Pixel Scroll 8/10/19 The Square Of The Pixel Is Equal To The Sum Of The Squares Of The File And The Scroll

(1) LISTEN UP. At the Horror Writers Association blog, Matthew W. Quinn cites many examples of “How Podcasting Can Help Writers Learn and Network”.

Firstly, podcasts provide great opportunities to work with other writers. Thanks to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, I learned hostess Lindsay Buroker had opened up her Fallen Empireuniverse to other writers through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. From this one podcast episode came my short novellas “Ten Davids, Two Goliaths” and “Discovery and Flight.” I also got the opportunity to help Ms. Buroker further organize the back-story, something that proved helpful for everybody involved in the Kindle Worlds project. Thanks to The Horror Show With Brian Keene, I was able to connect with authors Brian Keene and Wesley Southard, who both blurbed my forthcoming horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. After buying ads on The Horror Show and the related podcast Cosmic Shenanigans, Project Entertainment Network owner Armand Rosamilia agreed to blurb The Atlanta Incursion, the forthcoming sequel to my Lovecraftian novel The Thing in the Woods. I also learned about Dan Wells’ “I Am Not A Serial Killer” series from Writing Excuses. Not only did I find books I enjoyed, but I also reviewed two of the three books in the first trilogy and the movie adaptation of the first novel and blogged about a DragonCon panel featuring Wells in which I got the chance to talk with him about the book and the film. Finally, thanks to regularly listening to the Bizzong podcast, I have an interview with host Frank Edler to promote LPBG slated for this fall.

(2) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. The Irish Times profiles a writer on his way to Dublin 2019: “George RR Martin: ‘Science fiction has conquered the world’”.

…Instead I ask why fantasy and sci-fi writers seem so much more intimately connected to their fans than writers of other genres do.

“Science fiction, for much of its history – and this goes back to before I was born – was not considered reputable,” says Martin. “It was seen as cheap gutter entertainment. I was a bright kid, but even I had teachers say to me, ‘Why do you read that science-fiction stuff? Why don’t you read real literature?’ You got that kind of snobbism.

“So the early science-fiction fans, in the 1930s and 1940s and early 1950s, felt that very much, and they gathered together, and it was sort of an ‘us against the world’ thing. ‘We know this is great stuff, and you on the outside might make fun of us, and mock us, but we’ll band together.’ And the writers started coming to the conventions, and many writers came out of fandom; they started out as fans.”

Where does he think that patronising attitude to genre fiction comes from? “You can go back to the literary quarrel between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, ” he says, “and that’s really where you see a split between high literature and popular literature. Before that it was just literature.

…“But essentially, in the opinion of most university lecturers for 100 years, James won that argument, and literature had to be about something serious and real life, and if it was about pirates or space travel or dragons or monsters then it was something for children.” He laughs. “That’s all changed. Now science fiction, far from being this little persecuted genre that it was in the 1950s, has conquered the world.”

(3) TOLKIEN ESTATE SETS LIMITS. According to The Guardian, “Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings ‘cannot use much of Tolkien’s plot'”.

…Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, who is supervising the show’s development, told German fansite Deutsche Tolkien that the estate has refused to allow the series to be set during any period other than the Second Age of Middle-earth. This means Amazon’s adaptation will not cross over at all with events from the Third Age, which were dramatised in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy and sees hobbit Frodo Baggins destroy the One Ring.

Spanning 3,441 years, the Second Age begins after the banishment of the dark lord Morgoth and ends with the first demise of Sauron, Morgoth’s servant and the primary villain in The Lord of the Rings, at the hands of an alliance of elves and men.

Shippey said that Amazon “has a relatively free hand” to add details since Tolkien did not flesh out every detail of the Second Age in his appendices or Unfinished Tales, a collection of stories published posthumously in 1980. But Shippey called it “a bit of a minefield – you have to tread very carefully”, saying that “the Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenórean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenóreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same…

(4) BENNETT’S VIGILANCE. NPR’s Jason Heller tells us that “‘Vigilance’ Imagines A Chillingly Familiar Future”

Robert Jackson Bennett has a wicked sense of humor. His 2013 novel American Elsewhere trained a satirical eye on small-town America even as it straddled the boundaries of science fiction and horror. Yet with his latest work, a novella called Vigilance, the Austin-based author and two-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award tackles one of the most deadly serious — and sadly relevant — topics of all: mass shootings. As in American Elsewhere, there’s both science fiction and horror in Vigilance. There’s also that wicked Bennett sense of humor. He spares no disturbing absurdity or twinge of cognitive dissonance in his examination of gun mania and the new normal of everyday massacres in America.

Make no mistake: For all its satire of government, entertainment, society, and violence, Vigilance is a sobering read. It takes place just a few years in our future, in a United States that’s simultaneously unrecognizable and chillingly familiar. Texas is in flames. The governor of Iowa is an open white supremacist. Warfare has become almost entirely remote, done with robots and drones, so that the bloodlust and sense of martial duty fostered in people by American society — as well as the noble, heroic ideal of the valiant solder — has nowhere to be vented or expressed. And the younger, more liberal generation has almost entirely fled the United States for other nations with stricter gun control, leaving the older, more gun-favoring population behind.

What that population has done is blood-curdling. John McDean is a producer for a popular television show called Vigilance, in which mass shootings are broadcast for public consumption to those who wish “to witness violence and fear, but always from safe refuge.” His target demographic is the American pistol-owner. As McDean coldly, cruelly calculates, “Pistols are for killing people. Pistols are for urban environments. Pistols are for defense.” They are the perfect choice of what McDean calls his Ideal Person, “isolated within a huge suburban house, wary and suspicious of the outside world, listening to the beautiful woman on the television warn them of horrors and depravity in the lands beyond the borders, of corruption creeping into our cities.”

(5) KAIJU VACATION. Lorelei Marcus is back from Japan where she saw the latest (in 1964) Godzilla movie: “[Aug. 7, 1964] Rematch! (Mothra vs. Godzilla)”.

In June this year, 1964, my family and I took a three week vacation to the island nation of Japan. Though I have been many times before, this was the first time I felt changed as a person after coming home. Perhaps it was the fact that I was finally old enough to appreciate the world around me; or perhaps it was because we’d chosen to stay in a new place: Hiroshima was still under construction, but I could tell it was going to become a beautiful city, despite the air of tragedy. Regardless, I saw Japan in a new light, and it has brought me to see the world in a new light as well.

I also got to see Mothra vs Godzilla, and it was incredible…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 10, 1960 Dinosaurus! premiered on this day.
  • August 10, 1962The Brain That Wouldn’t Die had its theatrical debut
  • August 10, 1984 — The Banzai Institute reminds us:

It was 35 years ago today that Dr. B. Banzai, while conducting a supersonic test of his remarkable Jet Car, breached the dimensional barrier with his experimental Oscillation Overthruster and made contact with the 8th dimension. Congratulations to Dr. Banzai, as well as to the filmmaking team that documented this extraordinary event. 

  • August 10, 2004 — Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1896 John Gloag. His first SF novel, Tomorrow’s Yesterday, depicts a race of cat people from the distant future observing human society. It was one of five SF novels and a double handful of short stories he wrote in the Thirties and Forties. Only A Short Dictionary of Furniture, one of his non-fiction efforts, is available digitally. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in  genre films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and a very few other works are available in digital form.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows and several novels more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes as ISFDB documents four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World. Kidneys anyone? Or tripe anyone?  (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 88. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that?  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read.
  • Born August 10, 1939 Kate O’Mara. Her films included two Hammer Horror films, The Vampire Lovers and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also appeared on Doctor Who as The Rani during the Era of The Seventh Doctor in a recurring role. She reposted that role in the charity special, Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 10, 1952 David C. Smith, 67. He is best known for his fantasy novels, particularly those co-authored with Richard L. Tierney, featuring characters created by Robert E. Howard, most notably the six novels which involved Red Sonja. Those novels are available on iBooks but not on Kindle. 
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 64. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a series about the few Greek gods who have made to our time. Though not genre, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 54. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space Rangers, Highlander, Quantum Leap, Relic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on StarHyke, a six episode SF comic series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime. 

(8) HELP PICK THE EXPANSE TOYS. Bonnie McDaniel alerts Filers to Amazon’s page where you can vote on toys and dolls to be included with their upcoming box set of The Expanse. “Needless to say, I voted for the swearing Avasarala doll.” 😀

Some of you wanted a statue of Madam Secretary; others wanted this to be much more “playful.” We’re going to start with the idea of a highly decorated doll. We’ll dress her in her red tunic and include all the proper accessories. We’ll put her in a whimsical toy box for display. And, most importantly, she’ll come with attitude. Press her back and hear her favorite adult-rated sayings. Approx. 12” high.

(9) TUNE INTO SFF. BBC Radio 4’s Stillicide is a futuristic mini-series. Each episode is only 15 minutes and will be on i-player for a month.

Stillicide

Episode 1 of 12

Cynan Jones’ electrifying series set in the very near future – a future a little, but not quite like our own.

Water is commodified and the Water Train that feeds the city is increasingly at risk of sabotage. And now icebergs are set to be towed to a huge ice dock outside the capital city – a huge megalopolis that is draining the country of its resources.

Against this, a lone marksman stands out in the field. His job is to protect the Water Train…

From one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, Stillicide is a moving story of love and loss and the will to survive, and a powerful glimpse of the tangible future.

Available now — “Episode 1: The Water Train”

(10) SHOOTING THE MOON. Let’s also mention Gideon Marcus’ profile of the latest Moon exploration efforts of 55 years ago. This job is not that bleepin’ easy! “[August 1, 1964] On Target (The Successful Flight of Ranger 7)”.

…Never mind them.  Rangers 3-5 were the real lunar probes, even including giant balsawood pimples on the end, which housed seismometers that could survive impact with the Moon.  It was more important than ever that we know what the lunar surface was like now that President Kennedy had announced that we would, as a nation, put a man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth before the decade was out.

Easier said than done.  Ranger 3, launched in January 1962, missed the Moon.  Moreover, it sailed past while facing the wrong way.  The probe took no useful pictures, and a failure of the onboard computer prevented the acquisition of sky science data….

(11) THE WATCHERS. On the National Public Radio website, Annalisa Quinn reviews a new novel, The Turn of the Key (Ruth Ware), that updates Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw for the current digital and surveillance age. (“We’re All Haunted In ‘The Turn Of The Key'”)

     In Henry James’s ambiguous, paranoid novella The Turn of the Screw (1898), a governess is left in charge of two children in an isolated Essex country house. Over time, she becomes convinced the children are communing with the ghosts of former servants, who appear to them, at first at a distance and then ever closer, threatening to lead them to damnation. By the end, a child is dead, but we still don’t know: Were the ghosts real, or were they in the governess’s head?

     With The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10) offers a clever and elegant update to James’s story, one with less ambiguity but its own eerie potency. Rowan Caine accepts a nannying job at a gorgeous house in the Scottish Highlands, wired with a smart home app called, horribly, “Happy,” that lets its owners surveil every room in the house from afar, control the lights, heat, and locks — and even talk through speakers in the walls.

(12) EVERYBODY WAVE AT LARRY. Larry Correia tells people he never reads this blog, yet it’s important to him to know what’s being said about him here and to respond to it because he has the thinnest-skin and the biggest ears of anyone in the field. “House of Assassins Is A Finalist For The Dragon Award For Best Fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. In July, Greg Bear blogged about his experiences “Meeting Epstein”. He met him at a conference in 2011 to which he was invited at the behest of AI researcher Marvin Minsky. Bloomberg’s article says Virginia Giuffre has named Minsky as someone Jeffrey Epstein sent her to when she was 17, according to an unsealed deposition in Federal court.

…On a couple of occasions, we had face time with Epstein, who seemed, to me, an eccentric and possibly brilliant financier with weird ideas about economics–but hell, he was paying all the bills, so we were polite. One of our observations about his entourage was they consisted mostly of attractive young women in their twenties or early thirties, at most, brought over from his private island near St. John, where it seemed they staffed his house. We had been dangled the possibility of being taken out to that island to see the sights, but most of us did not get that opportunity.

The women, by my instincts, were of a uniform and somewhat inaccessible temper, and I got the impression that Epstein was their lord and master, and they did not range far in their daily lives. But they were all adults.

At one point during the conference, with Epstein in the room, some imp of perverse in me made an analogy (I cannot remember my exact point, or the reason for the analogy) to Dracula coming down out of his castle to ravage the young women of the village. That put an end — though not abruptly — to our face time with Epstein, and the conference ended on schedule. We had a great time with Marvin and his wife, Gloria, loved the islands and towns, and never heard from Epstein or his people again. No further conferences were arranged, at least with me involved….

(14) ON THE CHEAP. Getting up-to-date images is easy when the satellites are cheap enough that you can put up a lot of them: “Iceye satellites return super-sharp radar images”.

Finnish space start-up Iceye has once again given an impressive demonstration of its novel technology’s capabilities.

The company’s radar satellites are now returning sub-1m resolution images of the Earth’s surface.

This level of performance is expected from traditional spacecraft that weigh a tonne or more and cost in excess of one hundred million euros.

But Iceye’s breakthrough satellites are the size of a suitcase and cost only a couple of million to build.

The Helsinki-based outfit is leading a group of “New Space” companies that aim to fly constellations of such radar imagers.

This is something that would have seemed technically very challenging and prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

(15) STANDING UP. ComicBook.com sees the pursuit of truth and justice: “Superman Joins Twitter, Dives Into Immigration Debate”.

