Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:

https://robin-anne-reid.dreamwidth.org/50424.html

(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/19 Right After I Graduate, I’m Gonna Cut The Scrolls Off My Shoes, Sit In A Blog, And Learn To Play The Pixelhorn

(1) GHOSTBUSTERS 3. Though few details seem to be available, it looks like there will be a fourth live-action Ghostbusters movie (Variety: “Jason Reitman to Direct Secret ‘Ghostbusters’ Movie”), with a new generation of Reitman taking over in the director’s chair.

Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman.

Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise.

Reitman has also co-written a screenplay with Gil Kenan and plans to shoot the film this summer, with Sony planning to release the latest sequel in summer 2020. Insiders say this film will be a continuation of the 1984 sequel and will not be connected to the 2016 film. Sources couldn’t say if that means that the original cast members will be back, as exact story details are still being kept under wraps but sources say Reitman has begun testing teenagers for four mystery roles.

ScienceFiction.com quotes Reitman:

 “I’ve always thought of myself as the first Ghostbusters fan when I was a 6-year-old visiting the set. I wanted to make a movie for all the other fans. This is the next chapter in the original franchise. It is not a reboot. What happened in the ‘80s happened in the ‘80s, and this is set in the present day.”

(2) KOWAL DECLARES SFWA CANDIDACY. Mary Robinette Kowal announced on her blog: “Dear SFWA members: I’m running for the position of President.”

…I believe that SFWA is an important organization and that volunteering for it is a way that we can each help to pay it forward by making the field stronger.  As a group, we can improve things within the industry in ways that individuals cannot, but we are dependent on our volunteers. We are dependent on you. I would very much like to help SFWA move forward so that it can continue to inform, support, promote, defend and advocate for our members.

Besides health care, what else am I interested in accomplishing?

  • New opportunities to help our members diversify their income streams
  • Strengthening the Nebula Conference as a professional development conference
  • Protecting our rights for free speech
  • Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community
  • Taking full advantage of our 501c3 status to apply for grants that will allow SFWA to be a more active and useful organization for our members

John Scalzi threw his support behind her in a post today at Whatever: “Mary Robinette Kowal is Running for SFWA President and I Endorse Her Candidacy”.

…Some of you may recall that I was SFWA president once, from 2010 to 2013. Mary Robinette was my vice president for two of those years, 2010 through 2012, and was secretary of SFWA for two years before that. In my role as president, I got a chance to see her work for SFWA up close. She was, in a word, excellent. As my VP she gave me sound advice and counsel (up to and including telling me when I was wrong), she executed on policy and strategy in ways that were smart and effective, and she was my not-so-secret weapon in instances that required tact and delicacy. She was, in sum, the very best of vice-presidents….

(3) NEXT STAR WARS COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel’s “celebration of Star Wars characters” continues in April, with epic one-shots of heroes and villains of the original film trilogy in Age of Rebellion. For more information, visit StarWars.com.

Following the legendary sagas of the Jedi, the Sith, and more from AGE OF THE REPUBLIC, join writer Greg Pak (The Incredible Hulk, Weapon H) and artist Chris Sprouse (Black Panther) for new tales about some of the most iconic Star Wars heroes and artist Marc Laming (Beckett, Star Wars Annual) for new stories about the galaxy’s most dangerous villains. With covers by Terry and Rachel Dodson, these are stories you don’t want to miss! 

Also in April, discover brand new sides of some of your favorite – and deadly – heroes and villains in AGE OF REBELLION SPECIAL #1, written by superstar team Marc Guggenheim (X-Men Gold), Jon Adams (The New Yorker, Love Romances), and Si Spurrier (Doctor Aphra), and drawn by Adams, Caspar Wijngaard (Doctor Aphra Annual), and Andrea Broccardo (Star Wars), with cover art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Guru-eFX!

(4) SFWA READINGS. There are four SFWA readings coming up in the Seattle/Portland area:

Seattle

Seattle events are held at the Wilde Rover Irish Pub and Restaurant, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033. Phone: (425) 822-8940. Readings start at 7pm and go until 8:30

  • January 29, 2019. KG Anderson, Joe Follansbee, Edd Vick
  • April 23, 2019. Rebecca Roanhorse, Kari Maaren, Sam J. Miller
  • September 10, 2019. Ted Chiang, Jack Skillingstead, Daryl Gregory
  • November 12, 2019. Jeff Grubb, Shanna Germain, Caroline M. Yoachim

Portland

Portland events are held at Lucky Lab on Hawthorne. 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd.  Portland, OR 97214. (503) 236-3555 Readings start at 7pm and go until 8:30

SFWA Link: https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-readers/reading-series/sfwa-northwest-reading-series/

(5) OOPS. You could be forgiven for thinking that yesterday’sTor’s promotional message contains a premature prediction, although I think it was just intended to be a list of the author’s accomplishments. See if you can spot the issue. (Image comes from here.)

