Pixel Scroll 6/29/21 It Takes A Heap Of Pixels To Make A File A Scroll

(1) DAYTIME EMMYS. The Daytime Emmy winners announced June 25 included this item of genre interest:

Outstanding Daytime Promotional Announcement
Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous / Launch Campaign (Netflix)

Subsequently, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has revealed the nominations in its Children’s, Animation, Lifestyle Categories. Fansided reports that Star Wars: The Clone Wars picked up three nominations:

The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released to widespread critical acclaim, and now the animated series will look to pick up some new accolades. It was announced this week that the seventh season of The Clone Wars has received three nominations at the upcoming Daytime Emmy Awards.

The show will look to take home the trophies for Outstanding Writing Team for a Daytime Animated Program, Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for a Preschool, Children’s or Animated Program, and Outstanding Sound Mixing and Sound Editing for a Daytime Animated Program.

The winners in the Children’s Programming and Animation category will be announced in a stand-alone show streaming at 8 p.m. ET July 17 on the Emmy OTT platform.

(2) THE LEVAR BURTON READS WRITING CONTEST. FIYAH Literary Magazine today announced the LeVar Burton Reads Origins & Encounters Writing Contest sponsored by FIYAH.

FIYAH is partnering with the LeVar Burton Reads podcast for their first-ever writing contest! Do you write speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror)? Do you love the podcast? Have you dreamed of getting your work in front of THE LeVar Burton ever since the days of Reading Rainbow? Well, here’s your shot. We are looking for one special story to be featured in Season 10 of the podcast

The first place winner will receive $500 and the story will be read by LeVar Burton on an upcoming episode of the LeVar Burton Reads podcast. The second place winner gets $250, and the third place winner, $100.

Editors for this contest include Diana M. Pho and L. D. Lewis, with the final selection being made by LeVar himself. View full submission guidelines and contest rules here.

(3) WHEN NEW WORLDS WAS REALLY NEW. At Galactic Journey, Mark Yon reviewed the July 1966 issues of Impulse and New Worlds. To everybody’s surprise and delight, New Worlds editor Michael Moorcock himself dropped by to leave a comment: “[June 28, 1966] Scapegoats, Revolution and Summer Impulse and New Worlds, July 1966”. (Yon’s review of New Worlds covers an early story by Jon De Cles, who comments here.)

(4) WORDS BY ROY THOMAS. The Cromcast has published another recording from the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days:  “The Roy Thomas Interview!” Thomas was this year’s guest of honor.

(5) VERTLIEB ON THE ZONE. Paradelphia Radio featured Steve Vertlieb on January’s podcast about The Twilight Zone.

After over 50 years of rubbing shoulders with the giants of the entertainment industry, Steve Vertlieb’s resume reads like a cinephile’s dream. This week I speak with the award winning journalist and film historian about the cultural impact of Rod Serling and his seminal science fiction anthology series “The Twilight Zone”.

The late 1950s/early 1960s were a time of staunch conservatism in America. This ideology was prevalent in the mainstream entertainment Americans watched on their television sets and at the local cinema. Rod Serling was a man with a message but it wasn’t a message many at this time wanted to hear. A talented writer, Serling was also a student of history and he knew that to get a message through a fortress wall, sometimes you needed to give the gift of a Trojan horse. “The Twilight Zone” was that gift and in the guise of science fiction, black comedy and horror Rod Serling’s voice reached out to open the eyes, ears and hearts of a fascinated public. This week we welcome award winning journalist, film historian and archivist Steve Vertlieb to the show as we discuss the cultural impact of “The Twilight Zone” and how Rod Serling’s message is still relevant over 60 years after the show’s debut.

(6) CASTAWAYS. James Davis Nicoll chronicles these (unwanted) homes away from home in “Five SFF Tales of Survival in a Strange Place (or Time)” at Tor.com.

… I’m sure you could find many SFF novels about such fuddy-duddy tourism turning strange. There are also novels that up the stakes by marooning the protagonist far from home. This will certainly give the protagonist a way to display do-or-die determination by denying them any choice in the matter…

Consider these five works about castaways.

The Luck of Brin’s Five by Cherry Wilder (1977)

Travel on Torin is a simple matter of hopping into a convenient space-plane and jetting to some other location on the Earth-like world that orbits 70 Ophuichi. Or it would be, if Scott Gale had not just crashed his expedition’s only space-plane on the far side of Torin, near the Terran expeditionary base’s antipodes. Oops.

Torin’s native population is unaware that they have off-world visitors until Scott’s space-plane falls from the sky. To the family of weavers known as Brin’s Five, Scott could become their new Luck (an integral member of each Moruian family’s five-member structure). His arrival may save the weavers from misfortune and starvation.

To Great Elder Tiath Avran Pentroy, also known as Tiath Gargan (or Strangler), technologically superior aliens are an unwanted disruptive element. Best to quietly dispatch Scott before Strangler has to deal with the ramifications of alien contact. And if Brin’s Five are not public-minded enough to surrender their Luck? Why, they can be dispatched as well.

(7) WEISSKOPF WILL KEYNOTE WRITERS OF THE FUTURE CEREMONY. Authors Services President John Goodwin announced today Toni Weisskopf will speak at this year’s WOTF Awards Ceremony. Goodwin indicated they are looking at October 22 as the date of the event.

I am very happy to announce Toni Weisskopf, Publisher of Baen Books, as this year’s keynote speaker for the combined Writers and Illustrators of the Future 36/37 Awards Ceremony. Many of our past winners and current judges are published by Baen Books. Writers of the Future and Toni first connected up in 1989, when as a volunteer, she helped out at the Writers of the Future Awards Event in New York City. We are happy she will be back again!

(8) TIME ENOUGH FOR CATS. Did we mention there is a Japanese adaptation of Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer? Let’s make sure it hasn’t been overlooked by the Scroll:

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1999 — Twenty-two years ago, Charles Vess wins a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for the illustrated version of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust which was published by Vertigo the previous year. Gaiman of course shared in that Award. It would also win a World Fantasy Award as well. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 29, 1919 — Slim Pickens. Surely you remember his memorable scene as Major T. J. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove? I certainly do. And of course he shows up in Blazing Saddles as Taggart. He’s the uncredited voice of B.O.B in The Black Hole and he’s Sam Newfield in The Howling. He’s got some series genre work including several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1983.)
  • Born June 29, 1920 — Ray Harryhausen. All-around film genius who created stop-motion model Dynamation animation. His work can be seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first color film) which was nominated for a Hugo at Detention, Jason and the Argonauts,  Mighty Joe Young and Clash of the Titans. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 29, 1943 — Maureen O’Brien, 78. Vicki, companion of the First Doctor. Some 40 years later, she reprised the role for several Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio works. She had a recurring role as Morgan in The Legend of King Arthur, a late Seventies BBC series. Her Detective Inspector John Bright series has been well received.
  • Born June 29, 1947 — Michael Carter, 74. Best remembered  for being Gerald Bringsley in An American Werewolf in London, Von Thurnburg in The Illusionist and Bib Fortuna in the Return of the Jedi. He plays two roles as a prisoner and as UNIT soldier in the Third Doctor story, “The Mind of Evil”. 
  • Born June 29, 1950 — Michael Whelan, 71. I’m reasonably sure that most of the Del Rey editions of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was where I first noticed his artwork but I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere since. He did Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls cover which I love and many more I can’t recall right now. And there’s a wonderful collection of work available, Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan.
  • Born June 29, 1956 — David Burroughs Mattingly, 65. He’s an American illustrator and painter, best known for his numerous book covers of genre literature. Earlier in his career, he worked at Disney Studio on the production of The Black HoleTronDick Tracy and Stephen King’s The Stand. His main cover work was at Ballantine Books where he did such work as the 1982 cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (superb novel), the 2006 Anderson’s Time Patrol and the 1983 Berkley Books publication of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith Triplanetary.
  • Born June 29, 1968 — Judith Hoag, 53. Her first genre role was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as April O’Neil followed by being in Armageddon playing Denise Chappel and then a Doctor in A Nightmare On Elm Street. She filmed a cameo for another Turtle film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, but it was deleted. She’s got one one-offs in Quantum LeapThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.,  Strange WorldThe Burning ZoneX-FilesCarnivàle and Grimm. Her latest genre role was in The Magicians as Stephanie Quinn.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TOP DOGS AND OTHERS. Gizmodo has an opinion – do you? “DC Super-Pets Ranked: Krypto, Ace the Bat-Hound, Streaky, and More” Daniel Dern sent the link, adding “For those who are wondering ‘Hey, where’s Proty?’ I’ll let Tom Galloway or Kurt Busiek field that one.” (Warning – it’s a click-through slideshow.)

