Pixel Scroll 4/13/19 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Are

(1) SCHOEN LEAVES SFWA BOARD. Earlier this week Lawrence M. Schoen announced he was “Resigning from the SFWA Board of Directors”:

Effective as of 10am today, April 10th, 2019, I am resigning my position as a member of the SFWA Board of Directors.

We live in a world where appearance often carries more weight than intention. Recent controversies, and my perceived involvement in them, have increasingly made it difficult for me to effectively perform the responsibilities for which I’d been elected. Accordingly, it makes sense for me to step aside and allow someone else to continue the work.

Today’s decision notwithstanding, I remain committed to the ideals and goals of SFWA, perhaps best expressed by the statement the Board composed at last year’s Nebula Conference: “We are genre writers fostering a diverse professional community committed to inclusion, empowerment, and outreach.”

It has been my privilege to be of service to this organization and our community. I encourage you all to pay it forward.

Schoen’s statement does not specify what “recent controversies” he is perceived to be involved in. They may relate to Jonathan Brazee’s 20Booksto50K Nebula recommendation list. Schoen’s novelette “The Rule of Three” is one of the stories on the list that made the Nebula ballot. Brazee responded to criticism by apologizing for the list.

(2) NICHOLS ON SPACE COMMAND. Marc Zicree told fans, “Today’s shoot with Nichelle Nichols went great! Here’s a behind the scenes clip, with more to come.”

To help with the GoFundMe to pay for their efforts, click on “Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Space Command Scene!”. At this writing they’ve raised $2,310 of their $15,000 goal.

(3) LUCAS’ FINGERPRINTS. IGN explains “How George Lucas Helped Finish Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.

The new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features quite the surprise: as the trailer comes to a close, the screen cuts to black and our ears are filled with the cackling of Emperor Palpatine. It’s a laugh cold enough to send shivers down your spine and a character inclusion crazy enough to make your head spin. He met his electrifying end in Return of the Jedi, after all. IGN talked to director and co-writer JJ Abrams at Star Wars Celebration Chicago about how the iconic villain came to be a part of the film, and his answer included a meeting with the Maker himself, George Lucas.

“This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script,” Abrams revealed. “These were things that were in real, not debate, but looking at the vastness of the story and trying to figure out, what is the way to conclude this? But it has to work on its own as a movie, it has to be its own thing, it has to be surprising and funny and you have to understand it.”

(4) COPING. Sarah Hughes, TV critic at The Guardian, tells how Game of Thrones helped her cope with her cancer diagnosis. “Game of Thrones, cancer and me…”

…Best of all, while I might not find out how Martin himself intends to finish his series (there are still two long-awaited books to come), I will almost certainly see the TV series of Game of Thrones return for its brutal, no doubt bloody and hopefully rewarding conclusion this month. As for Tottenham Hotspur winning the league in my lifetime, that remains too great a step for even the most benign of gods to arrange.

(5) CLFA VOTING BEGINS. At the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “The 2019 Book of the Year ballot is now open!”

Ready to cast your vote for CLFA Book of the Year 2019?  Go here to support your favorite!

(6) YAKFALL. We only thought we’d figured out the subject for Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech. Hilarious thread starts here.

Another great thread about their Tibetan explorations begins here.

(7) THE ESSENTIALS. Can a fannish kitchen be complete without a set of “Star Trek Klingon Alphabet Fridge Magnets”? ThinkGeek takes the “No” side of the debate.

  • A fun way to teach anyone the basics of pIqaD (the Klingon alphabet)
  • For use on magnetic surfaces, like your fridge or your ship’s hull

…This set contains the entire alphabet, with multiples for the more frequently used, plus a few apostrophes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1937 Terry Carr. Lifelong fan and long after he turn pro, he continued to be active in fandom, hence was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. He worked as an Editor, first at Ace where he edited The Left Hand of Darkness. After a fallout with Wollheim, he went freelance where he developed Universe and Best Science Fiction of the Year, the latter on a remarkable four publishers. He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo thirteen times and won twice. He wrote three novels, one with Ted White, and three collections of his stories in print. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 76. Mystery writer whose Nameless Detective has one genre adventure in A Killing in Xanadu. Genre anthologist, often with Barry N Malzberg, were many and wide ranging, covering such things as Bug-Eyed Monsters (with Malzberg), Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (with Greenberg and Malzberg) and Arbor House Necropolis. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote “The Pillars of Salt Affair”, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novella that ran in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine.
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 68. The Fifth Doctor and one that I never came to be fond of. Just seemed too lightweight for the role. I thought he put more gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 65. His notable genre TV work includes executive producing, producing or writing, or both, for Strange Luck, Seven DaysOuter Limits, Eerie, Indiana, and The Twilight Zone. He was also story editor for the Max Headroom series which I loved.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. Editor, writer and anthologist. He was founding editor of Warner Books’ Questar Science Fiction, and later served as managing fiction editor at TSR. He co-wrote the autobiography of Julius Schwartz. Strangely enough, I’ve actually read one of his anthologies, A Yuletide Universe, as I remember it from the cover art. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 69. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and Redcap). He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno followed quickly Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and  Angel  De La Guardia in Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by a hard SF role as Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly.  No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1962 Stephen Holland, 57. I’m a deep admirer of those who document our genre and this gentleman is no exception. In handful of works, he’s created an invaluable resource for those interested in SF published in paperback. British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines, 1949-1956: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide and The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing certainly look to be essential reading, and his Fantasy Fanzine Index: Volume 1 also sounds useful.

(9) WHAT A TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE. Rebecca F. Kuang’s thread about the Game of Thrones tapestry starts here.

Through July 28 the public can “see Game of Thrones® immortalised in a giant, 77-metre long Bayeux style tapestry at the Ulster Museum.”

(10) THRONE CHOW. Delish says that in the UK, “TGI Friday’s Is Celebrating The Game Of Thrones Premiere With A Menu Inspired By The Series”.

In honor of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones—which premieres in just three days, people!!!—TGI Friday’s has released a limited-edition menu inspired by the series. However, vegetarians and vegans may want to steer clear of the “Dragon Slayer Feast.” It’s definitely a meat-heavy selection….

You can also order up Dragon Fire Hot Wings and the Bucket of Beast Bones, which is a combo of ribs and Friday’s famed glazed wings. However, as far as we know, the GOT special is currently a U.K. exclusive. The meat-filled feast will kick off April 10.

(11) ALTERNATE ASTRONAUTS. Camestros Felapton continues working his way through the finalists: “Hugo Novels: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal”.

The Calculating Stars has a more grounded aesthetic than it’s predecessor, and aims to present a plausible alternative history where the space program is accelerated and is also a more international collaboration. In the centre of this effort is Dr Elma York who desperately wants to go into space but who must also navigate through the complexities of 1950s America.

