first sf Convention. Some fans accept this; others consider the following year’s Leeds UK event a more significant landmark since it was organized in advance as a convention and used public meeting facilities.”
  • October 22, 2006Torchwood, a companion to Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three.  Starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, it ran for forty one episodes over five years. And Big Finish Productions has produced some thirty audio-stories so far.  
  • October 22, 2016  — On this day in the U.K. and Canada, Class, a spin-off series of Doctor Who, premiered. Starring Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins, the series would last just a single season of eight episodes due to really poor ratings though Big Finish Audio continued the series as an audiowork. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1922 Lee Jacobs. LA fan in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 81. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 81. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 80. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. Certainly they’re the most honored, winning Gaylactic Spectrum, James Tiptree Jr. and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series?
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If. Considered to be the first profitable Ebooks publisher. Founder of Baen Books. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 67. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2008. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk and other things at cons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD has a Narnia joke. (And remember, these cartoons have a second joke in a rollover– rest your cursor on the pictures and you see more text.)
  • Tom Gauld tries to help out New Scientist’s AI readers.

(13) THE CON GAME. S.M. Carrière offers sound advice in “How I Survive Conventions” at Black Gate.

6. Engage. It can be a scary thing to approach folks at conventions. There isn’t really any way around it, but practice does make it easier. Start, if you like, by asking questions at panels that permit it. You can then use that to speak to any of the panelists afterwards, asking for clarification or even pointers. Also, try the dealer’s room if the convention has one. It’s a great place to practice conversational skills, and most of the vendors are quite happy to chat. I know I am.

(14) ENCOUNTERING PANGBORN. Cora Buhlert’s review of Davy is part of this review column at Galactic Journey (scroll down): “[October 18, 1964] Out in Space and Down to Earth (October’s Galactoscope #1)”.

Edgar Pangborn has been writing science fiction under his own name for thirteen years at this point and was apparently writing under other names before that. However, none of his stories have been translated into German and the availability of English language science fiction magazines is spotty at best. Therefore, I had never encountered Pangborn’s work before, when I came across his latest novel Davy in my local import bookstore.

(15) WATCH THIS. Entertainment Weekly shares a video clip: Black Lightning gives Jefferson a suit upgrade in sneak peek: ‘Well, damn'”

…We’ve known for a while now that Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is getting a new suit this season, but now we finally know how he receives it. In this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, Agent Odell (Bill Duke) gives the imprisoned superhero a gift: a watch. Jefferson is initially skeptical because it looks like a normal timepiece and he’s probably suspicious of anything the shady ASA spook gives him. But Odell continues to gently push Jefferson until he actually tests it out and discovers the watch’s real purpose: It’s basically a morpher that contains Black Lightning’s sleek new super-suit.

“This is the reason we have you have here, why we’re testing you, why we’re putting you through so much pain and struggle,” says Odell as the suit begins to cover a Jefferson’s body. “It’s so we can create tech that will help all metas to live better. The Markovians are planning on killing or capturing all of the metas in Freeland. I cannot stop them without your help.”

“Well, damn,” Jefferson simply says as he checks out his new threads. (This is essentially the equivalent of Kara’s “Pants!” exclamation from the Supergirl season 5 premiere when she tried out her new panted super-suit for the first time.)

(16) CRISPER THAN CRISPR? BBC sees promise: “Prime editing: DNA tool could correct 89% of genetic defects”.

A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists.

The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.

It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia

The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but stress the research is only starting.

…Much of the excitement has centred on a technology called Crispr-Cas9, which was developed just seven years ago.

It scans DNA for the right spot and then, like a microscopic pair of scissors, cuts it in two.

This creates the opportunity to edit the DNA.

However, the edits are not always perfect and the cuts can end up in the wrong place. Both issues are a problem for using the technology in medicine.

The promise of prime editing is precision.

(17) NO DUMMY. They knew the importance of sticking to it — “Neanderthal ‘glue’ points to complex thinking”.

Traces of ancient “glue” on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

It adds to mounting evidence that we have underestimated the capabilities of our evolutionary cousins.

Only a handful of Neanderthal tools bear signs of adhesive, but experts say the process could have been widespread.

The tool, found in the Netherlands, has spent the last 50,000 years under the North Sea. This may have helped preserve the tar adhesive.

Co-author Marcel Niekus, from the Stichting STONE/Foundation for Stone Age Research in Groningen, said the simple stone flake was probably used either for cutting plant fibres or for scraping animal skins.

While birch tar may have been used by Neanderthals to attach stone tools to wooden handles in some cases, this particular tool probably had a grip made only of tar. Dr Niekus said there was no imprint from a wood or bone shaft in the tar.

It would have enabled the user to apply more pressure to the stone flake without cutting their hands – turning the edge into a precision cutting tool.

(18) GALILEO PROBE GETS A MOVIE. The “‘Saving Galileo’ Documentary Screens This Weekend” at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PDT. Free admission; first come, first served.

…Produced by JPL Fellow and national Emmy Award-winner Blaine Baggett, the hour-long film tells the story of how the mission stayed alive despite a multitude of technical challenges, including a years-long launch delay and the devastating failure of its main antenna to open properly in space. It is also the story of a team of scientists and engineers transformed through adversity into what many came to regard as a tight-knit family.

“Saving Galileo” picks up from Baggett’s previous documentary “To the Rescue,” which focuses on the mission’s tortuous path to the launch pad. Together the films capture how, despite its many challenges and limitations, Galileo proved a resounding success, leading to profound scientific insights that continue to draw NASA and JPL back to Jupiter for new adventures.

(19) PLACEBO. NPR contends: “The Placebo Effect Works And You Can Catch It From Your Doctor”.

If there’s one thing you do want to catch from a trip to your doctor, it’s her optimism.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, finds that patients can pick up on subtle facial cues from doctors that reveal the doctor’s belief in how effective a treatment will be. And that can have a real impact on the patient’s treatment outcome.

Scientists have known since at least the 1930s that a doctor’s expectations and personal characteristics can significantly influence a patient’s symptom relief. Within research contexts, avoiding these placebo effects is one reason for double blind studies — to keep experimenters from accidentally biasing their results by telegraphing to test subjects what they expect the results of a study to be.

The new study both demonstrates that the placebo effect is transmitted from doctor to patient, and shows how it might work.

(20) OWN LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. The latest Kickstarter backer update for the documentary Worlds of Ursula Le Guin contains information on how to view a digital copy and buy a DVD:

We know many of you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the film – we’re trying to bring it to you as quickly as we can. Online streaming, DVD, and broadcast opportunities vary by country, and continue to evolve, but here’s our latest update:

  • In the United States and English-speaking Canada, the film is now available to rent and buy via iTunes. For residents whose reward package didn’t include a DVD, you can also pre-order the DVD through our US distributor Grasshopper Films.
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after our broadcast date, expected to be announced soon. DVDs will be available in September 2021. 
  • If you live in Israel, streaming and DVDs will be available in March 2020.
  • For everyone else, you can pre-order the DVD internationally through Grasshopper Films. We’re also planning a worldwide Video-on-Demand (VOD) release in December for participating countries (excluding those listed above, and some others). 

Note that our DVD release date has shifted – we now expect to have DVDs ready to send out by mid-November. All DVDs will include closed captions in English for the hearing impaired, subtitles in several languages, and special extras we rescued from the cutting room floor. DVDs won’t be region-specific, so viewers around the world should be able to watch them.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bicycle” on Vimeo, Cool 3D World shows what happens when five green men decide to ride a bicycle.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/21/19 You’re Watching Bladerunner, Suddenly A Pixel Scrolls Down Your Arm

(1) A CENTURY OF TITLES FROM OUR CENTURY. The Guardian says it’s time for another clickworthy list! “The 100 best books of the 21st century” includes both fiction and nonfiction – I count about 16 sff works on it, with Jemisin, Gaiman, and Pullman among the authors.

Dazzling debut novels, searing polemics, the history of humanity and trailblazing memoirs … Read our pick of the best books since 2000

(2) SPACE ACE. Leonard Maltin delivers his verdict: Ad Astra: On Man’s Destiny in Outer Space”

Writer-director James Gray is nothing if not bold. He dared to tackle a non-cynical romantic triangle in Two Lovers and a return to “high adventure” in The Lost City of Z. Neither film found the audience it deserved. With Ad Astra he has ventured into outer space, fully aware of the pitfalls: being compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or, more recently, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. He needn’t have worried.

In fashioning an intelligent space drama for grownups he found inspiration and a through-line in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and its modern-day equivalent, Apocalypse Now. He also found theperfect actor to serve as his space traveler. The part fits Brad Pitt like a glove, and he delivers one of his finest, most nuanced performances.

(3) DATLOW QUOTES. “’Horror is Everywhere’: A Conversation with Editor Ellen Datlow” with interlocutor John DeNardo at Kirkus Reviews.

When asked what motivates her to keep editing anthologies, Datlow’s genuine love of reading and sharing shines through. “I love being the person who sometimes initiates the process of the creation of a brilliant new story (by soliciting new stories by writers whose work I love) and I love rediscovering/pushing stories that I think are amazing. I want everyone to discover stories they will love and admire as much as I do. I also enjoy working with all my authors.”

(4) A POURNELLE REDISCOVERY. Paperback Warrior, a blog that reviews old thrillers, mysteries, westerns, etc. just reviewed Red Heroin, a 1969 spy thriller that also happened to be Jerry Pournelle’s debut novel, written under the pen name Wade Curtis.

“Red Heroin” is a thinking-man’s espionage novel rather than a high-speed action killfest, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The sequel “Red Dragon” (unrelated to Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novel) came out in 1970, and I will definitely check it out.

