Pixel Scroll 5/20/20 Don’t Wait To Get Filed, There Are Pixels To Scroll And Boxes To Tick

(1) TAP INTO THE COMMUNITY. Cat Rambo gives writers a list of tips about “How to Ask for Things” at the SFWA Blog.

One thing that can really boost a writer in their early career is getting help from a more experienced writer. The fantasy and science fiction genre has a long and valued tradition of “paying things forward,” mentoring and assisting newer writers to pay back the way they themselves were helped when they first came onto the scene….

Accordingly, I join others telling new writers not to be afraid to draw on this tradition and ask for things. But I do have some tips for making those asks more successful.

Above all: be specific, and do as much of the work for the other person as you can. The reference letter where I have the URL to submit it, the applicant’s statement of purpose, and their notes of stuff I might want to hit are more likely to get written than the one where I have to ask or search online for the information…

(2) NOT USING WESTERN UNION. NPR’s Annalisa Quinn finds that “‘The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes’ Is A Lackluster Prequel To ‘The Hunger Games'”.

With her Hunger Games novels, Suzanne Collins harnessed a combination of twisty plots, teen romance, dystopian worldbuilding and subtle intimations of cannibalism to sell more than 100 million books around the world.

The premise was unbeatable: Authoritarian regime forces children to fight to the death on live TV; rebellion ensues. But much of the series’ appeal came from the spiky charisma of protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the sharpshooting teenager who wins the games and starts a revolution while choosing between two boys who are as alike in cuteness as they are different in Weltanschauung.

Collins’ new novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is a baggy, meandering prequel to the events of The Hunger Games that tells the story of Katniss’ nemesis and Panem’s authoritarian ruler, Coriolanus Snow. With his Roman tyrant’s name, surgically altered face and breath smelling of blood and roses, Coriolanus appeared as a distant villain throughout most of The Hunger Games series. It’s only the last installment that gives him a touch of mystery — in its final pages, sentenced to public execution, he instead dies laughing, choked on his own blood.

…The question of how much of character is innate, how much formed, becomes a more explicit — OK, painfully obvious — theme in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The novel is a plinth for two opposing worldviews. The cruel Hobbesian Gamemaster tells Coriolanus that the hunger games are a reminder that people are monsters kept only in check by strong rule: “What happened in the arena? That’s humanity undressed. … That’s mankind in its natural state.” Meanwhile, in spite of the cruelty she suffers in the arena, Lucy Gray believes that there is “a natural goodness built into human beings.” The debate matters, the Gamemaster says, “[b]ecause who we are determines the type of governing we need” — a republic or a tyranny.

(3) ICONIC ACTRESS DEPARTS BATWOMAN. “Ruby Rose leaves Batwoman – and other stars who exited major roles” – BBC has an overview.

The Australian actress Ruby Rose is to leave her role as comic book superhero Batwoman after just one series.

Rose said it had been a “very difficult decision” not to return to the show, which is shown in the UK on E4.

Batwoman, which began on the CW network last year, is the first superhero show to have an openly gay lead character.

Its producers said they were “firmly committed” to the show’s “long-term” future and would re-cast the role with another member of the LGBTQ community.

Rose, who is openly gay, said she was “truly grateful… to everyone who made season one a success”.

The 34-year-old said she had “the utmost respect” for everyone involved and that the decision to leave had not been “made lightly”.

(4) GETTING EVEN. Even if you’re working at home that presence is probably lurking in Zoom. Does James Davis Nicoll suspect what might happen after you read “Five Revenge Tales Featuring Treacherous Bosses and Evil Overlords”?

…David Drake’s mercenary troupe, Hammer’s Slammers (commanded by Friesland’s Colonel Alois Hammer), was formed to suppress an uprising on Friesland’s colony-world Melpomone. The foreign mercenaries were offered settlement on wealthy Friesland in exchange for their services, as well as a chunk of cash. But after the mercenaries crushed the rebellion, Friesland’s government decided that it wasn’t such a great idea to settle battle-hardened mercenaries in their midst. Nor did it seem like a good idea to let the mercenaries sell their skills to other employers, since said employers could well be Friesland’s enemies. Best idea: kill off the now-superfluous soldiers. Friesland expects that their own Colonel Hammer will acquiesce. They are wrong. Hammer sides with his soldiers. Forewarned, the Slammers obliterate their would-be assassins and become the very destabilizing force that Friesland had feared.

(5) FULFILLING A ROLL. In “A City Locks Down to Fight Coronavirus, but Robots Come and Go”, the New York Times studies the success of an emerging technology.

If any place was prepared for quarantine, it was Milton Keynes. Two years before the pandemic, a start-up called Starship Technologies deployed a fleet of rolling delivery robots in the small city about 50 miles northwest of London.

The squat six-wheeled robots shuttled groceries and dinner orders to homes and offices. As the coronavirus spread, Starship shifted the fleet even further into grocery deliveries. Locals like Emma Maslin could buy from the corner store with no human contact.

“There’s no social interaction with a robot,” Ms. Maslin said.

The sudden usefulness of the robots to people staying in their homes is a tantalizing hint of what the machines could one day accomplish — at least under ideal conditions. Milton Keynes, with a population of 270,000 and a vast network of bicycle paths, is perfectly suited to rolling robots. Demand has been so high in recent weeks, some residents have spent days trying to schedule a delivery.

(6) THOMAS OBIT. German film composer Peter Thomas, who died May 19, aged 94. Cora Buhlert says that since she couldn’t find an English language obituary, she wrote one herself: “In Memoriam: Peter Thomas”. Thomas provided the soundtracks for a lot of SFF works, including the legendary SF TV series Raumpatrouille Orion as well as the 1959 science fiction film Moonwolf and a lost TV adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. A lot of the Edgar Wallace thrillers, for which he composed the music, are borderline SFF as well.

(7) LIPPINCOTT OBIT. Charles Lippincott (1939-2020), whose work marketing Star Wars changed the way movies are publicized, died May 19 following a heart attack last week. He was 80. The Hollywood Reporter traced his beginnings:

Lippincott worked on campaigns for a number of groundbreaking films, including Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973); Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976); Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); and Flash Gordon (1980). But it was his work on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) that left the biggest mark, and he helped reshape how movies are marketed.

Craig Miller, in his recent book Star Wars Memories, notes that Lippincott went to USC Film School at the same time as George Lucas. At the Star Wars Corporation —

Charley was responsible for a lot. He made sure every character, every name, every image was properly copyrighted and trademarked. He made the licensing deals (along with Marc Pevers, an attorney who was Vice President of Licensing at 20th Century Fox) for the merchandise that, despite the enormous box office gross, was the real profit center for Lucasfilm. He was even part of the pitches to the 20th Century-Fox Board, to help convince them to make the movie.

Charles Lippincott

Lippincott’s other film publicity and advertising credits include Judge Dredd (which he also produced) and Comic Book Confidential (which he wrote and produced), which starred Star Wars’ Mark Hammill.

I’ve always been grateful to him for the chance to bask in the reflected glory of Star Wars when, in my first meeting as LASFS president, held at the 1976 Westercon, I introduced his promotional pre-release Star Wars slide show.

You can find many posts about marketing and Star Wars industry history at his blog From the Desk of Charles Lippincott.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “The Lost Race” was playing on NBC stations nationwide. Ernest Kinoy adapted the story from Murray Leinster’s “The Lost,” first published in the April 1949 of Thrilling Wonder Stories. A space crew find themselves shipwrecked on a world where the ruins of a long dead spacefaring civilization hide a deadly secret that has much power to destroy the present as it did the past.  Matt Crowley, Kermit Murdock and Joseph Julian were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 20, 1799 – Honoré de Balzac.  His complete works total 20,000 pages.  We can claim six novels, three dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Romanian, sometimes more than once.  What of The Quest for the Absolute, whose alchemist hero at the end cries Eureka! [Greek, “I have found it”] and dies: is it fantasy?  (Died 1850) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1911 – Annie Schmidt.  Mother of the Dutch theatrical song, queen of Dutch children’s literature.  Hans Christian Andersen Medal.  Poetry, songs, plays, musicals, radio and television for adults.  Two fantasies for us, Minoes (tr. as The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof), Pluk van de Petteflet (tr. as Tow-Truck Pluck).  One of fifty in the Dutch Canon with Erasmus, Rembrandt, Spinoza, Van Gogh, Anne Frank; see here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  “HORT” (Horrible Old Roy Tackett, so named by Bruce Pelz; while RT was alive, anyone hearing this responded “Oh, I know Roy, and he’s not that old!”) is credited with introducing SF to Japan.  Active since 1936, drifted away in the late 1950s, returned upon finding the Coulsons’ fanzine Yandro, published a hundred issues of his fanzine Dynatron.   Co-founded the Albuquerque (New Mexico) SF Society and Bubonicon.  Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 1976; report, Tackett’s Travels in Taffland.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXI and the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 92. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. She also did some more traditional genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1940 Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) (Died 2019) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1946 – Mike Glicksohn.  A great loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) comparable to Harry Warner; three Fan Activity Achievement awards.  Founding member of Ontario (Canada) SF Club.  With Susan Wood published the superb fanzine Energumen, Hugo winner 1973; with her, Fan Guests of Honour at the 33rd Worldcon; his trip report, The Hat Goes Home (he famously wore an Australian bush hat).  Co-founded the fanziners’ con Ditto (named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  One of our best auctioneers at Art Shows, at fund-raisers for cons and for traveling-fan funds.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1949 – Mary Pope Osborne.  Children’s and young-adults’ book author best known for the Magic Tree House series, sixty of them so far; 164 million copies sold; animé film grossed $5.7 million, donated to educational projects.  Iliad and Odyssey retelling books, also myths e.g. Echo, Atalanta, Ceres; Thor, Baldur.  Thirty chapbooks.  Camped six weeks in a cave on Crete.  Two separate terms president of the Authors Guild.  Says she tries to be as simple and direct as Hemingway.  Honorary Doctorate of Letters, U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 69. With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and  also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d been playing around the same time as Traveller. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Pat Morrissey.  Thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors; Magic, the Gathering cards; limited-edition prints; tattoos; Einstein Planetarium at Smithsonian Institute; Philadelphia Museum of Science; sometimes as Pat Lewis, Pat Morrissey-Lewis.  See herehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Luis Royo.  Prolific Spanish artist; covers in and out of our field, comics, a Tarot deck, CDs, video games; a domed-ceiling fresco in Moscow (with his son Romulo Royo).  Spectrum silver award, Inkpot award.  See hereherehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 59. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1968 Timothy Olyphant, 52. He’s been cast in the next season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn means he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A KINDER CUT. Apparently, we’ll get to find out. “What if the Snyder Cut of Justice League is actually great?” Jeffrey Lyles of Lyles Movie Files has hope.