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of  Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1927Anne R. Dick. Author of Search for Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982: A Memoir and Biography of the Science Fiction Writer. Her importance to Philip despite their short marriage can be appreciated in this New York Times obit for her. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 16, 1946 Graham Masterton, 73. English horror writer with numerous titles to his credit. I want to to single out Rules of Duel, a short novel from the early 1970s that he wrote with William S. Burroughs. And The Manitou film based off his novel is a lot of bloody fun.
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 71. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His films include the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Starman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to do particularly well?
  • Born January 16, 1949 Caroline Munro, 70.Active in SF and horror films in the Fifties and Sixties. Amongst her many  films are Hammer Horror films such as Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter and Dracula A.D. 1972. Later films include Starcrash (Christopher Plummer is in it so it can’t be that bad, can it?) and At the Earth’s Core. She appeared also as Tammy, a nursing employee of a sinister health farm, in “The Angels of Death” of The New Avengers, a vastly underrated show in my opinion if only for the fact it had the young and quite sexy Joanna  Lumley on it .
  • Born January 16, 1980 Lin-Manuel Miranda, 39. Sometimes I find that the Birthday honorees have the oddest genre credits but this is the first singer and composer I’ve run across.  His first genre credit is voicing Shag Kava in Star Wars: The Force Awakens but he also gets credited as special featured composer. Next up is as composer and singer for the animated Moana film. His most recent, and I’ve no idea if he sings in it but I assume he does, is in Mary Poppins Returns 

(7) THEY’RE DEAD JIM (OR WHATEVER YOUR NAME IS). Easy come, easy go? Newsweek lets us know that, “China’s Moon Plants That Sprouted Are Already Dead.” The experiment kicked off just before the mission’s landing site on the back side of the Moon did its monthly thing and earned the otherwise misleading title Dark Side of the Moon, (No, not that Dark Side.)

Yesterday the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that cotton seeds carried to the far side of the moon by its Chang’e 4 lander had sprouted, marking the first time that humans had successfully grown living material on the surface of another world.

But just a day later, it has emerged that the sprouting cotton buds died as night fell over the lunar far side, bringing the brief experiment to an end. The cotton seeds formed part of a “mini-biosphere” experiment aimed at understanding how plants and animals can grow and live on the moon.

The experiment involved a “mini-biosphere” consisting of a sealed metal canister filled with water, soil and air, which was designed to be its own self-sustaining ecosystem. To this mix, scientists added yeast, fruit fly eggs and the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato and rock cress—a flowering plant in the mustard family.

The biosphere was powered by natural light from the Sun, so the death of the sprouts as the canister entered the lunar night—where temperatures can dip to as low as -280 degrees Fahrenheit—was anticipated by mission planners.

“Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night,” Xie Gengxin, leader of the experiment from Chongqing University, told Xinhua, China’s state-run, English language news agency.

(8) DISSENTING OPINION. Don’t count Abigail Nussbaum among the fans of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch: “The Illusion of Free Will: On ‘Bandersnatch’ and Interactive Fiction” at Asking the Wrong Question.

After seven years, four seasons, eighteen episodes and two specials, the conversation around Black Mirror seems to have settled itself into distinct camps. There are those who see it as a meaningful commentary on the growing role of technology in modern society and the pitfalls of our growing dependence on it. And there are those who decry it as a cynical, reflexively anti-tech exercise in nastiness. I tend to think of myself as falling between the two extremes—there are a lot of ideas in Black Mirror that I find interesting and unique, especially when it comes to the intersection of technology and capitalism; but I often feel as if many of them have happened largely by accident. The show’s latest foray, however, the interactive movie “Bandersnatch”, written by series creator Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade, has shaken my indulgence. Not only does it revel in some of Black Mirror‘s worst excesses, it’s also an extremely bad example of interactive fiction, at a moment when the form is enjoying a creative flowering.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman appeared. Robert Kerr writes:

80 years ago today the first Superman daily strip appeared in the Houston Chronicle. This was the first place Superman had appeared outside of Action Comics. His own solo comic book was still a couple of months away. The daily strip was where Krypton was first mentioned by name and the first place Superman got a more detailed origin. This was full circle for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Before DC Comics bought Superman for Action Comics #1, Superman was rejected by every major newspaper syndicate in the country. Before Superman pretty much created the comic book industry, cartoonist wanted their strips to be in newspapers.

(10) IT’S NOT THE WESTERN. Digg has some graphs that show “How Movie Genres Have Changed In Popularity Since 1910, Visualized”. Guess which genre is the perkiest?