It’s an engaging fictional autobiography of a remarkable person — the kind of multi-talented character that you find in accounts of America’s space program. Drive, talent, brains and luck conspire to put Elma in a spotlight but the attention that comes with it reveals Elma’s greatest weakness: social anxiety in crowds when she is the focus of attention. Ironically the press characterising her preemptively as ‘The Lady Astronaut’ complicates her attempts to actually become an astronaut.

(12) CREDIT WHERE DUE. Misty S. Boyer’s long Facebook post provides further detail about who contributed to the newsmaking black hole photo.   

…The photo that everyone is looking at, the world famous black hole photo? It’s actually a composite photo. It was generated by an algorithm credited to Mareki Honma. Honma’s algorithm, based on MRI technology, is used to “stitch together” photos and fill in the missing pixels by analyzing the surrounding pixels.

But where did the photos come from that are composited into this photo?

The photos making up the composite were generated by 4 separate teams, led by Katie Bouman, Andrew Chael, Kazu Akiyama, Michael Johnson, and Jose L Gomez. Each team was given a copy of the black hole data and isolated from each other. Between the four of them, they used two techniques – an older, traditional one called CLEAN, and a newer one called RML – to generate an image.

The purpose of this division and isolation of teams was deliberately done to test the accuracy of the black hole data they were all using. If four isolated teams using different algorithms all got similar results, that would indicate that the data itself was accurate….

(13) POST MORTEM. What happened? “Beresheet spacecraft: ‘Technical glitch’ led to Moon crash”.

Preliminary data from the Beresheet spacecraft suggests a technical glitch in one of its components caused the lander to crash on the Moon.

The malfunction triggered a chain of events that eventually caused its main engine to switch off.

Despite a restart, this meant that the spacecraft was unable to slow down during the final stages of its descent.

(14) BIG STICK. “Internet Archive denies hosting ‘terrorist’ content”.

The Internet Archive has been hit with 550 “false” demands to remove “terrorist propaganda” from its servers in less than a week.

The demands came via the Europol net monitoring unit and gave the site only one hour to comply.

The Internet Archive said the demands wrongly accused it of hosting terror-related material.

The website said the requests set a poor precedent ahead of new European rules governing removal of content.

If the Archive does not comply with the notices, it risks its site getting added to lists which ISPs are required to block.

(15) BULL MARKET. Science reports “Beliefs in aliens, Atlantis are on the rise”. (Full text restricted to subscribers.)

Beliefs in “pseudoarchaeology”—ancient aliens, Atlantis, and other myths—are on the rise. In 2018 41% of Americans believed that aliens visited Earth in the ancient past, and 57% believed that Atlantis or other advanced ancient civilizations existed. These outlandish beliefs have been circulating for decades, and archaeologists are now mobilizing to counter them. They are taking to Twitter, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and newspapers to debunk false claims and explain real archaeological methods, and they plan to compare notes this week during a symposium at the Society for American Archaeology meeting. 

(16) IT’S ALL JUST FUN AND GAMES UNTIL… Never forget that Quidditch is a field sport: “For Some Quidditch Players, The Magic Wears Off As Injury Risks Grow Clearer”.

It happened in a split second, and Vanessa Barker doesn’t remember any of it. She doesn’t remember dropping to the field, nor does she remember how she got hit.

When she came to, she was sitting on the sidelines with an EMT, being evaluated for what turned out to be her first concussion. Over the next two years, she’d suffer another two more while out on the field — hardly what she expected when she decided to start playing quidditch.

…”If I ever have any others, I’ll have to stop playing,” she said.

(17) PLAYING A TATTOO. For the next four weeks you can listen online to BBC4’s production of “Ray Bradbury – The Illustrated Man”, dramatized by Brian Sibley.

A young traveller encounters a vagrant on the road, who claims that his tattoos come to life after dark and tell the future. Starring Iain Glen and Elaine Claxton.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Black Hole:  Based on Stephen Hawking’s Reith Lecture” on YouTube is an animation done for BBC Radio4 of an excerpt of a Stephen hawking lecture where Hawking says it’s not hopeless if you fall into a black hole.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/19 Oh The Snark Has Pixel’d Teeth, Dear

(1) NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “I know the Nebula programming isn’t complete yet but looking it over moved me to think about how far it’s come and who’s responsible for that” — “What I’m Looking Forward to about This Year’s Nebula Conference Programming: An Appreciation of Kate Baker”.

… It’s five years later, and in my opinion, Kate’s done what she set out to do. She didn’t do it alone, of course. She had the help of a whole lot of amazing SFWA staff and volunteers, including the amazing Terra LeMay and Steven H Silver. Mary Robinette Kowal got turned loose on programming the last couple of years and has been doing a stellar job. And others have made their mark with additions, such as the Nebula Award Alternate Universe Acceptance speeches or the mentoring program led by Sarah Pinsker or (I’d like to think) two I’ve contributed: the volunteer appreciation breakfast as well as the spouses and partners reception that have been regular features (and I hope will continue to do so!) Or the Book Depot, because I don’t know of ANY other con that takes as much care to make sure that its authors — including the indies — can sign and sell their books there. And there’s a fancy Nebula website, which remains a work in progress as more and more gets added to it, preserving the history of the Awards.

We’ve only got a small fraction of the schedule so far, with plenty of new stuff getting added every day, but here’s some highlights…

(2) BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Beresheet didn’t make it: “A private spacecraft from Israel crashed into the Moon Thursday”. Ars Technica not only has the story, they begin it with a Heinlein reference.

The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

On Thursday, SpaceIL’s lunar lander attempted to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, but it apparently crashed instead into the gray world. Although a postmortem analysis has not yet been completed, telemetry from the spacecraft indicated a failure of the spacecraft’s main engine about 10km above the Moon. Thereafter, it appears to have struck the Moon at a velocity of around 130 meters per second.

“We have had a failure in the spacecraft,” Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the lander, said during the landing webcast. “We have unfortunately not managed to land successfully.” Israeli engineers vowed to try again.

The failure to land is perhaps understandable—it is extremely hard to land on the Moon, Mars, or any other object in the Solar System. In this case, the private effort to build the lunar lander worked on a shoestring budget of around $100 million to build their spacecraft, which had performed admirably right up until the last few minutes before its planned touchdown.

(3) TWINS IN SCIENCE. “NASA’s Twins Study Results Published in Science” in a paper titled “What to expect after a year in space.” The NASA press release begins —

NASA’s trailblazing Twins Study moved into the final stages of integrated research with the release of a combined summary paper published in Science.

The landmark Twins Study brought ten research teams from around the country together to observe what physiological, molecular and cognitive changes could happen to a human from exposure to spaceflight hazards. This was accomplished by comparing retired astronaut Scott Kelly while he was in space, to his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.

The PR’s summaries of the 10 research topics includes –

Gene Expression:  Samples taken before, during and after Scott’s mission in space revealed some changes in gene expression. Mark also experienced normal-range changes in gene expression on Earth, but not the same changes as Scott. Changes Scott experienced may have been associated with his lengthy stay in space. Most of these changes (about 91.3%) reverted to baseline after he returned to Earth; however, a small subset persisted after six months. Some observed DNA damage is believed to be a result of radiation exposure. Gene expression data corroborated and supported other findings in the Twins Study, including the body’s response to DNA damage, telomere regulation, bone formation and immune system stress. These findings help demonstrate how a human body was able to adapt to the extreme environment of space and help researchers better understand how environmental stressors influence the activity of different genes, leading to a better understanding of physiological processes in space.

