Pixel Scroll 4/15/19 You Put Your Right File In, And You Scroll It All About

(1) NOTRE DAME. Notre Dame cathedral suffered extensive fire damage today.

A massive blaze…devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church. While the fire is now under control, the cathedral’s iconic spire fell during the hours it took to battle the blaze.

Many sff fans and writers who’ve been there reminisced about their visits in social media, including Samuel Delany

Like many folks, I climbed to the top of Notra Dame myself on my first trip to Paris with Ron Helstrom and Bill Balousiac. As well, we were staying on the Ilse St.-Louis in the hotel next to the Hotel Olinda, which was rumoured (in Arthur and Hope Fromers Europe on Five Dollars a Day) to be the cheapest hotel in Paris. It was a trip and a half! Some of it was reflected in my novel NOVA.

(2) WOLFE. The SFWA Blog posted a tribute to the late author: “In Memoriam – Gene Wolfe”.

…SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “When we talk about fantasy and science fiction writers who were true virtuosos, Wolfe is one of the foremost among them, and I was honored to be at the 2013 Nebula Conference where he was made a SFWA Grand Master. His Book of the New Sun is a revelation to me every time I go back to reread it and his clear, thoughtful, ever-incisive voice will be sorely missed. This year has claimed several giants in the field, and Gene is most assuredly one whose loss will hit hard across the F&SF community.”

(3) APEX REORGANIZES. In “Sleep now, Apex Magazine, you’ve earned it”, Editor Jason Sizemore says Apex Magazine is going on hiatus, but the Apex Book business will continue.

After much consideration, I’ve decided that Apex Magazine will go on an indefinite hiatus. Our last new issue will be 120–the Afrofuturism issue guest edited by Maurice Broaddus. It’s filled with incredible, diverse work and a fitting sendoff for our zine.

Why stop now?

The last few months have been difficult for me both mentally and physically. This leads to soul searching. And that leads to life decisions. One thing that became obvious to me is that I was neglecting both myself and the book side of Apex. I need to take time to exercise, take some time for my health, do more things for fun, enjoy having my kids around before they leave for college in a few years. I need time to read more books! And on the book side of Apex, I had been failing to do the minimum for success because so much of my time was being poured into Apex Magazine. The magazine flourished, while the books languished.

A flourishing magazine is a great thing, but the profit ceiling for an online zine is disturbingly low. One small press book that does really well (like, for example, Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt) will make 25 times the profit of the zine in a year.

It comes down to health and economics and family. Like most decisions in life.

… And a reminder … this is an extended hiatus, not a permanent closure. I’m a man of whims, unfortunately. After I ended Apex Digest, it was two years later that I decided I wanted to do Apex Magazine. In two years, if Apex Book Company is going strong, don’t be surprised if I have the itch to reopen the zine.

… Lesley Conner and I have not turned our backs on genre short fiction. We plan to do an open call anthology each year that will contain nearly as many words of short fiction as a whole year’s worth of zines. Keep your eyes open for our next project….

(4) A BRAND SEMI-NEW IDEA. On a day that could use some comic relief, Ian McEwan did his best, making absurd statements about sff in an interview with The Guardian: “Ian McEwan: ‘Who’s going to write the algorithm for the little white lie?”.

McEwan has an abiding faith that novels are the best place to examine such ethical dilemmas, though he has little time for conventional science fiction. “There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future, not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas of being close up to something that you know to be artificial but which thinks like you. If a machine seems like a human or you can’t tell the difference, then you’d jolly well better start thinking about whether it has responsibilities and rights and all the rest.”

However, as the humor was unintentional, it took D Franklin’s help for it to fully register–

(5) PANDA EXPRESS. Any other day this would seem a bigger loss, but I’ll miss them: “San Diego Zoo to say farewell to giant pandas”.

Whether born here or abroad, all pandas belong to China. The zoo said successful breeding and an increased awareness of conservation helped boost the wild population of pandas in China to around 2,000, downgrading the panda from “endangered” status to “vulnerable” in 2016.

Building bonds of trust with the pandas has allowed zookeepers to perform some medical tests without having to subject the animals to anesthesia. It’s also helping them crate-train the pandas for their journey back to China. Their new home will be the Chinese Conservation and Research Center, where other former San Diego pandas now live.  

(6) DUBLIN 2019 ADDRESSES AIRBNB CONCERN. James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair, explains the issues with “Short Term Rentals (AirBnB) in Ireland” and shares the available information.

We’ve noted that some of our members have reported issues with AirBnB cancellations. We are sorry that is happening. Many of our own team are booked into AirBnB and it is an affordable option in most cases.

Unfortunately, on the 1st of June this year new legislation is supposed to come into effect that will severely limit the ability for Dublin houses and apartments to be rented out for short-term lets if they were not specifically built for the short-term market (i.e. the Key Collection and StayCity apartments that are part of the convention block are permitted).

The exception to this will probably be if the house/apartment is a person’s primary residence and then only if either let out for a maximum of 90 days per annum, and for a 14-day maximum period, or if the entire property is not rented out (i.e homeshare accommodation).

As of yet we do not know the full legislation, as it is still with the Dáil (the Irish legislature) so we cannot even be sure if the new legislation will grandfather in existing bookings.

More details at the link.

(7) AVENGERS ATTENTION DEFICIT. Daniel Dern says, “This isn’t a spoiler if you’ve seen the Avengers: Endgame. It makes more sense if you have seen the recent Captain Marvel movie, all the way to the very end (final ‘Easter egg.’)”

Dern continues

I was (re)watching The Avengers: Infinity War movie over the weekend, and the last few seconds of the final E. Egg had Nick Fury reach for something from a pocket, and dropped it as he went all Thanos-finger-crumbling-black-dusties. The camera view pans down, showing [ROT-13][ n oyvaxvat qbbuvpxrl jvgu gur Pncgnva Zneiry ybtb ba vg.”

A picture of what Dern saw is here.

Like I said, not a spoiler if you’re up-to-date in trailer and prior movie watching. But wouldn’t have been as noticeable a point, when Avengers: Infinity War first came out, other than ‘if that’s the last few seconds of the movie, it probably is significant.’

(8) FRID OBIT. Dark Shadows’s actor Jonathan Frid died April 13, 2012. (Never mind….) The Los Angeles Times reported at the time

Jonathan Frid, whose portrayal of charismatic vampire Barnabas Collins in the supernatural soap opera “Dark Shadows” turned the classically trained actor into a pop-culture star in the late 1960s, has died. He was 87.

… The campy daytime soap was a year old and struggling in the ratings in 1967 when series creator Dan Curtis took his daughter’s advice to “make it scarier.” He introduced Barnabas Collins, and the ratings took off.

Curtis intended Barnabas to be a short-term villain but soon realized that the Shakespearean actor “brought a very gothic, romantic quality” to the role, Curtis later said. Frid remained on the ABC show until it left the air in 1971.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1906 Erroll Collins. British writer whose early Forties Mariners of Space is reminiscent of early Heinlein in its plot and solar system wide setting.  Serialised in Boy’s Own Paper, it would come out later in hardback. Other genre novels include Submarine CityThe Black Dwarf of MongoliaPirates in Space and A Spot on the Sun. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 15, 1908 Howard Browne. I’m going to call him a pulp writer for lack of a better term.  Some of his work appeared over the pseudonyms John Evans, Alexander Blade, Lawrence Chandler, Ivar Jorgensen, and Lee Francis which makes it difficult to say just what he wrote. I’m reasonably sure that under various names that these are his genre novels:  Return to LiliputForgotten Worlds and The Return of Tharn. He also was a prolific scriptwriter, mostly westerns and cop shows, but he did several Mission Impossible scripts. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 15, 1926 Homer Nearing. He is best known for his Professor Cleanth Penn Ransom series published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the early Fifties. One story, “The Neurotic Rose”, ran in the April 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe. Some of the stories formed a fix-up novel called The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 15, 1940 Robert Walker, 79. Ahhh, the Charlie Evan character in the first season “Charlie X” Star Trek episode in which yet another child gets to be a badly behaving godling. I really don’t know what I think of this episode but do know the actor was rather good in his ability to wring sense out of Fontana’s script. Walker didn’t do much else for genre work, showing up on The Time Tunnel as Billy the Kid,  Bobby Hartford in Beware! The Blob, the sequel to The Blob, and in The Devonsville Terror as Matthew Pendleton.
  • Born April 15, 1947 Deborah J. Ross, 72. A friend of Marion Zimmer Bradley, she’d edited and contributed a story to the first of Sword and Sorceress series which lasted thirty volumes. Much of her fiction is set in the Darkover universe with an original series,The Seven-Petaled Shield, underway as well. She’s also edited two Lace and Blade anthologies which have such contributors as Tanith Lee and Diana Paxton.
  • Born April 15, 1952 Glenn Shadix. He shows up in two of my favorite genre films, Beetlejuice and Demolition Man. His other genre films were SleepwalkersMultiplicity and Planet of the Apes. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 15, 1959 Emma Thompson, 60. Professor Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter franchise. Men in Black 3 and Men in Black: International as Agent O, The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle as Polynesia, Beauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts and Treasure Planet voicing Captain Amelia. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 45. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 29. Hermione Grangerin the Harry Potter film franchise. Belle in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. And the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 22. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She is Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of a story line, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants.

(10) TODAY’S CLICKBAIT. Food & Wine sounds deeply concerned that the answer was almost never Peeps: “The Most Popular Easter Candy in Every State, According to RetailMeNot”.

If you’re also on team Peeps, know that the candy company has released several new flavors this year, including Pancakes & Syrup and Root Beer Float, which you can learn more about here. As for the rest of America’s candy preferences, check out the full state-by-state breakdown below:

(11) PICARESQUE PUSSYCAT. While Camestros Felapton is in the Himalayas, Timothy the Talking Cat is favoring us with his autobiography: “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 1”.

…This was a dark time for England. Specifically it was around 10 pm in November. I needed more light so I filled the bath full of kerosene and set light to it. And for the simple crime of wanting enough light to read by I was thrown upon the mercy of England’s archaic criminal justice system…

(12) AI MEDIC. NPR considers the question: “How Can We Be Sure Artificial Intelligence Is Safe For Medical Use?”

When Merdis Wells visited the diabetes clinic at the University Medical Center in New Orleans about a year ago, a nurse practitioner checked her eyes to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of blindness.

At her next visit, in February of this year, artificial intelligence software made the call.

The clinic had just installed a system that’s designed to identify patients who need follow-up attention.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the system — called IDx-DR — for use in 2018. The agency said it was the first time it had authorized the marketing of a device that makes a screening decision without a clinician having to get involved in the interpretation.

It’s a harbinger of things to come. Companies are rapidly developing software to supplement or even replace doctors for certain tasks. And the FDA, accustomed to approving drugs and clearing medical devices, is now figuring out how to make sure computer algorithms are safe and effective.

(13) BIG BROTHER REALLY IS. “How does it feel to be watched at work all the time?” BBC reports on the consequences.

Is workplace surveillance about improving productivity or simply a way to control staff and weed out poor performers?

Courtney Hagen Ford, 34, left her job working as a bank teller because she found the surveillance she was under was “dehumanising”.

Her employer logged her keystrokes and used software to monitor how many of the customers she helped went on to take out loans and fee-paying accounts.

“The sales pressure was relentless,” she recalls. “The totality was horrible.”

She decided selling fast food would be better, but ironically, left the bank to do a doctorate in surveillance technology.

Courtney is not alone in her dislike of this kind of surveillance, but it’s on the rise around the world as firms look to squeeze more productivity from their workers and become more efficient.