The graph reveals several interesting trends. Some genres, for instance, have evidently fallen out of favor, such as musicals and westerns. In the 1930s, 15% of the movies released were musicals, while in 2018, the figure has fallen far below 5%. And although westerns saw a resurgence in the ’70s after its decline in the ’60s, the genre has had scant representation in recent years.

(11) TREK TRIVIA. ScienceFiction.com invites you to show your mastery of Star Trek and “Match The First Officer To The Starship”. The quiz is at the link.  It was tougher than I expected – I scored only 3/10!

The ships of the United Federation of Planets have a long history of service, exploration, and combat in the Star Trek Universe.  While the Captains of these ships usually end up getting most of the glory, it takes many, many crew members to effectively maintain a starship’s operations, and while the Captain is usually busy calling the shots, much of the administrative and personnel work falls to the First Officer.

This quiz will test your knowledge of those brave souls assigned to ships as the XOs.  In some cases, these characters may have only served the First Officer role for a short while; in other cases, you may see names  of officers whose adventures have squarely shown them in the second-in-command role.  This will be no easy task, but hopefully you are up for the challenge.  Engage! 

(12) ST PHONE HOME. Do you want a better ST:TOS cosplay phone? Or do you miss your flip phone? Standing on the shoulder of the Wall Street Journal (whose story is behind their paywall), Mashable proclaims that, “A rebooted Razr with a foldable smartphone screen is coming in February, report says.”

Hellooo, 2004 is calling, and it is STOKED!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Lenovo and Verizon are soon to reboot the iconic aughts Razr flip phone, with a 2019 twist — or should we say…. fold!!!

The report claims that Lenovo Group, Inc. has teamed up with Verizon as an exclusive partner to sell a new version of the Razr, based on the word of “people familiar with the matter.” 

The new Razr will be a smart phone, but it will be able to retain its flip phone form because the screen will be a foldable. It will reportedly become available as soon as February (!!!), and cost $1500. Which, ouch. But that’s maybe worth it for retro foldable screen glory?

(13) WILL THE U.S. RETURN TO SPACE THIS YEAR? The Verge: “How SpaceX’s first astronaut crew is preparing to take on a brand new spacecraft” — “If schedules hold, SpaceX could fly people this summer.”

2019 may finally be the year when American astronauts launch to orbit from American soil again, ending an eight-year drought that started when NASA’s Space Shuttle program shut down in 2011. The inaugural flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program are slated to take place in the coming months, and the launches will see privately owned vehicles carrying space agency astronauts for the very first time. If the current schedules hold, California-based SpaceX may be the first one to send its vehicle to space with two NASA astronauts on board.

For this Verge Science video, we visited SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to meet those astronauts and see what one possible future of American crewed spaceflight looks like.

(14) BUT THEN HE GETS GOOD REVIEWS.  A paper in Maine will not be ditching its book reviews after all: “Stephen King persuades newspaper not to scrap its book reviews”.

Author Stephen King – and his readers – have persuaded his local newspaper to reverse a decision to axe its book reviews.

The Portland Press Herald, based in his home state of Maine, had decided to stop running reviews of local books.

After King expressed dismay, the paper challenged him to get 100 followers to buy digital subscriptions.
His fans did not disappoint him, prompting the paper to pledge that “book reviews will return”.

(15) DISNEY MUSIC. “A Place Called Slaughter Race” from Ralph Breaks the Internet. Performed by Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, and Cast Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Phil Johnston, and Tom MacDougall

[Thanks to Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Bill, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing Firesign reference editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/19 Mars Ain’t The Kind Of Place To Scroll Your Pixels

(1) SPIDER-MAN. The Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser Trailer is out. Movie hits theaters July 5.

(2) ELGIN’S CONLANG. Rebecca Romney tells LitHub readers about Suzette Haden Elgin — “This Science Fiction Novelist Created a Feminist Language from Scratch”.

Láadan, the conlang in Native Tongue, is distinctive for its feminist philosophy: according to Elgin, it focuses on words that efficiently describe “concepts important to women” and “emotional information.” Importantly, Láadan isn’t meant exclusively for women: rather, it is a language constructed with feminist principles in its marrow. For example, the Láadan word “radíidin” is immediately recognizable as a form of emotional labor, the often invisible work that falls primarily to women…

(3) HEAR FROM AUTHOR OF ASTOUNDING. Illinois Public Media’s program The 21st headlined a historian of sf’s Golden Age: “Chicago Writer Alec Nevala-Lee; Holiday Movies 2018; Producers as Experts”

Science fiction is everywhere in 2018. Not just in the form of our favorite movies, books, or TV shows — but even in the actual technology we use in our daily lives.

