Pixel Scroll 11/12/19 You Don’t Bring Me Vacuum Flowers

(1) X FACTOR. LAist interviews comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz: “Abstract Expressionism Gave ’80s X-Men Comics Their Superpowers — And This LA Artist Was The Mastermind”

He evolved his style over several issues of Moon Knight, then started putting it into comic book covers. Marvel offered him the chance to be the artist on X-Men — but he turned it down.

“Because, I told them, I want to do some experimentation. I want to just push and see what’s possible. So I don’t want to take Marvel’s flagship characters and drive them into the ditch,” Sienkiewicz said.

But he found a way in sideways. X-Men writer Chris Claremont came to him and asked if he wanted to work on X-Men spinoff New Mutants, and with more free range, he took the assignment as part of his quest to help change the perception of what comics are.

He used abstract expressionism, doing art that was more about the feeling than about being exactly true to reality. He describes his own work as being drawn well enough to look like what it’s supposed to, but that he’s more interested in what the people and the story feel like.

(2) PLAGIARIZED STORY? Pro-paying short story outlet Daily Science Fiction has published a story apparently plagiarized from another online source. Today’s story “No Time For Guilt Now” [Internet Archive link] credited to Abdullahi Lawal, is a copy of Avra Margariti’s “Ephemera”  [Internet Archive link] which ran in The Arcanist earlier this year. (Wayback Machine links to the respective pages are provided in case either original gets taken down.)

Several readers took notice in comments on DSF’s Facebook page. DSF has yet to respond either there or on its own website.

The Arcanist tweeted this reaction:

Update: Daily Science Fiction’s Jonathan Laden subsequently took down the story and posted this statement: “Apologies”.

A reader (and contributor) let us know that today’s story was evidently plagiarized from another story published by another site on the internet.

Please visit the Arcanist to read Ephemera by Avra Margariti.

We are reaching out to both the Arcanist and to Avra Margariti to make amends for our error in accepting this story as original by another writer.

(3) BEST FOOT FORWARD. SYFY Wire assesses “The best shoes in genre movies”. This is the kind of investigative reporting we need more!

Aliens (1986)

Sometimes a movie taps up a brand to design a shoe for a specific outfit and scene, which is how Reebok came to birth the Alien Stomper. A basic model of a basketball shoe provided the foundation for the sneaker that was worn by those operating the yellow Power Loader. A close-up reveals the Reebok logo in a moment of product placement. The sneaker saves Ripley in the climatic airlock sequence; which informed how the shoe was constructed, as designer Tuan Le explains — it needed to slip off with ease. On the 40th anniversary of Aliens, Reebok released a limited run of this iconic model.

(4) ASF IS CENTERPIECE OF SYMPOSIUM. “The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium: An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact” takes place December 12 from 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at the New York City College of Technology, 285 Jay St., A105, Brooklyn, NY 11201. In addition to participants from academe are Analog veterans Stanley Schmidt, Trevor Quachri, Emily Hockaday and others from sff.

The Fourth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium celebrates “An Astounding 90 Years of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.” Bringing together SF writers, scholars, and fans, the conversations today will reflect on the past, comment on the present, and contemplate the future of Analog SF. Linked to these discussions is the role of SF in a college of technology that recognizes the importance of the genre through its Science Fiction class and support for the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, an archival holding of over 600-linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and scholarship. Together, we will explore these connections.

(5) UNEXPECTED CONNECTION. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Ursula K. Le Guin is the only science fiction author that is discussed in Harold Bloom’s last book,The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon, which is a collection of essays about significant authors in America. According to Max Rubin, president and publisher of the Library of America, Le Guin and Bloom knew each other. “He “lived and breathed literature”—Library of America remembers Harold Bloom, 1930–2019”.

“Poetry…was always more important to Bloom than prose. Later in life he came to a real appreciation for the poetry of Ursula K. Le Guin and enjoyed a friendship with her via email.”

(6) THE FUTURE IS NOW. BBC’s David Barnett says it’s time to ask, “Are we living in  Blade Runner world?”.

…This may sound far-flung from our own reality, but as the opening credits tell us, the film is set in Los Angeles, November 2019. In that sense, Blade Runner is no longer science fiction. It’s a contemporary thriller. The question is: in the 37 years between Blade Runner’s release and its setting – our present – how close have we come to the future presented in the movie?

…However, beyond particular components, Blade Runner arguably gets something much more fundamental right, which is the world’s socio-political outlook in 2019 – and that isn’t particularly welcome, according to Michi Trota, who is a media critic and the non-fiction editor of the science-fiction periodical, Uncanny Magazine.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least, that what Blade Runner ‘predicted’ accurately is a dystopian landscape shaped by corporate influence and interests, mass industrialisation’s detrimental effect on the environment, the police state, and the whims of the rich and powerful resulting in chaos and violence, suffered by the socially marginalised.”

In the movie the replicants have a fail-safe programmed into them – a lifespan of just four years – to prevent a further revolution. Trota believes there is “something prescient in the replicants’ frustration and rage at their shortened lifespans, resulting from corporate greed and indifference, that’s echoed in the current state of US healthcare and globalised exploitation of workers.” She adds: “I’d have vastly preferred the flying cars instead.”

(7) JOIN SLF. The Speculative Literature Foundation has launched a fundraiser for its operating needs, a reading series, and a major project —  

THE PORTOLAN PROJECT. We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal for 2020 — to develop the Portolan Project, an open-source creative writing resource — sort of a Khan Academy for fiction.

We’ve begun interviewing masters of the field (including so far George R.R. Martin, Nalo Hopkinson, Kate Elliott), on aspects of craft. We’re building out a free website to host those interviews, along with syllabi, lesson plans, individual lectures and assignments on aspects of craft (plot and structure, language and style, setting and world building, etc.), the writing business, and the writers’ life.

We’re also interviewing emerging writers from across the planet, developing a better understanding of the international speculative fiction landscape, and the challenges and opportunities for writers in both independent and traditional publishing. We have academics helping us build a searchable database of speculative literature, to make it much easier to find stories that are relevant to you and your own work.

SLF Director Mary Anne Mohanraj encourages people to become dues-paying members and to volunteer.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 12, 1995 — The rebooted Invaders premiered on Fox.  Directed by Paul Shapiro, it starred Scott Bakula, Elizabeth Peña, DeLane Matthews, Richard Thomas and Terence Knox. Invaders Roy Thinnes very briefly appeared as David Vincent. The two ninety minute episodes were intended as a pilot for a series that never happened. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 12, 1917 Dahlov Ipcar. Though primarily an artist and you really should go visit her website, she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978 which are The Warlock of Night, The Queen of Spells and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1922 Kim Hunter. She portrayed the chimpanzee Zira in the Planet of the Apes films For the first three outings. Her first genre role was also her first film role, as Mary Gibson in the early Forties movie The Seventh Victim. She’s June in A Matter of Life and Death, and Amanda Hollins in The Kindred. She has one-offs on Project U.F.O.Night GalleryMission Impossible and even appeared on The Evil Touch, an Australian horror anthology series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, which I’ve encountered, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Julie Ege. A Bond Girl On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Helen, the Scandinavian girl. She also appeared in Hammer ‘s Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. And in The Mutations which got released under the alternative title of The Freakmaker. She had a role in De Dwaze Lotgevallen Von Sherlock Jones which got dubbed into English as The Crazy Adventures of Sherlock Jones. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 76. Probably best remembered as the Ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 74. David Pringle included his Who Made Stevie Crye? novel in Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, high praise indeed. Though slightly dated feeling now, I’m fond of his Urban Nucleus of Atlanta series. And Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is simply amazing.
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodénchik, 67. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The Rocketeer, Here Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskin, Star Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted alas), Tales from The Crypt, SlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 37. She starred as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy. More impressive she was The White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass, and she was Agent 99 in the remake of Get Smart! No, not as good as the original but fun none-the-less.

(10) EUPHEMISMS FOR DOLLARS. The Publishers Lunch news service shared an intriguing bit of intelligence with potential contributors.

The Key

A handy key to our Lunch deal categories. While all reports are always welcome, those that include a category will generally receive a higher listing when it comes time to put them all together.

“nice deal”: $1 – $49,000
“very nice deal”: $50,000 – $99,000
“good deal”: $100,000 – $250,000
“significant deal”: $251,000 – $499,000
“major deal”: $500,000 and up

(11) READY FOR TAKEOFF. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum gives you a video ride-along: “Douglas DC-3 Moved to Udvar-Hazy Center”.

One of our collections staff takes you through the process of lowering, disassembling, and transporting large artifacts like the Douglas DC-3. These artifact moves are part of the multi-year renovation project at the National Air and Space Museum in DC to transform the museum from the inside out.

(12) DEALING WITH MOLD. Cnet says the Discovery Season 2 Blu-Ray gives fans an earful: “Star Trek: Discovery exclusive clip shows Vulcan-ear options”.

The clip shows two different Vulcan-ear options for actor James Frain in his role as Spock’s father, Sarek. We also get a look at how Kelpien faces are made.   

The clip comes from Creature Comforts: Season Two, a behind-the-scenes feature that takes fans into the design process behind the characters, from make-up to making molds. It includes a one-on-one discussion with makeup artist James McKinnon and Mary Chieffo (L’Rell).

(13) HEDGEHOG MAKEOVER. The Hollywood Reporter introduces “New ‘Sonic’ Trailer Sees Redesigned Character With Bigger Eyes, Less Teeth”.

The film’s original trailer dropped in April, and led to a deluge of mockery and fan backlash on social media for the way Sonic looked. The reaction was so negative it led to the film’s director Jeff Fowler announcing that his team would rethink Sonic’s design, all of which led to a three-month delay to the release date. 

(14) TRAILER TIME. Pixar In Real Life is a hidden-camera show on Disney+ that watches what happens when people meet live versions of Pixar animated characters on the street.

(15) AGE, SOCIAL MEDIA, BROKEN FRIENDSHIPS. Laura Lippman confesses she “is bummed by the ways in which friendships end as one gets older” in “The Art of Losing Friends and Alienating People” at Longreads.

…As a friend, I frequently break the first rule of fiction: I’m all tell, no show. I’m not going to remember your kid’s birthday, or even yours, despite Facebook’s helpful nudges. When you’re in a crisis, I won’t know the right questions to ask. I blame my Southern parents for placing so many topics in the forbidden zone. I grew up being told it was rude to discuss age, income, health, feelings. I often think that’s why I became a reporter.

I have a list in my head of all the friends I let down. It’s not long, but it’s longer than I’d like, and it’s probably longer than I know. Most of those friends have forgiven me, but I never lose sight of my failures. It’s like a stain on a busily-patterned rug; once you know where to look, your eye goes there every time. I know where to look. I am aware of my misdeeds. Every friend who has ever called me out on being a bad friend had me dead to rights.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe” on Vimeo is a surreal film about a rationalist scientist who discovers religion in a surreal manner.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/29/19 My Room In The Luna Hotel Had A Harsh Mattress

(1) ALL’S WELLS THAT ENDS WELLES. This meeting between H.G. Wells and Orson Welles was broadcast on Radio KTSA San Antonio on October 28, 1940.

(2) DIFFERENCE DECIDERS. Rochelle Spencer assesses “A New Hope: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s Vision for “The Dark Fantastic”” at LA Review of Books.

…Thomas’s investigation leads to one of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature. In particular, what Thomas terms “the dark fantastic” — fantasy that includes but hinders or stereotypes people of color — is problematic. Still, if we’re to write what Thomas terms “an emancipatory dark fantastic” — stories that break the cycle of the tragic, sacrificial Dark Girl, and instead, reveal her as complex, defiant, central, and vibrant — we may ultimately succeed in “decolonizing our fantasies and our dreams.” And, as Thomas suggests, the ability to reconsider and reinterpret “the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.”

…Thomas wants us to consider difference as relative and circumscribed by power. Who has the power to label someone as different or monstrous?

(3) FINALLY RETURNING TO LONG FORM. Only her second, Susanna Clarke’s next novel will be sff and appear next fall.