(14) JEDI GAME. There’s a new trailer out for the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Cal Kestis—one of the last surviving members of the Jedi Order after the purge of Order 66—is now a Padawan on the run. Experience this all-new single-player Star Wars™ story from Respawn Entertainment and EA Star Wars on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC this holiday season, 15 November 2019.

(15) REY PARADE. Holy cats – there’s no end of them! Is this some kind of Escher thing? No, it’s the Rey Meetup at last week’s Star Wars Celebration in Chicago.

(16) BOXING DAY. I love work. I could watch other people do it for hours. (Or robots.) “Handle Robot Reimagined for Logistics” is a new video from Boston Dynamics in which a bird-like robot picks up and stacks boxes.

[Thanks to Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Standback, Dann, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

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

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

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

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

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

The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) LOL! Oh, Reference Director!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/19 File The Scroll Ashore, Pixellujah

(1) MOST READ NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte blogs the numbers of people who report owning copies of the Hugo nominees in various categories to see if it helps predict who will win: “Hugo finalists – Goodreads/LibraryThing statistics”.

Once again I’m running the statistical ruler over the finalists for the Hugos – this year, more than ever. This has not often been a useful guide to which books will win; however I think it does show the extent to which they ave penetrated popular consciousness, at least to within an order of magnitude.

(2) TAKEN ABACK. Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee Ariela Housman (Geek Calligraphy) apparently is getting some official pushback about which of her items are qualifying work, as explained in “Hugo Eligibility Revisited”.

When we published our eligibility post in December, we included the above two works, plus “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” based on The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. The former two were created earlier in 2018 and shown in art shows at Confluence and ICON. We finished “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” late enough in the year that we didn’t have any more art shows booked in which we could show it. We put it all over the interwebs, though.

This is what the Hugo Awards Website gives as the criteria for the Best Fan Artist category (bolding ours):

The final category is also for people. Again note that the work by which artists should be judged is not limited to material published in fanzines. Material for semiprozines or material on public displays (such as in convention art shows) is also eligible. Fan artists can have work published in professional publications as well. You should not consider such professionally-published works when judging this award.

The internet is about as public as it gets, right? It was even included in Mary Robinette’s Pinterest Gallery for Lady Astronaut Fan Art.

Apparently the Hugo Committee disagrees. Per the email I received from the committee member who contacted me prior to the announcement of the ballot:

The first two pieces clearly qualify, so that is fine. I’m afraid that the rules exclude pieces that have only been displayed online.

This, dear reader, is ridiculous.

Hopefully, Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte will reconcile all this for us, especially since some of us are under the impression fan artists’ online work was included in the 2017 Hugo Voter Packet.  

(3) THUS ENDETH THE SERIES. Comic Book Resources warns fans that “AMC’s Preacher Is Ending With Season 4”.

Co-creator Seth Rogen announced the news in a video teaser posted to his Twitter page. The simple, yet stylized video prominently displays the Preacher title card, followed by an explosion and the declaration, “The end is now.” Then, the title card returns to confirm that the show’s fourth season will mark the end of the series. The teaser also reveals that Preacher Season 4 will debut on Aug. 4.

(4) LUCKY NUMBER. Next week’s Titan Comics releases include another adventure with the thirteenth Doctor Who. No, it’s not a Prisoner mashup.

DOCTOR WHO: THIRTEENTH DOCTOR #6 –  The Thirteenth Doctor’s continue after the season finale, as Eisner nominee Jody Houser brings a fresh new Doctor Who story to fans old and new.

(5) TREK THRU FANHISTORY. The Dana Gould Hour podcast interviews John and Bjo Trimble:

John and Bjo Trimble. For those of you who don’t know John & Bjo, I’m very excited you get to hear their story for the first time. In the late 1960s, they were fans of a little TV show called Star Trek, and when it was announced, during Star Trek’s second season, that the show would not be returning for a third, they sprang into action. John and Bjo knew that TV shows don’t go into syndication unless they have three seasons – that gives you enough episodes strip the show. In other words, you need enough episodes to run five nights a without repeating episodes too quickly. You needed volume. And two seasons was not enough.

In those pre-internet days, John and Bjo started the letter writing campaign that saved Star Trek. Thanks to John and Bjo Trimble, Star Trek had three seasons, which allowed it to be syndicated, which allowed it to catch on, find its audience and become the juggernaut that it is today.

(6) MORE OREO MUTATIONS. Food & Wine’s spies say “Purple Creme Oreos Will Celebrate the Moon Landing, Apparently”.

 The weekend is two days long, so of course, we have photos of three new Oreo varieties for you.

(7) LEARNING A LOT. Cat Rambo posted highlights from Catherine Lundoff’s online class, “So You Want To Put Together An Anthology”. For more information about Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Classes, see the website at academy.catrambo.com

(8) POP YOU CAN HEAR IN SPACE. Star Trek Nitpickers didn’t find it hard to choose ten, for obvious reasons:

Top 10 funniest uses of pop music in The Orville. There were only 11, so I threw in a runner up. Also–lots of song factoids. This video serves as a loose recap for season one as well. I hope you’ll check out other songs by these great musicians!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970 an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.)
  • Born April 8, 1939 Trina Schart Hyman. An illustrator of children’s books. She illustrated over 150 books, including fairy tales and Arthurian legends. She won the 1985 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges. Among the genre works she’s illustrated are Lloyd Alexander’s The Fortune-Tellers, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 77. Let’s call him a film genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost
  • Born April 8, 1943 James Herbert. Writer whose work erased the boundaries between horror and sf and the supernatural in a manner that made for mighty fine popcorn reading. None of his work from his first two books, The Rats and The Fog, to his latter work such as Nobody True would be considered Hugo worthy in my opinion (you may of course disagree) but he’s always entertaining. I will note that in 2010 Herbert was greatly honored by receiving the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award which was presented to him by Stephen King. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 8, 1966 Robin Wright, 53. Buttercup! Need I say more? I think not. She next pops in in Robin William’s Toys as Gwen Tyler and I see she was in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable as Audrey Dunn. The animated Neil Gaiman Beowulf has her voicing Queen Wealtheow.  Blade Runner 2049 is next for her where she has the role of Lieutenant Joshi. The DC Universe is where we finish off with her playing General Antiope in three films, to wit Justice League, Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984. 
  • Born April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 52. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted primarily to erotic science fiction and fantasy. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy. (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She was two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy
  • Born April 8, 1968 Patricia Arquette, 51. She made her genre debut as Kristen Parker in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That and the horror film Nightwatch in which she was Katherine are, I think, her only genre gigs other than a Tales from the Crypt episode called “Four-Sided Triangle” episode in which she was Mary Jo.
  • Born April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 45. Who Fears Death won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Afrofututurist novel was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both the 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works are being adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. 
  • Born April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 39. Being noted here for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars In a recurring role of voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. 
  • Born April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 38. The lead in John Carter, a film I’ll be damn if I can figure out how anything can have such great digital effects and such truly bad acting. No mind you he went on next to be Lt. Alex Hopper In Battleship, a film based on, yes, the board game. Earlier in his career is did play Gambit (Remy Etienne LeBeau) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine which, errr, wasn’t received well either. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz is all about coffee science.

(11) JANSSON LEGACY. The Guardian’s Lisa Allardice profiles the Moomins, subject of a new TV adaptation, in “‘It is a religion’: how the world went mad for Moomins”.

It is striking how much fear shadows the novels: for all the sunshine and picnics, menace lurks behind every bush: like a skater on ice, Jansson is always aware of the murky darkness just inches below. Of her success Jansson wrote: “Daydreams, monsters and all the horrible symbols of the subconscious that stimulate me … I wonder if the nursery and the chamber of horrors are as far apart as people think.” As Huckerby observes, the novels “go to some very dark places” and they have tried to reflect this in their adaptation. “It is being billed as prime time drama for all the family,” Ostler says. “It’s not a kids’ show.”

(12) YOU’RE THE TOP! To mix a metaphor, John Scalzi scaled Amazon’s Mt. Everest yesterday.

He also wrote a Twitter thread explaining that this good thing could not be improved by knocking other writers. Thread starts here.

(13) WELCOME OUR ROBOT UNDERLORDS. NPR announces “The Robots Are Here: At George Mason University, They Deliver Food To Students”.

George Mason University looks like any other big college campus with its tall buildings, student housing, and manicured green lawns – except for the robots.

…”We were amazed by the volume of orders that we had when we turned the service on,” Starship Technologies executive Ryan Tuohy says. “But what’s really touching is how the students on the campus have embraced the robots.”

(14) TURN OUT THE LIGHTS. A study shows “Big Cities, Bright Lights And Up To 1 Billion Bird Collisions”NPR has the story.

Up to 1 billion birds die from building collisions each year in the United States, and according to a new study, bright lights in big cities are making the problem worse.

The study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, examined two-decades of satellite data and weather radar technology to determine which cities are the most dangerous for birds. The study focused on light pollution levels, because wherever birds can become attracted to and disoriented by lights, the more likely they are to crash into buildings.

The study found that the most fatal bird strikes are happening in Chicago. Houston and Dallas are the next cities to top the list as the most lethal. One of the study’s authors, Kyle Horton, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, called the cities a “hotspot of migratory action,” adding, “they are sitting in this primary central corridor that most birds are moving through spring and fall.”

(15) RUBBER WEAPONS CHECK. Somebody thinks Voyager’s photon torpedo account was overdrawn. Because they counted. (A 2011 post.)

(16) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN. In comments, Darren Garrison figured out what the contents of Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech will be: “Unsettling Video Shows What Happens to a Dead Alligator at the Bottom of the Sea” at Gizmodo.

The enthusiasm of these scavengers is totally understandable. Deep-sea bottom feeders are immensely dependent upon “food falls,” in which deceased aquatic animals from above settle on the ocean floor. This typically involves whales, dolphins, sea lions, and large fish like tuna, sharks, and rays, but it can also involve stuff from the land, such as plant material, wood, and, as the new video shows, alligators dropped by scientists.

(17) ALL ABOARD! The Points Guy tells you how to catch a ride on this celebrity train: “Calling All Muggles: The Real Hogwarts Express Train Is Back in Action”.

Accio tickets to the Scottish Highlands!

After a seasonal break, the Jacobite steam train (a.k.a. the train used as a stand-in for the actual Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films) is back in business, People reports. And no, you won’t have to pass through Platform 9 3/4 to get there. 

The Jacobite steam train has been in operation for over 100 years. Known originally for its scenic views of the Scottish Highlands, the old rail line only got attached the Harry Potter-verse after it was featured as the Hogwarts Express in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and every other Potter film going forward.

(18) TOOTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM. In “Game of Thrones Turned Its Composer Into a Rock Star” in The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber profiles Ramin Djawadi, composer of the music for Game of Thrones.

The arsenal of instruments Ramin Djawadi has used to score Game of Thrones includes mournful strings, mighty horns, and the Armenian double-reed woodwind known as a duduk.  During the series’ first five seasons, however, he left one common weapon untouched:  the piano.  Early on, the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, decided that the ivories were too delicate for the show;s brutal realms, where even weddings tend to involve some stabbing.  They also banned the flute, for fear that Thrones would sound like a Renaissance fair.

(19) LIVE FROM NEW YORK. Kit Harington Saturday Night Live monologue is full of Game of Thrones jokes, and the sketch “Graphics Department” makes D and D jokes.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/30/19 ///Pixel.Scroll.Comment Is In The Middle Of Nowhere In Australia

(1) CATS SLEEP ON $FF. Cat Rambo issues a warning about “Writing Contests and Fees”, and rebuts several arguments she’s heard trying to justify them.

Here’s one of her answers:

Charging a fee means better submissions. Great reason for editors and magazines; meaningless to writers and in fact, means people that self-reject will be even more likely to do so. It also ensures economically disadvantaged people don’t get to participate. The price of a latte for one person may be the next person’s daily food budget.