But the story of sci-fi goes back decades — long before films like Star Wars or 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1930s and 40s are known as the Golden Age of science fiction. This era, and the people in it, are the subject of Chicago writer Alec Nevala Lee’s latest book.

It’s called “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.”

And what tied all of these men together is the sci-fi magazine called Astounding, which in many ways helped create the genre.

Alec Nevala-Lee joined us from our studios at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Hear the program at Soundcloud.

(4) BROADWAYCON REDUX. The New York Times ran a heavily photo illustrated report about last weekend’s event devoted to stage musicals: “At BroadwayCon, Fans Get a Curtain Call”.

There were singalongs, fan meetups and workshops, booths jamming two “marketplace” floors, as well as an avalanche of panels dedicated to such topics as portraying Evan Hansen, 25 years of Disney on Broadway, auditioning, the lives of stage managers, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Mean Girls.”

(5) KENYON’S POISONING ALLEGATIONS. The Tennessean covers Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit against her husband and accomplices: “Author Sherrilyn Kenyon files lawsuit accusing husband of poisoning her”

…It wasn’t until after her husband filed for divorce that Sherrilyn Kenyon had her blood, nails and hair tested for toxins. The tests found her body contained high levels of lithium, tin, barium, platinum and thorium, the lawsuit said.

After her husband moved out, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s health began to improve.

The lawsuit said Lawrence Kenyon and Plump, who had taken on a more involved role helping coordinate Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book-related events and appearances, worked together to sabotage her career by disparaging fans and industry professionals. Their actions, she claimed, led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars and several canceled contracts with her publisher. 

… Kenyon is suing for several causes of action, including assault by poisoning, concerted action aiding and abetting, intentional interference with business relationships and invasion of privacy. 

(6) CLICHÉPUNK. According to Lee Konstantinou, “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction”. As he argues at Slate —

When it first emerged more than 30 years ago, cyberpunk was hailed as the most exciting science fiction of the ’80s. The subgenre, developed by a handful of younger writers, told stories of the near future, focusing on the collision of youth subcultures, new computer technologies, and global corporate dominance. It was only ever a small part of the total SF field, but cyberpunk received an outsize amount of attention. Since then, its characteristic tropes have become clichés. By 1992, they could be hilariously parodied by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash (a novel often mistaken as an example of the subgenre it meant to mock). In 1999, the Wachowskis brought cyberpunk to a mass audience with The Matrix.

Meanwhile, myriad new SF subgenres and microgenres have been discovered or invented, each trying to recapture the excitement cyberpunk once generated. The list is long to the point of parody. There’s steampunk, biopunk, nanopunk, stonepunk, clockpunk, rococopunk, raypunk, nowpunk, atompunk, mannerpunk, salvagepunk, Trumppunk, solarpunk, and sharkpunk (no joke!), among others. Most recently, my Twitter feed has been choked with discussions (and mockery) of hopepunk, after Vox published an article in December announcing its arrival. The term, coined by Alexandra Rowland, was meant to describe fiction that resists dystopian pessimism in favor of “DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.”

(7) REORIENTATION. In December, Sarah Gailey livetweeted watching Top Gun for the first time. The thread starts here.

And that has resulted in Gailey’s post for Tor.com, “Highway to the Danger Zone: The Heterosexual Tragedy of Top Gun – deemed by Soon Lee as possibly the best review of Top Gun ever…

Top Gun is a heartfelt, moving film about one man’s risky dalliance with heterosexuality. Lieutenant Tom “Maverick” Cruise is introduced to the audience as a glistening, patriotic risk-taker. He just wants to be the best Plane Guy he can be. His ambitious Airplane Moves get him all the way to the TOPGUN program, a school for only the coolest plane guys. Everything is going great for Maverick… until the night before classes begin. He arrives at Miramar, where the TOPGUN program is located, as ominous music plays in the background—Maverick, the score informs us, is on the highway to the danger zone.

That very evening, Maverick’s sassy straight friend, Lieutenant j.g. Goose “Goose” Goose, brings him to a straight bar for an evening of exploration. Goose exhorts the tentative Maverick to “have carnal knowledge—of a lady this time—on the premises.”

(8) CANNIZZO OBIT. Dr. John K Cannizzo, husband of author Catherine Asaro, died December 30, 2018 at the age of 61. The family obituary is here.

From Catherine Asaro: I was blessed to have John as my husband for thirty-two years. He truly was a gentle giant with an immense heart and inner strength, the love of my life, the finest human I’ve ever known. I thank all of you who have posted your thoughts here; it helps to ease the great loss of his passing….