(5) WARMING UP FOR THE ABDICATION. On Facebook, Walter Jon Williams shares what he thinks would be a much better story line for the Downton Abbey movie. The idea may explain why they haven’t already lined him up to do a media tie-In novel…

(6) TODAY’S DAY.

September 21 CNN is there when “Cities across the world flash the Bat Signal on Batman Day”.

Cities across the world on Saturday marked Batman Day by flashing the Bat Signal across buildings and into the night sky, a nod to the Caped Crusader on his 80th birthday.

Fans of the DC Comics superhero spotted his famous distress call at 8 p.m. local time in Melbourne, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Berlin, Rome and London, among other major cities.

Here’s what it looked like:

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit published.
  • September 21, 1996  — The Dark Skies series premiered as part of the NBC lineup. A “what if aliens were manipulating all of History” premise didn’t help it last past twenty episodes.
  • September 21, 2012 — The character of Judge Dredd returned with Dredd.  Karl Urban played Dredd and Olivia Thirlby played Judge Anderson. To date, it’s not broken even. The Stallone Judge Dredd barely broke even
  • September 21, 2015 — Fox Television debuted their Minority Report series based off of the Philip K. Dick work. It lasted a scant ten episodes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1866 —  H. G. Wells. I really don’t need to tell y’all that he’s called the “father of science fiction” along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. I’m not sure how much of his fiction beyond The War of the Worlds the reading world beyond fandom remembers these days. (Died 1946.)
  • Born September 21, 1895 Norman Louis Knight. His most-remembered work is A Torrent of Faces, a novel co-written with James Blish and reprinted in the Ace Science Fiction Specials line. His only other writing is a handful of short fiction. Not surprisingly his short fiction isn’t available at iBooks or Kindle but neither A Torrent of Faces. (Died 1972.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1947 Nick Castle, 72. He co-wrote with John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., and he’s the director of The Last Starfighter. He also wrote the Hook script. He was Michael Myers in both 1978 Halloween and the later remake of that film, plus the forthcoming Halloween Kills. He also was the pianist in Escape from New York
  • Born September 21, 1947 Stephen King, 72. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. That’s how his native city treated him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different SeasonsFour past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks. 
  • Born September 21, 1950 Bill Murray, 69. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  • Born September 21, 1983 Cassandra Rose Clarke, 36. I strongly recommend The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction story she coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick. It’s quite brilliant.  And The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award, is equally brilliant.
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 29. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  Her current gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers which to my surprise is getting ratings. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) AREA 51 EVENT. Unilad reports something seen on TV news: “First Naruto Runner Spotted Naruto Running At Area 51 Behind Live News Broadcast”.

The first Naruto runner has been spotted Naruto running towards Area 51 during a live news report.

… But just as he closed his news segment on KTNV, he was upstaged by the perfectly timed runner, which is a hilarious reference to the original event’s satirical description which said, ‘if we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.’

The Portland (ME) Press-Herald has a headcount of the participants: “About 75 people gather at Area 51 gate in Nevada”.

About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once-secret Area 51 military base in Nevada — at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to “storm” the facility to see space aliens — and one person was arrested, authorities said.

The “Storm Area 51” invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.

(11) CASTING SHADOWS. The Old Farmer’s Almanac visits some very old stones in “5 Ancient Sites Aligned With the Solstice and Equinox”.

Ever been to Stonehenge? Machu Picchu? Across time, people have marked the changes of seasons—sometimes in dramatic ways! Here are five amazing ancient sites aligned with the solstices and equinoxes.

Did you know that the equinoxes and solstices happens at the same moment around the world? Even though we all have different time zones, this is an astronoimical event, based on our planet’s orbit around the Sun and tilt on its axis.

Our ancestors lived amidst nature more than most of us do today. They observed the universe, marveling in its rhythms. They used the Sun and the Moon as a sort of calendar, tracking the Sun’s path across the sky. Here are some examples of the ancient sites and monuments that aligned with the solstice and equinox.

Our ancestors built the first observatories to track the sun’s progress…

(12) “YELLOW RAIN” REDUX. An unfortunate emission: “Cuba’s ‘sonic weapon’ may have been mosquito gas”.

Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016.

Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.

But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause.

The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.

So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus.

It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated.

Cuba denied any suggestion of “attacks”, and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations.

(13) FACING THE PAST. “Denisovans: Face of long-lost human relative unveiled” – BBC has the story.

Researchers have provided the first glimpse of what an ancient group of humans looked like.

Denisovan remains were discovered in 2008 and human evolution experts have become fascinated with the group that went extinct around 50,000 years ago.

One of the biggest questions had been over their appearance, with no full sketches of the Denisovan drawn up.

But now a team of researchers have produced reconstructions of our long-lost relatives.

(14) ICON WILL VISIT THE ARROWVERSE. Yahoo! Lifestyle restrains its enthusiasm: “Welp, Another Superman Actor You Liked In Your 20s Is Playing Superman Again”.

Remember October 2001? If you’re around my age, this was the time when the new Superman refused to wear a cape and existed in a Dawson’s Creek-esque TV series called Smallville, which originally aired on a network called The WB. (Annoying frog mascot with a top hat.) But now, Tom Welling, the actor who played Superman/Clark Kent on Smallville is back in the Superman tights he avoided on Smallville for so long.

According to Deadline, Welling will reprise his role as Superman in a crossover event for the CW’s popular “Arrowverse” TV shows. This follows a similar return of fellow-Superman actor, Brandon Routh, who is also set to return as Superman on the CW. If you’re not following these shows (and really, you can’t be blamed if you’re not, they’re very confusing) the CW is apparently doing everything it can to get olds like me interested in tuning in again. Tom Welling played Clark Kent/Superman for a staggering 10 seasons on Smallville before the show finally ended in 2011.

(15) “THERE’S ALWAYS THE POST OFFICE”. BBC says they are winners – if this is what winning looks like: “Post office team picked for Antarctic Port Lockroy base”.

Five people have beaten off competition from more than 200 people to run the UK’s most remote post office in Antarctica.

The team will man the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s post office at Port Lockroy for four months.

The first permanent British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula, it has been run as a museum and post office for tourists since 2006.

The new postmasters start work in November and return to the UK in March.

Each year, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is based in Cambridge, advertises for a new intake of seasonal postal workers.

Hundreds apply despite there being no running water or mains electricity and the job involving working in sub-zero temperatures 11,000 miles away from home.

As well as running the office, museum and shop, the chosen team monitors the island’s resident gentoo penguin population.

Several brooms are sent to the team each year to clean the penguin droppings outside the building – which the trust admits would otherwise look like “a penguin toilet”.

(16) BIG CANDLE. Juicy details — “SLS: Nasa’s giant ‘Moon rocket’ takes shape”.

Nasa has finished assembling the main structural components for its largest rocket since the Apollo-era Saturn V.

Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans connected the last of five sections that make up the core of the Space Launch System (SLS).

The rocket will be used to send an uncrewed Orion craft to the Moon, in a flight expected to launch in 2021.

This will pave the way for crewed missions, with a landing in 2024.

The last piece of the SLS’ 64m (212ft) -tall core stage was the complicated engine section. This will serve as the attachment point for the four powerful RS-25 engines, which are capable of producing two million pounds of thrust (9 meganewtons).

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Maestro” on Vimeo, Illogic has hedgehogs, turtles, and birds, singing an aria conducted by a squirrel. (That’s what it says–“Directed by Illogic”.)

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, Greg Hullender, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/4/19 The Filer Who Climbed Mount Tsundoku, But Came Down From Mount Read

(1) TIPTREE AWARD UPDATE. The Motherboard has added this note to their “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award” post:

Update: Wednesday September 4, 2019.

We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at feedback@tiptree.org.

(2) WORLDBUILDING. “R.J. Theodore on Secondary Worlds Without Monocultures: POV, Cultural Perspective, and Worldbuilding” is a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

My favorite part of writing SFF is inviting the reader to explore new worlds with unearthly mechanics, magic systems, or zoology that entrance the imagination. But what imprints a story on the reader’s soul is the ability to relate to the experience. The real world contains multitudinous experiences, cultures, and viewpoints. It’s important to reflect that in our stories, even if we are zooming in on a more intimate story.

Avoiding monoculture by creating characters who have different experiences makes a story feel vibrant, more faithful, and realistic. When those characters interact, it adds conflict, tension, and opportunities to create real magic.

(3) UNPERSUASIVE. NPR’s Glen Weldon sums up “Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance’: Gorgeous, Multi-Faceted, Hollow At Its Center”.

Let’s get the cheap joke out of the way up top:

Look, if I wanted to watch dead-eyed, expressionless creatures sniping at one another over backstories I can’t follow without consulting the Internet, I’d watch Real Housewives.

Okay, that’s done. Now let’s get serious. Let’s talk Gelflings.

…Real talk: Gelfling are … bad. Boring. Lifeless. Dull.

On their own, they’d be generic enough — a first-pass attempt at your garden-variety Tolkien-adjacent high-fantasy race. But as soon as you place them — as do both the original 1982 The Dark Crystal film and Netflix’s new, 10-episode prequel series — at the center of a world as gorgeously wrought, breathtakingly detailed and astonishingly elaborate as that of The Dark Crystal, they become something even worse: They’re basic.

…When Henson and Co. create wildly inhuman, or un-human, creatures, we’ll blithely accept them, whether their eyes are ping-pong balls (C. Monster, K.T. Frog) or their mouth’s that of a toucan with a skin condition (assorted Skeksis). Pigs, podlings, bears or bog monsters — it doesn’t matter. We cheerfully buy into the illusion, not only because these women and men are so skilled in the art of design and puppetry, but because we know that we’re tourists wandering through someone else’s imagination — we assume things look and act different, there.