(2) PROBLEMS FOR JUDGE WHO ENGAGED KRAMER’S COMPUTER SERVICES. More revelations about the judge, from the Gwinett Daily Post. Recent news proves that not only did the judge know about Kramer, but that she was in phone contact with him. She currently is being asked to recuse herself following making false statements and recording the DA during a meeting without his permission or knowledge. “Gwinnett DA files motion for Superior Court judge to recuse herself from all criminal cases”.

Just days after a court filing alleged that Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader expressly gave a convicted sex offender access to the county’s computer network, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is calling for her to recuse herself from all criminal cases.

…In Friday’s filing, which included an affidavit, Porter said he confronted the judge about her computer being monitored, but “at no time during this meeting did Judge Schrader disclose that she had any direct knowledge of this monitoring, or that she had hired Ward, Karic and Kramer to do so.”

The judge also recorded the meeting “through a video on her phone without (Porter’s) knowledge or consent,” Porter wrote in the affidavit.

On March 15, when the GBI interviewed Schrader, she accused Porter of hacking her computer, Porter’s affidavit said.

“Because Judge Schrader has alleged that I committed a criminal offense against her, I have grounds to reasonably question her impartiality in any criminal case that my office handles before her,” Porter’s affidavit said. “This is further supported by the fact that Judge Schrader has surreptitiously recorded our private conversations without my knowledge or consent, while feigning ignorance of the very individuals she had employed and allowed to access the entire Gwinnett County Computer network.”

(3) AGED, BUT NOT GOLDEN. Is reviewer Christopher Priest so eager to lash out at a writer who died 30 years ago, or was this an irresistible opportunity to downcheck a favorite of some of his living American colleagues? He reviews Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein for The Spectator: “Robert A. Heinlein: the ‘giant of SF’ was sexist, racist — and certainly no stylist”.  

…Mendlesohn describes how Heinlein, who when younger had made a well-earned name for himself as an author of serious and innovative speculative fiction, became a rotten writer in the second half of his career. He always told stories well, but his style was execrable. From Starship Troopers (1959) onwards, his books had an endlessly hectoring, lecturing tone, almost always phrased in long and unconvincing conversations full of paternalistic advice, sexual remarks, libertarian dogma and folksy slang. Reading one of his later novels produced the weird effect of meaningless receptivity: you could get through 20 pages at a gallop, but at the end you couldn’t remember anything that had been said, by whom or for what reason. The next 20 pages would be the same (but seemed longer).

… At the end of the war he began a series of juvenile novels, aimed unerringly at young readers but told in the same didactic voice. These novels, not published in the UK until years later when Heinlein was famous, had a profound effect on their American readers. There is still today a generation of middle- aged and elderly American science fiction writers for whom Heinlein is in a position of seminal influence, similar to Hemingway in other literary circles. Heinlein’s influence on modern American science fiction is not universal, but still detectable….

(4) SWATTER GETS 20 YEARS. On December 28, 2017 Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation. Tyler Barriss, who made the call, has now been convicted and sentenced: “20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting”.

A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over a $1.50 bet in the Call of Duty: WWII video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats. The plea agreement called for a sentence of at least 20 years — well over the 10 years recommended under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors believe it is the longest prison sentence ever imposed for the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

(5) LIKE A JAWA MARRIOTT. Take one look at the picture and you can have no doubts: “The upside down hotel said to have inspired Star Wars faces demolition”.

Much of the shooting for the original Star Wars movies took place in Tunisia, and legend has it that one local landmark made a powerful impression on its creator, George Lucas.

The influence of Hotel du Lac in Tunis, shaped like an upside-down pyramid with serrated edges, would later be seen in the fictional Sandcrawler vehicle used by the Jawas of the Tatooine desert planet in the film.

(6) WOMEN AT THE FOREFRONT. The Bustle lists “12 Female-Driven Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That You Definitely Don’t Want To Miss”. One of them is —

‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon

A millennium ago, a powerful, evil dragon, known only as the Nameless One, was locked away in the Abyss. The people of three nations want to keep the dragon sealed away, but fear that his return is imminent. In Samantha Shannon’s sweeping new fantasy novel, three women, one from each nation, must join forces if they want to keep their world safe.

(7) ADVANCED DEGREES. As Women’s History Month winds up, Yahoo! Entertainment explores the “Six Degrees of Peggy Carter: Why the S.H.I.E.L.D. Founder Is the Lynchpin of the Entire MCU”.

While there may not be direct links from Peggy to every single Avenger, her status as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. links her intrinsically to the heroic group and their efforts to save the world from evil time and time again. So here is a very unofficial, fan-centric look at the impact Peggy Carter has had on the MCU, and the ways in which she helped bring Earth’s mightiest heroes together as a team. “All we can do is our best,” after all….

2. Iron Man

A “self-made man” in the same way that Kylie Jenner is a self-made billionaire, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) likely spent his childhood years on the receiving end of some very disapproving glances from his father’s friend and close confidante. Howard’s working relationship with Peggy — sans fondue, of course — is established in The First Avenger, but their friendship is explored even further in Agent Carter’sstellar two-season run on ABC. The pair teamed up to save the world more than a few times, forging a bond so strong, it’s impossible to believe that Peggy wasn’t a part of young Tony’s life — and that she didn’t have an impact on the hero he grew up to be.

And besides that, if Howard had died in Agent Carter’s season one finale, as he came very close to doing, Tony would have gotten scrubbed from the timeline, Marty McFly-style. Thanks, Aunt Peggy.

(8) CLASSIC TREK CONTRIBUTOR At Den of Geek, “Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana Talks the Origin of Spock’s Family”.

… For fans of Star Trek: Discovery, specifically, Fontana’s script for the animated episode “Yesteryear,” has been the visual and thematic backbone of nearly all of Discovery Vulcan-centric flashbacks in the second season, which has informed this version of Spock’s character. And, for those who love Spock parent’s— Amanda Grayson and Sarek—Fontana is the person who straight-up invented them.

…In The Original Series, Amanda and Sarek only appeared in “Journey to Babel,” written by Fontana. But, because that episode also featured a huge diplomatic summit on the Enterprise, this also means she created several of the big classic Trek aliens, too, including the Andorians and the Tellarites, who have both made huge appearances in Discovery first two seasons.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads similarly to Heinlein. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1930 John Astin, 89. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 69. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at the airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 61. Voice actor primarily known for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 20. She’s only here because in researching Birthdays for this date, one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics. Though IMDB has a cast listed for it, that’s about all I could find on it. If I was betting a cask of Romulan ale, I’d wager this was one of the productions that Paramount got shut down three years back. 

(10) IN THE ZONE Some TV history leading up to the Jordan Peele reboot, in the New York Times: “‘The Twilight Zone’: Here’s Why We Still Care”.

Today we live in a world where the words “Twilight Zone” are used as an adjective whenever anyone wants to describe stories (or real-life events) that are fearless, insightful, ironic and just a little bit spooky. And that theme song was killer too.

(11) FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky analyzes a new graphic novel: “In ‘She Could Fly,’ A Teen Wrestles With A Host Of Psychological Mysteries”.

“Would you rather be able to fly or turn invisible?” It’s the archetypal party question. It was already popular way back in 2001, when This American Life addressed it, and the years haven’t lessened its appeal. As recently as 2015, Forbes posed the question to 7,065 “business and professional leaders … across the globe” and Vulture brought it up with the stars of Ant-Man.

Fly, or turn invisible? The question’s popularity is probably due to its uncanny psychological subtext. The two powers don’t seem to conflict at first, but a closer look reveals that they represent opposing tendencies. To fly is to be triumphant, dominant, powerful. To be invisible is to recede, to hide.

Christopher Cantwell nods to this duality in She Could Fly, a graphic novel whose protagonist wishes she could fly and feels like she’s invisible…
Luna seems to be suffering from a particularly intense form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but she hasn’t been diagnosed or received any treatment. Taking it for granted that there’s no help for her, she shuts out such well-meaning people as the aforementioned guidance counselor. Luna has only one source of hope, and it’s a doozy: A mysterious woman spotted flying, superhero-style, around the skies of Chicago.

(12) MODERN MILSF. Andrew Liptak intends this as a compliment, I wonder if Hurley takes it as one? In The Verge: “The Light Brigade is a worthy successor to Starship Troopers”.

The world Hurley presents in The Light Brigade is a feudalistic nightmare, and makes a sharp commentary on the growing influence and dangers of a world ruled by corporations. Corporations control all aspects of the lives of the citizens, from the information they have access to, to how they’re educated and where they live, their lives given up to supporting whatever unknowable corporate goals their overlords have planned. It’s a perverse twist on Heinlein’s arguments about serving to earn citizenship, which implied that one has to earn their freedom through service. In Hurley’s world, freedom is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what you do, you end up serving your host corporation.

(13) THEY’LL SCARE THE CHOCOLATE OUT OF YOU. If you thought this happened only in Monty Python, not so, says Open Culture: “Killer Rabbits in Medieval Manuscripts: Why So Many Drawings in the Margins Depict Bunnies Going Bad”.

In all the kingdom of nature, does any creature threaten us less than the gentle rabbit? Though the question may sound entirely rhetorical today, our medieval ancestors took it more seriously — especially if they could read illuminated manuscripts, and even more so if they drew in the margins of those manuscripts themselves. “Often, in medieval manuscripts’ marginalia we find odd images with all sorts of monsters, half man-beasts, monkeys, and more,” writes Sexy Codicology’s Marjolein de Vos. “Even in religious books the margins sometimes have drawings that simply are making fun of monks, nuns and bishops.” And then there are the killer bunnies.

Hunting scenes, de Vos adds, also commonly appear in medieval marginalia, and “this usually means that the bunny is the hunted; however, as we discovered, often the illuminators decided to change the roles around.”…

Numerous illustrations at the link.

(14) SURVIVAL AT STAKE. “Tasmanian devils ‘adapting to coexist with cancer'” – BBC has the story.

There’s fresh hope for the survival of endangered Tasmanian devils after large numbers were killed off by facial tumours.

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupials have been battling Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) for over 20 years.

But researchers have found the animals’ immune system to be modifying to combat the assault.

And according to an international team of scientists from Australia, UK, US and France, the future for the devils is now looking brighter.

“In the past, we were managing devil populations to avoid extinction. Now, we are progressively moving to an adaptive management strategy, enhancing those selective adaptations for the evolution of devil/DFTD coexistence,” explains Dr Rodrigo Hamede, from the University of Tasmania.

First discovered in north-eastern Tasmania in 1996, the disease has since spread across 95% of the species’ range, with local population losses of over 90%.

(15) CAMELIDS VISIT COMIC CON. Two events in the same facility find they are unexpectedly compatible.

(16) PLATE SPECIAL. AMC’s series based on the novel by Joe Hill premieres June 2. Here’s the NOS4A2 “A Fight For Their Souls” official trailer.

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

Wandering Through the Public Domain #9

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: I’ve had some upheaval in my personal life in the last month, and I haven’t been keeping up with this column or with some of the older comments. So I’ll start by taking an opportunity to clarify a couple of things which may have been misunderstood, based on some of the comments on older entries.

First, when I mention a work here, it’s generally because it’s either one that I have come across in my own “wanderings”, or because it has some tie to something recently discussed, such as when an author’s birthday comes up in the daily listing, and it turns out that they have some public domain books or stories available.

It’s not meant to imply that a book is just now entering the public domain (unless otherwise stated, as in the recent discussion of the 1923 copyright expirations) or that it is in any way a new discovery to anyone but me. So, for example, Flatland by Abbott has indeed been in the public domain for many years, and only came up here because a new audiobook recording of it was recently released.

