Pixel Scroll 4/12/21 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Pixel

(1) MUIR’S PROGRESS. Bence Pintér conducted a “Q&A with Tamsyn Muir” for the Hungarian magazine Spekulatív Zóna. (You can find the Hungarian version of the interview here.)

The Locked Tomb Trilogy seems like a pretty hard one to pitch to a publisher. How have you pitched it?

I never really pitched the trilogy as a trilogy. I pitched Gideon as more or less a murder mystery, because to me that’s still its most fundamental DNA: it’s the classic And Then There Were None set-up, a group of people in an isolated location start getting killed off one by one. I think I said it was a locked-room murder mystery with necromancers. But I was also deeply confused about a lot of things and thought it might be a Young Adult book, because I understood ‘young adult’ as a tag to mean ‘older teenagers would enjoy it’ and I firmly believed that older teenagers would enjoy Gideon! Someone I showed the story to at an early stage had to break it to me gently that this was not a Young Adult book, and never would be without very major re-writing and taking out 90% of the swearwords….

You signed a six-figure deal with Tordotcom Publishing. What will you work on after finishing Alecto the Ninth?

Lots of stuff. Next up is a novella about a gunslinger in a near-future dystopia, which is going to be a massive relief to write as it contains neither swords nor bones, thank God. Then I’ve got to start on the next full-length novel, which will probably have some swords and some bones but not at anywhere near the concentration Locked Tomb did, and will leaven the mixture by also having some motorbikes. And at some point I need to fit in the sequel to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, my novella from last year, which I’ve decided I’m not quite done with. Now if I could just get an extra four or five months added in to the year, maybe in summer when the weather’s OK, that would be fantastic.

(2) PRO TIPS. Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas, now editing F&SF.

Congratulations on recently becoming editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction! What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?

I just revised our submission guidelines to address that, because after reading 2,400 stories our first month in January, I noticed some patterns, particularly for people who have submitted work to the magazine in the past, and they probably don’t know that they’re doing some of these things.

The main thing I revised our submission guidelines to address is pacing. If you spend a long time setting up your story, or throat clearing, or giving us a long narrative exposition before we even get to the characters we’re supposed to be following and experiencing, you’re going to lose your readers’ interest right off the bat. One of the things people can do when they go back and look at the story is see if they started in the right place. As a writer, it’s not always easy to know that immediately. Sometimes we have to write the thing in order to know the thing; we have to write that first scene to get to the other one.

The other thing that a lot of writers do give us too much information that’s not naturally integrated into the storytelling, and so that becomes a little wearisome to read and hard to follow. People are not telling the story from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the situation.

I don’t want to read about misogyny, whether it’s conscious or not in the story. I don’t particularly care for rape stories where rape is just a plot device and it’s not handled in a human way, where you don’t have the characters respond to it in a way that humans might. And F&SF is not the best market for super erotic work.

(3) TV DINNER. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Science Fiction TV Dinner series is going virtual for 2020-2021, and they’ll  Zoom the next event on Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. It features The Mailbox, a short film about time travel and Chinatowns. They’ll be talking with the director, Louis Yin, a writer and filmmaker based in Beijing, and Diane Wong, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the Asian diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. The event is free, and open to everyone. Register at the link.

We’re shifting the format slightly, presenting Science Fiction TV Small Bites: short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.

…Each Small Bite event will also feature an exclusive segment on cuisine and cooking by Corey S. Pressman, an author, educator, anthropologist, visual artist, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

We would like to thank Storycom for their support and collaboration on this event. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency in China, and is dedicated to bringing excellent Chinese SF stories to domestic and global audiences in various formats. Storycom also presents The Shimmer Program to introduce new audiences to Chinese SF. Learn more at https://twitter.com/ShimmerProgram.

(4) ACE ON THE CASE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber looks at video games that combine the supernatural with detective stories.

…The first detective games I loved were the Ace Attorney trilogy, in which you play Phoenix Wright, an impossibly earnest lawyer who solves a trio of outlandish murders.  The tone is decidedly zany, with anime-style graphics and supernatural story beats. But the sharp characterisation makes them deeply affecting.  Each complex case is split into two parts:  the first has you talking to witnesses and gathering evidence from the crime scene, while the second takes you to court, where you cross-examine witnesses and poke holes in testimony…

…Perhaps the secret ingredient to a successful detective game is allowing players freedom to find the solution by themselves.  These qualities re best exemplified in last year’s indie hit Paradise Killer, which sets its supernatural mystery across an open world, allowing you to investigate at your own pace.  The game never tells you where to go next and you can set the final trial at any point, no matter how much evidence you’ve gathered.  Newcomers may be alarmed by the game’s high-concept fantasy, which tells of a group of social elites constructing a utopia by sacrificing the working classes to resurrect a pantheon of vanished gods.  Yet once you find your footing, the story resolves into a fantastically imaginative, richly compelling narrative with a superb soundtrack to boot.

(5) WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM CONFUSION. Ian Moore’s “ConFusion: Eastercon 2021” report at Secret Panda offers a lot of coverage of the panel programming.

… Many of the academic presenters at ConFusion seemed to be from creative writing rather than literary criticism programmes, which changed the focus somewhat: when they were examining a particular theme within science fiction, it was with a view to ultimately creating something in that area themselves, with several then presenting us with some of their own creative work in progress.

I enjoyed Hester Parr’s presentation on fanfic, though at times it did tend towards more of a stirring defence of fan fiction than an academic analysis of it. Particularly interesting was the discussion of how some fanfic writers use their writing to work out things about themselves and the revelation that the My Fair Lady musical is closer to the original Pygmalion myth than the George Bernard Shaw play it is adapted from. I did find myself thinking about whether there is a difference between something like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and other retellings of myths or sequels to others’ work by novelists on the one hand and fan fiction proper on the other hand. Part of Parr’s argument seemed to be that there is not really a difference, with the human tendency to retell and adapt stories meaning that fanfic is a universal thing with its origins in the mists of time. I have the nagging sense though that there is something different between a novel written by a professional writer and something a hobbyist has posted to an online fanfic platform. To me the fannishness of fanfic is what distinguishes it from non-fan writing drawing on pre-existing stories, though further investigation may be required here….

(6) GAGARIN AND THE POTATO FIELD. Sixty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Here’s the CNN story:

…Khrushchev’s answer came 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. After parachuting from the craft near the Russian village of Smelovka, Gagarin landed a hero — and a major embarrassment for the United States, already stung by the Soviet first-in-the-race launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite four years earlier….

And what goes up must come down – however unexpectedly that might be if you happen to be standing where they land.

(7) JOURNEY INTO SPACE. And the Journey Planet team bids everyone a Happy Cosmonautics Day. Ann Gry co-edited their “Russian Space – ” theme issue which came out in December.

Cover by Sara Felix

This unique issue of Journey Planet comes in two languages in parallel text, Russian and English. With bi-lingual text on every page we look at the Science, Engineering, Science Fiction, Films, Comics and poetry that the theme of Russian Space has to offer.

Muscovite Co-Editor Ann Gry (Anna Gryaznova) was committed to ensure the issue was as accessible as possible to the readers, interested in the subject and spent a tremendous amount of time working on translations as well as seeking out new voices, and hearing from voices who may be very new to Journey Planet readers. This issue is a curated glimpse into the creative realms mostly inaccessible due to the language barrier and is an attempt to give an idea of how space theme connects us all.

You can find the issue here:

(8) WE’LL MEET AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail” to Tor.com readers. Not all of them are grim:

The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.

The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.

(9) HAND MADE. The Dwrayger Dungeon makes a post from clips from a 1939 short in “13: PARAMOUNT Presents POPULAR SCIENCE”. See how a Popeye cartoon was made in the days of hand-painted animation cels.

Today we go behind the scenes of the making of the Popeye cartoon “Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp” at the Fleischer Studios in Miami….

Here are the guys working on the storyboards for their upcoming Popeye cartoon. I swear, there are like 500 drawings pinned up on the wall….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, Black Friday premiered. It was directed by Arthur Lubinfrom from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who won a Retro Hugo last year for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and Eric Taylor. Though Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi were co-billed, Lugosi only has a rather small part in the film and does not appear on screen with Karloff.  Universal had cast Lugosi as the Doctor and Karloff as the Professor, but Karloff insisted on playing the Doctor. So Lugosi was given the minor role of a rival gangster, while Stanley Ridges was brought in to play the Professor. Reception was mixed with some critics loving the double billing, but the NYT noted that “Lugosi’s terrifying talents are wasted”.  Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers give it a rating of forty nine percent.  It is in the the public domain now, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 12, 1884Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s early 1930s. He’s one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1908 – Janie Lamb.  Edited the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam.  Inspiring spark of Southern Fandom (southern U.S., not e.g. the Republic of South Africa, or London, or Spain despite Roses from the South, these other regions not typically so calling themselves); chaired DeepSouthCon 7.  Kaymar and Rebel service awards.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1915Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1921Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1936Charles Napier. Adam in Star Trek’s “The Way to Eden”. He had one-offs, and this is not a complete list, on Mission ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkKnight Rider, Tales of The Golden MonkeyThe Incredible Hulk ReturnsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanDeep Space Nine and voiced Agent Zed in the animated Men in Black series. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1947 – Tom Clancy.  Regardless of whether Jack Ryan becomes President, and the author’s politics which as it happens I never liked much, I defiantly assert The Hunt for “Red October” – TC’s first novel! he’d been an insurance salesman! Deborah Grosvenor had to persuade the Naval Inst. to publish it! – is SF, and good SF too.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1952 – Pierre Stolze, Ph.D., age 69.  Dissertation at École Normale Supérieure on SF.  Seven novels, a score of shorter stories.  Will Francophone translators kindly address this man’s work?  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1958 – Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, age 63.  Canadian living in Los Angeles.  Active particularly with Art Shows; board member of the Southern Calif. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell, pronounced skiffy).  Her high-tech expertise permitted the annual Rotsler Award display at Worldcons to rise above the personal handicraft of one man in a propeller beanie, however helped by volunteers (hello, Murray), and thus reach Dublin (77th Worldcon) and Wellington (78th Worldcon, virtual-only).  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1968 – Marah Searle-Kovacevic, age 53.  Head of Exhibits at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, credited by con chair with extra help at N4’s elaborate and successful First Night, see this detailed report.  Chaired SFContario 4-5.  Was assigned as head of Social Media for Westercon LXXIII.  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1969 – Mike Jansen, age 52.  Ran Babel Publications for ten years with Roelof Goudriaan (hello, Roelof).  Three novels, fourscore shorter stories, a dozen poems, many available in English e.g. collection Ophelia in My Arms.  Website in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English. [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1979Jennifer Morrison, 42. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo reveals the ancestry of a certain popular character from The Mandalorian.

(13) THE ARRIVAL OF THE FUTURE. Eric Diaz analyzes “How the Year 1986 Changed Comic Books Forever” at Yahoo! Life. Here’s the first pair of reasons:

… Let’s get this double-whammy out of the way. 1986 saw the release of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So much has been said about both of these comics already. Although much about them is different, each is a deconstruction of the superhero concept; and each elevated the medium to new levels of respectability.

Yes, their success has sown definite downsides. Too many creators take the wrong lessons from their popularity, veering “dark and edgy” for the sake of it. But this aside, both of these remain towering achievements in comic book storytelling…. 

(14) WONDER WOMAN WRITER REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Mark Evanier and author/editor Anina Bennett about Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly’s appearance at the 2018 Comic-Con and how she enjoyed the recognition she got for her Wonder Woman work when she was 94. “She was the ‘secret’ Wonder Woman writer in the 1940s. Here’s how she finally got her due at 94”.

…“In all my years of Comic-Conning, I can’t recall another moment when the audience was so eager to give someone a long, loving ovation,” Evanier said Wednesday, “and the recipient was so delightfully surprised to be at an event like that receiving one.

“Joye told me it was the best weekend of her life, and I thought, ‘Imagine having the best weekend of your life when you’re 94!’”

(15) BIRD IS THE WORD. Jeff VanderMeer, in his essay “Hummingbirds and the Ecstatic Moment” for Orion Magazine, explains how birds provided comfort to him when he was sick in bed with asthma as a child and why birds play a crucial role in Hummingbird Salamander.

…I am not going to complain about my childhood—it was worse than some and better than many. But it was a sickly time for me. Transplanted to the Fiji Islands from Pennsylvania when my parents joined the Peace Corps, I discovered I was allergic to many flowering trees and also developed acute asthma. The practical effect of this meant that some mornings I would wake to birdsong hardly able to breathe or open my eyes.

Yet we lived in the cliché of a tropical paradise, a nature-rich country in which nothing separated you from the outdoors. An island nation that knew the limits of its resources and thus, at that time, treasured them.

At recess at school, in our drab gray uniforms, we would run across the road to the black sand beach at low tide and look for mudskippers, or walk along the edge of the reef, searching for starfish. I would stare into the alien eye of a sea turtle as my mother captured the detail in her biological illustrations. We would pile into a boat so my father could go to an outer island and observe the damage to coconut trees from rhinoceros beetles, for his research. Along the way, I would keep a birding journal and identify what I saw using a black-and-white stapled booklet showing the local Fijian species.

There could be no greater contrast between the beauty of that place and the realities of my condition…. 

(16) RESNICK ON SALE. There’s a Bundle of Holding with a flock of novels by Mike Resnick. It’s available for the next 21 days.

Adventurer! This Mike Resnick Bundle presents space opera and alternate-history fantasy ebook novels by Mike Resnick published by Pyr BooksMike Resnick (1942-2020) wrote more than 70 wide-ranging science fiction novels and hundreds of short stories that won many awards. This all-new fiction offer gives you DRM-free ebooks (in both ePub and Kindle formats) of a dozen Resnick novels: the four Weird West steampunk fantasies, the three Dead Enders adventures of interstellar espionage, and the five Starship military space operas. These three series showcase Resnick’s gift for fast pacing, engaging characters, snappy dialogue, and headlong action.

For just US$6.95 you get all three novels in our Mike Resnick Sampler (retail value $58) as DRM-free ebooks. Each of these novels — The Buntline Special, The Fortress in Orion, and Starship: Mutiny — launched a series.

