Pixel Scroll 12/28/19 Pixel Gadol Hayah Scroll

(1) TINGLE. It was brought to Chuck Tingle’s attention yesterday that the incoming president of RWA, Damon Suede, made a claim about him in a 2018 interview. Chuck lit him up.

(2) OPINIONS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The staff of the Boston Public Library share their top ten science fiction (BostonPL_Top 10 Sci-Fi Novels of the 2010s), fantasy (BostonPL_Top Ten Fantasy Novels of the 2010s), and horror (BostonPL_Top Ten Horror Novels of the 2010s) novels of the decade, and their ten best books of the 2019 (BostonPL_BPL Staff Picks: Best Books of 2019; includes two genre works).

(3) JEFF VANDERMEER GOES TO A WORKSHOP. Hilarious. Thread starts here.

(4) YODABYES. Geek Girl Authority rounded up “Our Favorite Baby Yoda Fan Videos That Gave Us All the Emotions”.

In a matter of seconds, at the end of the first episode of The Mandalorian, pop culture and Star Wars fandom was changed forever. Baby Yoda was introduced to the universe and we’ll never be the same. The immediacy in which we fell in love with The Child has left an indelible mark. The eyes, the ears, the broth sipping… We were immediately in our feelings and could not climb out. And, thankfully, so were some very creative fans. 

Lovestruck, creative fans put out some wonderfully clever and sublimely hilarious videos. They run the gamut of Christmas song remakes, Hamilton mash-ups to very original productions. Take a look, dive into your Baby Yoda emotions and enjoy!

And hey – I actually know one of the singers in The Mary Sues! (She’s my daughter’s aunt.)

(5) SUPER ADAPTATIONS. “The Top 10 Comic Book Movies of the Decade” listed by Let Your Geek Sideshow.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

And maybe it was the freedom to explore obscure characters without being tethered to the baggage of canon that gave this film an opportunity to stretch? Or perhaps it was Gunn’s propensity for infusing humor, heart, and a killer soundtrack into a movie about a dysfunctional family which could very well be the most relatable premise ever?

Whatever the reason, you’ve got to give the dude credit–after all, Gunn was so confident with his realized vision that he held on to the merchandise-friendly Baby Groot until the end credits.  

(6) NO NEED TO PREDICT. “Kim Stanley Robinson: ‘What the hell do we write now?’” – the author is interviewed by New Statesman.

…Advisers to the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have sought him out to discuss the environment. But he doesn’t like to think in terms of political parties: “I’d just say I’m an American leftist. The left’s an honourable tradition and a very broad band from Bill Clinton to Xi Jinping. Anything that seems to be progressive in a way that a social scientist or an ordinary person in the street could agree with: health insurance, a pension, and the right to a job.”

His outlook is rooted less in ideology and more in the lived experiences of landscape – specifically the boldly fragile beauty of California’s terraformed farms and coast. “California’s different: it’s the fifth biggest economy in the world, it’s the gold rush, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and it’s too lucky. I wish the whole United States was being led by California, that would get faster solutions. On the other hand, the inequality here is getting as bad as anywhere.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian’s “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in  way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator. He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 87. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares. Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon.
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 85. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans. Much better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 77. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available in the digital format of your choice. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 74. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. 
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 49. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later is Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 
  • Born December 28, 1978 John Legend, 41. Several years back, Legend was Jesus Christ in of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice opera Jesus Christ Superstar which aired on NBC. He also voices Crow in the animated Crow: The Legend film. 
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 38. The Baroness in one of the endless G.I. Joe films I’ve no intention ever of seeing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to be precise. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis Vuk, A Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.
  • Born December 28, 1982 Beau Garrett, 37. She made her genre appearances first in Turistas and Unearthed, definitely grade b horror films, before being Captain Raye in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Gem in Tron: Legacy
  • Born December 28, 1987 Thomas Dekker, 32. He’s best known John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Zach on Heroes andAdam Conant on The Secret Circle. He also played Jesse Braun in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. He was also in ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 which might be one of the worse titles I’ve seen for a horror film….

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s take on a recent newsmaking bit of punctuation.

(9) FAST DEATH. “Russia deploys Avangard hypersonic missile system” – BBC has the story.

Russia’s first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles has been put into service, the defence ministry says.

The location was not given, although officials had earlier indicated they would be deployed in the Urals.

President Vladimir Putin has said the nuclear-capable missiles can travel more than 20 times the speed of sound and put Russia ahead of other nations.

They have a “glide system” that affords great manoeuvrability and could make them impossible to defend against.

…Mr Putin said on Tuesday the Avangard system could penetrate current and future missile defence systems, adding: “Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons.”

(10) IT’S FOR SCIENCE! NPR asks “Would You Lend Your Voice To Our Experiment?”

We need your help — and your voice.

From a robot in your phone to a smart speaker in your kitchen, voice-to-text algorithms are moving into more and more aspects of our lives.

But how well do they understand English speakers of all backgrounds? We’re running an experiment to find out.

This is where you come in: Record yourself speaking (we’ll give you prompts), send us the clips and we’ll have the machines interpret them. It doesn’t matter if you know of or have used the devices or services we’re testing. If you can speak, we’d like to hear from you.

Here’s the link to the experiment: https://npr.forms.fm/voice-crunching

(11) MASH-UP. “BBC transfers HP Lovecraft drama to site of Rendlesham UFO incident”.

A podcast based on a 1930 American horror story has been relocated due to fresh inspiration from “rural English mythology” and an alleged UFO sighting.

The BBC Sounds podcast The Whisperer in Darkness features reports by US airmen who claimed to have seen a UFO in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk in 1980.

Writer Julian Simpson visited drama locations in Suffolk with actress Jana Carpenter before penning the series.

His version is loosely based on the novella set in Vermont by HP Lovecraft.

(12) VIRAL TENTACLES. This animatronic has gone viral.

(13) DISNEY EXEC PROFILED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the November 23 Financial Times, Emma Jacobs profiles Walt Disney Animation Studios president Jennifer Lee.

“Ms Lee knows something about identifying with animated heroes.  The 48-year-old has described growing up in Rhode island on “a poor street in a rich town: where she was tormented by schoolyard bullies,  In Disney’s Cinderella, Ms Lee found comfort in a character who ensured cruel mistreatment before finding happiness.  The bullying left her plagued with self-doubt.  ‘People talk about the dangers of rose coloured glasses,’ she said.  ‘But let me tell you, the lenses of self-doubt are far worse.  They are nasty.  Thick and filthy.”

….”Ms. Lee once wrote that the hardest part of being a female director was not the legacy of Disney or making herself heard in a room full of men.  Rather it was the red carpet.  ‘I didn’t know that being a size 2…might as well be a size 92 to the elite designers; I have never wanted to be an animated character so badly.'”.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “I’m a Lunatic Chef That Cooks Food Using Explosives.”

The master chef’s guide to serving up steaks to customers extra extra extra extra extra extra extra well done, whether they asked for it or not. This is also Cooking Simulator’s July 4 2019 update that adds some festive things for destroying your kitchen even faster.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/3/19 The Three Things Fans Collected Most, The Pixel, File And Holy Scroll

(1) NAVIGATING THE MAZES. Clarkesworld’s Arley Sorg interviews Juliette Wade — “Caste in Blood”.

The Mazes of Power copy calls it “sociological science fiction.” What does this mean exactly, and how does this term apply to Mazes? What are a few of your favorite sociological science fiction novels and how are they similar or different from Mazes?

Sociological science fiction, sometimes also called social science fiction, is science fiction that sets its major focus on society and its impact rather than on other elements like gadgets, technologies, or frontiers. This is not to say that those other things are not involved! The term definitely applies to Mazes of Power, which features a complex caste system with seven different levels, each of which has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture. Members of the castes struggle to cope with the expectations of their caste identities just as people in our world struggle with the identities that are placed on them. My favorite past work of sociological science fiction is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which was one of the works that inspired me to explore characters’ culturally grounded judgments and flout readers’ underlying expectations. (The other major work that had the same effect was not science fiction, but the diary of Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book.) I also consider Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series an example of sociological science fiction, though it’s more typically categorized as space opera. I love how Leckie keeps her focus tight and examines characters’ social and cultural expectations even as she works with the larger politics of the Radchaai Empire.

(2) UNCOMMON SENSES. Ad Age made me want to see it – perhaps you will too: “This adorable Star Wars-themed ad has an ending we didn’t see coming”.

The spot, created by Wunderman Thompson Philippines, depicts a pair of kids working on a mysterious building project. We see them going around town collecting items such as a tire, cardboard, plastic toys and tinsel, as well as a whole bunch of mobile phones, but it isn’t clear exactly what they are doing. (One thing is for sure — these kids are more creative and enterprising than the pair in the Apple holiday ad and their parents, rather than trying to keep them quiet with an iPad, are quite happy for them to wander on railway lines by themselves.) 

Finally, they invite a friend into their home to watch “Star Wars” in the special 4D viewing experience they’ve rigged up — and there’s an even more heartwarming twist that we definitely weren’t expecting. The final reveal is that the friend is actually deaf and they’ve created the whole thing just for her to be able to experience the movie without sound.

(3) GETTING SQUEEZED. In a guest post for According to Hoyt, Leigh Kimmel says dealer’s think it doesn’t look that good from ground level — “The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel”.

…Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point….

(4) GOING TO THE WELLS AGAIN. Steve J. Wright reviews The War of the Worlds, the three-part TV adaptation recently shown on the BBC in “Martians Go Home”.

…Harness takes that time to create and expand on the characters, who are mostly just names in the novel – in fact, the narrator and his wife aren’t even named.  The domestic situation of George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) is drawn from H.G. Wells’s own turbulent personal life; the adaptation also codes astronomer Ogilvy (barely more than a name in the book) as gay, which attracted some criticism from the usual suspects…. One twerp apparently complained that the story was being made “too political”, which, since the book was written as a massive up-yours to colonial imperialism by one of the twentieth century’s foremost socialist pundits, makes me wonder what he was expecting.  (Again, because contemporary Victorian-Edwardian political references aren’t necessarily accessible to the modern audience, the adaptation takes the time to make the anti-colonial message explicit.)

(5) MCU LIVES ON. Marvel dropped the Black Widow teaser trailer yesterday.

(6) IN MEDIA RES. The BBC says origins are just short flashbacks in “Black Widow: Seven talking points from the new trailer”.

The character first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and has since then been a significant figure in the Marvel cinematic universe.

The new film, starring Scarlett Johansson, isn’t an origin story, but it does come before the events of the last two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame.

It may not be out until May, but while we wait here’s seven talking points from Tuesday’s new trailer.

1) Just like Budapest!

The opening shot of the Hungarian capital Budapest teases that we’ll finally uncover more about an event briefly mentioned in the first Avengers movie back in 2012.

In that film, during the intensity of the battle of New York, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow – firing off gun shots – casually says to Hawkeye: “Just like Budapest, all over again.”

Hawkeye responds: “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”

It’s a reference that has intrigued and excited fans ever since. But there is a complicating factor. This movie is set after, not before The Avengers. It actually follows the events of Captain America: Civil War. So is Budapest here a flashback, or is Black Widow revisiting it after traumatic events in the past?

(6) DEVISING LANGUAGE. Juliette Wade’s Dive into Worldbuilding recently featured “S. Qiouyi Lu and As Dark as Hunger”. View the video or read the synopsis – or both! Toward the end they also discuss whether there should be a Hugo award for translations.

… In “As Dark as Hunger,” the main character lives a simple humble life fishing, but then her former lover comes to the village. Her lover wants to hunt mermaids, because people pay handsomely for them, but to find a humane way of doing it that won’t kill them. S. told us that part of this conflict came from the conflicted feelings they have about shark fin soup. It’s a celebratory dish, but cruel because it kills sharks.

S. told us that they struggle with xenophobia in the US, where there is an anti-China climate. They want to be able to defend their personhood without feeling obligated to defend Chinese politics they don’t approve of.

In the story, there is a contrast between the village and the city. The village is downstream from the city, which pollutes its water. Talented people seek opportunity in the city, and children and the elderly are left behind. The city drains away the village’s people. The main character has an ethical objection to hunting mermaids, but she does want a better life than the stinking river.

