Pixel Scroll 10/31/19 The World of Scroll-A

(1) CUTTING CAPERS. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures picked a highly suitable day to announce they have added an important item to their collection.

(2) KNIVES OUT AT JPL. No gourd is safe when “NASA-JPL Holds Its Annual Pumpkin-Carving Contest”.

In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.

Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials – like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts – ahead of time….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour Cthulhu with World Horror Grandmaster Ramsey Campbell – serving is in progress in Episode 108 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ramsey published his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired first book of stories The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants in 1964 when he was only 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He’s a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a TWELVE-time winner of the British Fantasy Award. He’s also received lifetime achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and was named a World Horror Grandmaster. Previous guest of the podcast T. E. D. Klein called his collection Demons by Daylight “perhaps the most important book of horror fiction since Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others.” High praise indeed!

We got together on the final day of Worldcon, long after the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremonies had ended. So instead of traipsing around to the usual dead dog parties, we had dinner at Rosa Madre, which I found via Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Dublin restaurants — where at one point as I looked across the table, it seemed as if he was nibbling on Cthulhu! (And sure, I know it was only baby octopus, and not the the Great Old One … but we horror writers like to dream.)

We discussed his early relationship with Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth, who he might have been had he never discovered H. P. Lovecraft, how this master of unease is able to keep the sense of dread going for the length of a novel (hint: he’s not entirely sure himself), why he loves The Blair Witch Project, what it was like writing novels in the Universal monsters universe, how he felt when The Times listed The Doll That Ate its Mother as one of the silliest titles of 1987, how Twilight Zone editor T. E. D. Klein changed his life, our shared memories of the 1979 World Fantasy Convention, why he feels his attempts to write science fiction have been “clumsy,” the way he was made speechless on his first meeting with J. G. Ballard, why he admires Vladimir Nabokov, and much more.

(4) DO THE POSTER MASH. Space.com points to some free downloads: “‘Galaxy of Horrors!’ NASA Posters Highlight Spooky Alien Planets”.

This Halloween season, NASA wants to open your eyes to the glorious spookiness all around us in the Milky Way galaxy.

The space agency has just released two new “Galaxy of Horrors” posters, which highlight a few of the most bizarre and inhospitable alien planets that scientists have discovered. And NASA created a fun 2-minute video, styled like a trailer for a 1950s horror movie, to promote the posters. 

You can download the posters for free here.

(5) PAST TOMORROWS. Barbara Kiser’s book reviews for Nature touch on Sarah Cole’s study of H.G. Wells, Inventing Tomorrow.

H. G. Wells was, asserts scholar Sarah Cole, a pioneer adept at “rescaling the cosmos and humanity’s place in it”. He straddled the border between science and literature, but not all his complexities were benign: he both repudiated racism and for some time shamefully ascribed to ideas on eugenics. Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.

(6) GRADE INFLATION. Morning Consult attempts to answer the question: “Rotten Tomatoes Scores Continue to Freshen. What Does This Mean for Movies?”

In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe for the picking by movie marketers that want to tout a film’s high critics score from the website in their advertising. But as the Tomatometer’s average score continues to increase, experts are divided on why this is happening and how the industry will harvest Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings going forward.

David A. Gross, a movie consultant that runs Franchise Entertainment Research Inc., found that scores for wide-release films have been fluctuating since 1998’s recorded average of 46. However, averages have been increasing every year since 2014, with this year’s average coming in at 59.3, as of Oct. 28, 1.4 points higher than 2018’s 57.9.

(7) MORE REACTIONS TO SCORSESE, COPPOLA. Michael Ordoña asks “If comic-book movies aren’t emotional and psychological cinema, why are we crying?” in the Los Angeles Times.

… The director of “The Godfather” and “Captain EO” added: “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Andrea Letamendi, associate director of mental health training, intervention and response at UCLA, sees more in the best of these films than these giants of cinema do.

“Superhero films are giving us a way to practice and explore really important emotional processes that we may not be able to examine in our everyday lives. In ‘Endgame,’ the more fantastical, the better, because that gives us the supportive safety net to be open and vulnerable and curious about these things,” she says.

“Not to pat ourselves on the back,” says Christopher Markus, co-writer (with Stephen McFeely) of six MCU movies including the three-hour “Endgame,” “but we snuck an hourlong movie about loss and grief into the [start of the] biggest movie of all time. That’s a lot of people who sat with that issue in their heads for an hour.”

He says of villain Thanos’ cataclysmic action, “We wanted the Snap to be as profound as we could make it. The way to do that was to have all the characters sit with the impact, the unfixability of it, rather than scrambling around. We were interested in seeing what happens to these people whose sole purpose in life is solving problems, faced with a problem they did not solve.”

… Clinical psychologist Letamendi agrees. ”It’s a truly sophisticated portrayal. … How different characters cope with that loss really matters in terms of how we relate to them and how we might relate to our own losses.

“The term for that is ‘parasocial relationships’ — non-delusional emotional connections with fictional characters. I know Tony Stark isn’t real, but I’ve formed a long-lasting relationship with his character, so when we see him go through these difficult changes: the adversity, his self-doubt and, ultimately, his death, this is, in our world, difficult to deal with. The grief, the confusion, sometimes the anger — those feelings are real. I think there’s some value to that.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 31, 1962 First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and ask his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008. 
  • October 31, 1964 Doctor Who returned to BBC with the premiere of its second season.  The first arc was titled “Planet of Giants.” William Hartnell Was the First Doctor with three companions present: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). Episodes 3 and 4 are for the most part missing in the Great BBC Purge. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 31, 1936 Michael Landon. Tony Rivers inI Was a Teenage Werewolf. (That film made two million on an eighty thousand dollar budget. Nice.) That and playing the lead as Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven are I think his only genre roles. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 31, 1946 Stephen Rea, 73. An extensive genre history including V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Underworld Waking, The Werewolf Among Us and Counterpart.
  • Born October 31, 1950 John Candy. Best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs but he also played Wink Wilkinson in Frank Oz’s  Little Shop of Horrors, Kalishak in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, and was the narrator of the “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” of Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. (Died 1994.)
  • Born October 31, 1959 Neal Stephenson, 60. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that (which was good) and Snow Crash (equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. 
  • Born October 31, 1961 Peter Jackson, 58. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much. Now the Adventures of Tintin is quite nice indeed. 
  • Born October 31, 1979 Erica Cerra, 40. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention in roles such as Pretty Girl. 
  • Born October 31, 1993 Letitia Wright,  26. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda.  (Yes, she is in both Avengers films.) Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode. 
  • Born October 31, 1999 Danielle Russell, 20. She played Hope Mikaelson in The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Dairies. In something I’ve never seen before, she went on to portray that character in Legacies, a spin-off of The Originals which makes it a spin-off of a spin-off!  

(10) FAN FICTION BLOSSOMS. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles the horror fan fiction site Nosleep, whose alumni have sold novels and gotten writing gigs on the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House: “Inside the horror website that’s freaking out millions of people”.

…Druga is the top administrator on Nosleep, whose indistinguishable mixture of the real and merely realistic (weighed heavily toward the latter, most likely) has helped it grow into the Internet’s main source of amateur horror stories — with more than 13 million subscribers and hundreds of thousands of posts along the lines of “My neighbor has been mowing his lawn for 12 hours straight” and “My granddad used to come to my room at night wearing a mask. Now I know why.”

(11) MORE JEOPARDY! WRONGNESS. Andrew Porter would hate for you to miss another fabulously bad guess by a Jeopardy! contestant.

Category: Fictional Flags Flying.

Answer: After arriving by submarine, this character claims the South Pole with a black flag baring a gold “N”.

Wrong question: “Who is Bugs Bunny?”