Second, someone apparently took offense at my passing observation that John W. Campbell is better known nowadays for his role as an editor as a writer. That is no judgement on Campbell as a writer, or any of the other forgotten or less-remembered names that come up. It’s just a general impression of the overall collective memory or focus of 2019 fandom and who tends to be well-known and who does not. If I’m off base on my estimation of how well-known any particular writer is at this point, I welcome correction.

Most stories and novels pass out of popular notice in a few decades, no matter how worthwhile they are. There’s no point in hand-wringing about this or decrying the crappiness of modern fandom for not being sufficiently aware of certain writers. I prefer to look at it as a vast realm of potential buried treasures, and poke about looking for some forgotten books that are worth unearthing. I started writing this series merely to share some of these finds.

On that note, let’s turn to some of the recent diggings:

In Cat Rambo’s introduction to this month’s StoryBundle featuring contemporary female speculative fiction authors, she mentions four names as examples of women authors who have largely faded away. This, as usual, sent me off to see if anything by those authors is available on my favorite sites.

Miriam DeFord was already covered in a previous installment. I could not find any public domain works by Zenna Henderson, alas. However, the other two authors that Rambo mentioned, Judith Merril and Katherine MacLean, are each represented by several short stories on Project Gutenberg.

Judith Merril (1923-1997):

To date, neither story has been recorded for Librivox.

Katherine MacLean (1925- )

All of these stories have been recorded at least once for Librivox.

Speaking of women authors, Andre Norton (1912-2005) had a February birthday. She has short stories as well as several full-length novels available on Project Gutenberg:

In addition to her science fiction, Norton has a YA adventure novel (Ralestone Luck) and two Westerns (Ride Proud, Rebel! and Rebel Spurs) on PG. All of her works have been recorded, most in multiple versions, for Librivox.

Staying on the topic of women authors, Leigh Brackett’s (1915-1978) name is probably most recognizable as one of the credited screenwriters of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. She was well-known enough as a screenwriter in the 1940s that Howard Hawks is said to have once demanded, “Get me that guy, Brackett” to help William Faulkner finish the script for The Big Sleep. Brackett is also notable as the first woman author to receive a Hugo nomination, for her 1956 post-nuclear-war novel The Long Tomorrow.

The Long Tomorrow does not appear to be in the public domain, but two stories by Brackett are available on Project Gutenberg:

Both stories have been recorded for Librivox.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Mermaid’s Message and Other Stories by Various

    This is a collection of fairy tales and fables compiled in 1919. The stories contain original but old-fashioned tales which modern children and grown-ups will enjoy.
  • Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg (1935- )

    When Roy Walton becomes the new director of the UN division of population control, after the director is assassinated, he becomes the most hated man in the world. Being Director involved him in not only population control, but a terra-forming project on Venus, and negotiations with aliens. Not only that, but some people were trying to kill him. To stay alive, he had to become The Master of Life and Death.

Pixel Scroll 3/13/19 This IrrePixel-able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-produced Crime

(1) THINGS FALL APART. T.J. Martinson, in “The Death of the Superhero: The Crime of Killing Off Good & Evil” at Crimereads, notes that comic book publishers periodically kill off superheroes to boost sales of titles, but “when superheroes die, we are left without a moral compass.”  He sees similar problems happening in crime novels where a private eye dies.”

…The death and resurrection of Superman engendered what might be considered a comic book renaissance, one that hasn’t yet run out of steam—for example, in Captain America #25 (2007), Captain America was assassinated in only to later reappear after it was revealed he’d merely been stuck in a time loop involving, you guessed it, an ancient Inuit tribe. Ever since Superman paved the way into and out from the grave, the superhero’s death and resurrection has become an almost-ubiquitous plot-line in otherwise faltering and overstretched narrative arcs. Superheroes are practically falling from the sky like house flies (Infinity Wars, anyone?). The superhero’s death and return has reached such a critical mass that comic books themselves present a meta-commentary on the phenomenon; In DC’s Infinite Crisis (2005-2006), Batman quips to Superman, “the last time you really inspired anyone…was when you were dead.”

But what is it about superheroes that we—readers living outside of Metropolis’ city limits—are so desperate to see resurrected time and time again that we’re willing to weave our suspension of disbelief into tantric knots in order to welcome superheroes from the dead? One answer would be that, in a world of uncertainty and complexity, we yearn for simplified categories (e.g., good and evil) that superheroes boldly represent. But how are to make sense of a world in which the binary logic the superhero embodies is questioned?

(2) REMEMBER THE SPARTANS. Myke Cole analyzes “How the Far Right Perverts Ancient History—And Why It Matters” at Daily Beast.

It may seem silly to argue about the interpretation of events that unfolded thousands of years ago, to fret and hand-wring over people millennia in their graves. Some may argue it is harmless for the likes of Hanson to strut his toxic revision of ancient history across the stage. Just another blowhard shouting at the ocean, after all.

But this notion is having life-and-death consequences in America today. I worked at the NYPD during and following the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA where Heather Heyer was killed and more than two dozen other people were injured. In August 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent us its report on the flags and symbols used during the rally, including the vexillum of the Roman Republic (SPQR for “Sen?tus Populusque R?m?nus,” “The Senate and the People of Rome”), the ancient sun wheels of Germanic tribes, the Greek lambda (“?” or “L” for “Lakedaimon,” the Spartans called themselves “Lakedaimonians”) falsely believed to have been painted on ancient Spartan shields, and now used by the far-right Identitarian movement.

Last of all was the flag of the American Guard, violent hardcore nationalists who sport crossed meat-cleavers as a rallying symbol. Above them stretched a black cannon blazoned with the clarion call of pro-gun advocates from the NRA to militia groups across the country—“Come and take it.” The phrase is from the Greek “molon labe,” (????? ????), Plutarch’s words put in the mouth of the Spartan king Leonidas in 480 BC, when he defied the Persian king Xerxes’ demand that he lay down his arms. Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly invoked the same phrase

(3) HOPEPUNK. Behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, Ellen Gamerman’s article “‘Hopepunk’ and ‘Up Lit’ Help Readers Shake Off the Dystopian Blues” quotes Becky Chambers and mentions one of Cat Rambo’s classes.

Cat Rambo, in “Hopepunk Thoughts Plus A Reading List”, blogged her own thoughts on the subgenre and told readers where to find examples. 

Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human. In today’s world, being kind is one of the most radical things you can do, and you can see society trying to quash it by prosecuting those who offer food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and shelter to those in need.

Is it something new? No, it’s something that we’ve always celebrated in stories. Think about the moment in the Lord of the Rings when acts of kindness — first on Bilbo’s part, then on Frodo’s — lead to the moment where Gollum enables the ring’s destruction when Frodo falters and is on the brink of giving up his quest. Or go even further back, to Ovid’s Baucis and Philemon, who are rewarded for offering hospitality to strangers who turn out to be gods

(4) FREE DOWNLOAD. Arizona State University has published The Weight of Light, a collection of short science fiction, art, and essays about human futures powered by solar energy, with an upbeat, solarpunk twist. The book features four original short stories, by Cat Rambo, Brenda Cooper, Corey S. Pressman, and Andrew Dana Hudson.  It can be downloaded in HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple Books.

The Weight of Light emphasizes that the design of solar energy matters just as much as the shift away from fossil fuels. Solar technologies can be planned, governed, and marketed in many different ways. The choices we make will profoundly shape the futures we inhabit. The collection features stories by award-winning science fiction authors, working in collaboration with illustrators, graphic designers, and experts in policy, ethics, climate science, and electrical, environmental, civil, and aerospace engineering.

  • Stories by: Brenda Cooper, Andrew Dana Hudson, Corey S. Pressman, Cat Rambo
  • Essays by: Stuart Bowden, Ed Finn, Wesley Herche, Christiana Honsberg, Samantha Janko, Darshan M.A. Karwat, Lauren Withycombe Keeler, Joshua Loughman, Clark A. Miller, Esmerelda Parker, Dwarak Ravikumar, Ruth Wylie

(5) SLADEK COLLECTION. David Langford told readers New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek is on course for launch at the UK Eastercon in April.

Chris Priest, in his awesome capacity as agent for the Sladek estate, is very pleased with the early proof copy he’s seen; I hope to have a big pile of trade paperbacks in good time for Easter. Paperbacks and ebooks will also be available for order online, from Lulu.com and Ansible Editions respectively.

(6) FINAL BATTLE. Gail Gygax says her life is in danger: “Fantasy’s Widow: The Fight Over The Legacy Of Dungeons & Dragons” .

In December of last year, Gail Gygax contacted Kotaku through her agent. She wanted to tell us about all of the many dangers—both physical and psychological—she says she’s been dealing with since the death of her husband Gary Gygax, who is widely considered to be the father of the tabletop role-playing game, in 2008. Break-ins. Death threats. Estranged children. Visitations from her late husband’s spirit. Predatory businesspeople. And lawsuits—five of them in total, with one brought by Hollywood producer Tom DeSanto for $30 million. Eleven years after the death of Gary Gygax, there are still battles over who will control his legacy—the rights to his name, his biography, his memorial, his intellectual property, and the future of countless other priceless artifacts, among them Gary Gygax’s original dungeon, the maps to an 11-level magical castle where he prototyped a fantasy role-playing game that 8 million people play every year.

(7) NOT A BLANK SLATE. Andrew Liptak’s “Wordplay: This year’s awards scuffle and influence in the SF/F world” compares the motives behind the 20BooksTo50K slate and the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates, among other things, and how hard it is for groups administering the top sff awards to keep pace with change.

There has been a lot of commentary from all sides about how this is a war of old-verses-new, but I don’t really think that that’s the case. I think it’s more that established institutions like SFWA and the Hugo Awards simply aren’t equipped to handle some of the rapid changes that we’re seeing in the publishing industry and how fandom organizes itself, with the help of platforms like Facebook or Twitter. I think it’s also less “old man yells at cloud,” and more not recognizing potential issues or reacting quickly before they become a problem. The traditional “Fan” community doesn’t really turn and adapt quickly. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 1781 — The planet Uranus was discovered by English astronomer Sir William Herschel.
  • March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell was born

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Except for Pluto’s discoverer, above, birthdays are on hiatus. Cat Eldridge is having the elbow surgery he mentioned in comments.]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) RETRO REPORT. While researching an article I rediscovered Peter Watts’ account of the 2010 Worldcon “Worth the Price”. One of the many good bits —

…and the sheer joy of dealing with Australian border guards.

I am not being ironic. I would almost be tempted to purchase an Expedia vacation package that consisted entirely of going back and forth through Australian Customs for a few days straight. Yes, I got rerouted to Secondary (they pretty much had to, given the check mark in that little “Are you a felon?” box), but the whole lot of them were friendly and welcoming even so. Mostly they spent my wait time chatting with me about the kind of books they liked to read. (I mean, just imagine: literate border guards. Not a species you’re gonna find anywhere in the US, I’m betting.) And finally, when they waved me through and I pointed to the big sign saying Your Luggage WILL be X-rayed and wondered why they weren’t doing that to mine, the nice lady’s response was “Would you like me to?” She was willing to go out of her way to be extra intrusive, just to make me feel at home.

(12) LEGO IDEA. Sort of like looking for a much richer version of Waldo.

(13) BRITNEY GOES GENRE? That’s what BBC heard: “Britney Spears’ feminist jukebox musical is going to Broadway”.

The hits of pop icon Britney Spears are heading to Broadway in a new jukebox musical with a feminist message.

Titled Once Upon A One More Time, the comedy will tell the story of a book club attended by fairytale princesses.

Their lives are changed when a “rogue fairy godmother” brings them a copy of The Feminine Mystique, the landmark feminist book by Betty Friedan.

It makes them question whether there’s more to life than marrying Prince Charming and singing with animals.