One of the major themes of the story is diaspora, of being removed from the motherland. While, in this story world, foxes can shapeshift back and forth many times, mermaids can only shapeshift from tail to legs once, and then can’t change back. Their children are human. This is a metaphor for immigration and assimilation. One of the main character’s ancestors made this change in order to keep her descendants from being hunted, but in so doing, closed a door that could not be re-opened.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 3, 2000Frank Herbert’s Dune three-part series premiered on the SciFi Channel. Directed by John Harrison, its cast starred Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, William Hurt as Duke Leto, and Saskia Reeves as Jessica. The first Dune miniseries and this sequel are two of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Weirdly, it has no viewer rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but has a very healthy 71% rating among critics there. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 Polly Freas. Fan and wife of SFF artist Frank Kelly Freas with whom she had 3 children. She was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 Donald Tuck. Australian fan and writer of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 which he revised twice. SFE in the form of a lure says “among the most extensive produced since the pioneering work of Everett F. Bleiler.” It earned him A Special Hugo at Chicon III. Back in time, he found other fans in Hobart where he lived and they produced the first Tasmanian fanzine, Profan which had just three issues between April and September 1941. Bertram Chandler who visited the couple frequently honored Hobart by naming one of the spaceship bases in his novels after it. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 Morgan Llewelyn, 82. Ok, so what have I read by her… The Horse Goddess is wonderful as is Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas and Lion of Ireland which I read a long time ago because the now closed Brian Born Pub had just opened here and I was interested in his story. I later booked uilleann piper Paddy Keenan there…
  • Born December 3, 1948 Ozzy Osbourne, 71. Yes, he has a history in SFF films — most of it is in voicing characters though he did show up as himself in the recent Ghostbusters film. His first appearance in our genre was as himself (“Famous Rock Star“) along with Simmons in Trick or Treat (also known as Ragman and Death at 33 RPM. He’s the voice of The Vicar in Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters Of The Herd Kind, and Fawn in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 61. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here.
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 59. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear which by being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated  for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she that bad in it? Last latest genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 51. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Doom Patrol  series that that airs on DC Universe.
  • Born December 3, 1969 John Kenneth Muir, 50. I really adore niche non-fiction writers with genre focus. He did write a novel, Space: 1999: The Forsaken, but horror is his passion as he’s written Horror Films of the 1970s, Horror Films of the 1980s and Horror Films of the 1990s, all on Macfarland. He’s also authored A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television which covers the classic Who and yet more horror in Horror Films of the 1990s.
  • Born December 3, 1980 Jenna Lee Dewan, 39. She portrayed Freya Beauchamp on the Witches of East End and played Lucy Lane in The CW version of Supergirl. She’s Tamara, complete with bloody axe, in the horror film Tamara. She’s Sophia Loomis in the unsold Dark Shadows pilot. It was commissioned by The WB and produced in 2004, but not picked up for a series. You can see that pilot here.
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 34. She plays Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds here playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis in In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s living Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd helps you figure out if it’s Christmas yet.

(10) MORE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. NPR’s Book Concierge filters the year’s titles into many categories, such as the Best Geek Books of the Year and Best Genre Books of the Year. Chip Hitchcock tried out the links and forwarded them with a note on his experience: “Thanks to recommendations from Filers and others, I’ve read 13/63 of the genre books, including 1 I’d disrecommend and 2 I’d recommend only with serious caveats. I’ve read only 1 of the 15 geek books not on the genre list — I know I should read more nonfiction….”

(11) CHINESE SF. Alexandra Alter tells New York Times Magazine readers “Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows”. The profile extensively covers Liu’s work as a translator and curator as well as his own fiction, and repeatedly probes the constraints on Chinese sff at home.

…“The political climate inside China has shifted drastically from when I first started doing this,” Liu says. “It’s gotten much harder for me to talk about the work of Chinese authors without putting them in an awkward position or causing them trouble.” Liu usually travels to China at least once a year to network and meet new writers, and has attended the Chinese Nebula and Galaxy Awards, the country’s most well known science-fiction prizes. But this year he was denied a long-term visa, without explanation, prompting him to cancel his planned trip.

In another alarming setback, when his American publisher tried to send copies of his recent translations to writers in China, the shipments failed to arrive. It was unclear whether the books were seized or simply disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Liu finally managed to get copies distributed through visiting Chinese friends, each of whom carried a few copies back in their suitcases. In April, when I met Liu at the Museum of Chinese in America, he seemed irritated by the cumbersome workaround, which he called “preposterous.”

But later, when I asked if he felt he was being blacklisted by the Chinese government because of his translation work, Liu deflected and declined to speculate. “I don’t want to magnify the problem,” Liu told me, as we sat in a cafe a few blocks from the museum. “If the authors want to say something daring, then I will honor that, but I’m not going to impose my own politics on them. There’s a lot of room to say what you want to say if you leave things ambiguous.”

 (12) HELP THE PKD AWARD. Gordon Van Gelder says to raise money for the award there is an annual Philip K. Dick Award auction at World Fantasy Convention. This year, they had too many books to put all of them up for bids at the con, so the’re holding a score of auctions on eBay. Many signed books.

(13) UNKISSED TOADS ASSEMBLE. Amanda S. Green, who also writes under the name Sam Schall, says her friend Sarah A. Hoyt used her larger platform to recommend one of Schall’s works – an imprimatur which still didn’t deter some negative comments left by people who hadn’t even read the book: “A Cyber-Monday Promo and a Few Thoughts”.

…No matter how hard you try to write the best book possible, find the best cover you can and present your work in the best shape, someone is always going to hate. I learned long ago from a dear friend the dangers of reading reviews on Amazon, etc. All too often the person writing it never read the book or only read far enough to be offended. I was reminded of that this morning.

That same friend shared a link to the book. I made the mistake of checking the comments. Let’s say my first response was to beat my head against the desk. One person said not to read it because it was a book about a woman written by a male. Yep. I suddenly have a penis. You see, this person never bothered to look beyond the cover. They didn’t follow the link to Amazon and see not only the pen name listed but my real name as well. But, because they read the blurb on the page where the link was listed and saw “Sam Schall”, they just knew it had to be bad — and probably written by a white male deep into the patriarchy (okay, they didn’t quite say that last part but it was pretty clear).

Others hated the cover. That’s fine. That’s their right. The thing is, it does cue the genre and that is the important thing.

Then there was the one (or maybe two) who had a few words to say about how it is basically stupid to think there will be women in the military in fighting roles. Yep, they went there.

And here’s the thing. Each and every one of them were condemning the book without reading it. They were making judgments based solely on what they saw in the blurb and on the cover. Again, that’s their right. But it is also my right to point and laugh (or beat my head against the table).

(14) GENRE AND GENDER FLUID. The Lily’s Lena Felton says we should not be surprised: “A ‘Star Wars’ actor came out as ‘gender fluid.’ Women have been using sci-fi to explore gender and sexuality for centuries.”

Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, describes the feminist appeal of science fiction like this: “We can imagine spaces that radically break from our own world and from what we know or at least believe to be scientifically or socially true about sex and gender.”

The conversation around science fiction and gender recently broke out on the national stage, when Esquire published an interview with 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams, who’s best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). He’ll be reprising the role for the first time since 1983 in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which comes out Dec. 20.

In his Esquire interview, Williams said he uses both “him” and “her” pronouns. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

The moment was seized on by fans, with many applauding Williams’s “gender fluid” approach. But the discussion of gender in the context of “Star Wars” isn’t new; last year, Donald Glover, who played the same character in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” said he had a non-binary approach to his Lando, too.

(15) PICKING UP THE PIECES. Pixel-sized pieces at that — “Chandrayaan-2: Indian helps Nasa find Moon probe debris”.

Nasa says one of its satellites has found the debris of India’s Moon rover which crashed on the lunar surface in September.

The space agency released a picture showing the site of the rover’s impact and the “associated debris field”.

Nasa has credited an Indian engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian, with helping locate the site of the debris.

Mr Subramanian examined a Nasa picture and located the first debris about 750m north-west of the crash site.

…”We had the images from Nasa [of] the lander’s last location. We knew approximately where it crashed. So I searched pixel-by-pixel around that impact area,” the 33-year-old Chennai-based engineer told BBC Tamil.

Mr Subramanian said he had always “been interested in space” and had watched the July launch of the rocket.

(16) CRAWL OF THE WILD. “Raiders Of The Lost Crops: Scientists Race Against Time To Save Genetic Diversity”NPR has the story.

Call it a tale of science and derring-do. An international team of researchers has spent six years fanning across the globe, gathering thousands of samples of wild relatives of crops. Their goal: to preserve genetic diversity that could help key crops survive in the face of climate change. At times, the work put these scientists in some pretty extreme situations.

Just ask Hannes Dempewolf. Two years ago, the plant geneticist found himself in a rainforest in Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas. He was riding on the back of an elephant to avoid snakes on the ground — and to scare away any tigers that might be lurking about. Then all of a sudden came an attack from above.

“There were leeches dropping on us from all directions,” Dempewolf recalls — “bloodsucking leeches.”

Now, this is far from where he thought he’d be when he got his Ph.D. But as a senior scientist and head of global initiatives at the Crop Trust, Dempewolf has been overseeing an ambitious international collaboration. More than 100 scientists in 25 countries have been venturing out to collect wild relatives of domesticated crops — like lentils, potatoes, chickpeas and rice — that people rely on around the world. The Crop Trust has just released a report detailing the results of this massive effort, which secured more than 4,600 seed samples of 371 wild relatives of key domesticated crops that the world relies on.

(17) THE TOK ISN’T CLICKING. More trouble for the PRC-based service: “TikTok suppressed disabled users’ videos”.

Videos made by disabled users were deliberately prevented from going viral on TikTok by the firm’s moderators, the app has acknowledged.

The social network said the policy was introduced to reduce the amount of cyber-bullying on its platform, but added that it now recognised the approach had been flawed.

The measure was exposed by the German digital rights news site Netzpolitik.

Disability rights campaigners said the strategy had been “bizarre”.

And the BBC adds: “TikTok sent US user data to China, lawsuit claims”.

Video-sharing app TikTok has been hit with a class action lawsuit in the US that claims it transferred “vast quantities” of user data to China.

The lawsuit accuses the company of “surreptitiously” taking content without user consent.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has built up a keen US fan base.

TikTok, which is thought to have about half a billion active users worldwide, has previously said it does not store US data on Chinese servers.

However, the platform is facing mounting pressure in North America over data collection and censorship concerns.

(18) TUNING IN. DJ Baby Yoda?

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

Pixel Scroll 11/6/19 The Bulleted, Bolded People

(1) SFF MAGAZINE SURVEY. Jason Sanford is working on a report about science fiction and fantasy magazines for which he’s already interviewed a number of publishers and editors. Sanford also wants feedback from the larger genre community – that means you! Readers are welcome to respond to his short survey hosted on Google Docs.

Sanford aims to release his report after Thanksgiving.

(2) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo has started her “Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2019”.

Once again I have created this post for consolidating fantasy and science fiction award eligibility round-ups. Here are the rules.

I prefer to link to, in order of preference:

  1. Your blog post listing what you published that is eligible
  2. Your social media post listing what you published that is eligible
  3. A single link to the material that is available online

(3) CIVIL WAR. It won’t take you long to figure out what inspired James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post “Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: The Choice Is Clear”. Which side will you choose?

…Science fiction provides its readers with iron-hard, fact-based possibility. For example, Frank Herbert’s Dune played with the possibility that the right combination of eugenics and hallucinogenic drugs (taken from enormous alien worms) might allow messianic figures to draw on the memories of their ancestors. Well, how else would it work?

(4) LOOKING BACKWARD. At Quillette, Craig DeLancey analyzes the removal of Tiptree, Campbell and Lovecraft from sff award iconography in “Science Fiction Purges its Problematic Past” to lay the foundation for his own unique proposal.

…If we must be concerned with the author and not just the work, then Houellebecq’s book is an example of the balance that our criticism should achieve: we must recognize that the work is one thing, the author another. Literary criticism should not be a struggle session.

But this is not the spirit of our moment. Instead, as speculative fiction becomes more diverse, the sense that it must be corrected grows, and author and art are evaluated together. There is a notable asymmetry in this evaluation. Most fiction readers are women, and many fiction genres are dominated by women. Men who write romance novels or cozy mysteries must write under female pseudonyms, because the audiences for these genres will largely avoid books by men. In publishing, this is considered merely a demographic fact, and not an ethical failure of some kind. The attitude is very different towards science fiction. That for decades science fiction was mostly written, read, and published by white men is seen, at best, as something that must be denounced and aggressively corrected, and at worst as evidence that racism and sexism were the driving engines of this creative explosion. We do not single out other genres of fiction, or other art forms, for this kind of invective. We do not hear admirers of the golden age of jazz, for example, denounce the great composers of that era because they were nearly all African-American men. Louise Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and many other such men are honored for their genius, and we recognize their creations as a gift to humankind. Why not consider American science fiction in the twentieth century as a gift, instead of dismissing it as “Sterile. Male. White.”?