Right question: “Who is Nemo?”

(12) THE DEATH OF FRANCHISES? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Dueling articles in today’s Guardian offer arguments against two major franchises, as Ben Child argues that it’s no longer possible to make a ‘good’ Star Wars movie, and Stuart Heritage proclaims bluntly that Game of Thrones should die. While each of them makes some good points about the flaws that seem to be plaguing the subjects of their respective ire, they might go a little far. 

Ben Child challenges: “Spent force: why is making a good Star Wars film so hard?”  

Star Wars’s directors must feel like the Hollywood equivalent of all those unfortunate Imperial admirals in the original trilogy. One misplaced Rebel fleet and it’s instant death by studio chokehold.

Stuart Heritage says “It’s time for the Game of Thrones universe to die”.  

Television is littered with the corpses of unnecessary spinoffs, from Caprica to AfterMASH, Baywatch Nights to Joey. … At this point, with a tainted brand, an irritated fanbase and a pilot that’s proved a colossal waste of effort,perhaps the sensible thing would be for HBO to ditch Game of Thrones altogether.

Overall, the articles do beg the question: under what circumstances should a franchise be left to die, or at least be abandoned to lie fallow before they can be rediscovered by a new generation? It’s a question that’s worth discussing in an era of nonstop franchise maintenance. 

(13) ION STORM AHEAD CAPTAIN. Nature tells of “A 100-kiloparsec wind feeding the circumgalactic medium of a massive compact galaxy”. From the abstract —

…Theory points to galactic winds as the primary source of the enriched and massive circumgalactic medium3,4,5,6. Winds from compact starbursts have been observed to flow to distances somewhat greater than ten kiloparsecs7,8,9,10, but the circumgalactic medium typically extends beyond a hundred kiloparsecs3,4. Here are observations of the massive but compact galaxy SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 of a 100-kiloparsec wind.

(14) JAVA IN WESTEROS. BBC delves into “Game of Thrones’ coffee cup and 6 other TV and film bloopers”.

Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has revealed who was responsible for the show’s infamous coffee cup scene.

In one episode of the eighth season, eagle-eyed viewers spotted a coffee cup on the table in the great hall, as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen sat, more appropriately, with goblet in hand.

Now, Clarke has revealed her co-star Conleth Hill, who portrayed master of spies Lord Varys, admitted to being responsible for the error during a pre-awards show party in September.

(15) DEAD PERFECT. Google Nest was holding auditions for its Nest doorbell, you see….

She was born to die to play this role. Obvi. It wasn’t easy, but we found an actual ghost to record spooky, Halloween sounds for the Nest Hello doorbell.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/9/19 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll Me Your Answer, Do

(1) WAPO’S NEW SFF COLUMN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar have launched a new column on SFF in the Washington Post: “The weird, the wacky, the underappreciated: A new look at science fiction and fantasy”.

Even 10 years ago, the fields of science fiction and fantasy were still overwhelmingly American and white. And, if you grew up speaking Spanish in Mexico City, (as I, Silvia, did), or Hebrew on a small kibbutz in Israel (as I, Lavie, did), it meant that the world of science fiction, filtered through translation, was as remote and alien as the other side of the moon. The very idea we could be writing novels like these seemed, well, fantastical.

Yet, somehow, here we are. The past decade has seen the science-fiction world change as more international voices enthusiastically jumped into the fray. Now, wonderful writers including Malaysian Zen Cho can write smart, funny fantasies such as “Sorcerer to the Crown”; after years of struggle, Nigerian Tade Thompson’s ambitious Africa-set novel, “Rosewater,” was published to wide acclaim and recently won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award; and Chinese author Liu Cixin’s “The Three-Body Problem,” translated by Ken Liu, has become a bestseller and even has a recommendation from former president Barack Obama.

(2) LISTEN TO HURLEY. The title of Kameron’s Hurley’s latest podcast says it all: “GET TO WORK HURLEY: Episode 13. In this episode we discuss how to take notes, long-term career planning, and why it is books seem to get more difficult to write the more of them you write. I’ll also be tackling some listener questions, from where to find more gooey biopunk to what I think of writers’ unions”.

(3) FIRESIDE CANCELLATIONS. The October 8 issue of Jason Sanford’s Genre Grapevine reported —

Fireside Press contacted a number of its authors and cancelled their pending book titles. The messages received by those authors said that due to unexpected changes at Fireside, the publisher had to re-evaluate their plans for the upcoming year. As a result Fireside was cancelling the contracts for multiple titles which had been accepted and contracted but not yet scheduled for publication. Fireside reverted the rights for these books to their authors, although no kill fee was paid because that wasn’t in the contract.

Pablo Defendini, the Publisher of Fireside, responded to the report with a statement: “About our Acquisitions”.

On Monday morning, I sent out messages reverting the rights on five unpublished and unannounced manuscripts that we acquired last year during our novel and novella acquisitions period. In the last day or so there’s been lots of rumor and speculation, so I wanted to explain what’s going on directly.

We’ve had some unexpected changes on the editorial front at Fireside this year. Any time there’s a change like that, it affects workflow, capacity, and resourcing throughout, especially at very small operations like ours. Over the past few months, as I’ve reworked our editorial operations to account for working with more people than ever before, it’s become clear to me that the amount of work that I’d previously thought Fireside could take on was unsustainable. Trying to take on too much work would have made living up to our obligations to our authors extremely challenging. It would have been bad both for Fireside and for these authors and their work. So rather than publishIng these books badly, I made the decision to cut down on our upcoming list.

This sucks no matter how you slice it, but it would have sucked more down the line. As I told each author, this is not a reflection on their work. There’s a reason we were attracted to these manuscripts in the first place — they’re great stories, and I have no doubt that they will find good homes. But I’d much rather revert the rights to these books back to their authors, than do a bad job publishing their work, or worse: sit on the rights until the contracts expired….

Meg Elison today said she is one of the authors whose contract was cancelled, and commented at length about how that was handled. Thread starts here.

(4) LEWIS QUEST. Matt Mikalatos, while “Introducing the Great C.S. Lewis Reread” at Tor.com, raises the suspicion that the series will be of great interest to all except to those who actually like Lewis’s writing.

…Time passed, and over the years I’ve grown and changed, of course; recently my 16-year-old picked up my favorite Lewis book, Till We Have Faces. It’s a beautiful novel about loss and faith and confronting the gods. My daughter told me it was good, but added, “He didn’t like women much, did he?”

Okay, yes, that’s a fair response. And there are certainly moments of deeply troubling racism in Lewis’s books, too. And for those who aren’t from a Christian background (and maybe some who are), the central Christian conceits can be off-putting (even Tolkien, who was a key player in Lewis’s conversion, often disliked Lewis’s sermonizing).

So why are we embarking on a massive re-read of Lewis’s books?

Well, love them or hate them, the Narnia books played a key role in bringing children’s literature back into the worlds of the fantastic. There was a strong emphasis on realism in Lewis’s days, and too much imagination was seen as unhealthy for kids (though Baum, Barrie, and Nesbit might still be on the nursery shelf). The popularity of Narnia opened the door to more fantasy literature for children, and The Chronicles of Narnia still get placed on “Best Of” lists for children today….

(5) EMULATING WHO. Watch the full recreation of the missing Doctor Who 1965 episode Mission to the Unknown by the University of Central Lancashire. Find out more and watch the making-of here.

(6) A HOGWARTS TENURE APPLICATION. McSweeney’s Alyse Knorr reveals “Professor Minerva McGonagall’s Letter to the Tenure Committee”.

…When I first applied for this position, did I know that my expected job duties would include dueling genocidal dark lords or battling Death Eaters in the Astronomy Tower? No. Did I do them anyway, even after being denied a cost of living adjustment to my salary for ten years in a row while also dealing with insidiously small-but-steady cuts to my annual conference travel budget? Yes. Do these accomplishments count as service to the student body, to the institution, or to humanity itself? Hard to say.

