Pixel Scroll 10/21/21 You Go To War With The Pixel You Have, Not The Scroll You Wish You Had

(1) BUJOLD ANNOUNCES NEXT PENRIC NOVELLA. Lois McMaster Bujold showed off the cover of the next Penric & Desdemona tale, Knot of Shadows.

Knot of Shadows

When a corpse is found floating face-down in Vilnoc harbor that is not quite as dead as it seems, Temple sorcerer Penric and his chaos demon Desdemona are drawn into the uncanny investigation. Pen’s keen questions will take him across the city of Vilnoc, and into far more profound mysteries, as his search for truths interlaces with tragedy.

(2) A FUTURE FOR CON OR BUST? Kate Nepveu is looking for volunteers to help revive Con or Bust, or the foundation will be dissolved. “Do you want to revive Con or Bust?”

… From 2009 through 2019, I ran Con or Bust, which helped people of color/non-white people/BIPoC attend SFF conventions. Since 2019, it’s been dormant; but it remains a tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation with various assets. I’ve decided that it’s time either to actively hand it over to someone willing to revive it, or to formally wind it down….

Con or Bust raised funds through a yearly online auction and distributed those funds to literally hundreds of BIPoC fans to help them attend SFF conventions. More detail on Con or Bust’s history is available at the Wayback Machine.

…If I don’t hear from any plausible candidates for new leadership, I will distribute Con or Bust’s current funds to other charities with aligned purposes and formally dissolve it as a corporation. I will make a full report on those steps here.

Please feel free to leave questions in the comments here; you can comment without logging in, but I do ask that you sign your “anonymous” comment with a name or a pseudonym for continuity of conversation.

Finally, please distribute this link far and wide!

(3) SEMIPROZINE FOCUS. Cora Buhlert is expanding her Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project to include semiprozines, particularly the smaller ones that get very little attention.

 Here’s an introductory post to the series: “Introducing Semiprozine Spotlights”.

… Even though that definition is very specific, there are actually a lot of magazines which meet it. The semiprozine directory has a lengthy list of Hugo eligible semiprozines and there are several I know of that are not yet listed.

Semiprozines range from the very well known to the obscure, so I thought it was time to shine a light on the many great semiprozines that are out there and decided to interview the editors and staff of various semiprozines. I hope this series will be of interest not just to potential Hugo nominators, but to everybody who is looking for great SFF short fiction….

And here’s the first spotlight: “Semiprozine Spotlight: Space Cowboy Books Presents Simultaneous Times”.

Tell us about your magazine.

Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast, released on the 15th of each month. We create audio adaptations of stories by contemporary science fiction authors from all over the world, set to original soundtracks created by our team of composers. When possible we do cast readings of the stories, and we have featured works by authors such as: David Brin, Rudy Rucker, Michael Butterworth, and tons of other wonderful contemporary writers. …

(4) KEEP FIT WITH FRODO. Apparently you can simply walk there – in your imagination. “This Lord Of The Rings App Allows You to ‘Walk to Mordor’”Nerdist has the story, and a link to the TikTok video mentioned in the excerpt.

Ever wonder just how far Frodo and Sam walked in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Thanks to one Middle-earth fan on TikTok by the name of DonMarshall72, we know. They estimate that from the Shire to the fires of Mount Doom spans an enormous 2,765.6 kilometers. Or, about 1,718.5 miles. And Frodo and Sam both walked barefoot. So if these halflings could do it, what is your excuse not to? Why not get motivated to walk like a Hobbit, so to speak?

Well, as with most things these days, there’s an app for that. And it’s named, appropriately enough, “Walk to Mordor.” The existence of this app comes to us via a story on CNET. The author used the Hobbits’ journey in the films to motivate herself to get back up on that treadmill and start exercising again. The Walk to Mordor app actually outdoes the journey in the films. It accounts for the longer distance recorded in Tolkien’s book….

(5) EH, NO. On Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News, Mark Hamill’s answer is that if he was hypothetically offered a trip on Jeff Bezos’ rocket: “That’d be a hard sell for me”.

Virtue Signal’s Kylie Weaver asks Star Wars icon Mark Hamill if, like Star Trek’s William Shatner, he’d accept an invitation for Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket.