Bloomsbury nabbed world English rights to the sophomore novel by the author of the 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellSusanna Clarke’s Piranesiis slated for a global laydown in September 2020. A Bloomsbury spokesperson said the novel is set in “a richly imagined, very unusual world.” The title character lives in a place called the House and is needed by his friend, the Other, to work on a scientific project. The publisher went on: “Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has, per Bloomsbury, sold more than four million copies worldwide. Clarke, who’s won both a Hugo Award and a World Fantasy Award, was represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.

(4) FATHOM EVENTS. “‘Twilight Zone’ Anniversary Show Set for Nov. 14”Variety has the story. The Fathom Events info is here.

Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment have scheduled a Nov. 14 showing for “The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration” at more than 600 North American cinemas.

The shows will combine digitally restored versions of six episodes with an all-new documentary short titled “Remembering Rod Serling” about the life, imagination and creativity of the show’s creator. It’s the first time that original episodes of the series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, have been presented on the big screen.

Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said, “‘The Twilight Zone’ has inspired many filmmakers and storytellers, so it is a great honor to be able to bring these classic stories to the big screen, and to offer such an incisive look into the mind of the man who created them.”

(5) 2020 ACCESSIBILITY. CoNZealand asks those coming to the 2020 Worldcon: “Let us know if you have accessible accommodation needs”.

Do you have disability or accessibility requests for your accommodation in Wellington? We are busy confirming hotel information to share with our members later this year, and need to know your current accessibility requests as part of this planning by 15 October 2019.

If you have hotel accessibility needs, please email access-hotels@conzealand.nz with details of your hotel accessibility requests and an indication of the number of nights you think you will be staying as well.

(6) PRISING OFF THE LID. Alasdair Stuart previews this week’s Full Lid (27th September 2019). It opens with —

— the UK strand of Netflix’s new anthology show [Criminal UK] which is massively impressive and COLD in a way very little drama manages to be.  Then it’s a very welcome return for Warren Ellis, Jason Howard and co’s Trees from Image Comics. The third series is a Strugatskian deep dive into one of the oddest places in the scarred and painfully human world of the series and it’s off to a great start. Finally, I take a look at Ad Astra, equal parts towering spectacle, moments of surprising emotion and near total tonal misfire. 

(7) NELSON OBIT. VentriloquistJimmy Nelson, Jimmy Nelson – known for his Farfel and Danny O’Day characters – died September 24 at age 90.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 29, 1967 Trek aired the “The Changeling” episode. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979, many fans suggested that the plot was simply a remake of this episode. 
  • September 29, 1967Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons first premiered into Supermarionation. This process was used extensively in the puppet series of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 29, 1873 Theodore Lorch. He might have the earliest birthdate in these Birthday Honors so far. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He’s also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 29, 1930 Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you can her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 77. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 75. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. 
  • Born September 29, 1952 Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 60. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next GenerationVoyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and Beyond, Babylon 5X-Files, Stargate: SG-1, Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is. 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 58. A Whovian among Whoians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor Who, Torchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. 
  • Born September 29, 1969 Erika Eleniak, 50. Her film debut was a small part in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as one of Elliott’s classmates.  Her first film role as an adult was as Vicki De Soto, a victim of the creature in the 1988 horror remake The Blob. She’s Vice-Captain Aurora in Dracula 3000, a film that had to have a disclaimer that it wasn’t a sequel to Dracula 2000
  • Born September 29, 1981 Shay Astar, 38. At age eleven, she portrayed Isabella, the imaginary friend of a young girl aboard the Enterprise in the Next Generation episode “Imaginary Friend”. She’s best known for her work as August Leffler, a recurring character on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Her only other genre role is as Mary Elroy in the “A Tale of Two Sweeties (February 25, 1958)” episode of Quantum Leap.

(10) FUR CHRONICLES. The late Fred Patten’s nonfiction book Furry Tales: A Review of Essential Anthropomorphic Fiction is now available from McFarland.

Tales featuring anthropomorphic animals have been around as long as there have been storytellers to spin them, from Aesop’s Fables to Reynard the Fox to Alice in Wonderland. The genre really took off following the explosion of furry fandom in the 21st century, with talking animals featuring in everything from science fiction to fantasy to LGBTQ coming-out stories.

In his lifetime, Fred Patten (1940–2018)—one of the founders of furry fandom and a scholar of anthropomorphic animal literature—authored hundreds of book reviews that comprise a comprehensive critical survey of the genre. This selected compilation provides an overview from 1784 through the 2010s, covering such popular novels as Watership Down and Redwall, along with forgotten gems like The Stray Lamb and Where the Blue Begins, and science fiction works like Sundiver and Decision at Doona.

(11) EMSH EXHIBITION. “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller”, the first major monographic exhibition of the artist’s groundbreaking work in film, video, and visual art, will be presented at the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia from October 18-December 7. Full details and ticket information at the link. See Vimeo preview here.

With an immensely diverse body of creative work, Ed Emshwiller (1925-90) is perhaps one of the most significant yet under-recognized artists of the latter half of the 20th century. 

Emshwiller’s career spanned abstract expressionist painting, commercial illustration, film, video and computer art, and collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and composers.  Dream Dance includes the preservation of two of Emshwiller’s earliest films, Dance Chromatic (1959) and Lifelines (1960), which will be screened at Lightbox along with 19 of his other films—some of which have never been publicly presented in Philadelphia—as well as notable films by other filmmakers for which he served as cinematographer. 

A concurrent exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery highlights Emshwiller’s visual and fine art background, including video works, early paintings, notes, sketches, ephemera, and many early science fiction cover paintings. Dream Dance is a full scale investigation of the artist’s legacy, presenting his multidisciplinary oeuvre to a new generation of audiences.

(12) VOYAGE TO THE INDIES. Cora Buhlert signs in with the highlights of “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2019”.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military fantasy, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, Asian fantasy, Wuxia, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, time travel romance, Steampunk, LitRPG, horror, ghosts, fae, pirates, space marines, conscientious objectors, traffickers, trailblazers, time travel, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, literary characters come to life, Arthur and Merlin, defiant empires and much more.

(13) THOSE DARN REPLICANTS. By the time you reach the end of this list — “Blade Runner: 10 Things That Make No Sense”ScreenRant will have you thinking the whole movie makes no sense. (Maybe it doesn’t?)

10 IDENTIFYING A REPLICANT

In the beginning of the film, it’s established that in order to retire a replicant, they must be subject to a VK test to determine their empathy levels. When Holden is sent to give the test to Leon, why doesn’t he recognize him? It’s established that all replicants have dossiers, because we see their mugshots lined up later on in the film. This proves there’s a unique database that exists of every replicant’s face on record.

Also, if it comes to identifying replicants in the streets, why can’t Deckard or other Blade Runners use an EMF reader to locate them? They have machine components under their synthetic flesh, so their electromagnetic impulses would assuredly register on such devices.

(14) STARSHIP NEWS.  “SpaceX knows what a rocket should look like!” says John King Tarpinian, who sent in this photo. Meanwhie,BBC reports “Elon Musk upbeat on Starship test flights”.

The American entrepreneur Elon Musk has given a further update on his Starship and Super Heavy rocket system.

He plans to use the new vehicles to send people to the Moon and Mars, and also to move them swiftly around the Earth.

The SpaceX CEO is in the process of building prototypes and plans to start flying them in the coming months.

…Both parts of the new rocket system, which together will stand 118m tall on the launch pad, are being designed to be fully reusable, making propulsive landings at the end of their mission.

Mr Musk is well known for his aggressive scheduling, which even has a name: “Elon time”.

The scheduling often slips, but eventually he does tend to deliver.

(15) MARS SOCIETY. The organization has posted the “2019 Mars Society Convention Schedule Online”.

The full itinerary for the 22nd Annual International Mars Society Convention is now available for viewing online. Please visit https://bit.ly/2kPIDqa to see the four-day conference schedule, running from October 17-20 at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles).

The Mars Society convention program includes a series of plenary talks, panel discussions and public debates on important issues related to planning for a human mission to the Red Planet and general space exploration.

Conference highlights will include an update about NASA’s Curiosity rover with Ashwin Vasavada, a talk about SpaceX and its mission to Mars by Paul Wooster, a debate about NASA’s proposed Lunar Gateway project, an update about the Mars InSight mission by Tom Hoffman, a review by Shannon Rupert of her experiences with Mars analog research, the finals of the Mars Colony Prize Contest involving student teams from around the world and, as always, an address by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Sherrill Patten, Mike Kennedy, 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 9/4/19 The Filer Who Climbed Mount Tsundoku, But Came Down From Mount Read

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

Update: Wednesday September 4, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do the men of Gilead do all day?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/26/19 Scroll-Fly Pie And Pixel-Pan Dowdy

(1) MARY SUE ORIGIN STORY. [Item by Jerry Kaufman.] This recent article from the London Review of Books is about fandom, or fandoms as the case may be, the woman who identified the “Mary Sue”, and her recent writing. (I am the real Jerry Kaufman – accept no other) – “On Sophie Collins”. (Registration required to read full article.)

A ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment. Most of these fans were (like Smith) female. As the term, and the critique, became more common, some fans, and some feminist critics, pushed back. They saw fan communities, and the defiantly unprofessional cultural production that emerged from them, as a kind of safe space, where the rules imposed by a patriarchal outside world about what one can say, and who one can be, could be ignored.

(2) ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE. “City Council Votes to Name Bronx Street ‘Stan Lee Way’ in Honor of Comic Book Genius, Spider-Man Creator” — New York TV station NBC-4 has the story.

Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s proposal aims to honor Stan Lee’s Bronx roots by co-naming a section of University Avenue between Brandt Place and West 176th Street after the comic book genius.

The city council voted Tuesday to approve the proposal.

… “Stan Lee was a Bronx native who grew up in my district,” said Cabrera. “Stan Lee was a creative genius who co-created iconic super heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more. Mr. Lee’s amazing talent brought joy and entertainment to countless children and adults and he deserves to be permanently memorialized in his home borough, the Bronx.”

(3) BUILDING A STORY WITH MAGIC. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to “Julie Czerneda and The Gossamer Mage. View the video interview, and/or read the summary notes at the link. 

…I asked her where the idea for the book started, and she said it started with a pen – and proceeded to show us the pen in question! She brought a lot of cool props to show us, so I encourage you all to check out the video if you’re curious about them.

One of the things that Julie explored while writing this was the history of ink. Battles were fought over areas of the world that provided good ink ingredients, and pirates stole ink as well as other things.

I’ve always found constrained magic systems very interesting, so I asked her to tell us about the magic system she used in The Gossamer Mage. Julie said she agreed with me that she liked constrained systems. She said she liked it when everyone knows how to use the magic, but wait, it’s not so simple. This particular magic system is constrained in part because it requires writing, which means it requires a particular type of scholarship. You have to be able to write words that are not human words, and to intend them. Further, this magic can only be done in the one place in the world where magic remains. One important ingredient here is that magic used to be in more of the world, but is no longer present except in one region, ringed with mountains.

Thus, magic is constrained physically, and it is constrained to scholars….

(4) BOOK MAKER. Shelf Awareness does a Q&A with Babylon-5 creator, who recently published his autobiography Becoming Superman: “Reading with… J. Michael Straczynski”.

On your nightstand now: 

Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I believe that an appreciation of poetry is essential for any writer in any field. That economy of language reminds you of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, not the word next to the right one on the shelf. On a conceptual level, I admire Ferlinghetti’s writing which comes at you from a right angle with a huge impact, so I reread his work every couple of years to keep my brain flexible.

(5) HE WHO OVERCOMES. Then, Cory Doctorow does an epic review of “J Michael Straczynski’s “Becoming Superman”: a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what’s right” at BoingBoing.

And so, drip by drip, crumb by crumb, inch by inch, Straczynski manages to become a writer, and it turns out that not only can he write to deadline, he’s really good at it. Even projects that seem silly or trivial on their face, like writing for He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters, are treated with such intense seriousness that they just kill.

But this being Hollywood, where, famously, nobody knows anything, every success that Straczynski ekes out is eventually scuttled by venality, cowardice, grift, or all three, as greedy execs and bullshit-slinging consultants demand that he compromise on what he knows is right. And Straczynski being Straczynski — being the survivor of a campaign of terror visited upon him by a literal Nazi — refuses to back down, because despite the mountain of shit he’s climbed to get where he is, the prospect of falling down to the bottom is incapable of scaring him beyond his threshold of tolerability.