From the colleagues of Dr. Cannizzo: …John was a member of the Physics Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, having been at Goddard for 25 years. He was a longtime member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) science team and of the Swift gamma-ray burst telescope….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1913Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, but  I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed it because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. His first SF role as Lost Horizon though uncredited so I don’t trust Wiki on that. He’s the  Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M,  Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1924 Dennis Lynds. He only wrote two sf novels, probably pulp ones at that, Lukan War and The Planets of Death, but I’m intrigued that he also penned eight titles of The Shadow from 1964 to 1967 under the Shadow’s author by-line of Maxwell Grant. He also, and I count this as genre, under the name of Robert Hart Davis penned a number of Man from U.N.C.L.E. Novella that all ran in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 84. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man some forty five years ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years.  So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series. I wrote one that by its title intrigues me — The Feline Wizard! (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 54. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(10) WHAT SFWA’S PRESIDENT DOES. SFWA President Cat Rambo leaves office on June 30, 2019. Before she goes, she’d like to answer the question: “What Does the SFWA President Actually Do?” Here’s an excerpt:

…The President is one of the major faces of the organization, and should be willing to attend events such as the Nebulas and conventions as well as representing SFWA at the other events they’re present at. (When signing up for conventions, I usually pitch a SFWA meeting and/or “What Can SFWA Do For You?” panel, for example.) As such, they do need to bear in mind that anything they say on social media or in interviews may be taken as having “of SFWA” appended to it, whether or not they want it to. The President carries this more than board members, and needs to remember that the membership may interpret something they say jokingly on Twitter as indicating the overall board’s opinion. Having a disclaimer that your opinions are personal and do not represent the organization on places like social media profiles is vital.

A good President will be familiar with the bylaws and OPPM and work to bulletproof the organization against anyone wishing to do it harm. They must work side-by-side with the board, the Executive Director, the Deputy Executive Director, the financial team, and a slew of volunteers and contractors to make sure that SFWA remains true to its mission while growing and adapting to the evolving and ever-changing publishing landscape.

In order to do that, the President needs to keep an eye on what’s going on–which can be difficult at times, given the volunteer nature of the position and the stressors of life. They need to be available to people who need them or arrange someone to cover them when on vacation. But it’s also usually easy to keep up with things and often just a matter of checking in on the discussion boards and e-mail once or twice a day. I do want to note (from experience) that many e-mails are time sensitive and not paying attention can result in holding things up in a frustrating way for other people….

Rambo also sent a link to a “Twitter thread that does a good job of finding SFWA ex-presidents” — https://twitter.com/Catrambo/status/1085209616038821888 

(11) ON THE RECORD. Rob Latham explores the rock and sff connection in “Magic Carpet Rides: Rock Music and the Fantastic”, a review of Jason Heller’s new work for the LA Review of Books.

DURING THE POSTWAR PERIOD, the genres of the fantastic — especially science fiction — have been deeply intertwined with the genres of popular music, especially rock ’n’ roll. Both appeal to youthful audiences, and both make the familiar strange, seeking escape in enchantment and metamorphosis. As Steppenwolf sang in 1968: “Fantasy will set you free […] to the stars away from here.” Two recent books — one a nonfiction survey of 1970s pop music, the other a horror novel about heavy metal — explore this heady intermingling of rock and the fantastic.

As Jason Heller details in his new book Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, the magic carpet rides of the youth counterculture encompassed both the amorphous yearnings of acid rock and the hard-edged visions of science fiction. In Heller’s account, virtually all the major rock icons — from Jimi Hendrix to David Crosby, from Pete Townshend to Ian Curtis — were avid SF fans; not only was their music strongly influenced by Heinlein, Clarke, Ballard, and other authors, but it also amounted to a significant body of popular SF in its own right. As Heller shows, many rock stars were aspiring SF writers, while established authors in the field sometimes wrote lyrics for popular bands, and a few became rockers themselves. British fantasist Michael Moorcock, for example, fronted an outfit called The Deep Fix while also penning songs for — and performing with — the space-rock group Hawkwind (once memorably described, by Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, as “Star Trek with long hair and drugs”).

(12) THOSE DAYS AT CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA. At the link is a 3-minute preview of “The Dream Pioneers: Visionaries of Science Fiction”, a 2000 documentary. The clip includes LASFSians Forry Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, and Walt Daugherty.

This program looks at the careers and manifold influence of The Los Angeles Science-Fiction League’s most famous members: Forrest J. Ackerman, the mainspring of the group, who coined the term “Sci-Fi”; Ray Bradbury, renowned author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451; and Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation. Extended interviews with all three men and the numerous filmmakers, special effects artists, and NASA researchers they have inspired illuminate how so many of their dreams have become reality.

(13) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. David Gerrold announced on Facebook he has made his collaboration with Ctein available as a free read on Dropbox.