Not even saving the institution from an apocalyptic calamity orchestrated by a noseless neo-Nazi, however, can compare to the daily, ongoing, and, frankly, deeply disheartening struggle to protect our students from themselves….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 9, 2010 Monsterwolf debuted on Syfy. It stars Leonor Varela, Robert Picardo, and Marc Macaulay. It’s a werewolf movie and Robert Picardo appeared in The Howling as a werewolf.
  • October 9, 2012 Werewolf: The Beast Among Us was released on DVD. Starring Ed Quinn and Guy Wilson, it rated 37% at Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, a lot of werewolf films get released round Halloween. 
  • October 9, 2015 Pan was released by Warner Bros. Starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Levi Miller as Pan, it bombed at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 27% approval rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1900 Harry Bates. His 1940 short story “Farewell to the Master” was the basis of The Day the Earth Stood Still just over a decade later. And he edited Astounding Science Fiction from its inception in January 1930 until March 1933 when Clayton went bankrupt and the magazine was sold to Street and Smith. Other than The Day the Earth Stood Still, neither iBooks or Kindle has much by him. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 9, 1936 Brian Blessed, 83. Lots of genre appearances including Space 1999, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who, Hamlet (as the a Ghost of Hamlet’s father), MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, Johnny and the Dead and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
  • Born October 9, 1953 Tony Shalhoub, 66. Two great genre roles, the first being Jack Jeebs in Men In Black, the second being more I think more nuanced one, Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest. Actually, he’s done three great genre roles as he voiced Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
  • Born October 9, 1954 Scott Bakula, 65. Lead in two great SF series, Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap and Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise. He also starred as Nolan Wood who discovers the alien conspiracy in the remake of The Invaders.
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 63. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well, such as the superb Marrow series. 
  • Born October 9, 1958 Michael Paré, 61. I’ll start off with his being in Streets of Fire but he’s also been in The Philadelphia Expirement, Lunarcop, both BloodRayne films and Moon 44.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 58. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel Are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too.
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 55. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) LOCUS in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban.
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 55. Best films? Hellboy, Hellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth. Worst films? The Hobbit films. Hellboy II would make it solely for the Goblin’s Market sequence. 
  • Born October 9, 1979 Brandon Routh, 40. The lead in Superman Returns, a film that got a very positive 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Surprisingly it didn’t make the final ballot for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form when It was eligible. He’s currently Ray Palmer, The Atom, in the Arrowverse.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

They’re always the last to know.

(10) EIGHTY CANDLES. Let the BBC tell you about this survivor: “Marvel Comics at 80: From bankruptcy threat to billions at the box office”.

…But that universe could have been lost forever when Marvel hit financial problems in the 1990s.

“The comics industry had been massively overvalued for years,” says [Professor Chris Murray].

“Comic collectors had been buying multiple copies of issues, believing that they were going to be valuable in 10-20 years time so they were investing.”

(11) TAKING THE TUBE. Steve Carper has a fascinating profile of “Gyro Gearloose’s Little Helper” at Black Gate.

…The tiny figure, like those singers in the terrific documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, was a major talent in its own right. Like so much else in Disney comic history, the name was applied retroactively, because fans and followers needed a tag to put on the character. They had little to go on. At first, Barks seldom had Gyro even directly notice his shadow, much less address it. But even Barks occasionally nodded. There is an instance of Gyro calling it “Helper.” And Helper morphed into Little Helper, which is the best term to search on. (It’s Little Bulb in the Duck Tales cartoons.) Helper is canonical, because helper is how Barks thought of his creation, as quoted in Tom Andrae, Carl Barks and the Disney Comic Book: Unmasking the Myth of Modernity.

(12) THE CREEPIEST. Food Network calls these the “15 Limited-Edition Halloween Candies to Hunt for This Year”. For example:

Zombie Skittles are the definition of trick or treat. This new bag of candy looks like regular ol’ Skittles — but beware! Some of the candy pieces are sweet and fruity, while others taste like rotten eggs. So, brace yourself before you grab a handful. There’s a good chance you’ll get a mouthful of YUCK.

(13) HOLD THE PHONE. A prize for device power: “Nobel chemistry prize: Lithium-ion battery scientists honoured”.

Three scientists have been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino share the prize for their work on these rechargeable devices, which are used for portable electronics.

At the age of 97, Prof Goodenough is the oldest ever Nobel laureate.

Professor of chemistry Olof Ramström said lithium-ion batteries had “enabled the mobile world”.

The trio will share the prize money of nine million kronor (£738,000).

The lithium-ion battery is a lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery that is used in everything from mobile phones to laptops to electric cars.

(14) DON’T FORGET TO CENSOR YOURSELF. Looper is there when “South Park creators ‘apologize’ to the Chinese government after being erased from the internet”. Once you learn how to fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

…A recent episode of the adult-oriented animated series entitled “Band in China” was, well, banned in China after the country’s government deemed it inappropriate (via The Hollywood Reporter). Every last clip of the episode, which critiques the ways in which Hollywood tends to adjust its content to avoid censorship from the Chinese government and features character Randy Marsh (Trey Parker) getting thrown in jail after he’s caught selling drugs in China, has been scrubbed from China’s intensely monitored internet — including from streaming services, fan pages dedicated to South Park, and social media platforms. All instances of discussion about the “Band in China” episode, official or otherwise, have also been removed from the Chinese internet.

(15) AT THE CORE. Atlas Obscura reveals that “Russia’s Retro Lenin Museum Still Runs on Decades-Old Apple II Computers”.

The versatility of the Apple II made it one of the most widespread personal computers of the 1970s and 80s. In schools, labs, and even command centers, these classic American computers kept a foothold even after the advent of more advanced machines. But of all the places you’d expect to find the computer that popularized The Oregon Trail, the mournful museum of a Communist leader is one of the most unlikely.

Lenin Museum in Gorki Leninskiye, located 20 miles south of Moscow, doesn’t look hi-tech even by 1980s standards. But among black marble interiors, gilded display cases, and Soviet historical documents, there is an elaborate audiovisual show about the last years of Vladimir Lenin’s life. Opened in 1987, it’s still powered by vintage Apple technology….

(16) BRADBURY PROFILE. Thanks to YouTube, it’s not too late to tune into Ray Bradbury – Story of a Writer, a 25-minute documentary from 1963 by David L. Wolper.

(17) FRIGHT NIGHT. Remember the week horror stars Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Vampira were on the Red Skelton Show? Me neither, but YouTube does. (And it somehow seems appropriate that Geritol was the sponsor.) Dial B for Brush starts at about the 7:30 mark.

(18) DRAWN THAT WAY. In “The Real Fake Cameras of Toy Story 4” on YouTube, the Nerdwriter looks at how Toy Story 4 cinematographer Patrick Lim used analog cinematography techniques, including split diopter shots and anamorphic lenses, to improve the film.

[Thanks to Andy Leighton, Mlex, Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/19 You Know Your Clicks Ain’t Bringing You Peace Of Scroll

(1) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. The LA Times profiles a published collection of stars’ correspondence: “‘Letters From Hollywood’ opens mail from Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford and more”. The image shows Bela Lugosi’s thank-you after being cast in Dracula.

…Neither realized how difficult it would be to find, acquire and get permission to use the letters.

They searched archives at UCLA, AFI, the academy, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Library at Boston University. They reached out to auction houses and families with personal collections.

Lang even hired private detective David Gurvitz to track down relatives for permission to publish the letters. “The copyright was with the writer, not the receiver,” he said.