(6) MAKING IT SO. Assisted by a horror novelist, Raquel S. Benedict  on the Rite Gud podcast explores “How Books Happen, With Gretchen Felker-Martin”.

In this episode, horror author Gretchen Felker-Martin joins us to talk about her gritty post-Apocalyptic trans novel Manhunt (spoiler free) and how an idea becomes a traditionally published book. We talk about the myth of overnight success, how much money novelists actually make (it is not much), the writing process, agents, research, and dealing with controversy.

(7) HEAR FROM FANTASY AUTHORS.  Orbit Live is hosting two more author Q&As in the coming weeks.

Join Lucy Holland and Alix E. Harrow for a conversation about their books, myths and ancient stories, and rewriting the role of women in history. Plus, they’ll be answering your questions!

Lucy Holland [she/her] is the author of Sistersong, out in October from Redhook. As Lucy Hounsom, she is also the author of the Worldmaker series.

Alix E. Harrow [she/her] is the author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches, out now in trade paperback from Redhook.

Join fantasy authors Andrea Stewart and Evan Winter for a conversation about their books, magical creatures both forbidding and friendly, and writing middle books in series. Plus, they’ll be answering your questions!

Andrea Stewart [she/her] is the author of The Bone Shard Daughter (one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2020) and its sequel, The Bone Shard Emperor, out from Orbit in November.

Evan Winter [he/him] is the author of The Rage of Dragons and its sequel The Fires of Vengeance, both out now from Orbit.

(8) LOCAL COLOR. I’m shocked to discover I’ve only been to half the places on KCET’s list of “10 L.A. Landmarks Made Even More Famous by Hollywood Horror Flicks”. Amd jere’s a connection that knocks me out —

2. Franklin Canyon Lake, Franklin Canyon Park — from “Creature from the Black Lagoon”

Another famous “horror lake” can be found near the so-called “Center of Los Angeles” — at Franklin Canyon Park, whose circa 1914 reservoir has most famously served as Mayberry’s fishin’ pond in “The Andy Griffith Show” and the lagoon where “Gill Man” lived in Universal’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1977 – Forty-four years ago this day,  Damnation Alley premiered. It was directed by Jack Smight from the screenplay by Alan Sharp and Lukas Heller which was based somewhat on the Roger Zelazny novella that was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon. (“Riders of the Purple Wage” by Philip José Farmer and “Weyr Search” by Anne McCaffrey  tied for the Hugo for Best Novella at Baycon that year.) It starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirty-four rating. The network TV version that aired on NBC television in 1983 featured alternate footage and additional scenes that were deleted from the earlier version. It was very much a ratings success. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late Twenties to the late Forties writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say during that same period Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing.  His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early Forties to the late Sixties, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow SF author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. He’s been nominated for three Retro Hugos — for his Red Sun of Danger novel at L.A. Con III, his “Exile” short story at Anticipation, and for his Captain Future series at CoNZealand. And he’s been voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula K. Le Guin. Writer, Artist, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brillance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second of only six women to be named SFWA Grand Master thus far; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work. Her last Hugo was at Dublin 2019 for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition which was illustrated by Charles Vess. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s  the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, a most delicious film indeed, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 76. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and on Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually remarkably has a decent rating of fifty-five percent  at Rotten Tomatoes!
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the MoonThe Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. And yes, she appeared in The Rise of Skywalker through the use of unreleased footage from The Force Awakens. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1971 Hal Duncan, 50. Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 48. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on the excellent Grimm series but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well, a series I still haven’t seen. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond though I admit that I don’t remember him in that role. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.
  • Born October 21, 1974 Chris Garcia, 47. He’s editor of The Drink Tank and several other fanzines. He won a Hugo Award at Renovation with co-editor James Bacon for The Drink Tank after being nominated from 2010 to 2013. He was nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo three years straight starting in 2010. His acceptance speech for the Hugo at Renovation was itself nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Chicon 7. I can’t begin to list all his feats and honors here. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield watches a frustrated genre game show contestant.

(12) WHITTAKER’S VALEDICTORY. “Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker on the next Doctor and leaving the show” at Radio Times.

,,,Speaking to press including RadioTimes.com, Whittaker addressed her impending exit from the BBC sci-fi series and what she thinks her replacement will be in for.