…All of which to say is I’m actually very interested in the HBO Max launch 2021 reveal of the Snyder cut of Justice League. I’m surprised it needs to wait another year to debut unless Warner Bros. is throwing out some more cash for some post production elements. If anything the Snyder cut will be a win because it shouldn’t feature a digitally removed mustache version of Cavill’s Superman with the odd lip CGI.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder said while he’s never watched the version Joss Whedon completed, fans “probably saw one-fourth of what I did.” Snyder added, “It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie.

(12) SPACEX MISSION. “Astronauts arrive at Kennedy for historic launch” – BBC has the story.

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for their historic mission next week.

The pair’s flight to the International Space Station (ISS) will be made in a rocket and capsule system provided by a commercial company, SpaceX.

Nasa has traditionally always owned and operated its space vehicles.

But that is a capability it gave up in 2011 when it retired the last of the space shuttles.

The agency now intends to contract out all future crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.

Hurley and Behnken flew into Florida from the agency’s human spaceflight headquarters in Texas where they have been in quarantine.

They’ll continue protecting their health at Kennedy as they get ready for Wednesday’s planned lift-off.

Their rocket, a Falcon-9, and capsule, known as Dragon, will be wheeled out to the spaceport’s famous launch pad – complex 39A – in the next few days for its static fire test.

This will see the Falcon ignite briefly all nine of its first-stage engines to check they are fit to go.

(13) TURNOVER AT NASA. But why did you resign? NASA doesn’t usually remind me of The Prisoner, “Nasa: Doug Loverro steps down days before crewed launch”.

The head of Nasa’s human spaceflight programme has stepped down just days before a “historic” launch.

Doug Loverro resigned on Monday, Nasa announced, less than a year after his appointment.

…No official reason for Mr Loverro’s departure has been announced, but a leaked copy of an email sent to Nasa employees mentioned a risk taken earlier in the year “because I judged it necessary to fulfil our mission”.

“Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences,” the message continued.

While Mr Loverro offered no further explanation, he told the Axios news website that his decision to leave the agency was unrelated to the upcoming launch. “I have 100% faith in the success of that mission,” he said.

Mr Loverro was appointed in October last year. His deputy, Ken Bowersox, will become the acting head of human spaceflight.

(15) BIG BIRD. And BBC has the word: “Megaraptor: Fossils of 10m-long dinosaur found in Argentina”.

Palaeontologists have found the fossils of a new megaraptor in Patagonia, in the south of Argentina.

Megaraptors were large carnivorous dinosaurs with long arms and claws measuring up to 35cm (14in) in length.

They also had powerful legs and long tails which made them more agile than the Tyrannosaurus rex and allowed them to catch smaller herbivorous dinosaurs.

The new megaraptor is one of the last of its group, before dinosaurs became extinct, the scientific team says.

(16) TAKE ONE TABLET AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING. “Gilgamesh tablet: Bid to confiscate artefact from Museum of the Bible reports the BBC.

US prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a rare ancient tablet from a Christian museum co-founded by the president of retailer Hobby Lobby.

The 3,500-year-old artefact, from what is now Iraq, bears text from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest works of literature.

Prosecutors allege that an auction house deliberately withheld information about its origins.

Hobby Lobby said it was co-operating with government investigations.

It bought the tablet from the auction house in a private sale in 2014 for $1.67m (£1.36m) for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

The office of the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York says the tablet was illegally imported into the US.

(17) JEOPARDY! Last night’s Jeopardy! contestants struggled with this one, says Andrew Porter.

Category: Adventure Novels.

Answer: In this novel the surname of a pastor, his wife & 4 sons is not given in the text; the title was meant to evoke a 1719 novel.

Wrong questions: “What is Gulliver’s Travels?” and “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?”

Correct question: “What is Swiss Family Robinson?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “This is What The Matrix Really Looks Like Without CGI!!!–Special Effects Breakdown” on YouTube, Fame Focus looks at how the special effects crew of the matrix used a combination of CGI, wire work, rear projection, and miniatures to acheive the spectacular special effects of The Matrix.

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

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

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

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

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/13/20 Pixels, Get Ready, There’s A Scroll A’comin’

(1) PRESSING IN. Cat Rambo’s video “Why Small Press Books Don’t Almost Always Suck” challenges negativity about small presses with examples from her own career.

Cat talks about some of the small press books she’s appeared in or worked with, and what she likes about them

So far as I can tell she doesn’t identify any particular person as holding this opinion. But it might be more than a coincidence that a few weeks back Nick Mamatas wrote a column for LitReactor titled “Why Are Small Presses Almost Always So Awful?”

(2) IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. [Item by Dann.] Regarding Archive.org, Brian Keene has gone through the process of figuring out how to get his works removed from the National Emergency Library. To make it easier for other authors, he supplied the process in The Horror Show with Brian Keene – episode 259.

  • Authors need to send an email to info@archive.org.
  • The subject line should read “National Emergency Library Removal Request”
  • Authors need to include the URL(s) from within the National Emergency Library so they will know which work(s) they need to remove.

It’s kind of crappy to force authors to jump through hoops to prevent copyright infringement, but I guess it’s better to have hoops available than to just ignore the infringement and drive on as if nothing is wrong.

(3) IMPROVING SHORT FICTION. The Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews guest lecturer Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s.

…You’ve read quite a number of short stories over the years as an editor. For writers looking to improve their understanding of how short stories work, how would you suggest critically reading stories with an eye to improvement and understanding? Are there particular elements critical readers should look for?

This is a great question. Years ago I heard of an author who retyped a famous story to figure out what the author was doing. I don’t think the writer has to go that far, but critical reading is essential. Pick a favorite story that wowed you and read it a few times. Take notes. Look for the foreshadowing. Look for the metaphors and the similes. Pay attention to the arc. Pay attention to every clue. A professional author rarely wastes a word in a work of short fiction. It takes practice to pick up on most of the details the first time through a tale, but it’s a lot easier to see these details once you know what’s coming.

(4) NOT A DESIRABLE CHAPTER. Publishers Weekly reports on the troubles of a major book printer: “LSC Files Chapter 11”

LSC Communications announced this morning that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing has been expected for several months as the country’s largest book printer—and one of its largest printers overall—has struggled under the weight of its failed merger with Quad Graphics and the outbreak of the new coronavirus. LSC’s subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada are not included in the filing, and will continue to operate normally.

LSC said it has received commitments for $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing from certain of its revolving lenders, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. If approved by the bankruptcy court, LSC said, the new financing, combined with cash on hand and generated through its ongoing operations, “is expected to be sufficient to support the company’s operational and restructuring needs.”

Since LSC’s deal with Quad was called off last summer following objections from the Justice Department, the company has worked to streamline its business, a process that has included closing eight facilities and signing new contracts, noted Thomas Quinlan III, LSC chairman, president, and CEO. Quinlan added that a review of its operations determined that the best way forward was to pursue a restructuring of its financial structure.

And Quad, LSC’s would-be merger partner, hit the wall two weeks ago: “Quad Closes Book Printing Operations”.

Publishers were dealt an unhappy surprise last week when Quad unexpectedly closed its book printing facilities, sending publishers scrambling to find a replacement. Quad did not respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it had plans to re-open the book plants.

The closure comes at a time when the loss of printing capacity is one of the many concerns publishers are facing because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Overall, most printers are printing, although on different schedules as they adjust to state policies, staffing, and types of books.

Quad put its book printing business up for sale last fall following the collapse of its proposed merger with the country’s largest book printer, LSC Communications, after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit. Quad has yet to respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it has found a buyer, but to date, none has been announced.

LSC, meanwhile, is continuing to operate, though it is dealing with its own financial challenges. 

(5) WORLD FANTASY AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The World Fantasy Convention chairs still plan to hold their con in Salt Lake City from October 29-November 1.

WFC 2020 is still six months away. Every day brings new developments and, we sincerely hope, progress toward controlling and conquering the virus. We have every hope that the current crisis will be over long before 29 October. Besides our own continuing discussions and plans, we’re monitoring the efforts of other conferences and similar gatherings, and will adapt all measures that make sense to keep our membership safe. We know this is a difficult time, and everyone’s plans are in a state of flux. Be assured we have no plans to raise membership rates during this worldwide emergency.

Download Progress Report #2 from the website.

Members of the 2018, 2019, or 2020 World Fantasy Conventions may nominate books, stories, and individuals for the 2020 World Fantasy Award between how and May 31. Voting instructions here.

(6) THE LOOK OF DUNE. Vanity Fair posted on Instagram the first photos of Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s production of Dune.

(7) FERRELL OBIT. Former OMNI editor Henry Keith Ferrell (1953-2020) died of an apparent heart attack while fixing his roof, before the storm currently sweeping up the East Coast. He is survived by his wife, Martha, and son, Alec, who made the announcement on Ferrell’s website.

…Graduating from Raleigh’s Sanderson High in 1971, he attended the Residential College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he met Martha Sparrow — a woman of equal beauty and intellect — at a Halloween party in the basement of Guilford dormitory. His face covered in wax, she overheard him mentioning the name “Lawrence Talbot” and she got the reference, having no idea what Keith looked like. On their first date, they ditched a French play to go see King Kong instead. They fell in love, moved off campus, and started their lives together. They were married on July 20, 1974, and would remain together for almost 47 years.

…Now a family man, Keith set out on his career in publishing, first at Walnut Circle Press as a print salesman, then as editor of trade magazine The Professional Upholsterer, onward to feature writer of COMPUTE! Magazine, where he was at the forefront of reporting on the burgeoning home computing industry throughout its emergence as a household staple. All the while, he raised his son and loved his wife, planted many gardens, and wrote and wrote and wrote.

From 1983 through 1987, Keith published four critically-acclaimed biographies of legendary writers for young adults through M. Evans and Company: H.G. Wells: First Citizen of the Future; Ernest Hemingway: The Search for Courage; George Orwell: The Political Pen; and John Steinbeck: The Voice of the Land. These were the first of many printed works to bear his name in the byline.