Few things are as debated at the moment in America as Immigration, and while there are a myriad of opinions about how we should handle it, I don’t think anyone expected Superman to jump into the fray. That’s exactly what DC did though when Superman got a Twitter account, and the hero didn’t waste any time establishing who he is and what he’s always been about. DC shared a video featuring a classic Superman PSA from 1960 titled Lend A Friendly Hand, which put a spotlight on two children looking down on another child because he is a refugee, and Superman breaks down what’s wrong with their thinking.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Meow Wolf–Awakening Creativity for the Masses” on Vimeo is an interview with Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek where he talks about Meow Wolf’s nethods of creating art and how they can inspire creativity ine everyone who experiences a Meow Wolf production.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Bacon, James Davis Nicoll, Bonnie McDaniel, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/19 But He Can’t Be A Fan Because He Don’t Scroll The Same Pixel As Me

(1) CROWDSOURCED SUCCESSES. The appeal to help send Tiptree Fellow Vida Cruz to Dublin 2019, “Help Vida attend the 77th WorldCon in Dublin!”, has raised $1,230 at this writing, slightly more than its target figure.

Con or Bust so generously sent me funds to pay for accommodations and airfare–two large chunks of expenses that make me hopeful that I will be able to attend. In fact, I have already booked the tickets and my AirBnB stay. I need only save up for food, transportation, and other smaller travel expenses.

However, I hit several snags recently. Sudden health issues required medicines and physical therapy. As a freelancer, my biggest contract was recently ended, and so I have been searching for part-time gigs and full-time jobs to not only help me fund this trip and pay GoGetFunding, but to help pay for my daily and medical needs. Your contribution will greatly help toward lessening the amount I need.

And when Brandon O’Brien was trying to round up the last $700 he needed to get to Dublin, look what happened! Jeff VanderMeer put up 7 of the Sub Press Borne signed special editions for $100 each to the first 7 takers. And just like that, he was funded.

(2) IN TIMES TO COME. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Everything Marvel Has Planned for Phase 4:  Natalie Portman Returns As A New Thor, Mahershala Ali Will Be Blade, Angelina Jolie Trains to Be An Eternal, More” has the lineup for the next two years of movies and TV shows Marvel unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con.

Here’s who you won’t see as Phase 4 unfolds between May 2020 and November 2021: Spider-Man, Star-Lord and a new Iron Man. But you will meet what’s easily the most diverse superhero line-up in comic book movie history, including a master of kung fu and a group of eternals. You’ll also welcome back a strange sorcerer, a sharpshooting archer and a sword-swinging Valkyrie. Based on the crowd reaction, the most anticipated reunions are with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who will be returning as a thunder goddess, and that vampire hunter Blade, now played by two-time Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali.

(3) STAR DREAMING. Michael Benson’s New York Times opinion piece declares “Science Fiction Sent Man to the Moon”.

Most major achievements, be they personal or collective, arrive after rehearsals. Some unfold as flights of the imagination. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a great opportunity to examine how an entire branch of speculative fiction — novels, short stories and also feature films — lies behind the first human footprints on another world.

Works of fiction aren’t particularly known for having influenced historical events. Yet some foundational early rocket science, embedded deep within the developmental history of the Saturn 5 — the towering, five-stage rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon 50 years ago this week — was paid for by the budget of the first science fiction film to envision just such a voyage in realistic terms.

Spaceflight as we know it today wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for three extraordinary figures: the borderline-crazy Russian spaceflight visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the hard-right nationalist German-Transylvanian rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth and the idiosyncratic American rocketeer Robert Goddard. All devised their distinctive strains of rocket science in response to speculative novels, specifically the stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells — founders of a nascent genre later to be known as science fiction. Tsiolkovsky and Oberth also had important roles to play in early 20th century film projects depicting trips to the Moon.

… Of the three, only Tsiolkovsky actually wrote science fiction, which he used as a scratch pad for his revolutionary ideas. Living in near-poverty 100 miles southwest of Moscow, he also issued a stream of theoretical papers. In articles published in 1911-12, he came up with the great utopian credo of the space age: “Earth is the cradle of the mind, but humanity can’t live in its cradle forever.”

(4) THAT OTHER 50TH ANNIVERSARY. NPR profiled SDCC: “San Diego Comic-Con Is Turning 50: Here’s Its Origin Story”.

Fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other fans. They were mostly teenagers — okay, and two adults — but what they created became the pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic-Con.

Today, Roger Freedman is a physics professor, but in 1969 he was 17 years old — and he had no idea what he was about to get himself into. “I think it’s fair to say that if you had come to us and said how Comic-Con was going to evolve, we would have said A) what are you smoking, and B) where can we buy some?”

It all started with a guy named Shel Dorf — one of only two adults involved with that first convention. Dorf had some experience attending and planning conventions, and more importantly, he had connections. He knew Jack Kirby, the legendary co-creator of characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. And Kirby was willing to talk to a bunch of kids.

“I think we thought comic creators lived on some comic book Mount Olympus and couldn’t be approached by normal mortals like us,” says Mike Towry, who was 14 when he got involved with the convention committee. “And then to find out that we could actually meet them and talk to them one on one, and then have a convention where they would come and we would get to hang out with them was just kind of mind-blowing.”

(5) THE POWER OF TRANSLATION. Nathaniel Isaacson authors “Dispatches from the Future of a New China” for the LA Review of Books.

…It’s not hyperbole to say that without Ken Liu and his Herculean efforts in translation, Chinese SF would not exist — or at least it would not exist in its current state. When Ken Liu’s 2014 translation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (2008) won the Hugo Award in 2015, not only was it the first Chinese work awarded the honor, it was the first work in translation from any language to be lauded so. At some point in the past decade, Chinese SF went from “having a moment” to “enjoying its golden age,” and if 2015 wasn’t the exact moment that shift happened, it was certainly when the translation heard round the world was sounded. The Three-Body Problem’s award signaled the significance of Chinese SF to many Anglophone readers for the first time, but equally important was its reaffirmation of Chinese SF for local readers. Liu’s translation has in turn been the source for the novel’s translations into other languages, putting Liu at the vanguard of Chinese SF’s march toward the world. Within hours of the award announcement, domestic internet searches and sales of both the first book and of Liu Cixin’s whole 2008–2010 trilogy increased more than tenfold. Publishing houses and state institutions like the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China redoubled their efforts using SF as a vehicle for promoting China’s “peaceful rise,” and have identified SF as a key aspect of their propaganda and publicity campaigns.

In the same issue, Virginia L. Conn discusses Ken Liu’s earlier work: “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Finding and Losing Oneself in ‘Invisible Planets’”.

Just as, when pressed, Calvino’s Marco Polo claims that “[e]very time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice,” every story in Invisible Planets is saying something about the author’s own position — but that may or may not be the China we know (or think we know). Invisible Planets is not only the spiritual successor to Calvino’s Invisible Cities: it evinces the same magic without following the same formula, creating a panoply of possible worlds that may or may not be our worlds, and which may or may not be true.

(6) BRAZILIAN INVITATION. Canadian sff author Craig Russell received multiple items of good news recently.

First, “an incredibly kind” review of his novel Fragment written by Brazilian literature professor, Dr. Zélia M. Bora and published in The Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Ecocritics.

Some of the comments, translated from Portuguese:

  • “Craig Russell’s clever and captivating novel captures the sensitive reader’s attention from the beginning to the end of the narrative, in a balanced way between the real and the imagined.”
  • Fragment is undoubtedly one of the most important ecocritical fiction works written in this millennium.”

Russell has also received an invitation to speak about the novel at the 2020 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (Brazil) conference in the city of Curitiba, Brazil (pending travel grant funding approvals.)

(7) STALKER. BBC has more information about the tragedy — “Kyoto Animation fire: Suspect ‘spotted in area’ days before”.

The man suspected of carrying out a deadly arson attack on a Japanese animation studio may have visited the area before, local media reported.

Neighbours spotted a man resembling Shinji Aoba near the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) office before Thursday’s fire.

Mr Aoba, 41, who suffered severe burns, is in police custody and has been transferred to a hospital in Osaka.

On Saturday, a man died in hospital from his injuries, bringing the death toll from the attack to 34.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1911 Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed quaint. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 21, 1921 James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
  • Born July 21, 1939 John Woodvine, 80. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man
  • Born July 21, 1948 G. B. Trudeau, 71. Not precisely genre or even genre adjacent, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out.
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook, The Fisher King, Bicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1960 Lance Guest, 59. An American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in the “Fearful Symmetryepisode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode.
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 43. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(9) DRIVE AROUND THE BLOCK AGAIN. Referring to the second tweet below — You never know who you’re going to wish you’d run into at Comic-Con.

(10) YEAR 6 IS IN THE BANK. The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is clicking along, too. Year 6 is funded, and they’re in hot pursuit of their second stretch goal already, with 24 days remaining.

(11) ON THE HORIZON. The “Strange Horizons 2020” Kickstarter has also passed its $13,000 goal with 9 days to go in the campaign.  

(12) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Hugo Dramatic Presentation Long Form Finalists: “Hugo Reading (Viewing) 2019: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Coming in last place —

6) Avengers: Infinity War

This was the Big Superhero Showdown Marvel’s been aiming towards for ten years, but when I saw it, it felt a bit….underwhelming. With so many characters tossed into the mix and so much to do, there wasn’t time for any of them to make much of an impression, with the possible exception of Thor and Rocket. Also, if I’d been Chris Pratt, I would have been ticked off by the way my character was forced to wield the Starlord Stupid Stick, not once but twice. If Peter Quill had only killed Gamora in the beginning, like she asked him to do and he agreed, Thanos would never have found the Soul Stone. Of course, then we wouldn’t have had a $2 billion-plus grossing movie…..

(13) WIDENING GYRE OF HUGO COVERAGE. Steve J. Wright has completed his Campbell Best New Writer reviews + Pro Artist Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews.

(14) THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Gizmodo reveals the final selling price of those newsworthy tapes: “Former NASA Intern Scores $1.82 Million for Moon Landing Tapes He Bought at Auction”

Former NASA intern Gary George sold off three of the agency’s videotapes of the Apollo 11 moon landing for $1.82 million at auction house Sotheby’s on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the event, CNN reported.

Sotheby’s claims the videos have not been enhanced, restored, or otherwise altered and are the “earliest, sharpest, and most accurate surviving video images of man’s first steps on the moon,” CNN wrote. George paid $217.77 in 1976 (approximately $980 in today’s dollars) for 1,150 reels of NASA magnetic tape at a government auction while he was a Lamar University student interning at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

(15) CREDENZAS FOR CREDENTIALS. The Washington Post says these are the cat’s meow: “Custom wood kennels and memory foam beds: Welcome to the wild world of modern pet furniture”. (With photos.)

…For discerning pet owners who treat their cats and dogs like family — in some cases better than family — designers are creating stylish, even glamorous, furniture. Witness the new $5,000 Crystal Clear Lotus Cat Tower by the Refined Feline, with three platforms for lounging and a hideaway cubby at the bottom lined in white faux fur. (You can see one at the trendy Los Angeles cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.) And now you and Buddy can catnap or watch DOGTV on matching tufted Chesterfield-style Wayfair Archie & Oscar sofas; his is a $399 miniaturized version of yours in faux-leather scaled with similar nailhead trim and turned legs.

(16) IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Or maybe Archer was just pining for the fjords for three seasons. Anyway: “FX’s Archer renewed for surprise season 11, reveals major changes”. Entertainment Weekly interviews the showrunners.

FX’s Archer has some huge changes coming for season 11. The first piece of news is that there is going to be a season 11 (creator Adam Reed has previously suggested the show might end after the current 10th season). The second revelation is — as Archer producers just revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego on Friday — that Sterling Archer is going to wake from his three-year coma in the upcoming finale as the show plans a return to its spy agency roots next season. But there’s a lot more to it than just that.

EW exclusively spoke to executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis about their season 11 shakeup. We got the scoop on the show’s major story line for next season, how long Archer has been in a coma, the future involvement of Reed on the show, and more.

(17) NEW STONE AGE. NPR reports “Notre Dame Fire Revives Demand For Skilled Stone Carvers In France”

A little over three months after Paris’ Notre Dame caught fire, French officials say the cathedral is still in a precarious state and needs to be stabilized. Ultimately, they aim to restore the monument, a process that will take years.

When that work begins, there will be a new demand for experts who have the same skills required to build Notre Dame 900 years ago. In the workshops of the Hector Guimard high school, less than three miles from the cathedral, young stone carvers are training for that task.

In an airy and light-filled workshop in the north of Paris, a handful of students chip and chisel away at heavy slabs of stone. Each works on his or her own piece, but all are sculpting the same project: the base of a Corinthian column. The students are earning a professional degree to hew the stone pieces needed to maintain and restore France’s historical monuments.

…”In the beginning, it was my own parents who were surprised when I left my architecture studies to do this,” says Marjorie Lebegue. “But most everyone who finds out I’m studying to be a stone carver says, ‘Wow, what a beautiful profession.'”

Luc Leblond instructs the aspiring stone carvers.

“There’s no reason this should be a masculine profession,” he says. “Men have more physical force, but as a professor, I see the women have a sharpened sensitivity for the more detailed work. So it’s complementary.”