(5) EXPLORING SPACE – ON BOOKSTORE SHELVES. Sarah A. Hoyt treats Fonda Lee as someone who deserves mockery for “A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Supply and Demand”. Hoyt addresses Lee’s March 2019 tweets:

…Sigh.  We won’t get into the idiocy of traditional publishing and their artificial restrictions on market, but still…

This poor woman has everything backward in her head.  It makes it very difficult for me to believe that she can create any kind of sane or believable world. Why? Because she doesn’t understand the laws of supply and demand, which means she doesn’t understand reality….

…The dead great shall always be with us. You want to outsell them: write a lot and write well.  Or find another job.

Economics in the end — regardless of what prizes you get for being a good little girl, or how much your professors praised you — is cold equations. Cold equations ALL THE WAY DOWN.

Is it fair? No. Well…. Not fair in the sense that it doesn’t matter how good you are if people don’t know you exist.  But it is fair in the sense that if you write well and a lot and figure out how to advertise you’ll be rewarded.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits premiered. Co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Kenny Baker, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and David Warner. It received critical acclaim with a current 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was a financial success as well.  Apple has gained the rights for a Time Bandits television series to distribute on Apple TV+ with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi as the director of the pilot. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 6, 1907 Catherine Crook de Camp. Author and editor. Most of her work was done in collaboration with her husband L. Sprague de Camp, to whom she was married for sixty years. Her solo work was largely non-fiction. Heinlein in part dedicated Friday to her. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 6, 1914 Jonathan Harris. Doctor Zachary Smith, of course, on Lost in Space. He was somewhat typecast as a villain showing up such Mr. Piper on Land of the Giants, The Ambassador on Get Smart and the voice of Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 6, 1951 Nigel Havers, 68. The bridegroom Peter Dalton in “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. He’s done a lot of children’s genre theatre: Jack in the Beanstalk twice, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Aladdin. He’s been in one Doctor Who audiobook and narrated Watership Down once upon a time. He was Mark Ingram in An Englishman’s Castle, an alternate telling of WWII. 
  • Born November 6, 1953 Ron Underwood, 66. His first directing effort was Tremors starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire in her acting debut. Later genre efforts include Mighty Joe Young, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, episodes of Once Upon A Time, Fear the Walking Dead and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
  • Born November 6, 1955 Catherine Ann Asaro, 64. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I don’t think I’ve read them, so if you’ve read them, please do tell me about them. 
  • Born November 6, 1960 Michael Cerveris, 59. Remembered best as the Primary Observer on Fringe. He’s played Puck and been in Macbeth way off Broadway so his creds there are covered too. He was Mr. Tiny in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, and Elihas Starr, the original Egghead, in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
  • Born November 6, 1964 Kerry Scott Conran, 55. A director and screenwriter, best known for creating and directing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a film I absolutely adore. And that’s it. That’s all he done. 
  • Born November 6, 1968 Kelly Rutherford, 51. She’s here for having the recurring role of Dixie Cousins on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and that’s in addition to managing to get herself involved in more bad genre series that got cancelled fast such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Kindred: The Embraced (8 episodes each). Indeed, her very first genre gig had the dubious title of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge.
  • Born November 6, 1972 Rebecca Romijn, 47. Played Mystique in the X-Men film franchise but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that cross all realities in The Librarians series.  She also was a regular playing Roxie Torcoletti in Eastwick, yet another riff the John Updike novel. She is now Number One on Discovery

(8) LEARN ABOUT STAN LEE. In LA at the Skirball Cultural Center on November 10, there will be a conversation between Danny Fingeroth, author of “A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee”, and comics historian Jerry Beck.

Discover how Stan Lee became known as the voice and face of comics at this conversation between Lee’s colleague and author Danny Fingeroth and animation historian Jerry Beck.

As editor, publisher, and co-creator of Marvel, Lee worked with creative partners, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to create world-famous characters including Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. But Lee’s career was haunted by conflict and controversy. Be amazed by Lee’s complex and accomplished life at this illuminating discussion.

(9) MARY YES, HERMAN NO. A word sticks out prominently in this Guardian interview: “Tade Thompson: ‘Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick’ “.

The book that influenced my writing
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I read it as a teenager and the seething mess of nested narratives and charnel houses lodged itself in my imagination. I’ve read it more than any other book and hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of making corpses walk. Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick.

The book I think is most overrated
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. With apologies to my US friends and my English teacher. This book didn’t just leave me cold. When I finished I wanted to make a list of everybody who had recommended it and make them eat it.

(10) GENRE WORK NOTED. BBC’s panelists invite everyone to “Explore the list of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World”. Chip Hitchcock says, “I count 17 of the 100 (and there’s probably a few I’m missing through not knowing the works), although I’d be happier if the Twilight series wasn’t one of them.”

(11) NOT A TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM. “Boeing aims for Moon landing in ‘fewer steps'”.

Aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled its proposal for a lander that could take humans to the Moon’s surface.

Under a programme called Artemis, the White House wants to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Its approach, named “Fewest Steps to the Moon”, would use the huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The company says its plan reduces the complexity involved in sending several different bits of hardware into space on multiple launches.

For most robotic space missions, all the hardware needed for the mission is launched on one rocket. Likewise, the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s required only one lift-off.

However, the Artemis missions are expected to involve several flights to loft all the hardware needed. For example, the lander elements are likely to be launched separately from the Orion capsule carrying crew.

Boeing says it can land astronauts on the Moon with only five “mission critical events” – such as launch, orbit insertion and others – instead of the 11 or more required by alternative strategies.

…The company says its lander would be ready for the 2024 mission, called Artemis-3. But Boeing’s plan would depend on a more powerful variant of the SLS rocket called Block 1B.

Under current Nasa plans, the Block 1B version of the rocket wouldn’t be ready until 2025.

(12) VARIATION ON FLORIDA MAN. UPI says be on the lookout — “Florida police seek return of 300-pound Bigfoot”.

Police in Florida are seeking information on the disappearance of an unusual piece of property — a 300-pound Bigfoot statue.

The Boynton Beach Police Department said the 8-foot-tall Sasquatch statue was stolen from in front of a store called Mattress Monsterz in October.

(13) HPL. SYFY Wire opines: “Nic Cage goes full Lovecraft in first trailer for cosmic horror tale Color Out of Space”. Tell me if you don’t think the kid doesn’t look like he just walked out of A Christmas Story. (Not the one framed below, the one in the beginning of the trailer,)

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

Pixel Scroll 10/4/19 May The Pixel of Paradise Fly Up Your Scroll

(1) JUDGE DISMISSES MIGNOGNA SUIT. It’s over, unless there’s an appeal.

Sharon Grigsby’s commentary for the Dallas Morning News, “Anime voice actor Vic Mignogna loses big as judge drops final claims that Dallas-area studio and colleagues defamed him”, sums up:

…This sorry mess started in January, as Mignogna’s most recent film, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, soared to box office records. Its release also set off another round of allegations on social media about the 57-year-old actor’s aggressive kisses, hugs and unwanted sexual advances.

Mignogna repeatedly has denied all allegations of inappropriate actions, although he acknowledged in a June 26 deposition that people have commented negatively for years about his behavior.

As a columnist who writes regularly about these issues, I became interested in this case because of the voice actor’s decision to go on the offensive — digging in and fighting back against what he and his devoted fans have labeled lies, exaggerations and ploys for attention.

… The voice actor’s legal fight is apparently backed by a GoFundMe war chest, which has reached almost $250,000 since Minnesota lawyer Nick Rekieta opened it in February.

But even that large a sum may not cover all the plaintiff’s costs. Next up for the court is to sort out attorney’s fees — which could total up to half a million dollars given the multiple defendants and their legal representation — and mandatory sanctions.

Mignogna has provided the English-language voice for hundreds of animated shows, films and games created in Japan. He’s long been among the most popular actors at conventions across the nation that allow fans of the genre to meet their heroes.

His lawsuit named Funimation, voice actors Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, and Rial’s fiancé, Ron Toye. The lawsuit painted the company and three individuals as a band of conspirators leading the charge to ruin Mignogna’s career. In response, those accused have maintained that the legal action is aimed at unjustly silencing them

Marchi, Rial and Toye were among the scores of anime talent and fans who, beginning early this year, tweeted critically about the actor’s behavior. Rial alleged that Mignogna grabbed her in a hotel room and forcibly kissed her without her consent at an anime convention in 2007. Marchi accused him of violently pulling her hair in a tense office encounter….

At Nerd & Tie, Trae Dorn’s “Vic Mignogna’s Case Against Monical Rial, Ronald Toye and Funimation Completely Dismissed” cut to the chase:

…the defendants challenged the suit under Texas’s Anti-SLAPP law (the TCPA), and a hearing was held on the matter about a month ago.

At that hearing, Judge John Chupp dismissed the case against Jamie Marchi entirely, along with most claims against the other defendants. A week and a half after that, Judge Chupp ordered both parties to attempt mediation to attempt to settle any remaining issues.

As that settlement resulted in an impasse, Judge Chupp has now issued his ruling on the TCPA motions. In it he has dismissed all remaining claims against the defendants under the TCPA. You can read the full dismissal here.

(2) “FORCEFUL” COOKWARE. How can we live without the ”Han Solo in Carbonite Signature Roaster”?

(3) LITIGATION RESOLVED. Brianna Wu announced in a public Facebook post today:

I’ve just been notified by my legal counsel that Alex Jones will be removing me from his defamation lawsuit.

My thanks to William Moran for representing me and getting this resolved. I look forward to focusing on my congressional campaign for the people of Massachusetts.

(4) MIND MELD. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer renews the popular feature originated at SF Signal: “The Hugo Initiative: Mind Meld: Favorite Best Novel Hugo Winner”.

What is your favorite winner of the Hugo award for best novel? Why?

Participants include Charlie Jane Anders, Casey Blair, Cheryl Morgan, Elizabeth Bear, Michael J. Martinez, Beth Cato, Marguerite Kenner, Sara Megibow, and Jaime Lee Moyer.

Marguerite Kenner picked this book —

My favorite best novel Hugo winner is from 1982 — ‘Downbelow Station‘ by C. J. Cherryh. I still own my first copy of it, a dog-eared, well-loved paperback. Captain Signy Mallory was the first ‘unlikable woman’ protagonist I remember resonating with, and I think I still know all the words to the filk song…

(5) QUESTION AUTHORITY. In “This is Not a Review of The Joker”  at Nerds of a Feather, Dean E.S. Richard dares to ask whether there was really any point to making the movie.

…In the first place, why do we need to know the origin of the Joker? For all his iterations through film, television and comics, what bearing does who he is and where he came from matter in the slightest? He is a villain for the sake of being a villain, which is a luxury most people writing fiction aren’t allowed, despite it being allowed in real life 2019. It works for the Joker precisely because he is The Joker – insane, given to sadistic whimsy, crafting ornate plans while simultaneously not having one at all. He works because he doesn’t have an origin. His adversary, Better Elon Musk, is all backstory. Rooted in his childhood trauma, he puts on a mask to keep it all out. Joker is what he is, unapologetically, always in pursuit of his mercurial goals, but doing what it takes to achieve them – Bats will give up his to protect a life, never willing to make the sacrifices truly needed.

In short, Joker works narratively because he is the perfect antagonist for Batman…

(6) THE JOKER’S ON US. Variety: “Box Office: ‘Joker’ Scores Record $13.3 Million on Thursday Night”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” scored a record $13.3 million on Thursday night in North America.

The figure is above the $10 million in previews that was earned a year ago by “Venom,” which posted an $80 million opening weekend — both records for October. It’s the biggest preview number since “The Lion King” pulled in $23 million in July and portends a potential record opening. “Joker” has been forecast for a similarly massive debut in the $80 million to $95 million range from 4,374 North American theaters for Warner Bros.

[…] “Joker” premiered on Aug. 31 at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize. The pic polarized critics — while Phoenix’s performance has been lauded, the comic-book adaptation’s dark tone and handling of violence have generated a divisive response. “Joker” currently has a 69% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) DOESN’T LIKE IT ANYWAY. Nevertheless, NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Joker’ Is Wild … ly Dull”

In the comics and cartoons — and on film, as played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and (checks notes) Jared Leto — the Joker, Batman’s archenemy, is an agent of chaos.