But Gelfling? They’ve got disturbingly human-like faces, and we know how those work. And even though the art of Gelfling-animatronics has evolved in the 37 years since the film — eyebrows now knit, cheeks now dimple — Gelfling as a race remain permanent residents of the darkest depths of the uncanny valley.

(4) ATWOOD’S NEW BOOK. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reports that “‘The Testaments’ Takes Us Back To Gilead For A Fast-Paced, Female-Centered Adventure”

What do the men of Gilead do all day?

We learn very little about it in The Testaments. We hear of one who mostly shuts himself in his study, away from his family, to work all day. We learn that a high-ranking government official serially kills off each of his teenage wives once they get too old for his tastes, then seeks out new targets. We learn that another respected man is a pedophile who gropes young girls.

So. We know that Gilead men are at best nonentities, at worst monstrous. Beyond that, they are chilly, dull, uninterested in the women around them — to the point that they also seem kind of dim. Mostly, they lurk just outside the frame, threatening to swoop in at any moment to wreak havoc.

And that absence only emphasizes that the women of Gilead are more fascinating than ever. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to her classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, returns to that dystopic theocracy 15 years later via three protagonists: Agnes, a girl in Gilead who from a young age rejects marriage, though her parents intend to marry her to a powerful Commander. Daisy is a Canadian girl repulsed by Gilead, raised by strangely overprotective parents. And Aunt Lydia — yes, that Aunt Lydia — has near-godlike status as one of Gilead’s founding Aunts and spends her days quietly collecting dirt on Commanders and fellow Aunts.

Telling much more about how the lives of Agnes, Daisy and Aunt Lydia do and don’t intersect would be to spoil the fun of The Testaments. The book builds its social commentary on gender and power into a plot-driven page turner about these women’s machinations as they deal with their stifling circumstances.

“Fun” is a loose term here, of course. As with The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments contains a lot of gut punches (as one may have gathered by now, what with all the murderous, pederastic men everywhere).

And a lot of the time, it’s women administering these gut punches to each other. Despite the awful men everywhere, one of the main themes The Testaments explores is how women hurt one another — whether it’s friend versus friend, Aunt versus student, or even mother versus daughter.

(5) AND A BONUS. At NPR,“Hear Margaret Atwood Read From ‘The Testaments,’ Her Sequel To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale'” — audio, with transcript.

…Handmaids are in the public eye again thanks to the hit TV series — and the frequent appearance of silent, red-robed protesters at political events. Now, Atwood is returning to the world of Gilead, the repressive theocracy she created out of the ruins of present-day America. The Testaments opens 15 years after the events of the first book, and follows an old familiar character as well as introducing some new voices. As for what happens to Offred … well, no spoilers here.

(6) INSIDE HOLLYWOOD. “Kristen Stewart was told to stop holding ‘girlfriend’s hand in public’ if she wanted a Marvel movie”Yahoo! Entertainment quotes the actress:  

… She continued, “I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favor, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.'” The writer noted how the actress looked “almost amused at the memory.” Although Stewart kept it vague about where that directive came from, she added, “I don’t want to work with people like that.” (Marvel did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.)

“Literally, life is a huge popularity contest,” she added.

The 29-year-old credited a younger generation with helping give her the confidence to step out publicly with a romantic partner. “I just think we’re all kind of getting to a place where — I don’t know, evolution’s a weird thing — we’re all becoming incredibly ambiguous,” she explained. “And it’s this really gorgeous thing.”

(7) HUGO WINNING SERIES BECOMES GAME. ComicBook.com reports “Award-Winning Broken Earth Fantasy Series to Become a Tabletop RPG”.

The award-winning Broken Earth books by N.K Jemisin will be adapted into a roleplaying game. Earlier this month, Green Ronin Publishing, the maker of tabletop RPGs based on The Expanse, Lazarus, Dragon Age, and A Song of Ice of Fire, announced that had signed a licensing agreement with Jemisin to publish a new game based on her Hugo Award-winning series. The new game will use a modified version of Green Ronin’s Chronicle System, the same game system used by A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Tanya DePass and Joseph D. Carriker will co-develop The Fifth Season RPG, which will be released in Fall 2020.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

History records that it was on this fateful day back in the year 1966 that Gene Roddenberry — believing he had captured lightning in a bottle — took a copy of Star Trek‘s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to play for the crowds gathered at the World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  How was the program first received?  Well, let’s just say that Gene couldn’t sate their appetites, and — before the event was all over — crowds also demanded to view the black-and-white print the man also brought along of the original Trek pilot, “The Cage.”  So it goes without saying that many folks credit September 4th as the serendipitous birth of the franchise.

  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1905 Mary Renault. ISFDB only counts her Theseus novels as genre (The King Must Die, and The Bull from the Sea). Is that right? I’m not familiar with her full body of work to say if it is or is not correct. (Died 1983.)
  • Born September 4, 1916 Robert A. W. Lowndes. He was known best as the editor of Future Science Fiction, Science Fiction, and Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly published late Thirties and early Forties) for Columbia Publications. He was a principal member of the Futurians. A horror writer with a bent towards all things Lovecraftian ever since he was a young fan, he received two letters of encouragement from H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, he’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1998)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read; even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series I don’t think it’s essential reading. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I see stocked in my local bookstores. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Ray Russell. His most famous story is considered by most to be “Sardonicus” which was published first in Playboy magazine, and was then adapted by him into a screenplay for William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus. In 1991 Russell received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 4, 1928 Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on Fantasy Island. He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 4, 1957 Patricia Tallman, 62. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine andtwo of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on further episodes of the latter as she did on Voyager. H’h to the latter. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. 
  • Born September 4, 1975 Kai Owen, 44. Best known for portrayal of Rhys Williams in Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off I stopped watching after the first two series. He reprised his characters in the Big Audio auidiodramas. 
  • Born September 4, 1999 Ellie Darcey-Alden, 20. She’s best known for playing young Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. She’s also celebrated here for being  Francesca “Franny” Latimer in the Doctor Who  Christmas special “The Snowmen”, an Eleventh Doctor story. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets silly with a classical literary reference.
  • The Argyle Sweater gets silly with a pop culture TV reference. (Do you detect a trend?)

(11) PAYING THE FREIGHT. Arc Manor has begun a Kickstarter appeal, seeking $30,000 to publish “Robert Heinlein’s Unpublished Novel”.  They have already announced the ebook and a hardcover will be released in March 2020. 

We now have the unique opportunity to publish a brand new novel by this great author titled The Pursuit of the Pankera , A ‘parallel’ book written about the parallel universes introduced in book The Number of the Beast, published in 1980….

The Pursuit of the Pankera is an 185,000 word novel with the same characters as The Number of the Beast. The two books share a similar beginning, but where the existing book  goes off on a totally unrelated tangent (almost becoming a satire of science fiction and neglecting the original conflict), The Pursuit of the Pankera  remains focused on the original conflict and works itself towards a much more traditional Heinlein ending. In many ways, it hearkens back to some of the earlier Heinlein novels.

(12) YOUTUBE HIT WITH BIG PENALTY. BBC has the story — “YouTube fined $170m in US over children’s privacy violation”.

YouTube has been fined a record $170m (£139m) by a US regulator for violating children’s privacy laws.

Google, which owns YouTube, agreed to pay the sum in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The video-streaming site had been accused of collecting data on children under 13, without parental consent.

The FTC said the data was used to target ads to the children, which contravened the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa).

“There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law,” said FTC chairman Joe Simons.

He added that when it came to complying with Coppa, Google had refused to acknowledge that parts of its main YouTube service were directed at children.

However, in presentations to business clients, the company is accused of painting a different picture.

(13) BATMAN BY TWILIGHT. Ramin Setoodeh, in the Variety story “Robert Pattinson on Becoming Batman and Why ‘The Lighthouse’ Is Just Weird Enough”, has a long interview with Pattinson (it was Variety’s cover story) where he says he loved the Tim Burton movies as a kid and “You feel very powerful immediately” when you don the Batsuit.

…“Rob definitely has a darker side and is comfortable working in that space,” says Robert Eggers, the director of A24’s “The Lighthouse,” which screens this week at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival and opens in theaters on Oct. 18. “And he has good taste in cinema. I think a lot of directors he likes are doing stuff that isn’t run-of-the-mill Hollywood.”

But in the past few months, Pattinson’s career has taken another turn as he’s begun gravitating back toward the stormy clouds of movie stardom. He spent most of his summer in Estonia making the Nolan film, which arrives in theaters in July 2020. And of course, despite his concerns, he was cast in “The Batman,” the Warner Bros. tentpole from director Matt Reeves that will start shooting this winter and debuts in June 2021.

(14) CHANGING OF THE GUARD. Meanwhile in the actual comic books, Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston speculates “DC Comics is About to Give Us a Black Batman”. He says it’s likely DC will introduce a black Batman in 2020 although it’s unclear who will don the Batsuit.

The hot gossip coming out of comic book shows this weekend from a number of prominent sources, is that in the summer of 2020 leading into 2021, DC Comics is planning to bring us a black Batman. Not Bruce Wayne, but someone else donning the cowl and cape.

Who this new Batman will be, I don’t know. All I have been told is that it won’t be Duke Thomas, the young man previously teased as taking on the role of Robin and Batman to come.