(18) GOOD PLACE BLOOPERS. Shown at Comic-Con –

(19) EVEN BIGGER BLOOPER. ComicBook.com covers the hottest cosplay at Comic-Con:

Los Angeles Times correspondent Benjamin Crutcher wound up going viral at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con by cosplaying as the infamous coffee cup that appeared during an episode of the final season of Game of Thrones.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Simpsons:  Russian Art Film Version” on YouTube is what the opening of “The Simpsons” would be like in a gloomy Soviet apartment complex.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, 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 7/12/19 Pixel Less, Scroll More

(1) CELEBRATING “BLOB FEST” THIS WEEKEND. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] This weekend, fans from all over the world will converge upon The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to commemorate the arrival upon our planet of a gelatinous intruder whose ravenous appetite inspired the birth of girth, and shamed The Cookie Monster into both seclusion and retirement. The historic theater, itself a performer in the classic Paramount release, plays host each Summer to “Blob Fest,” and will be the preferred destination for all self-respecting horror fans from Friday to Sunday, July 12th, 13th, and 14th.

Some years ago, I was invited by my beloved friend, Wes Shank, to his home to meet his nefarious tenant. Wes left us, sadly, a year ago … but his protege continues to mystify, charm, and entertain millions of adoring fans.

What follows is the link to a hopefully entertaining chronicle of one of my less successful show business associations…with one of filmdom’s “largest” screen personalities, and a creature that only Jenny Craig could love. Celebrating the sixty first anniversary of “The Blob.” — “How I Met… The Blob” at The Thunderchild.

(2) “HIGHLY CLASSIFIED” TV COMMERCIAL. Ad Astra comes to theaters September 20.

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

(3) THE MAD MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. FastCompany lines up “The best and worst ads that celebrated the Apollo 11 Moon landing”:

…The most interesting ad on July 21, 1969, came from Brillo steel-wool scrubbing pads. Brillo offered Times readers a poster-size color map of the Moon, from Rand McNally. The ad was a striking one-third of a page, showing the Moon, with a coupon. It was a typical late sixties promotion: Fill in your address and mail the coupon, with two “proofs of purchase” clipped from boxes of Brillo pads to get that map. “This map is only available from Brillo,” the ad touted. “Let Brillo send you the Moon. Free.”

Brillo, to be clear, had no connection to the Moon landings.

The advertising blossomed on the day after Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong successfully and safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. On that day, in fact, the ratio of news coverage to advertising in the New York Times completely reversed.

The paper itself was 88 pages that Friday, July 25, 1969. It contained 15 full-page ads about Apollo, and another half-dozen ads that were a half-page or bigger. In all, there were more than 22 pages of advertisements about the Moon landings. The coverage itself that day was only six pages.

(4) PREPPING FOR DUBLIN. The third in Anne-Louise Fortune’s series “What is Worldcon” aims to enlighten the YouTube generation. “Three Essential Elements” covers the business meeting and site selection, among other things.

(5) I AM NO MAN. Nicole Rudick reviews The Future Is Female anthology in “A Universe of One’s Own” at The New York Review of Books.

“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.” This was the challenge the influential science-fiction editor John Campbell famously issued his authors in the 1940s. It was aimed at producing aliens as fully formed as the interstellar human travelers who encounter them. Isaac Asimov thought the best example was a creature named Tweel from Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey,” a story from 1934 that preceded the dictum. But the instruction also has the feel of a riddle, and neither Campbell nor Asimov considered its most obvious answer: a woman.

Three years before Weinbaum’s Martian adventure, Leslie F. Stone published “The Conquest of Gola” in the April 1931 issue of the science-fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories. This was not Stone’s first published story, but it became her best known. Gola is a planet ruled by a gentle civilization of telepathic nonhumanoid females with movable eyes and sensory functions available on all parts of their round, golden-fur-covered bodies. The males of the planet are docile pleasure-consorts. Into this edenic world plunges a cadre of Earth men who desire “exploration and exploitation.” The queen rejects their plea for trade and tourism. She isn’t just dismissive of what she feels are the Earthlings’ barbarian mentality and low-grade intelligence; she simply can’t be bothered to take them seriously. “To think of mere man-things daring to attempt to force themselves upon us,” she says. “What is the universe coming to?” Rebuffed, the Earth men launch a full invasion; the Golans (who narrate the tale) obliterate them. End of story. A case study in thinking better than men but not like men.

“The Conquest of Gola” is one of the twenty-five SF tales written by women that are collected in the enjoyable new anthology The Future Is Female, edited by Lisa Yaszek…

(6) BEGGING THE QUESTION. BookRiot thinks readers should already know the answer: “So You Want To Bring Back Dystopian YA? Well, Here’s Why It Never Left”.

With the announcement of a prequel to Suzanne Collins’s popular young adult trilogy The Hunger Games, there has been a wealth of discourse on why it’s finally time to bring back dystopian YA. It’s a trend that dominated both the YA scene and the box office in the early 2010s, with the success of The Hunger Games seeing major film production companies competing in a fierce battle for the next big blockbuster hit.

…But what about the books? Is Suzanne Collins bringing back dystopian YA? Is the trend finally rising from the ashes, allowing us all to relive our best 2012 selves? Well, you can’t bring back something that never really left.

Despite the apparent decline of dystopian YA movies in Hollywood, a steady stream of young adult novels in recent years has kept the genre afloat for teens who still wanted to consume these stories outside of the adaptations.

Some of the most popular series, like An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, both written by authors of colour, were first published during the dystopian craze of the early 2010s, and subsequent books continue to be published without the marketing push that saw the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent driven to success.

(7) FLAME OUT. At a Warner Bros. studio in the UK, fire claimed a set used in numerous genre productions: “Warner Bros Studios fire: Crews tackle blaze for 15 hours”.

Crews were called to the site in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, at 23:29 BST on Wednesday.

The fire service said the set involved was not being used at the time and there had been no reported injuries.

All eight Harry Potter films as well as other movies including James Bond, Fast and Furious and the Mission Impossible franchises have filmed at the studios.

The fire service confirmed shortly before 15:00 on Thursday the fire was out, although some crews remain at the scene.

A spokesman for Warner Bros said the fire had occurred on a sound stage being used for the television production Avenue 5, but all productions were able to continue working.

Avenue 5 is an HBO space tourism comedy by The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

July 12, 1969  — [Item by Steve Green.] Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek‘s debut on British television, where it occupied the Saturday afternoon slot on BBC1 traditionally occupied by Doctor Who. Unlike NBC and its US affiliates, the BBC opened with ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, the second pilot and the first to feature William Shatner as James T Kirk. As one of those captivated viewers, this means July 12, 2019 is also the fiftieth anniversary of my becoming a Star Trek fan.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1912 Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. Through an amazing piece of serendipity, there’s an interview with him talking about working with Bradbury which you can listen to here. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 James E. Gunn, 96. H’h, what have I read by him? Well there’s The Joy Makers and Future Imperfect, not to mention The Magicians. I’m sure there’s more but those are the ones I fondly remember. Which ones do you recall reading? 
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. No, I didn’t know he did genre but ISFDB says he, hence this Birthday note. Transylvania Station by him and wife is based on Mohonk Mountain House-sponsored vampire hunting mystery role-playing weekend. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1945 James D. Allan, 74. A rather prolific writer and author on the subject of Tolkien linguistics. He is primarily known for his book, An Introduction to Elvish. His most recent contribution to the field is “Gandalf and the Merlin of the Arthurian Romances”, published in Tolkien Society’s Amon Hen number 251. 
  • Born July 12, 1946 Charles R. Saunders,73. African-American author and journalist currently living in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is is the Imaro novels which he claims are the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer.
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 49. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest.
  • Born July 12, 1976 Anna Friel, 43. Her best remembered genre role is as played Charlotte “Chuck” Charles on Pushing Daisies, but she’s been Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Elizabeth Bonny in Neverland, not to mention Lady Claire in Timeline, an SF virtually no one has heard of. 
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond,  43. Her Blackwood novel won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. (Strange Alchemy is the sequel.) She written three novels featuring DC character Lois Lane, and her Cirque American series with its magic realism looks interesting. She also wrote the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” column in the Lady Churchill’s Robot* Wristlet chapbooks that Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link did for awhile over at Small Beer Press. 

(10) RESISTANCE ON HOLD. Hugo Martin, in “Disneyland delays 2nd ride at Star Wars land” at the LA Times, says “Rise of the Resistance will open Jan. 17 instead of this year.”

The Anaheim theme park had previously said the Rise of the Resistance ride would launch this year.

The ride is designed to put parkgoers in the middle of a fierce battle between resistance fighters and the evil forces of the First Order. An identical ride will open in December at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge , the largest expansion in the park’s history, opened May 31 with only one ride in operation, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run…

Bob Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney Co., had previously promised Disney fans that Rise of the Resistance would open in 2019.

Instead, Disney said on its website Thursday that the much-anticipated Rise of the Resistance will open first at the Florida park before the Christmas holiday vacation and then at Disneyland in January, when families will have returned to work and school after the winter break.

Disney’s website suggested that the California attraction would open later than the one in Florida because Disney engineers and ride developers can open only one ride at a time…

(11) JAPAN SCORES TOUCHDOWN. “Hayabusa-2: Japanese spacecraft makes final touchdown on asteroid” – BBC has the story.

A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on a faraway asteroid, where it will collect space rock that may hold clues to how the Solar System evolved.

The successful contact with the Ryugu asteroid was met with relief and cheering in the control room at Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

It is the second touchdown for the robotic Hayabusa-2 craft, which grabbed rocks from the asteroid in February….

(12) TRUE ACCOUNTABILITY. Somebody had to say it.

(13) TEA OR TOR. Bonnie McDaniel takes her turn at reviewing the lot: “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novella”.

The novella (17,500-40,000 words) has had something of a resurgence in recent years, mainly due to Tor’s excellent novella line. (I know the ones I’ve bought are taking up nearly a full shelf in one of my bookcases.) This time around, five of the six nominees are from Tor; the only exception (Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective) was published by Subterranean, a niche publisher that puts out lovely limited collectible editions. (Which also take up a not-inconsiderable amount of my own shelf space.) For a lot of stories, the novella is the perfect length, and I’m glad to see its growing popularity.

(14) AREA CODE. CNN reports “Thousands of people have taken a Facebook pledge to storm Area 51 to ‘see them aliens'”.

Stretch those quads and prep that tinfoil hat!

Over 300,000 people have signed on to a Facebook event pledging to raid Area 51 in Nevada in a quest to “see them aliens.”

The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is inviting users from around the world to join a “Naruto run” — a Japanese manga-inspired running style featuring arms outstretched backwards and heads forward — into the area.

“We can move faster than their bullets,” the event page, which is clearly written with tongue in cheek, promises those who RSVP for September 20.

(15) INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY. It only takes one.

(16) CRAWL VARMINT, CRAWL ON YOUR BELLY LIKE A REPTILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is this movie—about oversized alligators terrorizing people trapped in a crawlspace during a massive storm—genre? Well, it is horror of a sort, perhaps only one or two steps removed from movies about shark-filled tornadoes.

Having seen a TV advert for Crawl, I absolutely knew I would never want to go see the movie in a  theater (though YMMV). On the other hand, the review itself is a hoot: The Hollywood Reporter: “’Crawl’: Film Review”

No sensible person goes to see a movie about killer alligators and then complains that it was silly and over the top. So it’s puzzling that Paramount would refuse to hold critics’ screenings for Alexandre Aja’s Crawl, a film that, despite some ludicrous action scenes and risible dialogue, might well have been helped more than harmed, on the whole, by reviews. After all, not every Snakes on a Flesh-Eating Sharknado delivers on its schlocky promises, and savvy consumers like to be told they won’t get burned this time. Consider this a measured endorsement for the kind of action-packed B picture where Serbia stands in for coastal Florida, and nobody notices, and they wouldn’t care if they did.

(17) KEEPING UP WITH THE PHILISTINES. In Science Advances, “Ancient DNA reveals the roots of the Biblical Philistines”. “The Philistines appear repeatedly in the Bible, but their origins have long been mysterious. Now genetic evidence suggests that this ancient people trace some of their ancestry west all the way to Europe.”

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, identified as “Philistine” during the Iron Age, underwent a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age. It has been long debated whether this change was driven by a substantial movement of people, possibly linked to a larger migration of the so-called “Sea Peoples.” Here, we report genome-wide data of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon. We find that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct due to a European-related admixture. This genetic signal is no longer detectible in the later Iron Age population. Our results support that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon but did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.

(18) ON STRIKES. For your edification, ScreenRant screens the “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Pitch Meeting.”

Empire Strikes Back is known not only as one of the best Star Wars movies, but one of the best sequels of all time. Despite it’s amazing reputation it still raises a few questions. Like how did that Wampa freeze Luke’s feet to a cave ceiling? Why was Yoda making him do so many flips? What’s up with the AT-AT strategy on Hoth? Why did Leia kiss Luke? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to The Empire Strikes Back!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/11/19 Pixel Twice, Scroll Once

(1) NOW WITH ADDED KA-BOOM! Filer Charon Dunn is off to the San Diego Comic-Con to plug her new book, A Dark and Stormy Day, the culmination of the Adventures of Sonny Knight trilogy, “which has even more explosions than the last two.”

I’m going to be providing copious updates on my Facebook page, but if you’re not a Facebooker, I’ll do a summary after I get back. If you are a Facebooker, throw me a like. It’s my first SDCC, so I’m mostly going to be wandering around gawking at everything like an utter yokel.