And, if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.36, you’ll also get our Complete Collection with all the later books in each series — nine more novels worth an additional $180…

(17) DON’T DO IT. From an interview in The Guardian: “String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’”.

You believe that within a century we will make contact with an alien civilisation. Are you worried about what they may entail?

Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.

(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds”Yahoo! News has the story.

Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.

But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.

Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Alien:  Covenant Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, both the producer and the screenwriter agree that the film’s plot is so ridiculous that the screenwriter says “the movie falls apart if any character stops being dumb” and the producer asks, “do all the characters have brain damage, or what’s up?”

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/21 I Want To Scroll What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling!

(1) LIGHTS ON. Today, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination published Cities of Light, a collection of science fiction, art, and essays about “how the transition to solar energy will transform our cities and catalyze revolutions in politics, governance, and culture.” The book is a collaboration between Arizona State University and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It explores solar futures in four U.S. cities: Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and San Antonio, Texas.

Cities of Light features fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi, S.B. Divya, Deji Bryce Olukotun, and Andrew Dana Hudson, and essays by experts in fields ranging from electrical engineering and data science to sociology, public policy, and architecture. The book is free in a variety of digital formats. You also can order print-on-demand copies.

(2) WELLS UPDATE. Martha Wells tweeted this morning that she was in a car accident. She’s okay.

(3) WONDERCON VIA TUBE. WonderCon@Home 2021 – the online substitute for the annual Anaheim event – will run March 26-27. The Complete Programming schedule is now available.

WonderCon is returning to your living room for panels, exhibits, contests, and more! Check out www.comic-con.org and subscribe to our YouTube channel to join us @Home March 26-27! Featuring panels by: Netflix, Penguin Random House, IDW, DC Entertainment, Dark Horse, Adult Swim, Warner Bros. TV, Amazon Studios, CBS, Hulu, and more!

(4) TITLE REVEAL. Is there anybody who doesn’t already know the title John Scalzi’s forthcoming book, announced today in this Whatever post? “And Now, the Title of the Novel I Just Completed, Plus a Very Little Amount of Detail About the Book”. Hands, please. One. Two… Bueller? Bueller? Everyone already knows? Well, I’m reporting this anyway: The Kaiju Preservation Society. Because Scalzi’s post was entertaining.

What is it about?

It’s about a society that preserves kaiju! Look, it’s all right there in the title.

Why do kaiju need preserving?

Because otherwise they might spoil.

Is that a serious answer?

Maybe….

(5) THE UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert presented “Justice League: The Colbert Cut” – a takeoff on the post-credits scene from the non-Snyder version of Justice League.

Stephen Colbert is proud to present this sneak peek at his four hour, three minute cut of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” which expands on the pivotal post-credits conversation between Lex Luthor and Deathstroke.

(6) AERIAL ACROBATICS. Cora Buhlert reviews the latest highly-advertised offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “Marvel’s ‘New World Order’ – Some Thoughts on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. BEWARE SPOILERS!

…Like WandaVisionThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set after half of population of the Earth (and the Universe) were snapped back into existence and deals with the aftermath of what has apparently been termed “the Blip” in the Marvel Universe. Our heroes, Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes a.k.a. the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), were among those who were first snapped out of and then back into existence.

…However, Sam is back in action now (quite literally) after five years of non-existence. And indeed, the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier starts off with a thrilling action set piece…. 

(7) THE THING THAT ATE YOU. The Horror Writers Association blog features a Q&A with a poet: “Under The Blade An Interview With Mary Turzillo”. Includes numerous examples of Turzillo’s work including “The Thing That Ate You.”

(8) FOOD FROM THE MCU. And speaking of eating, Marvel Comics: Cooking with Deadpool is a real cookbook! So is that like MCUisine?

Deadpool brings his inimitable style, foul-mouthed humor, and notorious skill with a blade to the kitchen in this hilarious take on a traditional cookbook, featuring classic recipes with a Deadpool spin and a whole lotta chimichangas.

No super hero takes food quite as seriously as Deadpool. In this gorgeously designed cookbook that paid reviewers have described as “glorious” and “the best cookbook I’ve ever read,” Deadpool offers his take on a curated collection of epicurean classics. Narrated by the wisecracking super hero (and sexy master chef) himself, this book also incudes recipes inspired by some of his closest friends/enemies (Here’s lookin’ at you, Spidey) and his favorite meals, including chimichangas, tacos, pancakes, and hamburgers with no pickles.

(9) IRREPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. Ursula Vernon tells about an important turning point in her career in a thread that ends —

(10) WORLDCON RUNNER REMEMEBRED. Steven H Silver reminds fans, “Six years ago [on March 22] we lost Peggy Rae Sapienza. You can help honor her memory with a donation to the Peggy Rae Sapienza Endowment at the Northern Illinois University Library to support the growth, maintenance, and promotion of the science fiction and fantasy collections in Rare Books and Special Collections, including documenting SF/F Fandom.” More information here: Memorial and Endowment Funds – Friends of the NIU Libraries.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 23, 2007 The Last Mimzy premiered. The film was based off the winner of the 2019 Dublin Retro Hugo for Best Novelette “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym of the writing team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), originally published in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine. It was directed by Robert Shaye and produced by Michael Phillips from the screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, Toby Emmerich, James V. Hart and Carol Skilken. It has a middling rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of fifty-five percent. The story’s in The Best of C.L. Moore which is available currently from the usual suspects for $2.99.  

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several years later in The Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.) (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.) (CE) 
  • Born March 23, 1921 – Ethel Lindsay.  A Scot who lived in Surrey 1955-1978, serving a term as President of the London Circle, co-founding the SF Club of London and serving as its Chairman (the suffix -man is not masculine) and hosting it, winning the Skyrack poll for Best Fanwriter – the name of this newsletter deriving from shire oak and thus skyr ack (rhymes with beer lack), not sky rack – and being voted TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, see her report here.  Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 22.  Fanzines, Scottishe and Haverings.  Doc Weir Award (service).  Went north again, was brought to Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon by a Send a Scot South Fund.  More here.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material which leans towards being rather dry. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born March 23, 1950 – Keith Kato, Ph.D., age 71.  Dissertation student of Greg Benford, thus pursuing, as GB has, interests in and out of fandom.  Served a term as President of the Heinlein Society.  Known for cooking up vats of chili at SF cons, both hot (impressing Robert Silverberg) and mild (edible even by me), therewith hosting parties sometimes open (anyone may walk in), sometimes closed (invitation-only).  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 69. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work!  (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 63. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1959 – Maureen Kincaid Speller, age 62.  Reviews, essays, in fanzines e.g. Banana WingsThe GateMatrixVector, prozines e.g. AmazingAnalogF & SFTomorrow, semiprozines e.g. InterzoneStrange Horizons.  Contributor to apas e.g. AcnestisTurboAPA (more fully Turbo-Charged Party Animal APA).  Served a term as judge of the Rotsler Award.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 47 (with husband Paul Kincaid).  TAFF delegate.  Nova Award as Best Fanwriter.  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1960 – Kimberlee Marks Brown, age 61.  Chaired Loscon 25, SMOFcon 32 (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con devoted to studying the past of, trying to improve the future of, SF cons and like that).  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon 37 (with husband Jordan Brown).  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1969 – David Anthony Durham, age 52.  Four novels, eight shorter stories, some with Wild Cards; Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Also historical fiction; two NY Times Notable Books, Legacy Award for Début Fiction, Hurston/Wright Award.  The Shadow Prince to appear September 2021.  Outward Bound instructor, whitewater raft guide.  Teaches at Univ. Nevada (Reno), Univ. Southern Maine.  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 44. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think that there’s a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor. (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1983 – Sir Mohamed Farah, age 38.  Three novels (with Kes Gray).  Two Olympic Gold Medals in 5,000 and 10,000 m running; ten global titles; holds four European records, two world records; three-time European Athlete of the Year.  Most decorated in British athletics history.  Memoir Twin Ambitions (twin brother Hassan still lives in Somalia).  More here.  Website here.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has told the story that couldn’t be written at the time. The true story. 

(14) BLACK WRITER NOT RENEWED AT SUPERMAN & LOIS. “Nadria Tucker Interview on Being Let Go From ‘Superman & Lois’”The Root has a Q&A.

Nadria Tucker writes for TV. She also wants to make sure her own personal story and truth are told, as well.

In November 2020, Tucker took to Twitter to announce that her contract as a producer on The CW’s show Superman & Lois had not been extended.

“Some personal news: Wednesday I got word that my contract on Superman & Lois won’t be extended, my services no longer needed, my outline and draft subpar (obviously I disagree with that last bit lol),” Tucker tweeted. “This, after months of me flagging #metoo jokes in dialogue; of me defending the Bechdel test; of me FIGHTING to ensure the only Black faces onscreen aren’t villains; of me pitching stories for female characters (there’s one in the title of the series!) that went ignored. If I sound bitter, it’s because this one stings.”

“I’ve been assured by colleagues that I was great in the room, so I know I’m not nuts. I debated whether to post this but my own mental wellbeing demands that I do. The only way shit changes is to expose it,” she continued.

…“After months of pitching ideas, fighting for diversity and representation and good feedback on my actual writing—I don’t want to leave that part out [about getting good feedback]—I [was] fired seemingly out of nowhere. It made me angry,” Tucker explained to The Root during a phone call earlier this month…

Short pay is also an issue:

… Sources close to the matter told The Root that Tucker was compensated for the first 13 episodes she was contracted to work on and that she did not receive compensation for episodes 14 and 15 because her contract was not extended for those episodes….

(15) ECHO. “’Hawkeye’ Spinoff Series About Deaf Marvel Superhero In Works” reports Deadline.

Deadline has confirmed that a Hawkeye spinoff series centering around that series’ character Echo is in early development with Etan Cohen and Emily Cohen set to write and executive produce. Echo (aka Maya Lopez) is a deaf Native American superhero who has the talent to imitate any opponent’s fighting style. She has also been in the circles of Daredevil, Moon Knight and the Avengers.

Hawkeye is set to debut later this year with Jeremy Renner reprising his Avengers archer.  Hailee Steinfeld stars as Hawkeye’s protege Kate Bishop. Vera Farmiga is her mom Eleanor, Florence Pugh reprises her Black Widow role of assassin Yelena Belova, Fra Fee plays villain clown Kazi, Tony Dalton is Hawkeye’s mentor Jack Duqesne and Zahn McClarnon is William Lopez, Echo’s dad.

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH. I can’t resist Alexandra Petri’s intro to this CBS News story:

CBS reports “Krispy Kreme will give you a free doughnut every day this year”.

Starting Monday, any customer with a valid COVID-19 vaccination card will receive a free Original Glazed doughnut at participating locations nationwide. The iconic doughnut shop specifies that any guests who have received at least one of the two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine qualify for the promotion. 

All you need to show is your vaccination card to redeem your doughnut — a vaccine sticker is not valid.

(17) PERPETUAL EMOTION DEVICE. Entertainment Weekly, in “William Shatner celebrates 90th birthday by creating an AI version of himself for future generations”, says Shat is working with Storyfile to create a Shat bot that you can interact with and ask questions.

…Storyfile is set to launch in June 2021. The technology used to to deliver interactive storytelling includes the patented “Artificially Intelligent Interactive Memories System” on Conversa, which uses natural language processing and other innovative technologies….

(18) NINETY YEARS OF SHAT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The birthday retrospective continues. In “William Shatner For Promise Margarine 1974 TV Commercial” on YouTube, Shat wants people in New Jersey to eat lots of margarine to reduce their “serum cholesterol.”  His claim is based on science because he has a chart!

(19) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. In “Super Cafe:  Snyder Cut” on YouTube, How It Should Have Ended spots Batman and Superman chilling out with a coffee discussing all the exciting things that happened to them in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and Batman worries what will happen to him when he morphs into The Batman for the Robert Patterson movie.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Daniel Dern, rcade, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer. (It’s not Peer’s complete line, which was great, but this is its own wonderful thing.)]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/21 Good Gollum Miss Molly

(1) MANDO ABOUT TOWN. Yahoo! Entertainment says people have seen “A Mandalorian and Baby Yoda spotted speeding through Los Angeles streets”.

For several weeks, a masked Mandalorian and his Baby Yoda has been zooming around the streets of Los Angeles, spreading some good cheer during the pandemic.

…The man behind the homemade mask is comedian Tim Brehmer, who told NBC he’s out of work and his goal was simply to make people laugh during a tough time.

“This whole thing got started because I’m a big box of stupid and I love making people laugh,” he told NBC. “…with some people with depression, a pill can help, with some people therapy can help, with me, this is my therapy.”

(2) FANTASY FORERUNNER. In “Why George MacDonald Matters” at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Timothy Larsen gives an introduction to the great Victorian fantasist who was a major influence on the Inklings.

…MacDonald’s grandmother decided that the musical interests of one of her sons were becoming idolatrous and so she threw his violin into the fire.  Likewise, MacDonald’s own father confiscated a copy of a novel by Sir Walter Scott that the future author had managed to get his youthful hands on.

George MacDonald is a central figure in the generation that changed all this. One possible way for children to escape from relentlessly didactic and moralizing literature was to find a portal into fairyland. When MacDonald’s mother died, his father remarried.  The family patriarch also mellowed with age and regretted his Puritanical decision regarding the Waverly novel.  As a young adult, MacDonald insured that his little half-sister, Bella, received a copy of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

In 1858, George MacDonald published his novel, Phantastes. He called it “a sort of fairy tale for grown people.”  On his twenty-first birthday, Anodos is transported into his fairyland….

(3) RANSOMWARE. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron hosts “Ransomware Negotiators: Professionals Talk” on Saturday, January 23 at 3 p.m. US Eastern. Register for the Zoom session at the link.

Ransomware gangs demand millions, from millions of victims. Then there are specialized negotiators that talk to them on behalf of organizations. In this episode, Gadi and Karen will host two such masters, Christoph Fischer and Moty Cristal, who will share their experience with incident response, negotiation, and communication with criminal organizations.

(4) FIRESIGN THEATRE. In an interview with two surviving members of the troupe, Wisconsin Public Radio recalls “How The Firesign Theatre Predicted The Future”.

…And the Firesigns did not shy away from social commentary. Their work predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union, the undoing of a president, the computer revolution, and a modern-day plague.