Marvel Comics has given us a black/Latino Spider-Man with Miles Morales, popularised in the Into The Spider-Verse movie. Sam Wilson took on the role of Captain America, reflected in the Avengers: Endgame movie. And Nick Fury has been replaced in the Marvel Universe by his black son, Nick Fury, Jr, reflecting the casting of Samuel L Jackson in the Marvel movies. While in Doomsday Clock, DC Comics’ unauthorised sequel to Watchmen, the new Rorschach is a black man, and son of the original Rorschach’s psychiatrist. It looks like the mainstream DC Comics Universe may be heading in a similar direction with Batman.

(15) DISNEY ROTATES PARTY THEMES. LAist urges readers to “Embrace The ‘Nightmare’ Of Oogie Boogie Bash, Disney’s New Halloween Event At California Adventure”. (Why does this remind me that I came in second to Oogle Boogle in LASFS’ Fugghead of the Year Contest in 1976?)

Mickey’s Halloween Party is retiring to Florida. Disneyland’s wholesome, long-running, kid-focused, trick-or-treating event was a favorite for Disney fans (of all ages, we don’t judge) who were allowed to go to the parks IN COSTUME, which is normally against the rules.

This year, Disney is replacing the SoCal event with something slightly more sinister: the Oogie Boogie Bash, themed around Nightmare Before Christmas villain Oogie Boogie. It’s also switching parks, with the monster taking over California Adventure. Don’t worry, you can still dress up.

It’s a darker take on Halloween, with a focus on villains, and a storyline that involves Oogie Boogie casting a spell to take over the park.

The change may help keep both parks full, since Disneyland will no longer have to shut down early on event nights. It’s also a chance to age up the vibe from just being for the tykes, according to Disney show director Jordan Peterson, with some spookier attractions meant to appeal to the tween and even teen audience.

(16) SPECULATIVE THRILLER NEWS. John Marks, in “Seven Techno-Thrillers To Read As Our World Crumbles” on CrimeReads, says that there’s no better way to prepare for global environmental or technological collapse than reading a novel by Ernest Cline, Michael Crichton, or Andy Weir.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

What happens when automation that has been designed to assist humanity starts working against it? That question has been the basis of two of my six novels, The One and most recently, The Passengers.

(17) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR REPLICANT EYES. From 2013, the Blade Runner trailer redone in classic black-and-white noir style.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/18/19 The Man Who Maneuvered In Corbomite

(1) DUBLIN 2019 MEMBERSHIP DEADLINE. They say no at-the-door memberships or day passes will be sold, so join now.

(2) COMPLAINT ABOUT DUBLIN 2019 POLICY REVEAL. KerenL tweeted:

(3) CATS MUSICAL. Ready or not, coming to theaters this Christimas: “‘Cats’ musical drops first trailer with Taylor Swift and people are seriously divided”.

Taylor Swift, whose cat Bombalurina is shown reclining and enjoying Catnip in the footage, announced the trailer had dropped Thursday — a day before it was scheduled to be released.

“I’m a cat now and somehow that was everything #Catsmovie” Swift tweeted.

Directed by Tom Hooper, the first trailer introduces a major cast which includes Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella, Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy, Idris Elba as Macavity and James Corden as Bustopher Jones.

(4) TIS THE SEASON. Speaking of hairballs, here’s just what everyone’s looking to add to their holiday tree! From Hallmark: “Star Trek™ Tribble Fabric Ornament With Sound and Motion”.  

(5) INTO THE HALL. In a ceremony held at Balboa Park just ahead of the convention: “Batman Inducted Into Comic-Con Hall of Fame”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The ceremony inducting Batman into the Comic-Con Museum Hall of Fame — the first fictional character to be awarded the honor — was the crowning moment of “The Gathering,” a special celebration that doubled as a preview of The Batman Experience, a pop-up exhibit in the Balboa Park location that will eventually become the physical home of the Comic-Con Museum running during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and a fundraiser for the Museum.

Both “The Gathering” and The Batman Experience are part of DC and Warner Bros.’ wider celebration of the 80th anniversary of the release of Detective Comics No. 27, which introduced Batman to the world, a yearlong event that has already included events at South by Southwest and a USO tour featuring DC’s Lee and Batman comic book writer Tom King.

(6) PITTING HIMSELF AGAINST THE CHALLENGE. The second Ad Astra trailer has dropped. Comes to theaters September 20.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(7) UNIQUE. Who else writes like her? James Davis Nicoll advises Tor.com readers where to find “Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton”.

What other authors wrote books with thematic similarities to the books of Andre Norton? Too bad that no one has ever asked me that question. Let’s pretend that someone has asked. Here are five suggestions.

(8) ANIME STUDIO FIRE DEATHS. BBC’s overview: “Kyoto Animation fire: Arson attack at Japan anime studio kills 33”.

At least 33 people died and dozens were injured after a man set fire to an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto, officials say.

Police said the 41-year-old suspect broke into the Kyoto Animation studio on Thursday morning and sprayed petrol before igniting it.

The suspect has been detained and was taken to hospital with injuries.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the incident was “too appalling for words” and offered condolences.

It is one of Japan’s worst mass casualty incidents since World War Two.

Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni, produces films and graphic novels, and is well regarded by fans for the quality of its productions.

…Reports say the man is not a former employee – but eyewitnesses say he appeared to be angry with the animation studio.

They said he ran away from the building towards a nearby train station after the fire started but fell to the ground. Some reports said he was pursued by employees of Kyoto Animation.

…The Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted a 61-year-old neighbour as saying she clearly heard the man shout: “You ripped me off.”

The suspect was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not immediately question him, NHK said.

This article contains both fan reactions and brief descriptions of the company’s numerous popular creations: “Kyoto Animation: Fans heartbroken by deadly anime studio fire in Japan”

“One of the main things that stands out about Kyoto Animation is the quality of the animation itself,” said Ian Wolf, an anime critic for Anime UK News. “It’s very viewer-friendly.”

The distinctive visual style and level of polish leads to a look that is instantly recognisable, Wolf said.

“The studio makes very little in the way that is controversial… little that is violent or sexual. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to attack it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1911 Hume Cronyn. Way back in the Forties, his first genre role was as Gerard in The Phantom of The Opera. Since then he’s appeared in such well-known films as CocoonCocoon Returns and Batteries Not Included along with the more obscure outing of Richard Burton’s Hamlet. (Died 2003.)
  • Born July 18, 1933 Sydney Jay Mead. Industrial designer and concept artist, best known for his designs for  Aliens,  Blade Runner and Tron. Mead once said in Borrowing an idea from Los Angeles (NYT 20 July 2011) that “I’ve called science fiction ‘reality ahead of schedule.’” An eight-minute film on him, “2019: A Future Imagined” can be seen here.
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 81. Direction, screenwriter and producer. Responsible for RoboCop , Total Recall,  Starship Troopers and the creepy Hollow Man. Mind this is the man who also did Basic Instinct and Showgirls.
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles Waugh,76. Anthologist and author, whose anthology work up to 2013 numbered over two hundred titles (!), mostly done with Martin H. Greenberg but a handful done with other co-editors as Greenberg died in 2011. Name a subject and there’s likely an anthology on that subject that he had a hand in.  I have not read, nor do I have the very least desire, to read his two novels with Deepak Chopra. 
  • Born July 18, 1952 Deborah Teramis Christian, 67. She’s an author and game designer. has designed and edited role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons such as Tales of the Outer Planes, Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, Dragon Dawn, and Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms.  She also writes fiction under the name Deborah Teramis Christian with genre novel such as The Truthsayer’s Apprentice and her latest, Splintegrate.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Paul Cornell, 52. Author of the Shadow Police series which is quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for best fancast.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Vin Diesel, 52. His first genre role was as the delightful voice of The Iron Giant. He next shows playing Riddick in Pitch Black, the first in The Chronicles of Riddick franchise. He’s Hugo Cornelius Toorop in Babylon A.D. and he’s the fascinating if enigmatic voice of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films. He’s apparently in the next two Avatar films but I don’t see his role determined. 
  • Born July 18, 1980 Kristen Bell, 39. Veronica Mars. Genre, well not really, but a lot of y’all watch it. She also voiced Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies which I highly recommend as it’s highly meta.
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 37. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, becoming the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur gets a good laugh by combining a UFO and a cave painter.

(11) THE BUD LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE STARS. On the theory that everyone can play this for laughs, until someone gets killed, “Bud Light is offering free beer to any alien that makes it out of Area 51”.

The world is ready to finally see the secrets hidden inside Area 51. And if one of those secrets happens to be living aliens, well, we have good news — they’ll be greeted with free cans of Bud Light.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, initially posted on Twitter, “We’d like to be the first brand to formally announce that we will not be sponsoring the Area 51 raid.”

However, the brand quickly backtracked off that alienating claim, saying, “Screw it. Free Bud Light to any alien that makes it out.”

(12) COMIC-CON BEGINS. And The Onion is there.

(13) LOYAL FANS. Billboards demanding Warner Bros,#ReleaseTheSnyderCut of Justice League appeared where they’ll hopefully be seen by people on their way to San Diego Comic-Con.

(14) ANOTHER SDCC TRAILER EVENT. From The Hollywood Reporter:“‘It Chapter Two’ Trailer Launch Kicks Off Comic-Con”.

The audience got an early look at the new trailer, which debuted online Thursday morning. The presentation, taking place on Comic-Con’s preview night, is dubbed ScareDiego and is held off the San Diego Convention Center grounds, and unofficially kicks off the Con in terms of movie panels. The event, now in its third year, is growing and this year was held at the Spreckels Theatre with comedian and late night show host Conan O’Brien serving as moderator.

(15) CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK. James Davis Nicoll’s contribution to the Apollo 11 anniversary observance is “Remembering the Moon Landing: Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire” at Tor.com.