(4) BRACKETT BOOKS FALL THROUGH. The two Leigh Brackett titles announced by the Haffner Press in late 2015, The Book of Stark and Leigh Brackett Centennial have been cancelled. Stephen Haffner e-mailed an explanation to fans who preordered the books:

The fault for the cancellation of these two titles lies completely with Haffner Press and with me personally.

Rights to these titles were not evergreen and I failed to complete and publish these books within the contracted period. Believe me, I made every attempt to recover/resurrect these titles. At this point, the agent for the estate of Leigh Brackett is making other arrangements for the Stark books and Leigh Brackett. If this status changes, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Haffner is offering a complete refund, or application of the credit to another purchase.

(5) GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIPS. Authors Edward Carey, Michael Helm, Carmen Maria Machado, and Luis Alberto Urrea are among the winners of the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships reports Locus Online.

(6) NEWITZ TALK. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has posted video of Annalee Newitz speaking at UCSD on April 4 as part of the San Diego 2049 series .

Realistic worldbuilding requires that we get out of the dystopia/utopia binary and imagine futures that are a diverse mix of worlds. To imagine a plausible future world, we need to look critically at our own history, where progress is uneven and resistance is not futile. Annalee Newitz, journalist, co-founder of the website io9, and author of the acclaimed science fiction novel Autonomous, joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego to share her insights into worldbuilding as part of the San Diego 2049 series of programs.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1883 Leonard Mudie. His very last screen role was as one of the survivors of the SS Columbia in Trek’s original pilot episode, “The Cage.”  He also appeared as Professor Pearson opposite Boris Karloff in The Mummy released in 1932. He appeared in the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood as the town crier and the mysterious man who gives Robin directions. (Died 1965.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. A British writer of mysteries and of comic strips, best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise. He also did an adaptation for the Daily Express of the Dr. No novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1953 Byron Preiss. Writer, editor and publisher. He founded and served as president of Byron Preiss Visual Publications, and later of ibooks Inc. If I remember correctly, ibooks was the last publisher for Zelazny for most of his books. Any idea what happened to those rights after ibooks went into receivership?  The only book I can find him writing is the children’s novel Dragonworld which is co-authored with Michael Reaves who was involved in including Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 11, 1957 Marina Fitch, 62. She has published two novels, The Seventh Heart and The Border. Her short fiction has appeared in Pulphouse, MZB, F&SF, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and the anthologies, Desire Burn and Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn. She is currently at work on a novel and several new stories.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 56. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media time-in fiction including Pacific Rim, Star Wars, Planet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1974 Tricia Helfer, 45. She is best known for playing the humanoid Cylon model Number Six in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. In addition, she plays Charlotte Richards / Mom on Lucifer. And she voiced Boodikka in Green Lantern: First Flight.
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 38. John Constantine in NBC’s Constantine and The CW’s Arrowverse, as well as voicing the character in the Justice League Dark and the animated Constantine: City of Demons films as well. And he played Horatio in Hamlet in the Donmar production at the Wyndham’s Theatre. 

(8) PHOTO OP. BBC calls “Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image”.

A 29-year-old computer scientist has earned plaudits worldwide for helping develop the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole.

Katie Bouman led development of a computer program that made the breakthrough image possible.

The remarkable photo, showing a halo of dust and gas 500 million trillion km from Earth, was released on Wednesday.

For Dr Bouman, its creation was the realisation of an endeavour previously thought impossible.

(9) LOL! Oh, Reference Director!

(10) RETRO HUGO FAN MATERIAL ONLINE. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org has assembled a resource for this year’s Retro Hugo voters —

Dublin 2019 has announced the Finalists for this year’s Retro Hugo Awards to be given for works published in 1943. We’ve pulled together what we have on Fanac.org, along with a few zines from eFanzines and the University of Iowa, to give you a single place where you can find all the Finalist publications available online. Read before you vote! http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos.html  

(11) GARY GIANNI’S SONG OF ICE & FIRE ART. Flesk Publications will start taking preorders next week: “Art of Gary Gianni for George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms. Signed by Martin and Gianni! Pre-Order on April 18th.” Arnie Fenner writes, “I don’t think Flesk is going to make the first edition available to the trade and is only going to sell it and the signed edition direct. Whether he’ll make a second edition available to bookstores…?”

A comprehensive visual overview of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—plus A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire and Blood—through over 300 drawings and paintings by the award-winning illustrator Gary Gianni.

This new premium art book will be available for pre-order at www.fleskpublications.com on Thursday, April 18.

(12) THREE BOOKS TO CONQUER. Cat Rambo’s book deal with Tor leads in “Recent News and Changes from Chez Rambo”.

I’m very pleased to announce that Tor has acquired my recent space fantasy (maybe?), as part of a three book deal, and I’ll be working with Christopher Morgan there. While I’ve had a lot of short stories published traditionally, this is the first novel to go through that, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the process is like. What is the book about? Well, I’m actually not sure of the genre but have been describing it as a banter-driven space military fantasy in which a group of ex-military turned restauranteurs get an unexpected package, just as things start exploding. I’m 40k words into the sequel.

(13) AMAZON’S #1 AUTHOR. It took five days for Scalzi’s cats to turn him into a telethon host.

(14) PAGING VALENTINE MICHAEL SMITH. “‘Three-person’ baby boy born in Greece”

Fertility doctors in Greece and Spain say they have produced a baby from three people in order to overcome a woman’s infertility.

The baby boy was born weighing 2.9kg (6lbs) on Tuesday. The mother and child are said to be in good health.

…The experimental form of IVF uses an egg from the mother, sperm from the father, and another egg from a donor woman.

(15) YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. “Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter” – just what were they feeding those cats anyway?

A yearlong investigation by government scientists has concluded that a major accident at a nuclear waste dump was caused by the wrong brand of cat litter.

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a 277-page report into an explosion that occurred on Feb. 14, 2014, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. According to a summary of the report, the incident occurred when a single drum of nuclear waste, 68660, burst open.

(16) VIVA LA ROOMBALUCION II. Nope, it’s not Florida Man. NPR says — “Oregon Man Called Police About A Burglar. Armed Officers Found A Rogue Roomba”.

The Washington County sheriff in Oregon says there was nothing unusual about the call. Sure, it was broad daylight — 1:48 p.m. local time exactly — but “crime can happen anytime.”

So the frantic call from a house guest about a burglar making loud rustling noises inside the house, specifically from within the locked bathroom, deserved an urgent response, Sgt. Danny DiPietro, a sheriff’s spokesman, tells NPR.