…One of the many things Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight got right about the character is that we only think we want to know who he is and where he came from. The Joker works best, most purely, when unencumbered by the humdrum of the everyday. His motivations must and should remain mysterious, unknowable.

Director Todd Phillips’ new film seeks to strip all mystery from the character and make his motivations very knowable. And in that much at least, he succeeds.

…Certainly, Joker is tense, grimy and claustrophobic, and Phoenix’s performance is a big swing, and a risky one — the kind of big, risky swing that Oscar voters historically eat up with a big ol’ spoon.

But the film so desperately strives to reject comic book trappings — so aches to be seen as edgy, provocative, serious, adult — that it simply apes the tone, style and content of other, better, edgier and more provocative films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy and Fight Club.

(8) MELODIOUS REFERENCES. Fanac.org has posted video of filksinger Julia Ecklar’s 1989 concert at Tropicon.

Julia Ecklar was the special filk guest at Tropicon 8, held in Dania, Florida, in 1989. This recording captures her concert at the convention, and includes 10 songs (of which Julia wrote four). The last song is beautifully signed by Linda Melnick. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Julia was a sought-after filk performer at science-fiction conventions worldwide. As a published author, her skill with words is very evident in the songs she writes. Filk songs are often strong on narrative, and you’ll notice that a number of these are about science fiction novels that were popular at the time. If you’ve read the books, the impact of the songs is increased, but they are enjoyable even if you haven’t. Can you identify the novels? Because Tropicon didn’t officially sponsor filk guests, the local community raised money to bring in one filk guest for each Tropicon. Concerts like this were held as a benefit for those who had donated.

(9) CARROLL OBIT. Famed TV actress Diahann Carroll died October 4 at the age of 84. The two genre roles in her resume were The Man in the Moon, a musical fantasy from 1960 which features Andy Williams as an actual Man in the Moon who visits Earth and meets up with an array of human talent, including Carroll as a singer, and The Star Wars Holiday Special where she played Mermeia Holographic Wow.

(10) ZASLOVE OBIT. Animator, producer and director Alan Zaslove has died at the age of 92. Animation Magazine paid tribute:

Zaslove began his career in 1942 as an “office boy” at Leon Schlesinger’s Studios, and then went on to work on many UPA shorts and series, including Gerald McBoing-Boing and Mr. Magoo. During the 1960s and ‘70s, he worked as an animator on TV and feature projects such as Popeye the Sailor, Fractured Fairy Tales, Roger Ramjet, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, The Gumby Show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Chipmunk Christmas, Tom Thumb, The Night Before Christmas and Stanley the Ugly Duckling.

…He was nominated for Emmys for his work on DuckTales, Smurfs, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck and the Aladdin TV series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 4, 1972 Night of the Lepus starring Janet Leigh appeared on movie screens. This horror film is based upon the science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon. It scores 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 4, 1985 — The Misfits Of Science series debuted. starring Dean Paul Martin and Courteney Cox, it would last just sixteen episodes before be canceled due to low ratings. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 4, 1860 Sidney Edward Paget. British illustrator of the Victorian era,  he’s definitely known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand. He also illustrated Arthur Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, Investigator, a series of short stories featuring the protagonist, Martin Hewitt, and written down by his good friend, the journalist Brett. These came out after Holmes was killed off, like many similar series. (Died 1908.)
  • Born October 4, 1904 Earl Binder. Under the pen name of Eando Binder, he and his brother Otto published SF stories. One series was about a robot named Adam Link. The first such story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. A collection by Asimov called I, Robot would be published in 1950. The name was selected by the publisher, despite Asimov’s wishes. As Eando Binder, they wrote three SF novels — Enslaved Brains, Dawn to Dusk and Lords of Creation. There’s lots of Eando Binder available on iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1966.)
  • Born October 4, 1923 Charlton Heston. Without doubt, best known for playing astronaut George Taylor in the Planet of the Apes. He retuned to the role Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He’s also Neville in The Omega Man. By the way, once at the LA Music Center he played Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. His IMDB credits show him as being on SeaQuest DSV in the “Abalon” episode. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 4, 1928 Alvin Toffler. Author of Future Shock and a number of other works that almost no one will recall now. John Brunner named a most excellent novel, The Shockwave Rider, after the premise of Future Shock. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 4, 1929 Scotty Beckett. He costarred on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which ran for thirty- four episodes from February to November 1954, lasting only two seasons. Because it was recorded on film rather than being broadcast live, it has survived.  You can the first episode of the series here.
  • Born October 4, 1932 Ann Thwaite, 87. Author of AA Milne: His Life which won the Whitbread Biography of the Year, as well as The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of the Milne biography. (And yes, Pooh is genre.) In 2017 she updated her 1990 biography of A.A Milne to coincide with Goodbye Christopher Robin for which she was a consultant. 
  • Born October 4, 1941 Anne Rice, 78. She‘s best known for The Vampire Chronicles. Confession time: I’ve not read them. So how are they? Same goes for Lives of the Mayfair Witches series which I’ve been told is excellent. It’s just that she’s too damn popular and I really don’t do popular all that well. 
  • Born October 4, 1946 Susan Sarandon, 73. She make Birthday Honors just for being Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but she’s also been in Enchanted as Queen Narissa, The Witches of Eastwick as Jane Spofford, The Lovely Bones as Grandma Lynn and The Hunger as Sarah Roberts. An impressive genre list indeed! 
  • Born October 4, 1956 Christoph Waltz, 63. He portrayed James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre , he is set to reprise the role in No Time to Die. Genre wise, he also portrayed Qohen Leth in The Zero Theorem,Benjamin Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet (I lasted ten minutes before giving up), Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, himself in Muppets Most Wanted, Léon Rom in The Legend of Tarzan and Dr. Dyson Ido in Alita: Battle Angel
  • Born October 4, 1975 Saladin Ahmed, 44. Hi Throne of the Crescent Moon was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and did win the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He has also written in Kamala Khan (The Magnificent Ms. Marvel), Black Bolt, Exiles and the Miles Morales (Spider-Man) series, all on Marvel Comics. Oddly only his Marvel is available on iBooks and Kindle. 

(13) INSIDE STORY. Heather Rose Jones launched a new blog, explaining: “I’ve decided to start developing a FAQ for the Alpennia series, one question at a time.” First question: “Alpennia FAQ: Are the Alpennia books romances?”

I thought I’d post the individual questions+answers here in the blog first–which gives a chance to get more feedback–and then migrate them to their own page once the series is finished. If you have a general-interest question about the series that you think might not occur to me, let me know in the comments! Or if you want more details or further explanation on a topic.

(14) UNHIDDEN. John DeNardo shows us where to learn “Everything You Wanted to Know About Science Fiction’s Lost History (Almost)” at Kirkus Reviews. That would be from the book Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Desirina Boskovich.

… This treasure trove of secrets, presented in a generously illustrated hardbound volume, is like a gateway into science fiction’s inner sanctum. Though it may seem squarely aimed at science fiction fans, the fact that SF so pervades our culture makes it an attractive coffee table book for anyone. Everyone will find something to relate to here, whether it’s reading about a favorite author, like Philip K. Dick or Angela Carter; or about the rock band The Who and their never-fully-materialized concept album follow-up to Tommy called Lifehouse, set in a near future where reality is experienced through a worldwide network called The Grid. The topics are simply too attractive for even the casual science fiction fan to ignore…

(15) ROANHORSE EXCERPT. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog invites readers to “Rejoin General Leia and Poe Dameron in an Exclusive Excerpt from Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

To celebrate the lead-up to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, today we’re all about exploring the next major novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, written by Hugo and Nebula-winner Rebecca Roanhorse.

Set in-between the shocking climax of The Last Jedi—which saw the Resistance against Kylo Ren and the ruthless First Order nearly collapse, costing the life of an iconic character—and the opening scenes of the new film, Resistance Reborn serves as “Episode 8.5” (VIII.V?) of the saga, introducing crucial new characters and setting the stage for the a climactic clash more than four decades in the making.

(16) PORTMAN’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin is not a big fan of this one: Lucy in the Sky: Earthbound”.

Lucy in the Sky is an ideal vehicle for Natalie Portman, cast as an astronaut who finds outer space thrilling and life back on earth somewhat less so. Affecting a Southern accent and sporting a short haircut, she creates a character who is thoroughly relatable, at first. We understand her exhilaration during a spacewalk and her dissatisfaction at home, despite the fact that she has a loving husband (Dan Stevens), a salty grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and congenial colleagues. As it unfolds, however, the story takes this character to extremes.

(17) BY ANY OTHER NAME. Nina Shepardson reviews In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant” at Outside of a Dog.

…Seanan McGuire uses the Mira Grant pen name to write stories with a somewhat darker tone, but Spindrift House shares one major commonality with some of her best work as McGuire. As in the Wayward Children series, the theme of “found family” plays a major role here. Harlowe and her friends understand each other’s quirks, help each other through difficulties both major and minor, and generally act as siblings to each other.

(18) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Paralysed man moves in mind-reading exoskeleton” — We’re a long way from A Spectre Is Haunting Texas — but this is a step. Includes video of walking.

A man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs with a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit, French researchers report.

Thibault, 30, said taking his first steps in the suit felt like being the “first man on the Moon”.

His movements, particularly walking, are far from perfect and the robo-suit is being used only in the lab.

But researchers say the approach could one day improve patients’ quality of life.

(19) SUPER POO FLINGING. The Guardian passes along one expert’s opinion: “Martin Scorsese says Marvel movies are ‘not cinema'”.

Martin Scorsese, one of cinema’s most venerated current directors, has decried superhero movies – the dominant force in today’s industry. The director of films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas told Empire magazine that his attempts to get up to speed with contemporary superhero films had failed.

“I tried, you know?” the director said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.”

(20) ANIME CHARACTER PROMOTES CONDOM USE. “In The Name Of The Moon: Free Sailor Moon Condoms Distributed By The Japanese Government Will Protect You From STDs And Pregnancy!”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

In the name of the moon, I will protect you… from unwanted pregnancy and STDs!  Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has partnered with Naoko Takeuchi to distribute free Sailor Moon condoms!  These condoms, which come in cute heart-shaped wrappers, will be distributed for free at STD/STI prevention events throughout October.  The first takes place tomorrow, October 5 in Fukuoka, with another taking place in Hiroshima, on Monday, October 14 in Hiroshima.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Todd Mason, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Eric Franklin, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, StephenfromOttawa, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joel Zakem.]

Pixel Scroll 10/3/19 I’d Like To Scroll A Pixel, I’d Like To Tick A Box, I’d Like To Read A Book So Good It Launches My Two Socks

(1) 1990 SOUVENIR BOOK. To help promote the planned Reunicon 2020 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ConFiction 1990, Kees Van Toorn and friends have uploaded the Souvenir Book of ConFiction 1990 on their website in flipbook format.

(2) GAME OF THE NAME. If you have the Scrivener writing app, something you can get it to do for you is make up character names (see “How to Use Scrivener’s Name Generator” at Fairies, Zombies and Agent Queries.) Here’s Exhibit A:

(3) ANOTHER BITE OF THE APPLE. Magical mysteries unfold in Ghostwriter, coming November 1 to the Apple TV app with an Apple TV+ subscription.

According to TVLine, the upcoming reboot will center around four friends who discover a ghost in their neighborhood’s bookstore. This ghost seems to be decidedly less helpful than the Ghostwriter of the ‘90s; instead of helping the friends solve mysteries, he “releases” fictional characters from books into the real world. TVLine adds that each episode will highlight a particular book or novel.

(4) KAFKAESQUE CRIME. CrimeRead’s Peter Steiner calls him — “Franz Kafka: Misunderstood Crime Author”. Tagline: “How The Trial upended what we know about crime fiction.”

…Kafka’s language does not arouse suspicion, but it should. He describes the goings on with great precision, objectively noting peculiar elements, odd turns of events, strange settings and physical characteristics as a scientist might describe what he sees through a microscope, giving nothing special place, offering no opinion or emotional reaction, as though everything that takes place is equally worthy of notation. Random, apparently peripheral elements get the same attention as the most dramatic happenings. The supervising inspector arranges objects around a candle that sits on a night table he is using as a desk. He places his index fingers side by side as though comparing their length. Three men Josef K. does not seem to know examine a framed picture on a wall. But these are not clues, for K. or for us. They are disconnected observations that lead nowhere, that add up to nothing.