In 1990, COMPUTE! was acquired by General Media out of New York City, and Keith was recruited and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief of OMNI Magazine, the preeminent science and technology publication of the day — a career-defining accomplishment. During his tenure at OMNI, Keith worked with (and edited) many of the heroes of his youth and forged friendships across the fields of anthropology, gaming, evolutionary studies, telecommunications, and writers of all stripes. Keith stewarded OMNI as a vehicle for the vanguard of cutting-edge technology and futurism until its final issue…

He wrote until his dying day, which turned out to be April 11, 2020, at 2:32pm. His heart gave out after fixing a hole in his roof, but finished the job before doing so….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 13, 2012 Lockout premiered. Also known as MS One: Maximum Security, It directed by James Mather and Stephen Saint Leger, and written by Mather, Saint Leger, and Luc Besson. It was both Mather’s and Saint Leger’s feature directorial debuts. The film stars Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, and Peter Stormare. It did poorly at the box and critics were not fond of it either; it holds a 46% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. So why write up here? Because John Carpenter successfully sued the film’s makers in the French courts for the film having plagiarized both Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.., a verdict held upon appeal. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1923 Mari Blanchard. Remembered best as B-movie femme fatale, she did a number of genre films including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars where she was Queen Allura, She Devil where she had the lead role of Kyra Zelas and Twice-Told Tales, a Vincent Price horror film where she had a not major role as Sylvia Ward. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The ArgonautsSinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 71. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 69. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 66. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His TV resume includes notable work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. He was an American science fiction editor, author and anthologist. Founding editor of the Questar Science Fiction line for which he was a Nolacon II Hugo finalist in the Best Professional Editor category. I’ve read and will recommend The American Fantasy Tradition which he did, and likewise Masters of Fantasy which was co-edited with Bill Fawcett. I see he helped Julius Schwartz put together his autobiography,  Man of Two Worlds. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 70. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates as Zeno was followed quickly by the role of Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel  De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1960 Michel Faber, 60. Dutch born author of three genre novels, Under the SkinThe Book of Strange New Things and D: A Tale of Two Worlds. He was a finalist for the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Book of Strange New Things.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THERE’S NOTHING HALFWAY ABOUT THE IOWA WAY. Shaenon K. Garrity tweeted, “The Iowa Digital Library has a collection of sci-fi fanzines from the 1930s and 1940s, and my entertainment needs through the rest of the pandemic are taken care of.” Thread starts here.

(12) SECOND THOUGHTS. Cora Buhlert continues her assessment of this year’s finalists in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2020 Hugo Awards”.

…This year, however, I’m largely happy with the Best Related Work finalists. Joanna Russ by Gwyneth Jones, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, by Farah Mendlesohn are exactly the sort of finalists I want to see in this category. All three were also on my longlist, two of them were on my ballot.

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski was not on my ballot, but is a highly deserving finalist, since autobiographies of people of genre relevance have always been a part of Best Related Work – see also the recent nominations for Carrie Fisher’s and Zoe Quinn’s respective autobiographies….

(13) LOOKING FOR A JOB IN WASHINGTON. If Lou Antonelli doesn’t get voted in as SFWA director-at-large, he’s got a fallback position. Lou has declared himself a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas’ 4th District. Ballotpedia shows he’s up against a Republican incumbent.

Brianna Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in a Boston-area district once again. It would be an interesting coincidence if they were both on the floor of the House to start the 2021 term.

(14) SCARED STRAIGHT. “Indonesian village uses ‘ghosts’ for distancing patrols” according to the BBC.

A village in Indonesia has reportedly taken to using volunteers dressed as ghosts to try to scare people into social distancing over the coronavirus.

Kepuh village, on Java Island, started deploying the patrols at night last month.

In Indonesian folklore, ghostly figures known as “pocong” are said to represent the trapped souls of the dead.

Indonesia so far has about 4,500 cases and 400 confirmed virus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But there are fears, according to experts, that the true scale of the infection across the country is much worse.

According to Reuters news agency staff who travelled to see the pocong in action, the unusual tactic initially had the opposite effect to that intended – with people coming out to try to spot the volunteers.

But locals say matters have improved since the team began deploying unexpectedly.

“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

(15) FLAT NOTES. Today’s thing to worry about — “Coronavirus: What’s happening to the beer left in pubs?”

Pubs, like other public venues, look set to stay shut for the foreseeable future. But what’s going to happen to the contents of their cellars?

Fifty million pints – give or take.

That’s the amount of beer expected to go unused in barrels if pubs remain closed into the summer because of coronavirus. Publicans are currently unable to sell their lagers, ales and ciders – save for takeaways and home deliveries.

“It’s a very sad waste of all the work and talent that goes into producing great beer,” says Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). “People won’t get to drink it and all those resources have been used up for nothing.”

Mr Stainer estimates the UK’s 39,000 pubs have, on average, 15 barrels in their cellar at any given time. Most are kegs containing 11 gallons (88 pints) each – although many real ales come in nine-gallon (72-pint) casks. The best-before dates on pasteurised beer – including most lagers – are usually three to four months after delivery.

Those for real ales and other unpasteurised beer are usually set at six to nine weeks.

So most stock could go to waste if social distancing measures remain in place for several months.

(16) PLAYING POLITICS. My daughter used to play this game by the hour: “Animal Crossing removed from sale in China amid Hong Kong protests”.

The Nintendo Switch’s current best-selling game has been removed from Chinese online stores after activists used it to criticise the state.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets players customise their own island and invite others to visit.

Some players in Hong Kong have used the platform to stage protests.

Players in mainland China had previously been able to buy foreign editions of the title from online marketplaces.

The country’s censors strictly regulate video games and had yet to approve the title’s formal release in the country.

Now, even local sites which had advertised imported copies have removed the listings.

It is not clear, however, whether this is because there has been an intervention by the authorities or whether the stores are proactively removing the product.

(17) GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray in another Jeep commercial.

Wake up. Wash hands. Miss groundhog. Repeat. Every day is probably starting to seem the same, but the more we all remember to stay inside, the sooner we can get back outside.

(18) HOUSTON, WE USED TO HAVE A PROBLEM. “Apollo 13: Enhanced images reveal life on stricken spacecraft” — many pictures at link.

Image enhancement techniques have been used to reveal life aboard Nasa’s stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft in unprecedented detail.

Fifty years ago, the craft suffered an explosion that jeopardised the lives of the three astronauts aboard.

Unsurprisingly, given they were locked in a fight for survival, relatively few onboard images were taken.

But imaging specialist Andy Saunders created sharp stills from low-quality 16mm film shot by the crew.

One of the techniques used by Mr Saunders is known as “stacking”, in which many frames are assembled on top of each other to improve the image’s detail.

(19) IT’S A GAS. In “‘Pinocchio’ at 80: 5 things you never knew about the Walt Disney classic” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter reports that if Disney followed Carlo Collodi’s story, Jiminy Cricket would have died in the film, and that Mel Blanc was originally cast as Gideon the cat but his lines were cut and replaced by burping.

Eighty years ago, moviegoers discovered exactly what happens when you wish upon a star when Walt Disney’s second animated feature, Pinocchio, premiered in theaters on Feb. 23, 1940. Flush with cash from the enormous success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney gambled his studio’s future on an adaptation of Italian author Corlo Collodi’s 19th century story of a walking, talking marionette who longs to be a real boy. At the time, the gamble didn’t entirely succeed: While Pinocchio received instant critical acclaim, it didn’t attract the same crowds that turned out in droves to see Snow White….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wong Ping’s Fables 2” on Vimeo tells the story of the cow who became rich and the rabbit who wanted to be a judge.

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

Levar Burton Reads Cat Rambo Tonight

LeVar Burton Reads is featuring Cat Rambo’s ”Magnificent Pigs” as its “Friday Evenings for Adults” story.

Visit LeVar’s Twitter page for the link at 6 p.m. Pacific / 9 p.m. Eastern: www.twitter.com/levarburton

Or catch up later via podcast.

Pixel Scroll 3/13/20 The Sun Comes Shining As I Was Scrolling, The Pixels Waving And The Dust Clouds Rolling

(1) BUTTIGIEG INTERVIEWS SIR PAT. “Recently unemployed” Mayor Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Due to public health concerns over the coronavirus, they cancelled their studio audience. Sir Patrick Stewart was a guest on the show.

Sir Patrick talks about Mayor Pete’s huge “Star Trek” fandom, civil disobedience, Sir Ian McKellen performing the multiple marriage ceremonies he had to his wife, and he surprises Mayor Pete with one of his original scripts from “Star Trek.”

They also did a sketch about “a Star Trek trivia game show for the ages called ‘Who’s the Captain Now?’” hosted by LeVar Burton.

(2) HELIOSPHERE CANCELLED. Heliosphere, which was to have been held April 3-5 in Tarrytown, NY has been called off. The committee has not yet decides whether to try and hold it later this year.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, HELIOsphere 2020 will not be running as scheduled for April 3-5. At this time, we don’t know whether we will be postponing or simply cancelling for this year. We will keep you posted as we work out the details with the hotel.

(3) STOKERCON STATUS. The Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon is scheduled to be held in the U.K. next month. HWA President John Palisano gave this update to Facebook readers today:

At this time, more than two-thirds of attendees are based in the U.K., you should all be aware that the political situation has been changing by the hour. Only in the last 24 hours has travel in Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) been generally banned. The U.K. may take a similar step, or the U.S. may prohibit travel to and from there. So it’s a very real possibility that in the next few days, the decision of whether to hold the Con may be taken out of our hands. We don’t want to cancel the event unnecessarily, because that could cause severe financial hardship to many of our attendees and volunteers. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of individual decisions about whether or not to travel. We ask for you to be patient for a few more days while we try to sort out various options, including streaming the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony.

Meanwhile, our Librarians Day event, scheduled for May 7th of this year in Chicago, is still a go at this point. The organizers are also carefully watching this pandemic and are working on contingencies should the issues stretch that far into the future. They will have an announcement tomorrow.

Know that heading my first StokerCon as President of the HWA carries no small weight, and that my main priority is and will remain our members’ safety and well-being as we navigate these treacherous and unmapped waters.

(4) UP IN THE AIR. Fans inquiring about the status of Minicon 55, planned for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, have been told there’s a committee meeting this weekend and an announcement one way or the other may follow.

(5) MORE COVERAGE. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak is also tracking the status of sff events. “Coronavirus: The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions Canceled So Far”.

Those events include major science fiction, fantasy, and gaming conventions, as well as adjacent events like conferences. We’ve compiled a list of major and regional events that have been postponed, canceled, or which are as of now still running.

(6) SMITHSONIAN’S OPEN ACCESS IMAGE COLLECTION. We ought to be able to do a lot with this: “Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain”.

Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before.

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

When I searched “science fiction” lots more photogenic things came up – from lunch boxes to C3PO – but I was intrigued by this 1951 Astounding advertising rate card:

(7) SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE. That’s candidate Brianna Wu’s latest appeal:

Media has focused on the dangers of Coronavirus. Brianna Wu speaks with Geneticist Frank Wu about the possible treatments and vaccines being developed by the biotech industry

(8) ANOTHER WORLD. Henry Lien posted this thought experiment on Facebook.

WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE YOU?
I used to play a game and ask people what the world would be like if everyone were like you. Here are some features of my world.
1. Restaurants would be filled with constant people traffic as everyone went to wash their hands after touching the menu and after touching cash.
2. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, hotel TV remotes, and ATM interfaces would all be redesigned for elbows.
3. There’d be no shoes in the house and people would bow instead of shaking hands.
4. Everyone would be at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights happily writing, making music, reading, or playing Nintendo.
5. No one would get a cold more than once every ten years.
6. Extroverts and free-spirited folks would be miserable.

(9) SPEAKER IN THE HOUSE. Cat Rambo shares her experience in “How to Stay Sane and Productive While Working at Home”. One of her eight main headings is —

Exercise is good. You may not be able to get to the gym — I’m currently avoiding it, myself — but you will be happier and healthier if you are doing something. For me, that’s walking, because I’m lucky enough to live in a great area for it. I also have a standing desk that I got from Ikea years back. Your mileage may (literally) vary, but at least stretch when you can and be mindful of your back.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 1927 Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1911 L. Ron Hubbard. Ok I’ll admit that I tried reading Battlefield Earth and really didn’t like it. Some of his early pulp fiction is actually quite good. So what do y’all think of him as a genre writer? (Died 1986.)
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here because EoSF list him as the author of  Murdercon, a1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 13, 1938 David McKail, 82. He was Sergeant Kyle in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He also was Sir Henry Roscoe in Beatrix: The Early Life of Beatrix Potter, and was in the adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road which I know is neither genre or genre adjacent but it had Peter Capaldi in it.  
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 70. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, The Night of the Headless Horseman, Jurassic Park III, Sahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 63. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. 
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 54. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City was fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to get any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series.
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 53. Hugo-winning Editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF  imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now.
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 52. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays

(12) KGB TO STREAM. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Daniel Braum and Robert Levy has been converted to a livestream. Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel invite everyone to see it here on YouTube on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We will, for the first time in our history, be live-streaming readings from both of our authors on YouTube. We hope you will join us for this historic event.

UPDATE March 13, 2020: For the safety and well-being of our readers and guests, we have decided to cancel this month’s in-person Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy.

Instead, we will be hosting a YouTube Live event with both authors, who will be reading their work. Anyone with YouTube access can watch.

(13) PIKE PEEK. We Got This Covered confirmed “Captain Pike Star Trek Spinoff Series Reportedly In Development”.

… Of course, there’ve been calls for CBS to move ahead with such a spinoff for the past couple of years. EP Alex Kurtzman has addressed the possibility in the past, refusing to rule it out and commenting that they’re trying to find ways to bring these characters back. True, they did all appear in a few episodes of the Short Treks anthology series, but this didn’t fully satiate our appetite to see more of Pike and his crew.

As Discovery itself addressed, Pike is fated to meet a tragic end. As detailed in an episode of TOS, he’s eventually left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after rescuing Starfleet cadets from a delta ray radiation leak. Our intel says that this spinoff show will build up to that fate, properly filling the gap between TOS‘ pilot, “The Cage,” and his return in “The Menagerie.”

(14) WEEKEND NEWS BACKDATE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston has a 1965 news flash: “[March 12, 1965] Sic Transit (April 1965 Amazing]”.

The big news, previously rumored, is that Amazing and its stablemate Fantastic are to change hands.  The April Science Fiction Times just arrived, with the big headline “ ‘AMAZING STORIES’ AND ‘FANTASTIC’ SOLD TO SOL COHEN.” Cohen is the publisher of Galaxy, If, and Worlds of Tomorrow, but will resign at the end of next month to take up his new occupation. 

Why is this happening?  Probably because circulation, which had been increasing, started to decline again in 1962 (when I started reviewing it!).  The SF Times article adds, tendentiously and questionably, that “the magazine showed what appeared to be a lack of interest by its editors.” Read their further comment and draw your own conclusions on that point.

(15) ACROSS THE DIVIDE. Law & Liberty’s Brian A. Smith, in “Ursula Le Guin and the Persistence of Tragedy”, looks at The Dispossessed from the right.

At least when their authors avoid offering a thesis, novels acquire peculiar value in deranged times. They allow us to see cracks in our political and social foundations from another perspective, and as a result, open paths to conversation and thought that might otherwise remain closed. Lots of genres can unsettle us, but one peculiarity of science fiction is that its authors have the freedom to create worlds.

At the genre’s most stereotypical, this license to invent lends itself to both ham-fisted allegories and didacticism. But if the author happens to be coming from the “right” direction, so to speak, and has some real talent, it’s relatively easy to take an imaginative leap into their world. Reaching beyond one’s own tribe may present a challenge, however. It is difficult to read David Drake, Iain Banks, China Miéville, Robert Heinlein, or John Varley without observing how they view human nature, what they think family means, or the political order they endorse—and a lot more besides.

Critics often complain that such novels fail precisely because they think the author is stacking the deck in favor of their pet ideas. It’s easy for partisans to forgive this because such novels entertain while also fortifying our opinions against a hostile world. And it’s not surprising that sci-fi readership so often divides along partisan lines.

The Work of Sympathy

It is harder to name many great works of science fiction that offer a definitive point of view, while also presenting us with unresolvable tensions and latent anxieties that no attentive reader can quite escape. Neal Stephenson’s best work probably qualifies. Arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune or Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos also do this. We need the sympathy and broadening of horizons that such novels can cultivate more than ever, and for the present moment, the most compelling book of this kind remains Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

(16) STANDING UP. “Disney promises LGBT ‘commitment’: ‘We want to represent our audience'”.

Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.

“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.

“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”

He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.

There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.

…At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.

As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”

She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”

(17) CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN – NOT. From the BBC — “Mount Everest: Nepal’s government shuts off mountain amid virus outbreak”.

Mount Everest has shut down for the rest of the expedition season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nepal’s government announced that it would cancel all climbing permits from 14 March until 30 April.

China had already cancelled expeditions from the northern, Chinese-controlled, side of the mountain.

According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepal earns $4m (£3.1m) by issuing Everest climbing permits every year, aside from wider tourism revenue.

(18) THAT IS NOT DEAD… “Marine pollution: Russian fly spray and 1800s shoes among beach litter”.

Russian fly spray, US prohibition-era rum, shoes from the 1800s and a council bin have been among the stranger items to have washed up on British shores.

To highlight pollution, the National Trust has revealed the oddest objects to wash up on beaches it manages.

The 19th Century shoes, Russian insect spray and an aerosol from Saudi Arabia were all found at Orford Ness, Suffolk.

The National Trust saidit illustrated the “deluge” of marine litter and how long items such as plastic could last.

(19) NO PICTURES! They tore it out by the roots: “Christmas Island: ‘A giant robber crab stole my camera'” — video, including some impressively mangled equipment and a crab walking off with a coconut.

Researcher Annabel Dorrestein set up a thermal imaging camera to study flying foxes, or bats, at night on Australia’s Christmas Island.

But when she returned one morning to collect the camera, she discovered it had been stolen – almost certainly by the island’s famous robber crabs.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/9/20 And There’s Hamburger All Over the Information Superhighway

(1) HOPE IS ON THE WAY. There’s a brand new podcast, If This Goes On (Don’t Panic), themed around hopepunk. The first episode is hosted by Cat Rambo and Alan Bailey, interviewing Alexandra Rowland, who coined the term “hopepunk.”

In this episode, Cat and Alan discuss the concept of Hopepunk with Alexandra Rowland, coiner of the term. Other topics include the hopeful nature of Lord of the Rings, why there has to be a protagonist in fiction, and why sometimes you have to sell out.

Alan also reviews the second season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold published by Serialbox

(2) FREE DOWNLOAD. Elizabeth Bonesteel just released a free ebook of her short fiction Survival Tactics:

(3) ARROWVERSE EXPANDS. CBR.com thinks “Stargirl: The CW’s Newest Series Could Be Its Best Yet”.

The next TV series based on a DC Comics property is Stargirl, which is receiving a dual release on both The CW and the DC Universe streaming app. While this might be a drawback for DC Universe, which could benefit from the show’s exclusivity, it could be a boon for The CW.

The network’s lineup of Arrowverse shows continues to grow, something that will only continue now that the groundbreaking “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover has come and gone. Despite their seeming popularity, the shows have their fair share of detractors and common criticisms. Since it’s technically a DC Universe show, however, Stargirl may just be able to avoid those pitfalls, and thus become the best superhero series on The CW yet.

(4) CAPTIONS CASE CLOSED. Publishers Lunch tells readers “The Audible Settlement Is Finally Public”.

The case brought by seven publishers against Audible over their planned Captions feature is now formally concluded, with Judge Valerie Caproni’s signature in place on the permanent injunction barring the audiobook company from displaying text from e-books without the permission of copyright holders. Audible will pay each litigating publisher an undisclosed sum, after which both parties will file final documentation to the court.

(5) DOES THIS MEAN GETTING FOUND IN SPACE? ComicBook.com brings the shocking news that “Lost in Space Cancelled After Season 3 on Netflix”.

[Showrunner Zack] Estrin revealed that the plan for Lost in Space was always meant to be told in three parts, so this ending really is a conclusion of the story rather than a cancellation by Netflix.

“From the beginning, we’ve always viewed this particular story of The Robinsons as a trilogy,” Estrin said. “A three part epic family adventure with a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s also worth noting that, with what these characters go through just trying to survive each episode — if anyone deserves to catch their breath before their next mission — it’s Will, Penny, Judy, Maureen, John, Don West, Dr. Smith… and The Robot. And, of course, Debbie the Chicken. So while this chapter of Lost In Space is coming to a rousing conclusion, I’m excited about continuing to explore new stories with my friends at Netflix, and for all of the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”

(6) SHERYL LERNER. Condolences to Lofgeornost’s faned Fred Lerner, who sent out this message today:

I am sorry to report that my wife Sheryl died last night. Many of you will have met her at various conventions, or read about her in my Lofgeornost trip reports. Although she did not read much science fiction, she enjoyed convention programming and the conversations we had with Lofgeornost readers.

(7) VON SYDOW OBIT. Actor Max Von Sydow died March 9. He was the only male Swedish actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. The New York Times tribute is here: “Max von Sydow, Star of ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90”.

Mr. von Sydow, widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.” He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

The National Review reminded readers about a few of his other popular roles:

Sydow was 44 when portraying the wizened old priest [in The Exorcist] whose stalwart faith combats the film’s antagonistic demonic presence; he reportedly required more makeup to appear old than Linda Blair required to appear possessed in the role of Regan MacNeil.

King Osric in the underappreciated Conan the Barbarian. Sydow, along with James Earl Jones (as the villain Thulsa Doom) was brought onto the production of the 1982 John Millius film in the hope that their stately presence would inspire the mostly novice crew of actors (including Arnold Schwarzenagger, in one of his first major productions) to greater heights.

He also played emperor Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980), and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983).

(8) TUCCI OBIT. Actor Nicholas Tucci died March 3 — The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Nicholas Tucci, ‘You’re Next’ and ‘Channel Zero’ Actor, Dies at 38”.