The deadline for Nebula nominations is only one month away. For some shameful reason, “Bubble and Squeak” by Ctein and myself is not on the SFWA recommended reading list.

To make up for that serious lack of attention, once again, I am making the story available for all readers, but especially members of SFWA who might think the story is worth reading and possibly even worthy of award consideration.

(14) A LITTLE LUNAR AGRICULTURE. “China’s Moon mission sees first seeds sprout” – BBC has the story.

Seeds taken up to the Moon by China’s Chang’e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.

It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration.

…Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.

(15) SPOTS GET IN YOUR EYES. “Driverless car laser ruined camera”.

A man who took a photograph of a driverless car on display at the CES tech fair says his camera was damaged as a result.

Jit Ray Chowdhury noticed purple spots on all his photographs after taking a photo of a lidar laser scanning system displayed by San Francisco firm AEye.

He says the $1,198 (£930) Sony camera was one month old and the firm has offered to buy him a replacement.

AEye said its system is not harmful to human eyes.

(16) BIGGER BOSONS. BBC reports “Cern plans even larger hadron collider for physics search”.

Cern has published its ideas for a £20bn successor to the Large Hadron Collider, given the working name of Future Circular Collider (FCC).

The Geneva based particle physics research centre is proposing an accelerator that is almost four times longer and ten times more powerful.

The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050.

Critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change.

But Cern’s Director-General, Prof Fabiola Gianotti described the proposal as “a remarkable accomplishment”.

“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” she said.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Keiichi Matsuda’s Merger on Vimeo:

With automation disrupting centuries-old industries, the professional must reshape and expand their service to add value. Failure is a mindset. It is those who empower themselves with technology who will thrive.

Merger is a new film about the future of work, from cult director/designer Keiichi Matsuda (HYPER-REALITY). Set against the backdrop of AI-run corporations, a tele-operator finds herself caught between virtual and physical reality, human and machine. As she fights for her economic survival, she finds herself immersed in the cult of productivity, in search of the ultimate interface. This short film documents her last 4 minutes on earth.

[Thanks to Susan de Guardiola, Colleen McMahon, Michael J. Walsh, Jim Meadows, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, BravoLimaPoppa3, Rich Horton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 1/11/19 Scroll Around The Clock, Mix And A-Mingle In The Pixeling Feet

(1) MORE ON NYC TOLKIEN EXHIBIT. The Tolkien Collector’s Guide site has shared a summary of all the announced scheduled events associated with the “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibit opening in New York on January 25, including what will (and won’t) be on display: “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth at the Morgan Library – schedule and preliminary items”.

(2) NYC TOLKIEN CONFERENCE. Filers who are in NYC on March 16-17 could attend some Tolkien talks by Tolkienists, including John Garth and Robin Anne Reid, offered in partnership with The Morgan Library and Museum: Tolkien Weekend.

Sunday, March 17 The New York Tolkien Conference Presenters include: Megan B. Abrahamson, Nicholas Birns, David Bratman, Janet Brennan Croft, John DiBartolo and the Lonely Mountain Band, Leslie Donovan, David Emerson, Jason Fisher, Peter Grybauskas, Yvette Kisor, Kristine Larsen, Ryder Miller, Robin Anne Reid, Ph.D., Chris Tuthill, and Christopher Vaccaro.

There’s a rundown of the conference programs here. And at the top of the list is —  

Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!: Secular Readings of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium
Robin Reid

This project considers the question of how fans of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are atheists, agnostics, or animists, that is, readers who do not, to varying degrees, profess belief in the Christian God or in any other religion’s Supreme Being, make meaning of his work in their lives. Using a mixed methodology approach, I will administer an online free-form survey asking for minimal demographic information and answers to open-ended questions allowing respondents to describe their experiences with religion, if any; their personal history of belief; their reading history and interpretations of Tolkien’s work, and their responses to the tendency in popular and academic thought to assume that Tolkien’s Christian beliefs must shape reader’s interpretation of his work.

(3) A RARE SIMILARITY. Brian Murphy compares “Tolkien and Howard: Two Roads Diverged in Haggard’s Kor” at DMR.

…Their life work is typically arrayed on opposite ends of the fantasy spectrum: Tolkien is considered the Don of high fantasy, often characterized as possessing detailed secondary worlds of magic populated by casts of characters focused on matters of ponderous, world-shaking importance. Howard is recognized as the progenitor of sword and sorcery, associated with muscular heroes engaged in mercenary pursuits.

Yet the pair on occasion demonstrated striking similarities of thought, particularly regarding the harsh realities of material existence and the concomitant desire for escape. Both for example employed the same metaphor as life as a prison or cage, from which escape was a natural reaction by the feeling man….