“The man had just gone for a walk with his nephew’s dog and when he came back, he could see shadows moving back and forth under the bathroom door,” DiPietro says.

Resources were immediately deployed: three seasoned deputies — one with at least 20 years on the force — a detective who happened to be in the area, and two canine officers from Beaverton Police Department, about 7 miles outside Portland.

(17) NEW BRANCH. BBC reports on “Homo luzonensis: New human species found in Philippines”.

There’s a new addition to the family tree: an extinct species of human that’s been found in the Philippines.

It’s known as Homo luzonensis, after the site of its discovery on the country’s largest island Luzon.

Its physical features are a mixture of those found in very ancient human ancestors and in more recent people.

That could mean primitive human relatives left Africa and made it all the way to South-East Asia, something not previously thought possible.

The find shows that human evolution in the region may have been a highly complicated affair, with three or more human species in the region at around the time our ancestors arrive.

(18) THE AI SHORTFALL. IEEE Spectrum’s article “How IBM Watson Overpromised and Underdelivered on AI Health Care”illustrates the gap between reality and the popular imagination regarding AI. Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment, “I think the key point is in the last two paragraphs: Watson makes a great AI librarian, but it really isn’t a doctor at all, and likely never will be. Also worth noting is that the areas where they had the most success were the ones that needed the least AI, e.g. Watson for Genomics, which benefited from not needing natural language processing (NLP).”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses Watson for Genomics reports in more than 70 hospitals nationwide, says Michael Kelley, the VA’s national program director for oncology. The VA first tried the system on lung cancer and now uses it for all solid tumors. “I do think it improves patient care,” Kelley says. When VA oncologists are deciding on a treatment plan, “it is a source of information they can bring to the discussion,” he says. But Kelley says he doesn’t think of Watson as a robot doctor. “I tend to think of it as a robot who is a master medical librarian.”

Most doctors would probably be delighted to have an AI librarian at their beck and call—and if that’s what IBM had originally promised them, they might not be so disappointed today. The Watson Health story is a cautionary tale of hubris and hype. Everyone likes ambition, everyone likes moon shots, but nobody wants to climb into a rocket that doesn’t work.

(19) SEVENTIES FLASHBACK. Michael Gonzalez remembers when “I Was a Teenage (Wannabe) Horror Writer” at CrimeReads.

While sitting in the balcony of a movie theater waiting for Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated horror film Us, I began thinking about my personal relationship with the horror genre. “When I was pregnant with you I used to watch scary movies all the time,” my mom confessed years before as we left the Roosevelt Theatre in Harlem one afternoon after a screening of Night of the Living Dead. Although I was only seven and much too young to have seen that first zombie apocalypse, which gave me nightmares for a week, but afterwards I became a horror junkie. As much as I might’ve nervously jumped while watching The Blob, The Fly or Dracula, it was those stories that appealed to me.

…During the 1970s, with the exception of a few artists (Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Ron Wilson and Trevor Von Eeden), there weren’t many African-American creators working in commercial comics, something I noticed when I attended my first comic convention that same year. However, while I didn’t see any scripters that “looked like me,” that wasn’t going to keep me from trying. Truthfully, I wasn’t trying to be the Rosa Parks of horror comic book writers, I just wanted to be down.

(20) HORROR DEFENDED. And Kim Newman argues in The Guardian that “Exposing children to horror films isn’t the nightmare you think it is”.

What terrifies children isn’t just the stuff designed to scare. In The Wizard of Oz, for example, you get the witch but also the comedy lion – and even though cackling evil is dispelled at the end, the incidentals offer nightmare fodder: the tree with a human face, the winged monkeys, even the horse of a different colour. As Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro – both jumpy kids who have grown up to love monsters – have shown, the world of an imaginative child is full of wonders and terrors, and if you strip out the latter by insisting on a diet of just Peppa Pig you risk raising a generation unable to cope with the slightest trauma.

(21) ENDGAME PROMO. “You know your teams. You know your missions.” Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame is in theaters April 26.

[Thanks to Joe Siclari, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Stephenfrom Ottawa, Arnie Fenner, Greg Hullender, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/19 Flow My Peanut Butter, The Panini-Maker Scrolled

(1) HIDDEN FIGURE HONORED. A NASA facility has a new name: “NASA Renames Facility in Honor of ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson”.

NASA has redesignated its Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility, in honor of the West Virginia native and NASA “hidden figure.”

“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”

… Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918, Johnson’s intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers led her to a distinguished career — spanning more than three decades — with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Among her professional accomplishments, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961. The following year, Johnson performed the work for which she would become best known when she was asked to verify the results made by electronic computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. She went on to provide calculations for NASA throughout her career, including for several Apollo missions.

At a time when racial segregation was prevalent throughout the southern United States, Johnson and fellow African American mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who was later promoted to engineer — broke through racial barriers to achieve success in their careers at NASA and helped pave the way for the diversity that currently extends across all levels of agency’s workforce and leadership. Their story became the basis of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  

(2) THE ART OF SIGNING. CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) GoH Larry Dixon shares some wisdom in a Twitter thread that begins here.

(3) A GHOST SPEAKS. Sean McLachlan rises “In Defense of Professional Ghostwriting” at Black Gate.

…I’m acquainted with Cristiane Serruya. She was part of the Kindle Scout program, having won an advance, 50% royalties, and publication for at least one of her works from Amazon’s imprint Kindle Press. Two of my books are also in the program. We chatted numerous times on the Kindle Scout Winners Facebook group and we even traded critiques. She read the first two books in my Masked Man of Cairo mystery series and I read Damaged Love, which turns out to contain plagiarized passages too. At the time I was surprised she would want me to be a beta reader on a romance novel, a genre she knew I didn’t read and knew nothing about. Now I know why.

…It’s true that some unscrupulous people are hiring teams of underpaid ghostwriters to churn out dreck in order to game Amazon’s algorithms, which tilt in favor of newly publishing titles and prolific authors.

Unfortunately, professional ghostwriters like me are being lumped in with the hacks. There is a place for a professional ghostwriter in indie publishing, and it is a valid one.

Ghostwriting has been around since the days of the dime novel. It was strong throughout the pulp era and the post-war paperback boom. In the modern world, house names such as Don Pendleton (The Executioner) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew) have been used by pools of ghostwriters to make some of the most popular series around.

Ghostwriting is my day job. To date, I have ghostwritten 18 novels, 7 novellas, and one short story for various clients, and am currently contracted for another series of novels. The clients are generally independent publishers who put out work under a variety of pen names. I get one or two pen names, and other ghostwriters get other ones. Thus each pen name keeps the specific tone of a particular writer. I have worked for one guy who used several ghostwriters writing for the same house name, but we all were given strict instructions as to tone, style, etc. None of my clients put their real name on their books, and all of them were looking for quality work….

(4) UP THE AMAZON. Nora Roberts expands on what she’s been learning about the environment for indie authors at Amazon: “Let Me Address This”.