It is a good time to be a superheroic animal. DC’s League of Super-Pets animated movie is on the way and has somehow nabbed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the voice of Krypto the Superdog, along with Kevin Hart as Ace the Bat-Hound, plus Keanu Reeves, Kate McKinnon, Diego Luna, and more. But these critters—and maybe others—have long had superhero careers in the pages of DC Comics. It’s time to look at every member of the Legion of Super-Pets— and see how they compare….

(13) SALE OF THE MID-CENTURY. See a bit of sf history in a photo here on Facebook – at the 1968 Worldcon in Oakland/Berkeley, Harlan Ellison auctions off the services of David Gerrold (standing).

(14) BRING THE ANSWERS. For those who’ll be in Wellington, NZ on August 3 and 4, SFFANZ points out the availability of “A quiz from galaxies far away” at the Foxglove Bar & Kitchen. Ticket includes: canapés, two drinks and quiz.

Battle of the Galaxies

It’s time for a showdown of galactic proportions…
In which universe does your loyalty lie, are you Team Spock or is Darth your daddy? Foxglove and Gee Quiz are proud to strike back in 2021 bringing you a quiz from galaxies far away, a showdown between Star Wars and Star Trek superfans.

Whet your whistle in Mos Eisely Cantina while the food replicator whips you up dishes from culinary worlds like Endor, Naboo, Vulcan and Remus. Have you ever tried Petrokian Sausage? All teams answer questions from both universes, including specialty bonus food and beverage rounds to test your knowledge of culinary delights that are out of this world. Every ticket includes 2 drinks, canape and shared table banquet dishes from all corners of the universe!

Book your six person team ($450) or book a single ticket ($75) and declare your loyalty and we’ll match you up with like-minded quizzers.

(15) YOUR NEXT $500 TOY. Er, I’m sorry, only $499.99. “Massive Playmobil Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 Playset Gets Official Images”Comicbook.com has photos.

Playmobil appears to be taking on LEGO and some of the massive Star Wars sets in their Ultimate Collector’s Series lineup with the 70548 Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 Playset. It’s being touted as “the biggest and most deluxe Playmobil playset created up to this point”. UPDATE: Official images added. Additional images are available here at Entertainment Earth, where the set can be pre-ordered for $499.99.

ORIGINAL: How big? When complete the starship will measure 42-inches long and 18-inches wide. Features will include electronic lights and sounds that can be controlled via an app, and you can open up the saucer section of the Enterprise to see a full 1966-style bridge. The body of the ship will also open to display the engineering room.

(16) A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE. “Astrophysicists Detect Black Holes and Neutron Stars Merging, This Time for Certain” – let Gizmodo fill you in.

A large collaboration of astrophysicists report they have made the first-ever confirmed detections of shockwaves produced by mergers between neutron stars and black holes. The detections, 10 days apart, represent two of these enormous cosmic unions.

In January 2020, Earth quivered ever so slightly as shockwaves imperceptible to human senses passed through it. Those ripples were gravitational waves, perturbations in spacetime generated by all massive objects but only detectable from extremely huge events, like two black holes colliding. The waves were strong enough to be picked up by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Louisiana (the Washington branch of the instrument was offline at the time) and the similar Virgo experiment in Pisa, Italy. These experiments detect gravitational waves using a sensitive arrangement of mirrors and laser beams.

Black holes are points in space with such intense gravitational fields that not even light can escape. They form when a star dies and collapses in on itself. Neutron stars form similarly; they are the extremely dense collapsed remains of dead stars and are mostly composed of packed-in neutrons.

(17) AROUND THE BLOCK. The New York Times reports “Venus Lacks Plate Tectonics. But It Has Something Much More Quirky.”

… Venus doesn’t have plate tectonics. But according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it may possess a quirky variation of that process: Parts of its surface seem to be made up of blocks that have shifted and twisted about, contorting their surroundings as they went.

These boogying blocks, thin and flat slices of rock referred to as campi (Latin for “fields”), can be as small as Ireland or as expansive as Alaska. They were found using data from NASA’s Magellan orbiter mission, the agency’s last foray to Venus. In the early 1990s, it used radar to peer through the planet’s obfuscating atmosphere and map the entire surface. Taking another look at these maps, scientists found 58 campi scattered throughout the planet’s lava-covered lowlands….

(18) SHOW BIZ WANTS YOU. Universal Studios Hollywood put out a call for contestants to be on “the first ever Harry Potter quiz show.” The application is here.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Ratchet and Crank:  Rift Apart,” Fandom Games says the latest line extension of the Ratchet and Crank franchise is so familiar that “if it seems like a new coat of paint on an old favorite, that’s what it is” and shows the rule of the gaming industry, that, “If it ain’t broke, just slap newer-looking graphics on it and charge full price.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/21 The Date With Two Names Twice

This is going to be a bit short because I have to leave early to attend a movie premiere across town. At a drive-in – which is good, I don’t own a tux.

(1) IMAGINARIUM BOOK FESTIVAL. The Imaginarium Book Festival is a free virtual event happening May 8-9, the first held by Nadège Richards and Diantha Jones, two fantasy authors who seek to spotlight the importance of “imagination escapism” in literature. Tosca Lee and Rebecca Roanhorse are among the many authors who will participate. RSVP at the link.

The changeover to an online platform for 2021 will allow a space for many to safely participate in discussions face-to-face. It is free to RSVP to the virtual event, so readers of all ages are welcome to attend and celebrate novels in the fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction genres. Panels will be held at 10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. EDT on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday. In addition, there will be interactive games and giveaways for book lovers to play and enjoy.

The author lineup features over 30 diverse fantasy and sci-fi authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Tosca Lee, Hafsah Faizal, Brigid Kemmerer, Emily A. Duncan, Shelby Mahurin, Roshani Chokshi, Roseanne A. Brown, and Jodi Meadows. IBF is also honored to welcome Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Rebecca Roanhorse.  

(2) STRESS FREE SFF. James Davis Nicoll has sieved the mighty Amazon to find “Five Upbeat SF Classics Featuring Barely Any Doom!” at Tor.com. (James, that is a sly title!)

“With Folded Hands…” by Jack Williamson (1947)

Salesman Underhill sells robots, but even he would admit that the best robots often fall short of perfection. Too many of the robots and other mechanicals on sale have been poorly designed or badly made. Not only that, but the market for such contrivances has become oversaturated. The appearance of a new competitor is an unwelcome development. At first.