And, remarkably, despite industry concentration and a thousand variations of “you’ll never work in this town again,” Straczynski continues to work. His story is a beautiful parable about how luck is made: the way it’s told, it seems like Straczynski has a horseshoe up his ass, with opportunities dropping appearing over the horizon just a little faster than the burn-rate of the bridges he’s torched behind him, but when you look a little closer, you realize that the most improbable thing here isn’t the opportunities, but rather Straczynski’s relentless, singleminded determination to seize them, writing (for example) entire seasons of his TV shows when the studios’ dumb mistakes leave them shorthanded.

(6) REVOLUTIONARY DATA. Can you imagine Brent Spiner playing John Adams in 1776? There’s a concept. He’s the guest on the latest Maltin on Movies podcast.

Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.

(7) THIS IS COOL. The earth seen from outer space —  here is a visualization of how Planet’s satellites assemble swatches of remote sensing tiles to complete a global observation in 24 hours:

In four years, Planet has flown on 18 successful launches and deployed 293 satellites successfully into low Earth orbit. With more than 150 satellites currently in orbit, Planet has the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in history.

As you may notice, the satellites are not always taking photos (or sending / “beaming” the data down to Earth). Parts of the landmass can also be missing due to complete cloud cover that day. See the Amazon, Central Africa, or Northern Australia for example.

A companion piece reveals more about the satellites themselves; the “doves”, “RapidEyes”, and “SkySats”. Explaining their sizes, the numbers out there already and the types of images they capture. Check out the story here!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1883 Edwin Balmer. Together with author Philip Wylie, he penned When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. The first was made into the 1951 movie by George Pal. He also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant, an early collection of detective short stories. The latter are not genre, despite being listed as ISFDB as I’ve read them. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class decades ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1919 James Lovelock, 99. Just shy of a century now in life, the Gaia theorist wrote a genre novel with Michael Allaby, The Greening of Mars, of the transformation of the red planet into a green one.  His newest work, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, thinks that hyperintelligent machines are coming into being by our own hand and that we better be prepared for their arrival. 
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 74. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time.
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 74. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor,62. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the best of the Trek series to date. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit.
  • Born July 26, 1971 Mary Anne Mohanraj, 48. Writer and editor. Founder of Strange Horizons, a genre fiction magazine. She has one genre novel, The Stars That Change, and two stories published in the Wild Cards Universe, “Low Chicago” and “Ties That Bind”. She also an anthology, Without A Map, co-edited with Nnedi Okorafor.
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 41. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. She and the full Torchwood cast did an an BBC 4 Radio Play called  Golden Age in which they time travelled back to Imperial India. Highly recommended. 

(9) THE BOYS. According to NPR’s Glen Weldon, “Superhero Satire ‘The Boys’ Doesn’t Have Much New To Say, But Says It Loudly”.

…Amazon’s new 8-episode series The Boys – about a team of non-powered mercenaries determined to take down the world’s premier team of evil, corrupt, soulless-corporate-shill superheroes – chooses to play in a sandbox that’s seen its share of use. A sandbox that’s been sitting out in the sun and rain and wind for decades, filling up with cigarette butts and cat poop and old toys left by previous storytellers, who’ve hit precisely the same themes.

This is even more true today than it was in 2006, when the comics series The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson – from which the Amazon show has been adapted, freely – first debuted.

…What The Boys was, at the time — especially if you’d been reading comics for years — was tiresome, more than anything else: Really? We’re still doing … this?

I’m happy to report that the Amazon series improves on its source material. It does so by taking the comics’ lazy inciting incident – the accidental death-by-superhero of the girlfriend of its main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) – and treating it as something more than solely a plot trigger. The series gives Hughie time to absorb, to grieve, to soak in the brutal incident so – even though it is depicted, lovingly, in garish slow-motion – it becomes something more than another nihilistic gag.

That’s a hallmark of the show, as it turns out. Where the comic was content to steer headlong into bloody spectacle and smugly snicker, the show serves up the spectacle (on a budget) and then … takes the time to inspect it, examine it, unpack it. To legitimately honor it, in other words. In its way.

(10) NEW TENANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Zombieland: Double Tap comes to theaters October 18.

A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

(11) CHANNELING TRADER JOE. Fast Company appreciates why “The Trader Joe’s YouTube channel is unexpectedly amazing—and very weird”.

Although wackiness levels vary from video to video, the run times are all wisely kept brief. The only things that run longer than the time it takes to decide between regular avocados and organic ones are the cooking tutorials. Everything else—including charm-infused shorts like Christmas in Germany, produced by Condé Nast Traveler, which mixes traditional animation with stop-motion footage of Pfeffernüsse cookies and other German delicacies—runs at around the one-minute mark, making for a thoroughly undemanding watch.

This one’s very stfnal –

While this one’s just plain funky –

(12) NASFIC/WESTERCON IN UTAH. Rodford Edmiston has posted an album of photos from Spikecon at Flickr. Whether intentionally or not, the photographer showed a genius for standing at the back of a hall in which the only people were in the front row and on the platform.

(13) REUBEN AWARD. Stephan Pastis won the 2018 Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year given by the National Cartoonists Society. The award was announced during the NCS Annual Reuben Awards Weekend in May.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Andrews McMeel Syndication. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children.

(14) CHERNOBYL. BBC digs into “The true toll of the Chernobyl disaster” in a long meaty article. Here is a brief excerpt:

Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the nuclear accident are only now becoming clear.

Springtime was always the busiest time of year for the women working at the wool processing plant in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. More than 21,000 tons of wool passed through the factory from farms all across the country during the annual sheep shearing period. The April and May of 1986 were no exception.

The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of raw fleece by hand before they were washed and baled. But then the women started getting sick.

Some suffered nosebleeds, others complained of dizziness and nausea. When the authorities were called to investigate, they found radiation levels in the factory of up to 180mSv/hr. Anyone exposed at these levels would exceed the total annual dose considered to be safe in many parts of the world today in less than a minute.

Fifty miles away was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the power plant suffered a catastrophic explosion that exposed the core and threw clouds of radioactive material over the surrounding area as a fire burned uncontrollably.

But Chernihiv was regarded to be well outside the exclusion zone that was hastily thrown up around the stricken plant and readings elsewhere in the town had shown it to have comparatively low levels of radiation.

(15) HAUER’S MASTERPIECE. Bilge Ebiri explains why “Even Now, Rutger Hauer’s Performance in ‘Blade Runner’ Is a Marvel” in the New York Times.

…Had Hauer played Batty as another stone-faced Eurobaddie, “Blade Runner” itself might have been a more comfortably classifiable genre effort, the kind of movie that many viewers expected in 1982, the kind that promised to pit Ford, the star so familiar to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, against a new kind of futuristic nemesis. Instead, audiences were thrown off by the knotty neo-noir that Scott and the screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples delivered, the film flopped, and a cult masterpiece was born.

Look no further than Batty’s extended final battle with Deckard to see both the evidence of the movie’s idiosyncratic tone and how Hauer’s remarkable performance enhances it, practically deconstructing the simple plot before our eyes. The replicant chases the beleaguered, frightened Deckard around an abandoned building, toying with the cop and playing singsong children’s games. But there’s still a catch in Batty’s words, slight pauses scattered in unusual places. Seeing that Deckard has killed his replicant lover, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Batty offers, “I thought you were good. Aren’t you the … good man?” The awkwardness of the words, combined with the pause before “good man” seems to question the film’s very moral universe…

(16) X MARKS THE PLOT. ScreenRant fires up another Pitch Meeting – this one for Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men franchise has been running for nearly two decades, and it all culminates with Dark Phoenix, a storyline that the movies already covered in 2006. Once again, Jean Grey goes absolutely bonkers with power, but this time Wolverine isn’t around to stab her. The movie has a pretty awful score on Rotten Tomatoes and definitely raises a lot of questions. Like what’s the deal with the aliens, are they bulletproof or not? Why was Quicksilver dismissed from the movie so quickly? What was up with that Phoenix moment in X-Men Apocalypse? Why do these movies keep jumping forward a decade each time? Is Magneto supposed to be 62 years old, and if so, why is a 42-year-old with no make-up playing him? Why did they show Mystique dying in the trailer?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/19 Credentials Asleep On The Shoulder Of John Scalzi

(1) RUTGER HAUER DIES. Variety pays tribute: “Rutger Hauer, ‘Blade Runner’ Co-Star, Dies at 75”.

Rutger Hauer, the versatile Dutch leading man of the ’70s who went on star in the 1982 “Blade Runner” as Roy Batty, died July 19 at his home in the Netherlands after a short illness. He was 75.

Hauer’s agent, Steve Kenis, confirmed the news and said that Hauer’s funeral was held Wednesday.

His most cherished performance came in a film that was a resounding flop on its original release. In 1982, he portrayed the murderous yet soulful Roy Batty, leader of a gang of outlaw replicants, opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir opus “Blade Runner.” The picture became a widely influential cult favorite, and Batty proved to be Hauer’s most indelible role.

More recently, he appeared in a pair of 2005 films: as Cardinal Roark in “Sin City,” and as the corporate villain who Bruce Wayne discovers is running the Wayne Corp. in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.”

… Hauer increasingly turned to action-oriented parts in the ‘80s: He toplined the big-budget fantasy “Ladyhawke” (1985), reteamed with fellow Hollywood transplant Verhoeven in the sword-and-armor epic “Flesh & Blood” (1985), starred as a psychotic killer in “The Hitcher” (1986), and took Steve McQueen’s shotgun-toting bounty hunter role in a modern reboot of the TV Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1986).

WIRED kicks off its collection of memories with the iconic speech: “Remembering Rutger Hauer, Black-Armored Knight of the Genre”.

Let’s get the monologue on the table, first thing, because he wrote it himself, and it’s brilliant:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

That’s Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, playing the artificial person Roy Batty in his death scene…

(2) ACCESSIBLE GAMING. The Mary Sue has discovered “The Surprising Ways Blind Players Have Made Games Like Dungeons & Dragons Accessible”.

… Then, in 2017, a friend introduced me to Roll20, an online platform that serves as a digital tabletop, and everything changed. On a computer, I have the power to alter my settings—I can zoom in, change colors, and make whatever tweaks I need in order to make things accessible for my specific visual impairment. And things I lacked the power to change, my DM could: giving tokens borders with higher contrast, adjusting the lighting on a map, or—if I got lost looking for something—shifting my view in the direction I needed to be focusing.

I could roll dice directly on the platform and see my result easily, and best of all, I had a digital character sheet I could alter easily and at will, rather than a few pieces of paper I’d require another player to edit for me. And then I discovered other websites, like DnDBeyond, which made it easy to look up stats and spells online—again, in a medium far more accessible for me.

I still required a dungeon master willing to take the time to describe certain things to me and to make whatever color and contrast adjustments I needed, but even playing with strangers via Roll20’s Looking For Game system, my experience has been positive. Thanks to the websites I used, the things I needed didn’t require all that much work on their end, and now I was able to fully immerse myself in a hobby I’d once believed would be impossible for me because of my disability.

(3) ABLEGAMERS. And in the Washington Post Magazine, Christine Sturdivant Sani has a profile of AbleGamers, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities enjoy video games: “How a West Virginia group helped make video games accessible to the disabled”.

In 2018, when Sony Interactive Entertainment unveiled the latest versions of two of its top-grossing video game titles — “God of War” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man” — they included new features that meant a lot to a specific subset of players: those with disabilities. To aid people with motor skill impairments, for instance, “God of War” introduced an option to press and hold a single button instead of tapping it repeatedly; it also let players with hearing disabilities adjust individual audio settings such as volume, dialogue and sound effects. For players with visual impairments, the subtitles in “Spider-Man” are now resizable and include tags that always indicate who is speaking.