Nicholas Tucci, an actor who appeared in the horror film You’re Next and SyFy’s Channel Zero, died Tuesday after battling an unspecified illness, according to his father, who shared the news on Facebook. Tucci was 38.

(9) NEELY OBIT. Mystery author Barbara Neely, named Mystery Writers of America’s 2020 Grand Master just last December, has passed away. USA Today profiles her career: “Barbara Neely, author of first black female series sleuth Blanche White, dies at 78”.

Award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely, who created the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, died last week after a brief illness, according to her publisher, Brash Books. She was 78.

Neely is perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1933 –This month was when the first Doc Savage novel was published. The Man of Bronze was by Lester Dent writing under the house name Kenneth Robeson. It would publisher in the March issue of the Doc Savage magazine. It was the basis of the Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze film that starred Ron Ely. You can see the film hereThe Man of Bronze is available at the usual digital publishers. 

March 9, 2011 — Dynamite Entertainment published the  first issue of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris. It was set on the world of Barsoom 400 years before John Carter went there, with her being of the focus of the story.Arthur Adams and Joe Jusko were the writers, with Paul Renaud, and Alé Garza being the artists. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman“ (co-written with Howard Browne),  “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1930 Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber:“ attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“.  I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 65. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating.
  • Born March 9, 1959 Mark Carwardine, 61. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also was called Last Chance to See
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 55. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child Thief. The Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 42. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo creates a clever image for what sff fans think of as the multiverse.
  • Free Range points out a challenge of producing the 1960s Batman TV show that’s obvious if you think about it…
  • Off The Mark has a very amusing library gag.  
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(13) MONSTER ART COLLECTION. Lonely Planet shows where “Metallica fans can visit Kirk Hammett’s traveling sci-fi and horror art collection”.

… Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, its final stop is at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) in Columbia, South Carolina, where it runs from 15 February to 17 May, 2020 and includes an interactive guitar experience and programming schedule with appearances by Hammett himself.

…On display are 135 works from twentieth century cinema including posters, rare art by master artists and related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes. As described by his biographer Stefan Chirazi, Hammett was a self-described shy kid obsessed with monsters, ghouls, toys, movies and guitars; he first connected with Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein followed by Godzilla, the Mummy and other terrifying creatures that tap into our psychological response to fear. He admits it’s his collection that has primarily sparked his creativity over the years. “The stuff of horror has a mojo that always works on me,” he says. “I start producing ideas…they just flow like liquid.”

(14) PRESCRIPTION ROBOT. “Former MythBuster’s adorable Baby Yoda robot will cheer up sick kids”CNET has a Q&A with the designer.

Baby Yoda captured hearts everywhere when it debuted on Disney Plus Star Wars live action series The Mandalorian. Count former MythBusters cast member Grant Imahara among the fans. He thinks the character’s so cute he built his own life-like animatronic Baby Yoda to cheer up sick kids. 

Imahara currently works as a consultant for Disney Research and a mechanical designer at Spectral Motion. He helped build Disney’s animatronic Spider-Man that will be flying over the upcoming Marvel Campus in Disney’s California Adventure.

“Pleased to present my newest creation: a fully animatronic Baby Yoda,” Imahara posted on his Facebook on Friday. “It’s been three months of hard work and countless revisions. I did all the mechanical design, programming, and 3D printed the molds. He’s currently running a continuous sequence, but soon I’ll be able to trigger specific moods and reactions, as well as incorporate sound.”

To find out more about how this adorable moving animatronic Baby Yoda was created, I chatted with Imahara about what went into building it. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. 

Q: How did the idea come about to build an animatronic Baby Yoda?
After the third episode of The Mandalorian, I knew I had to make my own Baby Yoda. I was an animatronics engineer in the ILM model shop before MythBusters, and worked on the Star Wars prequels as well as the Energizer Bunny, so I had the required skill set. And it could be a character I could bring to children’s hospitals for charity work, which is something I’ve been committed to doing.

(15) GIBSON BOOK REVIEWED. Thomas J. Millay explains “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Superintelligent AI: On Wiliam Gibson’s ‘Agency’” at LA Review of Books.

NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO, Mona Lisa Overdrive; Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties; Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History: William Gibson works in threes. Agency is the second novel of what is almost certainly going to be a trilogy. The first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions. Given the novel’s formal innovations and literary qualities, it is the pace of The Peripheral that is most remarkable, with Gibson moving readers rapidly toward the novel’s utopian conclusion, in thriller-like fashion….

(16) ZONING OUT. When you live near a radio telescope, it turns out you have to give up certain things. The New York Times takes you there: “No Cell Signal, No Wi-Fi, No Problem. Growing Up Inside America’s ‘Quiet Zone’”.

…Welcome to Green Bank, population 143, where Wi-Fi is both unavailable and banned and where cellphone signals are nonexistent.

The near radio silence is a requirement for those living close to the town’s most prominent and demanding resident, the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. To protect the sensitive equipment from interference, the federal government in 1958 established the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area near the state’s border with Virginia.

The observatory’s telescope “could detect your phone on Saturn in airplane mode,” states a sign outside its science center building, but is rendered much weaker if anyone uses electronics that emit radio waves. For those who live within 10 miles of the observatory, the limitations also include a ban on Bluetooth devices and microwaves, unless they are contained in a metal box, known as a Faraday cage, which blocks electromagnetic fields.

Nearly 15 million Americans live in sparsely populated communities where there is no broadband internet service at all, a stark digital divide across America between those with access to uber-fast connections and those with none.

(17) COUNTRIES REJECT ‘ONWARD’ OVER GAY CHARACTER. BBC reports “Pixar’s Onward ‘banned by four Middle East countries’ over gay reference”.

Pixar’s latest animation Onward has been banned by several Middle Eastern countries because of a reference to lesbian parents, according to reports.

The family film will not be shown in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hollywood media have reported.

Police officer Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, has been heralded as Disney-Pixar’s first openly gay character.

Her lines include: “It’s not easy being a parent… my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?”

Other Middle East countries like Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.

And according to Deadline, Russia censored the scene in question by changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner” and avoiding mentioning the gender of Specter, who is a supporting character.

Speaking to Variety, Waithe explained that the line about “my girlfriend” was her idea.

And Variety’s story about it is here.

(18) MMM-MMM-BAD? BBC inquires “Why plastic is a deadly attraction for sea turtles”.

Scientists have new evidence to explain why plastic is dangerous to sea turtles: the animals mistake the scent of plastic for food.

Thus, a plastic bag floating in the sea not only looks like a jellyfish snack, but it gives off a similar odour.

This “olfactory trap” might help explain why sea turtles are prone to eating and getting entangled in plastic, say US researchers.

…Garbage patches

Once plastic has been released into the ocean, microbes, algae, plants and tiny animals start to colonise it and make it their home. This creates food-like odours, which have been shown to be a magnet for fish and possibly sea birds. The new research suggests sea turtles are attracted to plastic for the same reason.

(19) LOOK UP AND SAY CHEESE. “Space radar movies track motion on Earth’s surface” – the BBC coverage features several short sample clips.

Satellite operator Iceye is now making videos that can show the Earth’s surface through cloud and at night.

The short, 20-second movies are an extension of the standard still radar images it already produces.

In the examples released by the Finnish company on Monday, planes are seen taxiing across Britain’s Heathrow airport and heavy plant vehicles are observed working in a Utah mine.

The videos are said to be a first for a commercial space operator.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology is already appreciated for its ability to “see” the ground irrespective of the weather or lighting conditions. Retrieving motion in a scene literally now gives Iceye’s products another dimension, says CEO Rafal Modrzewski.

(20) WHO NEEDS GOOGLE? Patrick Stewart answers the web’s most searched questions for WIRED.

“Star Trek: Picard” star Patrick Stewart takes the WIRED Autocomplete Interview and answers the internet’s most searched questions about himself. How did Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen meet? Was Patrick in Harry Potter? How many awards has he won? Does he own a vineyard? Sir Patrick answers all these questions and much, much more.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

(1) PSYCHICHISTORY. I can’t read minds, but I can read blogs. Camestros Felapton took up the literary question of “How to be psychic”.

Are psychic powers a trojan horse from the world of magic that have snuck into science fiction? Psychic powers are almost indistinguishable from wish fulfilment in aggregate and only take on a resemblance of speculation about reality when codified into subtypes with Graeco-Latin names with sciency connotations.

But psychic powers aren’t going to vanish from science fiction any time soon. Doctor Who has psychic paper and telepathic circuits in their TARDIS, Star Trek has empaths and telepathic Vulcans, and Star Wars has a conflict between psychic factions as its core mythology. Firefly and Babylon 5 had psychics. Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Le Guin’s Ekumen universe, Asimov’s Foundation series, multiple Philip K Dick works, each contain various beings with mental powers. Science Fiction has a permission note for amazing mental abilities had has used that licence freely….

(2) MAG*C HAPPENS. At Disneyland, “’Magic Happens’ Parade – Debuts February 28”.

Starting February 28, Disneyland Park will welcome Magic Happens, the park’s first new daytime parade in nearly a decade—and one that reminds us wings aren’t needed to fly, shooting stars were created for wishes and magic doesn’t end at midnight!

With a wave of his wand, Mickey Mouse leads a cavalcade of fabulous floats, whimsically costumed performers and popular Disney pals like Anna, Elsa and Olaf around the park and into your hearts—all while moving to a high-energy musical score that puts a contemporary spin on classic Disney hits. In addition, a brand-new song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall helps bring some of your favorite Disney tales to life like never before.

(3) ENOUGH ALREADY. Cat Rambo is bidding Facebook farewell:

I’m tired of logging onto here and seeing nothing but propaganda and talking points freshly harvested from the meme farms. I feel that the company has helped shred the American political system, that it divides us more than it connects, that it profits off our private data while selling us out to foreign powers, and that it is a major component of a system that continues to facilitate active class warfare being waged by the current kleptocracy on the poor and middle-class in our country.

If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them? What’s getting slipped past you while the rhetorical smoke and mirrors are dazzling you? I can tell you: it’s your country and all the things that we own in common that’s getting dismantled so rich people can shove more money in their already bulging pockets….

(4) APPEAL CONTINUES. The ”Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe asked people to share the link again, which File 770 is glad to do.

Update on 2/13/2020: Carol and Laura Resnick would dearly love to thank everyone who has donated to Mike’s fundraiser. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly hard month for them both and all the kind words and support they have received has been so valued and treasured. Unfortunately, with Mike’s passing, the bills did not stop coming in. Carol has literally been swamped with bills, and there is no longer any regular income coming into the house to cover the mortgage, utilities or daily necessities (she has some very tough decisions ahead). We understand many of you have donated before, so even if you could just re-share the fundraiser link again, we would be so very thankful. Carol has been so incredibly touched by all the kindness shown to her and she knows Mike would be so proud of the SF&F field he loved so much for helping to support his family in their time of need. As every book dedication said “To Carol, as always.” She was his world.