Underhill soon learns that Humanoid Institute’s mechanicals deliver what lesser companies can only promise. Equipped with a crystal-clear knowledge of humans’ best interests, the Humanoids leave no human need unaddressed. Before the Humanoids, humans had to labour by the sweat of their brow. Now that they have arrived, humans can look forward to an eternity of perfect tranquility, as the robots have taken over every aspect of human existence…

(3) HELP WANTED. Pixar has issued a casting call for a voice-over actress who can play the character of a 14-year-old transgender girl in an animated production.

(4) MORE HELP WANTED. Another company is looking for help with Star Trek Lower Decks, if this can be taken at face value.

(5) WHERE TO GET POTTER MERCH IN NEW YORK. “Harry Potter store coming to NYC sets June opening with first images”SYFY Wire shares the view. They say the address is 935 Broadway, so not that near to the familiar Flatiron Building at 120 where Tor used to be. The Potter specialty store in LA folded several years ago, but that hasn’t discouraged this outfit.

…After stepping inside, fans of J.K. Rowling‘s Wizarding World can browse three floors of the 21,000 square-foot space as they shop for exclusive items transfigured straight out of the Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises across 15 different themed areas. In addition, visitors can indulge in a number of photo opportunities. Pose inside of a London phone box (aka the secret entrance to the Ministry of Magic), or else see what it’s like to step into Hagrid’s massive leather boots (which are described as “baby dolphins” in the first book).

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago, the Noreascon I Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation went to no one as No Award won out over a field of Colossus: The Forbin Project, Firesign Theater’s Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the PliersHauser’s Memory Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship‘s Blows Against the Empire and No Blade of Grass.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 21, 1911 John Lymington. Between the late Fifties and the mid Eighties, he wrote twenty-six genre novels, an astonishing number. All of his short fiction was done in 1964 and published in his Night Spiders collection. He’s not made it into the digital realm and I’ll admit that I’ve not heard of him, so I’m hoping the brain trust here can tell me about him. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born April 21, 1924 – Wrai Ballard.  Active in the apas FAPA and SAPS (where he served as Official Editor).  Promoted Lee Jacobs’ typo “filk music”, which stuck; today many fans are vigorous filkers.  Invented Non-Poetry.  More here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1928 Dee Hartford. Miss Iceland, companion of Mister Freeze in two episodes of the Sixties Batman series.   She also had appearances on Time TunnelLost in SpaceLand of The Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  Yes, she was very pretty and that really counted in that time. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born April 21, 1933 – Jim Harmon.  One novel, fifty stories; three collections, one posthumous.  Associate editor of Riverside Quarterly.  Fanzine, Harmony (naturally).  Outside our field, loved what came to be called old-time radio, had a program about it on Radio Station KPFK, edited two anthologies.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1939 John Bangsund. Australian fan from the Sixties through the Eighties. He was instrumental with Andrew Porter with Australia winning the 1975 Aussiecon bid, and he was Toastmaster at the Hugo Award ceremony at that con. His fanzine, Australian Science Fiction Review is credited with reviving Australian Fandom in the Sixties. And he was the instigator of the term Muphry’s law which states that “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born April 21, 1954 James Morrison, 67. Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius ‘T.C.’ McQueen on the short-lived but much loved Space: Above and Beyond series. Starship Troopers without the politics. He’s got a lot of one-off genre appearances including recently showing up as an Air Force General in Captain Marvel, guesting on the Orville series and being Warden Dwight Murphy on Twin Peaks. (CE) 
  • Born April 21, 1954 – Jon Wallace, age 67.  Reviewer for Vector, also Paperback Inferno in its day.  I think this isn’t the author of three Kentsibec novels.  [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1959 – Tim Jacobus, age 62.  Ten dozen covers; memoir It Came from New Jersey!  Here is The Invisible Man.  Here is Doomsday Book.  Here is Earth Winter.  Here is Egg Monsters from Mars (“they’re no yolk”, aiee) – he’s done lots for Goosebumps.  [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1963 – Suga Hiroe, age 58.  (Personal name last, Japanese-style.)  Three Seiun Awards.  Also detective fiction; Mystery Writers of Japan Award.  Qualified as natori (mistress) in Wakayagi traditional Japanese dance.  So far only two short stories available in English.  [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1978 – Lola St. Vil, age 43.  Two dozen novels for us; much else.  Has read two dozen books by Agatha Christie, seven by James Baldwin.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1980 Hadley Fraser, 41. His first video acting role was as Gareth in the superb Tenth Doctor story, “Army of Ghosts”. He’d later be Chris in The Lost Tribe, a horror film, and play Viscount Raoul de Chagny in The Phantom of The Opera, as well as being being Tarzan’s father in The Legend of Tarzan. And though not even genre adjacent, I’m legally obligated to point out that he showed up as a British military escort in the recent production of Murder on the Orient Express. (CE) 

(8) MORE VICTORIES. Publishers Weekly has a “Q & A with Charlie Jane Anders”.

What can we look forward to from the Unstoppable series and from you? Will you be writing more books for teens?

So currently, I have two more books in this trilogy after Victories Greater Than Death. In the second book, we get to see a lot of the stuff that I hinted at in the first book. We get to see a little bit more of the heart of the galaxy, more of the politics and more of how things are run. We get to visit some more alien worlds and get to know some of these cultures a little bit better. I really believe in not making people wait for too long. The second book answers all the questions that are set up in the first book and then there are new questions that will get answered in the third book, which I’m writing now. It’s a race against time to save everything because, without giving too many spoilers, stuff gets worse in the second book in a lot of ways. It’s that middle book where things just start to go down the tubes! So far the third book is so much fun to write because it’s just nonstop action. There isn’t time to let the grass grow under our feet; we’re just going to keep trying to solve problem after problem as fast as we can. The characters are under a lot of pressure, which is also really fun to write, but it’s the most fast-paced of the three books. I’m really loving that; it’s going in some really wild and wacky directions.

I would love to write more books for teens. I’d like to live more in the Unstoppable universe. I feel like there’s a ton of stuff that I came up with for this universe that I’ve barely even touched on in the books. I created a giant wiki with all these different aliens and things. There’s just so much that I could easily spend another 10 books getting into it.

(9) KRAKEN WAKER. British science-fiction author, John Wyndham is in the spotlight in this tv film from 2005: “John Wyndham – Invisible Man of Science Fiction”.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From NASA: “The Doubly Warped World of Binary Black Holes.”

A pair of orbiting black holes millions of times the Sun’s mass perform a hypnotic dance in this NASA visualization. The movie traces how the black holes distort and redirect light emanating from the maelstrom of hot gas – called an accretion disk – that surrounds each one.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, Cliff, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 12/25/20 We Wish You A Merry Pixel And A Happy
Scroll File

(1) JEMISIN’S LATEST MILESTONE. [Item by Rob Thornton.] N.K. Jemisin received an interesting present for Christmas when she learned that The City We Became was chosen as a Book Of The Month.

(2) AWARDED SFF BY POC. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank’s  annual Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2019, with 67 stories by 60 authors that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(3) CALL FOR REVIEWERS. If you’re interested in reviewing PDFs of either of these for File 770, contact me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com.

FIREFLY: THE ARTBOOK
An original glossy coffee table book bursting with brand new and exclusive art, includes over 120 pieces by professional artists, illustrators, concept artists, comics artists and graphic designers.

RIVERS OF LONDON BODY WORKS DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION
CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! Presents the full script of the graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-color artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.