Ossman puts it this way: “I think at heart, although we loved mystery, we were really science fiction writers in that big genre, it holds everybody from futurists to fantasists to surrealists. Over the course of our entire career, we developed all kinds of worlds and characters and universes. I mean, it was fantasy combined with science fiction, combined with comments about what was going on at that moment.”

The Firesign Theatre has just released their first new record in 35 years — “Dope Humor of the Seventies.” It’s a two-disc set that includes 83 minutes of freeform radio mayhem, and madness from 1970 to 1972…. 

(5) SOME REALLY SMALL BITES. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s series Science Fiction TV Small Bite presents “short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.” The next one on February 4 features a short sf film about genetically engineered mosquitoes followed by a discussion. Register here.

Our latest Small Bite is Akoota, a science fiction film about genetically engineered mosquitoes and social control written and directed by Dilman Dila. We’ll screen the 20-minute film, and then have a conversation with Dilman, an award-winning filmmaker, speculative fiction author, and storyteller based in Uganda, and Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, professor and associate dean in the College of Global Futures, and author of the books Films from the Future and Future Rising.

We’ll also feature a segment on future cuisine by Corey S. Pressman, an educator, anthropologist, poet, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

This virtual event is free and open to everyone. Register today!

(6) YOU’RE NOT FROM AROUND HERE, ARE YOU. It’s like one of those Ancestry.com DNA searches that finds you a whole new set of parents. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Classic SF in Which Humans Come From ‘Beyond the Stars’”.

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Stories

Ages ago, humans evolved on Hain. The Hainish exuberantly settled a large number of worlds in our galactic neighbourhood before apparently abandoning interstellar travel for long enough that worlds like Earth forgot they were Hainish colonies. When a new era of interstellar contact began, terrestrial humans discovered worlds already occupied by their cousins.

On the plus side, even though time and evolution—or alternatively, an ancient Hainish fad for genetic engineering—led to considerable diversity between the various branches of humanity, the communications gap is still less than that which exists between any group of humans and the truly alien entities found elsewhere, such as on Vaster than Empires and More Slow’s World 4470. On the minus side, human vices manifest in diverse native forms on each world: thus, the interstellar civil disorders seen in Rocannon’s World, the political strife featured in The Dispossessed, and brutal exploitation in The Word for World is Forest.

(7) GODFALLSTALK.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Godfall,” Fandom Games says that Godfall is the sort of low-imagination game for times when “you just want to hit a bunch of guys with a big sword until they fall over” and has characters so generic they look like “sketches from a fifth-grader’s science notebook.”

This episode dropped today.  It is dedicated to Brad Venable, long time voice for Honest Game Trailers, who died on January 7 at 43.

(8) CONSTANTINE (1956-2021). David Barnett has written an excellent appreciation of the late Storm Constantine for The Guardian: “’A force to be reckoned with’– fantasy world pays tribute to Storm Constantine”.

… Constantine was never less than wildly enthusiastic about all her books, including the three of mine that Immanion published. If her imprint had started as a way to get her own work back into print, it quickly evolved into a personal mission to bring books to readers that the mainstream publishers often overlooked.

Donna Scott, now a writer, editor and standup comedian, was assigned by Storm to edit Hinterland. “It’s no exaggeration to say she changed my life. She was so encouraging and supportive to new writers, and fan fiction writers, which is rare among writers held in similar esteem,” said Scott. “The heart of fantasy literature is going to ache from the loss of Storm. Not only was she one of the most powerfully unique and creative voices we had, but also a welcoming friend to new talent.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 19, 1990 Tremors premiered in theaters. It was directed by Ron Underwood, and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, and written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood off the story by Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson and Ron Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. Five direct-to-video sequels followed, plus a series. The first film was well-received by critics for its story, special effects and acting alike, it currently has an eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Later films and the series are more varied in their audience ratings. (CE)
  • January 19, 2016 DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the centre for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up. It holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy percent. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 19, 1924 Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet which you can watch here. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination SpaceThe InvadersTwilight ZoneMission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born January 19, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 77. I’ve first got visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearances in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring in her late Forties from acting.  (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The SaintThe Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1956 Geena Davis, 65. Her first genre was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.   She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it?  Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten episode FOX sequel to the film. (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 59. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio warns us about a new reason for alien abductions.
  • “Spaceman Spiff” (Calvin) learns that evading alien Zarches is much like evading your parents at Calvin & Hobbes.
  •  The Far Side tells how an alien invasion will be stopped.

(12) DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. A.V. Club describes DC’s new plan: “DC launches DC Universe Infinite with massive library of comics”.

With its movies and TV shows moving to HBO Max, DC Comics is taking its remaining assets (the comics, guys, it’s the comics) over to a brand-new platform. DC Universe Infinite launches this Thursday, January 21, and boasts over 25,000 comic books and graphic novels—including several frequently-requested titles that weren’t available on the previous app, like Grant Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and Brian Azzarello’s Joker. Described as a “premium digital comic book service and community,” DC Universe Infinite will offer a library of the largest collection of DC Comics anywhere, with plans to “continuously add selections from DC’s iconic labels, Vertigo, DC Black Label and Milestone Media.” New comic books will be available on the platform six months after release. The platform is available directly online, as well as on iOS and Android devices. Subscriptions cost $7.99 a month or $74.99 per year, billed annually.

(13) PROVING AUTHENTICITY. The Huntington’s article “Securing Election Results in 1640” shows how it was done old-school, with photos of the kind of specialized document involved.

…The need to ensure accurate reporting of election results is nothing new. In 17th-century England, local officials used documents called “indentures” to report the winning candidate in parliamentary elections.

The earliest use of the word “indenture” dates to the 1300s, when it described a feature of the document itself. Long before the widespread use of paper in the western world, scribes wrote contracts or deeds on parchment (treated animal skins). Then, as now, documents typically were executed by more than one party, so scribes wrote mirroring copies of the agreement on a single piece of parchment.

Using a pen knife, the scribe then sliced the parchment in two with vertical cuts that resulted in a pattern that looked like either jagged jack-o-lantern teeth fitted together or rolling, interlocking, scalloped edges. The word “indenture” derives from the Latin dentatum (toothed) because the cut along the top of each of the documents resembled teeth.

Parties would affix their wax seal to one copy of the indenture. If the contents of the document were ever disputed later, the parties could retrieve their copies and set them together. If the indents along the edges of the documents fit together like puzzle pieces, they knew neither of the halves had been forged. The indents served as a security measure….

(14) TITAN TALK. The American Museum of Natural History will livestream “Toxic Titan: Life on Saturn’s Moon?” on January 27. Ticket purchase information at the link.

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is unique in our solar system: below its thick organic haze layer, rivers of methane carve channels into an icy bedrock and flow into large hydrocarbon seas. Could this moon’s lake-mottled surface and thick, organic rich atmosphere be an ideal setting for life as we do not know it?

Planetary scientist Sarah M. Hörst explores this question and all that’s left to be discovered about our own home from studying a moon worlds away. 

(15) I’LL TAKE DONOVAN’S BRAIN FOR $100. Daniel Dern says he’s reminded of Niven’s story “The Coldest Place.” In “Superconducting Microprocessors? Turns Out They’re Ultra-Efficient”Slashdot reports an IEEE Spectrum news item: 

Computers use a staggering amount of energy today. According to one recent estimate, data centers alone consume two percent of the world’s electricity, a figure that’s expected to climb to eight percent by the end of the decade. To buck that trend, though, perhaps the microprocessor, at the center of the computer universe, could be streamlined in entirely new ways.

One group of researchers in Japan have taken this idea to the limit, creating a superconducting microprocessor — one with zero electrical resistance. The new device, the first of its kind, is described in a study published last month in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits 

(16) RAMPANT MUPPETRY. Seems like every day brings a new selling point for Disney+ that I can’t ignore. “Muppet Show coming to Disney Plus in February 2020” reports A.V. Club.

Oh, The Muppet Show15 seconds to curtainThe Muppet Show! Or, make that one month: Disney+ has announced that all of five seasons of Jim Henson’s pioneering variety show will join its library February 19—the show’s streaming debut, if you don’t count all the YouTube rips we’ve been watching while waiting for the show to come to streaming.

And speaking of YouTube rips, how about Gilda Radner doing a G&S Pirates of Penzance bit on the original Muppets series?

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

Pixel Scroll 12/10/20 LSMFP – Lucky Scrolls Mean Filed Pipeweed

(1) TAG TEAM. YouTuber Morganeua, a fourth year PhD student in Theatre and Performance Studies, uses Stephen King and Toni Morrison to beat Isaac Asimov into the ground in “Asimov’s Adverbs.” (Think of it as a homage to “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”)

I just finished reading “Foundation and Empire” by Isaac Asimov and it was GREAT but I noticed THIS about his writing. What do you think about excessive -ly adverb use in novels?

(2) SEAT FLYERS. Cat Rambo shares her “Principles for Pantsers – The 20 Minute Edition” on her YouTube channel.

Some people outline their novel before they start. Others don’t, but just plunge right and start. There’s plenty of advice on how to do the former, but those who practice the latter sometimes feel that they’re floundering, and no one’s providing any guidance. Working with my own process as well as that of students, clients, and mentees, I’ve come up with twelve principles for writing that you can apply, pre and post-pantsing, in order to start moving from chaos to order.

(3) LITERARY AFTERLIFE. Andrew Nette, in “The Long, Dark Legacy of William Hjortsberg’s Supernatural Neo-Noirs” on CrimeReads, uses the publication of Hjortsberg’s Angel’s Descent to discuss his novels that fused the detective and supernatural, most notably Angel’s Heart (made into a Mickey Rourke film).

…A posthumously published book can be tricky property, given the inevitable question of whether the author was able to finalize the manuscript to the degree they wanted, were they alive. Although Angel’s Inferno does not feel incomplete, it lacks the economy and flow of Falling Angel. It is also far darker, more debauched and violent. When you’ve made a pact to sell your soul to Satan, in terms of what you’re prepared to do, the sky, or in Angel’s case, the depths are the limit.

(4) KOWAL’S VISION FOR SERIES. Mary Robinette Kowal’s talk for the 2020 National Book Festival about her “Lady Astronaut” series is online.

…My first moment where I’m really, really conscious of the space program aside from just like, oh, yeah, people go into space, is when Sally Ride goes up. And looking back at the history of this and thinking about how long it took us to send someone up, it bothered me. It especially bothers me now that this is a problem that we still have ongoing. And so, I wanted to see what it would have been like if we had actually centered women. I sometimes say that this is Apollo era science fiction that’s women-centered. I wanted to read Ray Bradbury, but with 100% more women and people of color. That’s what I wanted. I wanted that sense of Golden Age adventure, but I wanted to be there. And so, I created this world.

(5) CORBEN OBIT. Artist Richard Corben (1940-2020) died December 2 following heart surgery. He was a winner of the Spectrum Grand Master Award (2009) and the Grand Prix at Angoulême (2018), and an inductee to the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame (2012). Dona Corben announced his passing on Facebook.

Corben started in underground comics, then gained increasing fame over the years working in the French magazine Métal Hurlant, and at Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics. His name will ring a bell with Harlan Ellison fans as the artist on the three-story graphic novel Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog (1988).

See examples of his work in Corben’s Lambiek Comiclopedia entry and at the Corben Studios website corbencomicart.com.

(6) ING OBIT. Author Dean Ing, whose story “The Devil You Don’t Know” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist in 1979, died July 21 according toLocus, whichhas a complete profile: Dean Ing (1931-2020).

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers and Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. (Died 1852.) (CE)
  • Born December 10, 1830 – Emily Dickinson.  She set on paper 1,800 poems, less than a dozen published during her lifetime – too unconventional.  “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” got into a 2014 Everyman’s Library volume.  She has a poem on a schoolhouse in the Hague, in English and Dutch.  You could do worse than look at her Wikipedia entry.  (Died 1886) [JH]
  • Born December 10, 1824 George MacDonald. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors Including Tolkien and Lewis, Gaiman and L’Engle, Beagle and Twain to name but a few that I’d single out. The Princess and The Goblin and Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women as particularly fine reading.  The Waterboys titled their Room to Roam album after a passage in Phantastes. Not surprisingly, he’s well represented at the usual digital suspects with one publication an offering fifteen pages of reading for a dollar including eight novels. (Died 1905.) (CE) 
  • Born December 10, 1879 – E.H. Shepard.   Earned the Military Cross.  Lead cartoonist for Punch.  Of particular interest to us for illustrating The Wind in the Willows and Milne’s four Winnie the Pooh books; see too The Reluctant Dragon.  He did much else.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born December 10, 1903 Mary Norton. Author of The Borrowers which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal from the UK’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals recognizing the novel as the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British author. She would continue to write these novels for three decades with Hallmark turning it into a film in the early seventies. Her novels The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks would be adapted into the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the same period. (Died 1992.) (CE) 
  • Born December 10, 1920 – Dan Spiegle.  In a career of BlackhawkMaverickSpin and Marty, he also drew Space Family Robinson and The Black Hole.  For this Roger Elwood book he did interiors too.  Of his work on Mickey Mouse with Paul Murry, Scott Shaw said “none of the ‘real’ human characters seem to notice anything remotely unusual about [working] with a three-foot-tall talking cartoon mouse”; to quote KC and the Sunshine Band, that’s the way I like it.  Inkpot Award.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 10, 1928 John Colicos. You’ll first recognize him as being the first Klingon ever seen on classic Trek, Commander Kor in “Errand of Mercy” episode. (He’d reprised that role as the 140-year-old Kor in three episodes of Deep Space Nine.) He’ll next show up as Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity throughout the series and film. He’ll even show up as the governor of Umakran in the Starlost episode “The Goddess Calabra”. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 60. Oh, Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related? Is Hercule Poirot genre adjacent? (CE)
  • Born December 10, 1969 – Jon Hansen, age 51.  Born in Athens – Georgia.  A score of short stories, a score of poems, in Albedo OneElectric Velocipede, Realms of FantasyStrange HorizonsA Field Guide to Surreal Botany (his story is “Dream Melons”, where else should he have published it?)  [JH]
  • Born December 10, 1984 – Helen Oyeyemi, F.R.S.L.,age 36.  Six novels, ten shorter stories.  Somerset Maugham Award.  PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) Open Book Award.  Fellow of the Royal Soc. Literature (she’s Nigerian, lives in Prague).  Here is a NY Times review of HO’s collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (winner of that PEN award) which I don’t think is behind a paywall – I could see it, anyhow.  [JH]
  • Born December 10, 1985 – Celeste Trinidad, M.D., age 35.  A dozen short stories from this busy Filipina pathologist.  Don Carlos Palanca Award.  “Finding Those Who Are Lost” is in the Typhoon Yolanda Relief anthology Outpouring.  [JH]

(8) YOU ASKED FOR IT. There’s no hiding from the truth. PronounceNames.com cites this authority for “How to say or pronounce Jekyll”:

Letter to the Times, Nov. 28, 1980:

Sir,

Mr Roger Lancelyn Green (25 November) asks whether it is known how Robert Louis Stevenson intended the name of Dr Jekyll should be pronounced. Fortunately a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner, who interviewed Stevenson in his hotel bedroom in San Francisco on 7 June 1888, asked him that very question:

‘There has been considerable discussion, Mr Stevenson, as to the pronunciation or Dr Jekyll’s name. Which do you consider to be correct?’