On how it feels to leave the role of the Doctor behind, she said: “We’ve been very present in it – but you have to honour the show, and honour everything. Me and Chris [Chibnall, showrunner]… There was this thing of like, ‘We want to do three seasons.’ But no one holds you to that. So there was always a conversation [about how long to stay]. It was always fluid.

“But when you commit to that decision… you know, I can’t imagine it being written— like, this Doctor is Chris’s Doctor. For me, it’s right [to leave now], but if everyone comes up to you forever, going, ‘I’m a Doctor Who fan’ – then that’s an absolute joy because it’s been such a pleasure.”

Whittaker added, though, that she’ll nonetheless be “filled with a lot of grief” having left the series. “Even thinking about it, it makes me upset,” she said. “But this show needs new energy. The Doctor – the joy of this part is, you hand on your boots. And I don’t know who, but whoever that is, what a thing to be able to go, ‘You’re going to have a right time!’.”

(13) GET ME OUT OF HERE. Doctor Who showrunner “Chris Chibnall says it took ‘longer than expected’ to leave Doctor Who” reports Radio Times.

…Chibnall will exit alongside the Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, and while we wait to find out who will be cast as the next Time Lord, Chibnall has been chatting to press, including RadioTimes.com, ahead of series 13. As you’d expect, the subject of his departure came up and it turns out that he stuck around for longer than he thought he would.

“It’s taken longer than expected if we’re being honest. I’ve been throwing batons at people for about a year now. And finally, someone’s picked it up,” Chibnall said on the search for his replacement.

“We had that conversation right at the start, and I hope you can see that the atmosphere is so team-oriented and so positive, it is a proper family atmosphere. This cast and this crew are so close – you wouldn’t want to do it with other people, because it’s just been its own little, discrete show. And then the next version will be its own discrete show, just as Peter [Capaldi]’s era was, and Matt [Smith]’s era was, and David [Tennant]’s was.”

While the Cloister Bell may be sounding on his time in charge, Chibnall insists he has nothing but fond memories of his time on Doctor Who.

“You couldn’t enjoy it any more than we’ve enjoyed it. It’s been such a laugh and such a privilege,” he said. “And I think we’ve been deliberately very mindful of being in the moment. Obviously, I’ve known Russell and Steven [Moffat] for a long time and part of their advice was just: ‘Enjoy it while you’re doing it, because afterwards you really miss it.’”…

(14) THE FALLING OFF THE CLIFF NOTES. With pandemic restrictions easing, book clubs are meeting in-person again. How can people bluff their way through now? To the rescue – “Stephen Colbert’s Book Club For People Who Want To Sound Like They Read The Book”.

(15) ANOTHER DYNAMIC DUO. In Something More Than Night, Kim Newman, author of Anno Dracula, reimagines the lives of Raymond Chandler and Boris Karloff as collaborators in this a horrifying tale.

Hollywood, the late 1930s. Raymond Chandler writes detective stories for pulp magazines, and drinks more than he should. Boris Karloff plays monsters in the movies. Together, they investigate mysterious matters in a town run by human and inhuman monsters.
 
Josh Devlin, an investigator for the DA’s office who scores high on insubordination, enlists the pair to work a case that threatens to expose Hollywood’s most horrific secrets. Together they will find out more than they should about the way this town works. And about each other. And, oh yes, monsters aren’t just for the movies.

(16) BRIDGE OVER UNTROUBLED WATERS. I landed in the hospital before I could report this bit of news — “Winnie-the-Pooh Poohsticks bridge sold for £131k to Sussex landowner”  in The Guardian.

To Winnie-the-Pooh fans, the bridge over the river on the edge of the forest where Pooh invents a new game is up there with heffalumps and pots of honey and the Hundred Acre Wood.

It is where Pooh one day accidentally drops a fir cone in the water on one side of the bridge, only to spot – to his astonishment – the cone reappearing on the other side. “And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks.”

Now the original bridge has been sold for £131,625, more than double the top end of the presale estimate of £40,000 to £60,000. Its new owner is Lord De La Warr, who owns the 2,000-acre Buckhurst Park estate in East Sussex, which incorporates the wood made famous in AA Milne’s children’s books.

… The original bridge was dismantled and placed in storage. It was later reconstructed and restored, and relocated to Kent after a private sale.