Five years ago, according to Sam Thompson, a managing senior producer at Sony Interactive, it was possible to count on one hand the number of video games that had features catering to people with disabilities. Today, there are hundreds of such games. The shift, says Thompson, is “kind of amazing” — and he gives credit to a small nonprofit in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The group, called AbleGamers, was the brainchild of Mark Barlet, a 45-year-old disabled Air Force veteran and entrepreneur…

 (4) GAIMAN AUDIOBOOKS. AudioFile editorJenn Dowellsays – lend Neil Gaiman an ear! “Good Omens and Good Audiobooks: The Best of Neil Gaiman”.

… Where to start? Whether you’re a longtime fan of GOOD OMENS, Gaiman’s funny book about the apocalypse co-written with the late Terry Pratchett almost 30 years ago, or a new convert thanks to the sparkling new Amazon/BBC series, now is the perfect time to hear (or revisit) the audiobook.

… For something darker that’s perfect for an extended road trip, Gaiman’s 2001 epic novel AMERICAN GODS, in which old gods clash with new ones, also comes in two unabridged versions: one narrated by Golden Voice George Guidall, and a Tenth Anniversary Edition performed by a full cast. Can’t get enough gods? Follow up with ANANSI BOYS, about trickster god Anansi, read by Lenny Henry, and NORSE MYTHOLOGY, read by Gaiman.

… In the mood for nonfiction? THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS and ART MATTERS collect Gaiman’s essays and speeches and will give listeners insights into Gaiman’s wide-ranging interests and his writing process—and maybe even inspire you to make your own art.

… P.S. If you fell in love with Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s performances in the Good Omens series, don’t miss their own star turns on audio: Sheen gives a wonderfully immersive, Earphones Award-winning narration of Philip Pullman’s THE BOOK OF DUST: La Belle Sauvage, and Tennant brings his acting chops and Scottish charm to The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series by just-named UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.

(5) INKLINGS. Bruce Charlton revisits “Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings – 1978″ at The Notion Club Papers blog.

…Yet, in the end, Humphrey Carpenter failed in his attempt to throw the Inklings into the dustbin of irrelevance; because overall the book had the opposite effect of its intent – awakening for many, such as myself, a long-term and intense fascination with a ‘group of friends’ who were also, in reality, so much more than merely that.

(6) FROM THE BEEB. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired the second in the science and SF series Stranger Than Sci-Fi where astro-physicist Dr Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Last week’s was on artificial wombs.  Today’s is on black holes (or frozen stars if you are of Russian persuasion and wish to avoid the rude connotation) — “Black Hole Jacuzzis”.

The program will be downloadable from BBC for a month once it is broadcast

(7) MINORITY REPORT? Atwood’s novel is not in bookstores but it’s already up for the Booker. BBC has the story — “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel on longlist”.

Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale is one of 13 novels on the Booker Prize longlist, despite not being published for several weeks.

The Testaments is out on 10 September and comes 33 years after the original book was nominated for the same award.

(8) KRASSNER OBIT. Pop culture figure Paul Krassner died July 21: the New York Times has a profile — “Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87”.

Paul Krassner being interviewed in the men’s room during the 1978 ABA convention. (photo: Andrew Porter)

Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults; Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000.

“I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,” Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.

The magazine’s most famous cartoon was one, drawn in 1967 by the Mad artist Wally Wood, of an orgy featuring Snow White, Donald Duck and a bevy of Disney characters enjoying a variety of sexual positions. (Mickey Mouse is shown shooting heroin.) Later, digitally colored by a former Disney artist, it became a hot-selling poster that supplied Mr. Krassner with modest royalties into old age.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s “Haredevil Hare.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1802 Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. (Died 1870.)
  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s an audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1895 Robert Graves. Poet, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book), two volumes called the Greek MythsSeven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list and more short fiction that bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Primarily a mystery writer whose Travis McGee series I enjoyed immensely, he wrote a handful of genre works including the sublime The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything.  ISFDB lists a collection, End of the Tiger and Other Short Stories, which I presume is genre. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 83. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film. 
  • Born July 24, 1945 Gordon Eklund, 74. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good if I remember correctly. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? 
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 68. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin In Supergirl. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 55.  Comics artist and writer. work worth particularly  worth noting she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, in the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerised Into Sandman as the character Thessaly is based on Doran.
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 38.  An impressive run in genre roles as she’s was. River Tam in Firefly and of course Serenity, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, as Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (Is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow.
  • Born July 24, 1982  — Anna Paquin, 37. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series. Rogue in the X-Men franchise. She also shows up in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams as Sarah in the “Real Life” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a funny entry that actually references the phrase “sense of wonder.”
  • A well-known nanny visits the seashore in Rhymes With Orange.
  • Bizarro shows how to bring the full social media experience to live book signings.

(12) STRONG KEEP. John Scalzi tells what he thinks about “A Couple of Bits on Hugo Award Proposals and Attempted Wikipedia Deletions” which we have been covering here. When it comes to the Wikipedia —

… You might think that I, who was the target of much Sad Puppy whining and mewling, would be sitting here happily munching on popcorn while this bit of Wikidrama unfolds. But in fact I think the deletion attempt is a problem. Neither Williamson nor Hoyt are exactly on my Christmas card list at the moment, but you know what? Both of them are solid genre writers who for years have been putting out work through a major genre publisher, and who are both actively publishing today. They are genuinely of note in the field of science fiction and fantasy. One may think their politics, in and out of the genre, are revanchist as all fuck, or that their tenure and association with the Puppy bullshit didn’t do them any favors, or that one just doesn’t care for them on a day-to-day basis for whatever reason. But none of that is here or there regarding whether, on the basis of their genre output, they are notable enough to be the subject of a damn Wikipedia article. They are! Wikipedia notability is kind of a middlin’-height bar, and they get themselves over it pretty well.

Or to flip it around, if neither Williamson nor Hoyt is notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia, there’s gonna be some bloodletting in the site’s category of science fiction and fantasy writers, because there are a fair number of Wikipedia-article-bearing genre authors who are no more notable than Hoyt or Williamson. If they go, there are legitimately many others on the chopping block as well.

According to Camestros Felapton, “John Scalzi is wading into the Wiki-fuss”, Scalzi also made entries to the Wikipedia deletion discussion itself. He probably did, and although the links aren’t working for me Camestros has the full quotes anyway.

(13) FUTURE SHOCK. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum takes a look at the BBC/HBO co-produced near-future science fiction series Years And Years.  The series, which is built around the conceit of moving through years at a rapid pace — often three years in a one-hour episode, provides a mostly-realistic future that won’t fill many viewers with hope. ““Years and Years” Forces Us Into the Future”.  

“Years and Years” keeps leaping forward, forcing us into the future, as the economy crumbles, the ice caps melt, authoritarianism rises, and teen-agers implant phones into their hands. It’s an alarmist series, in a literal sense: it’s meant to serve as an alarm, an alert to what’s going on in front of our eyes, and where that might lead, if we don’t wake up.”

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the post of Prime Minister, I’d say that the series might seem overly optimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. But I’d heartily recommend seeking out the series. 

(14) MORE URGENT. “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

But today, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year.

The idea that 2020 is a firm deadline was eloquently addressed by one of the world’s top climate scientists, speaking back in 2017.

“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and now director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute.

The sense that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change is becoming clearer all the time.

(15) CLOSING THEIR EARS. Meanwhile, the \outpatients\troglodytes were out in force: “Greta Thunberg speech: French MPs boycott teen ‘apocalypse guru’”.

Teen activist Greta Thunberg has lashed out at French lawmakers for mocking her in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by far-right politicians.

The 16-year-old addressed legislators on Tuesday, telling them to “unite behind the science” of climate change.

She and other children were invited to France’s parliament by a cross-party group of politicians.

“You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the science,” she said.

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly.

Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg’s speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: “We do not need gurus of the apocalypse.”

Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology”.

Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party’s leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a “Nobel Prize for Fear”.

Speaking to France 2 television, Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg’s campaigning efforts to a “dictatorship of perpetual emotion”.

(16) TO SIR WITH LOVE. BBC reports “Sir Michael Palin to have heart surgery”.

Comedian and broadcaster Sir Michael Palin is to have surgery to fix a “leaky valve” in his heart.

The Monty Python member discovered a problem with his mitral valve – a small flap that stops blood flowing the wrong way around the heart – five years ago.

It had not affected his general fitness until earlier this year, he said.

“Recently, though, I have felt my heart having to work harder and have been advised it’s time to have the valve repaired,” he wrote on his website.

“I shall be undergoing surgery in September and should be back to normal, or rather better than normal, within three months.”

(17) PICARD & COMPANY. TV Line did a mass interview — “’Star Trek: Picard’ Cast on the Return of Patrick Stewart’s Iconic Captain.”

The cast of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ previews the CBS All Access series with TVLine’s Kim Roots at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/19 With Mullets Towards None

(1) THOUGHTS ON A PROPOSED HUGO CATEGORY. Neil Clarke explains why he opposes “Hugo Proposal for Best Translated Novel”

…The biggest problem I have with this proposal is the message it sends not only to domestic readers, but foreign authors, editors, and publishers: translated works are not as good as ours, so we’re making a special category for you so you can get awards too. I don’t believe that’s the intention of those who drafted this proposal. I think they approached it with the best of intentions, but simply got it wrong. For years now, I have been making the case that we should be treating translated and international works as equals: stories worthy of standing alongside those we have routinely seen published. This proposal sends the opposite message, and on those grounds intend to vote no.

Translated works are capable of winning the Hugo without any special treatment. As they point out in their own commentary, three translated works have won since 2015, despite the relatively low number of translations published among a wide sea of domestic releases….

(2) ‘TOPIARY. Juliette Wade’s Dive Into Worldbuilding encounters winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Nebula nominee “Sam J. Miller and Blackfish City”. Read the synopsis at the link, and/or watch the video:

…There are some utopian elements in the story as well as dystopian ones. A lot of energy problems can be solved. The city uses methane generators to produce light. They also don’t need militarized police. Sam remarked how any place can have both utopian and dystopian elements depending on who you are. To the people who live in the Capital, the Hunger Games world is a utopia.

I asked if this book was strictly speaking science fiction or whether it had fantastical elements. He explained that it is a science fiction story, but that he uses nanites to do things that might seem magical. The nanites allow some humans to bond with animals. That bond could seem fantastical but it has technological underpinnings.

There are people called orcamancers. Sam explained that the origins of the orcamancers are  with illegal pharmaceutical testing that happened in the period between the present and the time period of the novel. Rival drugs were tested on people at different times. This accidentally led to a form of bonding with animals that Sam compared to the daemons in The Golden Compass. He explained that cultural practices regulate why you would bond with particular animals….

(3) CICERO – NOT ILLINOIS. Ada Palmer dives into “Stoicism’s Appeal to the Rich and Powerful” at Ex Urbe

I was recently interviewed for a piece in the Times on why the philosophy of stoicism has become very popular in the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Only a sliver of my thoughts made it into the article, but the question from Nellie Bowles was very stimulating so I wanted to share more of my thoughts.

To begin with, like any ancient philosophy, stoicism has a physics and metaphysics–how it thinks the universe works–and separately an ethics–how it advises one to live, and judge good and bad action. The ethics is based on the physics and metaphysics, but can be divorced from it, and the ethics has long been far more popular than the metaphysics.  This is a big part of why stoic texts surviving from antiquity focus on the ethics; people transcribing manuscripts cared more about these than about the others.  And this is why thinkers from Cicero to Petrarch to today have celebrated stoicism’s moral and ethical advice while following utterly different cosmologies and metaphysicses.  (For serious engagement with stoic ontology & metaphysics you want Spinoza.)  The current fad for stoicism, like all past fads for stoicism (except Spinoza) focuses on the ethics.

(4) DRAGON TRAINER NOW LAUREATE. “How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell named new children’s laureate”The Guardian has the story.

Cressida Cowell has become the new UK Children’s Laureate.

The author of How To Train Your Dragon, and the Wizards of Once will take over from previous laureate, Lauren Childs..

She said: “Books and reading are magic, and this magic must be available to absolutely everyone. I’m honoured to be chosen to be the eleventh Waterstones Children’s Laureate. I will be a laureate who fights for books and children’s interests with passion, conviction and action. Practical magic, empathy and creative intelligence, is the plan.”