(4) EXTRA SPACE FOR DOOHAN’S ASHES. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Richard Garriott smuggled James Doohan’s ashes onto the International Space Station during his 2012 and is revealing it now.“Ashes of Star Trek’s Scotty smuggled on to International Space Station” in The Times (UK).

As one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott spent a lifetime exploring the galaxy on the USS Enterprise, boldly going beyond the final frontier.

Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.

A note.  In 2012, it was also announced that some of James Doohan’s ashes were being launched into space on a Falcon 9 flight that would put them in orbit for about two years.  That was known, but not the same as Richard Garriott carrying his ashes aboard a Soyuz to place them on the ISS, which was not previously known.

(5) WW84 REVIEW. Here’s Leonard Maltin’s take on “WW84 (WONDER WOMAN 1984)”  — BEWARE SPOILERS.

WW84 starts on a promising note, taking a page from the Superman playbook: Wonder Woman sweeps into a shopping mall and dispatches a gang of crooks while saving imperiled children, even sharing a knowing wink with one of them. It’s a moment of pure fun that leaves you with a smile on your face and shows our heroine actually enjoying her superpowers.

From that point on, the movie struggles to be relevant and serious, but in a superficial, cartoony way. It drones on for two and a half hours but it hasn’t got a lot to say, and sputters whenever it’s trying to convey a message. A prologue on Paradise Island only makes one wish they made more use of that setting and its strong female characters….

(6) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Complex sets the scene in “Mark Hamill Clowns Space Force for Copying Marvel, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek'”.

…Responding to a tweet from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, Hamill laid out the full extent of the Space Force’s thievery.

(7) BIG GAME HUNTER. Camestros Felapton continues to assist Hugo voters with a new compilation of possible nominees: “Thirteen Notable Video Games of 2020 (maybe?)”

The other week I linked to a few “best of…” lists for 2020. On Twitter, Hampus also suggested another round-up source here https://www.cbr.com/best-video-games-2020/ I’ve since collated those lists along with the video games already listed on the Hugo Sheet of Doom. I’ll confess that I have taken a scattershot approach to deciding whether games are SFF or not. It isn’t always easy! Does a historical game count as alternate-history if you can reshape events (eg Crusader Kings III)? Is Call of Duty SFF because there is a zombie option? I don’t know! 

(8) GUNN OBIT. SFWA Grand Master James Gunn died December 23. Colleague Kij Johnson has a tribute: “With great sadness”.

This morning, James Gunn passed on at the age of 97. We’re not sure of what, but it probably was congestive heart failure. He went into the ER on Saturday morning, where they were not able to regulate his heartbeat. There will be official announcements and eventually a memorial.

One of many Gunn profiles is here at The Hollywood Reporter.

Gunn’s leadership in the field of sff studies at the University of Kansas is commemorated by the Center there that bears his name. His academic work included a series of filmed interviews with leading creators in 1970, including Rod Serling.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • In 1958 at Solacon held at South Gate, California, Fritz Leiber would win the first of ten Hugos that he would garner to date (counting Retros), for The Big TimeThe Big Time was published originally in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues as illustrated by Virgil Finlay who has multiple Retro Hugos as an artist. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 25, 1890 – Robert Ripley.  Dropping out of high school to help his family after his father’s death, he worked as a cartoonist, invented Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and became world-famous.  Said he documented everything.  Invited readers’ contributions, was read by eighty million, may have received more mail than the U.S. President.  Short cinema features, radio, television, visited 200 countries.  When R noted that in fact the U.S. had no national anthem, John Philip Sousa applauded “The Star-Spangled Banner” – which everyone had been singing – and it was finally adopted.  Also NY State handball champion.  Not in touch with us during his life (though he did interview Maud Baum) – he didn’t want fiction; the continuing R enterprise runs museums, publishes books: in RBI (R’s Bu. of Investigation) #2 The Dragon’s Teeth teen agents have special gifts.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1915 – Dora Pantell.  Teacher, author of textbooks and manuals (many on English as a second language), she continued the Miss Pickerell books of Ellen MacGregor (1906-1954) about a New England spinster (as such were known until quite recently) with a good mind who takes technological adventures and applies science.  EM left copious notes, DP wrote a dozen Pickerell books (MP on the MoonMP and the Weather Satellite) and as many shorter stories.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. Best remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA Town Has Turned to Dust, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1928 Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Joe Dante. You’ve seen him in both GremlinsThe Little Shop of HorrorsTerminatorThe HowlingSmall SoldiersTwilight Zone: The Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in the excellent  “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1939 Royce D. Applegate. His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum LeapTwin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected  and Supertrain. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1945 Rick Berman, 75. Loved and loathed in equal measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next GenDeep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: GenerationsFirst Contact (which I like), Insurrection  and Nemesis. (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1947 – Bill Fesselmeyer.  Active U.S. Midwest fan, worked on MidAmeriCon I the 34th Worldcon, satirized our Worldcon Business Meetings – so hard that we don’t always do them well – in “How the Grinch Stole Worldcon”, as you can read here, thanks again to Leah Zeldes Smith.  Earned a barony in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  With wife Sherry, Fan Guests of Honor at BYOB-Con 7.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1948 –Kathleen Meyer.  Chaired Windycon XI-XII and XV; Fan Guest of Honor at Capricon 8.  Ran Membership Services at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; chaired Chicon V the 49th; survived to run  Events at Chicon 2000 the 58th.  Twenty-five years Treasurer of parent ISFiC (Illinois SF in Chicago).  I knew her, Horatio.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born December 25, 1952 CCH Pounder, 68. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well.  She’s also been in X-Files, Quantum Leap, White Dwarf (horrid series), GargoylesMillenniumHouse of Frankenstein and Outer Limits.  Film-wise, she shows up in Robocop 3Tales from the Crypt presents Demon KnightThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films. (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Holly Phillips, age 51.  Reared in Trail and other small towns in British Columbia.  Sunburst Award for collection In the Palace of Repose.  Anthology Tesseracts 11 with Cory Doctorow.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems.  “As weird as I try to make my fiction, it’s never as weird as the real world.”  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Christopher Rowe, age 51.  Three novels, thirty shorter stories.  Co-author of Wild Cards 25, entitled Low Chicago.  Extended chapbook  Say…. into a small-press magazine for five years.  Has read The Last Great WalkLolita, two Jane Austen novels, one Dickens and one Dumas, The Hunt for “Red October”, one Shakespeare.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1984 Georgia Moffett, 36.  She’s  the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor.  She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UNDERSTANDING THE CRIMINAL MIND. Amanda Weaver finds the motive lacking for two recent newsmaking capers.

(13) GOLDEN GLOBES CHALLENGED. Although the specific film at issue is not genre, File 770 does follow the Golden Globes, and this eligibility question is of interest. “Golden Globes: What the HFPA Needs to Do to Fix the ‘Minari’ Debacle” in Variety.

The Hollywood Foreign Press has come under fire again for the rule that disallows “Minari,” the story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to build a better life in Arkansas, from competing in the Golden Globes race for best drama or musical/comedy. As the entertainment industry faces pressure to become more diverse and inclusive, both in the stories it tells and in terms of the actors and filmmakers it champions, the HFPA should have foreseen the outcry from Hollywood.

The rules around Golden Globes eligibility for best picture categories are outdated and need to be overhauled — fast.

“Minari,” which stars an American, is directed by an American and produced, financed, and distributed by U.S. companies, is ineligible in the best picture categories and must compete in the foreign language category. The problem was also faced by last year by “The Farewell,” Lulu Wang’s acclaimed dramedy, in 2019, which, like “Minari,” was forced into the foreign language race and excluded from competing for the Globes’ top prizes.