The disconnect between Kafka’s language and what is being described is what unsettles. Shocking, bizarre, and funny moments are described in the most mundane and unemotional language. Kafka has no reaction to anything himself and gives no clues how we should react. His almost pedantic detail and dry tone cast things in an oddly familiar light.

(5) LE GUIN AND MUSIC. [Item by Rob Thornton.] At the Electric Literature website, writer and editor Tobias Carroll wonders “Why Has Ursula K. Le Guin Inspired So Many Musicians?” He discusses how musicians are not only  mentioning her works in song titles and lyrics, they are also grappling with the themes from Le Guin’s stories in their works. Bands such as Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House, heavy metal bands Keep of Kalessin and Ragana, and San Francisco darkwave act Cold Beat are mentioned:

“[Cold Beat songwriter] spoke about the potential of science fiction to offer a glimpse of a better world. ‘When we broaden our vocabulary and learn more, there’s a lot out there to discover,’ she said. ‘I think it’s inspiring, especially when we’re getting down. It’s really healthy to remember that there’s a lot more out there.’ It’s the same kind of thought experiment that one might see in an Ursula K. Le Guin essay or story?—?albeit in the process of being transfigured into a catchy and propulsive song. And while Le Guin’s own foray into music hasn’t necessarily spawned a legion of sound-alikes, the fact that she felt compelled to create such a work suggests that she left room in her writings for music—a gateway that this group of musicians has passed through, creating memorable work as they go. “‘

To prove Carroll’s point, there are other bands who have somehow made Le Guin a part of their music, including Ekumen (a hardcore punk band from New Orleans), Spanish Kalte Sonne (a post-metal band from Spain with an album named Ekumen), Fogweaver (Earthsea-inspired dungeon synth act from Colorado), and Street Eaters (punk band from San Francisco) among others.

(6) A GOOD OMEN FOR BUYERS. AudioFile applauds Michael Sheen’s narration of Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, volume 2) here.

Michael Sheen throws himself wholeheartedly into narrating this sequel to LA BELLE SAUVAGE, and listeners will be rapt. Lyra is now 20, and she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are uneasy with each other in ways they never have been before. This central conflict is the catalyst for a series of journeys and is just one of many, many threads that Pullman will presumably pick up again in the final volume in the Book of Dust trilogy. For the ever-expanding international cast of characters, Sheen conjures a multitude of accents and delivers rapid-fire conversations between them. He’s in step with the text at every turn; when situations become fraught or dangerous, Sheen ramps up the tension exquisitely…

(7) LISTEN TO LONDO. AudioFile also tips a Babylon 5 actor’s voicing of J. Michael Straczynski’s Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood:

If you’re going to reveal your life story, it’s good to have a friend and fellow “Babylon 5” cast member perform it. Peter Jurasik, known to “Babylon 5” fans as the sleazy alien Londo Mollari, narrates the startling life of the series creator, J. Michael Straczynski, and his victories over a monstrous father, an abusive family, and, seemingly, an entire world out to destroy him. Jurasik soberly recounts his friend’s life, a fascinating, almost unbelievable, tale of courage and determination.

(8) BIRTH OF LASFS. More delving into the past of LA fandom at Rob Hansen’s fanhistory website THEN: “Vernon Harry and the Birth of LASFS” (originally, LASFL).

The birth of the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League was announced in the pages of the February 1935 issue of WONDER STORIES, thus:

(9) FLYING OUT OF MY… Here’s a problem most of us don’t have — “Google faces winged-monkey privacy protest”.

Google has angered a privacy expert by repeatedly identifying him as a “dwarf character actor” famous for playing a winged monkey in The Wizard of Oz.

Pat Walshe told BBC News he had had the issue resolved twice, only to discover last week it had happened again.

The issue involves his photo being run next to text from another source about a dead American who had the same name.

He now aims to make an official complaint to data privacy watchdogs. Google has once again fixed the flaw.

(10) METCALF OBIT. Longtime fan Norm Metcalf (1937-2019) died September 21, within a few months after he was hospitalized for injuries sustained in a fall.

Robert Lichtman remembers:

I knew him via the science fiction fan subculture, where he published a fanzine, New Frontiers, that saw four issues (1959-1964) with noteworthy contributors including Poul Anderson, Anthony Boucher, Stanton Coblentz,  L. Sprague de Camp, August Derleth and Wilson Tucker.  He was a longtime member of several amateur publishing associations —  the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) 1963-1969 and 1973 to the present, and the Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS) 1961-1967 and 1987 to the present — and published a variety of titles for their mailing distributions.  He also researched and edited a reference, The Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1951-1965, which was published in 1968.  Norm was a serious student of science fiction.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 3, 1961A For Andromeda aired “The Message”, the premier episode. Written by Fred Hoyle and John Elliot, this UK series was broadcast in seven episodes. As was the practice at the time, the BBC’s copies of the serial were trashed after broadcast and most of the serial still remains missing.
  • October 3, 2000 — The Dark Angel series first aired. Starring Jessica Alba, it would run for two seasons. It was executive produced by James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee andRené Echevarria. 
  • October 3, 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuted on the Cartoon Network. created by George Lucas and produced by Lucasfilm Animation, the series is was renewed for a seventy season to air in 2020. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 3, 1874 Charles Middleton. He is no doubt best remembered for his role as the Emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940 which may been the only genre production he appeared in. (Died 1949.)
  • Born October 3, 1927 Don Bensen. Best-known for his novel And Having Writ… which is not in print in form digitally or in hard copy — damn it. Indeed, nothing by him is. Huh. (Died 1997.)
  • Born October 3, 1931 Ray Nelson, 88. SF writer best known for his short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was the basis of John Carpenter’s They Live.  He later collaborated with Philip K. Dick on The Ganymede Takeover. In the 1940s Nelson appropriated the propeller beanie as a symbol of science fiction fandom. His fannish cartoons were recognized with the Rotsler Award in 2003. He was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame this year.
  • Born October 3, 1935 Madlyn Rhue. She on Trek’s “Space Seed” as Lt. Marla McGivers, Khan Noonien Singh’s (Ricardo Montalbán) love interest. Other genre appearances included being on the original Fantasy Island as Lillie Langtry in “Legends,” and Maria in the “Firefall” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 3, 1944 Katharine Kerr, 75. Ok I’m going to confess that I’ve not read her Deverry series so please tell me how they are. Usually I do read such Celtic tinged series so I don’t know how I missed them.
  • Born October 3, 1964 — Clive Owen, 55. First role I saw him in was the title role of Stephen Crane in the Chancer series. Not genre, but fascinating none the less. He’s been King Arthur in film of the same name where Keira Knightley was Guinevere. He’s also was in Sin City as Dwight McCarthy, and in The Pink Panther (though weirdly uncredited) as Nigel Boswell/Agent 006. I’ll also single him out for being Commander Arun Filitt in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
  • Born October 3, 1973 Lena Headey, 46. Many of you will know her as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, but I liked her sociopathic Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal on Dredd better.  She was also Angelika in The Brothers Grimm, a film I’m sure I’ve seen but remember nothing about. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) EAT YOUR GREENS. Taste of Home promises “Nestle’s New Grinch Cookie Dough Is Mean, Green and Perfect for the Holidays”.  

The Grinch is one of our all-time favorite Christmas movies, so this cookie dough is a holiday miracle. The dough bakes into scrumptious, bright green sugar cookies made for a tall glass of milk. In theme with the story we all know and love, the Grinch cookie dough features an adorable red candy heart that brings the Dr. Seuss character to life. It’s the perfect thing to bake with the kiddos (or just yourself) this year.

(15) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport, reporting from Boca Chica Island, Texas, discusses the construction of Elon Musk’s spaceport on the Texas coast and the irony of having one of the world’s richest men building in one of the nation’s poorest counties: “Elon Musk’s improbable Mars quest runs through a border town concerned with more than getting to space”.

…But now, across the water on South Padre Island, the county has spent about $31 million building new pavilions and an amphitheater that would host concerts and weddings and make a prime viewing area for rocket launches. Local officials hope for a future where residents and tourists line the beach, the way they have for years along Florida’s Space Coast, cheering rockets as they tear through the sky.

“It’s exciting,” said Sofia Benavides, a county commissioner who represents Boca Chica. “I’m 69 years old and have never been to a rocket launch. For my children and grandchildren, it’s great that this is happening in their backyard.”

Not everyone is cheering, though.

A handful of residents who live next door to SpaceX’s facilities recently received letters from SpaceX, which said the company’s footprint in the area was going to be bigger and more disruptive than originally imagined. As a result, it was seeking to purchase their properties at three times the value determined by an appraiser hired by SpaceX. The deal was nonnegotiable, the letter said, and the company wanted an answer within two weeks, although some have received extensions.

Called Boca Chica Village, the area is made up of about 30 homes within walking distance of the Gulf of Mexico, occupied mostly seasonally. Many are boarded up. A few have weeds as high as the mailboxes….

(16) SNUBS. Travis M. Andrews’ “The Missing Oscars” in the Washington Post is about actors he thinks should have won Oscars but didn’t.  About a third of the people he picked were in sf or fantasy films, including Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, Michael Keaton for Beetlejuice, and Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix.  (Most of the actors he picked in sf and fantasy films were men.)

John Lithgow for
“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” (1984)

Lithgow’s primary strength as an actor is range. Look at his portrayal of long-standing, slow-burning dedication in “Love is Strange,” or his take on an alien trying to understand humanity in “3rd Rock From the Sun,” or as a hardline preacher who can’t tolerate dancing in “Footloose.” At times he’s also, to use a colloquialism, realllllllly gone for it, like when he portrayed a man with multiple personalities in “Raising Cain.” That role bordered on parody, but his most extravagant performance was parody, as Lord John Whorfin/Dr. Emilio Lizardo in Earl Mac Rauch’s and W.D. Richter’s sci-fi sendup. To play the mad intergalactic doctor, Lithgow lifted an Italian accent from an MGM tailor and changed his walk to that of an “old crab, because my alien metabolism is supposed to be messed up,” he later explained. The bizarre result is a deeply committed performance that’s wildly over-the-top and a singular, hilarious character.

(17) AI. Nature’s review ofStuart Russell’s latest book examines how artificial intelligence could spin out of control: “Raging robots, hapless humans: the AI dystopia.” Full review article here (open access).

In Human Compatible, his new book on artificial intelligence (AI), Stuart Russell confronts full on what he calls “the problem of control”. That is, the possibility that general-purpose AI will ultimately eclipse the intellectual capacities of its creators, to irreversible dystopian effect.

The control problem is not new. Novelist Samuel Butler’s 1872 science-fiction classic Erewhon, for instance, features concerns about robotic superhuman intelligences that enslave their anthropoid architects, rendering them “affectionate machine-tickling aphids”. But, by 1950, Norbert Wiener, the inventor of cybernetics, was writing (in The Human Use of Human Beings) that the danger to society “is not from the machine itself but from what man makes of it”. Russell’s book in effect hangs on this tension: whether the problem is controlling the creature, or the creator. In a sense, that has been at the core of AI from its inception…

(18) APOLLO’S CREED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 28 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Arwa Haider profiles the London Video Game Orchestra, a 65-piece orchestra that will perform Assassin’s Creed Symphony at the Eventim Apollo in London on October 5. Haider interviewed the founder of MGP Live, concert producer Massimo Goletta.

In an era when the entertainment industry is obsessed with ‘immersive’ events, video game concerts also present the possibility of grand spectacle on a globalized scale, such as MGP Live’s tours of classic gaming soundtracks,  Its current show Assassin’s Creed Symphony, based on the historic action-adventure series (and co-developed with its creators, Ubisoft) premiered in Paris over the summer and elicited a six-minute standing ovation at the Palais des Congrès.  It is now embarking on an autumn tour of the US and Europe, with a full international tour planned next year.  The company works with local musicians, rather than transporting an 80-piece instrumental and choral line-up from country to country….

…Video game concerts may in fact offer a financially savvy form of ‘future-proofing’ for traditional orchestras.  A recent GlobalData reported estimated that video games could be a $300bn industry by 2025.And with each passing year and the library of games growing, the bigger the repertoire MGP Live will have to draw on. The Assassin’s Creed Symphony draws on a series that spans more than a decade, and blends what Goletta describes as ‘the epic beauty and drama of the themes.’ He enthuses, ‘There are parallels with Beethoven and Bach, then elements of world music–along with the nostalgic effect.”