(2) WE ASKED FOR IT. Saturday’s Scroll works hard for a living linked to The Guardian’s list of best books of the 21st Century, leading some of us to ask what a journalist would have picked in 1919 as the best books of the early 20th Century. The legendary Kyra took up the challenge —

Kyra’s Best Books List, 1900-1919

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Five Children and It
The Phoenix and the Carpet
Peter Pan
The Scarlet Pimpernel
I Am A Cat
The House of Mirth
The Story of the Amulet
The Enchanted Castle
A Room With a View
Anne of Green Gables
The Man Who Was Thursday
The Wind in the Willows

The Secret Garden
Howard’s End
O Pioneers!
The Valley of Fear
My Antonia

(3) YE OLDE DAYS. Fanac.org just scanned and posted 9 of the 12 issues of my genzine Scientifriction published between 1974 and 1983. I recommend Dave Locke’s column “Beyond the Shift Key” in issue #11 (1979) as perfectly illustrating the kind of faneditorial diplomacy I am known for and alluded to in comments yesterday…. and provoked Dave to yank my chain —

“What is your shtick this time” [Mike] queried me. “If I ask for fanhumor, what are you going to give me? Will you pretend to write a pain story while actually telling everyone why you think science fiction writers should be individually certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?”

“I’ve never believed that SF writers should – “

He waved his hand again. “It was just an example,” he said. “And if I show a preference for something that will bring in a little discussion, what then?” He looked at me in a severe manner. “Will you draw a framework to support the philosophy that fandom has many direct parallels with the practice of cannibalism, and somehow use it to talk about the time you fell out of a rollercoaster into the cotton candy concession?”…

(4) DRINK TANK. Or if you prefer a really fresh fanzine, there’s The Drink Tank 413 – “Dublin 2019” edited by Chris Garcia and Alissa McKersie. Cover by Vanessa Applegate.

We take a look at the Dublin WorldCon through the eyes of Chairman James Bacon, Hugo nominee Chuck Serface, all-arounf good guy Fred Moulton, the photos of Jim Fitzpatrick, and a MASSIVE trip report by Chris! Cover is by Vanessa Applegate!

(5) INSIDE BASEBALL. Dorothy Grant raises a good question about fictional realism in “How long does recovery take?” at Mad Genus Club.

…In Science Fiction and Fantasy, we often employ handwavium – healing spells, regen(eration), nannites, divine favour, what have you. And that’s excellent, when needs must, the plot drives, and it’s worldbuilt in. (Who wouldn’t go to the clinic if they could?)

…Actually, that last sentence is an interesting source of complications. Who wouldn’t? Why would they be unable to get there, or to use it? What’s it like to be a person with more consequences for every risk than those around you, and how does that change their plans? As Brandon Sanderson put it in his Second Law of Magic, “Limitations are more interesting than powers.”

(6) MAIL EARLY FOR HALLOWEEN. The US Postal Service will release its Spooky Silhouettes stamp issue on October 11.

The Spooky Silhouettes stamps feature digital illustrations with Halloween motifs rendered as black silhouettes in eerily backlit windows. The images include a cat with an arched back beneath a raven perched on a bare tree branch, all against a yellowish-green background; two ghosts against an orange background; a spider and a web against a red background; and three bats against a purple background.

(7) COSMONAUT OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Siegmund Jähn, the first German person in space, has died aged 82. Because he was from East Germany and went into space with the Soviets, his contributions to space explorations were sadly ignored in West Germany until the unification. I had never even heard of Siegmund Jähn until the 1990s, even though I shared the usual SFF geek’s interest in all things space.

 Here is an English language obituary: “A life for space: Sigmund Jähn, Germany’s first cosmonaut, dies aged 82”

 Siegmund Jähn was also the first and likely only person to officiate at a wedding in space. During his spaceflight in 1978, Jähn took along a doll of Sandmännchen (Little Sandman), star of a popular East German children’s program (though West German kids loved it, too, and I had a Little Sandman doll as a kid, courtesy of my Great Aunt Metel from East Germany). It just happened that his Soviet colleague Valeri Bykovski had also brought along a toy, a doll named Masha from some Russian children’s program. And on a lark, Jähn married the two dolls aboard Soyuz 31. The doll wedding was apparently filmed, though the footage was never broadcast, because East German television objected to Little Sandman getting married.

(8) EISENBERG OBIT. CNN reports “‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ actor Aron Eisenberg dies at age 50”. He played Nog, a character who appeared in 40 episodes.

In addition to “Deep Space Nine,” Eisenberg also had roles in the TV movie “Amityville: The Evil Escapes” and the features “The Horror Show,” “Playroom” and “Beverly Hills Brats,” all in the late 1980s.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

  • September 22 — Hobbit Day sponsored by the American Tolkien Society.  “Tolkien Week is observed as the calendar week containing September 22, which is always observed as Hobbit Day.  Tolkien Week 2019 will begin Sunday, September 22 and end Saturday, September 28.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash”,  the first episode of the series. Starring Gary Conway and Don Matheson, it would last two seasons.
  • September 22, 1973 — The Canadian-produced series The Starlost aired its first episode.  The program was originally conceived by Harlan Ellison, who changed his credit to “Cordwainer Bird” and ran away from it as fast as he could. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek-lore, ‘[Gene Roddenberry] got “Wagon Train to the stars” from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, “Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?”’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1952 Paul Kincaid, 67. A British science fiction critic. He stepped down as chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in April 2006 after twenty years. He is the co-editor with Andrew M. Butler of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology. He’s also written A Very British Genre: A Short History of British Fantasy and Science Fiction and What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction.
  • Born September 22, 1954 Shari Belafonte, 65. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well-known genre performance. 
  • Born September 22, 1982 Billie Piper, 37. Rose Tyler, companion to the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. She later starred as Brona Croft/Lily in the  Penny Dreadful series. Not really genre, but she‘s in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North where she’s Sally Lockhart, a Victorian orphan turned detective. 
  • Born September 22, 1971 Elizabeth Bear, 48. I’ve enjoyed many of her novels down the years including Ancestral Nights. I’m also fond of her very early SF in the form of the Hammered, Scardown and Worldwired novels. And now you get you get to hear the very first time she read one of her stories, “The Chains That Refuse” as she let us put it up on Green Man.
  • Born September 22, 1981 Maria Ashley Eckstein, 38. She’s voice of  Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She also voices Dagger on the Ultimate Spider-Man series. Did we mention she’s 38? Not 27 or 37? 38!
  • Born September 22, 1985 Tatiana Maslany, 34. Performer of the multiple clones role in Orphan Black. Show won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2015 for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” episode. She’s currently voicing in Aja & Queen Coranda in 3Below: Tales of Arcadia
  • Born September 22, 2001 Ghreat Revelation of Ghughle, age (if that’s really applicable) 17. As Fancyclopedia 3 puts it, Ghughle is a new and obscure fannish ghod whose Ghreat Revelation occurred to Steven H Silver on September 22, 2001 at a SMOFCon planning meeting. Within five minutes, the first schism happened when Erik Olson insisted on spelling the ghod’s name “Ghugle.” The Ghospel of Ghughle first appeared in Argentus 2 (2002).

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THE MAESTRO. CBS Sunday Morning interviewed “John Williams on reworking the classics – his own”.

In the hills of western Massachusetts, the mid-summer breeze carries the scent of honeysuckle and the sound of genius. This is Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and of its best-known artist-in-residence, John Williams.

The maestro actually lives in Los Angeles, but he says Tanglewood is where he’s done some of his best work. “Its effect on me is very spiritual and very exciting,” he said. “And I’ve written so much music here, so many film scores in this place. Right here, I come every summer – ‘Star Wars’ films, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Schindler’s List,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ a great percentage of that work done physically here.”