Cressida has also revealed a ‘giant to-do list’ to help make sure that books and reading are available to everyone. It says that every child has the right to:

  1. Read for the joy of it.
  2. Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops.
  3. Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller.
  4. Own their OWN book.
  5. See themselves reflected in a book.
  6. Be read aloud to.
  7. Have some choice in what they read.
  8. Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week.
  9. See an author event at least ONCE.
  10. Have a planet to read on.

(5) GEEKY GETAWAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] For your vacationing pleasure, SYFY Wire has lists and descriptions of 10 hotels “Geek Road Trip: 10 nerdy hotels that’ll turn vacation into a fandom pilgrimage” and 6 Airbnbs “Geek Road Trip: 6 extra-nerdy Airbnb to book for your next vacation” with fan welcoming accommodations. The latter include a Harry Potter themed apartment in Atlanta GA, an ’80s throwback gaming room in Lisbon, Portugal (& other themed rooms in the same building), a Marvel-ous studio apartment in Manila Philippines, a Star Wars suite in Melbourne Australia, a riverside Hobbit hole in Orondo, WA and Pixar paradise (with differently-themed rooms) in Anaheim CA.

(6) NAMELESS DREAD. The series doesn’t have a title yet, but it does have characters: “George RR Martin Says ‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Includes the Starks, Direwolves and White Walkers”.

HBO’s untitled Naomi Watts-led “Game of Thrones” prequel pilot may not have Targaryens and dragons — but it does have Starks, direwolves and, of course, White Walkers.

“The Starks will definitely be there,” George R.R. Martin, co-creator and executive producer on the project alongside showrunner Jane Goldman, told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published Tuesday.

“Obviously the White Walkers are here — or as they’re called in my books, The Others — and that will be an aspect of it,” the “A Song of Ice and Fire” author said, adding: “There are things like direwolves and mammoths.”

The appearance of the Starks, descendants of the First Men, shouldn’t be a shock to fans who remember the prequel — which is reportedly currently filming in North Ireland — takes place roughly 5,000 years before the events of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

(7) THE REEL DEAL. Yahoo! Finance expects big bucks to change hands: “‘Lost’ tapes of first moonwalk to be sold; former NASA intern may make millions”.

A former intern at NASA may become a millionaire when he sells three metal reels that contain original videotape recordings of man’s first steps on the moon.  

The videotapes will be offered in a live auction on July 20th at Sotheby’s New York, but interested parties are able to place bids now at Sothebys.com. The sale coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The price could reach $2 million.

According to the auction site, Gary George was awarded a cooperative work internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center in June 1973. Three years later, he bought more than 1,100 reels at a government surplus auction for $218, Reuters reported.

(8) GAIMAN’S STUDY. Variety’s photo essay takes you “Inside Neil Gaiman’s Rural Writing Retreat”. (Hey, we have the same interior decorator!)

Although Gaiman has won multiple Hugo Awards, he only keeps one in his office; the others are in his house in Wisconsin. The one he earned in 2016 for “The Sandman: Overture” receives extra special placement not only because of his long history with the franchise (“It had a ‘you can go home again’ quality to it,” he says) but also because “there is something magical in knowing I was awarded it for a graphic novel. I remember I was there, not too long ago, fighting for whether comics could get awards and things like that. But people loved it; it got its audience; it got awards; people cared.”

(9) NATIVE TONGUE TRILOGY EVENT. On Thursday, July 18, there will be a panel discussion on feminist sci-fi with Rebecca Romney, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bethany C. Morrow, and moderated by Eliza Cushman Rose focusing on “The Legacy of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue Trilogy”. This event is hosted by The Feminist Press and will be held at Books are Magic, 225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Ok I’ll admit I’ve not read the Gormenghast novels, nor have I seen the various video adaptations. Please tell me what I’ve been missing. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 75. With the exception of the new novel which I need to read, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also his far lighter Garrett P.I. Which unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it.
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 74. The genres of of mystery. horror, fantasy and science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 65. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my boutique favorite publisher of fantasy. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel is really great.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 49. Her Heart of Iron novel is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow as well. It’s worth noting that both iBooks and Kindle list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilful Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. I’m off to buy them now. 
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 41. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer character Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, she was Renee Hansen in Spectres which Marina Sirtis is also in. She was in some called Star Trek: Captain Pike three years back as Captain Grace Shintal. 

(11) DISTURBING TREND? Yesterday, “Jar Jar Binks spent the day trending on Twitter, baffling Star Wars fans” says SYFY Wire.

Earlier this morning, Jar Jar Binks was inexplicably one of the trending topics on Twitter. No one seemed to understand why, although there have been some theories. The Tampa Bay Times looked into the matter, which traced it back to a meme that predicts your Star Wars fate. While the image had been making the rounds online, it was shared by Mark Hamill earlier this morning, giving it some serious traction. 

(12) VINTAGE 2018 FINNCON. Karl-Johan Norén’s report on his 2018 Nordic Fan Fund trip to Finncon 2018 is up on eFanzines in both epub (preferred) and PDF formats.

…Meanwhile, Hulda and Therese participated in the Klingon language workshop, where they learnt some helpful Klingon phrases and Hulda impressed by showing a basic knowledge of the IPA symbols. Later on, when Hulda accidentally tickled Therese, Therese gave off a very Klingon-like sound, leading Hulda to ask if Klingons are ticklish. That gave rise to a very spirited discussion, including if Klingons would admit that they could possibly be ticklish, and if empirical research was advised…

(13) BUSTED. The Daily Beast reports on Streamliner Lines’ inaugural run through western Nevada: “Redditors Say This Is a Nazi Bus. The Owner Says It’s a Misunderstanding.”

It bans “social justice warriors” and drives across Nevada with a logo that looks suspiciously like a Nazi flag. It’s Reno’s new bus line and the owner says the racist reputation is all just a misunderstanding.

On Friday, Streamliner Lines launched its maiden bus run from Reno to Las Vegas. Streamliner president John Wang told The Daily Beast it ran a little behind schedule (traffic), and sold few tickets (the Nazi reputation). Still, the trip was the first victory for Streamliner, which previously failed inspection on its only bus and has spent the past month embroiled in spats with Redditors over the company’s logo and its ban on some left-wing passengers.

(14) BLADE RUNNER. Titan Comics advertises Blade Runner 2019 as “the first comic to tell new stories set in the Blade Runner universe!”

(15) KORNBLUTH TRIBUTE. Andrew Porter passed along a scanned clipping of Cyril Kornbluth’s obituary in a 1958 New York Times.

(16) UMM, YUM? Gastro Obscura calls her ‘Annabel Lecter’ because “These Made-to-Order Cakes Look Like Beautiful Nightmares”.

English pastry chef Annabel de Vetten crafts what may be the world’s most fantastically morbid confections. Her Birmingham studio and cooking space, the Conjurer’s Kitchen, is filled with feasts of macabre eye candy rendered with ghoulish precision.

Here is a plate heaped with thumb-sized maggots and grubs. There a bloodied human heart lies in a pool of green, molar-strewn slime. A stainless-steel coroner’s table hosts the disemboweled upper-torso of a corpse. It’s flanked by a four-foot statue of a saint, his face melting away to bone. On the counter, the neck of a deer’s partially fleshless head sinks its roots into a bisected flowerpot; a sapling bursts from its skull like a unicorn horn.

(17) THE ART OF FILLING OUT THE HUGO BALLOT. Steve J. Wright moves on to review “Hugo Category: Best Art Book”.

…Taking a look at this year’s offerings – well, the Hugo voters’ packet contains partial content (the images, really) from three of the six, and the full text and images from a fourth, which last was something I really didn’t expect.  I bought one of the remaining two myself… but the last one, Julie Dillon’s Daydreamer’s Journey, is a self-published job funded by a Kickstarter project and put together using indie tools, and the ultimate result was, I figured I could just about afford the book, but then I looked at the cost of overseas shipping, and my wallet instinctively snapped shut.  Pity, really.  Julie Dillon is a familiar name from recent Pro Artist final lists, and a book of her artwork (with accompanying descriptions of her creative process for each piece) would be a very nice thing to have.  The Kickstarter makes it look very enticing indeed….

(18) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. NPR finds that “Moon Rocks Still Awe, And Scientists Hope To Get Their Hands On More”

Darby Dyar says that as a kid, whenever Apollo astronauts returned from the moon, she and her classmates would get ushered into the school library to watch it on TV.

She remembers seeing the space capsules bobbing in the ocean as the astronauts emerged. “They climbed out and then they very carefully took the lunar samples and put them in the little rubber boat,” Dyar says, recalling that the storage box looked like an ice chest.

Nearly a half-ton of moon rocks were collected by the six Apollo missions to the lunar surface. And as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first landing mission approaches, NASA has decided to open up a still-sealed, never-studied moon rock sample that has been carefully saved for decades, waiting for technology to advance.

(19) I PRAY FOR ONE FIRST LANDING. Even if it’s not one of Glyer’s Chinese ‘bots I’m sure you’ll cheer when “AI pilot ‘sees’ runway and lands automatically”.

An automatic pilot has landed a plane using image-recognition artificial intelligence to locate the runway.

At large airports, systems on the ground beam up the position of the runway to guide automatic systems.

But in late May a new AI tool landed a small plane carrying passengers, by “sight” alone at Austria’s Diamond Aircraft airfield.

One expert said it could potentially improve flight safety.

The new system, developed by researchers at the technical universities of Braunschweig and Munich, processes visual data of the runway and then adjusts the plane’s flight controls, without human assistance.

Because it can detect both infrared light as well as the normal visible spectrum, it can handle weather conditions such as fog that might make it difficult for the human pilot to make out the landing strip.

Another advantage of the technology is it does not rely on the radio signals provided by the existing Instrument Landing System (ILS). Smaller airports often cannot justify the cost of this equipment and it can suffer from interference.

(20) LE GUIN ON PBS.  THIRTEEN’s American Masters presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of the “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” documentary on August 2.

Produced with Le Guin’s participation over the course of a decade, American Masters – Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin tells the intimate coming-of-age story of the Portland, Oregon, housewife and mother of three who forever transformed American literature by bringing science fiction into the literary mainstream. Through her influential work, Le Guin opened doors for generations of younger writers like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon and David Mitchell — all of whom appear in the film — to explore fantastic elements in their writing.

The film explores the personal and professional life of the notoriously private author through revealing conversations with Le Guin as well as her family, friends and the generations of renowned writers she influenced. Visually rich, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin illustrates the dramatic real-world settings that shaped Le Guin’s invented places using lush original animations over her own readings of her work to provide a firsthand experience of her fantastic worlds.

(21) TOUGH TIME AT NASFiC. Artist Newton Ewell had a terrible experience at SpikeCon and wrote about it on Facebook. Friends of his told me he’s okay with sharing it on File 770. (I’m adding this at the last minute, in preference to waiting for tomorrow’s Scroll.)

Have you ever been invited to a convention, only to be treated like you don’t belong there? I have.

Thursday was really hard on me. I felt very unwelcome at Spikecon, and have realized that driving an hour one-way, being shoved off into an unlit corner and having to confront people who hate me just really isn’t my thing.

Frankly, I’m afraid to come back to the convention. Libertarian Loudmouth Guy came by the table yesterday evening to drone on at me like a broken record about the same crap (his skewed politics) as usual. Being buttonholed by wackos who see my skin color and use it as a pretext to spew hateful talk at me does not make a good convention experience. Racist DrawGirl’s grudge against me was on full display. I’m not there to compete with anyone, nor am I there to be hated on by weirdos with strange fetishy grudges. Right-Wing Space Guy still can’t grasp that I don’t want to talk to him either, because of the Trump fanaticism displayed toward me.

I have friends there, but I was isolated from them, making the whole experience into an ordeal for me. I wanted to bring my large pieces, but something said, “don’t”. I’m glad I listened to that inner voice, because if I’d brought them, they’d have been ruined by the rain. I was supposed to have an electrical outlet for my drawing light, but all the outlets were taken up by the USS Dildo-prise people.

I don’t have money to afford driving back out there, let alone commuting back-and-forth, food etc. Being placed into a hostile working environment is too much pain for too little reward.