…Collins was the Command Module Pilot. While the Lunar Lander descended to the Moon’s surface, it was Collins’ task to remain with the Command Module in Lunar orbit….

Rather than making any attempt at a dispassionate, neutral history of the Apollo Program, Collins provides a very personal account, a Collins-eye view of the American path to the moon. It’s not a short process, which is why it takes 360 pages before Collins and his more well-known companions find themselves strapped into the largest, most powerful man-rated rocket to have been launched as of that date. Before that…

(16) CHICAGO STYLE DOG. I hate to think I’ll missing out on this: “You Can Now Stay In An Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Overnight With Airbnb”.

Starting on July 24, Oscar Mayer’s iconic 27-foot-long Wienermobile is available to book overnight on Airbnb. Seriously. This is not a drill.

True hot dog fans know that the Wienermobile has pretty much travelled all across the country, spreading positive vibes and love for, well, wieners. And until now, no one has been able to spend more than a few hours in the famous Oscar Mayer vehicle, which makes this overnight camp-out option kind of a big deal.

Per their press release, the hot dog distributer has confirmed that its Wienermobile will be available to those staying in the Chicago area between August 1-4. Just in time for Lollapalooza!

(17) KGB. Ellen Datlow has shared her photos from the July 17 Fantastic Fiction at KGB where Theodora Goss read from her new collection Snow White Learns Witchcraft and Cadwell Turnbull read from his recently published novel, The Lesson.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. Congrats to Rich Horton who won $66.67 playing last night’s HQ mobile-based trivia contest. One of the questions was:

“Which Hugo-winning writer did NOT write an episode of STAR TREK?”

The choices were:

  • Robert Bloch
  • Norman Spinrad
  • Robert Heinlein

Says Horton, “I’m sure I don’t have to tell many people that Heinlein never wrote a Star Trek episode.”

(19) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Apparently this is another thing you leave behind when you simulate a lunar mission: “Russia’s Sirius Moon project leaves crew hungry for steak”.

What do you crave after spending four months cooped up in a mock spaceship?

“A tasty steak!” was Anastasia Stepanova’s swift reply, when she emerged from her Sirius-19 quarters, along with five other space guinea pigs.

The team of four Russians and two Americans – sent to Moscow by Nasa – were isolated, but stayed on terra firma. So, no weightlessness or cosmic radiation to worry about.

But in other respects the Sirius-19 experiment was designed to imitate conditions on a flight to the Moon.

Ms Stepanova’s colleagues were also looking forward to tasty food, though cosmonaut Yevgeny Tarelkin, commander of this “mission”, said he was missing his family.

They had big fridges and grew their own vegetables under artificial light. But the diet was hardly mouth-watering: mostly kasha (buckwheat porridge), puree and canned food.

(20) FLAME ON. Mashable makes sure we know “Drones with flamethrowers are a thing you can buy now”. (Was this a Prime Day deal I missed?) [Via David Langford.]

As if drones weren’t frightening enough, now they can be equipped with fire-spitting flamethrowers? Oh gawd.

Throwflame’s TF-19 WASP drone attachment is capable of shooting targets with flames from 25 feet away. Every gallon of fuel capacity will get you 100 seconds of firing time. 

According to Throwflame, the TF-19 WASP is made from carbon fiber and designed for drones with a five-pound payload capacity or more. In the video above, the flamethrower is shown mounted to a DJI S1000 drone.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/19 Just A Small Town Scroll, Living In A Pixel World

(1) PENRIC RETURNS. Lois McMaster Bujold has finished another Penric and Desdemona novella – see “The Orphans of Raspay cover sneak peek” at Goodreads.

When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.

This novella follows about a year after the events of “The Prisoner of Limnos”.

E-publication before the end of the month, I’m pretty sure; this week or next, maybe. I still have some last polishing and fretting to do on the text file, and then there is the vexing question of a map.

(2) GAINING INSIGHT. Jonathan LaForce advises writers looking to base their stories on lived experience “How to Talk with Veterans” at Mad Genius Club.

Last month, we talked about telling the stories of combat veterans as they really happened. Without whitewashing or varnish. Without embellishment. Without lies.
In the third-to-last paragraph, I make mention of sitting down and talking with veterans. Over the last month I’ve been looking around and realizing nobody has ever explained how to talk with veterans, as a writer looking for technical (and personal) knowledge about the profession of arms. Today, we’re gonna start down that road.

(3) THE OLD EQUATIONS.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s article “Throw Grandma Out the Airlock: Representation of Old Women in Science Fiction” appears in SFRA Review #217, published by the Science Fiction Research Association.

This project started because I was wrong. My initial premise was that speculative fiction relegated women “of a certain age” to very specific roles: the crone, the wise woman, the meddling mother, the friendly innkeep. This seemed such an obvious truth that it was barely even worth stating. We’ve seen these women all our lives, in fairy tales and epic fantasy, and of course in Terry Pratchett’s wonderful parodies of old women in all of their cliched roles.

However, when pressed, I discovered that there was one place where we do not see these women: in science fiction novels. Old women are a rarity in science fiction and when they do exist, they inhabit a very different space. We don’t have innkeeps, we have immortals. We don’t have crazy cat ladies, we have body snatchers. There’s a distinct lack of old ladies who love solving cozy mysteries, but we do have a greater than-normal number of politicians. 

(4) UNREAL ESTATE. What are “The Most Terrifying Buildings in Literature”? Riley Sager has a little list at Crimereads.

Building: The World’s Fair Hotel

Book: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

“I was born with the devil in me.” So said H.H. Holmes, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Holmes began construction of his so-called hotel as Chicago was gearing up for the 1893 World’s Fair. Far from your normal bed and breakfast, the building included soundproofed rooms, maze-like hallways and, in the basement, a crematorium and acid vats. Although the number of people he killed there is unknown, it was more than enough to give the building a different name—“The Murder Castle.” 

(5) WRITERS AT SEA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 commemoration series revisits “The celebrity cruise to celebrate the end of the Moon landings was a delightful train wreck” – “The voyage set sail powered by the hot air of macho writer Norman Mailer, and it was precisely the 1970s freak show you’d expect.”

…But perhaps the oddest Moon-related cultural experience was one that happened on the occasion of the launch of Apollo 17, in December 1972, the last Apollo mission to the Moon. It was a Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s ship, the S.S. Statendam, and anyone with the money for a ticket could mingle with NBC newsman Hugh Downs, science fiction legends Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova, novelist Katherine Anne Porter, and yes, Norman Mailer himself. This curious collection of luminaries also organized events and panels as part of the ship’s entertainment. The cruise lasted almost as long as the Apollo 17 mission itself: nine days, starting with a seaborne view of Apollo 17’s launch from seven miles off Cape Kennedy….

(6) DECALCOMANIA. The family that cosplays together….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert Heinlein. So what do you like by him? I’m very fond of The Moon is A Harsh Mistress. And I like Starship Troopers despite the baggage around it. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is on my occasional re-read list as I find a fun read in a way that Friday isn’t. Time Enough for Love is, errr, self-indulgent in the extreme. Fun though. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four year run here, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his fist roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1931 David Eddings. Prolific and great, with his wife Leigh, they authored several best-selling epic fantasy novel series, including The Belgariad, The Malloreon and The Dreamers to name but three of their series. They’ve written but one non-sriracha novel, The Redemption of Althalus. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 7, 1948 Kathy Reichs, 71. Author of the Temperance Brennan series which might be genre adjacent, she’s also the author of Virals, a YA series about a group of a young adults with minor super powers. 
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 60. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. BTW,  IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty-five bucks! 
  • Born July 7, 1968 Jeff VanderMeer, 51. Ok I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not. I will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading. 
  • Born July 7, 1969 Cree Summer, 50. Voice performer in myriad series such as as Spider-Man: The New Animated SeriesJustice League UnlimitedStar Wars: The Clone Wars, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s playing a number of the cast in the current Young Justice series including Madame Xanadu and Aquagirl.
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 32. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range is there when an important discovery is made about the dark side of the moon.

(9) FINDING RETRO NOMINEES. Ian Moore advises about “Finding the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists online” at Secret Panda. Lots of archival links.

Soon in Dublin the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards will be revealed, including the winners of the Retro Hugo Awards for science fiction published in 1943. This year unfortunately there is no voters packet for the Retro Hugos. However most of the publications in which the finalists appeared are available on the Internet Archive, where they can be read online or downloaded by Hugo Award voters. See below for links to where the various works can be found. Voting closes at midnight on 31July, so get reading.

(10) NOW IN BLACK AND WHITE. Missed out on this when it first came around in 2015 – a takeoff on “Batman v Superman” courtesy of a “Vulture Remix” of two 1940s serials.

These days, superhero movies are all about bombast — take, for example, the upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” But there was a simpler time, when superheroes looked terrible and were more charming than scary. We imagine what a Batman/Superman matchup would’ve looked like in the era of the first serial films about the characters from way back in the middle of the century.

(11) POWER OF THE PRESS. Another Superman stalwart is getting an update this month – the New York Times has the story: “Lois Lane Fights for Justice in a New Comic Series”. “Lois Lane stars in a new 12-issue series focusing on her career as a reporter.”

Revoked White House credentials, the mysterious death of a journalist and a conspiracy to profit from the separation of migrant families at the border. This looks like a job for … Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter.

The character, who, like Superman and Clark Kent, first appeared in 1939, is starring in a 12-issue comic book series that begins on Wednesday. The story, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Mike Perkins, focuses on Lois Lane as she tries to find out more about the death of Mariska Voronova, a journalist who had been critical of the Kremlin.