(5) ALL FLOCKED UP. In Leonard Maltin’s opinion, “‘Birds’ Preys On Civilized Moviemaking”.

What price girl-power? Does the positive energy of a female-centric comic book movie—made by women—compensate for the nihilistic, super-violent nature of its content? Is this really a step forward for women, behind the camera and in the audience? That’s the conundrum presented by Birds of Prey (full title Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)….now re-titled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

(6) THEY COME OUT AT NIGHT. In “Worldbuilding: Crime and Fantasy Books Have More in Common Than You Might Think at CrimeReads, Kelly Braffet makes a case.

… Take, for example, this passage from the second chapter of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is on his way to a crime scene, and he stops at an overpass nearby to check out a few looky-loos interested in the murderous goings-on…

There’s nothing in this paragraph that relates to the murder he’s about to investigate or the case he’s working; the fleeing car doesn’t have any important characters in it, and the looky-loo never shows up again. This is pure worldbuilding. Spade’s world is one of cars and ads and fumes and concrete and people so bored and aimless that they’re willing to contort themselves to catch a glimpse of a dead body….

(7) GREEN TEASER. David Lowery’s upcoming movie The Green Knight stars Dev Patel alongside Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. The fantasy is based on Arthurian legend and will hit screens in Summer 2020. The story is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Native English speakers unconsciously organize adjectives in a particular order that is rarely deviated from, even in informal speech. The order is: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. For example, it’s more common to hear “silly old fool,” rather than “old silly fool.” One notable exception, however, is the Big Bad Wolf. Source: The Guardian

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 13, 1954 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet first aired “The Space Projectile”. Frankie Thomas played the lead role in the series which was one of the rare series which aired on all four networks of the time. Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap publishing house developed the series off of Heinlein’s late Forties Space Cadet novel but also based of his own prior work. Both a newspaper strip and radio show were intended but never went forward. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 13, 2000 — The last original Peanuts comic strip ran in newspapers

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode, and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1933 Patrick Godfrey, 87. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials.
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1954 Mary GrandPré, 66. She’s best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Potter books in the Scholastic editions. She’s the author and illustrator of A Dragon’s Guide series which is definitely genre of aimed at children. 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 61. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. Both her novel and short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 60. Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.

(11) A FILER’S PICKS. Ziv Witie’s (aka Standback) annual F&SF appreciation/recommendation thread is up. Thread starts here.

(12) NEW WAVICLE. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington’s “New Wave SF: Graham Charnock’s ‘First And Last Words'” is a profile of the massive pro career of someone I think of as a legendary UK fan. Which he is, of course.

…Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’…

(13) READ WITHOUT CEASING. In “5 things I learned from binge-reading a 50-book crime series in 5 months”, Sophia Rosenbaum says she read 50 novels by “J.D. Robb” (a pseudonym of Nora Roberts) in five months and talks about what she learned from reading so many books in a series in so short a time. This is a series that the Internet Science Fiction Database classifies as “futuristic mystery.”

J.D. Robb is the pen name for the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts, who started writing the series in 1995 and releases at least two new titles a year.

In the very first book, “Naked in Death,” we are introduced to a slew of what become recurring characters: Eve’s former partner and trainer, who becomes a father figure; the esteemed police commander; the maternal staff psychiatrist; Eve’s criminal-turned-singer bestie; and most importantly, Roarke.

(14) MADAM I’M. In an article in The Believer that begins “Palindrome, Palindrome” and then has an obscenity, Colin Dickey reprints Dan Hoey’s 543-word expansion of the palindrome “a man, a plan, a canal—Panama.”  Hoey was a Washington DC-area fan who died in 2011. 

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Leigh Mercer rescued from the trash several thousand index cards that his employer, Rawlplug, had thrown out. Mercer may not have yet had a plan, but he had an idea. He’d grown up in a family that cherished word games and had lived through the birth of the modern crossword puzzle craze, but he’d noticed that no one had seriously set their minds to the problem of palindromes. Though Mercer wasn’t interested in crosswords, he’d acquired a used copy of a book for crossworders that contained lists of words—no definitions—grouped alphabetically and according to length. Using this book and his new stash of recovered index cards, he began copying out possible palindrome centers—any word or snippet of a phrase that might be reversible. In 1946, he came up with one construction: “Plan a canal p.” It was, he himself later admitted, “not very hopeful looking,” but all great plans have to start somewhere.

It took him two years to find Panama.

…This kind of nonsense quickly spins out of control. Using a computer that trawled the dictionary, Dan Hoey created this monstrosity in 1984….

It technically works, but it relies on gibberish (“a bater,” “an em,” and “a say”), and it is long enough that all sense is lost and the palindrome topples into meaninglessness. The program used here was rudimentary enough that even Hoey knew his effort could be easily bested, and sure enough, Peter Norvig assembled a 21,012-word variation to commemorate the palindromic date of 6-10-2016, and it is absolutely as unbearable and unreadable as it sounds. And yet, even as everything falls apart, you reach the end—“a canal, Panama!”—and it’s like all is forgiven, like everything is somehow right once more.

(15) DINO CASH. “British dinosaurs to feature on UK money for the first time” – the Natural History Museum has the story.

The Royal Mint is releasing three new dinosaur-themed coins – the first ever in the UK.

The series of 50p coins is a collaboration with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls and experts at the Museum.

The coins will honour the first three dinosaurs ever named – Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus – although at the time they were named, ‘dinosaurs’ as a group didn’t exist. In fact, it was these three animals that made Sir Richard Owen realise that there was something different enough about them that they warranted being placed in a new group, which he named Dinosauria.

The three species will be featured on five series of collectors’ coins. Although they will be legal tender, they won’t go into circulation. Instead members of the public will be able to buy the coins, either individually or in sets.

(16) RESTORED TO THE THRONE. “Rise of Skywalker: How we brought Carrie Fisher back” — and other details of the effects are discussed by filmmakers in this BBC video.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died in 2016.

She recently appeared in the 2019 film Rise of Skywalker, but how was this possible?

BBC Click speaks to the visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett and animation supervisor, Paul Kavanagh of ILM to find out more.

(17) I’M MELTING! “Antarctica logs highest temperature on record of 18.3C”

A record high temperature of 18.3C (64.9F) has been logged on the continent of Antarctica.

The reading, taken on Thursday by Argentine research base Esperanza, is 0.8C hotter than the previous peak temperature of 17.5C, in March 2015.

The temperature was recorded in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s north-west tip – one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

It is being verified by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“[This] is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

(18) EIGHT MILES HIGH. That was quick: “British Airways Sets Record, Crossing The Atlantic In Under 5 Hours In Strong Winds”.

Kubilay Kahveci’s flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

(19) LEAST HYPOTHESIS. Nothing acute about this: “Wreck’s Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Theories To Rest”.

Lore had it that the SS Cotopaxi was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.

In the sci-fi film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens are responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

But a team of divers has identified the ship and debunked the fictions, theories and conspiracies that emerged over the years. And unlike in Close Encounters, the ship wasn’t found in the Gobi desert, but rather 35 miles off St. Augustine in Florida.

The Cotopaxi had set off on its normal route between Charleston, S.C., and Havana, carrying a cargo of coal, when it was caught in a powerful storm, Michael Barnette discovered.

The wreck isn’t located within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle — a region in the Atlantic Ocean with its corners at South Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has been blamed for unexplained disappearances.

(20) BACK TO THE BASICS. How it all got started — “Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse”.

A cartoon cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.

You can probably guess what happens next. The story ends as it almost always does: with the cat yelling out in pain as yet another plan backfires.

The plot may be familiar, but the story behind it may not be. From Academy Award wins to secret production behind the Cold War’s Iron Curtain – this is how Tom and Jerry, who turn 80 this week, became one of the world’s best known double-acts.

The duo was dreamt up from a place of desperation. MGM’s animation department, where creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked, had struggled to emulate the success of other studios who had hit characters like Porky Pig and Mickey Mouse.

Out of boredom, the animators, both aged under 30, began thinking up their own ideas. Barbera said he loved the simple concept of a cat and mouse cartoon, with conflict and chase, even though it had been done countless times before….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/20 Mongo Only Pawn In Scroll Of Pixels

(1) AVOIDING CALENDRICAL ROT. Odyssey Writing Workshop presents “Interview: Guest Lecturer Yoon Ha Lee”.

You recently completed the Hugo Award-nominated Machineries of Empire trilogy. Did you know how the trilogy would end when you began writing the first book? Are you more of a planner, or more of a pantser?

I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy! I originally intended Ninefox Gambit to be a standalone. But after I finished drafting it, I had an idea for a sequel. And after I committed to Raven Stratagem, I had another idea, and that became Revenant Gun. I plan individual novels because I’m not smart enough to figure out the plots on the fly. But on the series level…well, I didn’t plan to write a trilogy. It just happened.

(2) SOMTOW IN THE NEWS. Forward’s Benjamin Ivry interviews Somtow Sucharitkul: “A new Holocaust opera premieres — in Thailand”.

Thailand might not seem the most probable point of origin for a new opera about the Holocaust, but on January 16, the world premiere of “Helena Citrónová” by the composer Somtow Sucharitkul, 67, will be staged in Bangkok.

It is about a real-life Auschwitz survivor of Slovak Jewish origin who at a trial in 1972, testified that a Nazi officer had fallen in love with her and thereafter, saved her and her sister. Despite testimony from others attesting to his crimes, the Nazi was allowed to go free due to a statute of limitations.

Citrónová’s story gained further currency in a 2005 BBC-TV documentary, “Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’” in which she was interviewed.

It inspired a controversial romance novel about a Jewish prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp whose love for a Nazi commandant redeems him. As The Forward reported in August 2015, this book sparked objections, notably from Katherine Locke, a Jewish writer based in Philadelphia.

Far from Auschwitz and Philadelphia, Somtow Sucharitkul, who writes and composes under the name S.P. Somtow, published his libretto for Helena Citrónová in 2018….

Last October, you tweeted a response to those who wonder why you chose the subject of Helena Citrónová by citing lines from Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar,” about Nazi atrocities in the USSR: “Today, I am as old/ As the entire Jewish race itself,” adding “This story belongs to all of us.” What did you mean by that?

Somtow Sucharitkul: People ask me all the time why should I talk about these things as if I were somehow schnorring in on someone else’s life. I was born in Thailand, but left when I was six months old and lived in Europe for most of my childhood, so it feels like more of my past than what happened in Asian countries. The reason I started getting involved in Jewish issues in Thailand were that none of my students here knew whether Thailand had won or lost the Second World War. I was in the Terminal 21 Shopping Mall [in Bangkok] and saw a statue of Hitler dressed as Ronald McDonald. No one meant anything by it, but it was a terrible moment of disjunction, and I felt that I should explain to young people around me and those in a wider range.