I realized that being presented with a symbol of racial oppression and corporate greed (a plastic golden spike) really hurt. All I feel from that is the pain and death dealt out to the people who worked so hard to join the two railroads, and it makes me sad. I’m hurt that my art is on all the con badges, but once I get there I’m made into a problem, a bothersome individual who’s not worth having the space I contracted for….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite Paranormal Romance

  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Favourite Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Cursed by Keri Arthur

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

Yalow is on the right.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics of Interest Include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Lori Lemaris

* Lightning Lad

* Little League (seriously)

* Lita Laverne

* Lester Link

* Liza Landis

* Lyrica Lloyd

* Lorraine Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/18 It Is By Tickboxes Alone I Set My Scroll In Pixels.

(1) NO ESCAPE. Lila Shapiro interview N.K. Jemisin for Vulture: “For Reigning Fantasy Queen N.K. Jemisin, There’s No Escape From Reality”. The cut line adds: “I’m writing about dragons as a black woman, and it’s fucking political.”

Jemisin was a dreamy kid, but she was practical, too. She didn’t think it was possible for a black woman to have a career as a fantasy writer. So when it came time for her to choose a profession, she followed the example of her mother, a psychologist who administered IQ tests. Jemisin studied psychology at Tulane and the University of Maryland and got a job as a career counselor specializing in what she describes as “at risk” populations — marginalized groups, first-generation students, older people having midlife crises. When she turned 30, she had her own crisis. Swimming in student debt, she decided to try to make a little side money from her lifelong hobby. “I thought, well I have this talent, I haven’t monetized it,” Jemisin recalls. “I don’t know if I can because I don’t think that the publishing marketplace is really interested in what I write, but if I can at least develop it to get a few hundred dollars a month, that will make a difference.”

Her first short story was published two years later, in 2004. The next year, an agent picked the manuscript of Jemisin’s first novel out of the slush pile. The agent, Lucienne Diver, was struck by the setting, a fantastical realm inspired by ancient Egypt, and by the characters, who were nearly all black. “I’ve been reading fantasy all my life, and so much sounds the same,” Diver tells me. “Nora’s book was not like anything else I’d ever read.”

(2) BRITISH ANIMATION. BBC’s snips from a program to be available later — “From propaganda to Plasticine: Six secrets of British animation”. First snip — Aardman Studios’ first output, “Morpho”, has been a UK TV hit for 4 decades but isn’t profitable.

Morph didn’t make any money

Morph, the funny figure made of brown clay who lived in a microscope box, was the original star of Aardman Animations, who went on to create Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time. “Made from a simple bit of clay, he’s practically a mascot for animation,” says the documentary.

Created by David Sproxton and Peter Lord, Morph has been on the go for four decades: from children’s TV with Tony Hart in the 70s to CBBC’s SMart in the 90s and his current YouTube channel full of claymation antics.

However, despite being synonymous with British animation, he isn’t profitable. Peter Lord says: He wasn’t a financial success really at all, which surprises everyone I think because he’s been a popular success, a cultural success but not economic.” Co-creator David Sproxton adds: “We’ve never made any money out of Morph and we still don’t, we just love doing him.”

(3) BLURB KARMA. Jeff VanderMeer has not forgotten!

And this just goes on gets funnier…

(4) ANOTHER NEW STROKE FOR ADULT SWIM. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘Blade Runner’ Anime Series Coming to Adult Swim”.

The Blade Runner universe is expanding again with an anime series that will air on Adult Swim in the U.S.

The cable channel has partnered with Alcon Television Group and anime streaming outlet Crunchyroll to produce Blade Runner — Black Lotus, a 13-episode series inspired by 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic.

(5) 2019 NZ NATCON. GeyserCon 2019 is New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, to be held in Rotorua from May 31-June 3, 2019. They have posted their preliminary program schedule.

(6) UNUSUAL READING EXPERIENCE. John A Arkansawyer sends the link to The Cliff Nest with the recommendation, “I haven’t had a chance to give it the full read, but it’s an interesting idea and readable so far.”

The Cliff Nest is a book published as a serial of posts. The top main page will always show the latest published issue in the serial.

In order to start reading from the beginning, go to the story mode, which will sort the posts from the very first onward so you can read it like a book.

The book will include multiple cybersecurity and/or technical challenges which will invite the readers to look around the internet. Some are part of the story, while others will ask the readers to propose a solution with a character name that will tell the solution in the story.

The best proposed solution and character name (with minor adjustments to align with the story) will become part of the story.

(7) DAREDEVIL CHOPPED. Ars Technica invites fans to the funeral: “The bloodbath continues: Netflix cancels Daredevil after three seasons”.

Clearly Netflix is cleaning house, since this follows surprise cancellations in October of Iron Fist and Luke Cage. That just leaves Jessica Jones and The Punisher on Netflex’s roster of Defenders. Both have new seasons in the pipeline that are currently slated to air on Netflix as planned, according to Deadline’s sources. But they will, in all likelihood, be on the chopping block eventually as well.

All this further fuels speculation that Disney/Marvel may resurrect all the cancelled series when it launches its new streaming service. Indeed, the Netflix statement hints as much.

(8) MORE ABOUT SPONGEBOB. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna reminds readers “‘SpongeBob’ creator Stephen Hillenburg raised our spirits — and ocean awareness”.

It took a fair amount of imagination for Hillenburg even to envision a career in animation. Born in Oklahoma to a teacher and a draftsman, he headed to Northern California’s Humboldt State University to study marine resources, before becoming a marine biology teacher at what is now the Ocean Institute in California. Yet his interest in drawing still beckoned like a call to the sea.

“Honestly, I hadn’t looked into the logistics and income. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Hillenburg told me. “I thought, at least, I could get a job cleaning up somebody’s drawings. .?.?. Then there was ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Ren & Stimpy’ — everyone was excited about the rebirth of the form” in the ’90s.

(9) KATZ OBIT. Gloria Katz (1942-2018): American screenwriter and producer, died November 25, aged 78. Genre credits include Messiah of Evil (1973; she and husband William Huyck were the uncredited directors), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Howard the Duck (1986).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 29, 1959The Atomic Submarine premiered at your local drive-in
  • November 29, 1972 — Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 29, 1898 – C.S. Lewis, Writer from Ireland. There are, no doubt, folks here here who are far more literate on him than me. I’ve read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago, and throughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back, but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him. I know individuals who have loved The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) and I’ve known ones who loathed it. Of the Inklings, I suspect I need not say anything, as all of you are fully aware of that group which has frankly become legend and in turn is fast becoming myth. There have been novels about them ranging from almost true to them to quite fantastical. Currently, there is a movie called The Inklings in production, though available details about it are scant. (Died 1963.)
  • November 29, 1918 – Madeleine L’Engle, Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and this year’s film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.)
  • November 29, 1925 – Leigh Couch, Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.)
  • November 29, 1942 – Maggie Thompson, 76, Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • November 29, 1950 – Kevin O’Donnell Jr., Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • November 29, 1964 – Don Cheadle, 54, Oscar-nominated Actor and Producer with a surprisingly-deep genre resume, especially for playing James “Rhodey” Rhodes War Machine in Iron Man 2 and 3, Captain America: Civil War, and the Avengers films Age of Ultron, Infinity War, and the as-yet-untitled #4. Other genre roles include Mission to Mars, The Meteor Man, and Volcano, and the televised-live black-and-white Cold War drama Fail Safe.
  • November 29, 1971 – Naoko Mori, 47, Actor from Japan who lives in the UK. Her first genre appearance was in Hackers, with the then-unknown Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller. Her performance as the character of Doctor Sato in the “Aliens of London” episode” of Doctor Who so impressed Russell T Davies that he brought her back as a regular character on the first two seasons of Torchwood. Other TV series appearances include episodes of Humans, Bugs, the British-American comedy-drama genre miniseries You, Me and the Apocalypse, and an SF series pilot called Three Inches, and the films Life and Maneater. She has also done voice characters for animated series and videogames, including Big Hero 6, Genji, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest.
  • November 29, 1976 – Anna Faris, 42, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Podcaster. Ahhh, I love franchise horror. She’s had a regular gig as Cindy Campbell in the first four Scary Movie films, and appeared in the horror films Lovers Lane and May. She had main roles in the odd superhero movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the ode to fanboy geekdom Mama’s Boy, and the SF comedy Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel – and does a recurring character voice in the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise count as genre? Her campy credentials no doubt were the inspiration for Air New Zealand to cast her in this quirky aircraft safety video.
  • November 29, 1977 – Chadwick Boseman, 41, Actor, Writer, and Producer who is principally known for playing Black Panther in in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther (for both of which he received Saturn nominations), Avengers: Infinity War, and the upcoming untitled Avengers 4. He had a main role on Persons Unknown, a one-season series which was sort of an ensemble version of The Prisoner. He played the bird god Thoth in the Gods of Egypt film, and had a guest role in an episode of Fringe.
  • November 29, 1980 – Janina Gavankar, 38, Actor and Singer with an impressive span of genre roles, including main roles as shapeshifter Luna Garza on True Blood and supernatural creature Leigh Turner on The Gates, recurring roles on The Vampire Dairies, Arrow, and Sleepy Hollow, and guest parts in episodes of Stargate Atlantis and Dollhouse. She voiced canon Star Wars character Iden Versio in the audiobook for Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad and its companion videogame, and provided additional character voices for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She received a Behind The Voice Award nomination for her role in the videogame Far Cry 4, and appeared in an ad campaign for Microsoft as Ms. Dewey, the avatar of a Microsoft search engine who commented on the user’s searches.
  • November 29, 1982 – Gemma Chan, 36, Actor of Stage and Screen from  England whose first genre appearances were the horror movie When Evil Calls and her portrayal of Mia Bennett on Doctor Who’s “The Waters of Mars”. She has had a lead role on the series Humans for the last three years, was a regular on Bedlam, and had a guest part in an episode of Sherlock. Genre film roles include Madam Ya Zhou in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quintessa in Transformers: The Last Knight; she’ll be Doctor Minerva in the forthcoming Captain Marvel film. Voice roles include the Watership Down miniseries as Dewdrop and the Revolting Rhymes movie as Snow White.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Publishers Weekly, a new installment of Tales from the Slush Pile. As always, hilarious but true. This week: what you hear at Thanksgiving from your relatives.

(13) PURE POISON. SYFY Wire tells us that—wearing her producer hat—”Margot Robbie “trying” to explore Harley Quinn’s relationship with Poison Ivy in the DCEU”.

There’s no question that Margot Robbie, who launched her successful production company LuckyChap Entertainment in 2014, is a force to be reckoned with in the movie business… and that could be very good news for the DC Extended Universe.

For example, when asked by PrideSource if she was being mindful of Quinn’s sexuality in her upcoming Birds of Prey film, the actress/producer revealed that she’s been “trying” to bring the relationship between her character Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy to the big screen.

“If you read the comics you know that Poison Ivy and Harley have an intimate relationship. In some comics they convey it as a friendship; in other comics you can see that they’re actually sexually involved as a couple. I’ve been trying to – I would love to have Poison Ivy thrown into the universe,” Robbie told the site. “Because the Harley and Poison Ivy relationship is one of my favorite aspects of the comics, so I’m looking to explore that on screen.”

(14) GETTING WARMER. It’s almost not news anymore — “Climate change: Last four years are ‘world’s hottest'”.

The year 2018 is on course to be the fourth warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

It says that the global average temperature for the first 10 months of the year was nearly 1C above the levels between 1850-1900.

The State of the Climate report says that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the 2015-2018 making up the top four.

(15) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. From The Onion:

(16) TO THE MOON, ALICE B. TOKLAS. Firefly may head to the Moon. No, not that Firefly. NASA has signed up nine companies that will be allowed to bid on delivery of small payloads to the Moon. (Ars Technica: “NASA takes a tangible step back toward the Moon with commercial program”)

NASA announced Thursday that it has partnered with nine companies to enable the delivery of small scientific payloads to the lunar surface. No money was exchanged up front, but the space agency said these companies would now be eligible to “bid” for contracts to deliver select experiments to the Moon.