(14) SEEING VS. BELIEVING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 19 Financial Times, Raphael Abraham interviews Soul director Pete Docter about how the Pixar crew filming Soul discussed how to depict a soul.

Having consulted clinical psychologists for Inside Out, which made manifest a teenage girl’s emotional inner workings, this time Docter and his team turned to spiritual advisers for guidance  ‘We did a lot of research, talking with priests and rabbis, looking at Hinduism, Buddhism, all sorts of different traditions to see what they could teach about the nature of the soul,’ he says.  However, when it came to visual representation, they came to a dead end,  ‘Largely, it was not too helpful because it said they’re non-visible. And we thought:  well, great, but we’ve got to film something!’

Looking within themselves instead, the animators devised a solution that has the film flirting with abstraction as the action moves from the temporal world to the ethereal landscapes of ‘The Great Beyond,’ ‘The Great Before,’ and the ‘Counsellors’ who inhabit them.

Here they turned to art history for inspiration.  ‘We looked at a lot of modernist sculpture, Picasso wire sculptures, Alexander Calder.  We thought of the Counsellors as the universe dumbing itself down so that the humans and souls could understand it.’

(15) READ BEFORE YOU WRAP. Have you been influenced by any of these “20 Traditional Gift-Giving Superstitions” listed by Mental Floss?

5. CATS

In Sicily, it’s said you should never give a gift in the shape of a cat to someone who is engaged to be married, as this foretells sudden and violent death. However, in other cultures, if your partner gives you an actual cat as a present, it means you will never be parted.

(16) GHASTLY IMAGININGS OF THE SEASON. Dean Koontz’ holiday newsletter (available to subscribers) begins —

Tis the season to be jolly. That’s better than a season to be angry and mean. However, I find something unsettling about too much jolliness, especially when the jolly one is a snowman that has been brought to life by the magic in “an old black hat.” Whose hat was it? Huh? Did it belong to a serial killer, and did he die wearing it, and is his hideous, corrupted soul in that hat?

Frosty’s button nose is okay, but I’m creeped out by those two eyes made out of coal. We can often read other people’s intentions in their eyes, but NOT IN EYES MADE OUT OF COAL! The teeth in his grin are made of coal, too, and he’s always grinning, which suggests he’s psychotic…

(17) YESTERDAY’S MEDIA BIRTHDAY. This one is too good to skip. On December 24, 1916 the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed and written by Stuart Paton, premiered. Starring Allen Holubar and Jane Gail, Carl Laemmle, later to be founder of what would become Universal Pictures, produced it. Paton used most of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel and elements of Mysterious Island as well. Yes it’s in the National Film Registry as it should be. Indeed it was a box office success as it made eight million on a budget of two hundred thousand. You can watch it here.

(18) A DIY PROJECT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE A ZILLION DOLLAR LAB. Left over from Gizmodo’s 2019 “Fake Week” but news to me — “How to Make a Black Hole in a Science Lab”.

… “Black hole radiation is one of the perhaps most peculiar processes,” Weinfurtner told Gizmodo. Thanks to her experiment, “you can reproduce this process in the lab.”

More complex dumb holes followed; Weinfurtner eventually went on to lead her own group, now at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, which devised a black hole analog from a vortex produced by a draining, rotating fluid. The vortex amplified waves traveling over the liquid that bounced into it, and the experiment became a first observation of a process called superradiance in the lab—an analogy to the Penrose process, where spinning black holes turbocharge the particles in the space around them….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Polar Express Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the premise of The Polar Express is that when a kid “gets into a stranger’s vehicle in the middle of the night, his life is going to change,” but don’t worry, the vehicle is The Polar Express, so this is supposed to be a fun Christmas movie, even if the motion-capture animation leads to “dead eye characters and uncanny valley vibes.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Eric Wong, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/20 May The Luck Of The Seven Pixels Of Gulu Be With You At All Times

(1) COVID-19 VACCINATION. First responder and noted fanzine fan Curt Phillips posted a photo on Facebook of him receiving the injection —

First Covid 19 vaccination accomplished this morning. Fast, simple, easy. No adverse reactions at all. *Everybody* should get one!

Soon as we can, Curt! He’s followed up in the intervening hours with a couple of posts to say there were no complications and there was no more arm soreness than there is with his annual flu shot.

(2) IN OVERTIME. “An earlier universe existed before the Big Bang, and can still be observed today, says Nobel winner”, quoted in Yahoo! News.

…The timescale for the complete evaporation of a black hole is huge, possibly longer than the age of our current universe, making them impossible to detect.

However, Sir Roger believes that ‘dead’ black holes from earlier universes or ‘aeons’ are observable now. If true, it would prove Hawking’s theories were correct.

Sir Roger shared the World Prize in physics with Prof Hawking in 1988 for their work on black holes.

Speaking from his home in Oxford, Sir Roger said: “I claim that there is observation of Hawking radiation.

“The Big Bang was not the beginning. There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future.

“We have a universe that expands and expands, and all mass decays away, and in this crazy theory of mine, that remote future becomes the Big Bang of another aeon. 

“So our Big Bang began with something which was the remote future of a previous aeon and there would have been similar black holes evaporating away, via Hawking evaporation, and they would produce these points in the sky, that I call Hawking Points.

“We are seeing them. These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions. There is pretty good evidence for at least six of these points.”

(3) MULTIPLE CHOICES. The Guardian’s “Can you crack it? The bumper books quiz of 2020” includes a question about Iain Banks which I missed, so to heck with it anyway. (It’s a wide-ranging quiz. There are several more sff-themed entries. I missed almost every one of them, too, so double to heck with it.)

What day job did the Booker winner have while writing his novel? Who was rejected by Mills & Boon before becoming a bestselling author? Test your wits with questions from Bernardine Evaristo, Jonathan Coe, David Nicholls and more

(4) FAN SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Isaac Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green.

In The Early Asimov, I included “Big Game” among the list of those stories of mine that disappeared.  Not so.  I had it all these years and, without knowing it, had included the manuscript with papers of mine that I had donated to the Boston University library.  A young science-fiction enthusiast, Matthew Bruce Tepper, who had prepared an accurate and exhaustive bibliography of my science fiction, went through my papers at BU, uncovered the manuscript, and sent me a Xerox copy.  I had the story published in Before The Golden Age (Doubleday, 1974).

(5) IN MEMORY YET BROWN. Scott Edelman asks for help in tracing the history of this DC in 1974 Worldcon bid promotional shopping bag.

I found this among my late sister-in-law Ellen Vartanoff’s collection of science fictional memorabilia — an item I’d never seen before, promoting both Disclave and the 1974 D.C. Worldcon. You, who know all and see all, surely know when and where this might have been handed out — right?

And if not you, perhaps one of your readers.

(6) SOUNDS HAPPY. In “Christopher Eccleston opens up on returning to Doctor Who”, Radio Times interviews the actor about his audio roles for Big Finish.

…Eccleston went on to praise the scripts, which he described as “beautiful” – adding that the care and knowledge that had gone into them had played a huge part in easing him back into the role after such a long time away.

“That’s what made it feel seamless,” he said. “I felt that you [Briggs] understood what he was all those years ago – and so it was like putting on a pair of old shoes. Running shoes!

“Doing the scripts, you do get the sense of somebody who’s completely immersed in the lore of the show. I think what I realised, with all my writers, when I did the 13 episodes – and with this – is basically you’re playing the writer.

“You’re playing Steven Moffat, you’re playing Russell T Davies, you’re playing you [or] Rob Shearman… you’re playing them, their projected self, as the Doctor – and that’s what’s nice, because he has a slightly different voice from episode-to-episode while having continuity, of course. You all wanna be the Doctor!”