Scriptwriter Jon Hartmere told The New York Times: “Cinderella is having an existential crisis, and she has a posse of famous princesses, and her stepmother is the main antagonist.

(14) LAST PAGES. Associated Press gives perspective on how a “Decline in readers, ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold”.

…Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri’s Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

(15) TOLKIEN RESOURCE. You have to join to have access, but they’re available now: “Earliest issues of Tolkien Society publications digitised”.

The Tolkien Society’s earliest publications have been digitised and are now available for members to download.

Last year, through the British Library, the Society completed the first stage of its digitisation project, resulting in the digitisation of the majority of back issues of Amon Hen and Mallorn, respectively the bulletin and journal of The Tolkien Society. Not all back issues were digitised at the time due to gaps in the British Library’s collection.

Members now have access to the Society’s earliest publications, dating back to 1969 (the year the Society was founded) and the 1970s. This not only includes the missing issues of Amon Hen, but its forerunner publications, The Tolkien Society Bulletin and Anduril. All issues of Belladonna’s Broadsheet, the Society’s oldest publication, has also been digitised.

(16) ON THE MENU AT CHEZ RAMBO. Guest posts on Cat Rambo’s blog in recent weeks include:

What if prose were written like music? What if, instead, of a common world, stories in an anthology were steps on a share emotional path? Those are the questions the upcoming anthology Score is attempting to answer.

GOURMET RECIPE: VERMIH IN PLABOS SAUCE

There are three complementary sides that determine a phril personality: gastronomy, politics, and romance. The rest represents salads or pickles to fill the mundane.
I will start naturally, with food for the gourmet side of the phrilic spirit, presenting to you, my dear reader, an absolutely genuine Recipe….

(17) WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO JACK KIRBY?WhatCulture Comics remembers “8 Times The Marvel Vs. DC Rivalry Turned Ugly.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Andrew Liptak, 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 Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/19 Don’t Go Chasing Waterscrolls – Please Stick To The Pixels And The Clicks You Know

(1) WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo shares her notes from Kay Kenyon’s class about plotting, “Mapping the Labyrinth”:

(2) OUTSIDE THE THEATER. Abigail Nussbaum convincingly argues that the discussion around Captain Marvel is more significant than the movie.

…Which is really the most important thing you can say about Captain Marvel: this is a movie that is important not because of what happens in it, but because of what happens around it.  The most interesting conversations you can have regarding it all take place in the meta-levels–what does Captain Marvel mean for the MCU, for superhero movies, for pop culture?

…Another example is the way Captain Marvel refigures Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who functions here as Carol’s sidekick on Earth, where she crash-lands after being captured by Skrulls, the enemies of the Kree.  Fury has been a fixture of the MCU since he showed up in the after-credits scene of Iron Man in 2008, and has always cut an imposing figure: a grey eminence, spymaster, and general who suffers no fools and always has plans within plans in his monomaniacal quest to defend the Earth from alien dangers.  The version of Fury we meet in Captain Marvel is much more down to earth–funny, self-deprecating, willing to pause his serious pursuits in order to coo over an adorable cat, and inordinately pleased with himself over minor bits of spycraft, like fooling a fingerprint reader with a bit of tape.

It can be hard to square the Fury in Captain Marvel with the one we’ve known for twelve years in the rest of the MCU, and once again, when looking for solutions, one immediately turns to the metafictional.  My first thought when the film’s credits rolled was “someone told Jackson to just do what he did in The Long Kiss Goodnight“.….

(3) SPEAKING OF THE BIG BUCKS. Forbes’ Scott Mendelson listened to the cash register ring this weekend: “Box Office: ‘Captain Marvel’ Trolled The Trolls With A $455M Global Launch”.

The Brie Larson/Samuel L. Jackson/Reggie the Cat sci-fi adventure opened with $153m in North America this weekend, which is the second-biggest solo superhero non-sequel launch behind Black Panther ($202m in 2018). It’s the third-biggest March opening of all time, sans inflation, behind Batman v Superman ($166m in 2016) and Beauty and the Beast ($174m in 2017).

(4) HEAR IT FROM AN AGENT: Odyssey Workshops interviewed guest lecturer, literary agent Joshua Bilmes:

You founded JABberwocky Literary Agency in 1994, and your agency has grown since, adding several agents and assistants. What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?

Make every word count! No excess description. No tossing facial gestures like smiles and smirks onto the page for no good reason. Never stopping to give a three-line description of every character when they come on stage. Quoting two of Bradbury’s 8 Rules:

• Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

• Start as close to the end as possible.

Most writers don’t understand that an agent can only represent a limited number of authors, and that agents specialize in particular types of fiction. Can you discuss how many authors you represent and why you’ve settled on that number? Can you describe the areas that you specialize in and why you’ve chosen those areas?

In an alternate universe, the initial crop of mysteries I sold (my very first sale as an agent was a mystery) would have taken off and the sf/fantasy not done as well! I never consciously set out to be a specialist. I don’t count clients; I have “clients” who haven’t written a book in 20 years, so do I count them? And some I’m working with but haven’t yet sold. I don’t target a particular number of clients. I’d say it’s my ability to get through my reading pile that says if I can take on more or fewer; that’s the pressure valve that says if the apparatus can safely support more.

(5) ODIN’S OPINIONS. The New York Times interviews the actor about American Gods, Seasonn 2: “Ian McShane Puts All His [Expletives] in the Right Place”. Also discusses other projects, including a remake of Hellboy and the sequel to Deadwood.

The series touches on immigration, racism, xenophobia and gun control. Did you have any idea how prescient it would be?

Well, it was very interesting what was happening when we did the first season of “American Gods.” The country has taken a serious lurch to the right, as much as they’d love to say it’s taken a serious lurch to the left. I don’t think America would know a socialist if they fell over him. They think it’s somebody who lives in a garret in Russia and has no telephone and no refrigerator. But that’s due to their lack of education. America’s been dumbed down over the years, which is a shame. It’s wonderful to see Congress now with a rainbow color, if you like, of immigrants and nationalities and people who love this country. They’re talking about it in a different way.

(6) THE PRICE ON THE BOUNTY HUNTER. Popular Mechanic’s article “The Great Star Wars Heist” recalls that in 2017, an uncovered toy theft ruptured the Star Wars collecting community. Two years later, the collectors—and the convicted—are still looking for a way forward.

…After talking with Wise, though, Tann’s doubts reached beyond one Boba Fett. The legitimacy of the dozens of purchases he’d made from Cunningham were at stake. Were those stolen goods, too?

Tann shared a comprehensive list of his purchases with Wise and, sure enough, Wise recognized more collectibles of his. But he noticed something else, too. The large volume of items that Cunningham was selling suggested that he had been stealing from someone else.

And the quality of the collectibles left little doubt as to who it was.

(7) SHEINBERG OBIT. Universal Studios executive Sidney Sheinberg died March 7 reports the New York Times. His career-launching connection with Steven Spielberg proved lucrative for both.

Mr. Sheinberg, who could be as tender as he was prickly, was the one who allowed Mr. Spielberg to make “Jaws,” giving him a budget of $3.5 million (about $17 million in today’s money). A problem-plagued shoot pushed the cost to more than twice as much. But Mr. Sheinberg… continued to support the film, which went on to become the prototype for the wide-release summer blockbuster.

“Sid created me, in a way, and I also re-created Sid, in a way,” Mr. Spielberg was quoted as saying in The New York Times in 1997.

Under Mr. Sheinberg’s watch, Universal released two more hits from Mr. Spielberg, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) and “Jurassic Park”(1993). It was Mr. Sheinberg who handed Mr. Spielberg Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s List,” which the director turned into his masterpiece of the same title. Released in 1993, it won seven Academy Awards, including best picture.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon  as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still  playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script oddly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1921 Cec Linder. He’s best remembered for playing Dr. Matthew Roney in the BBC produced Quatermass and the Pit series in the later Fifties, and for his role as James Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, in Goldfinger. He also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the Amerika series, The Ray Bradbury Theatre and The New Avengers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born March 10, 1932 Robert Dowdell. He’s best known for his role as Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. After that series, he showed up in genre series such as Max Headroom, Land of the GiantsBuck Rogers in the 25th Century  and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 81. Currently the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone, 61. Damn, she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being Total Recall where she played the ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. 
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 42. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.

(9) GODSTALK. Nerds of a Feather discusses “6 Books with Catherine Lundoff”:

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to reread?

I’m in the middle of a slow reread of P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series so I can get caught up with the latest volumes in time for the new book to come out later on in 2019. I’ve just finished rereading God Stalk and Dark of the Moon, so Seeker’s Mask is next. It’s been rereleased a few times but this remains my favorite cover. If you are looking for a really splendid high fantasy series with a darker edge, intricate worldbuilding, a complex heroine and fascinating cast of characters, this is one of the best around.

(10) AWARD WORTHY. Camestros Felapton is doing a review series about the Nebula-nominated novelettes. Here are links to three:

(11) SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Idris Elba guest hosted Saturday Night Live. His sketches included –

  • “The Impossible Hulk”
  • “Can I Play That/” in which actors are told they can’t play various parts because trolls on Twitter say they can’t.

(12) GONE CRUISIN’. I don’t know what to say… (See second tweet.)

(13) AKA JOHN CLEVE, Here’s a curiosity: a scan of a 7-page andy offutt letter to Bob Gaines from 1977, mostly a history/list of his porn novels, but also about a page of current events about his career at the time.

(14) DENIAL DENIERS. Cody Delistraty, in “John Lanchester’s Future Tells The Truth” on Vulture, profiles British novelist John Lanchester, whose new sf novel THE WALL is an attempt to educate readers about climate change without preaching to them.

…Something else sets Lanchester apart from crossover literary personalities of yore. He has the ability to deflect — and to notice, too, when most people want to look away from the truth. (He has a “deep sympathy” for climate-change deniers.) He knows where to find the most pressing emergencies facing humanity, as he’s proven time and again with his nonfiction. But, crucially, in his fiction, he also knows when and how people tend to avoid the toughest topics. A central goal of his recent novels — which grounds them in cold reality — is to draw attention to what we might otherwise not want to notice: What are the lies that we must tell ourselves? What must we believe in order to cope with the world? Questions that, perhaps unsurprisingly, spring directly from his own life.

(15) GIVE IT A MISS. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertaiment story “How Captain Marvel Avided Controversial Comic-Book Past To Create Empowered Female Ideal,” notes that when Carol Danvers first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1968, she was known as “Ms. Marvel,” but the producers of the Captain Marvel movie threw out these early years as sexist and based the film on a 2012 reboot of the character.

…Danvers first appeared in 1968. Originally known as Ms. Marvel, the character had fought for feminist causes throughout her comic book history, but her depiction by male writers and artists had several problematic elements. The oft-scantily clad Ms. Marvel had a tendency of being objectified or oversexualized; one infamous storyline in 1980 even featured her being raped and impregnated by an intergalactic supervillain….

(16) LEGACY. Neil Gaiman wrote this eulogy after Harlan Ellison passed away last June. It ends:

He left behind a lot of stories. But it seems to me, from the number of people reaching out to me and explaining that he inspired them, that they became writers from reading him or from listening to him on the radio or from seeing him talk (sometimes it feels like 90% of the people who came to see Harlan and Peter David and me talk after 911 at MIT have gone on to become writers) and that his real legacy was of writers and storytellers and people who were changed by his stories.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A clip from The Jack Benny Program with Rod Serling.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/19 A Pixel Traveling At 0.72C Is Approving a Rotating Scroll Travelling At 0.4C. Where’s The Best Place To Get Souvenir Turtles?

(1) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. Bones isn’t a sff show (most of the time) but the litigation will send ripples throughout all the media empires: “Fox hit with $179-million judgment in dispute over profits from ‘Bones’ TV show” (LA Times).