Now, said Rylands, Winnie-the-Pooh fans would again be able to set eyes on it, although games of Poohsticks may be ruled out in order to preserve the bridge for future generations….

(17) NO BONES ABOUT IT. A dinosaur goes under the hammer – it must have been a very big hammer. BBC News has the story: “Big John, largest known triceratops skeleton, sold at auction”.

The skeleton fetched a European record price of €6.65m ($7.74m; £5.6m).

Some 66 million years ago, Big John roamed modern-day South Dakota in the US, where the dinosaur’s bones were unearthed in 2014.

With its huge collared skull and three horns, the plant-eating triceratops was a giant of the Cretaceous period.

A private, anonymous collector from the US bought Big John’s skeleton, which was put on public display at the Drouot auction house in Paris last week.

(18) A TRACTOR BEAM – CURE FOR SPACE JUNK. This week’s Nature reports on a study that shows “Non-magnetic objects induced to move by electromagnets”.

A set of electromagnets has been used to move metal objects without touching them, even though the objects are not magnetic. This method could potentially be used like a ‘tractor beam’ to move hazardous objects in space.

Imagine trying to catch a fragment of a rocket nozzle in orbit above Earth’s atmosphere. The fragment is travelling faster than a bullet, and tumbling rapidly end over end. Around 27,000 orbiting pieces of such debris are large enough to be tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network, and they constantly threaten active spacecraft and satellites. If the debris were magnetic, then magnets could be used to safely grab hold of the objects and dispose of them — but orbital debris tends to contain little or no magnetic material….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on The Suicide Squad, with guest stars Superman, Batman, and Deadpool.  

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, Raquel S. Benedict, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/21 How Many Hugo Finalists Can Scroll On The Head Of A Pixel

(1) WHO’S NEXT? The Thirteenth Doctor and the showrunner will both be replaced reports Radio Times: “Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall confirmed to leave Doctor Who”.

Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall.

Both star and showrunner will bow out following a six-part series (set to air later in 2021), two specials (already planned for 2022), plus one final feature-length adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor which will also mark the BBC’s centenary next year.

In a statement, Chibnall said: “Jodie and I made a ‘three series and out’ pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys.

“Jodie’s magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She’s been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour. She captured the public imagination and continues to inspire adoration around the world, as well as from everyone on the production. I can’t imagine working with a more inspiring Doctor – so I’m not going to!…”

Whittaker, who was cast as the first female incarnation of the Doctor in 2017, said: “In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes. I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life. And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories.

“We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.

“I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel Hopefully. The Universe will surprise you. Constantly.”

A RadioTimes.com poll last year voted Whittaker the show’s second most popular Doctor of all time, behind David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor.

It’s not obvious who the candidates are to take over as showrunner says Radio Times: “Doctor Who’s ‘new generation’ will be announced ‘in due course’”.

…Within the current stable of Who writers, only a handful (including Vinay Patel and Pete McTighe) have written more than one episode, and it’s unclear whether the BBC would look within the current writing staff or elsewhere to find someone to take on the often demanding showrunner job.

In other words, the speculation isn’t just for who could replace Jodie Whittaker any more. Who is the new Chris Chibnall? Taking all bets…

And there’s been an adjustment to the schedule of Doctor Who episodes and specials to accommodate the BBC’s 100th anniversary celebration next year: “Doctor Who series 13 will be six episodes long – with specials in 2022”.

The upcoming thirteenth series of Doctor Who will be six episodes long, the BBC has confirmed.

It was originally announced that there would be eight episodes in the season, but it has now been announced that the main series will consist of just half a dozen episodes, each of which will form part of an ongoing storyline.

In addition, a trilogy of specials will now air in 2022 – one more than had previously been planned, with the first airing on New Year’s Day 2022 and a second following later in spring 2022.

…The third feature-length special, in which the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate, will then air in autumn 2022, forming part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations.

(2) COVID POLICIES FOR TWO MEGACONS. PAX West, which is September 3-6 this year, is requiring proof of either vaccination or a negative COVID test for attendance this year — see “Health & Safety Update”.

Throughout the year, the PAX team has been actively working to support a safe environment for our PAX West visitors. We are pleased to announce that, in line with the recommendations of state and local public health authorities, we will be implementing a vaccination or negative COVID-19 test requirement for everyone at PAX West. We appreciate your patience as we worked with our venue and the authorities to create our comprehensive plan….