And what astonishing work it is.

Williams is the most-honored movie composer of all time, with five Academy Awards (so far). And he has 51 Oscar nominations, more than any other living person. Only Walt Disney has more.

“I know you’re a very modest man…” said correspondent Tracy Smith. “But do you ever allow yourself that moment to step back and say, ‘Wow. Look what I’ve done!'”

… Fresh, indeed: Williams has recently reworked some of his movie music for violin, specifically for the instrument of Anne-Sophie Mutter, one of the greatest violinists ever to pick up a bow.

(14) X-FILES IMPACT. “Geena Davis just made children’s TV more feminist”, a piece by Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post about the efforts of the Geena Davis Institute to promote gender equity in Hollywood, has this paragraph quoting the institute’s president, Madeline Di Nonno:

Di Nonno recalls being commissioned by 21st Century Fox in 2017 to validate the ‘Scully effect,’ wherein Gillian Anderson’s character in ‘The X-Files’ inspired girls and young women to go into scientific fields.  ‘We found that 63 percent of the women who are working in STEM today attribute it to that character,’ Di Nonno says.

(15) ANCIENT MONUMENT. Gizmodo says the truth is out there – and for a change, not under water: Submerged for Decades, Spanish ‘Stonehenge’ Reemerges After Drought.

Receding water levels in Spain’s Valdecañas Reservoir has exposed a stone monument dating back to between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

Unusually warm weather produced drought conditions across much of Europe this past summer, including Spain. The lack of rain, while a headache for farmers and gardeners, has resulted in the complete re-emergence of an ancient megalithic site known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, as reported in The Local.

(16) GLASS BELL AWARD. Here is the official announcement:  “VOX Wins Glass Bell Award 2019”. Crime fiction news site SHOTS adds photos and a longer story: “Urgent, Timely’ Feminist Dystopian Debut VOX Wins 2019 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell”.

Debut novelist Christina Dalcher has been awarded The Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2019 for her thought-provoking and suspenseful dystopian thriller VOX, which imagines a near future in which an evangelical sect has taken control of the US and women have been limited to speaking just a hundred words a day. 

(17) PASTURES OF PLENTY. A catalog of links to these book reviews can be found at Friday’s Forgotten Books: The name of the reviewer comes first, then the name of what they reviewed.

  • Patricia/Abbott: Beautiful Ruins by Jesse Walter
  • Stacy Alesi: The G List: Fiction Reviews 1983-2013
  • Angie Barry: New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith
  • Brad Bigelow: Angry Man’s Tale by Peter de Polnay
  • Paul Bishop: The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker
  • Les Blatt: Sealed Room Murder by Rupert Penny; The Case of the Fighting Soldier by Christopher Bush
  • Elgin Bleecker: Zero Avenue by Dietrich Kalteis
  • Joachim Boaz: Orbit 4, edited by Damon Knight
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, October 1964, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Brian Busby: The Silver Poppy by Arthur Stringer
  • Joseph J. Corn: “The First Successful Trip of an Airship” by A. I. Root, Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1 January 1905
  • Martin Edwards: Dear Laura by Jean Stubbs
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) horror comics, September 1952
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, September 1975
  • Will Errickson: The Nightrunners by Joe R. Lansdale; Slob by Rex Miller
  • José Ignacio Escribano: Murder in the Maze by “J. J. Connington” (Alfred Walter Stewart); Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
  • Curtis Evans: Sudden Death by Freeman Wills Crofts
  • Olman Feelyus: The Girl from Nowhere by “Rae Foley” (Elinor Denniston); No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, August 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock (Jeremiah Cornelius)
  • Barry Gardner: Down in the Zero by Andrew Vachss
  • Kathleen George: Scoundrels edited by Gary Phillips
  • John Grant: This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith; The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky (translated by Sandra Smith)
  • Aubrey Hamilton: The Gourmet Detective by Peter King; The Defendants by John Ellsworth
  • Bev Hankins: Thrones, Donations by Dorothy L. Sayers and Joan Paton Walsh; The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North; False Scent by Ngaio Marsh; The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat by Claudia Bishop
  • Rich Horton: Tanith Lee stories; Why Do Birds? and stories by Damon Knight; Wil McCarthy stories; Howard Waldrop stories; Steve Rasnic Tem stories
  • Jerry House: The Silent Death by “Maxwell Grant” (Walter B. Gibson); originally in The Shadow Magazine. 1 April 1933, edited by John Nanovic; Thriller Comics Library, 6 November 1956, “Dick Turpin and the Double-Faced Foe” written by Joan Whitford, story illustrations by Ruggero Giovanni
  • Kate Jackson: Stairway to an Empty Room and Terror Lurks in Darkness by Dolores Hitchens; Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie and Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making as edited by John Curran
  • Tracy K: More Work for the Undertaker by Margery Allingham
  • Colman Keane: Darwin’s Nightmare by Mike Knowles
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 13 (1951) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Omerta by Peter McCurtin; Fire Bomb by “Stuart Jason” (James Dockery)
  • Rob Kitchin: Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum (translated by Felicity David); Tightrope by Simon Mawer
  • B. V. Lawson: Final Proof by Marie R. Reno
  • Evan Lewis: “Waterfront Wildcat” (text story) by Robert Turner, Crash Comics, November 1940
  • Steve Lewis: “Small Chances” by Charlaine Harris, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/ October 2016, edited by Janet Hutchings; The Wiseman Originals by Ron Goulart; Wedding Treasure by David Wilson
  • Mike S. Lind: The Madhouse in Washington Square by David Alexander
  • John O’Neill: The Quiet Invasion by Sarah Zettel
  • Matt Paust: Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
  • James Reasoner: Stampede by “Yukon Miles” (Dan Cushman)
  • Richard Robinson: The Man in My Grave by Wilson Tucker
  • Sandra Ruttan: Sob Story by Carol Anne Davis
  • Gerard Saylor: Locked Doors by Blake Crouch
  • Steven H Silver: “The Button Molder” by Fritz Leiber, Whispers magazine, October 1979, edited and published by Stuart David Schiff; SF Commentary edited and published by Bruce Gillespie
  • Victoria Silverwolf: Worlds of Tomorrow, September 1964, edited by Frederik Pohl; Counterfeit World aka Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye
  • Kevin Tipple: Parker Field by Howard Owen
  • “TomCat”: Seeds of Murder by (F.) Van Wyck Mason; “The Case of Murder on D. Hill” aka “D zaka no satsujin-jiken” by “Edogawa Rampo” (Hirai Tar?), first published in Shin-Seinen, January 1925, and as translated by William Varteresian
  • Mike Tooney: Old-Time Detection, Summer 2019, edited by Arthur Vidro
  • David Vineyard: Prelude to a Certain Midnight by Gerald Kersh
  • Bill Wallace: The Day of the Monkey by David Karp; The White People by Arthur Machen; Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties & the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius by Gary Lachman

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Alive at the Autoplex” on Vimeo, Zachary Loren Jones explains how bingewatching “Survivor” can help you survive a cosmic catastrophe!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/17 “Scrolls! They Were Inwented By A Little Old Lady From Pixelgrad!”

(1) GEMMELL LONGLIST VOTING DEADLINE. First round balloting on The Gemmell Awards longlist closes March 31. It is free and open to the public. Click here to cast your vote for the Ravenheart Award (best cover art), Morning Star Award (best debut novel) and the Legend Award (best fantasy novel). The shortlists for each award will be announced and voting opened on April 21.

Legend Award “Snaga”

(2) MAKING BOOK. The next Doctor Who will be….? Here’s where British gamblers are putting their money this week.

Today, DoctorWhoTV.co.uk has shared a story from Betway. This particular bookmakers reckons that Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge – who’s set to appear in the young Han Solo movie next year – is in with a shot.