You posted on Facebook in October that in the opera’s final scene, when you set the heroine’s words, “My father told me once, never forget you’re a Jew,” you chose to rework a melody from Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” You add that this was done “unconsciously,” but using the notorious anti-Semite Wagner’s music in this context was an “allusion so cogent and so trenchant that my unconscious must have intended it.” So was it intentional or unconscious?

I imagine it was unconsciously intentional. At the time I wrote those notes, I thought to myself, this is Wagner, but I couldn’t place it. That was an odd moment, I have to admit….

(3) A COMPLETE TRIUMPH. Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” is Library of America’s “Story of the Week.” It’s preceded by a long and interesting note about its reception.

Since returning from Europe in 1832, Irving had done much to help younger American writers, and he responded without hesitation as soon as the letter reached him at his home in Tarrytown. “I have read your little tale of ‘William Wilson’ with much pleasure,” Irving wrote. “It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. . . . I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.” Irving added that he much preferred this new work over Poe’s previous story in the magazine, which suffered from “too much coloring.” (That tale, incidentally, was “The Fall of the House of Usher.”) While the endorsement might seem somewhat equivocal, Poe boasted to one editor that Irving’s support represented “a complete triumph over those little critics who would endeavor to put me down by raising hue and cry of exaggeration in style, of Germanism & such twaddle.” The quote from Irving was featured prominently in publicity for Poe’s new book, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

(4) NISI SHAWL CLASS. Cat Rambo tweeted “Highlights from Nisi Shawl’s A Taste of Writing the Other”

(5) AN ALLUSION, In The Village Voice, Thulani Davis recounts how “Black Women Writers Reclaim Their Past”. Tagline: “Like a number of other black women writers, I have made it a point to speak of our ‘tradition,’ yet I know that no such tradition is assumed by the rest of the world, primarily because our books have not been read or taught”

…Imagine a John Coltrane who had only heard one 78 by Charlie Parker, one LP by Billie Holiday. Imagine a Cecil Taylor who did not grow up with the sounds of Art Tatum and Duke Ellington, and you have some idea how amazing it is that we have writers like Lorraine Hansberry and Toni Morrison.

Each generation of black women has cer­tainly taken ideas from known forms, yet in the matter of content — the telling of black women’s stories — the same impulses appear time and again, with little revision over the decades. Only lately have we seen work that makes conscious nods to the past. And no wonder: Morrison, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Gloria Naylor, Sherley Anne Williams, Ntozake Shange, and others are the first generation to have a body of work on the black woman’s condi­tion readily at hand.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 12, 1932 – In Mexico, Doctor X premiered. A pre-Code film, it was directed by Michael Curtiz and was headlined by Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. Because it was pre-Code, murder, rape, cannibalism, and prostitution were part of the story. It’s based on the play titled “The Terror (New York, February 9, 1931) by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller. It was well received both by critics and at did very well at the box office. Warner Bros. followed up with Mystery of the Wax Museum, another pre-Code film.  Critics at Rotten Tomatoes rate it considerably higher (75%) than reviewers do (48%). 
  • January 12, 1940The Invisible Man Returns, the sequel to The Invisible Man, premiered. Directed by John May and produced by Ken Goldsmith, it starred Vincent Price in the title role. The screenplay was written by Lester Cole and Curt Siodmak (as Kurt Siodmak). Its success led to a third film, The Invisible Woman, a comedy billed as a sequel. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes love it giving a 82% rating while reviewers give a not so bad 58% rating.
  • January 12, 1966 Batman made its television debut.
  • January 12, 1967 Star Trek’s “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 
  • January 12, 2018 — Amazon dropped Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams unto the public for viewing.  The first episode of the first season was titled “The Hood Maker”.  It was originally published in the June 1955 issue of Imagination hich was born in the Fifties and ceased publishing in the the Fifties as well.The screenplay was by Matthew Graham. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1916 House Peters Jr. Though he’s best remembered as Mr. Clean in the Procter and Gamble commercials of the Fifties and Sixties, he did appear in a fair amount of SFF including Flash Gordon, Batman and Robin, King of the Rocket Men, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Red Planet Mars, Target Earth and The Twilight Zone. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 83. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. 
  • Born January 12, 1948 Tim Underwood, 72. Bibliographer with such works as Fantasy and Science Fiction by Jack Vance (done with Jack Miller), Shameless Art: Paintings of Dames, Dolls, Pin-ups, and Bad Girls (genre adjacent at the very least) and Stephen King Spills the Beans: Career-Spanning Interviews with America’s Bestselling Author.  
  • Born January 12, 1951 Kirstie Alley, 69. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 68. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 68. He’s The genius behind  Farscape, SeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter couldn’t I get interested in. 

(7) TAKE A RIDE ON THE READING. “For William Gibson, Seeing the Future Is Easy. But the Past?” – a New York Times interview.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

The ideal reading experience, for me, is wholly induced by the text, with a complete lack of interruption. My most memorable adult experience of this remains my initial reading of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which I began in the cab, in Vancouver, on my way to the airport, in 1991 or so, for my first visit to Berlin. I remember nothing of the journey, between my door in Vancouver and the hotel room in which I finished the book. Just the Judge and I, here to there. Leaving him (as much as any receptive reader ever can) I stepped to the window, blinking out at this city, whenever and wherever it was. I was late getting to the Kunsthalle, to greet Samuel Delany and Wim Wenders, though I was able to later.

(8) FARSIGHT. “Everybody talks about the weather,” begins a Mark Twain quote. Now they’ll have even more to talk about: “Aeolus: Weather forecasts start using space laser data”.

Europe’s novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.

The space laser’s data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.

Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.

The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.

Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.

…The European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite is regarded as a breakthrough concept.

Wind measurements have traditionally been very patchy.

You can get data from anemometers, weather balloons and aeroplanes – and even from satellites that infer air movements from the way clouds track across the sky or from how rough the sea surface appears at different locations.

But these are all limited indications that tell us what is happening in particular places or at particular heights.

Aeolus on the other hand gathers its wind data across the entire Earth, from the ground to the stratosphere (30km) above thick clouds.

(9) IF YOU’VE GOT IT… BBC reports that “The woman who paid $250,000 to go into space” may get there yet.

Ketty Maisonrouge has waited 15 years for a trip that she knows will be out of this world.

The 61-year-old business school professor signed up back in 2005 for the promise of five minutes in zero-gravity, paying $250,000 (£190,500) to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

Now the company that sold her the ticket, Virgin Galactic, says it will finally begin flights this year. Its founder, Sir Richard Branson, will be on the first trip, and Mrs Maisonrouge won’t be far behind.

“Hopefully it will be as amazing as I think,” says Mrs Maisonrouge.

If all goes to plan, Virgin Galactic will be the first private company to take tourists into space. The company says 600 people have already purchased tickets, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But rival firms are close behind. Blue Origin, started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has also starting speaking to possible passengers for trips it hopes to start this year, while SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, announced in 2019 that a Japanese billionaire would be its first passenger for a trip around the moon.

(10) ANOTHER HITCHHIKER. Martin Plimmer lets us share a ride “In Roald Dahl’s Car” in his essay for the New York Times.

…I told him I was a reporter on the local paper, The Bucks Herald. I needed to get back for work the next day. My first task every Monday morning, as the most junior reporter on the paper, was to call on the town’s undertakers and compile a list of people who had died over the weekend. Then I had to phone or visit the next of kin. It was my job to populate the newspaper’s obituary column.

He chuckled. “Sounds grim,” he said.

“It’s not really,” I said. “Well, the undertakers are grim, but people are actually very happy to be approached for an obituary. And they’re good stories too. Obituaries celebrate whole lives. It would be hard not to find a couple hundred interesting words to write about someone’s whole life.”

“I can see that,” he said. “I also do a bit of writing.”

I’d had a feeling this was coming. In my experience of conversations with people who stopped to give me lifts, it was quite common to be told that they were also “writers.” Sometimes it would be a couple of articles in the parish magazine, or a half-finished novel in a bedroom drawer, or, more commonly, they would claim to have easily a book’s worth of fascinating ideas in their heads, just itching to become a best seller. This man had the look of a gentleman tinkerer, someone who might do a bit of scribbling in his spare time. “What sort of writing?” I asked.

“Oh, plays, film screenplays, some TV. Children’s novels seem to be taking up a lot of my time just lately. I suppose, though, that I’m best known for short stories. Stories with a macabre element — I’ve written quite a lot of them.”

His answer surprised me. I asked him his name.

“Roald Dahl,” he said.

It meant nothing to me. “I haven’t come across your work,” I said. “So … ‘a macabre element’ — are these horror stories?”

“Not exactly,” he said, “though, unlike your jolly obituaries, they can be pretty horrible. They don’t always end well; there’s often a twist in the tail. Actually, I think I’m writing funny stories, because they can be very comical. There’s such a narrow line between the macabre and laughter.” I could sense him smiling as he said it….

(11) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. In “Samuel R. Delany: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Super-Nova, Jeet Heer rediscovers that the field’s reception of this new author had its bright spots, too, despite the resistance of editors John W. Campbell and Michael Moorcock.

…It was only after his appearance at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland in 1966, that Delany’s existence was recognized, which led to the quick consensus that he was a leading figure in the field. In 1967, the contentious editor Harlan Ellison wrote that Delany gave “an indefinable but commanding impression that this was a young man with great work in him.” The following year, Algis Budrys, a respected novelist and at the time the sharpest critic in science fiction, hailed Nova by saying the novel proved that “right now, as of this book” Delany is “the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense.” Delany was all of twenty-six years old when he earned that accolade.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/20 The Yellow Brick Road Must Roll

(1) PROZINE REJOINS THE LIVING Compelling Science Fiction has been saved from the scrapheap of history. Editor Joe Stech explains how it happened:

We’re back in business and will be open to submissions once again on Monday, January 13th!

After I announced in September that Compelling Science Fiction would be shutting down for good, Nick Wells of Flame Tree reached out to me and suggested we work together to keep the magazine publishing our unique brand of science fiction stories. Over the last month we came to an agreement that will allow Compelling Science Fiction to continue publishing — you may recall that my issue was one of time, and Flame Tree will take over many of the most time-consuming aspects of the magazine. My role will transition to that of editor-in-chief, and Nick will take over the publishing role. I’m very excited to work with Nick and Flame Tree, and continue to support this genre of fiction that I love.