(7) GEISER OBIT. Artist David Geiser died in October.  The East Hampton Star  traced his career.

David Geiser, an artist whose career ranged from the underground comics he created in San Francisco in the late 1960s and 1970s to heavily textured mixed-media works he focused on after moving to New York in 1979, died unexpectedly of heart disease in his sleep at home in Springs on Oct. 14. He was 73.

A prolific artist, his work from the underground comics early in his career to recent drawings such as “Snail Ridin’ the Mouse” and “Dog Boy (a Young Cynic)” reflect his not only his wit and the eccentricity of his vision but also his remarkable draftsmanship….

“David left behind scores of underground comics from his early years in San Francisco, and hundreds of drawings and paintings,” as well as sculptures ranging in size from five inches square to 10 feet by 10 feet, according to Mercedes Ruehl, his partner since 1999. “In his spare time he was an avid reader of contemporary fiction from a wide array of cultures and nationalities,” she added….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty five years ago, Elizabeth Hand won the Otherwise Award for Waking the Moon. It would go on to win the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature the next year. And Terri Windling would in her fantasy summation in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Eighth Annual Collection select it as of her best books of the year. The American first edition cuts one hundred pages out of the British first edition. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 20, 1897 – Susanne Langer, Ph.D.  First woman popularly and professionally recognized as an American philosopher.  Fellow of the Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Cellist.  Five short stories for us, in The Cruise of “The Little Dipper”.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1930 – Tom Boardman, Jr.  Son of the founder of UK’s Boardman Books, managing director after it left the family, SF advisor to Gollancz, Four Square, Macdonald, New English Lib’y.  Edited five reprint anthologies 1964-1979.  An ABC of SF got Aldiss to Zelazny if we allow its pseudonymous B.T.H. Xerxes.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best remembered as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 68. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. (The Jason Isaacs fronted series is superb.) The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price in An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all-time fav films which is Darkman, and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1957 – Angela Hunt, Ph.D., age 63.  Two novels, five shorter stories for us; a hundred fifty books, children’s, middle-graders’, adults’; some nonfiction; five million copies sold.  Romantic Times Book Club Lifetime Achievement Award.  A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.  Also Angela Hunt Photography.  One of her dogs was on Live With Regis and Kelly as second largest in America.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 60. Named a SFWA Grand Master this year. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual? (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1967 – Jukka Halme, age 53.  Chaired three Finncons.  Guest of Honor at Eurocon 33 (Stockholm) and 37 (St. Petersburg).  GUFF (Going Under Fan Fund when southbound, Get Up-and-over Fan Fund northbound) delegate, attended the 55th Australian national convention (“natcon”) in Brisbane.  Chaired the 75th Worldcon (called simply “Worldcon 75”; opinions expectably differ on naming these things).  Seen in fanzines e.g. ChungaTwinkThe White Notebooks.  Served on the 2020 Tähtifantasia (“star fantasy”) Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 50. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine (1998–1999), and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian? (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1981 – Nick Deligaris, age 39.  Digital artist.  Two dozen covers, and much else.  Here is Bypass Gemini.  Here is Skykeep.  Here is Nova Igniter.  He did the cover and is interviewed in this issue of Deep Magic.  He has an interior on p. 5 of this issue of Tightbeam (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1990 – Ashley Dioses, age 30.  Five short stories; a hundred forty poems in The Audient VoidThe Literary HatchetRavenwood QuarterlySpectral RealmsWeirdbook; collection Diary of a Sorceress.  Inspired by Poe.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SEASON’S READINGS. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “The perfect science fiction, fantasy and genre-bending tales for the chilly days ahead” in their column for the Washington Post.

.. Lavie: Let me throw the first snowball here: I’m going with Tove Jannson’s “Moominland Midwinter” (translated from the Swedish by Thomas Warburton), one of the true greats and my favorite moomin book. Moomintroll wakes up alone from hibernation to find the world transformed, and everyone he knows is gone or sleeping (apart from Little My, who’ll never miss the fun). If you don’t cry over “The Squirrel With the Marvelous Tail,” you’re a monster. I reread it a few weeks ago and it’s just as wonderful as ever.

(12) NIVEN’S GENESIS. Fanac.org adds constantly to its online fannish collection. Among the latest gems are the programs from the series of LASFS Fanquets the club used to hold to honor members’ first pro sales. Larry Niven is now a Grand Master, but once upon his time he made his first sale to If. Read about his early career and what Fred Pohl liked about his work in Fanquet 13 edited by Bruce Pelz.

(13) ANOTHER ONE OF THE GREATS. Also deserving of praise is Fanac.org’s success in filling out its online collection of John Bangsund’s zines Australian Science Fiction Review and Scythrop.

Australian Science Fiction Review was nominated for Best Fanzine in 1967 and 1968. In 1968 (in the first year the Ditmars were presented), it won the award for best Australian fanzine. We now have a complete run under that name. The zine changed its name to Scythrop in 1969, and we added 5 issues of Scythrop: #21-24 and #28. We just lost John Bangsund to Covid-19 this year.

(14) PARIS, BUT NOT IN THE SPRINGTIME. Could be news to you, too – J. G. Ballard’s interview in The Paris Review, Winter 1984: “The Art of Fiction No. 85”

BALLARD

I take for granted that for the imaginative writer, the exercise of the imagination is part of the basic process of coping with reality, just as actors need to act all the time to make up for some deficiency in their sense of themselves. Years ago, sitting at the café outside the American Express building in Athens, I watched the British actor Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa) cross the street in the lunchtime crowd, buy Time at a magazine kiosk, indulge in brief banter with the owner, sit down, order a drink, then get up and walk away—every moment of which, every gesture, was clearly acted, that is, stressed and exaggerated in a self-conscious way, although he obviously thought that no one was aware who he was, and he didn’t think that anyone was watching him. I take it that the same process works for the writer, except that the writer is assigning himself his own roles. I have a sense of certain gathering obsessions and roles, certain corners of the field where the next stage of the hunt will be carried on. I know that if I don’t write, say on holiday, I begin to feel unsettled and uneasy, as I gather people do who are not allowed to dream.

(15) GAMING CASUALTY. The curse of 2020 continues.Mashable reports “’Cyberpunk 2077′ has been removed from the PlayStation Store, and Sony is offering refunds”.

Cyberpunk 2077‘s launch has been the kind of disaster we now expect from 2020. Released on Dec. 10, the ridiculously hyped roleplaying game was swiftly and widely derided for having more bugs than the Montreal Insectarium, with flying cars and glitchy penises dominating the discourse. Now, Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced that not only will it offer refunds to anyone who bought the game from its PlayStation Store, it will also stop selling Cyberpunk 2077 altogether….

(16) YOUR COMEDY MILEAGE MAY VARY. From last night’s Saturday Night Live.

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

Three Share 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for Black Hole Discoveries

Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez.

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded, one half to Roger Penrose, University of Oxford, UK “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity,” and the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany and University of California, Berkeley, USA and Andrea Ghez, University of California, Los Angeles, USA “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”

Roger Penrose showed that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez discovered that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our galaxy. A supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation.

Roger Penrose used ingenious mathematical methods in his proof that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Einstein did not himself believe that black holes really exist, these super-heavyweight monsters that capture everything that enters them. Nothing can escape, not even light.

In January 1965, ten years after Einstein’s death, Roger Penrose proved that black holes really can form and described them in detail; at their heart, black holes hide a singularity in which all the known laws of nature cease. His groundbreaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.