“Phoebe Waller-Bridge is all the rage with the punters at the moment”, a spokesperson revealed. “Her odds of being the next Doctor Who have collapsed from 20/1 to 2/1 since Monday morning and we’re on red alert, keeping an eye out for any more telling bets.

“Kris Marshall remains solid at 2/1, but the sudden rush of support for Waller-Bridge suggests the race to become TV’s next Time Lord is swinging in her favour.”

(3) SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK LYRICIST. He’s on the road again. (Wait, that isn’t his song!) Songwriter Bob Dylan is doing two concerts in Stockholm, so long as he’s in the neighborhood… “Bob Dylan finally agrees to accept Nobel Prize for Literature”.

Bob Dylan will finally accept his Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm this weekend, the academy has announced.

The American singer was awarded the prize in October but failed to travel to pick up the award, or deliver the lecture that is required to receive the 8m kroner ($900,000;£727,000) prize.

The academy said it would meet Dylan, 75, in private in the Swedish capital, where he is giving two concerts.

He will not lecture in person but is expected to send a taped version.

If he does not deliver a lecture by June, he will have to forfeit the prize money.

(4) CHANGELINGS. Debbie Urbanski pushes the envelope of literary discussion with her post “In Which I Make Up a Categorization Called ‘Slow-paced Genre Realism”.

I had a great time this past month savoring Version Control by Dexter Palmer. It clocks in at a little over 18 hours as an audio book, but once I settled into the story, I found the slow pacing to be really wonderful. I wonder if we can create a sub-genre in science fiction or fantasy of slow-paced genre novels (or slow-paced genre realism?). Think a little Alice Munro or Karl Ove Knausgard transported into a genre setting. Into such a categorization, I’d throw some of my favorite books: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, as well as Molly Gloss’s Dazzle of the Day and Wild Life. Ah, and how about the beloved The Wall by Marlen Haushofer? My Real Children by Jo Walton? And then there is this one book I read 20 years ago, which I can not locate, no matter how many creative Google searches I do, about a regular California community and a regular woman, maybe a mother, who is just essentially living in an almost boring way–and then, in what’s maybe the last two chapters, there is a nuclear holocaust. But that is such a small part of the book, maybe even an afterthought…

I’ll stop my list now. But I do admire the authors who write this way. I think it takes some courage to straddle the line, not just in style but in plotting, between genre and realistic fiction as they do, as genre readers may find such fiction slow, and literary readers may wonder why there has to be aliens in the story….

Urbanski’s story with the intriguing title “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies” appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2017. Although you have to buy the issue to read it, the author interview about this story shows why that might be something you’d want to do —

Tell us a bit about “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies.”

I’ve been interested in the idea of speculative non-fiction these last few years: what if you took a certain emotional element of your life, put it in a speculative setting, and then wrote about it? So on the one hand, the emotions in this story capture my experience raising my son, who has autism, and my struggle to work through what I needed to work through, accept the child I actually have, and figure out how I can best be a parent to him. On the other hand, this is a fictional story about a world where children are snatched from under the lax eyes of their parents and replaced with a different child from another world….

(5) GHOST NOT INCLUDED. Who ya gonna call? The LA Times called the real estate agent — “Haunted Hollywood home of ‘Dracula’ legend Bela Lugosi for sale for $3 million”.

It’s been over 80 years since iconic cinema star Bela Lugosi slept in this stately Tudor in Beachwood Canyon, yet his reputation still haunts it. Whether it’s called Westshire Manor, Castle La Paloma, or simply the Bela Lugosi House, the remodeled mansion is now for sale for $3 million.

The hillside Los Angeles neighborhood where this mansion is perched is right under the world-famous “Hollywood” sign, and is in fact still known as “Hollywoodland,” which is what the sign said when it was first constructed.

Best known for playing Count Dracula, Lugosi moved around Los Angeles and was hard to pin down, but the best sources place him in this particular home between 1934 and 1937. Apparently he, his fourth wife, Lillian, and their large dogs, including Great Danes and a white German Shepherd, enjoyed hiking to what was the Hollywoodland sign at the time.

Lugosi wasn’t the only celebrity to inhabit the manor. Actress Kathy Bates lived there for several years. Considering her roles in “Misery” as well as “American Horror Story,” we thought Westshore Manor might have a scary actor vibe.

(6) WOTF LIVESTREAM. The Writers of the Future Awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Sunday, April 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. (PDT).

Streaming will be live from writersofthefuture.com and Facebook.com/WritersandIllustratorsoftheFuture.

The event will open with a fire dance, featuring performers from EMCirque, a Hollywood and Las Vegas based Circus Entertainment Production Company. Concurrent with the dance, Rob Prior (creator of the poster art for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Larry Elmore will execute a live painting on stage.

Celebrity presenters will include Erika Christensen (co-star “The Case for Christ” releasing April 2017) and Marisol Nichols (Hermione Lodge in the CW’s “Riverdale”).

…As the top names in the science fiction and fantasy world, contest judges will be on hand to present the annual awards to this year’s writer and illustrator winners as well as the grand prize winner for each contest.

Writer judges who will be attending include: Kevin J. Anderson, Gregory Benford, Dave Farland, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nancy Kress, Larry Niven, Jody Lynn, Nye, Nnedi Okorafor, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick and Robert J, Sawyer.

Illustrator judges will include: Ciruelo, Echo and Lazarus Chernik, Larry Elmore, Val Lakey Lindahn, Sergey Poyarkov and Rob Prior.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WARRIOR

  • Born March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless

(8) CROWNED WITH LAURELS. Alison Bechdel will be the next Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. If that name sounds familiar, then you’ve doubtless heard of the Bechdel Test named for her. The test — whether a work of fiction features at least two women or girls who talk to each other about something other than a man or boy – first appeared in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985.

Next Thursday, April 6, Edward Koren will pass the torch — er, laurels — to his successor, Alison Bechdel, as Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. In a ceremony at the Statehouse, the longtime Bolton resident, creator of the strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic will become the third cartoonist laureate in the only state to regularly appoint one. The initiative originated with the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, the professional school founded by James Sturm and Michelle Ollie 10 years ago. Bechdel succeeds New Yorker cartoonist and Brookfield resident Koren, who in turn succeeded Vermont’s very first cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.

“It seemed obvious she could have been the choice from the get-go — we’re lucky to have so many great cartoonists in the state,” says Sturm of selecting Bechdel. “Besides all her accolades and fame, she’s really a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Cartooning is just essential to who she is and how she makes sense of the world.”

(9) MORE SCALZI BOOK TOUR STALKERS. There is now a “Johan Kalsi” YouTube channel and a second stalker video for it to host.

Made out to “Ted” (Theodore Beale) a.k.a Vox Day, John Scalzi encounters another unidentified member of the Dread Ilk, this time in Dallas, TX

 

(10) CH-CHING! Meanwhile, Nick Mamatas has discovered Bookscan is part of the vast conspiracy, or is accurately reporting sales of The Collapsing Empire, (probably the latter.)

(11) PLUG-INS, Roll on cyberpunk: Elon Musk creates brain-electrode firm.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has launched Neuralink, a start-up which aims to develop technology that connects our brains to computers.

A report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed in a tweet by Mr Musk, said the company was in its very early stages and registered as a “medical research” firm.

The company will develop so-called “neural lace” technology which would implant tiny electrodes into the brain.

The technique could be used to improve memory or give humans added artificial intelligence. …

Specialists in the field envision a time when humans may be able to upload and download thoughts.

(12) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. While Musk’s scientists are coming up with next-generation advances, here’s what’s available today – and it’s pretty amazing. “Paralyzed Man Uses Thoughts To Control His Own Arm and Hand”.