A Broken System. Then came the scammers, and with the methods discussed in previous blogs, who flooded the market with 99 cent books. What a bargain! Readers couldn’t know these books were stolen or copied or written by ghostfarms. Couldn’t know about the clickfarms, the scam reviews.

At this price, the author receives only 30% (there’s a price point cut off on royalty rate). So all those out of pocket expenses may or may not be covered.

The legit indie saw her sales suffer, her numbers tank, her placement on lists vanish. To try to compete, many had to struggle to write faster, to heavily discount their work. Some had to give up writing altogether.

One other scamming method is to list a book–forever–as free. Not as a promotion, or incentive, but to toss up hordes or free books, so the reader wants–and often demands–free. They make their money off the scores of cheap and stolen books, and destroy the legit writer. Why pay when there are scores of free books at your fingertips?

(5) SFF ROMANCE AWARDS. The winners of genre interest for the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards are:

Favourite Paranormal Romance

  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Favourite Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Cursed by Keri Arthur

(6) FANHISTORY. Here’s a link to Archive.org footage from the 1975 Star Trek convention in New York. William Shatner’s appearance takes up the first few minutes – you can see Ben Yalow among his escorts at the 30-second mark. The latter half of the film shows a woman in front of art show panels – I think I should recognize her, but I can’t come up with a name. Maybe you can. [Update: Adrienne Martine-Barnes, maybe?] [Now identified as Jacqueline Lichtenberg.]

Yalow is on the right.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • On November 1, 1884 Bat Masterson published his first newspaper article in Dodge City. The newspaper was called Vox Populi.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 Wilhelm Grimm. Here for two reasons, the first being the he and his brother were the first to systematically collect folktales from the peasantry of any European culture and write them down. Second is that the number of genre novels and short stories that used the Grimms’ Fairy Tales as their source for source material is, well, if not infinite certainly a really high number. I’d wager that even taking just those stories in Snow White, Blood Red series that Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow co-edited would get quite a number based the tales collected by these bothers. (Died 1859.)
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like), not to overlook being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 86. Well known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a VA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1942 Sam J. Lundwall, 77. Swedish writer, translator and publisher. He first started writing for Häpna!, an SF Zine in the 50s. In the late 60s, he was a producer for Sveriges Radio and made a SF series. He published his book, Science Fiction: Från begynnelsen till våra dagar (Science Fiction: What It’s All About) which landed his first job as an SF Editor. After leaving that publisher in the 80s, he would start his own company, Sam J. Lundwall Fakta & Fantasi. Lundwall was also the editor of the science fiction magazine Jules Verne-Magasinet between 1972 and 2009. He has been active in fandom as he organised conventions in Stockholm six times in the 60s and 70s. And I see he’s written a number of novels, some released here, though not recently. 
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 72. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realise it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) he has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the new Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 53. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 51. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEGAL EAGLE. John Scalzi has been doing his due diligence this afternoon.

(11) ROLE OF A LIFETIME. Cleveland.com has a conversation with the actor: “Wil Wheaton wraps up run as Wil Wheaton on ‘Big Bang Theory’”.

…Then “Big Bang” executive producer and co-creator Bill Prady offered him the ideal role. Would he be interested in playing, well, Wil Wheaton . . . an evil Wil Wheaton?

“If they had actually wanted me to play myself, I don’t think I would have been interested,” he said. “First, it would have felt like a cheat. So what? Show up and be yourself? There’s no challenge in that. But when Bill said, ‘We want you to play an evil version of yourself,’ I immediately got and loved that idea.”

(12) PAPERS PLEASE. Spikecon has put out a “Call for Academic Submissions”:

Westercon 72, NAFIC 2019, 1632 Minicon, and Manticon 2019 are together inviting submissions of academic papers for presentation at Spikecon to be held on July 4th-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah. We are seeking 30 minute papers which raise the level of dialogue and discussion in the Science Fiction/Fantasy community and seek to empower fans as well as creators.

Topics of Interest Include:

  • Literary analysis/criticism of science fiction or fantasy works including those of our Spikecon Guests of Honor
  • Historical events impacting science fiction and/or fantasy works
  • Fandom
  • Developments in science and technology
  • Craft of writing
  • Cultural impact of scifi/fantasy
  • Fan and creator relationship
  • Studies of individual creators/universes

(13) PLAY BY MALE. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky says “Chronin’s Elegant, Minimalist Samurai Adventure Is – Literally – Timeless”.

Let’s hear it for cleverness! Sometimes a few modest, well-thought-out ideas can add up to an artistic creation as impactful as — and even more appealing than — the weightiest projects. That’s the case with Chronin, Alison Wilgus’ new graphic novel. Like a miniaturist or scrimshaw engraver, Wilgus has a keen appreciation for the power of constraints. By setting careful limits on what her book will look like and what kind of story it will tell, she’s achieved an aesthetic balance that’s a thing of beauty in itself.

Chronin is lighthearted but not frivolous, simple but not simplistic. Since it’s set in 19th-century Japan, you could compare it to a netsuke: A tiny sculpture whose beauty lies in what it does with so little. Chronin’s narrative and visual themes are rather basic, but it explores them in a way that’s precise, insightful — and supremely clever.

Wilgus has experimented with artistic constraints before. A Stray in the Woods, published in 2013, originated as a Tumblr webcomic driven by suggestions from readers. And, of course, much of her work has been shaped by the will of her employers, including DC and the Cartoon Network. Plenty of creators try to blow the doors off with their first solo graphic novels, but Wilgus takes the opportunity to go small. Chronin’s story of a time-travel screw-up is familiar, even a bit of a chestnut. Protagonist Mirai Yoshida, a New York City college student in 2042, travels with some classmates back to 1864 Japan to conduct research. An accident leaves her trapped there, so she masquerades as a male — and as a member of the warrior class — for safety while she tries to figure out a way back.

(14) SURVEYING THE FIELD. Rich Horton winds up his Hugo discussion with “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2019: Summary Post”. One item he touches on is —

Best Series

Here’s JJ’s list of eligible series posted at File 770: http://file770.com/best-series-hugo-eligible-series-from-2018/. Much props to JJ for the tireless work of maintain this list, but … I think the list itself speaks to problems with the whole concept of this award.

I was skeptical about this award from the start, and I don’t think its history helps it. I’m really bothered by the way adding one short story to a very old series, for example, makes it again eligible (as with Earthsea, objectively by far the most worthy and influential eligible series, but does “Firelight”, beautiful as it absolutely is, really mean we should give it an award now?) Also, the endless parsing of “series” vs. “sub-series”. The way an award can be for, really, semi-random assemblages of related works. I could go on and on.

(15) TWEETING HISTORY. Myke Cole is running a giveaway, and has been retweeting some of the choicer quotes people are submitting. For example:

(16) BACKING UP TO THE MOON. CNET: “Thirty-million-page backup of humanity headed to moon aboard Israeli lander”.

If the apocalypse strikes, the Arch Mission Foundation wants to be sure all the knowledge we’ve accumulated doesn’t disappear.