In a stunning decision that could have widespread repercussions in the TV industry, Fox has been hit with a $178.7-million judgment in its profit participation dispute with the team behind the hit series “Bones.”

The ruling, which was decided in arbitration, excoriated senior Fox executives and criticized the studio and network for its conduct. The decision has also rattled other studios, including the highest echelons of the Walt Disney Co., which is bringing aboard some of the same executives in its $71 billion acquisition of Fox.

Hulu is also at the center of the storm, with accusations that Fox withheld revenues from “Bones” when the series became available for streaming on the digital platform. Fox owns a 30% stake in Hulu, along with other major studios.

… “The Arbitrator is convinced that perjury was committed by the Fox witnesses,” the ruling stated. “Accordingly, if perjury is not reprehensible then reprehensibility has taken on a new meaning.”

(2) STAND AND DELIVER. It’s Facebook’s ambition to supplant Patreon, but how greedy can you get? Very. See ComicsBeat’s roundup on the topic: “Shocker: Details of Facebook’s version of Patreon reveal very creator unfriendly terms”.

Despite some bumps, it’s obvious that Patreon’s subcription model for crowdfunding is a success, to the tune of $500 million in creat or payouts in 2019. With that kind of money floating around, it’s no wonder that some other giant entities – including YouTube and Facebook –  want to tap into the cash stream and launch their own subcription models to support creators.

Facebook’s version, “Fan Subscriptions,” rolled out last year in a very private test, offering to charge fans $4.99 a month for access to exclusive content by their favorite creators.

The program just expanded to offer its services to more content creators. And as Tech Crunch reports, reading the terms reveals, to the surprise of no one, that they are vastly less favorable to content creators than Patreon.

The Tech Crunch article says:

Facebook  will drive a hard bargain with influencers and artists judging by the terms of service for the social network’s Patreon-like Fan Subscriptions feature that lets people pay a monthly fee for access to a creator’s exclusive content. The policy document attained by TechCrunch shows Facebook plans to take up to a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue minus fees, compared to 5 percent by Patreon,  30 percent by YouTube, which covers fees and 50 percent by Twitch.

Facebook also reserves the right to offer free trials to subscriptions that won’t compensate creators. And Facebook demands a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use” creators’ content and “This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.”

(3) NUMBER NINE. [Item by Greg Hullender.] Mike Brown just presented a paper with new results that significantly narrow down the parameters for a hypothetical Planet Nine beyond Neptune. He wrote a few blog posts about it, the most useful of which is probably this one: “version 2.X”.

The upshot is that this should make it easier to find, but it also seems more likely than ever that it’s really out there. Looking at that projected orbit, it’s way, way beyond Neptune. And, yes, it’s massive enough to have “cleared its orbit,” so it’s still a planet, even by the new definition.

In principle, there is so much more that I would like to say, but at this point I think it’s becoming progressively clearer that my coffee supply ran out a couple paragraphs ago, and in an effort to prevent further degradation of the text, I will get straight to the final point: if Planet Nine is smaller, does that mean it’s harder to find with a telescope? Counterintuitively, it’s the opposite. The smaller distance from the sun more than makes up for the diminished surface area. Indeed, if we make naive baseline assumptions about P9’s albedo and adopt the interpolated exoplanet mass-radius relation to estimate P9’s size, Planet Nine turns out to be about one magnitude brighter than we previously thought. Annoyingly, though, the aphelion is very close to (in?) the galactic plane, where confusion due to background stars can readily impede detection. Still, unless we are unlucky and P9 is unexpectedly small and/or dark, it should be within the reach of LSST and comparable telescopes like Subaru. The good news is that in the case of Planet Nine hypothesis, time truly will tell.

(4) OR HE COULD PHONE IT IN. A.V. Club reports “George R.R. Martin turned down a Game Of Thrones cameo for a very good reason”.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that series showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked him to travel all the way from his house in New Mexico to Ireland to film a cameo in one of the final season eight episodes, which, he says, he was “tempted to do.” Unfortunately, he’s a little too busy working on The Winds Of Winter, the next novel in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series–or so he says.

Anyway, if everyone wants this badly enough they can find a studio with a green screen in New Mexico, have Martin perform his bit, and fill in the rest with CGI.

(5) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has put together another Women’s History Month bundle, The 2019 Feminist Futures Bundle. She says –

This one has a great range of stuff in it, with some terrific indie and small press reads. One book I am particularly pleased to have there is K.C. Ball’s collection, which I edited. K.C. was a dear friend whose passing I wrote about here.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities by K.C. Ball
  • Sunspot Jungle by Bill Campbell
  • Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
  • Queen of Roses by Elizabeth McCoy

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SIX more!

  • Albatross by R.A. MacAvoy and Nancy L. Palmer
  • Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer
  • The Child Goddess by Louise Marley
  • Exile by Lisa M. Bradley
  • The Goodall Mutiny by Gretchen Rix
  • Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

(6) MEET THE CAST. SciFiNow has packaged them in one post — The Twilight Zone teaser videos: meet the cast of the West End stage show”.

Reprising their highly praised performances from the Almeida run are Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Adrianna Bertola and Neil Haigh, who will be joined for the West End premiere by Alisha Bailey, Natasha J Barnes, Nicholas Karimi, Dan Crossley, Dyfan Dwyfor, Lauren O’Neill and Matthew Steer.

Here they are, talking about it…

(7) GET YOUR KICKS. Take a break and enjoy Genevieve Valentine’s lively and humorous “Red Carpet Rundown: The 2019 Oscars”.

Glenn Close. This is why some people who can reasonably expect a win still dress simply rather than go for something Fashiony; there’s no shame in seeming surprised you won, but the biggest shared glance-and-nod on this entire red carpet was Glenn Close dressing like the Oscar she was here to collect, and of course she was, because she had it in the bag, because she’d spent the entire red-carpet season in toned-down suits and gowns that looked extremely Career Oscar and reserved and dignified while she collected awards, and she threw it all out the window at the very last turn for this cape with four million beads (four MILLION beads!) to show up and get her statue, and then she didn’t get it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He teamed for one season with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1957 Timothy Spall, 62. Before his more famous roles, he started off in late Sixties horror film Demon Dream as Peck Much later he’ll appear as Rosencrantz In Hamlet. And then we came to him as Mr. Poe in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve yet to see. And of course he’s Peter Pettigrew, nicknamed Wormtail, in the Harry Potter franchise.  And yes, he’s done much, much more than that for genre roles, so do feel free to chastize me for not listing what you think is his best role. 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 59. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits has “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1962 Adam Baldwin, 57. Genre roles include Firefly and its continuation in Serenity as Jayne Cobb. Colonel John Casey in Chuck, Independence Day as Major Mitchell and Mike Slattery in The Last Ship. He’s also done voice work such as Hal Jordan and Jonah Hex on Justice League Unlimited, and Metamorpho on Beware the Batman
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 55. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie. he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for some episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship asTex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1966 Peter Swirski, 53. He’s a academic specialist on the late SF writer and philosopher Stanis?aw Lem. As such, he’s written the usual treatises on him with such titles as Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the FutureLemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World and From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Monty & Doc visit the past to find out how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed only to be surprised…
  • …but Monty still needs to be careful with his eggplant emoji; the Pharaoh might get the wrong idea.

(10) MAINTAIN AN EVEN STRAIN. Another dead author gets his name on a book above the title, though at least they acknowledge he didn’t write it (AP News: “Sequel to Michael Crichton’s ‘Andromeda Strain’ due in fall”). An authorized sequel to The Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson—is due for a November 12 release by HarperCollins.

Its publication marks the 50th anniversary of “The Andromeda Strain,” Crichton’s techno-thriller about scientists fighting a lethal extraterrestrial microorganism. Released when Crichton was just 27, it was later adapted into a feature film and television miniseries, with Ridley Scott among the producers.

“It’s exciting to be shining a spotlight on the world that Michael so brilliantly created and to collaborate with Daniel Wilson,” [his widow,] Sherri Crichton[,] said in a statement. “This novel is for Crichton fans; it’s a celebration of Michael’s universe and a way to introduce him to new generations, and to those discovering his worlds for the first time.”

[…] “As a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton, it’s been an unbelievable honor to revisit the iconic world that he created and to continue this adventure,” Wilson said in a statement.

(11) MARS NEEDS LEGS. Wired UK says that, “Astronauts arriving on Mars won’t be able to walk. VR may save them.” It sounds a bit odd, but (re)training the brain to pay attention to signals from your inner ear is important after a long period of weightlessness.

It lasts around 23 minutes and feels “like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on fire, then crashing really hard.”

That’s how retired Nasa astronaut Ron Garan describes the return from space, strapped into the tight confines of a Soyuz capsule plummeting through the atmosphere back to Earth. The touchdown, slowed by a parachute and – at the very end – six small rockets, is called “soft,” but in reality it’s extremely rough.

We’ve all seen the scenes once the capsule has landed – astronauts and cosmonauts being carried away from Soyuz and carefully lowered into chairs. This is not a precaution; people returning from space literally cannot walk. The reason, however, is not the rough re-entry, but the fact that while in space, they have kind of lost their legs – albeit temporarily.

(12) DON’T YOU WANT SHORT FICTION TO LOVE: Continuing to read with cupidity,  Jason once again points to some February fiction he enjoyed including a possibly odd combination of horror and a Valentine’s Day tale in “Month in Review: February 2019”.

Counting a few stories from the late-breaking Tor.com Short Fiction and the last BCS and Terraform stories from January, February produced 48 stories of 210K words. It also produced the odd results of two recommended dark fantasy/horror stories with no SF or general fantasy and five otherwise noted SF stories with no fantasy (though one could easily be considered yet another sort of dark fantasy/horror). Three of the five come from my two February Tangent reviews of Constellary Tales and InterGalactic Medicine Show, which have some oddness of their own. The former was born recently and I reviewed the second issue. The latter contained the surprising announcement of its death in the editorial. So the gods of short fiction giveth and taketh away.

(13) MORE ON NEBULAS. J.A. Sutherland shines light on sff’s major awards and their different goals. Thread starts here.

Efforts to cast the kerfuffle over the 20BooksTo50K Nebula list as tradpub vs. indie civil war are tripped up by some of the facts.

It has come to our attention that one of our books, THE CONTINUUM by Wendy Nikel, was included in the 20booksto50K “slate” Nebula recommendation list. Neither the author nor anyone involved with World Weaver Press was aware of this list until yesterday, nor do we endorse it. While we would be thrilled to see this novella nominated for any of the major SFF awards, it needs to be nominated on its own merits, not as some sort of statement regarding “indie” vs. “trad pub.” Besides, we are actually a traditional publisher. Just a small one.

And JDA didn’t pay attention to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne saying he has a five book contract with HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, Wijeratne and his co-author are keeping the nomination but considering turning down the award if they win.

Cora Buhlert has an extensive review of what all parties have been saying in “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”. She concludes:

As for the whole “indie versus traditional” rhetoric, honestly, that debate is so 2012. The stigma against self-publishing has long since evaporated. Can’t we move on and accept that indies, traditionally published authors and hybrids are all part of the same genre? The Nebulas aren’t hostile to indie works – the 2014 Best Novel finalist The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata was self-published, at a time when SFWA wasn’t even open to indie writers yet. The Hugos aren’t hostile to indie works  – the novelette “In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire in 2013 was the first self-published finalist and there have been several since.

Besides, most people were initially willing to give 20Booksto50K the benefit of a doubt. The reaction was mostly along the lines of, “Well, they’re new and don’t know the culture and etiquette. They’ll learn and maybe some of the stories are good.” But the huffy responses from some 20Booksto50K Nebula finalists and other members of the group (Lawsuits? Really?) have destroyed a lot of good will, not just towards this group, but also towards indie writers in general. And I really doubt that was the intent.