Stevenson (described as propped up in bed ‘wearing a white woollen nightdress and a tired look’) replied: ‘By all means let the name be pronounced as though it spelt “Jee-kill”, not “Jek-ill”. Jekyll is a very good family name in England, and over there it is pronounced in the manner stated.’

Yours faithfully, Ernest Mehew

(9) CSI ARIZONA. [Item by Joey Eschrich.] Two new videos from Center for Science and the Imagination events are of interest to fans.  

First, the latest episode of CSI Skill Tree, our series on video games, worldbuilding, and futures thinking, features the classic science fiction strategy game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, with special guests Arkady Martine, author of the Hugo Award–winning novel A Memory Called Empire, as well as a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a climate and energy policy expert, and Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, a science fiction scholar at the University of Oslo and principal investigator of the European Research Council Project CoFUTURES.

Second, the latest in our Science Fiction TV Dinner series (which we don’t usually record), featuring Ellipse, a short science fiction film about the search for life in the cosmos, with special guests Ilana Rein, the film’s director and writer, and Sara Walker, an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist and the deputy director of Arizona State University’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science.

(10) FREE READ. Publisher’s Pick’s Free Ebook of the Month is Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow.

One of the original novels of post-nuclear-holocaust America, The Long Tomorrow is considered by many to be one of the finest science fiction novels ever written on the subject. The story has inspired generations of new writers and is still as mesmerizing today as when it was originally written.

(11) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. “Foodie Find: Own a Vintage Clifton’s Cafeteria Tray”NBC Los Angeles says you can get one for $75.

…But procuring a vintage tray, from one of the most celebrated and historic Southern California establishments, is an experience that’s as exciting as finding the last tempting dish of red Jell-O wobbling in your favorite cafeteria’s dessert section.

That’s just what will happen for some fans of Clifton’s Cafeteria.

The destination, which first opened in 1931, is well-known for its woodsy theme, its various levels, its small chapel, and its many decades of feeding Angelenos seeking a solid and affordable meal.

It closed for renovations for about a half decade, then reopened in 2015 with a number of new bars, including, eventually, the tiki-themed Pacific Seas on its upper level.

…Author Ray Bradbury enjoyed his 89th birthday at Clifton’s Cafeteria, a place dear to his heart. The Science Fiction Club met at the Broadway restaurant for many years back in the 1930s and ’40s, and Mr. Bradbury was a devoted regular.

To show gratitude to the author for being a longtime friend to Clifton’s, the cafeteria presented a tray, cheerfully wrapped in colorful birthday paper, to the acclaimed writer, a nostalgic and meaningful gift.

If a decades-old Clifton’s tray might hold that same meaning for you, or someone in your family or life, purchase yours here, sending support to the history-famous destination during the closure….

(12) ALL ABOARD. Which will be under your Christmas tree?

The Lionel Train store is selling the “Hogwarts Express LionChief® Set with Dementors Coach”.

…This new Hogwarts Express LionChief Set now features two passenger cars and one Dementors Coach with sounds!

What sounds those are they don’t say, but I can guess.

And the Bradford Exchange is hustling a Star Trek Express Train Collection with the one and only “Science Officer Spock – Live Long and Prosper dome car” which just amuses the heck out of me.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/20 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Distributing Pixels Is No Basis For A System Of Filing

(1) TITLE BOUT. Shelf Awareness publicized the release of the six-book shortlist for the 2020 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. “Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982.” The finalists are —

  • A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth
  • Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L Smithies
  • Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K.F.B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
  • How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner
  • Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam
  • The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin and Michael Cockram

More details from the award hosts here: “The Bookseller announces the Diagram Prize 2020 shortlist”

The winning title will now be chosen by members of the public via an online vote. The public vote closes on Friday 20th November, with the winning entry to be announced on Friday 27th November. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a passable bottle of claret is given to the nominator of the winning entry. If a title wins that was nominated by The Bookseller staff, the claret will be given at random to a member of the public who participated in the online voting. 

(2) FIYAH FOUNDER Q&A. The latest episode of The Imagination Desk, a podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, is live now, featuring an interview with speculative fiction author Troy L. Wiggins, who is also one of the founders of FIYAH Literary Magazine. Listen in here.

The next episode will be with science fiction author and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang.

Here is the CSI newsletter on Black Speculative Fiction Month activities, which features this podcast, among other things. And here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

(3) ROCKY HORROR LIVE FUNDRAISER. This invitation was sent in Tim Curry’s name for a Rocky Horror Live virtual event to aid the Wisconsin Democratic party.

Right now, we can almost see blue skies through the tears… of the Trump presidency, of course. But we absolutely must keep the pressure on!

That’s why we’re doing the Rocky Horror Show — LIVE — this Halloween night — to help get out the vote in Wisconsin. RSVP and reserve your spot today!

This is a live, once-in-a-lifetime musical livestream event, featuring cast members both old and new. There will be singing, dancing, laughs and plenty of fun.

Chip in any amount to join us for the Rocky Horror Show Livestream on Halloween with Tim Curry, Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, David Arquette, and more!

Featuring musical performances by The Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, and Rumer Willis.

This event is only going to be livestreamed once at 9pm CT on Saturday, October 31st.

(4) SANS CLUE. LitHub confirms, “We Have Edgar Allan Poe to Thank for the Detective Story”.

…These are the similarities between the Dupin stories and Sherlock Holmes, and there are many. One writer said that “The only difference between Dupin and Holmes is the English Channel.” Similarity number one: in both stories we have at the heart a highly intelligent but somewhat eccentric and enigmatic detective. The word detective did not actually exist when Poe was writing, which gives you a sense of how novel he was. He might have taken the idea from a series of magazine articles about a French policeman. Otherwise, he was on his own. This was all his….

(5) MAD, YOU KNOW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Our Culture’s Ongoing, Ever-Evolving Fascination With ‘The Mad Scientist’” on CrimeReads, sf novelist Jane Gilmartin explains why “mad scientists” remain popular characters in sf.

… Examples of the mad scientist/evil genius in everything from comic books to classics spring to mind without even breaking a sweat: Dr. No of James Bond fame, whose experiments with atomic energy cost him his hands as well as his conscience; Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove him to a deal with the devil; Dr. Henry Wu, who fooled around with genetics and opened a questionable theme park in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and, my personal favorite, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, whose work brought to the surface his baser self as Mr. Hyde.

It is the last example, I think, that speaks most clearly to our fears. Scientists are people like the rest of us—multi-faceted, unpredictable and (for the most part) human. Like all of us humans, there’s always that slim chance that they’re going to turn to the proverbial dark side, especially when they get a taste of power….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Connie Willis for “The Winds of Marble Arch”, a precursor to her Blackout/All Clear novel which would win the Best Hugo Novel eleven years later at Renovation. Runner-ups were Harry Turtledove‘s “Forty, Counting Down”, Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion‘s “The Astronaut from Wyoming”, Mike Resnick‘s “Hunting the Snark” and Kage Baker‘s “Son, Observe the Time”. It can be found in The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, the Subterranean Press collection, which is available from the usual digital suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 —  Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might-be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1945 – Jane Chance, Ph.D., D.Litt., 75.  Mellon Distinguished Professor emerita at Rice; first woman appointed to tenure track in English; founder president of the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages; doctorate of letters, Purdue.  For us, six books on Tolkien; a score of others, a hundred articles.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1951 – Melanie Herz, 69.  Hardworking Florida fan.  Many regionals and Worldcons; chaired Traveling Fête 1996, Tropicon 21, OASIS 6. When we’ve been on the same con committee, and particularly when we were on the same DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) ballot, we tried to make sure our mail didn’t get crossed.  Still wasn’t as bad as when I had an office down the hall from a man named Heitz.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 66. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 60. He’s Redgick, a Squid,  a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1960 – David LaRochelle, 60.  A score of children’s books, many with fantasy elements.  Also an amazing astounding stellar thrilling pumpkin carver; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 58. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1969 – Mary Ting, 51.  A score of novels; taught a score of years, toured with the Magic Johnson Foundation.  Makes Twilight-themed jewelry.  Besides husband, children, has two dogs Mochi and Mocha.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 49. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on the most Discovery series . His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, and he showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1972 – Zetta Elliott, Ph.D., 48.  Five novels, seven shorter stories for us; poetry; essays; plays; children’s illustrated books under her Rosetta Press.  “I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide.” [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 47. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I’ll must admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1975 – David Walton, 45.  Author and engineer.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Baen Memorial Award, Campbell Memorial Award, Philip K. Dick Award.  Plays chess and go.  “Science fiction can show us the viewpoints of people whose lives and experiences are so far away from ours that … our minds are stretched and our vision is expanded.”  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds law enforcement pondering why no pumpkin is safe!
  • Yesterday’s Bizarro recalls that time Sesame Street fought for its independence. (Just when was that, anyway?)
  • Jonathan Muroya’s Greek Quarantology shows how all your favorite mythical figures are dealing with life during COVID-19.
  • After you take a look at this Wulffmorgenthaler cartoon for Denmark’s Politiken you’ll want a translation for the dialog (courtesy of Lise Andreasen):

“The death star is flat.”

“Actually, some of us believe, the death star is flat. That being round business is a conspiracy.”

(9) PIRANESI. Camestros Felapton promises substantial spoilers: “Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (substantial spoilers)”. See, what did I tell you?

This was a charming, thoughtful, often whimsical story full of a deep horror that at times wholly unnerved me. I’ll be discussing many key plot points and revelations….

(10) THE DOOM FROM THE SUN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a quirky bit of science news, astronomers recorded a large solar flare that happened to look like a prop from an old science fiction TV show… “NASA satellites capture massive ‘Doomsday machine’ solar flare”.

From the article: “The image of the explosion was described by some as the stuff of science fiction, specifically the Doomsday machine from Star Trek. Fortunately, the CME did not hit Earth.”

(11) SILENT GOLD. Leonard Maltin has a roundup of silent film releases — “Rare Silent Films On Blu-Ray And DVD”. One of them is the rediscovered 1916 version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.  The poster for this movie is very cool.

It’s not a typo: Universal produced a feature-length version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1916, and the new DVD/Blu-ray release is a 4K transfer of the surviving material. Luckily for us, silent film historian Anthony Slide delivers a highly informative commentary track that tracks the careers of underwater-photography specialists Ernest and George Williamson. Indeed, it is their work that makes this release so intriguing, not the hackneyed mishmash of Verne’s famous story and The Mysterious Island. Alan Holubar, then a prominent actor about to turn director, and Jane Gail star. The music score is credited to Orlando Perez Rosso.

(12) SOL SEARCHING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A new way has been found to determine which stars are likely to host weird planetary systems and those stars likely to have planetary systems more like our own Solar system.

The following will appear in next season’s SF² Concatenation but they’ve shared it with File 770 now…

How many Solar system type planetary systems are there in our spiral arm? We may soon be finding out from new research.  Some planetary systems around stars are very unlike our Solar system. For example, they will have what are called hot Jupiters with a gas giant close to their star in an orbit similar to that of Mercury about our sun, rather than beyond the asteroid belt where Jupiter is in our system.

It had been thought that the type of planetary system that forms is determined by the star’s protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.  While this may be so, there is also another factor at play – whether the star formed in comparative isolation or along with loads of others in a stellar nursery.

Up to now it has been impossible to address this question as stars disperse (as the Galaxy rotates, spiral arms oscillate, local stellar conditions etc) from when they were born within a billion years of their formation.  However, ESA’s Gaia star mapping has helped British and German astronomers to determine that whether or not a star is born in a stellar nursery or more isolated by itself, is key to the type of planetary system it will host.

You see the Gaia probe not only maps stars positions, it does it so accurately that after a few years and the star is re-mapped, it is possible to discern its movement, velocity and direction.  What the researchers have found is that they can correlate those stars that seem to be moving more or less parallel to, and with a similar velocity, to other stars. These stars can be assumed to have a common birthplace in a stellar nursery. Other stars that have no movement correlation with others, can be assumed to have been born in comparative isolation. With this in mind, the astronomers looked at 600 stars Gaia had mapped.

What the astronomers found was that systems with hot Jupiters tend to be formed in crowded stellar nurseries, while those with gas giants further from their star almost invariably saw the star’s birth in comparative isolation: there were few such systems with hot Jupiters – a hot Jupiter system was roughly ten times more likely in a star born in a stellar nursery.

As the researchers themselves point out, their discovery has “possible implications for planetary habitability and the likelihood of life in the Universe” questions.  (See Winter, A. J., Kruijssen, J. M. D., Longmore S. N & Chevance, M. (2020) Stellar clustering shapes the architecture of planetary systemsNaturevol. 586, p528-532.)

Planetary systems around stars born in stellar nurseries less likely to have Solar System type planetary arrangement, but will be more likely to have hot Jupiters.

(13) MANDO MERCH. “This RC Baby Yoda Waddles Around Your House Like a 50-Year-Old Toddler” io9 writes that like it’s a bad thing!

…Available this fall for $60, the Star Wars: The Mandalorian the Child “Real Moves Plush” stands 11 inches tall, so it’s slightly smaller than the animatronic figure used in the series. Mattel still managed to stuff it full of electronics, including authentic sound effects and motors to bring it to life.