On Thursday night, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization built to last billions of years into the future.

The backup for humanity has been dubbed “The Lunar Library” by its creator, the Arch Mission Foundation (AMF).

“The idea is to place enough backups in enough places around the solar system, on an ongoing basis, that our precious knowledge and biological heritage can never be lost,” the nonprofit’s co-founder Nova Spivack told [CNET] via email.

(17) THE FLYING DEAD. Salon: “Zombie stars shine on after mystery detonations”.

It should have been physically impossible. Millions of years ago, a white dwarf—the fading cinder of a sunlike star—was locked in a dizzying dance with a bright companion star. The two had circled each other for eons, connected by a bridge of gas that flowed from the companion onto the white dwarf allowing it to grow heavier and heavier until it could no longer support the extra weight. At this point, the white dwarf should have exploded—blowing itself to smithereens and producing a supernova that briefly shone brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way combined. Then once the supernova faded and the white dwarf’s innards were dispersed across the galaxy, there would quite literally be nothing left save for its companion star. But against all odds, the explosion did not fully rupture the white dwarf. Instead, it survived.

…Raddi’s team made these discoveries after combing through data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which is particularly well suited for finding high-speed stars—an important characteristic of ones like LP 40-365 (because a supernova explosion has the power to slingshot stars across the galaxy). Two are destined to escape the Milky Way entirely, and one is orbiting “backward” against the usual rotation of stars in our galaxy. Additionally they all boast large radii, presumably because they were puffed up by the extra energy they received from the failed explosion. And yet they possess relatively small masses, likely due to the loss of much of their material during the explosion. But perhaps the most compelling evidence these stars are supernova survivors is that they brim with heavier elements. Whereas typical white dwarfs comprise carbon and oxygen, these stars are mostly composed of neon. “That’s absurd,” Hermes says. “That’s like some barroom beer sign just flying through the galaxy.” The stars’ second-most common element is oxygen, followed by a sprinkling of even heavier elements such as magnesium, sodium and aluminum. “This is about as weird as it gets,” Hermes says…

(18) IT’S A THEORY. Orville’s season 1 Rotten Tomatoes critics score was 23%.  Season 2 is holding at 100%.  Nerdrotic theorizes that the explanation is Disney’s purchase of Fox.

(19) BLADE RUNNER COMICS. Launching this summer, Titan Comics’ new Blade Runner 2019 series will be set during the exact timeframe of the original Blade Runner film, and feature a (mostly) new set of characters and situations.

Titan also confirmed that noted artist Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) will be joining acclaimed Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) and veteran collaborator Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Super­man/Batman) to breathe life into their all-new Blade Runner comic books.

(20) AND HE’S NOT EVEN WELSH! CBR.com checks out “Superman’s Less Legendary LL’s!”.

In Drawing Crazy Patterns, I spotlight at least five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Note that these lists are inherently not exhaustive. They are a list of five examples (occasionally I’ll be nice and toss in a sixth). So no instance is “missing” if it is not listed. It’s just not one of the five examples that I chose. 

Today, we look at the less legendary LLs in Superman’s life. 

Unless you hate me and all that I stand for, you know that Superman has an inordinate amount of notable people in his life whose names are double Ls. 

Names (etc.) mentioned in the 2-page article include:

* Lori Lemaris

* Lightning Lad

* Little League (seriously)

* Lita Laverne

* Lester Link

* Liza Landis

* Lyrica Lloyd

* Lorraine Lewis

(21) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF DRAGONS. HBO puts out mashup trailer to coincide with the Oscars — SYFY Wire: “Arya Stark beholds dragon for first time in HBO mashup trailer; new Watchmen footage also included”.

Just like it did during the Golden Globes, HBO has released another mega-trailer featuring new footage from all of its new and returning shows airing this year. Of course, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones was among the shows included in the tantalizing teaser.

[…] Game of Thrones Season 8 debuts on HBO Sunday, April 14. There’s no set premiere date for Watchmen just yet, but it will arrive sometime this year.

(22) FROM THE BEEB TO THE BO. BBC released a trailer of His Dark Materials, which will air on HBO in the U.S.

We’re keeping our daemons close. Here’s an early sneak peek of His Dark Materials. Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, Clarke Peters and Lin-Manuel Miranda star in this thrilling new series. Adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s acclaimed series of novels.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Your Supreme Awesome Royal Majesty Highnessness JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter.  Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/22/19 Those Who Don’t Learn From Pixelry Are Doomed To Rescroll It

(1) RETRO HUGO FAN CATEGORY RESOURCE. Joe Siclari and the FANAC Fan History Project are providing support to Dublin 2019 Retro Hugo voters:

The nomination forms have gone out for Dublin 2019’s Retro Hugo awards for works published in 1943. It’s often very difficult to find materials relevant to the Fan Categories for the Retros, but we have a solution!  FANAC.ORG has assembled the list of fanzines published in 1943, with links to those available on line. We’ve made several hundred fanzines available, and more will be added if they become available at http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1943.html .

Here you’ll find fanzines from 4sj, Doc Lowndes, J. Michael Rosenblum, Bob Tucker, Jack Speer, Larry Shaw, F. T. Laney and other stalwarts of 1943 fandom (and also Claude Degler). There are genzines, FAPAzines, newszines, and letterzines. There is fannish artwork, and fannish poetry.  There’s even the first publication of Lovecraft’s “Funghi From Yuggoth”. Fanzines which meet the issue requirements for Best Fanzine are so marked. 

Hugo nominations continue through March 15, 2019.

(2) THE SHOW WON’T GO ON. Scott M. Roberts, the editor of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalatic Medicine Show #67 announces the end. The magazine will publish two more issues before shutting down.

I am sad to report that Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show will be pulling up stakes in June 2019. I’ve been a reader since the first issue, and on the staff since 2009. My kids have grown up with the magazine in their lives, and I am fiercely proud of all that we’ve accomplished.

I am also very, very pleased with the state of science fiction and fantasy in general today. When IGMS first rolled onto the scene, online magazines were few and far between. Now the main mode of consumption of short SFF literature is online in one form or another (podcasts, e-issues, webpages, etc). And the voices of SFF today are vibrant, strident, beckoning, beseeching, screeching, awesome myriads. We have been a part of that polysymphonic wonder. We were one of the first to tell our truest lies on the brave digital frontier.

(3) RAVING ABOUT RAVENS. Adri Joy is an early bird, sharing her reaction to Leckie’s new novel: “Microreview [Book]: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie” at Nerds of a Feather.