I will be wearing my fabulous SDCC battle armor: a denim vest with the solar system embroidered on the back, to discourage me from buying more superfluous hoodies while giving me a place to display my collectable pins.

Dunn will also be carrying swag to distribute to her readers – don’t miss out!

(2) ONLY HUNDREDS OF SHOPPING DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS. During Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Premiere Event from July 13-21, there will be “event exclusive offers” on the Hogwarts Tree Topper and Harry Potter Collection. The castle lights up and plays music. Ooh, ahh!

(3) STATION ELEVEN COMING TO MORE STATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Emily St. John-Mandel’s award-winning post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven is getting a small-screen adaptation. The novel, which won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke award, follows a theatre troupe as they travel around the Great Lakes some decades after a pandemic wiped out most of civilization. It’s an excellent novel, though I have to admit that I find the author’s dismissal of science fiction as a genre to be annoying (much like Ian MacEwan). 

CBC Books has the story: “Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven being adapted into 10-episode TV series”

(4) BOWIE FIGURE. The New York Times shares details of “A David Bowie Barbie: Mattel Unveils Ziggy Stardust Doll”.

On Thursday, the world learned that Barbie is a Bowie fan.

With its release of a doll dressed as David Bowie’s glittering alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Mattel said it was celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Space Oddity,” released in 1969.

The new Barbie doll wears a body-hugging metallic “spacesuit,” calf-high red platform boots and silver earrings with dangling stars. Her dark red hair is slicked back like Ziggy Stardust’s, and daubed on her forehead is the golden circle he wore. Her nails are painted black.

It’s a notably androgynous look for a doll that epitomized the stereotypes of feminine appearance in its earlier iterations….

(5) BARBIE’S SPACESUIT. And that’s not all the Barbie news – BBC reports “Barbie and ESA launch plan to get more girls in space”.

Barbie has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to encourage girls to become the next generation of astronauts.

Currently, only 15 percent of active astronauts in the world are female and, 50 years on from the first person landing on the moon, no woman has ever landed on the moon.

The ESA only has one active astronaut. She’s called Samantha Cristoforetti.

In order to highlight the lack of female astronauts, the company behind Barbie – Mattel – has made a special one-of-a-kind doll of Cristoforetti.

The astronaut hopes her collaboration with Barbie “will help young girls and boys to dream about their future without limits.”

(6) THE MOTES ON NEIL’S SUIT. A lot bigger and older than Barbie’s, and in need of refurbishing: “Of Little Details And Lunar Dust: Preserving Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Spacesuit”.

When astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, it was a giant leap for functional fashion.

The spacesuit he wore was an unprecedented blend of technology and tailoring.

“The suit itself is an engineering marvel,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “Every single thing on here is a specific function. It is engineered to the last little detail.”

Take the metal fittings that connect the helmet, air tubes and gloves. They’re brightly colored — for example, vivid red metal for the right glove, neon blue for the left. Patriotic, yes, but also exceptionally functional. That’s because NASA wanted to make sure that in all of the excitement of landing on the moon, Armstrong was able to easily connect his gear.

And that attention to detail is evident from helmet to toe. The stitching throughout is meticulous — much of it done by hand in 1969. The suit had to be tough, flexible and airtight. Armstrong’s life depended on a finely guided needle and thread.

But decades of being on display throughout the country took a toll. In 2006, Smithsonian technicians noticed Armstrong’s spacesuit was showing signs of age. So they removed it from the Air and Space Museum in Washington, moved it to a storage facility and laid it out in a drawer.

Collum and his team of technicians have had the job of getting Armstrong’s spacesuit standing tall and back on public view again.

(7) SOURCE OF THE TROUBLE. The author of Ash Kickers explains the set-up in “The Big Idea: Sean Grigsby” at Whatever.

Whatever catastrophe nature throws at us, people always seem to make it worse.

Not all of us. Some seek to help and not to hurt, to heal instead of destroy. Firefighters are just one example of a few good people trying to make a difference. I’m proud to call myself one. But, like I said, sometimes there are a few hateful assholes standing in our way.

The Smoke Eaters series is about firefighters versus newly-returned dragons, sure, but there are other big ideas at play. In the first book I talk about corrupt government using disasters for their own gain, and replacing first responders with robots. In Ash Kickers, it’s something much worse…

(8) E UNUM PLURIBUS? Popular Mechanics tells how “Pangea Gave Us Modern Oceans”:

It’s hard to imagine all of the world’s land masses together as one supercontinent. Over 200 million years ago, however, that’s what Earth looked like. The breakup of Pangea was essentially the first step in the creation of the modern world….

Around 175 million years ago, as Pangea was violently being ripped apart, new rifts started opening on the ocean floor. Water-heavy slabs started falling in one after another, faster and farther down than they had before until the water began to evaporate entirely. With no water left, the end result was millions of years of water loss like the planet had never seen.

With ocean levels now rising due to man-made climate change, the idea of chucking all the water into the Earth’s mantle sounds tempting. No such luck, Karlsen says.

“While the deep water cycle can effectively change sea level over hundreds of millions to billions of years, climate change can change the sea level in zero to 100 years,” she says. “For comparison, the present-day sea level rise associated with climate change is about 0.1 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year. The sea level drop associated with the deep water cycle is about 1/10,000 of that.”

(9) CORTESE OBIT. Her credits included Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). The New York Times remembers her in “Valentina Cortese, a Leading Italian Film Actress, Dies at 96”.

Valentina Cortese, an Italian film actress best known for her role as a fading, tippling movie diva in François Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” which earned her a 1975 Academy Award nomination and, remarkably, an apology from the winner, Ingrid Bergman, died on Wednesday in Milan. She was 96.

(10) NICKERSON OBIT. BBC reports the death of  Willy Wonka cast member: “Denise Nickerson: Violet Beauregarde actress dies aged 62”

Denise Nickerson, the former child actress who played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 62.

Nickerson’s family announced the news in a Facebook post that read: “She’s gone.”

In earlier updates on social media, her family said she had pneumonia and had experienced several seizures.

Nickerson – who was cast opposite Gene Wilder at the age of 13 – had previously survived a stroke in 2018.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I’ve read once upon a time at in fragments. Both iBooks and Kindle are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t think we can consider The King and I genre… (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 84. Early voice of the Daleks on Doctor Who, Dutch as The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He also provided a number of the voices on the Thunderbirds. And In the 1984 television Super Bowl advert filmed to introduce the Apple Macintosh computer, he played the role of Big Brother.
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 63. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery. Really go read it and with we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. 
  • Born July 11, 1958 Alan Gutierrez, 61. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press  and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines.
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 60. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazine” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Born July 11, 1972 Leona Wisoker, 47. Green Man Reviewer and author of the excellent Children of the Desert series. 
  • Born July 11, 1984 Marie Lu, 35. Best known for her Legend trilogy, a dystopian and militarized future.  Lionsgate has optioned it for a film. She’s also a novel in the DC Icons series, Batman: Nightwalker. And a YA series called the Young Elites.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How do you like this selection of “Rejected Wizard of Oz Characters,” courtesy of The Argyle Sweater?

(13) HE CAN SIT ANYWHERE HE WANTS. Camestros Felapton did something rather amusing with the new poster art for Star Trek: Picard — “New TNG Spin Off Looks Interesting”.

(14) TRUE GRIT. Gizmodo finds a very good way to make a dry topic interesting: “Research Sheds Light on Strange Seaway That Once Covered the Sahara”.

The Sahara might seem like one of Earth’s most lifeless regions today, but its fossils show it was once a vast seaway filled giant fish and some of the largest sea snakes the planet has ever seen.

From 100 million to 50 million years ago, a large seaway up to 160 feet deep covered much of West Africa, leaving behind lots of marine fossils, including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and microbes. Many of them were surprisingly large. It’s difficult to study this region due to harsh geopolitical and physical climates, so a group of scientists decided to compile and synthesize lots of existing research on the area

(15) ON THE SCALES. Paul Weimer analyzes the pedigree of Evan Winter’s new book for readers of the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: Gladiator Meets The Count of Monte Cristo in the African-Inspired Fantasy Epic The Rage of Dragons.

The Rage of Dragons, the debut epic from self-publishing success story Evan Winter, distinguishes itself by its setting, a fantasy world inspired by Africa, but truly impresses with its storytelling. It weaves a tale of determination, love, revenge, and war that is, at its core, the story of one young man who, even as he seeks to improve his life by learning the art of war, must grapple with deadly politics, powerful magic, and a threat that could destroy an entire civilization.

(16) RELATIVITY. The Hugo Award Book Club blog reviews a set of finalists in “Best Related Work: Category or Collection of Categories?”. One work on the list is —  

The Story Of The Hugos 
It seems odd to us that this is only the second time that Jo Walton has appeared on a Hugo Award ballot. It can be argued that several of her novels and non-fiction works warrant the recognition.

Her Informal History Of The Hugo Awards, based around the Tor.com blog posts of the same name that she wrote a couple of years ago, traces the history of the awards through their creation in 1953, through to the year 2000. True to its name, this is a subjective look at both the winners and the shortlists, livened with insight and personal anecdotes.

The book version adds significant material, additional essays and footnotes, as well as a curated set of comments from the blog. Walton has a deep and rich knowledge of science fiction and of fandom, and it shines through in essay after essay tackling controversies of years past, or years where she might disagree with the verdict of Hugo voters.

This is a work that we believe will have enduring value. In most years it would be a lock for the top of our Best Related Work ballots.

(17) HUGO REVIEWS. Bonnie McDaniel is back with “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novelette”.

4) “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” Naomi Kritzer

This is a lovely story about just what it says–ghost stories, not ghosts. Although ghosts definitely make an appearance, in the form of the narrator’s mother, who recently succumbed to Alzheimer’s. (The details of this ring scarily true, by the way.) This is another quiet story, but in this case, the still waters run deep, and the mother-daughter relationship depicted here is sad and beautiful.

(18) GRAPHIC STORY. J.C. Reid does a good rundown of one of the more rarely-reviewed categories: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 -Graphic Story”. First up —

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell

A journalist fights racism and magic in 70s Detroit.

You can’t go past a good high concept, and Blaxploitation Call of Cthulhu is a pretty great high concept.  What rapidly becomes apparent is that Ahmed has aspirations beyond kick ass action comics, and is engaging with more than the superficial trappings of blaxploitation.  It starts with the setting – 70s Detroit in washed out colours, newspaper headlines, and near ubiquitous smoking.  Everywhere we visit in the story we see divisions along race, gender and class, and the genius at work here is to carry these divisions over to the supernatural.

(19) IN THIS CORNER. James Davis Nicoll orchestrates a cage match between two classic names in “Heinlein’s Juveniles vs. Andre Norton’s Young Adult Novels” at Tor.com.

Something about Heinlein’s characters that eluded me when I was an idiot teen: some of his protagonists (in particular Rod from Tunnel in the Sky) were not necessarily the sharpest pencils in the box. They’re always good-hearted fellows, but also naive enough to justify folksy lecturing from mentors. This also allows readers to feel just a little superior to the fellow who, for example, can’t seem to work out that another character is a girl even after he wrestles with her, then partners up with her (leading a third party to inquire, “Rod…were you born that stupid? Or did you have to study?”).

(20) OBJECTS MAY BE SMALLER THAN THEY APPEAR. NPR says “At The T-Rex Races: On Your Mark, Get Set, Rawwrr!”

At first glance, the starting gate at Emerald Downs racetrack looks relatively normal. But then the gates open and the race begins, and instead of thoroughbreds a mass of people bursts forth, running as fast as they can — while wearing oversized T-Rex costumes.

“The T-Rexes stand at the ready — and T-Rexes away!” track announcer Tom Harris yells, as prehistoric — and hilarious — chaos breaks out on the track.

At the wire, a dino named Regular Unleaded took the victory, holding off Rex Girlfriend by a tail.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/19 Mike Has Some Little Pixels, He Makes Them Into Files, And When We Come To Read Them, The Comments Scroll For Miles

(1) GUESS WHO’S COMING TO HOLODINNER? Ryan Britt conducts an engaging thought experiment at Tor.com – Star Trek: Picard — Ranking the 25 Most Likely Next Gen Cameos”.

It seems likely that at least some characters from Picard’s past might show up on our screens again—here are 25 Next Generation characters ranked from least likely to most likely that they’ll beam-in and hang out with Jean-Luc.

(2) DOTS NICE. Edmund Schluessel shares his experiences at Finncon 2019, which took place this past weekend in a place with lots of dots in the name in Finland.

…Finncon 2019 took place 5-7 July in Jyväskylä, which as a town hardly seems like a place — the city, center is just a half dozen square blocks. Nonetheless the University of Jyväskylä is a major center of learning in Finland and their hosting of the Con afforded a good venue eerily devoid of students in the high summer. The Con ran seven or eight program items at once, spread across three floors, and filled many of them up to the fire limit. As is the norm for Finnish conventions, there was no registration fee and many people simply arrived as they pleased.

…The con boasted four guests of honor, author Charles Stross, editor Cheryl Morgan, translator Kersti Juva and professor Raine Koskimaa who headed up the academic track. This lineup underlines one of the things that sets Finnish conventions apart and allies them more closely with Eastern European and Continental fandom: conventions in Finland are seen as not just fandom events but literary events, where people attend not just to enjoy and appreciate genre works but discuss them and their cultural contexts seriously and to examine the process of creating them….