(12) NOTES FROM SPIKECON. David Doering sent a couple of short news items from the NASFiC/Westercon:

Joy Day’s fabulous ASFA award, a vibrant spherical interpretation of a Black Hole, got lost enroute to Layton in the Black Hole of the USPS…

While I hoped for one or more of our locals who were nominated to win, but those that did were very worthy.

Sadly, not one winner was in attendance. We need to elevate the appreciation of art. Cover art and illustrations are often the cause of us picking up a book or magazine in the first place.

I still associate Lord of the Rings with the gum drop tree cover art from 1965…

Then, this morning, Dave was able to check another box on his fannish bucket list:

I earned the dubious honor tonight  of having our room party shutdown  for being too noisy. Who knew that LTUE  and World Fantasy crowd could be so boistrous? 

(13) ALSO SEEN AT SPIKECON. Tanglwyst de Holloway was encouraged by John Hertz to share this photo, as it was the first time John had seen it done:

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. In the July 7 issue of the New York Times Book Review, author Charles Yu reviews Neil Stevenson’s new book:

His latest, “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell,” is another piece of evidence in the anti-Matrix case: a staggering feat of imagination, intelligence and stamina. For long stretches, at least. Between those long stretches, there are sections that, while never uninteresting, are somewhat less successful. To expect any different, especially in a work of this length, would be to hold it to an impossible standard. Somewhere in this 900-page book is a 600-page book. One that has the same story, but weighs less. Without those 300 pages, though, it wouldn’t be Neal Stephenson. It’s not possible to separate the essential from the decorative. Nor would we want that, even if it were. Not only do his fans not mind the extra — it’s what we came for.

Also, New York Times Book Review’s Tina Jordan conducts a brief interview with Neal Stephenson about Fall, which debuted at No. 14 on the paper’s New Fiction list.

“Unlike some of my hard science fiction books, such as ‘Seveneves’—where I sweated the details of orbits, rocket engines, etc.—‘Fall’ is meant to be read as more of a fable,” Stephenson explains. “I’m not making any pretense in the book that the neuroscience and computer science are plausible. My approach was to take a particular way of thinking around brains and the uploading of human consciousness into digital form, and just say, ‘Suppose this is all true; let’s run with it and see where it takes us on a pure storytelling level.’”

(15) BANK EARNS NEW INTEREST. A key player in many older SF novels, “Jodrell Bank gains Unesco World Heritage status”.

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It has been at the forefront of astronomical research since its inception in 1945 and tracked US and Russian craft during the space race.

The site in Cheshire is part of the University of Manchester. It is dominated by the landmark Lovell Telescope.

It joins the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon and other locations that have been added to the prestigious list.

…Scientific research began at Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1945 when the physicist Sir Bernard Lovell came to the University of Manchester.

The site pioneered the then new science of radio astronomy, which used radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe.

(16) BESIDE THE SEA. SYFY Wire tells how people looking for rarities found one: “Canadian gemstone miners discover prehistoric sea monster skeleton”.

Enchanted Designs Limited miners digging at Alberta’s Bearpaw Formation for rainbow-shaded ammolite gemstones, which are created by the fossilized shells of extinct marine mollusks called ammonites, discovered the nearly complete remains of the “T-rex of the Seas” in soft black-shale mudstone. The impressive specimen measured in at between 20 and 23 feet long.

(16) PITCH MEETINGS. Beware spoilers in ScreenRant’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home Pitch Meeting.”

Marvel Studios wrapped up Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame — except wait no, they squeezed another Spider-Man movie in there before closing the curtains. Spider-Man: Far From Home is Tom Holland’s second “solo” outing as Peter Parker, and the character is still heavily influenced by the recently departed Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. Far From Home raises a lot of questions. Like what exactly is Mysterio’s long-term plan? What’s going on with all the other living Avengers? How does Spider-Man get his Peter Tingle back? Why are the mid-credits and post-credits scenes the most memorable parts of this film? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to Spider-Man: Far From Home! It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience!

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Nicholas Whyte, Tanglwyst de Holloway, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/18/19 I Started A Pixel, Which Started The Whole World Scrolling

(1) KLOOS SIGNS OFF TWITTER. Marko Kloos left Facebook seven months ago, and today deleted his Twitter account, too. He explains why in “Writing and the Internet”.

I have to come to realize that over the last few years, the Internet has had a profoundly corrosive effect on my professional output and occasionally even my emotional health.

This effect has been especially severe in two areas: social media and email, both of which basically constituted my consent to being easily and directly available to contact by anyone with an Internet connection. In Twitter’s case, that contact has also been fully public, which means that anyone with a Twitter account has been able to see and share any conversation I’ve had with people outside of direct messages.

As of today, I am withdrawing that consent by getting off social media and curtailing my availability via email.

Late last year, I got so tired of the constant necessity to curate my Facebook feed and the drama resulting from pruning my Friends list that I pulled the plug for good and deleted my account. In the seven months since then, I have not missed it, and beyond a few concerned messages from long-time Facebook acquaintances, my absence has been inconsequential to the world and a lot less aggravation and anxiety in my life. Last night, I deleted my Twitter account as well, for slightly different reasons that boil down to the strong feeling that it will have a similar life-improving consequence….

… To put it bluntly: I can no longer allow anyone with a smartphone and a data plan the potential ability to darken my day or interrupt my work by trying to pick an argument or fill my Twitter feed with aggravating stuff. Most emails and Twitter interactions with fans have been fun and positive, but there have been exceptions. And even the well-meaning emails from happy readers take a slice out of my writing time.

(2) FORTY WHACKS. Autopsies are so fun. Vulture’s Abraham Riesman wonders: “Marvel on Netflix: What Went Wrong?”

… And hoo boy, their expectations were met. That inaugural installment of Jessica Jones was a true humdinger. It was distinctive without being flashy, mature without being ponderous, ambitious without being self-satisfied, sexy without being exploitative, and just … good. I can’t tell you how much of a revelation a good superhero show was at that time. We were used to spandex outings that were inane, formulaic, and utterly uninterested in pushing a single envelope. But here was a tale that seemed like it was going to grapple with everything from PTSD to queerness and do it all with style. Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and star Krysten Ritter genuinely seemed to be elevating the game. As soon as the screening was done, I rushed to the lobby to get reception and email my editor like an old-timey reporter clamoring for a pay phone just after getting a hot scoop. I have seen the future of superheroes, I thought, and it is Marvel Netflix.

If it ever was the future, it is now the past. This week sees the barely ballyhooed release of the third and final season of Jessica Jones, which is itself the final season of Marvel’s four-year Netflix experiment. Its death has been agonizingly and humiliatingly gradual: Over the course of the past few months, each of the five ongoing series that made it up has been given the ax, one after another. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher; their fans saw them all go the way of the dodo — without fanfare….

(3) ENDS WITH A BANG. Fast Company’s article “The most expensive hyphen in history” unpacks an historic incident in the U.S. space program (that inspired a scene in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Calculating Stars.)

Mariner 1 was launched atop a 103-foot-tall Atlas-Agena rocket at 5:21 a.m. EDT. For 3 minutes and 32 seconds, it rose perfectly, accelerating to the edge of space, nearly 100 miles up.

But at that moment, Mariner 1 started to veer in odd, unplanned ways, first aiming northwest, then pointing nose down. The rocket was out of control and headed for the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. Four minutes and 50 seconds into flight, a range safety officer at Cape Canaveral—in an effort to prevent the rocket from hitting people or land—flipped two switches, and explosives in the Atlas blew the rocket apart in a spectacular cascade of fireworks visible back in Florida.

… A single handwritten line, the length of a hyphen, doomed the most elaborate spaceship the U.S. had until then designed, along with its launch rocket. Or rather, the absence of that bar doomed it. The error cost $18.5 million ($156 million today).

(4) BATMAN AT 80. The Society of Illustrators is opening several momentous Batman exhibits at its New York museum.

Join us for a celebration of three momentous exhibits:

(5) DON’T PANIC. Now available on the Internet at the Strange Texts blog (after no small delay) is Lee Whiteside’s “A report on DON’T PANIC and DIRK GENTLY and their relation to Doctor Who”, written in 1988 to mark the US release of the Neil Gaiman / Douglas Adams book Don’t Panic and originally posted on the Magrathea BBS.

Starting out with Dirk Gently, Adams breaks away from the science-fiction/comedy genre a bit, creating a “ghost-horror-detective-time travel-romantic comedy epic” as the promotional copy on the hardback release claims.  It does combine several divergent plotlines that mostly come together at the end.  The main characters include a computer programmer, a mysterious detective, and an eccentric professor along with an Electric Monk, and an ancient ghost (as well as a more recent one).  Part of the plot line of the book is similar to the Doctor Who story “City Of Death” with the main characters involved with an alien being from the past and using a time travel machine to defeat it.  The time travelling done in Dirk Gently seems to be done by TARDIS.  The professor in the book is Professor Chronotis from the Doctor Who story Shada that was written by Douglas Adams but was never completed.  The setting of Cambridge, is also the same.  Overall, it is an enjoyable book, although a bit hard to follow at times.

With the release of the HHG Companion book, even more links with Doctor Who are made known.  Neil Gaiman has done a good job chronicling the history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide along with the rest of Douglas Adams career to date.

(6) CHANDLER AWARD. This is what the 2019 A. Bertram Chandler Award looks like – Edwina Harvey posted the photo.

(7) TREE OBIT. “The tree thought to have inspired Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Lorax’ has fallen”CNN has before and after photos:

The Lorax would be devastated to hear that the tree that inspired Dr. Seuss’ 1971 children’s book has fallen.