Ah, ravens. They’re smart, they’re beaky, they come in murders, and many in our world are better Londoners than I am. They’re also the subject of more than their share of both folklore and, through that, fantasy interest. Whether they’re harbingers of death, guides to the spirit world, speakers of prophecy and truth or otherworldly tricksters, there’s a lot of mileage in these feathery next-level dinosaurs. Now, in Ann Leckie’s first novel-length foray into fantasy, a raven god is front and centre, alongside a cast whose human members often play second fiddle to their divine counterparts.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you’ll share spring rolls with Ruthanna Emrys and him in episode 89 of his podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Ruthanna Emrys

Ruthanna Emrys is best known for the H. P. Lovecraft-inspired Innsmouth Legacy series, which so far includes the 2014 novella “The Litany of Earth,” followed up by the novels Winter Tide in 2017 and Deep Roots in 2018. Her fiction has also appeared in such magazines as Strange Horizons and Analog Science Fiction and Fact, plus anthologies such as Timelines: Stories Inspired by H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction.

We discussed the ways in which her first exposure to Lovecraft was through pop culture references rather than the original texts, the reasons for the recent rise of Lovecraft recontextualisation, how tea with Jo Walton convinced her she was right to go ahead and write her first Innsmouth Legacy novel, why she ascribes to the tenets of the burgeoning Hopepunk movement, her love of writing X-Men fanfic and her hatred of gastropods, how she recovered from a college professor’s unconstructive criticism, the time George Takei was nice to her at age 8 after she attended her first con in costume on the wrong day, and much more.

(5) NEW AWARD HONORS SUE GRAFTON. Mystery Writers of America has established the Sue Grafton Memorial Award for the best novel in a series with a female protagonist. (Do I hear Puppies howling?) The announcement is here.

Thirty-five years ago, Sue Grafton launched one of the most acclaimed and celebrated mystery series of all time with A is for Alibi, and with it created the model of the modern female detective with Kinsey Millhone, a feisty, whip-smart woman who is not above breaking the rules to solve a case or save a life. Like her fictional alter ego, Grafton was a true original, a model for every woman who has ever struck out on her own independent way.

Sue Grafton passed away on December 28, 2017, but she and Kinsey will be remembered as international icons and treasured by millions of readers across the world. Sue was adored throughout the reading world, the publishing industry, and was a longtime and beloved member of MWA, serving as MWA President in 1994 and was the recipient of three Edgar nominations as well as the Grand Master Award in 2009. G.P. Putnam’s Sons is partnering with MWA to create the Sue Grafton Memorial Award honoring the Best Novel in a Series featuring a female protagonist in a series that also has the hallmarks of Sue’s writing and Kinsey’s character: a woman with quirks but also with a sense of herself, with empathy but also with savvy, intelligence, and wit.

The inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award will be presented at the Edgar Awards on April 25. The nominees are:

  • Lisa Black, Perish – Kensington
  • Sara Paretsky, Shell Game, HarperCollins – William Morrow
  • Victoria Thompson, City of Secrets, Penguin Random House – Berkley
  • Charles Todd, A Forgotten Place, HarperCollins – William Morrow
  • Jacqueline Winspear, To Die But Once, HarperCollins – Harper

(6) A VANCE MYSTERY. At Criminal Element, Hector Dejean reviews The Man in the Cage by John Holbrook Vance, better known as Jack Vance, which won the 1961 Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel, even though it wasn’t his first novel in either genre:  “Jack Vance’s Edgar Award: A Mystery Novel Wrapped in an Enigma”.

Vance was extremely talented and prolific, publishing his first book, The Dying Earth, in 1950, and his last work of fiction, Lurulu, in 2004. In 1957, he published his first mystery novel, Take My Face, using the pen name Peter Held. Later that year, he published another novel, titled either Isle of Peril or Bird Island, under the name Alan Wade. (Different versions exist, and according to some Vance-ologists the book doesn’t really qualify as a crime novel.) A year later, he wrote his first mystery to be published under his full name, John Holbrook Vance. That book’s title, according to sources on the Internet, was Strange People, Queer Notions.

This is where things get odd. Following a trip to Morocco—Vance was as impressive a traveler as he was a writer—Vance wrote a mystery set in North Africa; John Holbrook Vance was the name on this one as well. The book was The Man in the Cage, and it’s quite good—I would even say it’s a standout book, especially for readers curious about Vance who might not care for the conventions of sci-fi and fantasy. The MWA agreed, and in 1961 they gave it an award, making Vance’s awards-shelf one of the more diverse of any American author.

Awarding Vance isn’t the weird part. It’s that the book won the Best First Novel by an American Author award, even though it was not Vance’s first book, nor even his first mystery….

Dejean then goes on to laud the merits of the story itself.

(7) CONTRASTING EDGARS AND HUGOS. Criminal Element is also doing a retrospective of all Edgar Award winners for best novel: “The Edgar Awards Revisited”. Cora Buhlert sent the link with a comment: “It’s an interesting project and I was struck by how many women won Edgar Awards in the early years (the first five winners are four women and Raymond Chandler), which is very different from the early years of the Hugos.”

(8) CRIMEMASTER AWARD. The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has awarded its 2019 CrimeMaster Award to Lisa Gardner.

Storied crime author Lisa Gardner writes award-winning novels that are addictive. Thankfully for us, there are more than 30 of them, with some 22 million copies in print. That’s more copies than the entire population of New England, where she and her family live.

(9) TAKE COVER. Regarding the #CopyPasteCris plagiarism scandal, Nora Roberts is one of the authors whose work was appropriated, and as Kristine Kathryn Rusch phrased it —

Nora’s particularly outspoken about what she has gone through, and I have to admit, I snorted tea when I read this comment from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

When I saw “Nora Roberts” [on this list] my first thought was, “Everybody, get underground NOW.”

Today Roberts posted her appropriately furious response: “Plagiarism Then and Now”.

I personally don’t believe fiction writers should use ghosts. Celebrity auto-biographies and such, that’s the job. If a fiction writer uses a ghost to help flesh out a book, or hires a book doctor to whip a book into shape, I strongly believe that person should be acknowledged–on the book.

The reader deserves honesty. The reader’s entitled to know she’s buying the author’s–the one whose name’s on the book–work, not somebody that writer hired for speed or convenience. And I’ll state here as I have before. If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.

I do not, never have, never will comprehend how someone can feel any pride claiming a book they didn’t write.

…A creature like Serruyo can have a decent run, make some money–make some best-seller lists–before she (or he, or they, who knows?) is found out. And the pain, the scars, the emotional turmoil this causes to the victims of plagiarism never ends.

Serruyo won’t be the only one using that underbelly, exploiting the lack of real guardrails on Amazon and other sites for a few bucks.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, all of this. I’m not nearly done. Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders. Then we’re going to salt the freaking earth….