(14) IF THIS GOES ON. Bernard Lee’s cover art for Parvus Press’ forthcoming collection of original science fiction, IF THIS GOES ON: A Science Fiction Look at the Politics of Our Future, has been accepted into the exhibitions for both the Society of Illustrators East and West annual exhibitions.

Bernard is a California artist and illustrator and painted this cover as oil on canvas. It pictures the Lincoln Memorial lost to the waters of the Chesapeake following rampant, unchecked global warming. Underwater flora rise ominously behind the statue of the Great Emancipator and sandbar sharks, native to the Chesapeake, have taken residence inside the Memorial’s remains.

Said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press, “It was nearly impossible to provide clear direction for the cover of a collection this diverse. But Bernard Lee rose to the challenge and produced a beautiful work of art that’s really a stand-alone contribution to the collection in its own right.”

The Society of Illustrators Exhibition in New York runs through March 9, 2019 as part of “Illustration 61” at the Society of Illustrations Museum in New York, located on 128 East 63rd Street. “Illustration West 57”, the annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles will be exhibiting the artwork in March. IF THIS GOES ON releases on March 5.

(15) NETFLIX. The OA Part II airs March 22.

No one survives alone.

(16) OPEN THE BOOK BOMB BAY DOORS. Following last week’s avalnche of posts by romance writers calling foul on people’s unscrupulous exploitation of Amazon’s business model comes one from Larry Correia defending himself for doing something no one has complained about: “A Note About Book Bombs” [Internet Archive link.] Isn’t there’s a Bible verse “The wicked flee where no man pursueth”?

A Book Bomb is when you get as many people as possible to buy a specific book on a specific day, with the goal of pushing it as high up in the sales rankings as possible on Amazon, with the goal of getting it onto some bestseller lists, so that more new eyeballs see it. This is a great way to expose an author to new readers.

Lots of people do this, but the ones we do here on Monster Hunter Nation tend to work better than average….

I’ve had bitter cranks whine about how this is “gaming the system” because apparently authors are supposed to sit quietly while tastemakers and critics decide what should be popular. No thanks. I’ll game that system then, and appointed myself a tastemaking critic. But a BB ain’t cheating because these are all legit sales using actual money, being purchased by actual human beings, who will hopefully enjoy the book enough to leave a review and purchase the author’s other books…. 

An altruistic effort to share his platform – what’s to complain about that?

(17) DREAM BIG. “OneWeb satellite internet mega-constellation set to fly” – BBC has the story.

London-based start-up OneWeb is set to launch the first six satellites in its multi-billion-pound project to take the internet to every corner of the globe.

The plans could eventually see some 2,000 spacecraft orbiting overhead.

Other companies are also promising so-called mega-constellations, but OneWeb believes it has first-mover advantage with an operational system.

…Assuming these pathfinders perform as expected, OneWeb will then begin the mass rollout of the rest of the constellation towards the end of the year.

This will see Soyuz rockets launching every month, lofting up to 36 satellites at a time.

To provide global internet coverage, there will need to be 648 units in orbit.

(18) SNEAK PREVIEW. “Sir Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust out in October”. Here a clip from the top of the story; also has author commentary.

Sir Philip Pullman’s second instalment in his Book of Dust series, where he returns to the world of His Dark Materials, will be released in October.

Heroine Lyra Silvertongue is back as an adult in The Secret Commonwealth.

Lyra was a baby in the first book in the Book of Dust trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, which was critically acclaimed when it was released in 2017.

The new book is set 20 years after that, and seven years after the end of the His Dark Materials series.

Sir Philip’s publishers have released an extract from the start of the new book which sees Lyra at odds with her daemon Pantalaimon after they unwittingly witness a murder.

The book sees Lyra, now an independent young woman, “forced to navigate a complex and dangerous new world as she searches for an elusive town said to be haunted by daemons.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/19 Long Thoughtful Commentses Wrapped Up In Sings, These Are A Few Of My Scrolliest Things

(1) SCIENCE IS A MOVING TARGET. James S.A. Corey thought they had the science right but a NASA spacecraft proved them gloriously wrong. National Geographic got the creators of The Expanse to write Dawn a fan letter — “Dear Dawn: How a NASA robot messed up our science fiction”.

Dear Dawn:

Did we do something to piss you off? Because to tell you the truth, your attacks on our books seemed kind of personal.

In 2011, we came out with a science-fiction novel called Leviathan Wakes that featured a big plotline on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In particular, we imagined a hard, nickel-iron Ceres with a population of millions thirsty for water harvested from the rings of Saturn. We did pretty well with the story; it got a Hugo nomination, and the publisher bought some follow-ups.

Four years later, we were launching a television show based on the book, starring the embattled crew of an ice hauler trying to keep Ceres Station hydrated. That was 2015—the same time you became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. And as we gathered in the writer’s room and on set, what did you tell us? Ceres has water. Lots of it. Not only that, you found large deposits of sodium carbonate on Ceres’s surface, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize it’s evidence of ice volcanoes. Seriously. Ice volcanoes….

(2) WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE DEAL. SF author Ramez Naam (Nexus series) is  a “futurologist” as well, and he just wrote an excellent extended tweet about the Green New Deal and how it might be better. Thread begins here.

(3) ENTERPRISE. “Jeff Bezos, long known for guarding his privacy, faces his most public and personal crisis” is an article by Craig Timberg, Peter Whoriskey, Christian Davenport, and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post about how Jeff Bezos broke his long-standing efforts to remain as private as possible in his battle against the National Enquirer. Not the most titillating part of the story, but there is a sci-fi reference in it —

in the early 2000s, Bezos started quietly acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres in West Texas, where Blue Origin now launches its New Shepard rocket.  He purchased the land under corporate entities named for explorers.  Thee was Joliet Holdings and Cabot Enterprises, the James Cook and William Clark Limited Partnerships and Coronado Ventures.

All were linked to a firm with a Seattle post office called Zefram LLC, namedafter Zefram Cochrane, a character in the Star Trek franchise.

(4) WISHING HIM A RAPID RECOVERY. Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore wrote about the burdensome and painful health problems he’s been coping with in his February editorial.

…One of the diagnostics for stroke the doctor ran on me at the emergency room was a CT scan. He said, “Good news, I’m confident you are not having a stroke. But … some bad news, your scan shows a sizable lesion on the front of your mandible.“

(5) CROSS-GENRES. Vicki Who Reads picks out eight niche favorites in “Fantasci Book Recs: Books In Between Science Fiction and Fantasy!”

I love fantasy and I love science-fiction (though, sci-fi a little more than fantasy). And I think it’s really interesting when authors sort of combine the two–mixing sci-fi and fantasy (and ends up just being labeled under fantasy, typically).

But this leads to the creation of the fun, intermediate genre (at least, that’s what it is in my mind), fantasci. The intersection of science-fiction and fantasy where it’s not magic, but it’s not science either….

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

This book is so darn underappreciated, and it deserves ALL the love! I was sucked into the story and had such a hard time stopping, and then the ending completely wrecked me.

Like . . . is it legal to inflict these types of emotions upon me? Idk, but this book had me CRYING late at night as I read a bout [redacted]. And it’s a sort of space fantasy that’s based on Indian mythology and has me swooning.

Gosh. My heart still hurts and I need the sequel ASAP. If this book isn’t on your TBR, you’re doing something wrong because it is AMAZING and the ending is so horrible (for my heart) but so worth it.

You can read my review here!

(6) ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s “Detail and Image” online writing class today. The thread is here.

(7) WORLDCON REUNION. Kees van Toorn, Chairman ConFiction1990, today announced plans for Reunicon 2020:  

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the first true World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe. We are still creating a website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990. We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague.

(8) PLEASE BE SEATED. ThinkGeek s offering a Star Trek TOS 1:6 Scale Captain’s Chair FX Replica for $59.99.

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

Is that the ship intercom, or the self-destruct button? You better read up on your engineering schematics before sitting in a captain’s chair, or your tenure will be shorter than Spock’s patience for illogical behavior.  
 
Quantum Mechanix has created an extremely detailed FX replica of the most important part of the original USS Enterprise: the captain’s chair. This 1/6 scale replica doesn’t just look good – it also lights up and makes sounds. Powered by either three AA batteries or a mini-USB plug (not included), this captain’s chair replica has four different light and sound settings including: standard bridge operations, ship-wide announcement, viewscreen scanning, and of course, red alert.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says Wiki but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of It? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lead role. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside'”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is marked by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! Oh and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 66. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956Timothy Truman, 63. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 38. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the world of Brewster Rockit, some newspaper columns are very easy to write.

(11) IN RE VERSE. A star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (labeled on Wikipedia as a “actor, singer, dancer, and rapper”) told The Hollywood Reporter he hopes to write a song for the sequel (“‘Spider-Verse’ Star Shameik Moore Hopes to Record a Song for the Movie’s Sequel”). The interview also ranges into Moore’s other genre interests. It turns out he’s a fan of the Harry Potter movies.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Spider-Verse soundtrack had a few hits, including Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” Have you pitched yourself to do a track for the Spider-Verse sequel?

Shameik Moore: They were asking me to make a song for Spider-Man before any of the songs on the soundtrack were even being considered. The only reason I am not on the soundtrack is because I couldn’t quite come up with a song myself to write from Miles’ point of view. So next time, hopefully. The music that I’ve been making is for me. It’s not really for Spider-Man. It’s for who I am. My music is a bit edgier.

(12) THE GREAT SKY ROAD. Andrew Porter sent screenshots of some flights of fancy seen on the February 4 episode of Antiques Roadshow.

(13) LOCUS LIST CONSIDERED. Adri Joy and Joe Sherry have actually read a lot of these books so their discussion of what did and did not make the list is quite substantial: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: Locus Recommended Reading List” at Nerds of a Feather.

…What did you expect, or want, to see here that isn’t?

Joe: The first thing I specifically looked for was Matt Wallace’s final Sin du Jour novella Taste of Wrath. I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t make the list simply because I’m not sure it’s received a fraction of the attention and love that the series deserved. I passionately and sometimes aggressively love those stories and it has been a perpetual disappointment to me that they haven’t been nominated for everything they are eligible for and even for some things they aren’t. I’m holding out for a Best Series Hugo nod, but maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second thing i looked for, and this was mostly out of curiosity, was whether anything from Serial Box made the cut. Nothing did. Because I’m that sort of wonk, I did a super quick check of previous years and the first season Tremontaine made the list. I’m not surprised by that either, because Tremontaine is an expansion of the Swordspoint world and I would expect to see Locus recognize Ellen Kushner. I do wonder if next year we’ll see recognition for The Vela or Ninth Step Station. Both seem like something that might get some extra attention, eyeballs, and acclaim.

(14) LOOK FOR THE BEAR NECESSITIES. BBC reports “Russia islands emergency over polar bear ‘invasion'”. They must be running out of Coca-Cola.

A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say.

Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings.

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

Russia classes them as endangered.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

(15) SLIP-AH-DEE-DOO-DAH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 2017? No way. 2018? Um, negatory. January 2019? Nope. February? Nope, nope, nope. March? Well, maybe. SpaceX has announced another slip (albeit a modest one) in the schedule for the first (un-crewed) launch of the to-be-crewed version of the Dragon capsule (ExtremeTech: “SpaceX Pushes Crewed Dragon Test Back to March 2”). Boeing is aiming for April for Starliner—their competing capsule—to have its first launch.

NASA kicked off the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2010 to support the development of new crewed spacecraft. Here we are, almost a decade into the program and on the verge of a manned launch. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it may be a little longer still. SpaceX has announced yet another delay in its Dragon 2 test flight, which was supposed to take place this month. 