(3) BLISH 1970 GOH TALK. A photo-illustrated 38-minute audio recording of James Blish’s GoH speech at Sci-Con 70, the 1970 British Eastercon, has been uploaded to Fanac.org’s YouTube channel.

An interesting talk tracing the history of science fiction from well accepted general literature to a literary ghetto and back to general respectability. With wit, insight and quiet passion, James Blish (who was also the respected critic William Atheling Jr.) talks about science fiction before the debut of Amazing ,and his perceptions of the malign influence of the specialty magazine. Jim discusses the impact of technology on society’s attitude towards science fiction, and where we might go from here. Audio recording enhanced with 40 images. Recording and photos provided by Bill Burns, who was part of the Sci-Con 70 committee.

(4) POP CULTURAL ABUNDANCE. Alasdair Stuart is back with a refill: “The Full Lid 5th July 2019”. “This week, we go to Glastonbury for Stormzy and Lizzo, to Steven Universe for Sarah Gailey’s extraordinary comics debut, The Walking Dead 193 for the end of the line and Spider-Man: Far From Home for life after Endgame. And then, we tie them all together.” Here’s the beginning of the Steven Universe segment —  

After another successful mission, Amethyst hits a sad spell. The other Crystal Gems know to leave well alone but Steven, worried about his friend, sets out to cheer her up.

This comic needs to be taught in schools and workplaces. Not just because it’s a great piece of visual storytelling, it is. Sarah Gailey‘s script maps onto the big action, fast moving and weirdly peaceful world of the series and its characters beautifully. Rii Arbrego’s art is expressive, kinetic and kind. Whitney Cogar’s colours and Mike Fiorentino’s letters nail the feel and pace of the world to a tee. If you love the show, you’ll love this book.

But that’s not the reason this one hit me between the eyes. It did that because this is a story about depression, living with it and living with people with depression. One that uses the vehicle of the show to communicate clearly and directly a vital message that gets lost far too often.

(5) MULAN TRAILER. Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for its live action version of Mulan.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

However, fans have noticed a couple of major omissions from this production:

(6) ICE CREAM GRIDLOCK. John King Tarpinian heard a lot of folks are accepting the invitation to Step Inside Scoops Ahoy – Baskin-Robbins’ tribute to Stranger Things’ new season: “A friend drove by yesterday.  She said the line of people was around the block and the queue of cars wanting to enter was equally as long.”

Step Inside Scoops Ahoy

Sail on over to our Burbank, CA location*, where Scoops Ahoy has been recreated exactly as the Hawkins gang would have experienced it over 30 years ago. It will feel like you’ve stepped right into the show – but it won’t be here for long!

*Scoops Ahoy Address: 1201 S Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502. Open July 2 –16.

(7) MORE ON GERMAN SFF FILMS. Cora Buhlert jumped back to 1964 to contribute another post to Galactic Journey, this time about the Dr. Mabuse movies: “[July 8, 1964] The Immortal Supervillain: The Remarkable Forty-Two Year Career of Dr. Mabuse”.

Last month, I talked about the successful German film series based on the novels of British thriller writer Edgar Wallace as well as the many imitators they inspired. The most interesting of those imitators and the only one that is unambiguously science fiction is the Dr. Mabuse series.

Dr. Mabuse is not a new character. His roots lie in the Weimar Republic and he first appeared on screen in 1922 in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler, based on the eponymous novel by Luxembourgian writer Norbert Jacques.

(8) BRAUNER OBIT. Cora Buhlert adds, “And by sheer coincidence, Artur Brauner, the man who produced the postwar Mabuse movies, died yesterday at the age of 100.” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story “Artur Brauner, Holocaust Survivor and German Film Producer, Dies at 100”.

Buhlert adds:

Brauner was a fascinating person, a Holocaust survivor who went on to produce more than a hundred movies, ranging from forgettable softcore erotica to Academy Award winners. Most of the official obituaries focus on his serious Holocaust and WWII movies, but he did so much more. His genre contributions include the Mabuse movies, the 1966/67 two part fantasy epic The Nibelungs and the 1959 science fiction film Moon Wolf.

My own tribute to Brauner listing some of my personal favourites of his many movies is here: “Remembering Artur Brauner and Dr. Mabuse”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1942 Otto Penzler, 77. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh, does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it.
  • Born July 8, 1951 Anjelica Huston, 68. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries. 
  • Born July 8, 1914 Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe OmnibusThe Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 8, 1955 Susan Price, 64. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and In The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Kevin Bacon, 61. The role I best remember him in isValentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Sebastian Shaw, Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in the utterly disgusting Hollow Man. 
  • Born July 8, 1958 Billy Crudup, 61. William “Will” Bloom in Big Fish is a most wonderful role. His take on Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen is quite amazing. And he’s in Christopher Oram in Alien: Covenant, a film I’ve no interest in seeing as that series as it’s run far too long. 
  • Born July 8, 1978 George Mann, 41. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. 

(10) SPORTS SECTION. Exactly.

(11) MOON MISSION? Mary Robinette Kowal noted an anomaly about a new commemorative Lego figure. (Hamilton did this a few years later.)

(12) DUMPING ON LUNA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 retrospective series asks a rhetorical question: “How do you explore the Moon without ruining it?”.

In March 1966, a group of 14 scientists, working on behalf of NASA, produced an astonishing report about a delicate topic: How to go to the Moon without polluting the Moon.

The conclusion: You can’t.

Simply landing a spaceship and astronauts on the Moon was going to bring with it an astonishing fog of alien pollution.

The lunar module’s rocket engine, hovering the spaceship down from orbit and running until the moment the lunar module touched the surface, was burning almost 1,000 pounds of fuel every 30 seconds, and spraying its exhaust across the Moon nonstop.

The lunar module itself vented both gases and water vapor, and when the astronauts got ready to leave for a Moon walk, they emptied the entire cabin—humidity, air, any particles floating in the atmosphere—right out onto the Moon.

When the lunar module blasted off to head for orbit, the ascent engine would again spray the surface of the Moon with chemicals.

(13) A CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. And what if the Moon tried to return the favor? At least that’s what the Independent says was in danger of happening: “Apollo 11 moon landing could have infected the Earth with lunar germs, say astronauts”.  Quoting astronaut Michael Collins:

“Look at it this way,” he said. “Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs. The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!”

Buzz Aldrin made a similar point as footage showed the astronauts being disinfected as they were on a raft next to the spacecraft they’d splashed down to Earth on.

He said that the rescuers had cleaned him down with a rag – and then thrown that same rag straight into the water….

(14) E PLURIBUS SPACE. Live in the US? NASA now has an interactive map to let you know what your state’s contribution to their mission is. Zoom in and click away — NASA in the 50 States.

(15) FINAL EXAMINER. Bonnie McDaniel reveals her favorite at the end of “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Short Story”.

1) “A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow

This does have a plot, one that’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time: a librarian/witch who gives a broken foster kid the Book he needs most, and with it the means to escape his life into another world. The fact that the author uses examples of real books (Harry Potter, et al) to illustrate her story’s points give it real power, and is one of the reasons I couldn’t forget it. When you can’t get a story out of your head, no matter how much reading you’ve done since, that makes a story award-worthy. As I said, I would be happy if just about any of these stories won…but I’m pulling for this one.

(16) A BIT TOO RETRO. Steven J. Wright reviews “Retro Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” and pronounces the finalists mostly dubious and unimpressive.

I’ll begin with a bit of an ongoing gripe: once again, the actual home of short-form dramas in the 1940s – the ubiquitous and very popular radio shows – has been ignored in favour of cartoon shorts and movies which aren’t quite long enough to reach the Long Form cut-off point.  Harrumph, say I, harrumph.

(17) OH WHAT A WEB THEY WEAVE. What has 24 legs and catches flies? In “Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man”, SYFY Wire looks at the first solo films for each of the three tries at Spider-Man in the last decade plus. Let’s just say the article expresses strong preferences.

…When Tobey Maguire was cast as Peter Parker, Spidey fans had all but given up hope ever to see the webhead on the big screen. Rights issues and development hell had besieged the character for years, so when Spider-Man finally made it to theaters, audiences were thrilled. That goodwill extended through Spider-Man 2, but when Spider-Man 3 came around in 2007 … there was some frustration. Five years later, Andrew Garfield swung into our collective conscious as the Amazing Spider-Man. Then, in 2014, Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, and the less said about that one the better. Finally, Marvel Studios got their most popular character back to make a home in the MCU, and in 2017 Tom Holland made his solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

(18) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter on the game show beat files this report:

The category: Fictional Languages; contestants had to guess who created them.

Answer: Valyrian, Braavosi.

No one got: Who is George R.R. Martin?

(19) SPOUSAL DISPUTE. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman disagree whether Neil used to sport a mullet. There is a photo…

(20) FAUX JAVA. NPR pursues the rhetorical question, “A Bitter End For Regular Joe? Scientists Engineer A Smooth Beanless Coffee”.

Before Jarret Stopforth takes his first sip of coffee, he adds cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.

But then, he thought, why settle for a regular cup of joe? So the food scientist decided to re-engineer coffee, brewing it without the bitterness — or the bean. “I started thinking, we have to be able to break coffee down to its core components and look at how to optimize it,” he explains.

Stopforth, who has worked with other food brands like Chobani, Kettle & Fire and Soylent, partnered with entrepreneur Andy Kleitsch to launch Atomo. The pair turned a Seattle garage into a brewing lab, and spent four months running green beans, roasted beans and brewed coffee through gas and liquid chromatography to separate and catalog more than 1,000 compounds in coffee to create a product that had the same color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel as coffee.

“As we got deeper into the process, we learned more about the threats to the coffee world as a whole — threats to the environment from deforestation, global warming and [a devastating fungus called] rust, and we were even more committed to making a consistently great coffee that was also better for the environment,” Stopforth says.

The future of coffee is uncertain. The amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50 percent by 2050, according to a report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

(21) THE SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Translate tweet: “I’m so grateful when anybody pays attention to me. Thank you! Please don’t stop!” You’re welcome, Richard.

(22) ROBERT MCCAMMON RAP VIDEO. Bestselling author Robert McCammon wrote a song about his creations and worked with filmmaker Chuck Hartsell to produce a music video that features some of them.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/19 The Scroller I File, The Pixel I Get

(1) AVOIDING THE HIT PARADE. The Planetary Society welcomes you to enroll in “Asteroid Defense 101” “A short course introduction to asteroid impact and what we can do to prevent it.” It’s free.

In this course, you’ll learn about the threat of asteroid impact, the history of asteroid impacts on Earth, asteroids and comets in general, and The Planetary Society’s 5 step plan to prevent asteroid impact. At the end of the course you’ll be presented with resources to learn more, and encouraged to share what you’ve learned with others. The entire course can be completed in about an hour or a little bit more. See below to learn about the instructor and see the curriculum. Let’s save the world!

(2) HE’S IN THE BOOK. Henry Lien celebrated his discovery that he’s the subject of a Wikipedia article. “Achievement Unlocked,” he called it. The entry begins —

Lien is originally from Taiwan and lives in Hollywood, California. He has been an attorney, a teacher at UCLC Extension, and an art dealer in Los Angeles, representing artists from the Americas and Eurasia. He has also served as president of the West Hollywood Fine Art Dealers’ Association and on the board of the West Hollywood Avenues of Art and Design.

(3) ONE TO BEAM DOWN. The latest gatekeeping controversy inspired Kiya Nicoll to explain “I Was Born To Be A Fake Fan”.

…My first serious fannish activity was writing Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic, largely focusing on my two favorite/self-insert characters: Data and Wesley Crusher.

My first social fanac was half-assedly joining a play-by-mail Starfleet simulation RPG.

My first “no shit there I was” fan story was giving a homemade snickerdoodle cookie to Brent Spiner.

You don’t get my fandom experience without Tolkien, for sure; but you damn sure don’t get it without Star Trek, either. Star Trek is where I start doing fandom, as a social thing broader than the scope of my family, rather than merely reading my father’s shelves ravenously. (Though of course my immediate social circle of fic writers included at least one person who sneered at anything involving Wesley Crusher positively, and I came away with the impression that she did it to fit in and I would be expected to do the same. So I stopped sharing my fic.)

I used to comment about the watershed of the post-Star Wars fandom experience; I am pretty sure that the post-Harry Potter fandom experience has only increased this phenomenon. Older fen I saw talk about being teased or bullied for liking science fiction and fantasy; I got a bit of that for reading, generally, but it was a given that I would read genre. Everyone did genre, at least people who actually read.

I was… sometime in my teens before I learned that there was stuff out there that wasn’t genre. It was the Doonesbury sequence on The Bridges of Madison County that did it. This wasn’t something that was explained to me – or remotely apparent to me – before then. Everything I read, I read as Strange People In Unfamiliar Situations, and the same principles applied that to Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson and whatever nonsense was assigned in English class, where it worked just as well as it did on Niven and my beloved Cherryh.

One of my first encounters with old-school convention/zine fandom was being indirectly mocked for saying “sci-fi”, the way my father did, the way everyone I knew did. It was made clear to me that this was the mark of an Outsider, possibly an Interloper, certainly not someone who was qualified to be welcomed into the inner circles….

(4) BACK TO THE FUTURE. Gene Kranz, famed as the voice of Mission Control, helped celebrate the restoration of the historic facility: “NASA Reopens Apollo Mission Control Room That Once Landed Men on Moon” in the New York Times.