Penrose has in the past lectured at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez each lead a group of astronomers that, since the early 1990s, has focused on a region called Sagittarius A* at the centre of our galaxy. The orbits of the brightest stars closest to the middle of the Milky Way have been mapped with increasing precision. The measurements of these two groups agree, with both finding an extremely heavy, invisible object that pulls on the jumble of stars, causing them to rush around at dizzying speeds. Around four million solar masses are packed together in a region no larger than our solar system.

Using the world’s largest telescopes, Genzel and Ghez developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way. Stretching the limits of technology, they refined new techniques to compensate for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, building unique instruments and committing themselves to long-term research. Their pioneering work has given us the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

“The discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects. But these exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research. Not only questions about their inner structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under the extreme conditions in the immediate vicinity of a black hole”, says David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 10/5/20 Clem Kapixelscroller

(1) LIBRARY EBOOKS. According to WIRED: “Publishers Worry as Ebooks Fly off Libraries’ Virtual Shelves”.

BEFORE SARAH ADLER moved to Maryland last week, she used library cards from her Washington, DC, home and neighboring counties in Virginia and Maryland to read books online. The Libby app, a slick and easy-to-use service from the company OverDrive, gave her access to millions of titles. When she moved, she picked up another card, and access to another library’s e-collection, as well as a larger consortium that the library belongs to. She does almost all of her reading on her phone, through the app, catching a page or two between working on her novels and caring for her 2-year-old. With her husband also at home, she’s been reading more books, mostly historical romance and literature, during the pandemic. In 2020, she estimates, she’s read 150 books.

Adler buys books “rarely,” she says, “which I feel bad about. As someone who hopes to be published one day, I feel bad not giving money to authors.”

Borrowers like Adler are driving publishers crazy. After the pandemic closed many libraries’ physical branches this spring, checkouts of ebooks are up 52 percent from the same period last year, according to OverDrive, which partners with 50,000 libraries worldwide. Hoopla, another service that connects libraries to publishers, says 439 library systems in the US and Canada have joined since March, boosting its membership by 20 percent….

… But the surging popularity of library ebooks also has heightened longstanding tensions between publishers, who fear that digital borrowing eats into their sales, and public librarians, who are trying to serve their communities during a once-in-a-generation crisis….

(2) HOLD THAT SANDWORM! Collider reports “Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ Movie Is Moving to Late 2021”.

It seems the spice won’t flow until next year, as Warner Bros. and Legendary are moving Denis Villeneueve‘s Dune off its December release date and will unveil the epic sci-fi movie on Oct. 1, 2021, Collider has exclusively learned.

(3) WORLD FANTASY CON PR#3 AVAILABLE. The virtual World Fantasy Convention (October 29-November 1) has released its third Progress Report [PDF file].

In it you will find…

– an update on the program and schedule
– a description of our online and mobile platform
– information about the convention time zone
– pre-convention sessions by some awesome instructors, available to all attendees 
– exciting news about the free books available to all participating members
– a beautiful piece of artwork by our Artist Guest of Honor, David A. Cherry

(4) FANS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM. [Item by Rich Lynch.] Nicki noticed, on the Good Morning America broadcast, that their medical advisor, Dr. James Phillips, appears to be a Star Wars trufan.  On his wall bookshelf behind him were Princess Leia and Han Solo bookends, between which were various Star Wars books and DVDs.  And to the left of the bookshelf was a framed photo of Chewbacca. “Walter Reed attending physician calls out Trump’s irresponsibility”

(5) NEW FREE GUY TRAILER. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds’ video game movie is still due to open December 11.

In Twentieth Century Studios’ epic adventure-comedy “Free Guy,” a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story…one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way…before it is too late.

(6) REINING IN MAGICAL REALISM. Fernando Sdrigotti explains “What We Talk About When We Talk About Magical Realism” at LA Review of Books.

… I do not expect everyone to be aware of the many differences between Latin American people, the contrasting cultures and literatures of each country. I do not bother trying to convince anyone that it would be highly unlikely for Argentines (like myself) to make much of the words “magical realism” when thinking about our own contribution to letters. But I have no qualms in declaring that this label isn’t in any way useful to explain all of the fiction produced south of Texas, as so many have tried to do, forcing the most disparate authors into this pigeonhole. And to raise the ante even more, I’d happily die on the hill which declares that magical realism doesn’t even say that much about the region’s fertile literary production, beyond what it might say about a handful of authors, mostly around the Boom of the ’60s, plus their disciples. [2] In other words, the Latin American titles that would be shelved under the category of magical realism — without resistance from producers, critics, or well-informed readers — would represent a rather limited sample, if we consider contemporary and historical examples, regardless of originality and literary quality. [3]

But we are talking about a very powerful Force (uppercase intended). The “magical realist imperative,” critic Sylvia Molloy calls it, understanding that this is a label but also a demand: the demand that Latin American literature fit the label. This sounds circular, like the Chicken or Egg Paradox, and paradoxes are confusing. To make it simpler, for simple it is, it all boils down to: “If it comes from Latin America, it has to be magical realism, in some way, even if it looks like something completely different.” Needless to say, this results in terrible reductions. It has “wreaked havoc,” as Jorge Volpi puts it without much exaggeration, for it has “erased, with a single [stroke], all of Latin America’s previous explorations […] and it became a choke-chain for those writers who didn’t show any interest in magic.”

(7) THE SKY’S THE LIMIT. The Constelación Magazine Kickstarter has reached 40% of its goal with 26 days to go.

The magazine will open for submissions on October 15.

The theme for our first issue is The Bonds That Unite Us:

Constellations are the product of human imagination, giving meaning to the patterns we see in the sky. From these scintillating dots lighting up the night, we’ve created stories about heroes, legends, and mythological creatures. We created those bonds, and we give them meaning.

Each culture that has looked up at the sky with wonder has its own interpretation of these connections, and now we want to hear yours. What are the bonds that unite our cultures and languages around the world? How are these bonds formed, and what upholds them? How can they be broken and forged again? What unites an alien civilization to humankind? What ties the dragon to the unicorn and prevents it from making a meal out of her?

Sometimes these bonds are ones of blood. (Vampire tastes may vary.) Sometimes they’re shaped by shows of courage and strength, and the common struggles we face. These bonds can topple walls and bring down civilizations, and sometimes they’re the foundation for something new.  

The theme is open to interpretation, as long as the stories fit under the speculative fiction umbrella. 