The precise date has slipped numerous times, and this is after ample delays in earlier phases of the program. We’re in the home stretch now, so each change in the schedule is that much more frustrating. SpaceX initially wanted to conduct the first test launch of its crewed Dragon capsule in 2017. Then the timeline slipped to 2018, and then it was late 2018. More recently, SpaceX promised a January 2019 launch… and then it decided February was more likely. You can probably blame the government shutdown for that one. Now, we’re looking at March 2, according to SpaceX. 

(16) ROLE PLAYING. Last summer Simon Pegg talked about characters he’s played – including one that was a bit autobiographical.

Simon Pegg breaks down his favorite and most iconic characters, including Tim from “Spaced,” Shaun from “Shaun of the Dead,” Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” Gary King from “The World’s End,” Scotty in “Star Trek,” Unkar Plutt in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Benji Dunn in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

(17) CAN A BOT BE AN INK-STAINED WRETCH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story has a personal edge for me as I encounter robot-written stories quite often when using MaxPreps to catch up on various high school sporting events. (Though, those particular stories are obvoiusly written by an Artificial Stupidity.) Forbes, which has dipped a toe in AI journalism itself, takes a look at the growing phenomenon (“Did A Robot Write This? How AI Is Impacting Journalism”).

How do you know I am really a human writing this article and not a robot?  Several major publications are picking up machine learning tools for content. So, what does artificial intelligence mean for the future of journalists?

According to Matt Carlson, author of “The Robotic Reporter”, the algorithm converts data into narrative news text in real-time.

Many of these being financially focused news stories since the data is calculated and released frequently. Which is why should be no surprise that Bloomberg news is one of the first adaptors of this automated content. Their program, Cyborg, churned out thousands of articles last year that took financial reports and turned them into news stories like a business reporter.

Forbes also uses an AI took called Bertie to assist in providing reporters with first drafts and templates for news stories.

(18) UNHEARD OF. Part of the experiment has failed says Gizmodo: “Small Satellites That Accompanied InSight Lander to Mars Go Silent”.

A pair of small satellites that joined the InSight mission on its way to Mars haven’t been heard from in over a month—but the experimental mission is still an important success for NASA.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 30-pound satellites named WALL-E and EVE. The relatively inexpensive satellites were the first time that CubeSats had entered the space between planets. The mission could foretell a future of spacecraft bringing more CubeSats with them in the future. 

[…] NASA lost contact with WALL-E on December 29 and with EVE on January 4. It’s possible that the probes’ antennae aren’t pointed at Earth properly, or that their solar panels aren’t pointed at the Sun and their batteries died, according to the press release.

(19) I CAN HELP. A little bit of sibling rivalry in Washington state:

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/19 Recycling Day: Leave Your Blue Bins On The Shoulders Of Orion Tomorrow

(1) FANTASY LIST. ReedsyDiscovery offers its list of “The 100 Best Fantasy Series Ever”. It’s in alphabetical order by title – I was briefly worried, because if somebody wanted to put A Song of Ice and Fire in first place for some reason that could make sense, but it took me a moment to understand why Lord of the Rings was down around number 60.

I’ve read a dozen of these – you’re bound to do better!

(2) NEW BOOKS OUT. Vulture features “A Conversation With Marlon James and Victor LaValle”.

The other day, Victor LaValle, a Queens-born author who employs the form of the fairy tale as a barbed hook to lure readers into serious treatments of race, parenting, and the internet, ordered dim sum with Marlon James, a Jamaican author of sweeping social epics that delight in challenging all the conventions of narrative. Both have book projects out this week. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is James’s highly anticipated follow-up to the Man Booker Prize–winning A Brief History of Seven Killings. LaValle has co-edited a new speculative anthology, A People’s Future of the United States, prompting 25 of today’s biggest SFF writers to contemplate the future — and dark present — of the country….

MJ: I gotta say, that’s maybe the first time anybody’s ever mentioned that I write about sex. I actually kinda screamed.

VL: Did you feel all right with me talking about that aspect of it?

MJ: Absolutely! I don’t mind people writing about the violence, but it tends to be all they write about.

VL: For a black writer writing about gangsters, violence is almost the go-to. But sex is absolutely a part of your work in such a big and vital way, as another form of — not just violence but as communion, communication. I was talking about this with my wife, and she pointed out that none of the reviews of your last book mentioned sex at all. So as I was reading this one, I was like, It’s here, too. I just need to say, people should talk about sex.

MJ: Literary realism has this sort of indie-film attitude toward sex. Violence is violent, but sex isn’t sexy. It’s compulsive; nobody’s happy; they enjoy the cigarette way more than the sex. Sometimes I read these novels, none of which I’ll name, and I go, It’s not that hard to enjoy sex, people.

(3) KLAGES INTERVIEW. Juliette Wade and her team take another Dive Into Worldbuilding with “Ellen Klages and Passing Strange”. See the interview in video (below) or read the synopsis at the link.

I asked Ellen what had been the initial seed of this novella. As it turns out, the novella has a very long history! Ellen told us that she started writing a novel or a short story or something in 1977 when she was 22 or 23, and had just moved to San Francisco, and just figured out that she was queer. She ended up wandering around a lot, learning about Mona’s and many of the other locations that appear in the novella. She did a lot of research and did what she described as cosplaying Haskel and Netterfield with her love of the time. She told us she thought it would be a novel. She had four scenes typed, and would read the scenes every few years and say to herself, “Damn, I should do something with that.”

Then, years later, Jonathan Strand asked her for a novella for Tor.com. By that point, Ellen says, she had four or five folders full of notes and photographs put together from all her years of research. At that point she did 3 1/2 more months of research before writing. She read about a dozen books on Chinatown. She said she started there because it was “the thing I knew I had to get right.” She filled eighty pages with notes, most of which didn’t get used. One page, which she showed us on video, was filled with Haskel’s signature. She explored the gay and lesbian historical archives about Mona’s.

Three of the characters in the story, Babs, Polly, and Franny, have appeared in other works of Ellen’s fiction. In “Out of Left Field,” Babs and Franny appear as relatives of the main characters. Polly appears in “Hey, Presto!” and Franny in “Caligo Lane.”

(4) EARLY MERLIN. Text of a source probably used by Malory when writing his Arthurian legends has been found: “Centuries lost ‘Bristol Merlin’ uncovered at city’s Central Library”

A chance discovery, hidden away in a series of 16th-century books deep in the archive of Bristol Central Library, has revealed original manuscript fragments from the Middle Ages which tell part of the story of Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend.  

Academics from the Universities of Bristol and Durham are now analysing the seven parchment fragments which are thought to come from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, dating back to the 13th century.

Parts of the Vulgate Cycle were probably used by Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471) as a source for his Le Morte D’Arthur (published in 1485 by William Caxton) which is itself the main source text for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend in English, but no one version known so far has proven to be exactly alike with what he appears to have used.

(5) ONE FOR THE FILES. Colette H. Fozard, Co-Chair of the DC in 2021 Worldcon bid, writes:

I wanted to let you know that we made our bid filing with Dublin 2019 Site Selection and it has been accepted as complete by the Site Selection Administrator.

(6) ANNIE BELLET 10 YEARS IN SFF. Celebratory thread starts here.

(7) EMSHWILLER OBIT. Author Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019), winner of World Fantasy Con’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2005) has died. The SFWA Blog has an obituary:

Author Carol Emshwiller (b.Carol Fries, April 12, 1921) died on February 2nd, 2019.   Ms. Emshwiller began publishing science fiction in 1954, with the story “Built for Pleasure.”  Emshwiller built a reputation as a short fiction author and Ursula Le Guin said that she had “one of the strongest, most complex, most consistently feminist voices in fiction.”

…SFWA President Cat Rambo remembers,

Carol Emshwiller was one of the greats of short story writing, right up there with Grace Paley, James Tiptree Jr., Ursula K. Le Guin, and R.A. Lafferty, and she pushed its edges in order to do amazing, delightful, and illuminating things–just as she did with her longer work. As a short story lover, I am gutted by this loss to the writing community and plan to spend part of today re-reading Report to the Men’s Club and Other Stories, with its beautifully incisive and unflinching stories.

This photo from Melissa C. Beckman shows the author in front of a portrait of her painted by her late husband Ed Emshwiller.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1904 William S. Burroughs. I’m going to confess that I’ve read nothing by him so everything I know about I’ve absorbed by reading about him and seeing his fiction turned into films. So though ISFDB lists a number of his works as SF, I’ve not a clue what they’re like. So educate me please. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 5, 1922 Peter Leslie. Writer in a number of media franchises including The Avengers, The New Avengers (and yes they are different franchises), The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. ISFDB also lists has writing in the Father Hayes series but I don’t recognize that series. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 5, 1934 Malcolm Willits, 95. Author of The Wonderful Edison Time Machine: A Celebration of Life and Shakespeare’s Cat: A Play in Three Acts which he filmed as Shakespeare’s Cat. He also co-edited Destiny, an early Fifties fanzine with Jim Bradley.
  • Born February 5, 1940 H.R. Giger. Conceptual designer in whole or part for Aliens, Alien³Species and Alien: Resurrection to name a few films he’s been involved in. Did you know there are two Giger Bars designed by him, both in Switzerland? And yes they’re really weird. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura Linney, 55. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

(9) LEAPING V. LOOKING BEFORE. Jason Heller tells other dreamers not to wait. His thread starts here.

A bunch of sff authors begged to differ.

(10) ON THE RADIO. Genre was shut out at the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2019 but there’s the link in case you want to see the results. However, the winner in the Best Actress category is known to fans from her work on Torchwood.

BEST ACTRESS

WINNER: Eve Myles, 19 Weeks, director Helen Perry, BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Radio 4

(11) KLINGON CUTLERY. Police in Northwest England raided the home of a teenager and seized a cache of weapons including one that was … more esoteric. The BBC reports “A replica of a weapon wielded by a race of alien warriors in the sci-fi TV show Star Trek has been seized by police from a 17-year-old boy’s bedroom.” They did not, however find a ChonnaQ or D’k tahg. “Star Trek Klingon blade seized from Widnes teen’s bedroom”

The Widnes Police also posted about the raid on their Facebook page — some of the comments are quite amusing:

Nina : This is what happens when you remove Kahless from schools and everything else! Thoughts and prayers.

Michael Z. Williamson: Remember when young British males were REQUIRED to have a longbow? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

(12) OH, THE HUMANITIES. “Ursula K. Le Guin Was a Creator of Worlds” by Julie Philips is the cover story on the new issue of Humanities, published by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

When she found her way into science fiction and fantasy, those genres turned out to be well suited to her imagination, her curiosity, and her subversive suspicion that man was not the measure of all things. From the very beginning, in interviews and essays, Le Guin championed science fiction’s literary value. She did it most memorably in a 2014 speech when she accepted the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (or what writer China Miéville in the documentary calls “the welcome-to-the-canon award”). In that speech, she described herself and her colleagues as “realists of a larger reality.”

(13) I FEEL PRETTY. Call it a more modern take on the Island of Misfit Toys (SYFY Wire:Second trailer for musical UglyDolls movie feels like a mix of Trolls, Toy Story, and Inside Out”).

STX Entertainment has unveiled the second trailer for its animated UglyDolls movie via The Ellen Show, and the message of what looks to be a Trolls redo is actually very resonant for us all: Don’t shy away from what makes you different; embrace it.

The new trailer also explains where the singing UglyDolls come from — they’re factory rejects compared to the “normal” dolls of our world, and are left discarded in a town all their own. They’re all pretty much happy until a renegade by the name of Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) wants to explore the wider world and find the kid who will love her. Along with her friends, Moxy will travel to the Institute of Perfection, which pairs dolls with humans.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Juliette Wade, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, rcade, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day microtherion.]