(10) IT’S OFFICIAL. I learned today that Iowa declared November 2018 to be Speculative Poetry Month. Impressive!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! Was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok he’s not genre but damn if he’s fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929James Hong, 90. Though not genre, became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee In  Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize him in Colossus: The Forbin Project, he’s Dr. Chin, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. its back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1930 Edward Hoch. The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of detective fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine  of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best-known work suggests my question really isn’t relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011)
  • Born February 22, 1944 Tucker Smallwood, 75. Space: Above and Beyond as Commodore Ross is by far my favorite genre role by him. I think his first genre appearance was as President Mazabuka on Get Smart followed by one-offs on Babylon 5, Bio-Dome, X-Files, Contact, Millennium, NightManVoyager, Seven Days, The Others, The Invisible Man, The Chronicle, Mirror Man and Spectres. After that he landed a role on Enterprise playingXindi-Primate Councilor for an extended period of one season. 
  • Born February 22, 1956 Philip Kerr. Though better known for his Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s, his write several genre friendly works. A Philosophical Investigation is set in a near future UK where it is possible to test for violent sociopathy and the consequences of that. The other is Children of the Lamp, a more upbeat YA series set in London involving djinns and rather obviously young children. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 22, 1959 Kyle MacLachlan, 60. Genre-wise known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks  and its weird film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Paul Atreides in Dune, Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, Clifford Vandercave In The Flintstones, Calvin Zabo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet (OK not genre, just weird).
  • Born February 22, 1968 Jeri Ryan, 51. Seven of Nine of course but she’s had other genre roles including being Juliet Stewart  in Dark Skies, an UFO conspiracy theory series. She’s showed up in  briefly roles in Warehouse 13, The Sentinel, Helix and had recently showed up in the Arrowverse.
  • Born February 22, 1972 Duane Swierczynski,47. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. In her monthly column for The Paris Review, YA of Yore, Frankie Thomas takes a second look at the books that defined a generation.

What Was It About Animorphs?

For children’s books in particular it was an era of quantity over quality, an unremitting glut. In those pre–Harry Potter days, a typical “series” meant hundreds of books churned out on a monthly basis by teams of frantic ghostwriters. You could order them by the pound. Often they came with a free bracelet or trinket, as if resorting to bribery. There were 181 Sweet Valley High books, 233 Goosebumps books, and so many Baby-Sitters Club books that their publisher, Scholastic, has never made the full number public (by my count it was at least 345 if you include all the spin-offs)—and they were all, to a certain degree, disposable crap.

But then there was Animorphs….

Harry Potter and the Secret Gay Love Story

The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was published in the summer of 2003, by which point Harry was fifteen and those of us growing up along with him had discovered sex. The Harry Potter years also happened to coincide with the Wild West era of the internet and the rise of abstinence-only sex education; as a result, for better or for worse, erotic Harry Potter fan fiction played a major and under-discussed role in millennial sexual development. This was especially true if you were queer—or, not to put too fine a point on it, if you were me—and had picked up on the secret gay love story that existed between the lines of Rowling’s text.

I refer, of course, to Sirius and Lupin….

(14) THEY’RE MADE OF MEAT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A team from Sweden’s Lund University is searching for the elusive Borkborkborkino particle, which would be proof that the Chef field exists. Or at least I guess that’s what they were doing at this year’s “Stupid Hackathon Sweden” event. Gizmodo has the story: “Particle Physicists Build a Meatball Collider.”

A team of particle physicists wanted “to unveil the deepest secrets of the Universe—and of Swedish cuisine.” So, naturally, they built a Swedish meatball collider.

The MEAL, or MEatball AcceLerator collaboration, could answer important questions such as why we’re made of meatballs, rather than anti-meatballs, or whether we can create dark meatballs. The proof-of-concept experiment was a success.

[…] they’ve got lofty goals for their next steps, according to the project’s slides: “Get funding for a meatball—anti-meatball collider that has the circumference of the solar system and meatballs the size of the Earth.”

(15) VIRGIN TEST. “Virgin test flight blasts to edge of space” — Reuters has video coverage.

A Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Friday soared to the edge of space with a test passenger successfully for the first time, nudging British billionaire Richard Branson’s company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

(16) ONLY THE BEGINNING.It will take two months to land, but it’s on its way: “Israel Launches Spacecraft To The Moon” – NPR has the story. (See also, BBC: “Israel’s Beresheet Moon mission gets under way”.)

An Israeli spacecraft blasted off this evening, aiming to land on the moon. And if the mission is successful, it would make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface – after the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China.

It would also be the first privately initiated project to do so, although it was assisted by government partners, as Nature notes. “The feat seems set to kick off a new era of lunar exploration – one in which national space agencies work alongside private industries to investigate and exploit the moon and its resources,” Nature added.

The spacecraft, which is called Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”), was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

It was initially conceived as part of Google’s challenge called the Google Lunar XPRIZE for a private company to complete a soft landing on the moon. The Israeli non-profit SpaceIL was one of five international teams in the running for the $20 million grand prize; Google announced last year that the contest would end with no winner because no team was prepared to launch by the deadline. Still, the Israeli engineers at SpaceIL continued to work toward landing a spacecraft on the moon.

(17) A SCALZI CONSPIRACY FONDLY REMEMBERED. John Scalzi’s classic prank showed up in the background of a recent Big Bang Theory episode.

Mayim Bialik photographed the items in Wil Wheaton’s TV set apartment on Big Bang Theory and got him to explain their significance.

Wil and I both grew up on camera, and we also are geeky nerds who share a passion for discussing our mental illness struggles publicly. We are very similar, and it’s so refreshing to work with him.

The set that was used as his living room was really special because it contained actual items from Wil’s real life house. I was so delighted to see artwork, fan art, and memorabilia from his life—and I was so delighted that I photographed all of it and asked him to describe each item.

Wil Wheaton received the painting in 2008 and when it was finally revealed to him who had sent it, he wrote about the experience in “evil and awesome (but mostly awesome)”.

Without knowing that I needed a reminder not to take this stuff so seriously, without knowing – in April, when the wheels were set into motion – that around the beginning of August I’d be feeling pretty lousy about getting cut from the show I look forward to attending every year, John did what good friends do: pick you up when you’re down, and provide reality checks when you need them the most.

(18) UNFORGETTABLE. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books with Simon Ings”:

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

John Christopher got under my skin as a child and has never let me go. Kids’ books like The Prince in Waiting fed me those nostalgic and valedictory notes you need if you’re going to write into the British fantasy tradition. Much, much later I discovered the man had teeth: Death of Grass is a sort of John-Wyndham-without-the-apology tale about how personal virtue actually works in a disintegrating culture. Kindness is not a virtue. It is a sentiment. There, I’ve said it. But JC said it first.

(19) OSCAR-WORTHY FX. Here are three BBC posts with behind-the-scenes info about movie special effects.

The film Solo: A Star Wars Story has been Oscar nominated in the best visual effects category.

Visual effects supervisor Julian Foddy of ILM London spoke to Al Moloney about some of the challenges the company faced in helping to make the film.

The film Christopher Robin has been Oscar nominated in the best visual effects category.

Visual effects supervisor Chris Lawrence spoke to Al Moloney about some of the challenges the company faced in helping to make the film.

Robert Rodriguez’s latest stint as director is on the sci-fi blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel.

The film was written and produced by James Cameron, who originally planned to direct it.

Rodriguez says he made the movie for half the price Cameron would have, but with a reported budget of $200m (£154m), it still cost considerably more than your average indie-flick.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak speaks to the director and cast of the film, to find out more.

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