…On Friday, Mr. Kranz and Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, cut a ribbon marking the official reopening of the restored Apollo Mission Control Center. It was a three-year, $5 million project, and every inch of the famed heart of America’s lunar aspirations was repaired and refurbished. Its reopening comes three weeks before the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind, and helps to kick off Apollo festivities across the country.

Apollo mission control had been abandoned in 1992, with all operations moved to a modernized mission control center elsewhere in the building. Center employees, friends, family — and anyone, really, who had access to Building 30 — could walk in, take a seat, take a lunch break and take pictures.

While they were there, they might take a button from one of the computer consoles. Or a switch or dial, anything small — a personal memento from an ancient American achievement. The furniture fabric and carpet underfoot grew threadbare. The room was dark; none of the equipment had power. Wires hung where rotary phones had once sat. The giant overhead screens in front of the room were damaged, and the room smelled of mildew. Yellow duct tape held carpet together in places….

(5) IT GETS WORSE. The Guardian tells us “German sci-fi fans lap up dystopian tales of Brexit Britain”.

“One basic rule of dystopian fiction is that the future should be worse than the present,” said the German novelist [Tom Hillenbrand]. “But in this case it turns out I was a bit too optimistic.

“In my book Britain has actually worked out how it wants to leave and the EU is preparing a new constitution as a result. The real Brexit is actually much more dystopian.”

Since Drone State was published in Germany to critical acclaim in 2014, two years before the EU referendum on EU membership, a new micro-genre has flourished in the country’s publishing industry: dystopian fiction about Brexit Britain.

(6) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Theodora Goss and Cadwell Turnbull on Wednesday, July 17, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Theodora Goss

Theodora Goss is the World Fantasy and Locus Award-winning author of novels, short stories, essays, and poetry, including debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List, and her work has been translated into twelve languages. She teaches literature and writing at Boston University and in the Stonecoast MFA Program.

Cadwell Turnbull

Cadwell Turnbull is the author of the The Lesson. His short fiction has appeared in The Verge, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 (forthcoming). He lives with his wife in Somerville, Massachusetts. 

KGB Bar: 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory was released on this day

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1902 Lovat Dickson. Australian-born publisher and author who was half-brother of Gordon R Dickson. He wrote the biography H G Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times. (Died 1987.)
  • Born June 30, 1905 Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con because they threatened to disrupt it in which was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, He edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 60. Not Kingpin in that not terribly good or bad Daredevil film, but rather in the Daredevil series, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon  Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye. 
  • Born June 30, 1961 Diane Purkiss, 58. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that  At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History.
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 53. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 46. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WILL YOU SEE IT AGAIN? Emergency Awesome gives a rundown of the extras tacked onto the end of the Avengers: Endgame re-release, done in hopes of topping Avatar’s box office record.

Covering new Avengers Endgame Post Credit Scene with Hulk from Endgame Re Release. Special Stan Lee Cameo Scene and Avengers Endgame Spider-Man Far From Home Post Credit Scene. New Footage, Deleted Scenes and Bonus Features. Most of which will be on the Avengers Endgame Blu Ray later this year.

(11) COURT IS IN SESSION. At Legal Eagle, “Real Lawyer Reacts to Daredevil (The Trial of Frank Castle).”

Is Frank Castle a hero or a villain? Is Matt Murdock a good lawyer or a bad one?

A legal analysis of Frank Castle’s trial from season 2 episode 7 and 8 of Marvel’s Daredevil. As Vulture eloquently put it: “In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the “trial of the century” does not concern O.J. Simpson, but Frank Castle. It’s finally time for the Punisher to stand trial, and thanks to just about every imaginable thing going wrong, Nelson and Murdock must defend him against District Attorney Reyes, who has a stacked deck and enough clout to steamroll our favorite tiny firm with ease.”

(12) HUGO’S GREATEST MOMENTS. This is probably well-intended, but my goodness!

Translation: HUGO AWARD 2018: SCIENCE FICTION and FANTASY AWARD – SUMMARY WITH THE BEST MOMENTS http://www.

(13) SHOOTING SPARKS. The Monica Bellucci sf movie Nekrotronic has dropped its official trailer.

(14) NERO. Congratulations to fanartist Taral Wayne (creator of the File 770 masthead), who also is a coin collector and just acquired a fabulous Roman aureus.

To my surprise, the number quoted was not remotely as high as that. Just HOW high, I asked? He did a few calculations about his costs, and compared examples on line, and gave me a number that led me to swallow and say, “I can do that!” Mind you, I will be scraping together everything I can spare for the next three months, along with everything else I had already spend at the show, but I CAN do it. It will be the most expensive coin I have ever bought in the past, or am ever likely to buy in the future, and it was more expensive than anything else of any kind that I have ever bought, but IT IS MINE! I now own a gold aureus by the emperor Nero, roughly 54 to 68 AD. I think I have experienced an epiphany of sorts.

(15) BEST NEW WRITER. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Campbell Finalists. From the middle of her ballot —

3) S.A. Chakraborty (my review of her novel here).

This is an Arabic-inspired fantasy, set in the secret magical land of the daeva, or djinn. This world is well built, with a great weight of history and backstory conveyed without infodumping. There’s also some meaty themes of discrimination and oppression.

(16) RETRO HUGO NOMINEE DECODED. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] For all of us Retro Hugo voters who are confused by the rather incoherent horror film The Seventh Victim, here is an older article from Vice which explains why the movie is so strange: “The 1940s Horror Movie That Embraced Lesbianism and Satanism” (2017).

 The signs are plentiful. Jacqueline has recently married a lawyer Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), yet shows no signs of wanting to take his name or be with him romantically. Ward reveals to Mary, “There’s something about your sister a man can never quite get hold of.” Jacqueline is also “miserable” with her life, necessitating regular visits to psychiatrist Dr Louis Judd. (The doctor is played sarcastically by Tom Conway, who reprises the same character from Lewton’s similarly odd 1942 masterpiece Cat People—a film that also tackles repressed sexuality.) It turns out that Jacqueline has fallen in with the secretive cult and is now wanted dead by its members, who fear that she has told her psychiatrist about them.

In short, the missing women everybody is looking for is a lesbian and because society doesn’t accept her, she becomes depressed and commits suicide. But Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton weren’t allowed to do more than vaguely hint at the character’s sexual orientation, so they shoehorned in a plot about Satanists, since Satanists are apparently less scary than lesbians.The article certainly caused me to reevaluate the movie, since a) it’s now even less SFF than before, and b) equating lesbians with Satanists is pretty offensive.

(17) ALTERNATE MUSICAL HISTORY. Whether it’s sff or not isn’t something Leonard Maltin is concerned about – it’s the disappointing execution: Yesterday: What A Letdown”.

A good idea is a rare and precious gift. Screenwriter Richard Curtis has had many of them, leading to such films as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill. He and Jack Barth had another good one: What if a time warp erased the whole world’s memory of The Beatles, and a struggling singer presented their songs as his own? They brought this concept to director Danny Boyle, whose enthusiasm led to Yesterday.

An idea, however, is not the same thing as a story. This film is an unfortunate example of a premise that doesn’t blossom into a full-fledged screenplay. The cast is engaging enough, with Himesh Patel as a hard-luck guy who has greatness thrust upon him and Lily James as his platonic pal. They’ve been like brother and sister since childhood, always there for each other, but neither one can admit that they are truly in love. This relationship, fraught with hesitations and crises, becomes repetitious and tiresome.

(18) PAPER ART. Colossal’s gallery shows how “Quilled Paper Sculptures by Sena Runa Embellish the Natural Forms of Everyday Objects and Animals”. Some sff images among them —  

Sena Runa (previously) twists, folds, and stacks layers of thick paper to create dynamic paper sculptures. The Turkish artist uses a wide range of hues to create chromatic elephants with a rainbow of shades, or work all of the brilliant blues of the ocean into a single sea turtle.

(19) KURTZMAN DEFROCKED. Midnight’s Edge explains why Alex Kurtzman can’t be fired but has been sidelined as the maven of all things Star Trek at CBS.

On June 27, CBS officially confirmed what Midnight’s Edge revealed almost two weeks earlier: that Michael Chabon is the new showrunner of Star Trek Picard. In this video, we will begin by going through what this implies about Alex Kurtzman and his current role, before moving on to what Chabon might bring to Picard.

(20) RE-VERSE. A visit to Bonnie McDaniel’s blog led me to rediscover this wonderful verse Stoic Cynic posted in comments in 2016 (it was a very good year!)

A fragmented excerpt from The Filer and the Astronaut by Louise Carol:

‘The time has come,’ the Filer said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of pups — and picks — and palimpsests —
Of Cadigan — and King —
And why this movie, cult is not —
And whether trolls believe.’

‘But scroll a bit,’ the Pixels cried,
‘Before you have your chat;
For some of us are full of links,
Oh do not rush so fast!’
‘No hurry!’ said the Astronaut.
They thanked him much for that.

‘A post of fifth,’ the Filer said
‘Is what we chiefly need:
Filking and Punnery besides
Are very good indeed —
Now, if you’re ready, Pixels dear,
We can begin to read.’

‘O Pixels,’ said the Astronaut,
‘You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be posting here again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d scrolled up every one.

[Thanks to mlex, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Bruce D. Arthurs, P J Evans, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Alan Baumler, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day GSLamb.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/19 Mamas, Don’t Let Your Pixels Grow Up To Be Scrollers

(1) SHE MAKES TOR LOOK GOOD. Congratulations! “Irene Gallo Promoted to Vice President, Publisher of Tor.com”.

…Irene joined Tor Books twenty-six years ago and quickly rose to head the Art Department. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Richard Gangel Award for Art Direction from the Society of Illustrators, thirteen Chesley Awards, and numerous gold and silver medals from Spectrum and the Society of Illustrators.

Irene was also one of the founding members of the Tor.com website. In its first decade Tor.com has become a must-read site for science fiction and fantasy fans, and one of the most frequented publishing websites. Tor.com has won numerous awards for its original fiction, nonfiction, and art, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus Awards….

(2) GOVERNING SPACE. Future Tense, a partnership ofSlate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society, is going to be holding a symposium on July 10 addressing the question “How Will We Govern Ourselves in Space?” They’re planning to livestream the event. The complete schedule is here.

(3) MARVEL SALE. Through 6/23 11 PM EDT,Marvel Digital Comics Shop is holding a storewide Buy One Get One Free Sale.

With the purchase of a comic or collection, you’ll get another digital title — for FREE! Use code MARVEL2019 at checkout for this unbeatable offer! [See site for details.]

Looking for prelude reading to Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Far From Home? Try the classic collection SPIDER-MAN VS. MYSTERIO, and read a curated handful of the Wall-Crawler’s best battles against the Master of Illusion! Or, try best-selling horror mag IMMORTAL HULK! Seeking a high stakes blockbuster? Try the ongoing event WAR OF THE REALMS today, and see Avengers, X-Men, street-level heroes and more, unite against Malekith’s global siege of Midgard! And it’s by MIGHTY THOR maestros Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson!

Our Buy One Get One Free Sale is a perfect opportunity to discover a new series that piques your interest! Explore top-sellers from our STAR WARS lineup, or pick up the ongoing alt-universe X-Men arc AGE OF X-MAN! Or, check out the return of Cimmerian barbarian CONAN in his current series! New to comics and looking for a place to dive in? Visit the Digital Comics Shop’s READING LIST Section, and explore themed lists based off your favorite characters, creators, events and more! Get inspired by our favorite Spider-Man starter stories here!

(4) THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT. The Guardian reports“Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens”.

More than 20,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of Good Omens, the television series adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel – unfortunately addressing their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime.

… they say that Good Omens is “another step to make satanism appear normal, light and acceptable”, and “mocks God’s wisdom”.

(5) STICK A FORKY IN IT. Leonard Maltin pronounces Toy Story 4 a Summertime Treat”.

I was dubious about the first sequel to Pixar’s wonderful Toy Story, which turned out to be terrific. But a fourth go-round for Woody, Buzz and company? I harbored doubts but I should have had more faith in the Pixar team. This is a highly enjoyable film with laugh-out-loud gags, ingenious plotting, and endearing new characters. By the closing scene I found myself marveling at how my emotions were stirred by these innately inanimate objects.

(6) ON THE AUDIO. Natalie Zutter points the way to “8 Sweet, Funny, Thrilling Queer Fiction Podcasts” in a post for Tor.com.

Seven years on, queer characters are found in every corner of the expanding audio drama world. So this list of recommendations is by no means exhaustive; it is simply one starting point based on the SFF series I’ve laughed, gasped, and teared up at. From radio-show hosts caught up in romantic fanfic tropes to stories that aren’t about ships but just about being a queer person in the world, these eight fiction podcasts are something to be proud of.

(7) THEY HAD BAD CHEMISTRY. Lila Shapiro on Vulture spent three days with Sherilynn Kenyon in order to profile the author and explicate her many, many problems: “‘I Really Thought He Was Going to Kill Me and Bury My Body’ A romance author accused her husband of poisoning her. Was it her wildest fiction yet?”

Kenyon had her blood, hair, and nails tested for 21 different heavy metals. The results, which she shared with me, appeared to show elevated levels of chromium, beryllium, manganese, nickel, cadmium, antimony, platinum, mercury, lithium, selenium, tin, barium, thorium, and arsenic. These tests are the basis of her claim that she was poisoned. But when I spoke with Dr. Ernest Lykissa, the lead scientist of the lab that performed the tests, he said the concentrations of heavy metals in her system weren’t high enough to support her theory. “In this case,” he said, “the only thing I see is environmental exposure.” He thought she’d probably absorbed the metals from her surroundings — from the paint in her home, for example, or the exhaust from her car.