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you will eavesdrop on my Thai dinner with the immersive (and totally science fictional) theatrical troupe Submersive Productions in the latest installment of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

…The most recent theatrical event I attended presented by Submersive was A Horse By The Tail In The Night, part of a series called The Institute of Visionary History and the Archives of the Deep Now. The company claims that during work on H. T. Darling, they uncovered experiments performed decades earlier by a secret society making use of the fact the museum in which they staged their happenings was a “thin place” — that is, a place where our world can bleed through to other times, other dimensions, other realities.

And so I found myself in a small room for eight hours with two seemingly immortal aristocrats who were apparently trapped there, and who struggled to cope with and understand their plight, repeating interactions — games, the telling of tales, the preparation of potions — with variations. I was sometimes fed by them, sometimes ignored, sometimes interrogated, and in those hours they, too, were creating something fantastic, something science fictional, something worth exploring on this podcast.

Science fiction takes many forms, the theater being one of them, and when it’s theater as otherworldly as this, I feel it’s an aspect of science fiction which deserves a place here. So I shared take-out from MayureeThai Tavern on the penultimate day of 2018 with the two actors who brought those doomed, immortal aristocrats to life, Lisi Stoessel and Francisco Benavides, as well the co-artistic directors of Submersive Productions, Glenn Ricci and Ursula Marcum.

We discussed the ways everything from Dragon Ball Z to Myst to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil stoked their love of the fantastic, how the funding came together for their first mesmeric show about the women in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the dare that made their recent durational play grow to eight hours and the half-scripted/half-improvised way they were able to keep their performance going that long, how the actors found their voices by channeling Katherine Hepburn and Roberto Benigni, the multiple meanings of the most transcendent pie-eating scene I’ve ever witnessed in the theater, how they deal with introverted (as well as overly extroverted) audience members during immersive performances, the differences between improv comedy and improvisational theater, and much more.

(5) TRILOGY COMPLETE. It took awhile to wrap this story —  “‘Glass’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

…M. Night Shyamalan’s career-reviving 2017 picture Split was a two-fer boon. On one hand, it gave thriller fans a lurid, pop-psychology-based captivity film that pushed all their buttons; on the other, its final scene linked it to 2000’s Unbreakable, seen by many of the director’s one-time fans as his last strong offering before a slide into increasingly laughable projects.

In Glass, the writer-director aims to complete an opus much more ambitious than his breakthrough ghost story The Sixth Sense — still his only film that nearly everyone agrees works. As a trilogy-closer, it’s a mixed bag, tying earlier narrative strands together pleasingly while working too hard (and failing) to convince viewers Shyamalan has something uniquely brainy to offer in the overpopulated arena of comics-inspired stories….

(6) EXCELSIOR! LAist says ticket packages for this celebration start at $150: “Stan Lee Gets A Public Celebration At The Chinese Theatre Later This Month”.

The co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many more died in November — but a newly announced tribute event gives fans a chance to celebrate Stan Lee’s life. “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible & Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” is set for Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The event starts with a public appreciation for Lee outside the theater featuring what organizers describe as “fan-favorite speakers,” along with an art exhibit celebrating his legacy, costumes and props from both his movie cameos and the characters he created, and a musical performance. There’s also a moment of remembrance planned, with the crowd gathering around his Chinese Theatre hand and foot imprint.

The event continues with a private tribute inside the theater hosted by writer/director/host Kevin Smith. He’ll be moderating conversations with people sharing their favorite memories of Stan. The event closes with video tributes to Lee, along with live performances of his favorite music and poetry.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to the novel. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became  the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series, and Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for  The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First genre role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with SF film World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time Machine (which I suspect you’ve heard of), Colossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1952 Diana Gabaldon, 67. I must confess that I’ve not even considered reading her. I’ve friends who read her and enjoy immensely her Outlander series. They also avidly look forward to every new episode of the Outlander television series. Any of y’all fans of either? 
  • Born January 11, 1955 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 64. Creator of five genre series in Alien NationCult, DefianceFarscape and seaQuest. He also help write the Warehouse 13 pilot. He has also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V, among many other projects. (I loved Farscape and seaQuest butthought Defiance wentbad fast.) 
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 58. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I’ve not, though I may be wrong, read his Shades of Grey books and I know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 56. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved. He also played Jondar in the Vengeance on Varosstory on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (not one of my favorite Doctors. He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) VINTAGE PAPERBACK COLLECTORS SHOW. Happening in Glendale, CA on March 24.

(10) ASIMOVIAN ANNIVERSARY: At Featured Futures Jason has posted some hints for tackling a landmark of science fiction on the eightieth anniversary of Isaac Asimov’s first publication with “A Guide to Reading Asimov’s Robots, Empire, and Foundation Series”.