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • October 10, 1962 – The first James Bond movie premiered.
  • October 10, 2007 The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising premiered. It’s based rather loosely  on the second book in Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. (Cooper has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.)  It was directed by David L. Cunningham and produced by Marc Platt from a screenplay by John Hodge. It starred Alexander Ludwig, Christopher Eccleston, Frances Conroy and Ian McShane. The Jim Henson Company owned the original film option on the series but never exercised it. Critics generally didn’t like it though they really loved Christopher Eccleston’s performance. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a thirty three percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 5, 1882 – Robert Goddard, Ph.D.  Built the first liquid-fueled rocket, a vital development.  Worked out the math himself.  Two hundred patents.  Had little public support; ridiculed.  Decades later NASA Goddard Space Flight Center named for him; Int’l Aerospace Hall of Fame; Int’l Space Hall of Fame.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born October 5, 1889 – Robert Jones.  A hundred covers, almost as many interiors.  Here is the Oct 46 Amazing.  Here is the Apr 50 Fantastic.  Here is the Jul 53 Other Worlds.  Here is the May 54 Universe.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born October 5, 1897 – George Salter.  Thirty covers for us, hundreds more outside our field; distinctive with us, pioneering with others.  Here is the Fall 50 F&SF.  Here is The Trial.  Here is Atlas Shrugged.  Here is Brighton Rock.  Here is Absalom, Absalom!  See this Website.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born October 5, 1923 – Tetsu Yano.  First Japanese SF author to visit the U.S.  Three hundred fifty translations, Heinlein, Herbert, Pohl.  His own novella “Legend of the Paper Spaceship” often translated (English 1983), anthologized.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born October 5, 1949 Peter Ackroyd, 71. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoor which tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film — it has not but he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his sole film work to date. (CE) 
  • Born October 5, 1950 Jeff Conaway. Babylon 5 has seen a lot of actors die young and he was one of them. He played Zack Allan, a security officer promoted to Chief of Security upon the resignation of Michael Garibaldi. Other genre roles including being in Pete’s Dragon as Willie Gogan, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark as Travis, Alien Intruder as Borman and the Wizards and Warriors series as Prince Erik Greystone. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Clive Barker, 68. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art which is not to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange and often disturbing art.  There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his his ideas.  My personal fav work by him is the Weaveworld novel. (CE) 
  • Born October 5, 1959 Rich Horton, 61. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year both no longer being published, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy which is ongoing since 2009. He has been a reviewer for Locus for over a decade. (CE)
  • Born October 5, 1967 Jenna Russell, 53. She appeared as the Floor Manager in the Ninth Doctor stories “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways”. She sang the Red Dwarf theme song,the recording that has been used for all of the show’s series over the last thirty years. She also plays the Baker’s Wife in the film version of Into The Woods. In the 1998 London revival production of it, she played Cinderella. (CE) 
  • Born October 5, 1974 Colin Meloy, 46. He’s best known as the frontman of the The Decemberists, a band that makes use of folklore quite a bit,  but he has also written the neat and charmingly weird children’s  fantasy Wildwood trilogy which is illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis. (CE)
  • Born October 5, 1971 – Paul Weimer, 49.  (Name rhymes with “dreamer”) Writer, roleplayer, podcaster, photographer, often seen here.  The Skiffy and Fanty Show since 2013.  Hundreds of reviews and articles for SF Signal 2011-2015.  Tor Website reviews.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate; trip report What I Did on My Summer Vacation. [JH]
  • Born October 5, 1979 – Grace Krilanovich, 41.  The Orange Eats Creeps an Amazon Book of the Year.  MacDowell Colony Fellow.  In 2010 a Nat’l Book Fdn “5 Under 35” honoree.  An interview here. [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MARVEL’S 616 TRAILER. Yahoo! News took a look at “Marvel’s 616 at PaleyFest Fall TV Previews 2020”. All episodes available for streaming November 20 on Disney+.

Topics include: exploring how Marvel and the outside world have influenced one another; the series’ eight episodes as discrete films with different styles and visions; the Marvel Spotlight program, which helps to craft plays for high school students, as seen in Brie’s episode; highlighting “Japanese Spider-Man,” the 1970s kids’ TV series that reinterpreted the webslinger for Japanese audiences; tracking down information and interviewees for the extremely niche show, never before seen in the West; the “616” title, which refers to the many realities within the Marvel multiverse; and creating space for comic book newcomers and veterans alike to see themselves reflected in the stories.

(12) THE HOLE EARTH CATALOG. Futurism thinks they know where this idea got started: “Strange Research Paper Claims There’s a Black Hole at the Center of the Earth”.

…When researchers dug the paper up this week — it was published about a year ago, but attracted little attention until now — they expressed consternation about both the contents of the paper and how it ended up in what appears to be a vaguely credible scientific journal. The bylines on the paper do appear to correspond to actual researchers at a variety of European universities. But its claims, about a black hole formed by something “like DNA,” are hilariously tabloid-esque.

… The most likely explanation, according to Cambridge University mathematician Sarah Rasmussen, is that the authors purposely submitted a ridiculous paper in order to expose “predatory journals” that purport to be normal, peer-reviewed publications, but in reality apply little scrutiny to material that they publish, often in order to collect publication fees.

(13) AIRLESS TRAFFIC CONTROL. “Satellite swarms as a service? IBM announces open-source projects to increase access to space”TechRepublic has the story.

Access to orbit around Earth was once limited to a handful of space agencies around the globe. With the proliferation of spacefaring technologies and cost-efficient craft, low-Earth orbit (LEO)—the sliver of space extending to 1,200 miles above our planet—is now an increasingly populous mix of private and public interests. Today, LEO is brimming with government craft, commercial programs, university undertakings, venture capital funding, and more.

On Thursday, IBM announced two open-source projects in an effort to “democratize access” to space technologies and help track the debris field orbiting overhead. We spoke with Naeem Altaf, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of space tech, to learn more about these programs.

… To assist, IBM has created the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) project, operated in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin, which leverages two models to monitor space debris. The physics-based SSA model incorporates Cowell’s formulation to model “perturbation” space debris orbit “caused by the Earth.”

A second model uses machine learning to predict errors in orbit predictions using XGBoost gradient-boosted regression trees, per the IBM release. With USSTRATCOM data acting as “the ground truth,” the machine learning model is trained using the physical model’s orbit predictions to predict errors in the physics model.

(14) IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A… SYFY Wire knows its dino plumage: “After 159 Years, An Archaeopteryx Is Thought To Have Shed The First Fossil Feather Ever Found”.

How much can just one feather reveal—especially if that feather is a fossil that drifted to the ground sometime during the Jurassic era?

Archaeopteryx is the earliest known bird that is thought to have looked mostly birdlike with some dinosaurian features. When a fossilized feather was first unearthed near Berlin 159 years ago, it sparked a debate over whether it was really molted by the extinct Archaeopteryx or some yet-unknown feathered dinosaur species. Now that a team of paleontologists from the University of South Florida have analyzed the feather, its attributes have shown that it is more likely to have come from an Archaeopteryx than any other creature.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that even though the Percy Jackson movie has scenes in a magic school called “Camp Halfblood,” the film has absolutely nothing to do with the Harry Potter series.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

(1) S.P. SOMTOW RETURNS TO SFF. Somtow Sucharitkul celebrated the appearance of his new novel with these retrospective thoughts —

My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.

Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.

Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.

But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.

Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.

(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”

Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.

(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.

Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.

One came half an hour into a conversation about upcoming books with Adrienne Clarkson, a friend and fellow author, hosted by the National Arts Centre on Facebook Live. Atwood’s image froze.

“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”

After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.

Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….

(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 7, 1933 King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
  • April 7, 1951 The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of  him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!

  • xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
  • Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7
  • Brewster Rockit goes for a pretty obvious punchline on the first day, and another one the next day.
  • Frank and Ernest certainly have their hearts in the right place.
  • Lio is about as funny as usual. (If you’ll pardon my saying so.)
  • Tank McNamara, on the other hand, is almost worth a laugh, which has never happened before. 

(9) AS LONG AS YOU HAVE SOME TIME ON YOUR HANDS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Barry Kibrick discuss the Universe from the Big Bang to Newton in a two-part special episode of Between the Lines: “Astrophysics: Part One, From the Big Bang to Newton” and “Astrophysics: Part Two, From Newton to Our Current Time”.

(10) SPIN CONTROL. “Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet” – BBC has the story.

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behaviour in the vicinity of black holes.

(11) TIGER, TIGER. Details on the sick tigers: NPR asks “A Tiger Has Coronavirus. Should You Worry About Your Pets?”

Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.

And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.

That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.

That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.

How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?

The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….

How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?

The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.

Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards:  Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.

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