First, surgeons implanted two electrode arrays in Kochevar’s brain. The electrodes detect signals coming from areas of his brain that once controlled his right hand and arm.

“We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make,” says Robert Kirsch, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western.

But movement requires muscles. So doctors also implanted electrodes in muscles that control his arm and hand movements.

The final result was a system that could determine which movements Kochevar wanted to perform, then electrically stimulate the appropriate muscles in his arm.

(13) LEARNING CURVE. As part of getting enough English speakers in time for the Tokyo Olympics, Japan assigns Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf as homework. Because you never know when it’s going to be necessary to tell someone they can’t drive a nail with a hamster.

Japan is struggling to make sure it has enough proficient English speakers when it hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

And the classic BBC comedy series Fawlty Towers is being deployed by some teachers in an attempt to give Japanese students an example of spoken English – rather than focusing on written language and grammar.

Japan’s government and businesses want to use the Olympics to boost tourism and global trade and to present a positive image of Japan to the world.

So the government needs to ensure a supply of English speakers to be Olympic volunteers and work in the accommodation, tourism, and retail industries.

There is also a demand for professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to speak to visitors or competitors in English.

(14) BLOODSHED AND APPLE PIE. Two inseperable American traditions — Adrian Garro at Cut4.com says “Baseball is coming…and so are ‘Game of Thrones’ theme nights at MLB ballparks”.

This summer, fans of both baseball and GoT will have plenty to be excited about … because special Game of Thrones® theme nights are coming to ballparks around MLB — featuring commemorative collectibles, ticket packages, giveaways, special co-branded merchandise, social media events and a lot more.

MLB has staged promotions like this before — like, say, the trailer for “The Force Awakens” as reimagined by the Twins — but this will be on a whole other level.

HBO has yet to announce when Season 7 will get underway, but we do know it will be some time this summer. Currently, at least 19 teams are scheduled to participate, including the D-backs, Red Sox, Reds, White Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, Athletics, Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, Rays and Nationals.

Hold the door for more information coming soon about this partnership, which has to be the biggest news since Jon Snow coming back from … well, you know.

(15) OTHER MLB PROMOTIONS. Martin Morse Wooster also sent the link to Michael Clair’s article about this summer’s best Major League Baseball promotions because the author says the Noah-Syndergaard-as-Thor bobblehead is ranked as the number 1 giveaway by anybody this year.

In the original Marvel Comics, Thor inhabited Dr. Donald Blake’s body while on Earth. But that’s just a fictional story. In our actual universe, Thor inhabits Noah Syndergaard every fifth day. Thanks to the Mets and Marvel Comics, you can walk away with the depiction of this stunning transformation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/13/16 He Feels The Pixels Scraping, Scrolls Breaking On His Brow

(1) TIME IN A BOTTLE. Ars Technica tries to figure out how time travel works in Star Trek.

Time travel, while perhaps one of the most interesting devices in the series, is also confusing, befuddling, and inconsistent. In the words of Captain Janeway, “the future is the past, the past is the future; it all gives me a headache.”

While we can’t get too deep into the purported mechanisms behind Trek time travel—they rely on things like “chronotons” whose nature real-world science has sadly yet to discover—it’s still interesting to ponder time travel’s effects. How does it affect the present? Is interference with the past a predestined part of history? Do alterations in the past get mixed into the current timeline?

(2) BIT PLAYER. “Finding Boshek” is the latest in The Numerous Solutions of Billy Jensen.

He was the man who could have been Solo.

I have always been intrigued by BoShek. When Ben Kenobi enters the cantina on Mos Eisley looking for a pilot to take himself, the boy and two droids to Alderaan, his first choice is a smuggler sporting arched eyebrows, killer muttonchops, and a black and white space suit more akin to an astronaut than a fighter pilot. While we cannot hear their dialogue, it is obvious that Kenobi asks him for a ride to Alderaan–and for whatever reason, the space pilot says no.

Was his ship out of commission? Did he have another charter later that day?

Whatever the reason, BoShek turns down the offer, but smoothly motions over his shoulder to the furry beast behind him, in my mind saying something to the effect of “Sorry, I can’t help you. But why don’t you give him a try?”

That furry beast, Chewbacca, then brings Kenobi and Skywalker to the table, Han Solo sits down, the rest is history…and BoShek faded forever into the darkness of the Mos Eisley bar.

Incredibly enough, he solved the mystery.

Commenter Jeremy Miller was so impressed he wrote:

This was a spectacular discovery, but there remains yet another, even more elusive uncredited extra hailing from the Star Wars cinematic universe begging to be found. His character has been named…Willrow Hood…the infamous Cloud City tech who absconded with an ice cream maker during the evacuation of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. Help us, Billy Jensen. You’re our only hope.

(3) SLATE FIGHTER. Steve Davidson’s thoughtful Amazing Stories post “Whether tis Nobler” follows this introduction with an analysis of anti-Hugo-slate tactics.

GRRM’s laying the blame for the success of No Award at my feet – problematic.  For reasons both personal and voting-related.

I like Mr. Martin.  I particularly admire and am grateful for his unstinting support of fandom over the years.  (By way of example:  he has consistently attended Worldcon even when other, higher-profile conventions have been scheduled for the same weekend.  His stated reason for doing so is “He is a fan”.)  I find him to be, in  many respects, a fine example of the kind of fan-turned-pro that I grew up with, people like Asimov, Bradbury, Clement, Buchanan, Gerrold, others.  They KNOW where they came from, they recognize and acknowledge the support the community has provided to them, they embrace the culture and they pay things forward.

I’m uncomfortable being at odds with him.

On the voting front though, we’re at odds.  We are not at odds when it comes to the general concept of “do not mess with the Hugo Awards”.  Our conflict is based on tactics, not strategy.  Mr. Martin believes that the only consideration ought to be whether or not a work is worthy of a Hugo Award, and further, he believes that this position should trump any anti-slate considerations. Anything less can potentially negatively affect deserving nominees who happen to be on slates.

I on the other hand believe that slates are the primary issue and taking an effective and long-lasting stand against their use and acceptance ought to be the main focus.

(4) VENERA. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler has just read about the Soviet Union’s 1961 Venus probe.

Look out, Venus!  The Russians are coming to open your shell.

Venus, forever shrouded in a protective layer of clouds, may soon be compelled to give up her secrets to a 1400 pound probe.  Launched by the Soviet Union on the 11th, it is the first mission from Earth specifically designed to investigate “Earth’s Twin.”

(5) EXCITABLE BRIN. And in 2016, David Brin got a little revved up by what he heard at two events in California: “Space: so many milestones ahead!”

Space is looking up. In that more eyes appear to be turning skyward in tentative optimism. A few days ago I participated in a pair of events in Los Angeles, hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA and Fox Studios. The morning event featured Ridley Scott, Adam Savage, Bill Nye, Andy Weir and scientists and screenwriters discussing how the film The Martian may be a harbinger of much more about bold exploration.  The smaller afternoon event, at UCLA put scientists and Hollywood myth-makers together in workshops.  Maybe we’ll get more hopeful tales!

(6) INKLINGS. Glenn Hough has reviewed Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch at Worlds Without End.

In terms of the 20th century, the Inklings, this select group of men, who met, talked, and critiqued each others work, has now become The Example for how a fellowship is supposed to work. Even Paris of Hemingway’s lost generation, with their salons, and creative minds from far more disciples, seems now a pale second place.

Bandersnatch takes us into this crucible, trying to reconstruct from a fly-on-the-wall perspective this extraordinary time and place. Glyer is concerned with two fundamental questions: What did they talk about when they discussed the various works in progress? and What difference did it make within the books they were writing?