The London Video Game Orchestra’s website is here.

(19) DEADPOOL DEATH. Officials have determined “’Safety failures’ led to death of Deadpool 2 stuntwoman” says BBC.

An investigation into a stuntwoman’s death on the Vancouver set of Deadpool 2 has attributed her fatal motorcycle accident to a series of safety errors.

Government agency WorkSafeBC said the film’s makers should have ensured Joi Harris was wearing a helmet.

It also said barriers should have been in place to stop her “leaving the set perimeter” on 14 August 2017.

20th Century Fox, which made the 2018 film, said it “respectfully disagree[d] with some of the report’s findings”.

“Safety is our top priority, and while we respectfully disagree with some of the report’s findings, Fox thoroughly reviewed its stunt safety protocols immediately following the tragic accident and has revised and implemented enhanced safety procedures and enforcement,” it said in a statement.

Professional road racer Harris was killed while doubling for actress Zazie Beetz in the comic book-inspired sequel.

(20) WOMAN WINS HORROR FILM AWARD. “Horror film wins first-time director Rose Glass £50,000 award”

A film-maker who set her first feature in the traditionally male-dominated horror genre has won a £50,000 prize.

Rose Glass, 30, was named the winner of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award at a ceremony held on the eve of this year’s London Film Festival.

Her film, Saint Maud, tells of a devout young nurse who becomes the full-time carer of a chronically ill dancer.

Danny Boyle, chair of the jury, called the film “a thrilling cinematic journey through madness, faith and death”.

…The bursary, one of the largest arts prizes in the UK, allows film-makers at the start of their careers time to grow and develop.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Canadian mint releases UFO-themed glow-in-the-dark coin”. See picture — since when does Canada have rectangular coins? Or is this some new meaning o the word “coin” that I haven’t previously been acquainted with?

Over 50 years ago, on the night of 4 October, strange lights appeared over the sky of a small Canadian fishing village.

Witnesses watched as the lights flashed and then dived towards the dark waters off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Now, what some believe to have been a UFO sighting has been commemorated by the Royal Canadian Mint.

The mint has released a collector’s coin that tells the story of a “unique and mysterious event”.

The scene on the glow-in-the-dark coin depicts a specific moment described by various eyewitnesses.

After seeing four strange flashing lights in the offshore night sky, they spotted an object 60-feet in length flying low, which dropped down at a 45 degree angle.

The coin comes with a flashlight that when used brings out the lights of the UFO, the stars in the night sky, and a haze over the water reported by locals.

(22) HAUNTED FIXER UPPER. Girl on the Third Floor is due out October 25, streaming, or limited theatrical release.

At the heart of the film is Don Koch (CM Punk), a man who is failing as a husband. For years he has skated by on charm and charisma, until it nearly landed him in jail. He now views fixing up an old house as a chance to make up for past mistakes. Meanwhile, his wife, Liz Koch, is concerned about the renovation timeline as they have a baby on the way. With all this pressure it’s no wonder Don responds to the flirtations of an attractive stranger. As Don tears the house apart, it begins to tear him apart as well, revealing the rot behind the drywall.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 9/25/19 Oh But I Was So Much Scroller Then, I’m Pixel Than That Now

(1) DOZOIS FINALE. At Flogging Babel, Michael Swanwick reviews “Gardner Dozois’ Last Story”, “Homecoming” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sep/Oct 2019).

Chance plays such a major role in our lives! It was chance that killed Gardner Dozois. He died not of a lingering illness but from a fortuitous disease picked up in a hospital whose staff chanced not to be competent enough to take care of his original complaint in a reasonable lenth of time. So when he wrote “Homecoming,” he had no idea how close he was to death.

Nevertheless, it is hard to read this story as anything but his farewell….

(2) TIPTREE AWARD HOSTS COMMENT. The organizers of WisCon have made a “Statement of Support in Renaming the Tiptree Award”.

Since the creation of the Tiptree Award was first announced by Guest of Honor Pat Murphy at WisCon 15 in 1991, WisCon has been proud to host the award winners and to support the award by hosting fundraisers at-con. Making big changes can be difficult, but listening to the voices of our community members exemplifies the values that our con continues to strive towards. We fully support the Motherboard in their decision to rename the award, and we look forward to celebrating the award under its new name at WisCon 44 in 2020.

(3) REPLAY. From BBC we learn “Original Jurassic Park cast to return in next movie”.

The original stars of Jurassic Park are to reunite for the next instalment of the dinosaur film franchise.

Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum will reprise their roles in the upcoming Jurassic World 3.

The actors led the cast of the 1993 hit, directed by Steven Spielberg, and have appeared separately in subsequent instalments.

…It is believed the trio will appear alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the stars of 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The latter release saw Goldblum reprise his role as Dr Ian Malcolm, having previously done so in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Neill and Dern reprised their roles as Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Sattler in 2001 film Jurassic Park III.

(4) IN AND OUT OF FANDOM. Rob Hansen announces  some additions to his fanhistory site THEN:

  • Now that T. Bruce Yerke’s memoir of 1930s LA fandom is online I was able to expand my page on “The LASFS Clubroom” accordingly.

In the late 1930s the Los Angeles Science Fiction League – as they were then known – were meeting in Clifton’s Cafeteria, a downtown eatery located at 648 South Broadway after initially meeting at members’ homes and the like. T.Bruce Yerke recalled those LASFL days in his MEMOIRS OF A SUPERFLUOUS FAN (1943):

The great difference between the Chapter #4 of the SFL and the present LASFS is a subject of many ramifications, the product of an evolution of some years’ length, and a very interesting study. Perhaps it may be summed up in brief by the observation that the club in l937 had no social life to speak of. The chapter centered about meetings held roughly every other Thursday. Otherwise the members contented themselves with occasional Sunday gatherings of a highly informal and unofficial nature. Often groups of three or four attended shows together or went book hunting en masse, but that was virtually the sum of it. For the most part, members saw nothing of each other between alternate Thursdays, save the vicarious mediums of post and telephone….

Prominent among those dissidents were the trio – Vince Clarke, Joy Clarke, and Sandy Sanderson – known as ‘Inchmery’ after Inchmery Road in South London where they all shared a house together. Vince Clarke was not at all happy with fandom and was on the point of quitting it, as can be seen in this letter to him from George Locke dated 7 April 60…

(5) HUGO WANK. At Archive of Our Own, “Stanley Cup — What it Means” by Anonymous. Looks like this has been online for over a week, but it’s news to me!

…“What? No, the Oviraptors won fair and square. But the fans are saying they won.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Here, I’ll read you this tweet. Someone called PuckerUp wrote, “I can’t believe we won the Stanley Cup! I’m so excited you guys!” And there’s more like that. They really think they won it. So we want you to tell them that it was the Oviraptors team that won, not them. They can say they supported the actual winners.”

“Uh, are you sh—“ the spokesperson quickly changed course mid-sentence. “Are you sure someone saying “we won” instead of “my favorite team won” is a problem? I think everyone knows it was the athletes who actually won…”

“It dilutes what winning the Stanley Cup means, if just anyone can go around saying they won it. I mean, listen to this: HockeyLuvver63 tweeted, “Oviraptors won because I was the MVP and saved Darcy from rolling off the couch.” And then there’s a picture of this woman catching a Boston Terrier in a puck costume as it slides off a sofa. If people keep saying things like that, other people might start thinking the real winners and MVPs are just making it up too, and sneer at them for it.”…

(6) WILD IN THE STREETS. Although we covered this performance, I haven’t previously linked to The New Yorker story. In the magazine’s December 11, 2017 issue Alex Ross reviews War of the Worlds, an opera by Annie Gosfield based on the Orson Welles radio broadcast of 1938 and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborating with the experimental opera company The Industry. 

The main audience was seated at Disney Hall, where the orchestra was ostensibly performing a new suit, by Gosfield, modelled on Holst’s The Planets.  The actress Sigourney Weaver, who has a history with aliens, assumed the pose of an unctuous gala host.  Halfway through the “Mercury” movement, she broke in with the first of many news bulletins.  As the concert faltered–we never got past “Earth”–Weaver elicited live reports from three nearby parking lots, each of which had its own performers and audience.  The auxiliary sites were placed near antiquated air-raid sirens that still stand throughout the city; they hummed with extraterrestrial transmissions.  Scientists jabbered technicalities; a TV reporter interviewed eyewitnesses; a military honcho tried to impose order.  Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, had a cameo, appearing onstage at Disney with a reassuring message:  “Please don’t attempt to leave this building.  Just outside these walls is utter chaos.  A climactic ray-gun assault on Disney was repelled by the metal shield that Frank Gehry had presciently installed on the exterior.  Weaver exclaimed, ‘The power of music has redeemed humanity once again!’

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 25, 1924 — Opened on this date in Moscow, Aelita: Queen of Mars. A silent film by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov. In the United States, Aelita was edited and titled by Benjamin De Casseres for release in 1929 as Aelita: Revolt of the Robots. The 2004 DVD has a musical score based on the music of Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Glazunov.
  • September 25, 1976 Holmes & Yoyo debuted. A heavy on the comedy police show where Detective Alexander Holmes keeps injuring his partners so he’s given an android partner which is John Schuck as Gregory “Yoyo” Yoyonovich in his first genre role. It lasted thirteen episodes. The reviews were not kind. Nor were the ratings.
  • September 25, 2006 — On NBC, Heroes aired its first episode, “Genesis”. It would last four seasons and remarkably would actually not be cancelled before it wraps up its story. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1862 Henry McNeil. Though he wrote two Lost Race novels, he’s here because he was a member of the Kalem Club circle that centered around Lovecraft. He played an important role in the career of Lovecraft as he was the first to urge that writer to submit his fiction to Weird Tales in the early Twenties. (Died 1929.)
  • Born September 25, 1919 Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Anyone here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 68. Ok, I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is when he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even doing on other such series as well. Pure comic genius! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy.
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displays those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 57. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, Nightmare Cafe, Mann & MachineProject Shadowchaser II, Legend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry.
  • Born September 25, 1968 Will Smith, 51. Despite the vile stinkers that are Wild Wild West and Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is quite superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin
  • Born September 25, 1969 Catherine Zeta-Jones, 50. Her first role ever was as in Scheherazade in French short 1001 Nights. Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off The Haunting of Hill House. And finally, she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. 
  • Born September 25, 1980 Benedict Jacka, 39. Though I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind in my reading of his Alex Verusseries, what I’ve read of it has been quite excellent — superb protagonist, interesting story and a quirky setting. Good popcorn literature! 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) REPRESENTATION ON TV. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In advance of The Good Place’s return this week, Kwame Opam of the New York Times profiles the show’s understated convention-breaking character Chidi Anagonye, and what the positive depiction of a character like him means for nerds of color: “The Good Place”. Opam writes:

Chidi is the sort of character who, in past generations, might have been the butt of the joke more often than not. Instead, he’s a romantic lead on one of television’s most beloved shows.

(11) JOKER FILM VIOLENCE PROTESTED. “Batman shooting victim’s family ‘horrified’ by Joker film’s violence” – BBC has the story.

Families of those killed while watching a Batman film in 2012 have written to Warner Bros with concerns about the new Joker film and urging the studio to join action against gun violence.

Twelve people died in a cinema showing The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.

They included Jessica Ghawi, 24, whose mother Sandy Phillips told BBC News she was “horrified” by the Joker trailers.

Warner Bros said the film – which stars Joaquin Phoenix – was not an endorsement of real-world violence.

Phoenix walked out of a recent interview when asked about the issue.

Sandy Phillips and her husband, Lonnie, who run Survivors Empowered, an anti-gun violence group, wrote to Warner Bros along with three others whose relatives were killed, injured or caught up in the 2012 shooting.

Speaking to BBC News, Mrs Phillips said: “When I first saw the trailers of the movie, I was absolutely horrified.

“And then when I dug a little deeper and found out that it had such unnecessary violence in the movie, it just chilled me to my bones.

“It just makes me angry that a major motion picture company isn’t taking responsibility and doesn’t have the concern of the public at all.”

(12) PLAY AT WORK? [Item by Chip Htchcock.] Student tells reporter: “My degree is not just riding roller coasters”.

Staffordshire University might be one of the smallest in the UK, but it has some quirky degree courses.

One is theme park management. Undergraduates spend half of their time at Alton Towers whose owner Merlin Entertainments helped design the course.

Amusing genre note: Wikipedia says the teaching site’s new wooden roller coaster (first woodie in the UK in 20 years, and first ever to include fire) is called the Wicker Man.