The Child’s head can turn from side to side, and look up and down while it’s giant ears wiggle, and all the mechanisms are hidden under a flexible outer skin, which makes sense when you say it, but out of context feels like a horrifying thing to say about a baby. His tiny, snuggly robes can also be further adorned with an included Mythosaur skull pendant, like the one gifted to him by Din Djarin at the end of the first season.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/12/20 Petronius Tiberius Tirebiter

(1) ASU CSI PODCAST. The initial episode of the second season of The Imagination Desk podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University is live now, featuring an interview with Ytasha Womack, author of the book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. The next episode will be with sff author and editor Troy L. Wiggins

The Imagination Desk is a series of interviews with authors, scholars, and technologists about how we can harness creativity and imaginative thinking to inspire new work and build better futures. As this long, strange year wanes, we’re launching new set of podcast episodes featuring deep conversations with fascinating collaborators to think about ways we can move forward together.

For the first installment of Season 2, we sat down with Ytasha L. Womack. Ytasha is a Chicago-based filmmaker, dancer, fiction writer, scholar, and the author of the 2013 book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. In this chat, CSI’s Joey Eschrich and Ytasha discuss how culture, art, and storytelling help us to understand the complexity of Black life in the present, as well as transformative prospects for the future.

This conversation with Ytasha is part of our observance of Black Speculative Fiction Month, which takes place every October. Started by authors Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis, Black Speculative Fiction Month honors the role that Black people have played in shaping the culture of speculative fiction and charting the course toward vibrant and equitable futures. We’ll continue to explore these themes in future events and upcoming episodes of The Imagination Desk. Follow along on our website and subscribe to the show on SpotifyApple Podcasts, or RadioPublic.

(2) SHOSHANA EDWARDS Q&A. Conducted by Cat Rambo:

I interviewed Shoshana Edwards, author of Death Lives in the Water: A Harper’s Landing Story from Ring of Fire Press and A Roman Wilderness of Pain. We talk about her writing, neurolinguistics, and current political rhetoric. Shoshana Edwards was born in rural Oregon, attended Portland State University and California State University, Los Angeles. She later earned advanced degrees in English and Rhetoric. Now retired, she lives near Portland, Oregon where she continues to write.

(3) ADA PALMER’S EXOTERRA GAME CRITICIZED. Ashlyn Sparrow’s op-ed “A Game that Threatens Student Intellectual Property”, in the Chicago Maroon, the independent newspaper of the University of Chicago, contends “Ada Palmer’s ExoTerra game has colonial themes and undermines students’ creative freedom.”

During the 2020 fall quarter, Ada Palmer (Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago) launched ExoTerra. The WordPress website for this project describes ExoTerra as “an online collaborative research role-playing game (RPG) community, in which students from all disciplines, from physics to literature, pool their expertise to design a new world.” The game incorporates students via several university courses, including “Self, Culture, and Society 1,” “America in World Civilization I,” and “Europe’s Intellectual Transformations.” What appears like a well-intentioned pedagogical experiment, however, turns out to make lazy narrative choices and, more importantly, undermines the creative labor and intellectual property of University of Chicago undergraduate students.

ExoTerra is a game where “participating students play the crew of a space colony ship traveling from Earth to a newly-terraformed exoplanet.” Sparrow thinks narratives should focus on improving the Earth.

… But as I looked closer at ExoTerra and began to discuss it with colleagues, I grew increasingly concerned. Some of my initial concerns had to do with a narrative frame that focuses on a colonization narrative at a historical moment when Black and Brown people continue to be exploited in the aftermath of global empire in so many ways. In focusing on the creation of a “new civilization,” this game rests on a colonization and Earth escape fantasy that is being celebrated by tech billionaires such as Elon Musk. Rather than improving the Earth, such a narrative takes us further from facing the ills of climate change, unprecedented income inequality, systemic racism, and global pandemic. This is problematic even at an allegorical level or via the cognitive estrangement characteristic of the science fiction genre. There are so many better narrative arcs and fresher sub-genres from which to choose, especially in our current world.

Sparrow points out that participants sign away to Palmer the rights to what they create in the game.

…Palmer (who is also a published science fiction novelist) reserves the right to take any intellectual property that students might contribute to this allegedly collective storytelling game and use it for her own purposes, including fiction she publishes in the future. To be clear, this is not a video game that students play. It is instead a roleplaying and world building game that they are creating together. Yet the material benefits of this shared effort return to a single person: Ada Palmer.

(4) WHAT SPACE LETS CREATORS DO. Dwayne Day reviews the second season of For All Mankind at The Space Review. “In the paler moonlight: the future’s past in ‘For All Mankind’”.

…Setting a program in the near future restricts the writers and what they can do. In contrast, as Hale noted, setting a science fiction show in the far future (or, alternatively, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”) can free up the writers from having to reference—and be limited by—historical or current events that the audience is familiar with. Setting a story in a far distant future can be liberating in terms of storytelling. But it also restricts the writers’ ability to use the show to make social commentary, and their ability to use familiar historical and cultural reference points in their storytelling.

“For All Mankind” has a different set of challenges in terms of storytelling—it is both about our past, and our future, while also inevitably being a commentary about the present. The show’s setting in the 1960s and, for season two, the 1980s, represents a time decades in our past, but still within the living memory of many people. Yet the stories depict a space program that never happened, but still might happen in some way. The Jamestown lunar base in the show is not that different from concepts NASA and its contractors are currently studying. Perhaps in the coming decades, NASA could build something that looks a lot like Jamestown….

(5) WALT WILLIS’ TASFIC SPEECH. Fanac.org announced on FB that thanks to the fan history researches of Rob Hansen in Vince Clarke’s papers, they can present the final draft typescript of Walt Willis’s speech at the 1952 Worldcon, which Willis was able to attend because of the “WAW with the Crew in ’52” fan fund started by Shelby Vick. Here is Joe Siclari’s introduction to the speech:

Although Walt Willis was prolific, the quality of his writing remained very high because he was diligent. In several articles, Walt Willis described some of his writing procedures. Despite what so many people thought was his facile and relaxed style, he worried over pieces and rewrote them. See Warhoon 12, p 22.

Walt’s quality writing was why Shelby Vick created the first really successful campaign to bring a foreign fan to a US Worldcon, “WAW with the Crew in ’52”. You can imagine the excitement when this was successful. You might also imagine the stress when Walt realized that he would have to speak at the TASFiC/Chicon II.

So it seems he wrote a speech beforehand. Not only did he work on it in advance and rewrite and edit it, but it seems he sent it to at least one friend. During his research into Vince Clarke’s papers, Rob Hansen discovered this presentation that you are about to read. It’s probably the closest we will get to what Walt Willis said at the TASFiC. As Rob indicated in a note: “What *isn’t* included, obviously, is whatever off-the-cuff thanks he added after he’d finished reading.”

Not seen in close to 70 years, here is what Rob has called: “The Harp Speaks”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1987 — Thirty-three years ago, the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Novel went to Peter Beagle‘s The Folk of the Air which had been published that year by Ballantine Del Rey. The main character is Joe Farrell, who first appeared as the hero of a short story called “Lila the Werewolf”, making a sequel of sorts to that story. The League for Archaic Pleasures, here described as a group dedicated to the pleasures of the medieval period, is very obviously modelled after the SCA. Thirteen years later, Tamsin would garner him a second Mythopoeic Award, and The New Voices of Fantasy anthology three years ago would get him his third. He also received their Lifetime Achievement Award as well. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1905 – William Kolliker.  Moved from Switzerland to New York at 16.  Illustrated for newspapers e.g. NY AmericanBaltimore News & American.  Art director & editor of The American Weekly 25 years.  Moved to Texas, resigned from business, taught at El Paso Museum of Art; Conquistador Award from El Paso 1963.  A hundred twenty interiors for us.  Here is an interior for “The Weapon Shop” (Astounding, Dec 42).  Here is one for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”.  Here is one for “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”.  Here is a 1979 etching “The Graduate”.  Here is a mid-1970s abstract landscape.   (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1943 – Daphne Patai, Ph.D., 77.  Feminist dissenter, see e.g. What Price Utopia? (2008); Oral History, Feminism, and Politics (2010, in Portuguese).  Outstanding to us for discovering that the author of Swastika Night, published under a pseudonym 1930, was Englishwoman Katherine Burdekin.  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1949 – Barclay Shaw, 71.  A hundred twenty covers, thirty interiors.  Here is The Glass Teathere is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.  Here is The Shockwave Rider.  Here is The Ringworld Throne.  Here is the Mar 01 F&SF.  Chesley for three-dimensional Wonderland.  Artbooks The Art of Barclay ShawElectric Dreams.  Website here (includes 3D animation).  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1951 – Taral Wayne, 69.  Fanartist, pro artist, fanwriter.  Many covers and interiors for fanzines; here is Torus 2; here is File 770 116 (PDF); see more in the cover gallery at his efanzines.com page.  Here is his logograph for IguanaCon II the 36th Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at Anticipation the 67th.  Co-founded Ditto (fanziners’ convention, named for a brand of spirit-duplicator copying machine); Special Guest at Ditto 8.  Toastmaster at Corflu 4 (fanziners’ con, named for mimeograph correction fluid).  CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegate; his CUFF history here.  Numismatist.  Collections Old ToysThe Great White Zine.  Eleven-time Hugo finalist.  FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) award.  Rotsler Award.  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine, 63. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1961 – Susan Power, 59.  Enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe (Dakota).  Law degree from Harvard.  Hemingway/PEN Award for first novel The Grass Dancer (ours); several more novels; shorter fiction in The Atlantic MonthlyParis ReviewPloughsharesStory, a dozen for us in collection Roofwalker.  Voices from the Gaps interview with her here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 55. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine,  but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Tirchworch universe as great looks at him as a writer. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 54. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 52. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the World Fantasy Award winning novel written by the real Christopher Priest. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1974 Kate Beahan, 46. Her best remembered role is as Sister Willow Woodward in the remake of The Wicker Man. In the same year, she was Michell in The Return, a horror film. She showed up on Farscape as Hubero in “Fractures”, and on Lucifer as Justine Doble in “All About Her”. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1992 – Melanie Vogltanz, 28.  Austrian author and translator.  European SF Society Encouragement Award, 2016; shortlisted for several prizes e.g. Kurd Laßwitz.  Five novels, plus six in a Black Blood series; shorter stories collected in On Dark Wings (in German).  I have not yet found translations into English.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHAT CHILD IS THIS. Disney released posters for season 2 of The Mandalorian, including a sad Baby Yoda!

(10) DISNEY DISAPPOINTS EURO MOVIE HOUSES. Naman Ramachandran, in the Variety story “Disney’s ‘Soul’ Decision Upsets European Cinemas” says the European trade association the International Union of Cinemas is mad at Disney because they say they operate safe cinemas and would love to have exhibited Soul.

…“There is compelling evidence that where audiences have returned, they have found the experience both safe and enjoyable,” the UNIC statement said. “But it is also clear that it is the release of new films that will make all the difference in encouraging people back to the big screen.”

“Indeed, across Europe, many cinemas have — since re-opening successfully — screened countless local releases, underlining that first-run titles are now more important than ever.”

(11) SAINTHOOD FOR J.R.R.? Daniel Cote Davis, a promoter of J.R.R. Tolkien Cause for Canonization, will speak in New Zealand on October 31 reports the Tolkien sainthood Facebook group. (See more information about the movement in “Tolkien: An Unexpected Sainthood”.)

Should J.R.R. Tolkien be made a Saint? In this film we explore the Catholic virtue of one of England’s most renowned authors and look beyond the trolls and goblins at what the Lord of the Rings is really trying to say.

(12) IT ALL GOES AROUND. CrowdScience answers the question “Why do planets spin?” in an episode available at the BBC Sounds archive.

Crowdscience solves a range of listeners’ cosmic mysteries, from the reason we only ever see one side of the moon, to why planets spin, and discover the answer can be found in the formation of the solar system. We talk to astronomer Dr Carolin Crawford to understand how stars are made, and investigate the art of astronomy with journalist Jo Marchant, hearing how the ancient Greeks came up with a zodiac long before the invention of a telescope, revealing an intimate relationship between humans and the night sky.

(13) WOMEN OF SFF IN THE SIXTIES. Fanac.org has posted to its YouTube channel a recording from Boskone 6 in 1969, “The Feminine Viewpoint,” moderated by Hal Clement, with Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Larry Niven. NESFA and Rick Kovalcik provided the recording.

Moderated by Hal Clement, this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images) is a 1960s view of feminism and the female viewpoint in SF by two of SF’s most successful women writers of the day. It is uncomfortable in parts by today’s standards, with comments like “you can’t be a feminist if you like being a woman”, and remarks about fanzines that discount female writers solely because of their sex. Hal Clement is the neutral moderator, and Larry Niven provides a male perspective. This panel is dominated by MZB and Anne McCaffrey, who express their views on women in the field, on the differences in fiction written by woman and men, and on the disadvantages attendant on being a female science fiction writer. Remember, Anne McCaffrey was born in 1926 and MZB in 1930. Their opinions were shaped by the times. It’s a fascinating snapshot of the times.

The audio recording is accompanied by contemporary photos, including one of Walter Breen and MZB, just so you know.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/20 I Been In The Right Pixel—But It Must Have Been The Wrong Scroll

(1) THE COUNT OF MOUNT TSUNDOKU. “100 Most Popular Fantasy Books on Goodreads”. I’ve read 16 of 100 – I’m not a voracious fantasy fan. See how well you do. Here’s what ranks at the top of the heap:

Dragons, demons, kings, queens, and the occasional farm boy (with a special destiny, of course): Fantasy literature has it all! To celebrate our favorite fictional worlds and characters, we went on a quest for the 100 most popular fantasies of all time on Goodreads, as determined by your fellow members.

Of course, as fantasy readers know, the journey itself matters just as much as the destination. To create our list, we first sought out the most reviewed books on our site. Additionally, each title needed at least a 3.5-star rating to join our fellowship of titles. And, since fantasy is known for its epic sagas, in the case of multiple titles from the same series we chose the one with the most reviews.

Here are the top fantasy books on Goodreads, listed from 1 to 100.