When Isaac Asimov died, among the hundreds of works he left behind   were the numerous stories and novels which made up his galaxy- and   millennia-spanning super-series of Robots, Empire, and Foundation.  This universe can often seem confusing and daunting to new readers,   leaving them unsure of what to read and when. There’s no one way to   read the series, so I hope to discuss the works in a way that will help readers decide for themselves.

(11) FURY. Chris Smith, in “‘Captain Marvel’ will also be the origin story of a different Marvel character” on bgr.com, says that Captain Marvel, set in the 1990s, is also an origin story for Nick Fury, and will explain why Fury lost an eye, what happened to his family, and how be rose to be the boss of S.H.I.E.L.D.

If that’s not enough, Captain Marvel will also tell us the story of an already established Marvel character: Nick Fury. Played by Samuel L. Jackson, Fury is the ruthless chief of S.H.I.E.L.D. — well, of an organization that follows S.H.I.E.L.D. — that would do anything to defend the planet. He’s not a superhero himself, but he’s the one who recruited the Avengers, providing the support they needed to perform whatever tasks necessary to keep evil in check. He also has just one working eye, further proof that he’s not afraid to get into the action.

(12) NO ALIEN MOVIE. Are you reassured? Are you disappointed? “Fox Confirms A New Alien Movie Definitely Isn’t In The Works” – however, to compensate ScreenRant says there’s plenty of other Alien fare being released this year.

Fox has clarified there’s currently no movement on a new Alien movie or a sequel to video game Alien: Isolation. The Alien franchise will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019, and Fox is preparing a number of projects to mark the event. They recently announced mobile title Alien: Blackout, which will continue the stressful adventures of Ripley’s daughter Amanda. Amanda was the main character in acclaimed 2014 video game Alien: Isolation, where she was stranded on a decaying space station with a nasty xenomorph. The game’s unrelenting challenge and tension made it a fan favorite.

Amanda Ripley will have a busy year in 2019 because, in addition to appearing in Blackout, she’ll also return for comic book series Alien: Resistance and a novelization of Isolation. This year will also see the release of a new documentary dubbed Memory – The Origins Of Alien, which will explore the development of the original movie, and Fox will unveil a series of six short fan films set in the universe too. There are also unconfirmed reports an Alien TV series is in development at a streaming service.

(13) IS IT WORTH THE BUZZ? BuzzFeed’s list of “27 Things That Are, Uh, A Little Bit Weird” seems mostly to be a way for them to link to Amazon and reap a little cash when their readers fall in love with some of those Weird things and buy them. Nonetheless, there are a few things some genre fans might fall in love with, so here they are:

1. A Godzilla lawn ornament for people who don’t trust gnomes.
8. A Star Wars book of battle stages for your biggest thumb war throw downs.
13. A set of brain slice coasters for doctors, nurses, scientists, and…serial killers?
15. Or [a mousepad] featuring a cat riding a unicorn over a rainbow, because sure why not?
17. A raygun nose trimmer, because it’s 2019 and time to start living in the future.
18. A slimy Gudetama so soothing to play with, you might become more relaxed than the famously lazy egg.
26. A reverse merperson enamel pin for a cheeky new look.

(14) FLASH PARADISE: BBC tells about “The plan to make artificial meteor showers”.

If you ever find yourself sitting back in wonder as super-bright artificial meteors flash across the sky, you will be able to thank the credit crunch – at least in part. After the crisis of 2008 that Lena Okajima decided to leave her job at a financial company for a radical new venture: a firm that aimed to put satellites in orbit capable of launching artificial meteor showers.

“I had to change my job because the financial situation was very bad at the time,” she explains now, nearly 10 years later.

It was even earlier, way back in 2001, while watching the natural Leonid meteor shower that she first had the idea of trying to recreate such a display artificially.

“These meteor showers occurred from very small particles from outer space so we thought we could recreate the same situation using little satellites,” Okajima says.

(15) SELFIES. “Chang’e-4: China Moon probes take snaps of each other” — many pictures here.

A Chinese rover and lander have taken images of each other on the Moon’s surface.

The Chinese space agency says the spacecraft are in good working order after touching down on the lunar far side on 3 January.

Also released are new panoramic images of the landing site, along with video of the vehicles touching down.

(16) DEEP BEEP TWO. “Signals from space: Five theories on what they are”. The list begins with —

…1. A rapidly spinning neutron star

When stars explode and die they can end up as rapidly spinning neutron stars. Astronomers think those found in a region with a high magnetic field might produce the strange signals.

(17) PUNISHER TRAILER. Back on the job. Back in the fight. Season 2 of Marvel’s The Punisher debuts on Netflix January 18.

[Thanks to Robin Anne Reid, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]