We’ll be transitioning to a quarterly schedule, and will also be accepting submissions much more often. Authors, we need your wonderful stories, so please send them our way! And readers, thanks for entrusting us with your time. I will always treat it with respect, and do my best to provide the types of stories you come here for.

(2) MORE SFF ON JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb says “The third episode of the ‘Greatest of All Time’ Jeopardy! tourney had a number of SFF-related questions.”

Here was the $800 answer in “Prequels and Sequels”:

Edited by the author’s son Christopher & published in 1977, it’s a history of Middle-Earth before “Lord of the Rings”.

Ken Jennings readily questioned, “What is Silmarillion?”

And the $400 answer:

Set for release in 2020 is Suzanne Collins’ “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, a prequel to this series.

James Holzhauer asked, “What is The Hunger Games?”

In the “TV Green Thumb” category:

$1200: On “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this wife of Commander Waterford has some pivotal scenes in her greenhouse.

Two wrong guesses, but nobody got, “Who is Serena?”

$1600: Played by Carolyn Jones in the ’60s, she loved to cut the heads off her roses, & rejoiced when her thorns came in sharp.

Crickets. “Who is Morticia Addams?”

And the $2000 featured a picture of Jean-Luc Picard and Boothby the groundskeeper: Jean-Luc Picard once helped Boothby, played by this one-time TV Martian, to replant some flowers at Star Fleet Academy.

Ken Jennings got it: “Who is Ray Walston?”

Goldfarb concludes, “The game in the second half (each day’s game is two regular games put together) had questions about Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et Le Bête’ and Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, but I’m going to call those only genre-adjacent and not quote them.”

Then, Andrew Porter saw this go down —

Category: Book Marks

Answer: In this novel, Mark Watney says, “I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did.”

Wrong question: What is “The Sun Also Rises?”

Right question: What is “The Martian.”

(3) DIAGNOSING SUCCESS. The Hollywood Reporter’s Patrick Shanley probes “The Key Difference Between Video Game and Film Remakes”.

…Video game remakes work because, in many ways, they are the antithesis of film remakes. They honor the original vision by elevating it to what it was hoping to be but unable to achieve due to the limits of technology. The best remakes (in any medium) maintain the heart and soul of their source material while simultaneously modernizing them. In that regard, games have outshone film, delivering on the promise of the original while also updating them in a way that appeals to the nostalgia of longtime fans and the discerning eye of newcomers.

(4) STREAMING SEVENTIES SFF. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Criterion Channel, a streaming service that focuses on art films and is based on the home video distributor The Criterion Collection, will be featuring a wide range of science fiction films from the 1970s for most of January 2020. The service’s sci-fi offerings for the month are:

  • No Blade of Grass (Cornel Wilde, 1970)
  • A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) [based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name]
  • The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971) [based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend]
  • THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)
  • Z.P.G. (Michael Campus, 1972)**
  • Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
    Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973) [based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room!]
  • Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)
  • The Terminal Man (Mike Hodges, 1974)
  • Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975),
  • A Boy and His Dog (L. Q. Jones, 1975) [based on the Harlan Ellison story of the same name]
  • Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
  • Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
  • The Ultimate Warrior (Robert Clouse, 1975)
  • Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)
  • God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976)
  • Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977)
  • Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Other genre-related SF films from the decade may already be available on the service (Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris are definitely there) .

(5) JAMES DAVIS NICOLL. The proprietor tells us that today’s review — of An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass — is review 1500 on James Nicoll Reviews. His career total is “something like 6600 reviews.”

(6) CROWDFUNDING WISDOM. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights from “Crowdfunding and Kickstartering with M.C.A. Hogarth.” Thread starts here.

(7) GETTING THE ROCKETS READY. CoNZealand has posted a “Hugo Awards Video” hosted by Tammy Coxen, this year’s awards administrator.

If you’d like to know more about the Hugo Awards, check out this new video from the CoNZealand team, talking about the history of the awards and why they’re so important.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 11, 1997 — in Japan, Barb Wire got released. Starring Pamela Anderson and a very brief outfit, it was based on a Dark Horse comic (written by John Arcudi and illustrated by a rotating group of artists), the film was made on a shoehorn budget (about the size of her outfit) of nine million but was still a box office bomb bringing in only four million. Excepting Ebert, most critics didn’t like it and the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are especially harsh, giving it just a 14% rating. And there’s a lot of them that don’t like it — 47, 276 so far! 
  • January 11, 2013 Survival Code (Borealis was its original name and it was called that in Canada), and it starred Ty Olsson, Patrick Gallagher and Michelle Harrison. It was directed by David Frazee. It won three Canadian Screen Awards at the Second Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Miniseries or Television Movie, Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries, and Best Original Score for a Television Program. The film was created to be a series pilot for Space, but the series never happened for reasons we can’t find but Space, its distributor, aired it instead as a television film. Yes it scored well at the Canadian Screen Awards, but the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less forgiving as it get just 33% there. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to Silverlock. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name, and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series is based, and the Isaac Asimov novel was based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film.  (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Wright King. He’s had roles in the SFF realm starting with Captain Video and His Video Rangers and including Johnny Jupiter, Twilight Zone, Out ThereThe Invaders, Planet Of The Apes , Invasion of the Bee Girls, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Logan’s Run. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 83. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 59. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted wordplay as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 57. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos”story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins
  • Born January 11, 1971 Tom Ward, 49. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”. And he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 48. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(10) BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY REMEMBERED. The London Review of Books has linked to “Operation Backfire” by Francis Spufford first published in 1999.  This history of the British space program mentions Arthur C. Clarke twice:  first in describing the British Interplanetary Society in 1944 and second a theological debate Clarke had with Lewis and Tolkien in 1958.

In November 1944 a group of men met in a London pub. In this fifth year of the war, the capital was dingy, dog-eared, clapped-out, frankly grimy. Though Britain had not shaken off its usual inefficiencies at mass production, it had converted its economy to the needs of the war more completely than any other combatant nation. For five years there had been no new prams, trams, lawnmowers, streetlamps, paint or wallpaper, and it showed. All over the city things leaked, flapped, wobbled and smelt of cabbage. It was the metropole that Orwell would project forward in time as the London of 1984.

These drinkers were not the kind of people to let an unpromising present determine the shape of things to come. They were the inner circle of the British Interplanetary Society, and in 1938 they had published a plan for reaching the Moon using two modules, one to orbit, one to descend to the lunar surface. The cost of the rocket – as much as a million pounds – was far more than they could raise, but they did have enough money to make a couple of instruments for it. ‘We were in the position of someone who could not afford a car, but had enough for the speedometer and the rear-view mirror,’ Arthur C. Clarke would remember. They constructed a ‘coelostat’, a device to stabilise the image of a spinning star-field. It was made from four mirrors and the motor of Clarke’s gramophone; it worked, and was proudly displayed in the Science Museum.

(11) “FUN” IS OVER. For awhile Jon Del Arroz branded his videos Diversity in Comics – but no more! “Why I’m Changing the Channel Name Back to Jon Del Arroz”.  Here’s the transcript of his explanation. (And remember, YouTube talking head videos really do tend to be one endless run-on sentence):

…But for here I’ve used the name Diversity in Comics over the last I guess two three months helped grow the channel quite a bit so thank you everybody came by because you saw the name and thought it was funny and all that but there comes a time where jokes have to end and we had a funny joke for a bit there and it was great and at this point I’m seeing that there’s a couple things that are an issue with this which is one that yeah it is needlessly antagonizing some people who get really worked up about this and and while I I do enjoy triggering people who get triggered for no reason and all that there there comes a time where joke a stand and it’s it’s just not funny and it’s not funny even watching somebody lose their minds over something like this anymore so definitely don’t want that happening anymore don’t want to insult anybody who might be a comic book reader who might check out the books and things like that I definitely want that to be something uh you know to where we can have are buying comic books and and we’re coming back and changing it back to just my name and the reason we’ll go with my name instead of something fancy….

(12) GIBSON INTERVIEW. William Gibson tells a Guardian writer, “‘I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was'”.

… As a Canadian writer who initially marked his territory in a future Japan, what attracted him to setting his post-Jackpot world in London? He doesn’t see it as so much of a jump. “On my first three or four visits to Japan I immediately thought that Tokyo had more in common with London than with any other city,” he says. “These disproportionately large sites of former empires, huge concentrated populations, recent wartime trauma, lots of fatalities. They’re capitals of island nations. But also cultural things: the fanatical attention paid to specific individual classes of objects. In London you could probably find a speciality shop for almost anything. And you certainly could in Tokyo. All these parallels. I’m curious that I’ve almost never seen it mentioned anywhere.”

(13) STRANGE DIRECTION. BBC reports “Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson exits over ‘creative differences'”.

Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has left the sequel over “creative differences” with Marvel.

Derrickson made the original 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and had been due to deliver Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2021.

There’s speculation that Derrickson and Marvel boss Kevin Feige disagreed about how scary the follow-up should be.

The director, whose credits include The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, had pledged “the first scary MCU film”.

He made the comments at San Diego Comic Con in July, where Feige swiftly clarified that it would still be suitable for teenage viewers. “It’s gonna be PG-13 and you’re going to like it!” he added.

Feige has since said it would not be a horror film, and that any scary sequences would be like those made by Steven Spielberg in films like Indiana Jones and Gremlins.

(14) MOMENT OF BOOM. “Popocatépetl: Mexican volcano’s spectacular eruption caught on camera” — someone caught the start of the eruption on a short video.

Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano erupted on Thursday with a dramatic show of lava and a cloud of ash and rocks that reached 3,000m (9,800ft) into the sky.

No-one was hurt. Popocatépetl is an active stratovolcano, 70km (43 miles) south-east of the capital, Mexico City.

Its name means “smokey mountain” in the indigenous Náhuatl language.

(15) OPPOSITE OF SWATTING. Or so you might call it: “Teenager having seizure saved by online gamer – 5,000 miles away in Texas”.

The parents of a teenager who suffered a seizure while chatting online have thanked his friend who called emergency services from 5,000 miles away.

Aidan Jackson, 17, was talking to an American gamer from his bedroom in Widnes on 2 January when he had a fit.

His friend, 20-year-old Dia Lathora, from Texas, alerted police in the UK.

The first Aidan’s parents knew of the emergency was when police and an ambulance appeared at their front door, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Caroline and Steve Jackson then rushed upstairs to find their son “extremely disorientated”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. They intend to live happily ever after:

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film’s most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that’s only the beginning.

Watching David’s face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen. The set-up is great, but the magical moment when Loechler’s illustrated self tosses the engagement ring to his real-life self? That’s when we all toss up our hands and say, “OKAY, man. You win at proposing. Everyone else must bow before you now.”

The whole proposal—the re-illustrations, the heart jokes (David is a cardiologist), and the bride-to-be’s surprise when she finds surrounded by her friends and family—it’s all perfection. Just watch:

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