(2)  VIRTUAL SPACE AND SFFCON. CosmoQuest, a citizen science research organization, is holding a virtual con Friday, July 17 through Sunday, July 19 focused on space and science fiction. CosmoQuest-a-Con’s main events are free to watch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx, but you can also buy a $20 ticket for other space talks, author readings, concerts, and demos. The funds go to providing benefits to CosmoQuest’s part-time staff. The con’s home page is here.

(3) HARASSMENT REPORTED. Extreme horror author Tim Miller was called out as a harasser by M.M. Schill and others. Thread begins here. Miller’s social media is no longer available (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). His website remains online. (Note: It’s not the director of the same name.)

Schill also indicated this callout could be shared.

(4) AFROFUTURISM. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will offer “Sheree Renée Thomas and Friends on Afrofuturism and the Magic of Storytelling and Music” on July 18. Register at the link.

Sheree has more knowledge on the topic of the history of Afrofuturism than anyone we ever met, not to mention an incredible ability to bring it to life through nothing less than magic and wonder. Also coming on the show will be Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan, and Danian Darrell Jerry. This Saturday, the 18th of July.

We will explore the magic of storytelling and music, and the power of community and art to affect personal and prophetic change.

(5) NOTHING UP MY SLEEVE. James Davis Nicoll comes up with “Five Strategies for Hiding a ‘Lost’ Civilization” at Tor.com.

Suppose for the moment that one is a science fiction or fantasy author, and further suppose that one wanted to posit a past great civilization whose existence comes as a complete surprise to modern folk. Let us also suppose that one wanted overlooking this lost civilization to be plausible… How might one go about this?

I’d tend to reject the “a secretive cabal always knew but kept it secret” explanation. People gossip. People love to show off their insider knowledge. People sometimes accidentally cut and paste entire sections of texts they’d really rather the world not know about into their tweets. Even valuable trade secrets tend to leak out given enough time. So where to hide a lost civilization? Here are five possibilities, to be used together or in concert….

(6) SOME TRUTH IS OUT THERE. “I recently discovered that—unlike in my twenties—at 46 years old I am able to spend innumerable hours watching The X-Files unassisted by marijuana.” “I don’t want to believe” at Affidavit.

… Over the last three months, two things have happened to me. Firstly, I’ve come to recognize my younger self in the character of Agent Fox Mulder, and feel shame appropriate to such an identification. Secondly, I’ve entered that most dangerous of all psychological terrain: nostalgia.

(7) PRO TIP. Ligtspeed’s “Author Spotlight” is on Adam-Troy Castro:

You reference Chekhov’s Gun, but adhere more scrupulously to the original quote than commonly seen: What’s your favorite advice to writers? Is there advice you commonly flout?

My favorite advice to writers is to wring the emotional reaction from yourself, first. When writing humor, you need to barely stand how witty you’re being; when you’re writing tragedy, you need to weep; when writing horror, you need to be appalled that this monstrous stuff is coming out of you. Hell, if you’re writing a thriller, you need to fear for your characters. Honestly, if you don’t react yourself, if it’s just a technical exercise, no one else is going to care either.

(8) IMAGINARY PAPERS 3. Today the Center for Science and the Imagination published the third issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. This issue features writing from SF author Troy L. Wiggins and the science writer Kate Greene. Here is a direct link, and here is a link to subscribe for future issues.

(9) GÖRG OBIT. Galyn Görg, a dancer and actress who appeared on such shows as Twin Peaks and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and in films including Point Break and RoboCop 2, has died of cancer at the age of 55.

… Görg starred as police detective Leora Maxwell on the 1994-95 Fox sci-fi drama M.A.N.T.I.S., co-created by Sam Raimi, and played Nancy O’Reilly, the sister of One Eyed Jacks madam Blackie O’Reilly (Victoria Catlin), on three episodes of ABC’s Twin Peaks in 1990.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe serial first aired. This black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures, originally began life as a proposed syndicated television series. It was written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman, and was directed by Harry Keller,  Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon. The cast was Judd Holdren as Commando Cody, Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert, William Schallert as Ted Richards and Richard Crane as Dick Preston . There would be twelve twenty five episodes. You can see the first episode, ‘Enemies of the Universe” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 16, 1723 –  Sir Joshua Reynolds.  First President of the Royal Academy of Arts.  Famed as a portraitist.  Intellectual enough to keep company with Burke, Goldsmith, Johnson.  Painting mythological subjects calls for fantasy: here is Juno Receiving the Cestus from Venushere is Diana Disarming Cupidhere is Theory.  (Died 1792) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in  “The Deadly Years” episode. 0ther genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The Munsters, House of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1916 – Paul Freehafer.  Joined the SF League in 1934, thus part of First Fandom (active at least as early as the first Worldcon, 1939) although 1F was not organized, if the word may be used, until much later.  So helpful to his local club the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) that its service award is the Evans-Freehafer (after E. Everett Evans and PF).  Fanzine, Polaris.  More here. (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1920 – Stan Woolston.  Printer and fan.  Life member of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n (N3F), edited Tightbeam, served on Welcommittee, earned the Kaymar.  Lifelong friend of Len Moffatt (published SF Parade with him), Rick Sneary.  Big Heart (our highest service award, community-wide).  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms being my favorite works by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the aKindle store but not in the iBook store. H’h. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1943 – Bruce Boston, 77.  Two novels; a hundred shorter stories in AmazingAsimov’sRealms of FantasySF AgeStrange Horizons; poems dusting our skies like strange stars.  Seven Rhyslings; Pushcart Prize; first Grand Master of the SF Poetry Ass’n.  Has chaired the Nebula Award jury for novels, the Philip K. Dick Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1951 – Sue Thomas, 69.  Coined the term “technobiophilia” and wrote a book about it.  Two novels; anthology Wild Women.  Correspondent, reviewer, in FocusFoundationMatrix, Paperback InfernoVector.  [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 69. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She’s better stocked in the Kindle store than in the iBooks Store. (CE) 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 57. Ok, do her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 53. His last film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favorite Award, Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1975 – Lucian Dragos Bogdan, 45.  Author, caricaturist (the ”s” in his name should have a tiny comma under it for the sound English spells ”sh”). Likes rock music and the Tao Tê Ching (or, if you’d rather, Daodejing).  A dozen novels, thirty short stories, in our field; also mystery & thriller, romance.  Website in EnglishFrenchRomanian. [JH]

(12)COMICS SECTION.

(13) NOW A SHADOW OF ITS FORMER SELF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia sketches “A Brief History of Mexican Horror Comic Books” at Tor.com.

When people ask me if I like comic books I always have a split-second reaction. The answer is no. But it’s a nuanced no. I don’t like superhero comic books, but I grew up reading plenty of other stuff.

While in the United States “comic book” can be read as a synonym for “superhero,” such a correlation has not traditionally existed in Mexico. Mexican artists during their Golden Age were more interested in other kinds of content. This doesn’t mean there weren’t any superheroes—Fantomas, El Santo and Kalimán come to mind—but you were more likely to find other sorts of local comic books. And when people thought comic books, they probably thought historietas, monitos, una de vaqueros, all of which conjure something very far from Superman, Batman or the X-Men….

(14) TIME AFTER TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Garry Trudeau about his new book Lewser! More Doonesbury In The Age Of Trump.  Trudeau discusses how he satirizes Trump, including how he draws the president’s hair, and how “for the most part, I’ve stayed away” from satirizing Trump’s children “and I’m not sure why.” “Garry Trudeau is spoofing the Trump presidency by treating it as ‘a hostile takeover’”.

… “There has been never the slightest danger of running out of inspiration — Trump serves up a banquet of lies, obfuscation and cruelty almost daily,” says Trudeau, whose new material runs every Sunday. “Steve Allen once said that comedy is tragedy plus time, but in Trump’s case, the passage of time is wholly optional.”

(15) THEY HAVE A LITTLE LIST. “So which comics companies got PPP loans?” ComicsBeat will satiate your curiosity on this score.

… Back when this pandemic thing first began, several economic relief packages were floated as part of the CARES Act, including small business loans known as PPP (Payment Protection Program) loans. The loans were to help with payroll to keep people employed – with the loans forgivable if 60% of the money went to payroll.

… It’s also not anything to be ashamed of – applying for aid during an economic shutdown is a smart move to keep people on the payroll and keep companies afloat, and it’s good that these comics companies were able to receive aid.

Now, we did hear that many actual small businesses, including comics shops, had a harder time getting loans, and there are lots of stories about billionaires getting payouts, from Kanye West to Soho House. And of course there was fraud, like using PPP money to pay for a new house in the case of the CEO of Wendy’s. Nice one!

(16) HEROES ASSEMBLE. In “Chris Evans Sends Captain America Shield to Young Boy Who Saved His Sister From Dog Attack”, Variety reports that Evans joined a bunch of other actors who play superheroes to cheer up Bridger Walker, a nine-year-old who got 90 stitches after protecting his four-year-old sister from a charging dog.

…“I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot over the last couple of the days, but let me be the next one to tell you: Pal, you’re a hero,” Evans said. “What you did was so brave, so selfless, your sister is so lucky to have you as a big brother. Your parents must be so proud of you.”

(17) IG NOBEL NOMINEE. Snakes! It has to be snakes – who can out-eat hot dog chugging humans. “Scientists Have Finally Calculated How Many Hot Dogs a Person Can Eat at Once”.

The world’s best hot dog eaters could outeat a grizzly bear or a coyote, but would fall far behind a wolf or a Burmese python, a new study finds.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, with streams of sweat pouring down his face, Joey Chestnut broke his own world record for hot dog eating, by downing 75 hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. It was his 13th win at the annual contest. And Miki Sudo set a women’s record, 48.5 hot dogs, to grab her seventh straight Nathan’s win.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, the event was held virtually this year, and Dr. James Smoliga was glued to his screen, rooting for new records. For the past few months, Dr. Smoliga, a veterinarian and exercise scientist, had been working on a mathematical analysis of the maximum number of hot dogs that a human could theoretically consume in 10 minutes.

“The answer is 83,” said Dr. Smoliga, a professor at High Point University in North Carolina.

He has now published the full analysis, which calculated this number based on 39 years of historical data from the Nathan’s contest, as well as on mathematical models of human performance that consider the potential for extreme athletic feats.

“It’s a great paper,” said Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician at the Mayo Clinic who studies human performance, adding that the analysis shows the classic fast rise in performance followed by more gradual improvements that happen when an event becomes professionalized. The best part, he said, is that Dr. Smoliga wrote it with a straight face.

(18) SPACE: 1999 REDUX. “Nuclear blast sends star hurtling across galaxy”. Looking for a gas station?

A star has been sent hurtling across the galaxy after undergoing a partial supernova, astronomers say.

A supernova is a powerful explosion that occurs when some stars reach the ends of their lives; in this case, the blast was not sufficient to destroy it.

Instead, it sent the star hurtling through space at 900,000 km/hr.

Astronomers think the object, known as a white dwarf, was originally circling another star, which would have been sent flying in the opposite direction.

When two stars orbit each other like this, they are described as a “binary”. Only one of the stars has been detected by astronomers, however.

The object, known as SDSS J1240+6710, was previously found to have an unusual atmospheric composition.

Discovered in 2015, it seemed to contain neither hydrogen nor helium (which are usually found), appearing to be composed instead of an unusual mix of oxygen, neon, magnesium and silicon.

(19) WRINKLES IN TIME. “Desert telescope takes aim at ageing our Universe” – BBC has the story.

Another telescope has entered the debate about the age and expansion rate of the Universe.

This topic has recently become the subject of an energetic to and fro among scientists using different astronomical facilities and techniques.

The new entrant is the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile.

It’s been studying the “oldest light” on the sky and has concluded the Big Bang occurred 13.77 billion years ago, give or take 40 million years.

That’s almost exactly the same number we got from Europe’s flagship Planck space observatory mission, which mapped the ancient light in the early 2010s.

But therein lies the problem because other telescopes using different methods have come out with ages that are a few hundred million years younger.

What they’ve all been trying to do is measure what’s known as the Hubble Constant – the value used by astronomers to describe cosmic expansion.

(20) OLD GUARD, NEW LOOK. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday interviews The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the first Black director of a superhero movie, about what it was like to direct the film and the choices she made in directing women that were different than what male directors would do. “Gina Prince-Bythewood is the first black woman to direct a major comic-book movie. It looks like the future.”

… When she began tackling the material, she adds, her identity as an African American woman informed nearly every decision she made. “The things that I influenced, that I noticed, that I corrected, that I amplified, absolutely come from a black female lens,” she says firmly. Although she was thrilled with Rucka’s original script, she asked him to flesh out Nile’s backstory, adding layers having to do with her family and experience in the military (where, not incidentally, her colleagues are women of color, much like the institution itself). Even the film’s many fight scenes bear the signature of someone who is coming from a different angle than the usual white male gaze. One in particular, between Andy and Nile on a cargo plane, was particularly sensitive for Prince-Bythewood.

(21) COGNITIVE DISSONANCE TIME. What’s gotten into Tor.com’s headline writers? “Let Henry Cavill Show You Parts You’ve Never Seen Before… As He Assembles This Gaming PC”. But Emmet Asher-Perrin says —

It’s not what you think, promise.

In fact, Cavill used this opportunity to play some very sexy music while he… assembled his gaming PC…. 

Does it seem strange to see such humor in a headline after reading one of the items above?

(22) DEBUT NOVELIST. From Goodreads: “Lindsay Ellis: How Science Fiction Makes Sense of the Present”.

Until this summer, Lindsay Ellis was mainly known as a super smart and witty film critic and YouTube essayist… This month, Ellis’ debut science fiction novel, Axiom’s End, arrives….

I was eight years old when Lois Lowry’s The Giver was released in 1993, and it became an instant turning point for me, not only for my relationship to books in general, but to science fiction in particular. Anti-authority narratives for children are extremely common—it’s pretty much the basis for all of Nickelodeon’s marketing—but narratives for young children tend to have cartoonishly evil authority figures who are obviously in the wrong. The Giver, in contrast, presents us with what appears to be a utopia, challenging the young reader with a simple, comforting authority structure that over the course of the narrative the protagonist Jonah learns not only has sapped his community’s members of their humanity, but does monstrous things in its bid to maintain control.