Dragon Con, which is the same weekend, has promised to set its policy at least 30 days before the con, which means it should be announced by next week.

…As the nation continues to emerge from the pandemic, the rules and expectations are changing fast. We are working closely with the public health officials at the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Fulton County Health Department and the experts hired by our hotels to establish a set of health and safety protocols. We don’t know at this point what these ground rules will look like by Labor Day, but we are committed to communicating them as soon as the plan is finalized and at least 30 days before the convention.

(3) WINDOW ON A CENTURY. Tanner Greer asks what we can learn from the popularity of YA in “Escaping Only So Far” in City Journal.

…Future social historians will not be able to consult an oral tradition of fairy tales in an investigation of the twenty-first century’s “mental ordering,” but they will have an equally vast catalog of fictional narratives at their disposal. For the most popular stories of our own day also tend toward the fantastic. Speculative fiction—fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian prophecies—has captured the imagination of twenty-first-century man. These flights of fancy are the cornerstone of our popular culture; their protagonists are our cultural heroes. They testify to the power of escapism.

Yet like the fairy tales of old, our escapist yarns can escape only so far. Their imagery and plotting are irrevocably tied to our society. Despite their diverse subgenres and distinct audiences, these fictional narratives share a set of attitudes and convictions about the nature of authority, power, and responsibility. They provide a window into the moral economy of the twenty-first century’s overmanaged meritocrats.

The rise of the young-adult novel is the most significant literary event of this century. The significance of the genre—often simply called “YA”—is best appreciated when juxtaposed with general trends in Anglophone reading. In an age that has seen both the average number of books read and the average number of hours spent reading steeply decline, YA readership has exploded, and not just among young adults. In 2012, one marketing firm discovered that slightly more than half of all American YA readers were older than 22. Just under one-third were somewhere between 30 and 44…. 

(4) ALMOST HAD A SHORT LIFE. Gizmodo reports the “Lord of the Rings Studio Wanted Peter Jackson to Kill a Hobbit”.

…Speaking to IGN about their new Lord of the Rings podcast series—called “Friendship Onion”—Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd (who played Merry and Pippin) touched upon a time when pressure from executives above the Lord of the Rings production team wanted to amplify the stakes of the series by killing off one of its four smallest stars. Apparently, the tall folk were off-limits, and the stakes of, say, a massive war between the forces of good and evil for the fate of all Middle-earth could only be raised if you found one of the cutest hobbits around and stabbed them to death or something.

“It’s a good job that didn’t happen, because it would have been me,” Monaghan joked to IGN. “It definitely would have. There’s no way they are killing Frodo and Sam, and the only ones that would be left would be Merry and Pippin. They wouldn’t kill Pippin because Pippin has a really strong story with Gandalf. It would have definitely been me.”

(5) HALFLING MYTHCON THIS WEEKEND. The virtual “Halfling” 2021 Mythopoeic Society conference takes place online July 31-August 1. They are offering a special “flat rate” conference membership of $20, whether or not you’re a member of the Mythopoeic Society. 

(6) WATCH THE 2021 NEBULA CEREMONY. SFWA has posted video of The 56th Annual Nebula Awards Ceremony held June 5. (The list of winners is here.)

June 5th, 2021 marked the 56th Annual Nebula Awards Ceremony! Writer and Comedian Aydrea Walden hosted for a second year, and the awards were presented by multiple notable figures in the science fiction and fantasy community!

(7) A HOLLOW VOICE SAYS PUGH. “Scarlett Johansson sues Disney for releasing ‘Black Widow’ in theaters and on Disney+” reports Yahoo! The decision impacted her paycheck.

Scarlett Johansson may have retired as the Avengers’s resident Black Widow and passed the torch to Florence Pugh, but it appears that the actress still has some unfinished business with Marvel Entertainment and its parent company, Walt Disney. As originally reported in the Wall Street Journal, the actress — who played Natasha Romanoff over a 10-year period from 2010’s Iron Man 2 to the Black Widow solo adventure that opened in July after a year-long delay — has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against her former employers.

At issue is the way that Disney ultimately chose to release the movie. Originally scheduled to open exclusively in theaters in May 2020, Black Widow was repeatedly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, the studio made the decision to pursue a hybrid release, opening the massively-budgeted movie in multiplexes the same day it premiered on the Disney+ streaming as a Premier Access title. (Premier Access films are available to Disney+ subscribers for an extra $29.99 surchage.)