The Monterey Cypress tree was at Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla, California, the seaside community where author Theodor Seuss Geisel lived from 1948 until his death in 1991.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 18, 1964 — The Twilight Zone aired its series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1908 Bud Collyer. He was voiced both the Man of Steel and Clark Kent on The Adventures Of Superman radio show in the Forties on the Mutual Broadcasting System. He also voiced them in the animated The New Adventures of Superman which was a Filmation production. Joan Alexander voiced Lois Lane in both shows. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 18, 1917 Richard Boone. You likely know him as Paladin on Have Gun – Will Travel, but he does have some genre appearances including on The Last Dinosaur as Maston Thrust Jr. and in Rankin Bass’s The Hobbit the voice of Smaug. He also played Robert Kraft in I Bury the Living, a horror flick that I think has zombies and more zombies. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 18, 1931 Dick Spelman. He was a fan who was a legendary book dealer that really hated being called a huckster. He was active at SF conventions from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. He was guest of honor at ICON (Iowa) 12. Fancyclopedia 3 says it was themed “money-grubbing capitalist con” in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 Paul McCartney, 77. Well, I could include him for the Magical Mystery Tour which might be genre, but I’m not. He actually has a cameo in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales as a character named Uncle Jack in a cell playing poker singing “Maggie May”. A shortened version of the song is on the Let It Be album. 
  • Born June 18, 1945 Redmond Simonsen. Coined term ‘games designer’. Best remembered for his design of the Seventies games Starforce: Alpha Centauri, Battlefleet Mars and Sorcerer. He cofounded Simulations Publications Inc (SPI) with James Dunnigan. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 18, 1947 Linda Thorson, 72. Best known for playing Tara King in The Avengers.  For her role in that series, she received a special BAFTA at the 2000 BAFTA TV Awards along with the other three actresses from the series, Honor Blackman, Joanna Lumley and Diana Rigg. She’s also been in Return of the SaintTales from the DarksideStar Trek: The Next GenerationKung Fu: The Legend ContinuesF/X: The Series and Monsters
  • Born June 18, 1949 Chris Van Allsburg, 70. He won two Caldecott Medals for U.S. picture book illustration, for Jumanji and The Polar Express, both of which were made into films. Guess which one I like? He illustrated A City in Winter by Mark Helprin which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.
  • Born June 18, 1958 Jody Lee, 61. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for Daw Books in 1985. Her latest was Michelle West’s First Born that came out this year on Daw Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home is there when diplomas are handed out at the Academy of Paranormal Studies.

(11) POP CULTURE ERASURE. NPR examines the trend in “chauvinist cuts” — misogynist, homophobic and racist cuts of blockbuster films :“‘Avengers,’ But Make It Without Women, Or Men Hugging, Or Levity In General”.

Brie Larson has vanished.

A star of Avengers: Endgame, one of the biggest movies of all time, was completely excised from a modified pirated version of the film — along with everything else in the film seen as feminist or gay.

An anonymous fan edited out shots, scenes and characters in a “defeminized” version circulating now on an illegal streaming site. As well as losing Larson’s character, Captain Marvel, the defeminized edit is missing a scene where Hawkeye teaches his daughter to shoot. (“Young women should learn skills to become good wives and mothers and leave the fighting to men,” the editor opined in an accompanying document.) The role of Black Panther is minimized. (“He’s really not that important.”) Spider-Man doesn’t get rescued by women characters anymore. (“No need to.”) And male characters no longer hug.

(12) FULL FATHOM FIVE. In case you wondered what became of the craft: “‘Boaty McBoatface’ maps deep ocean water”.

Intrepid submarine Boaty McBoatface has made its first significant discovery, say UK scientists.

The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has built a 3D map of deep ocean waters as they move away from Antarctica.

Researchers previously had limited data to show these currents were warming.

Boaty’s investigations can now confirm that turbulence is causing warm water at mid-depths to mix down and raise the temperature of the colder, denser water running along the ocean floor.

Scientists say they can link this behaviour to changing wind patterns.

…Boaty’s insights are important because they can now be used to fine-tune the models that describe the climate system and how it may change in the future.

(13) MONK-Y BUSINESS. BBC explains why “Belgium monks forced to sell prized beer online to beat resellers”.

Belgian monks who brew one of the world’s most coveted beers are launching a website to prevent unauthorised resellers profiting from their product.

St Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Flanders, is one of the world’s 14 official Trappist beer producers.

Buyers can purchase a crate of its Westvleteren beer for around €45 (£40), around €1.80 per bottle.

As a rule, the monks ask customers not to sell their product to third parties.

The abbey’s sales have traditionally been limited to private customers who order by phone before collecting a maximum of two crates in person.

But profiteers have been ignoring their “ethical values” for selling the brew, forcing them to go online to dampen demand on the black market.

The monks were dismayed to find bottles of their beer being resold at an inflated price in a Dutch supermarket last year.

…Now the abbey is turning to an online reservation system, designed to better enforce the limit of two crates per 60 days.

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Graphic Story Finalist reviews:

Retro Hugo Best Graphic Story

(15) PITCH MEETING. Step inside the pitch meeting that led to the final season of Game of Thrones!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/19 En Pixel Cerrado, No Entran Scrolls.

(1) THE LAST DAY. Macmillan Publishers is moving from the Flatiron to the Equitable Building and taking Tor.com with it. Seanan McGuire commemorates the departure in her story “Any Way the Wind Blows”.

“Captain?”

I turn. Our navigator is looking over his shoulder at me. Well. One of his heads is. The other is still watching the curved window that makes up the front of our airship, crystal clear and apparently fragile. Most people who attack us aim for that window first, not asking themselves how many protections we’d put on a sheet of glass that size. The fact that it’s not a solid mass of bugs doesn’t seem to be the clue it should.

“What is it?”

He smiles uncertainly. “I think I see the Flatiron.”

Tor Books also posted a group shot taken outside the building here.

(2) PITT THE YOUNGER SEEKS PITT THE ELDER. Ad Astra comes to theaters in September 2019.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system when he finds his missing father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, has been doing threatening experiments in space. He must unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) FROM DEEP IN THE FILES. Baen Ebooks is distributing the English translation of a nonfiction work Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovsky on its retail ebook site, as well as offering a selection of other ebooks from Judgment in Moscow publisher, Ninth of November Press.

Bukovsky spent years in the Soviet gulag, finally being released to the West in 1976. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin’s government asked Bukovsky to serve as an expert witness at a possible trial of the Communist Party. Bukovsky combed through the archives, scanning and copying much of the material there, and, after the trial became a dud, smuggled the material out of Russia. Judgment in Moscow is a behind the scenes look at these original documents which detail how the Soviet leadership and the Communist Party kept the Russian nation enslaved, accompanied by Bukovsky’s commentary elucidating the extent of the evil recorded therein.

Judgment in Moscow is based on the trove of Communist Party archives that Bukovsky spirited away before access was shut down. These contain elaborate details of Soviet meddling in Western politics, and it also details Western complicity in Soviet Russia’s program of totalitarian oppression. Originally written in Russian, Judgment in Moscow was seen as a major indictment of political treachery both inside and outside the USSR.

Baen’s press release says:

Western publishers, including Random House in America, backed down from publishing an English translation out of what appears in hindsight cowardice and fear of offending the emerging new Russian oligarchy. Now after years with no translation available, a new English version has finally been created with Bukovsky’s wholehearted participation.

(4) THE HITS OF SIXTY-FOUR. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert details the unexpected popularity in West Germany of movies adapted from the crime novels of Edgar Wallace – someone better remembered in America as the creator of King Kong. [June 4, 1964] Weird Menace and Villainy in the London Fog: The West German Edgar Wallace Movies.

…Wallace villains are never just ordinary criminals, but run improbably large and secretive organisations with dozens of henchmen. At least one of the henchmen is deformed or flat out insane, played either by former wrestler Ady Berber or a charismatic young actor named Klaus Kinski, who gave the performance of his life as a mute and insane animal handler in last year’s The Squeaker.

The crimes are extremely convoluted, usually involve robberies, blackmail or inheritance schemes and are always motivated by greed. Murder methods are never ordinary and victims are dispatched via harpoons, poison blow guns, guillotines or wild animals. The villains inevitably have strange monikers such as the Frog, the Shark, the Squeaker, the Avenger, the Green Archer or the Black Abbot and often wear a costume to match. Their identity is always a mystery and pretty much every character comes under suspicion until the big reveal at the end. And once the mask comes off, the villain is inevitably revealed to be a staunch pillar of society and often a member of Sir John’s club.

(5) GLORIOUS COVER. Alex Shvartsman posted a cover reveal for his debut novel, Eridani’s Crown. It’s a beauty.

The full wraparound cover was drawn and designed by Tomasz Maronski.

(6) HE’S IN THE HALL. SYFY Wire reveals “Batman first inductee to Comic-Con HOF”.

Holy Hall of Fame, Batman! The Caped Crusader is robbin’ all the other comic book superheroes to seize the illustrious distinction of becoming the very first inductee into the new Comic-Con Museum’s inaugural class of honored comics characters.

The Dark Knight will hold the door for all the rest of the museum’s first, still-unannounced heroic batch, DC revealed in a press release announcing “The Gathering,” a July fundraising event for the new museum. Located near the site of San Diego Comic-Con in the city’s Balboa Park, the Comic-Con Museum (or CCM) will be a 68,000-square-foot shrine to all things heroic and villainous, drawing on decades of rich history from the pages of comics, graphic novels, and more.

“On the occasion of Batman’s 80th anniversary, a ceremony honoring DC’s most popular super hero will be the centerpiece” of the July 17 event, which is timed to help kick off this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

(7) DARK PHOENIX. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Nicholas Hoult and Tye Sheridan talk about making Dark Phoenix together and reveal some of their on-set antics.