[…] The nine companies that earned the right to bid on what are called Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are:

  • Astrobotic Technology Inc.: Pittsburgh
  • Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado
  • Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Firefly Aerospace Inc.: Cedar Park, Texas
  • Intuitive Machines LLC: Houston
  • Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado
  • Masten Space Systems Inc.: Mojave, California
  • Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey

[…] NASA said payload delivery could begin as early as 2019. These contracts do not have a time or quantity limit, and they have a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years. The agency said it would look at a number of factors when comparing the bids, such as “technical feasibility, price, and schedule.”

(17) STREEP IN POPPINS. Marc Sneitiker, in “Here’s what Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt said about reuniting (again!) for Mary Poppins Returns” on Entertainment Weekly, said that Streep and Blunt are working together for the first time since Into the Woods four years ago and both actors really respect each other’s work.

Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep have now made three big-budget studio films together: 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, playing a toiling assistant and her monstrous boss; 2014’s Into the Woods, as a peasant baker and the witch who cursed her womb; and now 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns, playing the enigmatic nanny and her gravity-challenged cousin Topsy, who’s perhaps the only person ever to disagree with Mary Poppins.

“It is a bit hilarious that we always play people who are contentious with one another,” Blunt laughs, looking back on her relationship with Streep that’s now into its second decade. “From Prada to the Witch and the Baker’s Wife and now to cousins who drive each other insane, I did finally ask her, ‘When are we gonna play lovers or something?!’” Blunt laughs again. “She said, ‘Dream on.’”

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20

The Pre- Last Jedi Fall Movie & TV Roundup

By Chris M. Barkley:

Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, ****) with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Directed by Ridley Scott. Bechdel Test: Failed.

I have seen Blade Runner only twice, once during its initial theatrical run and The Final Cut, a 2007 DVD release that director/producer Ridley Scott personally oversaw. It has to be said that for a 35-year-old film, it holds up incredibly well.

Nestled down in 27th place on the 1982 list of box office films, making almost $34 million on a $27 million dollar budget, Blade Runner was considered a financial failure at the time. It might have fallen into obscurity, had it not been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by film critics, movie fans and the sf community at large.

Visually, Blade Runner has never been more dazzling. Scott, following up Alien, teamed with Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer and production design by Lawrence G. Paull created a rather environmentally dark, nightmarish backdrop which the director once called “Hong Kong on a very bad day.”

The removal of Deckard’s voice over narration and the addition of an ambiguous ending vastly improve the Final Cut over the previous six versions that were made before 2007.

It was the consensus opinion at the time that Rutger Hauer practically stole the film acting-wise with his portrayal of Roy Batty. And as far as I’m concerned his performance still rather iconic, but the real surprise is Harrison Ford, who wisely underplays and grounds Rick Deckard in reality, which actually helps contrast his character with Batty’s. Each is desperate in their own way, Batty to extend his and fellow replicant’s lives and Deckard, who simply wants to survive in the endlessly grimy, nightmarish dystopia.

As Deckard hunts the fugitive replicants, the theme of identity and humanity is weaved throughout the narrative; are humans like Deckard (whom I firmly believe is human) becoming less so? Or are replicants, programmed to be as human as possible, are more so than their masters? These are the questions that will mark Blade Runner as an enduring classic for years to come.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, ***1/2) with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes, Screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Bechdel Test: Fail.

As one of 2017’s most intriguing and anticipated films, Blade Runner 2049 had an almost impossible pedigree to live up to; the 1982 sf classic film Blade Runner. And for the most part, director Denis Villeneuve, producer Ridley Scott, screen writers Hampton Francher and Michael Green and cast, succeeded.

Ryan Gosling plays a Nexus-8 blade runner named K, charged with running down and ‘retiring’ renegade replicants still roaming free on Earth. When K finds a long-buried body on a routine mission, the discovery comes to the notice of Niander Wallace, a reclusive billionaire who now owns the Tyrell Corporations assets. As K’s superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to quietly investigate of the homicide, Wallace dispatches his murderous replicant aide-de-camp, Luv (Sylvia Hoekes) to recover the remains and monitor K’s every move…

Director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott spared no expense to recreate and expand upon the environs of Blade Runner; from the even darker, damper city streets of Los Angeles, the lonely hydroponic farms of the countryside to the desolate landscape of the dead city of Las Vegas, Blade Runner 2049 is filled with a series of stunning images that enhances the story.

The questions regarding the humanity of replicants go even deeper here, as KD9-3.7 (later renamed Joe) seems to be content running down replicants equal to or lesser than him. We see that he is given a certain latitude in his activities off duty, which includes a salary, a place to live and a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), who, we are led to believe is there solely to mollify himself. The trade-off is that K is rigorously tested with a modified “Voigt-Kampff” test on a regular basis, which measures the safety parameters of his programming. K’s treatments during the tests are compelling, brutal and chilling.

But Blade Runner 2049 has a flaw that prevents me from declaring it as an equal to its progenitor and that’s its portrayal of women. The images of women, as objects of searches, whims and desires of the male protagonists dominate the core of the film and not in a good way. As an example, it fails the Bechdel when two women in authority have a conversation, but it’s only about a male protagonist. It’s also rather sad not to see any LGBTQ representation in the year 2049, because we know they are not going to vanish, even in a eco-dystopia presented here.

While Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes do excellent work, the real revelation here is Harrison Ford, who gives an Oscar caliber performance as an older, more grizzled and haunted Rick Deckard.

The underlying mystery (which I will not spoil here) sets up a seemingly insolvable conflict between humans and replicants, and remains an open question by the end of the film. Will there be more? Only time will tell. The ambiguous ending presented actually works. But, if there is more of a story to tell, I’m sure we won’t have to wait another thirty-five years.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, (2017, ***1/2) with Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt and Connie Britton. Written and Directed by Angela Robinson. Bechdel Test: Pass!!!!!

I think if the Merchant-Ivory production company were to make a film about the three creators of Wonder Woman, it would look EXACTLY like this.

This film is a recounting of the intertwined lives of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual muse/lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and the creation of an American icon.

Given the era in which they engaged in what was considered then as being unconventional and scandalous, writer-director Angela Robinson dials back to more titillating aspects of their relationship and, in a tasteful and restrained manner, focused more on the practical (and problematic) aspects of how they lived and loved together. The most fascinating aspects of the film, to those paying VERY close attention, is spotting the few vital elements in the troika’s lives that slowly coalesce into the eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

Angela Robinson’s screenplay was based on her own research and is in many ways, historically inaccurate in some instances to serve the dramatic purposes of the film. But if you want a truer version of their story, pick up a copy of Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, 2015.)

If a film like Hidden Figures can be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I can only hope that those same nominators can extend the same courtesy to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, because it will certainly have a place on honor on my ballot.

Stranger Things 2 (2017, nine episodes, ***1/2) with Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Bechdel Test: Passed.

When we last left our favorite dimension-busting heroes, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the “Upside Down” by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) were saved from an “other side” were-beast by supergirl Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), various teenage, angst driven subplots (except for poor Barb) were resolved and the world was saved.

And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a slightly used Correllian freighter I wanna sell you.

Season two picks up more than a year later, at Halloween. While the majority of the town of Hawkins, Indiana prepares for trick or treat:

Will is still suffering PTSD (and more) from his time from the “Upside Down”.

Sheriff Hopper is harboring Eleven in a remote location in an attempt to shield her from the outside world, with mixed results.

Eleven discovers a secret Hopper has been keeping from her which leads to other devastating revelations.

Some new kids, a mysterious step brother and sister (Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink) hit town and are responsible for some rampant speculation.

Is Joyce’s nerdy new boyfriend Bob, who works at the local radio Shack, too good to be true?

The “Department of Energy’s” new head of management looks eerily like that corporate weasel in 1986’s Aliens, which, strangely enough, still two years away from being released in this timeline.

Barb’s parents hire a conspiracy theorist (Murray Bauman) to find out what happened to her.

Dustin acquires a “pet”.

And there is a bigger and badder menace lurking on the other side of the “Upside Down” that is actually BIGGER and BADDER!

The problem with any sort of sequel is whether or not it can equal or surpass its progenitor. It’s very clear the creators of Stranger Things, writer-directing twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, know their genre tropes, the cultural history of the 1980’s (when they were kids themselves), their characters and what sort of story they want to tell.

The cast not only interact well together (as their Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series can attest), you can sense that they are having a great time doing it.

Some critics and viewers have expressed dismay or anger in particular about Episode Seven, “The Lost Sister”, which, I will say not to present too much of a spoiler, is Eleven centric. As a viewer and a fan, I felt that this particular part of the story was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Eleven to find out and experience for herself, in order for the character to continue her journey towards understanding herself. It also happens to be, in my opinion, the best single episode of Stranger Things (so far).

Netflix has greenlit Season Three for next year and the Duffer Brothers have stated that they have a fourth and final season on the drawing boards. The whole world will be waiting and watching for what comes next. I’m betting it will be even more amazing than we can possibly imagine.

Thor: Ragnarok, (2017, ****) with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Anthony Hopkins. Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost based on The Mighty Thor created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Directed by Taika Waititi.

Among all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is generally agreed that the Mighty Thor is easily one of the most pompous and boring member of the Avengers.

Oh, there is no doubt the first film and The Dark World were very competent, workman like adventures that ably fill in Thor’s backstory, establishes Asgardian history and advances the MCU storyline forward. But let’s face it; Chris Hemsworth is great looking while kicking everyone’s ass and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki practically steals every scene he’s in.

So it was (for a while at least) a real head-scratcher when the first trailers and promotional ads came out, viewers were inclined to laugh out loud at the antics from the cast. But title of the film, the old Norse term “Ragnarok” roughly meaning doomsday, suggests some dire events are in store for Thor and company.

And indeed things are quite dire as the film opens; Odin is missing from Asgard thanks to Loki’s treachery and Thor strong arms him into a search, which in turn leads to an amusing cameo by Doctor Strange (as played by a slightly bemused Benedict Cumberbatch) and touching, but entirely too brief reunion with Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Then Hela, the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) shows up and all hell breaks loose. Then there’s the matter of the Hulk popping up unexpectedly, wanting to beat our hero’s face in as hard as possible.

Had Ragnarok been handled with a straight and narrow narrative, it would have been another ordinary action film bridging the lead up to the inevitable showdown with Thanos. So, Marvel think tank called an audible on the line of scrimmage and subversion became the order of the day.

Yes, Ragnarok is devastatingly funny but also leavens the humor with tragedy and a tinge of regret. The cast eagerly takes up the challenge and delivers performances swing between being dramatic and self-deprecating that dance up to the line of parody but never crosses it.

Besides the screenwriters, New Zealand director Taika Waititi is mainly responsible for injecting the rather wry and scathing sense of humor this movie needed.

The result is that Ragnarok can be ranked among the best of the sixteen MCU films. See it!

Justice League, (2017, ***1/2) with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox. Directed by Zack Snyder (with Joss Whedon). Bechdel Test: Passed.

I have no doubt that a lot have you have heard that the Justice League movie sucks. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 43% rating. NPR’s Bob Mondello said “nice try”. Rolling Stone said it was loud, noisy fun. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “ugly and boring” while Uproxx opined that what this movie really needed was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a reader and a fan of the Justice League of America ever since my cousin Michael first placed a copy of August 1966 issue (number 46, if you’re scoring at home) in my hands on a hot summer afternoon.

Well, surprise, I didn’t like Justice League, either.

I LOVED IT!

Sure, it had a basic plot that bears more than a few similarities with the first Avengers movie; the Earth is being menaced by an alien invasion. But the strength of the film (as it was in The Avengers) is the story of how a group of heroes who are basically loners, come together.

Set just after the tragic death of Superman, the world not only mourns, but seems to be coming apart at the seams. Between random acts of terrorism and encounters with alien para-demons, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) seek out to recruit some super-powered help; a lightning fast speedster (Ezra Miller), a cyborg enhanced with alien technology (Ray Fisher) and the King of Atlantis (Jason Momoa).

The screenplay, by director Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon doesn’t make it easy for them to come together as a team, but when they do, it is a thing of cinematic beauty. The direction, split between Snyder and Avengers alum Whedon, hits all the right notes at precisely the right time.

Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck anchor the film with their performances, but they give enough space to the newcomers, and they shine. Making Ezra Miller’s Flash a nerdy motor mouth (as he’s portrayed in numerous animated renditions) was a safe, but smart move. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a bit of an enigma, but his character seeming leaves plenty of room to explore in future adventures. But the real revelation in Justice League is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, giving a forceful, swaggering, in your face, breakout role that will permanently put to rest all those countless putdowns comedians have heaped on the character for decades.

In the days since the opening, I have read many critical reviews of Justice League that have lambasted the story structure, the “lame” villain, the preponderance of CGI effects, the Amazon warriors costumes, Henry Cavill’s troublesome upper lip (oops, SPOILER!) and a host of other nit-picking details. What a majority of them consistently fail to realize or acknowledge is that DC movies are not Marvel movies and vice-versa. I have been admiring Justice League and other DC films for what they are, not what other people think they should be.

By the way, it might be a GOOD IDEA to stick around to the VERY end of the credits, just as you would for the other guy’s films because you might miss an item or two that may interest you. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 10/18/17 You Can Get Anything You Want From Alice’s Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Excepting Neutrinos)

(1) JAILHOUSE ROCK. Brian Lee Durfee says “The First Ever in the History of the World Prison Comic Con Is in the Books!”:

James Dashner (Maze Runner) and I put on a fun event at the Utah State Prison last night. If two writers can make an auditorium full of felons laugh non-stop for one hour we know we did our job right. Mr. Dashner’s sense of humor and story-telling gifts were spot-on perfect. My favorite line of the night from Dashner, “My next book is about a serial killer…oh…um…are there any serial killers here tonight?” It brought down the house. He received a standing ovation.

And today, walking around the prison, I’ve received nothing but huge smiles and mega thanks from all the Inmates who attended. Gotta give a huge shout out to all who helped make it happen. Many publishers donated books and comics. Many writer friends donated signed books. Plus all the staff at the prison who got behind the project and helped out. I will post a link to the Dept of Corrections official event page w/photos when our public relations team makes it available.

PS I’ll try and make this an annual event bigger and better each year including the women’s unit, drug rehab, mental health, etc. One day I will have all the guards in Harley Quinn cosplay…

(2) THE VAST WASTELAND. Will no one rid him of this troublesome editor? The Traveler from Galactic Journey is stuck in 1962 with an editor of F&SF who’s driving him mad: “[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:…

(3) BURDEN LIFTED FROM CALIFORNIA BOOKSELLERS. Publishers Weekly carries more coverage about the legislative change: “California Rescinds Autograph Mandate for Booksellers”.

California’s controversial law that requires booksellers to obtain a certificate of authenticity before they could sell books autographed by authors has been rescinded.

The move follows a lawsuit filed in May by Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation that argued that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” The original law was enacted to require that store owners certify that any autographed item over $5 carry an authentic signature. The law was passed to fight against the sale of fake memorabilia, but included books.

Petrocelli, as well as other California booksellers, argued that the paperwork involved to meet the new law would make selling copies of autographed books too expensive. Book signings are an important part of booksellers’ business model, with Book Passage, for example, hosting more than 800 signings a year.

Faced with the lawsuit and opposition from booksellers, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that exempted books from the law, after which the PLF dropped its lawsuit.

(4) THE CURSE. Don Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal (in an article behind a paywall), notes that nearly all of the companies that paid for product placements in the original Blade Runner either no longer exist or are in severe financial trouble.

Atari began its downward spiral a year after the film’s 1982 release; Koss went bankrupt in 1984, and RCA and Bell Telephone received substantial screen  time and disappeared by the late 1980s. The last company Blade Runner promoted that failed was Pan Am, which folded in 1991.

(5) YOUR PERSONAL POP CULTURE SF RADAR. Daniel Dern sent these selected YA sci-fi references from contemporary TV shows:

This week’s episode of The Flash: Barry Allen is speed-binging all the shows he missed over the previous six months… “…wait, Jon Snow is dead [two seconds later] … wait, Jon Snow is alive?”

Unexpected music: In last week’s episode of Gotham, one scene opens to the sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.” No obvious direct plot or character reference, but it sonically made sense. (Vs the use of Led Zepp’s “Foreigner” for the upcoming Thor/Ragnarok trailer and theme, which also makes topical sense, along with being great.)

 

Ditto vs a mountainside of characters singing or otherwise mutilating Nirvana’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” in the 2015 movie Peter Pan.

 

(6) FAUX PHARMA. The Guardian lists “Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction”, most of them from sf.

Fictional drugs are miniature rocket ships: they take characters to places unknown and strange. The practice of drug invention goes back to the ancient Greeks (Moly, Lethe) and Shakespeare (Oberon’s love potion). Here are some modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights.

The first two are:

  1. Soma (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) Soma is used to calm and pacify, suspending people in a state of permanent bliss. The World State of Huxley’s dystopian novel issues the drug as a means of control, to quell rebellious feelings. This is a drug used as a political metaphor, a form of mass entertainment taken to its ultimate level, a replacement for religion. In contrast, Huxley’s own mescaline-induced journey through the “doors of perception” gave him a glimpse of the mystery of pure being. From which we can only conclude that he kept the best drugs for himself.
  2. Melange (Dune by Frank Herbert) The most famous drug in science fiction – and one of the most powerful – melange or “spice” is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, produced and guarded by giant sandworms. In small doses it brings on a perfect high and increases sensual awareness of the world around you. In large amounts it enables the user to travel through the folds of space. Wow. This property makes it highly desirable, and entire empires rise and fall in the struggle to control its procurement and distribution. This is drug as merchandise, and as a gateway to the stars.

I was wondering why Thiotimoline wasn’t in the list ‘til I refreshed my memory – it’s a chemical compound, not a drug.

(7) LEAVE ROOM ON YOUR HUGO BALLOT. Lois McMaster Bujold announced on Goodreads that a new Penric novella is upcoming – maybe in November.

I am pleased to report I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella, sequel to “Mira’s Last Dance”. Title is decided all but one vowel — I’ll add it when my aesthetic waffling concludes. About 44,980 words.

Later: Having spent the whole last day wrestling with one. dratted. vowel., title has finalized as: “The Prisoner of Limnos”

I plan to have cover art by Ron Miller again, of which I will post a sneak peek in due course.

…This e-publication thing is getting frighteningly fast, in part because a lot of little things which were baffling decisions or upward learning curves first round are now set templates which only need replicated.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Vincent Price’s grandfather invented baking powder.  (Source: Cooking Price-Wise)

(9) A CABELL CABAL. A link to a Crooked Timber of academic interest: “Robert A. Heinlein and James Branch Cabell” by John Holbo.

…I’m not going to quote pre-print stuff [from Farah Mendlesohn’s Heinlein book] but I’ll pass along one detail I never would have guessed. Heinlein was, apparently, a huge James Branch Cabell fan. He loved Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. I have just started rereading Jurgen myself, since I’m done with Dunsany. (I’m not making any systematic early 20th century fantasy circuit, mind you. We just shifted houses and, somehow, an old, long-unregarded 60’s paperback copy of Jurgen floated to the top. Perhaps this universe’s God is a Richard Thaler-type, giving me a nudge. Also, Mendlesohn is apparently not the first to note that Heinlein liked Cabell. Wikipedia knows. I am, apparently, last to know. But perhaps you have been in that sorry boat with me.)

This isn’t a major theme of her monograph, but Mendlesohn suggests Heinlein wanted to be a satirist in a Cabell-ish (and/or Swiftian, Twainian, Sinclairian, Kiplingesque) vein, in some of his works. But he didn’t really have it in him. He’s too earnest and convicted, albeit eccentrically so. He doesn’t do ironic equivocation. (I imagine if Cabell had tried to write Jurgen as a boy’s adventure book – Have Fine, Snug, Well-Fitting Garment With Curious Figures On It, Will Travel – he might have encountered equal and opposite stylistic incapacities in his soul.)

(10) HMMM. Does Luke do that?

(11) CLASS IS IN SESSION. “Pitches and Synopses Workshop with Jennifer Brozek” has been Storified for your edification from notes taken by Cat Rambo.

(12) KYELL GOLD IN STORYBUNDLE. Daniel Potter interviews Kyell Gold about his book in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. (This is a video in a public Facebook post.)

(13) A MORAL AUTHOR. Ann Leckie told this story in a Twitter thread that starts here.

It includes a moral:

(14) FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. Here are the links to all three four parts of the SFWA and indie series, in case you missed any:

(15) ARTS AND SCIENCES. Shades of Hedy Lamar — artist/model designs a better health monitor for ISS: “Meet the model changing the future of space medicine”.

Alex Sorina Moss is an artist and a model, but that’s just a side hustle for her main ambition – to design an ear piece that could transform medicine and space travel forever.

Moss’s idea has already shot her team to stardom, winning a 2016 Nasa prize for the Best Use of Hardware.  But what’s more, it signals an uplifting new direction for wearable tech.

Canaria is a small cuff worn on the ear which measures vital bodily statistics, as well as other metrics such as levels of certain gases in the air around the wearer. Where other well-known biometric wearables target consumers looking to keep fit, Canaria is being prepped as a medical grade instrument.

(16) DECONTAMINATION. Cleaning up after the Fukushima disaster — “The robots going where no human can”. (Video at the link.)

Robots have become central to the cleaning-up operation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, six years after the tsunami that triggered the nuclear meltdown.

It is estimated that around 600 tonnes of toxic fuel may have leaked out of the reactor during the incident.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is using a variety of robots to explore areas too dangerous for people to go near.

BBC Click was given rare access to the site to see how the decontamination work was progressing.

(17) IN TIMES TO COME. EPCOT for real? “‘Future city’ to be built in Canada by Alphabet company”.

Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is to build a digital city in Toronto.

It aims to turn a waterfront area into a working laboratory for a range of “smart” technology.

It is likely to feature fast wi-fi availability, millions of sensors, sustainable energy and autonomous cars.

Technology companies are touting their hardware and software to cities, as urban planners tackle issues such as congestion, pollution and overcrowding.

(18) FANHISTORY HELP WANTED. Do you recognize the artist?

(19) REMEMBERING THE AEROSPACE RACE. The BBC looks back on “The Soviet Union’s flawed rival to Concorde”.

It is December 1968, and a truly ground-breaking airliner is about to take its first flight.

It resembles a giant white dart, as futuristic an object as anything humanity has made in the 1960s. The aircraft is super streamlined to be able to fly at the speed of a rifle bullet – once thought too fast for a passenger-carrying aircraft.

The distinctive, needle-nosed front of the aircraft looks like the business end of something rocket-powered from a Flash Gordon serial; when the aircraft approaches the runway, the whole nose is designed to slide down, giving the pilots a better view of the ground. The effect makes the aircraft look like a giant bird about to land.

It sounds like a description of the Anglo-French Concorde, the plane that will cross the Atlantic in little more than three hours – but it’s not. The spaceship-styled jet sports the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union on its giant tailfin. It is the Tupolev Tu-144, the communist Concorde, and the first passenger aircraft to fly more than twice the speed of sound….

(20) HEARTBREAKER. Steven Soderbergh tweeted what he says is “a rejection from Lucasfilm” from 1984 — but which is actually a standard Hollywood release saying that they won’t consider unsolicited material.

(21) COMING TO NETFLIX, Bright Official Trailer #3.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sputnik-2, or Laika, Our Hero” is a video from Popular Science about the 50th anniversary of Laika’s journey into space aboard Sputnik 2.

When the international press reported that the Soviets sent a dog into orbit, the public freaked. Not because communism was beating democracy in the space race, but because how could anyone send a dog—alone—into space. If there’s one global commonality, it’s this: everyone loves dogs. So, the Soviets spun the story. Laika, the space dog, became a national hero. Yes, she died on her one way mission. But, she gloriously orbited Earth for over a week until her eventual, peaceful death. And, because of Laika’s sacrifice, the Soviet space program was now years ahead of the Americans…

But, none of that was true.

Based on declassified Soviet space program documents as well as primary source archive from back in the day, this is a revised version of Laika’s one way trip. In her words. That is, approximately her words. She was a dog, after all.

 

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]