According to the lawsuit that Johansson filed on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, that hybrid release plan breached her original contract with Marvel Entertainment and Disney, which reportedly guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release. Furthermore, her salary for the film would be based largely on how it performed at the box office…. 

(8) TOWARDS CHEAPER FREE SPEECH. At The Dream Foundry, Jean-Paul Garnier offers “Freeware Solutions for Building Your Podcasting Studio”.

Starting your first podcast can be daunting. Perusing microphones and equipment, while fun, can be disheartening as the cost quickly becomes prohibitive. But one need not get discouraged, as it is possible to get started with a very small (or no) budget. Many of the things you will need can be obtained for free and in this article we’ll show you where to find the tools you need. 

When it comes to microphones you can be looking at spending anywhere from 10s of dollars to 1000s, but the cell phone in your pocket already has a pretty decent mic built-in, and it’s good enough to get you started. Most cell phones will also have a built-in recording app, and there are plenty you can download for free. If using these go into the settings and make sure to set the sample rate and bit depth as high as possible.

Once you have made your recording it’s time to edit the recording into the beautiful finished product that will be your podcast. Fortunately from here on out everything you’ll be needing can be downloaded for free, and many of the tools we’ll be discussing are powerful and versatile…. 

(9) A NEBULOUS WINNER. As a byproduct of another author mourning how his name got misspelled in a recent award shortlist announcement I learned that Isaac Asimov famously suffered the same indignity – see the “Isaac Asimov FAQ” at Asimov Online.

Asimov hated it when his name was misspelled in print or mispronounced by others. His desire to have his name spelled correctly even resulted in a 1957 short story, “Spell my Name with an ‘s'”.

(Notable instances of his name being misspelled occurred on the cover of the November 1952 issue of Galaxy, which contained “The Martian Way”, and on his 1976 Nebula Award for “The Bicentennial Man”.)

When in 1940 he wrote a letter to Planet Stories, which printed it and spelled his name “Isaac Asenion”, he quickly fired off an angry letter to them. (His friend Lester Del Rey took great delight in referring to him as “Asenion” for many years afterward. On the other hand, Asimov himself referred to positronic robots with the Three Laws as “Asenion” robots in The Caves of Steel.)

Asimov was quite perturbed when Johnny Carson, host of the Tonight Show, pronounced his first name as I-ZAK, with equal emphasis on both syllables, during an appearance on the television show in New York in 1968.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 29, 1953 – Sixty-eight years on this date, War of The Worlds premiered in Atlantic City. It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson with narration by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. The Martian war machines were designed by Al Nozaki, and the sizzling sound effect would be used again as the first Trek series phaser sound. (You know what novel it was adapted from.) The film was both a critical and box office success with its earnings making it the top SF film of the year. Weirdly, it would win a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4 for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form due to its running time of 85 minutes (per IMDB). Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a seventy-one percent rating.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 29, 1876 Maria Ouspenskaya. In the Forties, she did a run of pulp films, to wit The Wolf ManFrankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Tarzan and the Amazons. A decade or so earlier, she was in the fantasy film Beyond Tomorrow. (Died 1949.)
  • Born July 29, 1888 Farnsworth Wright. Editor of Weird Tales. He regularly published Smith, Lovecraft and Howard, and even Hamilton. He’s also noteworthy for starting the commercial careers of three noteworthy fantasy artists — Bok, Brundage and Finlay. He’s been nominated for three Retro Hugos to date. (Died 1940.)
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. She founded Atheneum Children’s Books, and she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence. As an author, she wrote three genre novels, Strange TomorrowBeloved Benjamin Is Waiting and But We Are Not of Earth, and a reasonable amount of short fiction, all of which is In the Clordian Sweep series. Nine of those stories are in The Turning Point collection. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 80. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful
  • Born July 29, 1955 Dave Stevens. American illustrator and comics artist. He created The Rocketeer comic book and film character. It’s worth noting that he assisted Russ Manning on the Star Wars newspaper strip and worked on the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost ArkThe Rocketeer film was nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon which was the year Terminator 2: Judgment Day won. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 29, 1982 Dominic Burgess, 49. His first genre roles are sixteen years back as a cop in Batman Begins, and as Agorax in the Ninth Doctor story, “Bad Wolf”. A decade later, he gets his first recurring role as Ember in The Magicans. He’s had roles in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The LeftoversThe Good PlaceTeen WolfThe FlashSupernaturalAmerican Horror Story: Apocalypse and Picard.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full has one of Charlotte’s forgotten web messages.
  • Crankshaft has a garden so overflowing with zucchini it reminds somebody of a Star Trek reference.