One of the main hallmarks of science fiction is the use of social constructs, technologies, and futures that do not yet exist—and may never exist—as a means of exploring our present. In the case of The Giver, it was the first book I read that used science fiction to create (to an eight year old, anyway) mind-blowing revelations about the nature of society and the individual’s relationship to it. The Giver is one of those books that serves as a perfect gateway for children who are just beginning to learn that change is inevitable, that well-meaning people can be wrong, and that solutions to problems are not always obvious. …

(23) LEFANU ON TV. “Carmilla–Official UK Trailer” on YouTube is a trailer for a “reimagined” version of J.S. LeFanu’s great horror novella which is now being streamed in the U.S.

Isolated from the outside world, fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae, “Broadchurch”, Fighting with My Family) lives in seclusion on a vast country estate with her father and strict governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine, “Patrick Melrose”, “Jericho”). Late one evening, a mysterious carriage crash brings a young girl (Devrim Lingnau) into their home to recuperate. Lara immediately becomes enchanted by this strange visitor who arouses her curiosity and awakens her burgeoning desires.

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

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 4/16/20 And Faintly Falling, Like The Descent Of Their Last End, Upon All The Scrolling And The Filed

(1) STUCK INSIDE. BBC’s Doctor Who site has posted a new short story by Paul Cornell, “The Shadow Passes”. The setup is —

… She’d been thinking that when Graham had found the sign. It had said, the letters wobbling a little in the way that indicated the TARDIS was translating for them, ‘This way to the shelters’.

‘Am I over-reacting,’ Graham had said, ‘or is that just a tiny bit worrying?’

Which was how they’d ended up in a bare room, one hundred feet underground, sitting in a circle, with the names of famous people stuck to their foreheads….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The annual mystery convention, which was to have been held in Sacramento, CA in October has been cancelled. Provisions will be made for the Anthony Awards and some other components of the con.

We’re terribly sad to tell you this, but out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and safety of our community, we are canceling Bouchercon 2020.

We have no way of knowing what the balance of this year holds for groups of people gathering, nor can we tell what the state of travel will be.

While we are canceling the actual Bouchercon convention, we are working to develop a different format for some of the Bouchercon events and activities such as the Anthony Awards, the short story anthology and the General Membership meeting. Nominations will continue to be open until June 5 for the Anthony Awards. As we work to develop other ways to present a traditional Bouchercon experience, we’ll keep in touch with you.

(3) VINTAGE ROLL. Via Shelf Awareness, a photo from the owners of a Sewickley, PA bookstore: “Toilet Paper Shortage Update: Penguin Bookshop”.

I inherited this 25-year-old roll of penguin toilet paper when I bought the Penguin in 2014. And darn it! Come hell or high water (or no more tp) we aren’t going to use it now.

Jim Freund said online, “I think The Penguin Shop, formerly headquartered in Brooklyn and with a physical store at the South Street Seaport called ‘Next Stop, South Pole’ used to carry that TP.  25 years ago sounds about right, so they may well have gotten it from there.”

(4) PAINT YOUR STARSHIP. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler finds women sff authors in 1965 – but it isn’t easy: “[Apr. 16, 1965] The Second Sex In Sff, Part VIII”. Six are named in this post.

It’s been almost two years since the last edition of our The Second Sex in SFF series came out.  In that time, women have only gotten more underrepresented in our genre.  Nevertheless, new women authors continue to arrive on the scene, and some who produced under gender-ambiguous names have become known to me…

(5) WHY THE FUTURE IS COVERED IN KUDZU. Geoff Manaugh, in “Tax Incentives and the Human Imagination” on Bldgblog, says that the landscape of horror films often depends on which state or country offers the biggest tax deductions, including such obscure ones as the amount of expenses caterers can deduct.

…My point is that an entire generation of people—not just Americans, but film viewers and coronavirus quarantine streamers and TV binge-watchers around the world—might have their imaginative landscapes shaped not by immaterial forces, by symbolic archetypes or universal rules bubbling up from the high-pressure depths of human psychology, but instead by tax breaks offered in particular U.S. states at particular moments in American history.

You grow up thinking about Gothic pine forests, or you fall asleep at night with visions of rain-soaked Georgia parking lots crowding your head, but it’s not just because of the aesthetic or atmospheric appeal of those landscapes; it’s because those landscapes are, in effect, receiving imaginative subsidies from local business bureaus. You’re dreaming of them for a reason….

(6) READ A KIJ JOHNSON STORY. Us in Flux is a new series of short stories and virtual gatherings from the Center for Science and the Imagination that explore themes of community, collaboration, and collective imagination in response to transformative events. The project’s second story launched today: “An Attempt at Exhausting My Deck,” by Kij Johnson.

On Monday, April 20 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have a virtual event on Zoom with Kij in conversation with Jessie Rack, an ecologist and coordinator for the Supporting Environmental Education and Communities program at the University of Arizona.

Programming Note: They’ll have two more weekly installments (stories by Chinelo Onwualu and Tochi Onyebuchi), then continue publishing on a biweekly schedule.  

(7) DENNEHY OBIT. Actor Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81. His genre work included the movie Cocoon (1985), the Masters of Science Fiction episode “The Discarded” (2007) – based on a Harlan Ellison story, and voice work in Ratatouille (2007).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 16, 1913 Lester Tremayne. Between 1953 and 1962, he appeared in these in these genre films: The War of the WorldsForbidden PlanetThe Monolith MonstersThe Angry Red Planet and Kong vs. Godzilla. He’d later appear in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaMy Favorite MartianMy Living Doll (yes, it’s SF) and Shazam! (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 16, 1918 Spike Milligan. Writer and principal star of The Goon Show which lampooned  a number of genre works such as H. Rider Haggard’s She, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Quatermass and the Pit. You can find these scripts in The Goon Show Scripts and More Goon Show Scripts. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: a James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction sounds fascinating published in the late Fifties, he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both a radio and television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 58. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb.
  • Born April 16, 1963 Scott Nicolay, 57. Navajo writer whose “Do You Like to Look At Monsters?“ was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. It’s found in his Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed collection. He hosts The Outer Dark, a weekly podcast about weird fiction.
  • Born April 16, 1983 Thomas Olde Heuvelt, 37. He won a Novelette Hugo at Sasquan for “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” (translated by Lia Belt). He’s best for HEX, a horror novel, and  “You Know How the Story Goes: A Tor.com Original”  is his other English language story. 

(10) BIRTHDAY QUIZ. And via Lise Andreasen (translated from this tweet):

Who am I?
One of my names is þórhildur.
I appear on stamps from Greenland.
One of my ancestors was Harald Bluetooth.
I illustrated Tolkien under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.
I turn 80 today. 

Answer: The Danish queen. 

(11) CAN YOU DO THIS? Wil Wheaton publicized an opportunity for 3D makers to help frontline workers: “Gamers vs. COVID-19”. Contact info at the link.

My upcoming eSports competition show, Gamemaster, has been delayed like everything else, but the people involved wanted to use the resources they had already mustered for production to do some good at a moment in time when it’s so desperately needed.

So we’re organizing to 3D print what we can for our frontline healthcare workers!

(12) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Anna Nemtova, in “Chernobyl Is Burning and a Sci-Fi Cult Is Blamed” on The Daily Beast, says that there are substantial fires in Ukraine near Chenobyl (closed to all visitors because of the coronavirus) and authorities blame “stalkers,” devotees of the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky novel Roadside Picnic, who are living on refuse left behind in the new sealed-off region, just like the “stalkers” in the Strugatsky brothers’ novel were scavengers who lived on refuse left behind by alien visitors.

…The Ukrainian state agency monitoring radiation levels has reported toxic lithium in the air, but the health minister reportedly says radiation levels are normal. Meanwhile, winds have brought the smoke in the direction of Kyiv, making hundreds of thousands of people under COVID-19 quarantine think twice before opening windows.

As often happens with wildfires, the cause of the blaze is not entirely clear. But in a truly strange twist, many in the region blame people who call themselves “stalkers,” inspired by characters in the classic science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic published back in 1972, in the Soviet era, by authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 

It’s a story of how people on Earth deal with a visit by aliens who seem to have stopped off, paid little attention to the inhabitants, and, like irresponsible picnickers, left a lot of their junk lying around in half a dozen “Zones” on the planet. The aliens’ discarded refuse has enormous potential to change life on the planet, if only humans can figure out what it’s for. 

Most of the present-day stalkers are respectful of the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl and some have even fixed up abandoned apartments in the abandoned town of Pripyat. But there are also criminals, and there are constant conflicts with what had been booming legal tourism in the area before coronavirus lockdowns began March 16.

“They hate us tourist guides and our tourists,” Olena Gnes from Chernobyl Tour told The Daily Beast. “Now, when no tourists can travel to Chernobyl’s zone, the ghost city and the villages around belong to them.” 

“The fire started right on the paths, where stalkers normally walk,” said Yaroslav Emelianenko, director of the Chernobyl Tour group, who saw the fire and visited burned villages Sunday, then returned to Kyiv to collect generators, respirators, and other aid for firefighters….

(13) SILVER SLATE. To make sure the Dragon Awards continue to enjoy the reputation they have today, Superversive SF signal boosted “Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards”. Silver Empire publisher Russell Newquist’s stable includes all of these authors, plus John C. Wright and more.

Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards

  • Best Sci Fi: Overlook by Jon Mollison
  • Best Fantasy (incl. Paranormal): Victory’s Kiss by Bokerah Brumley
  • Best YA: The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
  • Best Mi-SF: Justified by Jon Del Arroz
  • Best Alt History: This Deadly Engine by (Philip) Matt Ligon
  • Best Horror: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

(14) RHETORIC…ARISTOTLE…SOMETHING. Five years later (!), Chris Nuttall is still trying to reshape what the Sad and Rabid Puppies did into an argument he can win: “The Right to be Wrong”.

…For example, a few years ago, I attended a panel at a convention that touched on the Sad Puppies controversy.  One of the panellists put forward an argument that went a little like this: “Vox Day supports the Sad Puppies, Vox Day is a fascist bastard, therefore the Sad Puppies are evil.”  Quite apart from the sheer number of inaccuracies in the statement, it misses the fundamental point that [whatever] is not rendered right or wrong by whoever says it.  Just because Vox Day said something doesn’t make it automatically wrong.  That argument leads to logical fallacies like “Hitler was a vegetarian and openly promoted the lifestyle, therefore vegetarians are evil.”  I’m pretty sure that every last vegetarian would find that fallacy offensive.

The Sad Puppies affair does show, on a small scale, the problems caused by bad faith arguments.  No one would have objected to a statement that started “the Sad Puppy books are not Hugo-worthy” and gone on to give a calm and reasonable argument.  Even if the arguments were unconvincing, they would not have the corrosive effects of bad faith arguments like the one I mentioned above and many more. …

(15) AT THE CORE. “Astronomers saw a star dancing around a black hole. And it proves Einstein’s theory was right”CNN has the details.

… Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity suggested the orbit would look like an ellipse, but it doesn’t. The rosette shape, however, holds up Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“Einstein’s general relativity predicts that bound orbits of one object around another are not closed, as in Newtonian gravity, but precess forwards in the plane of motion,” said Reinhard Genzel, in a statement. He is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

…Sagittarius A* is the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It’s 26,000 light-years from the sun. Our solar system exists on the edge of one of the Milky Way’s massive spiral arms.

Dense stars can be found around the black hole. One of them, the star known as S2 in this observation, passes closest to the black hole within less than 20 billion kilometers.

It’s one of the closest stars to be found orbiting the black hole.

And when it nears the black hole, the star is moving at 3% the speed of light. It takes 16 Earth years for the star to complete an orbit around the black hole.

“After following the star in its orbit for over two and a half decades, our exquisite measurements robustly detect S2’s Schwarzschild precession in its path around Sagittarius A*,” said Stefan Gillessen, who led the analysis of the measurements at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

(16) PYRAMID IN THE SKY. “Europe’s Cheops telescope begins study of far-off worlds”.

Europe’s newest space telescope has begun ramping up its science operations.

Cheops was launched in December to study and characterise planets outside our Solar System.

And after a period of commissioning and testing, the orbiting observatory is now ready to fulfil its mission.

Early targets for investigation include the so-called “Styrofoam world” Kelt-11b; the “lava planet” 55 Cancri-e; and the “evaporating planet” GJ-436b.

Discovered in previous surveys of the sky, Cheops hopes to add to the knowledge of what these and hundreds of other far-flung objects are really like.

…Kelt-11b has provided a good early demonstration. This is a giant exoplanet some 30% larger than our own Jupiter that orbits very close to a star called HD 93396. Kelt-11b is a seemingly “puffed up” world with a very low density – hence the comparison with expanded foam.

From the way the light from the star dips when Kelt-11b moves in front to make its transit, Cheops’ exquisite photometer instrument is able to determine the planet’s diameter to be 181,600km (plus or minus 4,290km). This measurement is over five times more precise than was possible using a ground-based telescope.

(17) MATTER OF IMPORTANCE. BBC reports “Biggest cosmic mystery ‘step closer’ to solution”.

Stars, galaxies, planets, pretty much everything that makes up our everyday lives owes its existence to a cosmic quirk.

The nature of this quirk, which allowed matter to dominate the Universe at the expense of antimatter, remains a mystery.

Now, results from an experiment in Japan could help researchers solve the puzzle – one of the biggest in science.

It hinges on a difference in the way matter and antimatter particles behave.

…During the first fractions of a second of the Big Bang, the hot, dense Universe was fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs popping in and out of existence. Without some other, unknown mechanism at play, the Universe should contain nothing but leftover energy.

“It would be pretty boring and we wouldn’t be here,” Prof Stefan Söldner-Rembold, head of the particle physics group at the University of Manchester, told BBC News.

So what happened to tip the balance?

That’s where the T2K experiment comes in. T2K is based at the Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory, based underground in the Kamioka area of Hida, Japan.

(18) VACCINE RESEARCH. “Global race to a COVID-19 vaccine” — a bit Harvard-centric, but a lot of detail on various approaches.

In Dan Barouch’s lab, many researchers have not taken a day off since early January, and virtually all are working nearly seven days week to develop a vaccine that could help end the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everybody wants to contribute to this global crisis as best they can,” said Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The team hopes their work will be worth it. There is cause for optimism.