Kenyon never had any direct contact with Lykissa. To get tested, she stopped into Any Lab Test Now, a strip-mall operation that promises to have patients “in and out in 15 minutes.” It collected the samples of her blood, hair, and nails and forwarded them to Lykissa’s company, ExperTox, which then produced a list of the toxins found in the samples and their concentrations. In order to have those results interpreted by a scientist at ExperTox, Kenyon would have had to pay extra — a step she didn’t take, according to Lykissa. When I mentioned this to Bruce Goldberger, the president of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the director of forensic medicine at the University of Florida, he found it troubling. At my request, Goldberger had reviewed Kenyon’s test results and had come to the same conclusion as Lykissa — that she hadn’t been poisoned. But he felt that Lykissa’s company had failed her. “She’s convinced herself that her illness is associated with poisoning,” he said; by giving her results without any analysis, he continued, ExperTox allowed that belief to endure.

(8) HEINLEIN NOVEL MAKES SLOW PROGRESS. Arc Manor / Phoenix Pick admitted to folks on their mailing list that they are “having some issues with the title of the new Heinlein novel, Six-Six-Six” – one being that it won’t be published with that title.

All parties have now agreed on the final title for the book and we want our readers to be the first ones to know.

The new Heinlein novel is going to be titled:

The Pursuit of the Pankera 

With a sub-title that will go on both The Pursuit of the Pankera as well as the republished edition of The Number of the Beast.

Subtitle: A Parallel Novel about Parallel Universes.

The Pankeran reference is directly from the book.

We will be announcing the release date soon. As for the status of the book; Pat LoBrutto has completed his overall editorial review of the book and it is about to go to a copy-editor.

The publisher says they’re going to attempt to defray some of their costs through a Kickstarter campaign.

The really cool part about this is that the Kickstarter will offer a presale of the book at less than the launch price of the book, which we figure is a win-win for all. Fans get to purchase the book at a lower price, and we can get some funds to help us pay for our production costs moving forward.

They haven’t set a release date yet.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s Shadow, The Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 20, 1928 Martin Landau. I’ve got his first genre role as being on The Twilight Zone as Dan Hotaling in  “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” episode. Of course, his longest running genre role was as Rollin Hand on Mission Impossible though he had a good run also on Space: 1999 as Commander John Koenig. His last role was in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie voicing Mr. Rzykruski. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 68. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1952 John Goodman, 67. Some may know him as the TV husband of a certain obnoxious comedienne but I’ve never watched that show. So I picture him as Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones, a role perfect for him. Mind you he’s had a lot of genre roles: voicing James P. “Sulley” Sullivan in the Monsters franchise, a cop in the diner in C.H.U.D., and he’ll even be the voice of Spike in the Tom and Jerry due out two years hence. 
  • Born June 20, 1957 Candy Clark, 71. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon. 
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 52. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical Magic, The Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), Paddington (anyone see this?) and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 51. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll

(10) THE INSIDE STORY. Technology writer and programmer Paul Ford has posted a SF story idea inspired by the tireless forces of heroic keyboard warriors on the front lines of Twitfacegram:

The protagonist is always the last to know.

(11) THE NEW NEIGHBORS. Science diagrams ancient waves of migration in “Closest-known ancestor of today’s Native Americans found in Siberia”.

In the first study, researchers led by Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, sequenced the whole genomes of 34 individuals who lived in Siberia, the land bridge Beringia, and Alaska from 600 to nearly 32,000 years ago. The oldest individuals in the sample—two men who lived in far northern Siberia—represent the earliest known humans from that part of the world. There are no direct genetic traces of these men in any of the other groups the team surveyed, suggesting their culture likely died out about 23,000 years ago when the region became too cold to be inhabitable.

Elsewhere on the Eurasian continent, however, a group arose that would eventually move into Siberia, splinter, and cross Beringia into North America, the DNA analysis reveals. A woman known as Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia about 10,000 years ago, shares about two-thirds of her genome with living Native Americans. “It’s the closest we have ever gotten to a Native American ancestor outside the Americas,” Willerslev says. Still, notes Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who was not involved with the work, the relation is nevertheless distant.

Based on the time it would have taken for key mutations to pop up, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans splintered off from these ancient Siberians about 24,000 years ago, roughly matching up with previous archaeological and genetic evidence for when the peopling of the Americas occurred, the team reports today in Nature.

Additional DNA evidence suggests a third wave of migrants, the Neo-Siberians, moved into northeastern Siberia from the south sometime after 10,000 years ago. These migrants mixed with the ancient Siberians, planting the genetic roots of many of the area’s present-day populations.

(12) BDP. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Dramatic Presentation Short Form Hugo Finalists. The list begins with an item that ranks behind No Award on her ballot –

7) The Good Place, “Jeremy Bearimy”

I simply cannot comprehend many Hugo nominators’ and voters’ continued affection for this mess. This show grates on me like coarse sandpaper. In the interest of fairness, even though I hated the two episodes that were nominated last year, I tried to watch this and had to turn it off fifteen minutes in. The only good thing about this episode was the title, which provides a fairly witty, rhyming new name for “looping time-travel shenanigans.”

(13) WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Graphic Story Finalist reviews:

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Click here for Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Hugo Novelette Reviews.

This week I will cover the Retro Hugo Best Novelette category. (It may be a mistake to start with the longest items first; as the works grow shorter they start seeming–and being–less complex and thought-provoking.)

“Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett is one of those stories that was based on the planetary knowledge of the time, particularly of Venus, but now is woefully outdated. However, that aspect of it is not the main story, merely the background for the characters, so it doesn’t intrude enough to cause problems. What is more problematic is the lack of subtlety in its essentially libertarian message dressed up in science fiction trappings.

(15) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter monitored the game —

Category: “Books of Mystery”

Answer: “This detective featured in 4 novels & 56 short stories was killed of in 1893, but that didn’t stop him for long.”

Wrong question: “Who is Poirot?”

(16) I DUB THEE. Ars Technica: “NASA reveals funding needed for Moon program, says it will be named Artemis”.

NASA revealed Monday that it needs an additional $1.6 billion in funding for fiscal year 2020 to stay on track for a human return to the Moon by 2024. The space agency’s budget amendment comes in addition to the $21 billion the Trump administration asked Congress for in March.

In a teleconference with reporters on Monday evening, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the budget amendment was a “down payment” on what will be needed in future years to fund the program. “In the coming years, we will need additional funds,” he said. “This is a good amount that gets us out of the gate.” He and the other NASA officials on the call would not say how much that would be.

Two people familiar with NASA’s internal deliberations say the agency has estimated that it needs as much as $6 billion to $8 billion a year for a lunar return by 2024.

[…] Bridenstine noted that, 50 years ago, the human program to land on the Moon was named after Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Because the return to the Moon will include women, Bridenstine said the new program would be named Artemis, after Apollo’s twin sister.

“Our goal here is to build a program that gets us to the Moon as soon as possible that all of America can be proud of,” he said. […]

(17) MEET THE NEW BOSS. Mashable: “Women are now in charge of NASA’s science missions”.

When the next car-sized rover lands on Mars in 2020, the ultimate head of this extraterrestrial endeavor will be physicist Lori Glaze. She’s leads NASA’s Planetary Science Division. 

And she’s not alone. For the first time in history, three of NASA’s four science divisions are now run by women, a milestone announced by NASA on Friday. 

“I am proud to say that for the 1st time in #NASA’s history, women are in charge of 3 out of 4 #NASAScience divisions. They are inspiring the next generation of women to become leaders in space exploration as we move forward to put the 1st woman on the Moon,” NASA’s associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted Friday.

(18) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur callas all aboard for “Quick Sips – Uncanny #28 [June stuff]”.

June’s Uncanny Magazine brings a bit of heartbreak, a bit of horror, but also a bit of romance. At least, two of the stories feature some rich romantic themes, and develop characters reaching out in compassion even as the world around them seems to descend into some very dark waters. The works explore worlds dominated in many ways by cruelty, and seek to find compassion and empathy, sometimes rather forcibly. Throw in a pair of poems taking on some different meta-fictional lenses, and it’s an issue that will make you think even as it entertains. So let’s get to the reviews!

(19) PRIORITIES. “Poll: Americans Want NASA To Focus More On Asteroid Impacts, Less On Getting To Mars”NPR has the story.

Americans are less interested in NASA sending humans to the moon or Mars than they are in the U.S. space agency focusing on potential asteroid impacts and using robots for space exploration. That’s according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday, one month before the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

Two-thirds of respondents said monitoring asteroids, comets and “other events in space that could impact Earth” was “very or extremely important.” According to NASA, which watches for objects falling from space, about once a year an “automobile-sized [a]steroid hits Earth’s atmosphere,” but it usually burns up before it hits the surface. And the instances of larger objects actually making it past Earth’s atmosphere and causing any damage happen thousands of years apart, NASA says.

(20) ICE SPY. NPR tells how formerly classified photos help track change:“I Spy, Via Spy Satellite: Melting Himalayan Glaciers”.

The world’s glaciers are melting faster than before, but it still takes decades to see changes that are happening at a glacial pace.

To look back in time, researchers are turning to a once-secret source: spy satellite imagery from the 1970s and 1980s, now declassified. “The actual imagery is freely available for download on the USGS website, and people can use it,” says Josh Maurer, a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Maurer is the lead author of a study using satellite imagery to show that in the past 20 years, Himalayan glaciers melted twice as fast as they did in the 1980s and ’90s. The work was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The spy satellite images come from KH-9 Hexagon military satellites, launched during the Cold War to help the U.S. peer over the Iron Curtain, says Summer Rupper, a co-author of the study. Each satellite was about the size of a school bus and carried miles of film. Packaged in buckets equipped with parachutes, the film was later ejected into the upper atmosphere and plucked out of the air over the Pacific Ocean by Air Force pilots. Most Hexagon images were declassified in 2011 as a continuation of a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton to release spy satellite footage that was “scientifically or environmentally useful.”

(21) THOSE WACKY KIWIS. The New Zealand Herald article “Random swordfight breaks out in New Plymouth intersection” really doesn’t have that much to say — it’s easier just to watch the video on Facebook.

On last Sunday afternoon, New Plymouth resident, Michael Atkinson, was driving up Devon St when he spotted four knights in armour sword fighting in the middle of the street.

He pulled over and filmed the tournament on his mobile.

In the video, Atkinson can be heard laughing in the background, repeatedly saying the whole thing was “random as” while the knights ran into the middle of the intersection and fought each other.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Nina, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Paul Weimer, Harold Osler, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/19 Post Scroll Propter Scroll

(1) HUGO VOTER PACKET ADDITION. The editors of Uncanny Magazine tweeted –

(2) WINDS (OF WINTER) BENEATH MY WINGS. George R.R. Martin gave a classy response to Air New Zealand’s offer to “help” him finish his next book by flying him to their country — “Thanks, New Zealand”.

…Of course, I was especially moved by your offer to bring me to New Zealand “on us.”  How wonderfully generous.   As it happens, I do have enough money to make it to New Zealand on my own… but there are many American writers, fans, and artists who do not.   If you’d care to fly, say, twenty or thirty or fifty of them to Wellington in place of me, I have no doubt they would instantly accept, and fall in love with Middle Earth.. er, New Zealand… just as I have. 

Of course, GRRM already has plays to go there – he gave a nice shout-out to CoNZealand.

In the summer of 2020, Wellington is hosting the World Science Fiction Convention, the oldest and most important con in the SF/ fantasy calendar, and they’ve asked me to serve as Toastmaster for the Hugo Awards. Writers, fans, and artists from all over the world will be headed down to check out all of your wonders. I hope lots of you Kiwis will join us.

And while he didn’t promise to have the next book done before then, he expressed hope that he will —

As for finishing my book… I fear that New Zealand would distract me entirely too much.   Best leave me here in Westeros for the nonce.   But I tell you this — if I don’t have THE WINDS OF WINTER in hand when I arrive in New Zealand for worldcon, you have here my formal written permission to imprison me in a small cabin on White Island, overlooking that lake of sulfuric acid, until I’m done.   Just so long as the acrid fumes do not screw up my old DOS word processor, I’ll be fine.

(3) FIFTY YEARS ALREADY? “Disneyland Summons a Spirited 50th for the Haunted Mansion” reports NBC Los Angeles. I was in high school when the attraction was about to open, and was one of the winners of the contest held by KFI radio personality Jay Lawrence to pick a group of people who’d be among the first to go through the ride. You entered by writing a very short (100 word?) bit about your family ghost. I made up something about a relative who was a failed baseball player, and decided to end it all by walking into the ocean – because, don’t you know, there are 20,000 leagues under the sea…

(4) HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. “AnimeNEXT Staff Launch Investigation Into Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Former Con Chair”Anime News Network has the story.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against a former member of the board of Atlantic City’s AnimeNEXT convention has led to an ongoing internal investigation. Former con staff member “Anne May” posted her story on Facebook on March 12 where she alleged the board member was “handsy,” made inappropriate comments, and invited her back to his room in 2015. Anime News Network learned via former convention staff members that the allegations were levied against long-time AnimeNEXT staffer Eric Torgersen.