(13) THIS IS HILARIOUS. I had never seen The Core (2003) before today when I flicked on Pluto TV in time to watch the scene where they land the Space Shuttle in the Los Angeles River (!!!) This was hilarious. The best thing since the Galaxy Quest landed in the convention center parking lot.

And it turns out there’s a whole oral history post of filmmakers telling how the scene was created – visual effects, models, water imagery, etc., in “’That will not work, Houston, we got bridges every few 100 yards’” at Befores & Afters. You can watch the scene here:

(14) BUSTED. In the latest Rite Gud podcast Raquel S. Benedict says “Genre Busting Makes Me Feel Good”.

Genre is safe. Genre is comfortable. Genre tells us, as readers, what to expect. As writers, genre gives us guidelines to follow, which can make it a lot easier to plan a story: put the villain monologue here, put the meet cute there, tragically kill the protagonist’s mentor in this part of the story. But do we rely on genre conventions too much? Can genre hold us back? Is genre busting good? In this episode of Rite Gud, we are joined by writer and designer Matt Maxwell.

(15) WELL… In “Playing Favorites With Favorites, or, What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Favorite Books” at Tor.com, Molly Templeton explores the complex experience of trying to answer an icebreaker question.

What’s your favorite book?

Maybe there are people for whom this isn’t a loaded question. I’m not sure I’ve met any of them. “Favorite” is a freeze-up word, a demand impossible to meet. Picking just one? Are you serious? But there are 17 books from just last year that are my favorites!

The thing about this question, though, is that it isn’t entirely about the answer. It’s also about what the answer seems to say—the shorthand inherent in talking about books, and who reads what, and what we get out of and return to in the ones we hold closest to our hearts. If someone tells you their favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, you are likely to draw some conclusions about them. Same goes for someone who names The Princess Bride, or The Lord of the Rings. But what if they say A Tale for the Time Being or Firebreak or The Summer Prince? Does the answer still mean much if you don’t recognize the book?

(16) YOU’RE HIRED. Gawker is back, as the New York Times notes in “Gawker: The Return”, and which I report here because I love the new editor’s modest resume:

…In her editor’s note on Wednesday, Ms. Finnegan wrote that when approached to lead the site last year, she had said, “Absolutely no way in hell.”

A second approach in January won her over. Ms. Finnegan hired a team of 12, mostly women, including four contributing writers.

“I suppose my selling points as a potential editor in chief of Gawker were that I had previously worked at Gawker and Bustle and was unemployed,” Ms. Finnegan wrote. “I was also willing to do it, which not many people can say.”

(17) MOD ARRIVES AT ISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Russian module, Nauka, has completed its trip to the International Space Station, though there are still nearly a dozen (previously planned) spacewalks needed to put it into service. You may recall that Nauka initially had problems completing engine burns necessary to match orbits with the ISS. “Russian lab module docks with space station after 8-day trip” at Yahoo!

The 20-metric-ton (22-ton) Nauka module, also called the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, docked with the orbiting outpost in an automatic mode after a long journey and a series of maneuvers. Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed the module’s contact with the International Space Station at 13:29 GMT.

The launch of Nauka, which is intended to provide more room for scientific experiments and space for the crew, had been repeatedly delayed because of technical problems. It was initially scheduled to go up in 2007.

In 2013, experts found contamination in its fuel system, resulting in a long and costly replacement. Other Nauka systems also underwent modernization or repairs.

Nauka became the first new module in the Russian segment of the station since 2010. On Monday, one of the older Russian modules, the Pirs spacewalking compartment, undocked from the Space Station to free up room for the new module….

The International Space Station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first module, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big module, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.