The lab developed a vaccine in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos., the drug-making arm of Johnson & Johnson. It plans to launch clinical trials in the fall as part of a joint $1 billion collaboration agreement announced by the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson on March 30…..

(19) ALGOLRITHIM AND BLUES. “Coronavirus: Facebook alters virus policy after damning misinformation report”.

Facebook is changing how it treats Covid-19 misinformation after a damning report into its handling of the virus.

Users who have read, watched or shared false coronavirus content will receive a pop-up alert urging them to go the World Health Organisation’s website.

A study had indicated Facebook was frequently failing to clamp down on false posts, particularly when they were in languages other than English.

Facebook said the research did not reflect the work it had done recently.

The California tech firm says it will start showing the messages at the top of news feeds “in the coming weeks”.

The messages will direct people to a World Health Organisation webpage where myths are debunked.

The changes have been prompted by a major study of misinformation on the platform across six languages by Avaaz, a crowdfunded activist group.

Researchers say millions of Facebook users continue to be exposed to coronavirus misinformation, without any warning on the platform.

The group found some of the most dangerous falsehoods had received hundreds of thousands of views, including claims like “black people are resistant to coronavirus” and “Coronavirus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide”.

(20) WHAT GOES AROUND. The coronavirus has turned this bus into the “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here” Express. (Reference explained at the link.)

(21) KEEP THEM DOGIES ROLLIN’. Digital Trends tells how “Stanford’s shape-shifting ‘balloon animal’ robot could one day explore space”.

The cool thing about balloon animals is that, using the same basic inflatable building blocks, a skilled person can create just about anything you could ask for. That same methodology is what’s at the heart of a recent Stanford University and University of California, Santa Barbara, soft robotics project. Described by its creators as a “large-scale isoperimetric soft robot,” it’s a human-scale robot created from a series of identical robot roller modules that are mounted onto inflatable fabric tubes. Just like the balloon animals you remember, this leads to some impressive shape-shifting inventiveness….

[Thanks to Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff (this is the other half of a suggestion, the first part of which ran last year on June 15).]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/20 The Scroll Won’t Roll Because The Mxyzptlks Took The Pxl-Klickms

(1) IMAGINARY PAPERS. The second issue of Imaginary Papers, a quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination from the Center for Science and the Imagination, features writing from SF author Indrapramit Das and ecologist Jessie Rack. Here is a direct link. Also, you can also use this link to subscribe for future issues.

(2) MORE BRAM STOKER PLANS. The Horror Writers Association will stream the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony on HWA’s YouTube channel on April 18. Prior to the Awards, see some of the nominees read from their works.

Here’s the schedule so far (times are PST):
BLOCK 1 (5 p.m.):
Gemma Amor (First Novel) reading from Dear Laura
Eric J. Guignard (First Novel) reading from Doorways to the Deadeye

BLOCK 2 (5:15 p.m.):
Peter Adam Salomon (Young Adult Novel) reading from Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds
Kate Jonez (Fiction Collection) reading from Lady Bits

BLOCK 3 (5:30 p.m.):
Greg Chapman (Short Fiction) reading from “The Book of Last Words”
Gwendolyn Kiste (Short Fiction) reading from “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)”
John Kachuba (Nonfiction) reading from Shapeshifters: A History

BLOCK 4 (5:45 p.m.):
Eric J. Guignard (Anthology) reading from Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror
Colleen Doran (Graphic Novel) reading from Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples

(3) DATLOW ON YOUTUBE. Dacre Stoker interviews Ellen Datlow, Editor of Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, which made it on to the HWA Final Ballot for the 2020 Stoker Awards. Video hosted on the Horror Writers Association YouTube channel.

Other Stoker finalists interviewed on the HWA YouTube channel include Including Kaaron Warren, Greg Chapman, Caitlin Starling, John Langan, Kelly Robinson, and Tim Waggoner.

The website for StokerCon™ 2021 Denver is up and running! Click here to check it out.

(4) BUHLERT IN THE PAPER. Cora Buhlert says, “The local paper [Weser Kurier] did a profile about me, because I’m a Hugo finalist and those are thin on the ground in Germany, let alone in my area (Simone Heller and Marko Kloos are both from other parts of Germany).” It’s in German — “Wie eine Seckenhauserin den wichtigsten Science-Fiction-Preis abräumen könnte”. Here’s an excerpt rendered in English by Google Translate: 

…She is also one of the authors of the international blog Galactic Journey, which has also been nominated for the Hugo Award this year.

The clocks tick a little differently on the platform, strictly speaking 55 years before our time. Galactic Journey picks up on the events of the time – also with reference to the home of the authors. Cora Buhlert mentions, for example, that Werder Bremen just became German soccer champion in 1965. Science fiction does not always have to be geared towards the future: “Time travel has always been part of it,” says Buhlert.

Cora adds, “The other local paper (I live in the overlap area of the coverage of two newspapers) is also going to do an interview.”

(5) IN THE ZON. John Scalzi wrote a post about how his newly released book The Last Emperox ranked in various Amazon marketing categories – which is very well.

This elicited a comment from Rick Hellewell (a name I recognize from Jerry Pournelle’s blog) about a very interesting tool he’s put online, which is free to use. He explained:

If you want to look at the sales ranking, and see the ranking of all the Zon categories (you can have up to 10), try out my BKLNK site. This link https://www.bklnk.com/categories5.php will allow you get the info by using the ASIN or ISBN-10 numbers.

I built the BKLNK site for UBLs that can have Affiliate links for the proper Zon store automatically, then added the CATFIND (category finder) to see all the categories assigned to my books. Although the Zon allows you to have up to 10 categories (by special requires), you can’t see all 10 categories on the book’s product page. The CATFIND tool lets you see all categories (and sales rank) assigned to a book.

I’m in the middle of adding a new feature (called ‘Catalize’) that will grab the categories used by the top 25 books in a genre. I see that as a great marketing tool for indie publishers, as the authors can see the best categories they might use for their books. (You can look at any book with each tool.) The new ‘Catalize’ tool will be available by the end of the week.

Anyway, the entire site is free to use, and might be helpful to other authors. I built it for my own needs, but it has become useful for others.

Just as a test I plugged in the ID number for a Terry Pratchett novel – and that search returned all kinds of interesting information.

(6) BOOK TRADE SHOWS CANCELLED. The inevitable has finally occurred: “BookExpo, BookCon 2020 Events Canceled” reports Publishers Weekly.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22-26, Reedpop has canceled both events. The cancellation is the latest in a string of them affecting the biggest conferences and fairs in the book business worldwide, including the London Book Fair, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (which is planning a virtual fair beginning May 4), and the ALA annual meeting and conference.

(7) AUSTRALIAN SFF AND FANHISTORY. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss have been doing the Two Chairs Talking podcast for almost a year now. In Episode 24, Perry and David, and special guests W. H. Chong and Paul Carr, talk about what it was that drew them into reading science fiction and fantasy in the first place: “Kings of Infinite Space”.

In another recent episode they interviewed Carey Handfield, Bruce Gillespie and Rob Gerrand about their experience running the publishing house Norstrilia Press in the 1970s and 80s, concentrating on science fiction and science fiction criticism. They boosted the careers of Greg Egan and Gerald Murnane among others. That’s here: Episode 22: “The best publishing house in Old North Australia”. (There’s also a history of Norstrilia Press in the fanzine SF Commentary, available here.)

(8) BAD NEWS ON THE DOORSTEP. Newsweek has the“‘Ministry For The Future’ Cover Reveal: New Kim Stanley Robinson Set In ‘Blackest Utopia’ — Our Next 30 Years”. Click through for the cover.

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson builds intricate future societies in many of his books, exploring how we might emerge from the depravities of our current era to create a better future for our species. But in his upcoming novel, The Ministry for the Future, Robinson isn’t visiting a half-sunk New York City a hundred years from now (New York 2140), tracking Martian terraforming over a century (the Mars trilogy) or following artists as they build sculptures on 24th century Mercury (2312). Instead, The Ministry for the Future follows more immediate possible futures, as humanity is confronted with a global warming mass extinction event.

“In The Ministry for the Future I tried to describe the next thirty years going as well as I could believe it might happen, given where we are now,” Robinson told Newsweek. “That made it one of the blackest utopias ever written, I suppose, because it seems inevitable that we are in for an era of comprehensive and chaotic change.”

(9) PIP BAKER OBIT. Doctor Who writer Pip Baker (1928-2020) has died at the age of 91. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Pip Baker, along with his wife and writing partner Jane, was one of the best-known writers from the mid 80’s era of Doctor Who, writing eleven episodes for the series. Together they created the Rani, a female Time Lord scientist who was brought to life so vividly by the late Kate O’Mara, as well a creating the companion Mel.

Pip and Jane Baker began writing together in the 1960s working on the films The Painted Smile, The Break, The Night of the Big Heat and Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. On Television, they worked on the children’s thriller Circus as well as episodes of Z-Cars and Space 1999….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1944 The Monster Maker (originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice) premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by Sigmund Neufeld, Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was largely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low three percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.
  • April 15, 1960 Teenage Zombies premiered. It was written and directed by Jerry Warren and starring Katherine Victor, Don Sullivan, Chuck Niles, and Warren’s then-wife and the film production manager Brianne Murphy. Warren wrote the screenplay under his pen name Jacques Lecoutier. It was on a double bill with The Incredible Petrified World. Interestingly enough, although the film’s credits include a 1957 copyright statement for G.B.M. Productions, the film was never registered for copyright, so it’s in the public domain. And that means you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1922 Michael Ansara. Commander Kang in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 15, 1937 Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story of which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 15, 1941 Mal Dean. UK illustrator who, as Clute at EoSF notes, died tragically young of cancer. As Clute goes on, he is “best known for the work he did for New Worlds in the late 1960s and early 1970s; it was especially associated with the Jerry Cornelius stories by Michael Moorcock and others.” (Died 1974.)
  • Born April 15, 1949 Sharan Newman, 71. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga. They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 46. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 30. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 23. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills,  the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime this year provided the Plague doesn’t further delay it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) FREE FROM AUDIBLE. Free stories for kids of all ages. Audible Stories  is a free website where kids of all ages can listen to hundreds of Audible audio titles across six different languages—English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese. From classics to Harry Potter and other YA.

For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids.

All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

Explore the collection, select a title and start listening.

It’s that easy.

(14) NEEDS A BETTER LAWYER. Heinlein proved “Jerry Is A Man” but “Bronx Zoo’s Happy the Elephant is not legally ‘a person,’ judge rules”.

Elephants are NOT people, too.

That was the determination of a judge who ruled that Happy the Elephant can’t be sprung from the Bronx Zoo because she’s not legally “a person,” it was revealed Wednesday.

Bronx Supreme Court Judge Alison Tuitt dismissed the NonHuman Rights Project’s petition to grant the 48-year-old pachyderm “legal personhood” in order to move her to a 2,300-acre sanctuary….

(15) POWERFUL MUTANT. “Scientists create mutant enzyme that recycles plastic bottles in hours”The Guardian has the story.

A mutant bacterial enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in hours has been created by scientists.

The enzyme, originally discovered in a compost heap of leaves, reduced the bottles to chemical building blocks that were then used to make high-quality new bottles. Existing recycling technologies usually produce plastic only good enough for clothing and carpets.

The company behind the breakthrough, Carbios, said it was aiming for industrial-scale recycling within five years. It has partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate development. Independent experts called the new enzyme a major advance.

Billions of tonnes of plastic waste have polluted the planet, from the Arctic to the deepest ocean trench, and pose a particular risk to sea life. Campaigners say reducing the use of plastic is key, but the company said the strong, lightweight material was very useful and that true recycling was part of the solution.

The new enzyme was revealed in research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The work began with the screening of 100,000 micro-organisms for promising candidates, including the leaf compost bug, which was first discovered in 2012.

(16) BUS ROUTE 9¾. “Harry Potter buses used as free NHS transport”

Harry Potter-branded buses normally used to take fans to film studio tours are being offered as free transport for staff working in the NHS.

The buses will take them between three sites in Hertfordshire, and will have on-board social distancing rules.

Warner Bros and coach company Golden Tours have had to cancel all trips to the Leavesden studios where much of the Harry Potter filming took place.

The NHS said the move was a “wizard idea”.

“Our workforce has been depleted due to sickness or self-isolation and so it’s really important that those staff who are well, but have transport issues, can come back,” Paul da Gama, from the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

(17) CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG. BBC reports “JK Rowling secretly buys childhood home”.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has secretly bought her childhood home in Gloucestershire.

Renovation work is now taking place on Church Cottage in Tutshill, close to the banks of the River Severn.

The author lived there between the ages of nine and 18 and in 2011 bought the cottage through a property company in her married name.

She paid about £400,000 for the house, which is said to have inspired key elements of the young wizard’s story.

Land Registry records show in September 2011, Edinburgh-based Caernarfon Lettings Ltd, which lists the author’s husband Neil Murray as a director, bought Church Cottage.

The property was sold by BBC producer Julian Mercer, who himself had bought it off the Rowling family in 1995.

(18) ASTRAL METEOROLOGY. The BBC’s weather department reports that “The planets line up”. (“When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter collides with Mars, then pieces of the planets will fly off into the stars…”)

You might get the chance to see something special in the sky in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Around pre-dawn or dawn, if you look towards the Moon from your garden or window, you may notice three other bright dots. These dots are actually Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

Jupiter will be the brightest of the planets, as it shines 14 times brighter than Saturn or Mars. However the three planets will line up together just above the Moon and you should be able to see them all, even with the naked eye. While Jupiter will be the brightest, you may notice Mars with an orange glow and Saturn with a golden tinge. If you’ve got a telescope or even binoculars, you’ll be able to see the difference in the planets more clearly.

(19) LASHING OUT. On yesterday’s Daily Show (or as they’re calling it right now the Daily Social Distancing Show), host Trevor Noah listed a bunch of things Trump has promised to deliver, then said, “At this point Trump owes more pages than George R.R. Martin.” He continued on the Martin theme for the next several sentences. Hey, it’s not fair to build up a head of steam talking about Trump and then vent it on GRRM! (Begins around 9:25.)

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