(13) WITHOUT A NET. “Boston Dynamics Atlas robot twists and somersaults” – BBC video.

US robotics firm Boston Dynamics has developed new techniques to let its Atlas robot blend together the movements of gymnastic routines more smoothly.

(14) YOUR METAL PAL WHO’S FUN TO BE WITH. “Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot goes on sale”.

A robotics company whose creations have amassed millions of views on YouTube, is renting out one of its stars, Spot.

Anyone wishing to lease the quadruped dog-like robot could do so for “less than the price of a car,” Boston Dynamics told IEEE Spectrum.

It suggested Spot could be useful in construction, the oil and gas industry and for those working in public safety.

One expert said its appeal may be limited by its price, which will be determined by demand.

Noel Sharkey, robotics experts and professor of computer science at Sheffield University, said “Spot is possibly the world’s finest example of a quadruped robot and since the addition of a robot arm, it seems a little more practical – but will it be practical enough at that price?

(15) RANSOMWARE. BBC says the evidence shows they’re back: “Notorious GandCrab hacker group ‘returns from retirement’”.

An infamous hacker group that was thought to have disbanded appears to be behind a wave of new attacks being carried out across the world.

Researchers at cyber-security company Secureworks say they reached their conclusion after analysing a new strain of computer virus.

They claim the culprits are the GandCrab crew.

The gang is thought to be Russian and previously sold customised ransomware to other criminals.

Their code had scrambled data on victims’ computers and demanded blackmail payments to decrypt it. It is estimated to have affected more than 1.5 million machines, with hospitals among those affected.

In May, the group had surprised many in the security industry when it announced it was “retiring” after earning more than $2bn (£1.6bn) from the trade.

Someone claiming to be part of the group claimed it had “cashed out” its earnings and quit the business.

It had been active since about January 2018.

But Secureworks has linked the group to a new strain of ransomware called REvil or Sondinokibi.

The malware has caused major disruption to hundreds of dental practices in the US as well as 22 Texas municipalities.

Researchers say not only is the code similar to that of the earlier attacks but that it contains similar mistakes.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) NIXING BREXIT. In a letter to The Guardian, “John le Carré and Neil Gaiman join writers warning Brexit is ‘choosing to lose'”.

Dozens of writers have put their names to a letter to the Guardian that urges UK voters taking part in Thursday’s European parliament elections to use their franchise to support the European Union, “unless they know what they are choosing to lose, for themselves and everyone they know, and are happy with that”.

The authors, who also include Neil Gaiman, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Williams and Laurie Penny, go on to say: “It seems to us that the same question is facing every industry and every person in the UK: what will you choose to lose? Because we used to hear about advantages in Brexit. We used to hear about the bright future, the extra money, the opportunities. Now the advocates of Brexit just assure us that it won’t be as bad as the last world war.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode 96 of Scott Edelman’s podcast let you listen to him crunch into a crab cake sandwich with leading Aussie author Kaaron Warren.

Kaaron Warren

We met at the Freer Gallery, and then wandered over for lunch at the Capitol Hill branch of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which opened in 2012.

I first met Kaaron slightly less than 10 years ago, at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, where her novel Slights was one of the inaugural titles from Angry Robot Books. The publisher even had a robot rolling around the launch party! (It was not angry, however.) She’s published many more novels and stories since then, with one novel, The Grief Hole, winning all three of Australia’s genre awards — the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Australian Shadows Award. Her most recent novel is Tide of Stone. She’s published seven short story collections, the most recent being A Primer to Kaaron Warren.

We discussed how her recent Rebecca reread totally changed her sympathies for its characters, the disturbing real-life crime related to the first time she ever saw The Shining, the catalyst that gave birth to her award-winning novel Tide of Stone, how she came up with new angles for tackling stories about such classic characters as Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, the way flea market bric-a-brac has led to some of her best ideas, the only correct method for preparing fairy bread, her go-to karaoke song, and much, much more.

(3) TAKING A BITE OUT OF SONIC’S SCHEDULE. ComicsBeat explains why “Character design changes push SONIC THE HEDGEHOG movie release date to 2020”.

…The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie definitely got people talking…just probably not the way the studio intended. Reaction to Sonic’s design—his muscular legs, his regularly-proportioned head, his teeth—was swift, loud, and overwhelmingly negative. The filmmakers heard the cries of the masses, and they responded with action, as director Jeff Fowler tweeted a few days after the trailer’s release that they would be working to tweak the design of the character…

(4) DRAGON RECOMMENDATIONS. Red Panda has created a “Dragon Awards 2019 Eligible Work” based on Renay’s Hugo recommendation’s spreadsheet. She says, “We’re trying to get folks to pay attention to the Dragon Awards to prevent them from becoming puppy awards by default. Here is a spreadsheet of eligible works – and people are welcome to add to it as long as works fit the Dragon award rules.”

(5) AFTERMATH. Cora Buhlert wrote a blog post about the Nebula Awards kerfuffle involving 20Booksto50K: “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Winners and a Post-mortem on the 20Booksto50K Issue”.

…Most of [Craig] Martelle’s post seems to be extolling the virtues of the 20Booksto50K group and the idea behind it which was developed by Martelle’s business partner and occasional collaborator Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind 20Booksto50K is  is basically “write fast, publish fast and create a ‘minimum viable product’ in highly commercial genres”. For more information, you can also read their manifesto or watch videos of their conferences. They also have a Wiki with more background information here.

Now I don’t have a problem with either the 20Booksto50K group or their system. I don’t doubt that the group or their conferences help a lot of indie writers. And while their approach to writing and publishing isn’t mine, there are a nuggets of useful information in there.

Alas, the rest of the Martelle’s post engages in same tired “indie versus traditional publishing” rheotric that we’ve been hearing since 2010. “Traditional publishing is slow” – yes, it is, because their model is different, but that doesn’t make it bad. “Awards don’t matter, but whether stories resonate with readers does” – okay, so why are you so desperate to win an award then?

(6) ROTTEN TOMATOES REVAMP. The movie ratings site makes changes in the wake of their experience with people who lowballed Captain Marvel’s pre-release score: “We’re Introducing Verified Ratings and Reviews To Help You Make Your Viewing Decsions”.

In February we ditched our pre-release “Want to See” percentage in favor of a more straightforward Want to See tally (kind of like the “likes” you see on social media). We also removed the function that allowed users to write comments about a movie prior to seeing it. You can read about these changes here.

What’s next? Today, we’re excited to introduce new features to our Audience Score and user reviews with the addition of Verified Ratings and Reviews.

So, let’s get to it.

Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.

… The first Audience Score you see on a movie page – that’s it next to the popcorn bucket just to the right of the Tomatometer – will be the score made up of Verified Ratings. As with the current Audience Score, when the score is Fresh (that is, above 60%), you’ll see a red popcorn bucket; when it is Rotten (59% and below), the bucket will be green and tipped over (you can read more about that here). If you want to see a score that incorporates all included ratings – both verified and non-verified – simply click “more info” where you can toggle between the two….

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson says “The trouble with streaming: It could fragment fandom”.

…All this is a reminder that genre tales now dominate the entertainment landscape. The people behind all these platforms are fighting to attract the attention of us, the SF, fantasy and horror fandom.

But they are also fighting for our wallets. And while is is technically possible for one household to receive all these services, it is unlikely that very many households could afford to.

Once, producers essentially had two ways of monetising their entertainment. They could charge for it – for movie tickets, videotapes or discs; or they could give it to us via free-to-air television and sell our eyeballs to advertisers.

Now, we have a new eco-system where the producers are charging us, not for individual works, but for whole bundles of content. So we can get the Netflix package, the HBO package or the Hulu package, but not everything….

What is this in contrast to? Sure, things are different than when all TV was free, however, not so different from periods when there were five or eight or ten printed prozines coming out that you could only get by subscription, unless you were lucky enough that your local library subscribed to some (never all) of them.

(8) KERR OBIT. British children’s book writer and illustrator Judith Kerr died May 22 aged 95. Cora Buhlert comments —

In spite of the title, her most famous work (at least in Germany) When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit is not genre, but about the Kerr family’s escape from the Nazis in the 1930s. The pink rabbit of the title was young Judith Kerr’s beloved toy, which she lost en route. But a lot of her children’s picture books are at least genre-adjacent and several feature SJW credentials. Besides, she was married to Nigel Kneale, British TV writer and creator of Professor Quatermass:

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher) and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. Producer and script editor. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during the era of the Fourth Doctor. He went to be one of the producers of Rould Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1946 Jeremy Treglown, 63. Author of Roald Dahl: A Biography and Roald Dahl: Collected Stories. Amateur actor who met his first wife while both were performing Romeo and Juliet at University. 
  • Born May 24, 1949 Jim Broadbent, 70. He played Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He joined the cast of A Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His genre credits include Time Bandits, BrazilSuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceThe BorrowersThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well somebody had to be in it). 
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 67. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars. She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She  appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 66. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the  outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character.
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 59. Among his roles, I’ll single out as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the ghosts of Edith’s Mother and Beatrice Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and the Amphibian Manin The Shape of Water. 
  • Born May 24, 1965 Michael Chabon, 54. Author of one of the great baseball novels ever, Summerland. Then there’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay which is the best look I know of at the comics industry during the Golden Age. And The Final Solution: A Story of Detection may be an awesome home to the Greatest Beekeeper Ever.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark takes fan disappointment about Game of Throne’s final season in a hilarious new direction.

(11) REVISITING THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. The highlights from February’s two-day conference on The Art of the Mimeograph at the University of Westminster include an appearance by fanhistorian Rob Hansen beginning around the 8:54 mark.

(12) OVERFLOWING LID. Alasdair Stuart says his Full Lid for May 24 2019 “takes a look at DJ Kirkbride and team’s excellent SF/crime/comedy comic series Errand Boys. I’ve also got a breakdown of the 2014 Godzilla in the first of two briefings in the run up to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There’s a look at the excellent documentary Knock Down The House and the one thing about its structure that bothered me. Finally, special guest Sarah Gailey drops by to do the Hugo Spotlight feature, which, this week, features me.”

…The creative team behind Errand Boys is a who’s who of people whose work I pick up, sight unseen. DJ Kirkbride and Adam P Knave are two of the best writers and editors in the business and Frank Cvetkovic is one of the best letterers. They’re joined by a raft of artists whose work is unfamiliar to me but is all massively impressive, kinetic and fun.

(13) RETRO REVIEWS. The link takes you to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists and to her Retro Hugo Novel Reviews Part 1 and Part 2.

I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). It is also the first time a father and son appeared on the same ballot–well, sort of. Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.

(14) ALADDIN’S LAMP DOES NOT SHINE BRIGHTLY. NPR’s scott Tobias finds  “Aladdin to be A CGI World, Neither Whole Nor New”.

As Disney plunders its archives for live-action remakes of animated classics, the question of “Why?” continues to be less evident on the screen than it is on the company ledger. The one quiet exception was Pete’s Dragon, which succeeded because it had no fidelity to the second-rate slapstick and songcraft of the original, and could re-imagine the premise from the ground up. When the catalog titles get as massive as Aladdin, however, the mission becomes to replicate it as closely as possible, which inevitably leads to stilted facsimile. No matter how sophisticated CGI gets, the speed and fluidity of animation is hard to reproduce.

The new Aladdin mostly has the beat-for-beat quality of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the current standard-bearer for pointlessness, but there are elements of it that really pop, even for being bizarre missteps. Foremost among them is Will Smith’s Genie, whose entire look is a Violet Beauregarde nightmare of bright blue and CGI-inflated swole, with a top-knot/goatee combination that suggests 10,000 years away from the fashion pages. Yet Smith is the only member of the cast who’s bothered to rethink the original character: He doesn’t bother to imitate Robin Williams’ manic schtick, but draws on his own ingratiating silliness and kid-friendly hip-hop flavor instead. If everyone else had followed suit, this Aladdin wouldn’t necessarily be any better, but at least it would be its own thing….

Chip Hitchcock notes: “My local paper wasn’t quite so harsh, but did give it just 2.5 stars.”

(15) EINSTEIN? NEVER HEARD OF HIM. BBC remembers “The man who made Einstein world-famous”.

It is hard to imagine a time when Albert Einstein’s name was not recognised around the world.

But even after he finished his theory of relativity in 1915, he was nearly unknown outside Germany – until British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington became involved.

Einstein’s ideas were trapped by the blockades of the Great War, and even more by the vicious nationalism that made “enemy” science unwelcome in the UK.