(8) FINANCIAL OMENS. Our Designated Financial Times Reader Martin Morse Wooster peered behind the paywall at Dan Einav’s interview with Michael Sheen and David Tennant about Good Omens.

Stars are usually personally held accountable when a series fails to meet the expectations of the fans–and lovers of fantasy and sci-fi are often notoriously implacable,  To say that a screen adaptation of “Good Omens” has been hotly anticipated is to understate the extent of the fervour Gaiman’s devotees have for his work.

Do the actors feel anxious about a potential backlash?  ‘I read the book when it first came outm so I’m one of those fans and I’ve felt the weight of expectation,’ says Sheen.  “But Neil has said all the way through that he’s not making it for the fans, he’s making it for Terry.”

Tennant, who is no stranger to opinionated fans from his days as Doctor Who, is a little more blunt,  ‘You can’t make TV which pleases what people’s preconceived notions might be.  You just have to make something you feel proud of and works for people who haven’t read the book.

(9) WHERE IS EVERYBODY? Likewise behind a paywall, at Commentary, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel argues in “Are We Alone In The Universe?” that the likelihood there is life elsewhere in the universe is vanishingly small.

When we ask the big question–where is everybody?–it’s worth keeping a great many possibilities in mind.  Aliens might be plentiful, but perhaps we’re not listening properly.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might self-destruct too quickly to maintain a technologically advanced state.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they may choose to remain isolated.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might purposely choose to exclude Earth and their inhabitants from their communications.  Aliens might be plentiful, but the problems of interstellar travel might be too difficult to overcome.

But there’s another valid possibility that we must keep in mind, as well:  Aliens may not be there at all.  The probability of the three vital leaps, as described above, is enormously uncertain.  If even one of these three steps is too cosmically impossible, it may well be that in all the universe, there’s only us.

(10) BRADBURY REMEMBERED. [Item by Robert Kerr.] “Ray died 7 years ago today. I know he’d like to be remembered, but he’d like to be remembered with joy. Among Ray’s many accomplishments was writing the script for the Epcot attraction Spaceship Earth. This picture was taken in 1982 at the opening of Epcot. Ray took a bus or train to get to Florida, but he had to get back to L.A. faster than a bus or train could get there. Ray was a self-proclaimed coward who didn’t conquer fears very well. He never drove a car his entire life, and at 62 he was going to get on a plane for the first time. He said they put a bunch of martinis in him and loaded him onto the plane. To commemorate the occasion of Ray’s first time on a plane, some Disney animators drew a piece showing Ray on a plane, martini in hand, with Mickey Mouse sitting next to him. Ray kept that piece on display in his study for the rest of his life.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 5, 1908 John Russell Fearn. British author and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp magazines. A prolific author, he also published novels as Vargo Statten and with various pseudonyms such as Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong  and others. As himself, I see his first story as being The Intelligence Gigantic published in Amazing Stories in 1933. His Golden Amazon series of novels ran to over to two dozen titles, and the Clayton Drew Mars Adventure series that only ran to four novels. (Died 1960.)
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” on Star Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a series that would have starred Lansing and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as The Twilight ZoneJourney to the Unknown, Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 73. Einstein on Farscape, the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting for Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series
  • Born June 5, 1960 Margo Lanagan, 59. Tender Morsels won a World Fantasy Award for best novel, and Sea-Hearts won the same for Best Novella. She’s an alumna of the Clarion West Writers Workshop In 1999 and returned as a teacher in 2011 and 2013.
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 43. South African writer who’s the author of a number of SF novels. Zoo City won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Shining City, about a time travel serial killer and the woman who catches him, is being adapted as a series in South Africa, and Moxyland is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Very impressive! 

(12) WHO WRITER OUSTED FROM ANTHOLOGY. Gareth Roberts has been “dropped from an upcoming Doctor Who anthology over ‘offensive’ transphobic tweets” BBC Books has confirmed.

Parent company Ebury confirmed that Roberts’ contribution to Doctor Who: The Target Storybook, will not feature….

Ebury’s decision to drop Roberts over his tweets, which it says conflicts with its “values as a publisher”, has sparked debate on social media.

Gareth Roberts defends and explains himself and the terminology he used in a “Statement on BBC Books and Transgenderism” on Medium.

(13) CURRENCY EVENTS. In “If We Told You Neal Stephenson Invented Bitcoin, Would You Be Surprised?” on Reason.com, Peter Suderman says, in a survey of Stephenson’s novels, says that in The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon, Stephenson “described the core concepts of cryptocurrency years before Bitcoin became a technical reality.”

For nearly three decades, Stephenson’s novels have displayed an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world, and Asian culture. His novel Anathem is, among other things, an elaborate investigation into the philosophy of knowledge. His new book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, pursues these themes literally beyond the grave, into the complications of estate planning and cryogenics.

(14) CALLING LONG DISTANCE. Drop by the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum between now and January 12, 2020 to see the phone he used to call the Moon in the interactive exhibit Apollo 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind.

Artifacts and objects featured in the exhibit include:

  • Buzz Aldrin’s penlight used in the Lunar Module and Apollo 11 patch worn on the surface of the moon
  • NASA X-15 silver-gleaming pressure suit used to train Neil Armstrong and America’s first astronauts in the 1950s
  • Moon rocks from the lunar surface, acquired during the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 missions
  • Oval Office telephone that President Nixon used to call Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they explored on the lunar surface
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom Award presented to astronaut Michael Collins by President Nixon
  • Original of President Nixon’s draft speech prepared in the event of a “moon disaster”
  • A 3-D printed, life-sized statue of Neil Armstrong in his space suit, as he climbed down the ladder of the Lunar Module on the moon
  • A giant, exact recreation of an Apollo mission command module

(15) HUGO CONTENDERS. Garik16 progresses with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Short Story “.

6th Place On My Ballot:.  “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

This Story can be found HERE.

Thoughts:  This story won the Nebula Award, and I don’t think it’s a bad pick for the award, which is a testament to the strength of this ballot.  It’s a fantasy story about nine slaves’ lives and hopes, with the teeth taken from them as the gateway to their stories (and the effects of those teeth on George Washington) – with those slaves’ lives having various degrees of fantasy elements, all fitting the themes of those realistic slave-lives.  Still, I think it probably works the least of these six as a cohesive whole, even if the individual parts of this story are excellently done (with the final part reclaiming the supposedly noble action of Washington to free his slaves on his deathbed, in a really nice touch).

(16) NOT EXACTLY THE BURNING BUSH. NPR discusses the means of “Getting Fire From A Tree Without Burning The Wood”.

A scientist walks up to a cottonwood tree, sticks a hollow tube in the middle and then takes a lighter and flicks it. A jet of flame shoots out from the tube.

It seems like a magician’s trick. Turns out, there’s methane trapped in certain cottonwood trees. Methane is the gas in natural gas. It’s also a powerful greenhouse gas.

So how does it get inside towering trees like the ones on the campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee?

“The wood in this particular species naturally has this condition called wetwood, where it’s saturated within the trunk of the tree,” says the lighter-flicking scientist, Oak Ridge environmental microbiologist Christopher Schadt.

This wetwood makes for a welcoming home for all sorts of microorganisms.

…Some of those organisms turned out to be species of archaea that are known methane producers. So it’s not the trees themselves that are making the methane, it’s the microbes living in the trees.

…Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, Cregger says, it’s important to see how much of it the trees are actually producing.

This raises the surprising notion that trees could actually be contributing to global warming. Yes, these trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but could the methane be making things worse?

(17) CLARKE’S FOURTH LAW? BBC wonders “Does pornography still drive the internet?”.

Consider the opening lines of The Internet is for Porn, a song from the Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Kate Monster: “The internet is really, really great.”

Trekkie Monster: “For porn!”

…Credible-seeming statistics suggest that about one in seven web searches is for porn. This is not trivial – but of course it means that six in seven web searches are not.

The most-visited porn website – Pornhub – is roughly as popular as the likes of Netflix and LinkedIn. That’s pretty popular but still only enough to rank 28th in the world when I checked.

But Avenue Q was first performed in 2003, an age ago in internet terms, and Trekkie Monster might have been more correct back then.

New technologies often tend to be expensive and unreliable. They need to find a niche market of early adopters, whose custom helps the technology to develop.

Once it is cheaper and more reliable, it finds a bigger market, and a much broader range of uses.

There is a theory that pornography played this role in the development of the internet, and a whole range of other technologies. Does it stack up?

(18) GIMME THAT REAL OLD-TIME RELIGION. Beer helps: “How Iceland recreated a Viking-age religion”.

The Ásatrú faith, one of Iceland’s fastest growing religions, combines Norse mythology with ecological awareness – and it’s open to all.

…The ‘blót’, as the changing-of-the-season ceremony is known, began with the lighting of a small fire, which flickered in the breeze as the congregation listened to Old Norse poetry and raised the beer-filled horn to honour the Norse gods. Elsewhere on the island, similar ceremonies, I was told, were taking place.

The blót had been organised by the Ásatrú Association of Iceland, a pagan faith group that is currently one of the country’s fastest growing religions, having almost quadrupled its membership in a decade, albeit from a low base of 1,275 people in 2009 to 4,473 in 2018.

The congregation, which comprised a few dozen souls, including a Buddhist and a Hindu guest, had gathered near a sandy beach on the outskirts of Reykjavik, next to the city’s domestic airport, to celebrate the first day of the Icelandic summer. It was 25 April, slightly chilly and mostly overcast. Rain looked likely….

(19) WITH WINTER COMES ICE. The whole Game of Thrones cast raps in A Song of Vanilla Ice and Fire – Game of Thrones x Ice Ice Baby.

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