(7) CRASHY BOOM. Neatorama remembers “The Sound Effects Genius Behind The Looney Tunes And Merrie Melodies”.

Treg Brown started his career as a sound editor for the Warner Brothers in 1936, and under his guidance the iconic Looney Tunes cartoon sound took shape.

From the subtle inclusion of sound effects in orchestral scores to the hiring of iconic voice actors like Mel Blanc, Treg is the guy responsible for it all.

(8) EO BBC. The BBC aired the first science fiction television program 78 years ago.

Doctor Who may be the world’s longest-running science fiction television series, but it’s not the oldest sci-fi program to have been broadcast on television. That honor goes to another BBC production, which first aired 78 years ago today: a live recording of Karel ?apek’s seminal play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). You probably remember that the program was nominated for a Retro-Hugo in 2014.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 13, 1931 — Bela Lugosi is undead in Tod Browning’s Dracula, seen for the first time on this day in 1931.

(10) HOYT DESERVES BETTER. Sarah A. Hoyt has been unjustly attacked, she explains in “The Games People Play”.

The unnamed site, having read the first paragraph and seeing that a post followed, immediately went on to say that research was hard and that, without doing it, I’d done a whole post about the case.  When it was pointed out to them I hadn’t, but the case was a mere jumping off point, they claimed stupidity on my part since the post was an obvious sham or something.

That’s terrible! I wonder what site that was? At first I suspected it was this one. After all, File 770 ran an item about that column the other day which was, indeed, based on the assumption that the introduction signaled what the rest of the column would be about.

Now, I haven’t read the complaint, so perhaps there is more to it, and the complaint is more substantial. …

We’ll stop here and wait til she reads the complaint…

But when J. C. Salomon informed me about the true state of affairs, I responded in a comment:

J.C. Salomon: That’s hilarious — the rest of the column had nothing to do with the lede? I would never have known! Thanks for telling me.

Nothing like Hoyt’s description. So if some blogger “claimed stupidity” on Hoyt’s part, and claimed “the post was an obvious sham,” I’m glad Hoyt is taking him to account, whoever he is.

(11) FANCAST REVIEWS. Geeking Out About… discusses “Road to the Hugo Awards: Selected Fancasts, part 1”.

Finding the time to listen to hour-long episodes of podcasts which are eligible for the 2016 Hugo Awards wasn’t easy for me, but that’s what today’s article is about. The eligibility requirements state that the podcast must be a “non-professional” production—that is, no other company paid the podcaster(s) to make it—and at least one episode has to have been produced during the calendar year in question.

As such, then, I decided to pick one episode from a currently eligible podcast whose description interested me the most and I’ll be basing my recommendations on just the one episode. Unlike the “three episode rule” which I’m borrowing from former GOA contributor Kara Dennison, I think that I’d be able to tell what’s going to be on my nomination and/or platform lists before March 31 from just one episode.

(12) SETTING AN EXAMPLE. Here is Brian Niemeier’s tweet, inviting people to read his post criticizing Matthew Foster for using ad hominem attacks.

See Niemeier’s post “Sad Puppies: Cognitive Dissonance Makes Our Enemies Oblivious” at Kairos.

There are two possible explanations for why Matthew responded to my evidence-based arguments with nothing but ad hominem attacks.

  1. False positives: all of his “tells” are in fact rational responses to unknown stimuli.
  2. Cognitive dissonance: lacking contrary evidence against arguments that shook his worldview, Matthew responded with a slew of irrational accusations.

(13) FORCE AWAKENS DESPOILED. As CinemaBlend notes, in How Star Wars the Force Awakens Should Have Ended much of the video is actually dedicated to fixing holes in the movie rather than specifically dealing with how it ended.

[Thanks to JJ, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Monstrous Crowd at the Alex

Alex Theatre COMPHere’s a snapshot of the line waiting to get into Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA on October 25. Tough crowd!

John King Tarpinian was on hand not just to see the movie, but to flash his replica of the Dracula ring Lugosi wore in the film. You all know how hard it is to find social occasions to wear your finery.

Abbot-and-Costello-meet-Frankenstein

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello join forces with Universal’s menagerie of famous monsters… a perfect blending of classic comedy and terror. The boys were never funnier, combining verbal routines with their best slapstick gags. A top-notch supporting cast plays it absolutely straight, with Bela Lugosi as Dracula for only the second time, Lon Chaney Jr. making his full moon change into The Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange stalking the boys as Frankenstein’s Monster. Even Vincent Price gets a cameo as The Invisible man. This top grosser for Universal still holds all its charm.

This Day In History 7/2

On July 2, 1959 Plan 9 from Outer Space opened in theaters. Plan 9 is considered by many critics, including Michael Medved, to be the worst film in Hollywood’s history.

Plan_9_Alternative_posterHarlan Ellison recently asked readers of his forum to pick the worst movie ever made, and he warned, “Plan 9 From Outer Space is a true no-brainer, so no one gets any props for throwing THAT ‘usual suspect’ into a competition requiring REAL CHOICES.”

Plan 9‘s popularity as the worst movie ever made actually has prevented it from ranking anywhere near the bottom of quality metrics. For example, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 66% of critics gave the film positive reviews.

In honor of this historic occasion I offer the following four question trivia quiz.

(1)  What did Ed Wood originally intend to be the title of the movie?

(2) Is it true that Bela Lugosi died on the second day of filming?

(3)  What popular TV psychic provided Plan 9’s introductory narrative?

(4) Plan 9 had cheap, horrible special effects. Was its iconic flying saucer a –

(a) Paper plate

(b) Hubcap

(c) A commercially available toy

Answers appear after the jump.

Continue reading

Your Horror Real Estate Update

Bran Castle in Romania.

Bran Castle in Romania.

Two properties that should be of keen interest to Dracula fans have come on the market this year.

Bran Castle in Romania, reputed to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is being offered for sale by the current owners, two Habsburg royals. It is Eastern Europe’s biggest tourist destination, drawing more than a half million visitors a year.

The current asking price has not been made public. According to one report, it was offered to the Romanian government for $80 million.

Romania’s royal family acquired the castle in 1920, and in 1944 converted it to a hospital for wounded soldiers. When the communists came to power in 1948 they ejected the royal family from the country and took over Bran Castle – and for reasons unknown, ripped out all the bathrooms in the residential portion. Upon the fall of the Ceausescu regime, the castle was restored to the royal family. They have been running it ever since. Now, in their 70s, they are concerned for the future.

The property trades on its connection to Dracula, however, those spoilsports at the Wikipedia say Bran Castle is just one of several locations linked to the Dracula legend. They say there is no evidence Vlad Tepes knew anything about this castle. Worse yet, at least one scholar contends the location Bram Stoker actually had in mind is an empty mountain top. Well, poop.

For those who insist on unquestioned provenance, our second listing is fully documented.

Bela Lugosi's Beachwood estate.

Bela Lugosi’s Beachwood estate.

Bela Lugosi’s Hollywood Hills mansion, the actor’s residence in the 1930s and 1940s, is for sale. Lugosi may only have pretended to be Dracula, on the other hand, his old home is a lot more affordable than Bran Castle. The sticker price is $4,197,000.

The Los Angeles Curbed reports that, built in 1924 and known as “Castle La Paloma,” this mansion has changed hands several times and undergone restoration recently. Set on a 0.3-acre lot, the home has five bedrooms and five bathrooms, as well as a ballroom-sized living room, a formal dining room, a library, a gourmet kitchen and a service wing.

According to the listing, the master suite is expansive and features inlaid flooring and hand-made ironwork. This Hollywood Hills home also boasts beamed ceilings, mahogany doors, iron and glass windows, a slate roof and original tile work throughout the 12,000 square feet of living area. The floor plan allows for plenty of natural light in addition to excellent views.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the links.]