…Staff members that were present at the vote stated that the allegations relayed to them by the President of the Board Robert Rustay were misrepresented as less serious.

“What we were told is that one staff member reported that Eric was chatting with them and asked if they drank and then invited them to his room for drinks. The request made them uncomfortable so they reported it to another member of Corporate HR Carlo Darclin. In actuality it was a number of staff members who were approached in a similar fashion,” former staff member “B” told ANN.

“From my understanding, the decision had been made by the President [Rustay] and Chairman of the Board, who also happened to be Eric’s best friend, to move on from the matter,” they said.

Torgersen would remain on the board of directors and a vote held at the meeting would make him convention chair for AnimeNEXT. Torgersen continued as convention chair for two years following the vote. Darcelin chose to retire from the convention following the 2015 vote.

Former staff member “A” cited Torgersen’s friendships with fellow board members Gregg Turek, Lindsey Schneider, and Andrew Green for his continued involvement with the con despite the allegations.

“The entire board would validate his behavior or simply look the other way because they enjoyed their position of power and didn’t want to ruin it,” “A” said.

(5) SAY CHEESE. The Huntsville, AL Museum of Art has opened their new exhibit: “A New Moon Rises: Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera” featuring large-scale, high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface captured over the last decade by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of man’s first step on the Moon, see Earth’s only permanent natural satellite like never before. A New Moon Rises is a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian and features amazing, large-scale, high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface taken over the last decade. Captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), the images are stunning: from historic Apollo landing sites to towering mountains rising out of the darkness of the lunar poles.

The Moon is not the same place as when astronauts last stepped foot on it. New impact craters are being formed. Volcanic activity, once thought long extinct, may have happened in the recent past. The crust has recently fractured from slow interior cooling and shrinking of the Moon and it may still be shrinking today. The LROC has taken over a million images of the surface and revealed details never before seen. These images are providing answers to long-held questions, and raising new questions about the Moon’s ancient and recent past, as well as its future.

The LROC’s mission was originally conceived to support future human missions to the Moon. After its first 15 months of operation, it began a mission of pure scientific exploration.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 22, 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls set a record for shark leapage.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 22, 1859 Arthur Conan Doyle. I read the Holmes stories a long time ago. My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical… (Died 1930.)
  • Born May 22, 1901 Ed Earl Repp. His stories appeared in several of the early pulp magazines including Air Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories and Science Wonder Stories. Some were collected in The Radium Pool (just three stories), The Stellar Missiles (another three stories) and Science-Fantasy Quintette (five this time with two by L. Ron Hubbard). He also had one SF novel written in 1941, Rescue from Venus. He turned to writing scripts for Westerns and never wrote any fiction thereafter. (Died 1979.)
  • Born May 22, 1939 Paul Winfield. He’s best remembered as Capt. Terrell in The Wrath of Khan, but he was also in the Next Gen episode “Darmok” as the signature character.  He showed up in Damnation Alley as a character named Keegan and in The Terminator as Lt. Ed Traxler. Oh, and let’s not forget that he was Lucien Celine In The Serpent and the Rainbow which surely is genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 22, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 59. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arliss as it’s not genre.  Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had an one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
  • Born May 22, 1964 Kat Richardson, 55. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so?
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 51. She’s a Barbadian writer. Her debut novel, Redemption in Indigo, retells the story “Ansige Karamba the Glutton” from Senegalese folklore; The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game are genre novels as is her edited New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean.
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 40. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the forthcoming film remake of Fantasy Island. No, I’m not kidding.

(8) GROWING AWARENESS. “13 Reasons Horror Should Put On A Happy Face” is Ace Antonio Hall’s contribution to HWA’s series “Horror & Urban Fantasy Literature’s Effect on Health Awareness” —

…In conclusion, one of my biggest takeaways from researching horror writing for Mental Health Awareness Month was some of the things we shouldn’t do. For example, unless your character is politically incorrect, don’t describe suicide as an “epidemic”, “skyrocketing” or other exaggerated terms. Use words such as “higher rates” or “rising”. Don’t describe suicide as “Without warning” or “inexplicable”. Do convey that the character exhibited warning signs. Don’t refer to suicide as “unsuccessful” or “failed attempt”, or report it as though it was a crime. Do say, “died by suicide” “killed him/herself”, and instead of presenting the act like a crime, write about suicide in your story as a public health issue. Hopefully, as horror authors, we can continue to scare the jeebies out of our readers but at the same time, create a story which accurately exhibits archetypes of mentally ill characters, whether they are mad scientists, psychopathic serial killers or characters with dissociative identity disorders that assume their mother’s personality.

(9) TBR. Andrew Liptak lists “13 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in late May” at The Verge.

May 15th

Alternis by Maurice Broaddus, Andrea Phillips, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers

The latest serial from digital publisher Serial Box dropped last week, and it features a great team of writers: Maurice Broaddus, Andrea Phillips, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers, with Firefly star Summer Glau handling the audiobook narration. In this story, a video game developer learns that the game she’s working on is part of a top-secret government project where countries around the world are competing for real resources.

You can read the first installment for free.

(10) FOLLOW THAT LODESTAR. Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Lodestar YA Award Reviews. Here is her summary. Here are the links to her individual reviews of the finalists:

(11) HUGO NOVELETTES. Standback provides an enthusiastic rundown of the Hugo Best Novelette category: “The Hugo 2019 Best Novelettes are The Best”.

Almost all of these stories are free to read online; and they’re quick and sharp and unusual. If you want the fun and beauty of the Hugos in a nutshell, the Best Novelette category is a damn good place to find it.

(12) HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS WIKI. Standback also announced: “I’m picking up the Hugo Nominee Wiki that Didi Chanoch has been running the last few years — just a simple site for collecting (and keeping track of…) recommendations and notable nominees in the various categories” — Hugo Award Nominees 2020 Wiki

This wiki is a handy place to collect recommendations for 2019 works which are eligible for a Hugo Award in 2020!

If you’re looking for recommendations from last year, the 2019 wiki is right here.

(13) MORE NOVELETTE LOVE. Peter Enyeart’s “2019 Hugo Picks: Novelettes” are also filled with praise.

This is a strong set, perhaps my favorite set of nominees ever. I enjoyed reading all of them, and I’m sad I have to rank any of them lower than #1.

(14) ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE? BBC asks “Would you pay $1m for a laptop full of malware?” (I’m afraid I own one of these already!)

A laptop deliberately infected with six notorious strains of malware, including WannaCry and ILoveYou, is being auctioned in the US as an art project.

At time of writing, the highest bid for the device was $1.1m (£800,000).

…The project is a collaboration between the artist Guo O Dong and a New York cyber-security company called Deep Instinct.

“We came to understand this project as a kind of bestiary, a catalogue of historical threats,” Guo told Vice.

“It’s more exciting to see the beasts in a live environment.”

(15) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Female-voice AI reinforces bias, says UN report” – BBC has the story.

AI-powered voice assistants with female voices are perpetuating harmful gender biases, according to a UN study.

These female helpers are portrayed as “obliging and eager to please”, reinforcing the idea that women are “subservient”, it finds.

Particularly worrying, it says, is how they often give “deflecting, lacklustre or apologetic responses” to insults.

The report calls for technology firms to stop making voice assistants female by default.

The study from Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is entitled, I’d blush if I could, which is borrowed from a response from Siri to being called a sexually provocative term.

“Companies like Apple and Amazon, staffed by overwhelmingly male engineering teams, have built AI systems that cause their feminised digital assistants to greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation,” the report says.

(16) SUPERBUGS MR. RICO! NPR tells how “Scientists Modify Viruses With CRISPR To Create New Weapon Against Superbugs”.

…”What CRISPR is able to do is something that we’ve not been able to do before. And that is, very selectively modify genes in the viruses to target the bacteria,” Priebe says.

Later this year, Dr. Michael Priebe and his colleagues plan to start infusing cocktails containing billions of bacteriophages genetically modified with CRISPR into patients at six centers around the United States.

“If we’re successful, this revolutionizes the treatment of infections,” he adds. “This can be the game changer that takes us out of this arms race with the resistant bacteria and allows us to use a totally different mechanism to fight the pathogenic bacteria that are infecting us.”

The approach, developed by Locus Biosciences of Morrisville, N.C., involves viruses known as bacteriophages (called phages for short). Phages are the natural enemies of bacteria. They can infect and destroy bacteria by reproducing in large numbers inside them until the microbes literally explode.

(17) WHY A SKYWALKER HAS TRUE GRIT. It may have something to do with the location shooting — “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Ultimate Preview” at Vanity Fair.

There’s a desert valley in southern Jordan called Wadi Rum, or sometimes “the Valley of the Moon.” There are stone inscriptions in Wadi Rum that are more than 2,000 years old. Lawrence of Arabia passed through there during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. More recently, J. J. Abrams went there to film parts of the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, because it’s largely uninhabited and starkly beautiful and looks plausibly alien, and one of the things that has always made the Star Wars movies feel so real—as if they had a real life of their own that continues on out beyond the edges of the screen—is the way they’re shot on location, with as few digital effects as possible. George Lucas shot the Tatooine scenes from A New Hope in southern Tunisia. For Skywalker, it’s Wadi Rum.

They don’t do it that way because it’s easy. Abrams and his crew had to build miles of road into the desert. They basically had to set up a small town out there, populated by the cast and extras and crew—the creature-effects department alone had 70 people. The Jordanian military got involved. The Jordanian royal family got involved. There was sand. There were sandstorms, when all you could do was take cover and huddle in your tent and—if you’re John Boyega, who plays the ex-Stormtrooper Finn—listen to reggae.

(18) RESCUED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Yahoo! Entertainment reveals “Carrie Fisher and Daughter Billie Lourd Will Appear in Scenes Together in New Star Wars Film”.

Fans of Carrie Fisher will be able to see the star live on in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — with her daughter Billie Lourd right beside her.

Director J.J. Abrams told Vanity Fair he used old footage of Fisher for the upcoming Episode IX and had cut Lourd, 26, out of those scenes with her late mother thinking it would be too painful for the young actress to see.

Instead, Lourd asked him to keep their scenes intact….

[Thanks to Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark Hepworth, Marc Criley, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Liptak, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/19 My name Is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I Own A Pixel And A Scroll

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. You know what they say about the love of money. Patch O’Furr’s “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 1)” begins a three-part series at Dogpatch Press.

Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.

At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.

At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….

Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.

(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches this series – “The History of the X-Men Part 1.”

Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.

Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.

X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule:  5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975);   5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991);  5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995);  5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)

(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar (of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.

(4) PINNACLE OF SFF. The winners of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards were announced on May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

  • Juvenile Literature
    Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow Press)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
    While Gods Sleep by L. D. Colter (Tam Lin Publishing)

(5) HIGHER AND HIGHER. Did you know that Godzilla suffers from inflation? Bloody Disgusting has a lovely diagram: “Artist’s Epic Godzilla Size Chart Highlights How Much the King of the Monsters Has Grown Over the Years”.

…Artist Noger Chen put together this epic size chart in advance of King of the Monsters, putting every single live-action Godzilla (from 1954-2019) side by side, in order of height.

Godzilla measured just 50m tall when he first debuted on the scene, and here in 2019, he’s grown to a staggering 119.8m – the largest Godzilla, in front of Shin Godzilla, ever on screen!

(6) DOWN THE RIVER. Casting choices are named for a new sff movie in “Cannes: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane Join Sci-Fi Film ‘Salvage'” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.

The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.

(7) CROWDSOURCED STAFFING. [Item by Dann]. Grimdark Magazine is losing their cover artist. They are asking fans who are subscribed to their Patreon to help them select their next cover artist.

Help us shortlist a new GdM cover artist

Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.

When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.

The artists are:

(8) DC SAYS STOP WONDERING. After the comic debuted a lawyer letter arrived —“DC Sends Cease And Desist Demand Over Wonder Woman AOC Cover”Bleeding Cool has the story.

This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.

(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —

…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.

I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….

Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1960 John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. 
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1992 Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film. 

(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart says The Full Lid for May 17 includes a visit to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt about the museum —

…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal ‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.

So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….

(12) AZAD SFF REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame'”.

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

(13) AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT. Fine advice from The Little Red Reviewer: “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….

(14) BEFORE LIGO. NPR looks at a “Billion-Dollar Gamble: How A ‘Singular Hero’ Helped Start A New Field In Physics”.

Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.

That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.

And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.

“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”

Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.

(15) WESTEROS’ FOURTH ESTATE. Esquire’s Gabrielle Bruney suspects a bunch of writers are going to have to get real jobs now that the show’s ended: “Game of Thrones Created a Vast Media Ecosystem. We Talked to the People at Its Center.”

…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.

“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.

“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”

(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.

(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”

It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.

That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.

The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.

Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….

(18) NOT SO FAST! Indications that another much-touted idea doesn’t work to spec — “Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks”.

People who use augmented reality headsets to complete complex tasks fare worse than those with no high-tech help, a small study suggests.

In addition, those fitted with headsets over-estimate how well they perform.

The discovery might limit the usefulness of augmented reality, which has been finding a role in medical and engineering jobs.

The problem arose because of the way that human eyes focused, researchers said.

(19) FACING THE FUTURE. “Hershey’s Tries to Woo the Youths With Emojis”MyRecipes tells how.

…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.

(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Patch O’Furr, Andrew Porter, Dann, Alasdair Stuart, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]