But Einstein, a socialist, and Eddington, a Quaker, both believed that science should transcend the divisions of the war.

It was their partnership that allowed relativity to leap the trenches and make Einstein one of the most famous people on the globe.

Einstein and Eddington did not meet during the war, or even send direct messages. Instead, a mutual friend in the neutral Netherlands decided to spread the new theory of relativity to Britain.

Einstein was very, very lucky that it was Eddington, the Plumian Professor at Cambridge and officer of the Royal Astronomical Society, who received that letter.

Not only did he understand the theory’s complicated mathematics, as a pacifist he was one of the few British scientists willing to even think about German science.

(16) FAKEBOOK. According to NPR, “Facebook Removed Nearly 3.4 Billion Fake Accounts In Last Six Months”. Over half a century ago, Clarke suggested what’s now become a truism: that the Internet would be a haven for porn. But he didn’t foresee the other abuses….

Facebook says it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts from October to March. That’s twice the number of fraudulent accounts deleted in the previous six-month period.

In the company’s latest Community Standards Enforcement Report, released Thursday, Facebook said nearly all of the fake accounts were caught by artificial intelligence and more human monitoring. They also attributed the skyrocketing number to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”

The fake accounts are roughly a billion more than the 2.4 billion actual people on Facebook worldwide, according to the company’s own count.

(17) SPIKING THE CANON. James Davis Nicoll diagnoses the waning popularity of once-beloved works in “The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF” at Tor.com.

Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.

If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ,. Mike Kennedy Cat Eldridge, Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Hansen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/7/18 It’s My Pixel, And I’ll Scroll If I Want To

(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —

(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.

With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?

Well, take the following as a rumor.

Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.

What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.

I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.

However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.

(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.

MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?

(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.

There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.

The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.

No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 7, 1955 — The sf radio program X-Minus One aired Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills Of Earth” for his birthday.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 7 – Shelley Duvall, 69. Executive Producer of Faerie Tale Theatre, performer in Popeye as Olive Oyl, also Twilight Zone, Time Bandits, The Shining, and Ray Bradbury Theater to name some of her genre work.
  • Born July 7 – Billy Campbell, 59. The Rocketeer of course, but also series work in STNG, Dead Man’s Gun, The 4400, and Helix, plus a role in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found out how monsters cosplay in Bizarro.

(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.

Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.

 

(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.

A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.

The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.

The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….

(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.

2 July:    “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.

I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..

Arthur “Ego” Clarke

(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.

…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.

Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.

First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.

Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.

Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….

(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.

…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.

The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.

Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….

Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”

(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.

If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….

 

(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”

This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017  something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it?  Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/18 We Read About Dinos And We Read About Space At Ten-Thousand Words A Go

(1) THUMB ON THE SCALES. The Fourth of July was the day Vicksburg fell and the day after the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg. On our timeline, anyway. The war had a different outcome at Dinosaur Kingdom II — a theme park in Virginia where dinosaurs and an assortment of other creatures helped the Confederates defeat the Union. Or so goes the pitch from Vice News: “Inside the weird dinosaur park where Confederates defeat the Union army”).

The owner claims not to be quite the Confederate apologist you might suppose: “That war had to have happened, because the fact that you and I can own somebody is just totally outrageous… and so that had to change.” And after watching a video tour of the park I was left wondering if Vice is selling the dino Lost Cause angle a lot harder than the attraction’s owner….

(2) BRAND NEW. Jeff VanderMeer has allowed the Last Exit To Nowhere company to make Southern Reach T-shirts. He told them that they needed to donate a portion of the profits to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge and notes that the zip code on the shirt is the zip code for the refuge.

An official T-shirt approved by the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The inspiration for the novel was a 14-mile hike through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Florida. Many of the animals and vegetation that VanderMeer has seen on this hike over the past 17 years appear in the novel. A proportion of the profits for this T-shirt goes to Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. A single colour design, using a glow-in-the-dark ink hand screen printed on a regular fit 100% cotton military olive T-shirt.

(3) BOB MADLE RECOVERING FROM STROKE. Bob Madle, 98, one of the two remaining fans who attended the first Worldcon (1939) suffered a stroke last month reports Curt Phillips” “I’ve been given permission by his daughter Jane to report that First Fandom Founder, TAFF Delegate, SF Bookseller, long time SF fan and all-around good guy Bob Madle is back at home now and doing very well after a stroke suffered during the second week of June.”

According to Jane:

My Dad is home from rehab and doing very well. His speech, which was the main thing impacted, is improving every day. He’s continuing to get therapy at home. He said he’s fine with letting others know about the stroke.

Phillips filled in the timeframe:

I had gone to Rockville just over a week ago to do some preparatory work for a convention – Corflu 36 – and naturally had tried to call Bob to arrange a visit with my fellow First Fandom member and pulpfan. It was quite alarming when my several phone calls over multiple days failed to be answered, something which had never happened before when calling Bob. I left messages and while driving home to Abingdon the next day I received a phone call from Stephen Haffner who told me about Bob’s stroke and that he was still in the hospital. Subsequent emails with Jane filled in the picture and I learned that Bob was headed for rehab the following week, which has now been successfully completed. Bob is, at this hour, back at home, no doubt watching a baseball game on tv.

Stephen and I lacked permission from Bob or his family to share this news until now, probably for concerns of Bob being overtaxed with phone calls and so forth, but Jane now tells me that he’s improving steadily, to my great relief. Keep up the good progress, Bob! I’ll come to see you next time I’m in town to share a beer, watch a ball game with you, and maybe even buy a pulp magazine or two!

(4) A REAL THREE-BODY PROBLEM. In an article on Gizmodo (“Einstein’s Theory of Gravity Holds Up on Test of a Three-Star System”), Ryan F. Mandelbaum examines a new paper in Nature (“Universality of free fall from the orbital motion of a pulsar in a stellar triple system”) and makes some comparisons on the side to Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. The Nature paper describes a test of general relativity using a 3-body system (PSR J0337+1715, about 4200 light years from Earth) which consists of a millisecond pulsar (neutron star) and a white dwarf co-orbiting each other very closely and another white dwarf less than 1 AU distant.

Quoting the Gizmodo article:

They used 800 observations of the system spanning over six years, using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the William E. Gordon telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico….

The researchers [Ingrid Stairs and Anne Archibald] could measure this behavior based on the pulsing behavior of the spinning neutron star. The observations revealed that the white dwarf and the pulsar seemed to behave exactly the same way in response to the other white dwarf’s gravity. General relativity wins again….

[Mandelbaum] also asked Archibald and Stairs whether they’d read The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Stairs hadn’t, and Archibald is halfway through. “One of the themes of the book is fundamental physics… if you do the same experiment in two places, physics doesn’t depend on where. It’s this universal fundamental physics you can get at with careful experimentation. [Liu] asks, what happens if physics doesn’t work that way?” she said. “I’m testing that at a fundamental level.”

(5) A PERSISTENT VISITOR. JJ says be sure you read the thread down to the poem. The thread starts here.

(6) AI SPREADS HOAX DEATH REPORT. While io9 headlines “Siri Erroneously Told People That Stan Lee Was Dead” as a Siri/Apple story (and it certainly is that), the underlying story is that a troll changed a Wikidata.org page to falsely say Stan Lee was dead. (Wikidata is a sister project to the better-known Wikipedia, which latter is reportedly one of the sources used by Alexa ) Siri (and a number of other digital assistants) pull info from various sources — some of which can be edited by the public — when asked questions. In this case, Siri would be in error on Stan Lee until another Wikidata editor reverted the change less than an hour later. That window, though, was clearly enough to cause some alarm.

Quoting the article:

In a post on CinemaBlend, writer Sean O’Connell described a moment where he and his teenage son were driving home from an Ant-Man and the Wasp screening on Wednesday, to have his son ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri how old Stan Lee was. The response? “Stan Lee died on July 2, 2018.” They were concerned and checked the internet for news, but there was none… because it wasn’t true. But we were curious why Siri would share this specific information.

The io9 article concludes:

The troublesome user (“&beer&love”) who started the bad data cascade had been kicked off Wikidata before and reportedly has now been kicked off again. Sadly, as  long as there are trolls and as long as we collectively depend on data sources that can be corrupted by them, there will be such problems.

(7) MULLER OBIT. Robert Muller (1940-2018): Dutch cinematographer, died July 3, aged 78. Worked on Repo Man (1984) and Until the End of the World (1991).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PLANET. Put another million candles on its birthday cake. “Scientists Capture First Birth Of A Planet” reports NPR.

An international team of scientists has discovered a young planet — just 5 or 6 million years old — forging its own path through space and likely growing along the way.

The scientists captured a photograph, which they say is the very first direct image of the birth of a planet still forming around a star.

It’s a major finding for those of us on Earth, a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

The newly discovered planet may be young, but it’s huge: many times the size of Jupiter, which could fit 1,300 planet Earths inside.

The BBC adds:

Researchers have long been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind.

Young dwarf star PDS 70 is less than 10 million years old, and its planetary companion is thought to be between five and six million years old.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock learned from Bizarro that tech shall not release you.

(10) BOVINES WHO NEED BEANO. BBC science news — “Surf And Turf: To Reduce Gas Emissions From Cows, Scientists Look To The Ocean”. There’s much less methane being released than CO2 — but pound-for-pound it has a much worse effect on greenhousing.

Scientists think they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tweaking the food that cows eat. A recent experiment from the University of California, Davis suggests that adding seaweed to cattle feed can dramatically decrease their emissions of the potent gas methane.

Livestock is a major source of greenhouse gases worldwide. About quarter of the methane emissions due to human activity in the U.S. can be chalked up to gas released from these animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(11) HARD TO BE HUMBLE WHEN YOU’RE REALLY A GENIUS. Chuck Tingle proves love again.

(12) FUN WITH BUGS. Camestros Felapton tries but is unable to restrain his enthusiasm in “Review: Ant-man & The Wasp”.

I think it is fair to say that Ant-man & The Wasp is the most inconsequential Marvel movie for some time. No new superheroes are introduced, no new approaches to the genre are taken, there is little impact on the other MCU films, there are no big or deep themes to discuss. It is the first MCU film to have the name of a female Avenger in the title but that’s about it.

But it is a fun, often silly film….

(13) FLASH AND THEY’RE GONE. People who love LibertyCon really love it. Rev. Bob brings word that the con sold out its 2019 memberships today, the first day they were available online.

To be more precise, they opened online registration today and sold all 750 memberships in just under six hours. (“5 hours, 52 minutes, and 50 seconds!” per one source.) This is according to multiple Facebook posts by associated individuals, as well as the official convention Facebook page.

It is worth noting that, according to those same sources, no 2019 memberships were sold at the convention itself. In addition, hotel room reservations have not yet opened; that won’t happen until sometime in September.

(14) ALREADY SPOILED. Remember that spoiler-filled Batman news item I warned you about so strenuously in the July 1 Scroll? Well, genre news sites have splattered the spoiler everywhere and the comic issues in question have hit the stands. It’s up to you – skip the next paragraph if you want to preserve the surprise.

Two articles published today (SYFY Wire: “Batman and the X-Men wedding dramas are the latest in comics’ matrimonial insanity” and Comicbook.com: “‘Batman’ Writer Tom King Reveals What’s Next After the Wedding”) take separate looks at love and marriage in comic books.

As writer John Wenz says on SYFY Wire,

Superhero romance is … fraught. Marriage doubly so…

Wenz casually reels off nearly a dozen different ways that marriages have failed to happen or fallen apart in just the first few paragraphs of his article. The most recent Marvel and DC will-they/won’t-they/oh-Great-Gnu-what-just-happened stories are examined in how they fit into these patterns.

On Comicbook.com, Patrick Cavanaugh talks to Batman writer Tom King to get his view on What Just Happened. King point out that this issue (#50) is just halfway through a planned 100-issue arc so the readers don’t know how the overall story will end. King is quoted as saying,

We’re halfway through that journey. It’s a long story, a long journey. It could have a happy ending or a sad ending. You’re halfway through the movie now. You’re in the middle of Empire Strikes Back and Vader just showed up and took Han’s gun.

(15) A BUTTLOAD OF CATS. Martin Morse Wooster would hate for anyone to miss Rachel Bloom’s musical salute to SJW credentials, performed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

This is the cleaned-up version, although to my ear “buttload” fits the meter better than “fuckton” anyway.

[Thanks to Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Rev. Bob, Steven H Silver, 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 editor of the day Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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