(18) CREDIT WHERE DUE. There a whole internet industry devoted to identifying movie continuity and set decoration goofs. But sometimes filmmakers get it right! Yahoo! lists “34 Super Small Details In The ‘Back To The Future’ Trilogy That Are Smarter Than All Of Us”.

13. The clock tower’s damage is consistent.

At the beginning of Back to the Future (1985), there’s no damage on the clocktower ledge. When Marty comes back to 1985 at the end, you can see the damage from when Doc was up there to send him back in 1955. from MovieDetails

14. And it’s still broken in 2015.

In Back To The Future 2, the ledge on the clock tower that Doc broke in Back To The Future is still broken from MovieDetails

15. Oh, and that guy Marty’s talking to? He’s the mechanic in 1955!!!

In Back to the Future Part II (1989), the elderly man raising money to save the clock tower in 2015 (who also inadvertently gives Marty the idea to buy the Sports Almanac) is the mechanic who removed the horse manure from Biff’s car in 1955. from MovieDetails

The mechanic is played by Charles Fleischer, who voices Roger Rabbit. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is another movie directed by Robert Zemeckis.

(19) ASSIMILATE THIS. Nature reports “Massive DNA ‘Borg’ Structures Perplex Scientists”:

The Borg have landed — or, at least, researchers have discovered their counterparts here on Earth. Scientists analysing samples from muddy sites in the western United States have found unusual DNA structures that seem to scavenge and ‘assimilate’ genes from microorganisms in their environment, much like the fictional Borg — aliens in Star Trek that assimilate the knowledge and technology of other species. These extra-long DNA strands join a diverse collection of genetic structures — including circular plasmids — known as extrachromosomal elements (ECEs). Most microbes have one or two chromosomes that encode their genetic blueprint. But they can host, and often share between them, many distinct ECEs. These carry non-essential but useful genes. Borgs are a previously unknown, unique and “absolutely fascinating” type of ECE, says Jill  Banfield, a geomicrobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley. She and her colleagues described the Borgs’ discovery earlier this month. month (B. Al-Shayeb et al. Preprint at bioRxiv https://doi.org/gnsb; 2021).

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Loki Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, says there’s at least a half hour of talking in every episode (like the architect scene in The Matrix) and people who think Loki in a multiverse is a spoiler should avoid the subtitle of Doctor Strange 2:  In The Multiverse Of Madness.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Petréa Mitchell, Rob Thornton, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/21 The Pixel Unvanquishable, Save for Scrollnope

(1) BE SEEING YOU. The trailer for the next season of Doctor Who was released at San Diego Comic-Con International today. As a YouTube commenter concluded, “The end was literally BBC saying to us: Any questions? No? See you soon.”

Radio Times adds details showrunner Chris Chibnall shared during that SDCC virtual panel: “Doctor Who series 13 to be serialised connected story”.

…However, it looks like the next series of Doctor Who will be particularly unusual for the “modern” (aka post-2005) era of the show, with showrunner Chris Chibnall revealing during a virtual panel that the upcoming season 13 (starring Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill and John Bishop, above) would be a single serialised story rather than the usual collection of self-contained episodes.

“The big thing we’re going to be doing this year is that it’s all one story – so every episode is a chapter in a bigger story,” Chibnall said during Doctor Who’s Comic-Con@Home panel. “And so we’ve changed the shape of the series for this year.

“It’s very much not a business as usual time,” he added, explaining the role that coronavirus restrictions had made on the decision.

“And I think the challenges of getting the show up and running.. […] there were two ways we could go. You could go ‘we’re just going to do lots and lots of tiny episodes in one room with no monsters. Or we can throw down the gauntlet and say we’re gonna do the biggest story we’ve ever done, and we’re going to go to all kind of different places, and have all different characters and monsters, and it’s all gonna be part of a bigger whole.

“I think it’s definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve done…it’s epic and ambitious and we do go to a lot of places.”

Notably, this serialisation ties into the casting of newly-announced series star Jacob Anderson, who is set to play a character called Vinder across a number of episodes and whose presence across the series hints at more shared elements between episodes than fans might be used to….

And here’s the full video of the panel:

(2) CHUCK TINGLE UPDATE. Chuck’s Twitter account is still out of commission. Here’s the update he gave to his Facebook readers.

(3) THE AI AFTERLIFE. “What Should Happen to Our Data When We Die?” asks the New York Times, raising the issue of posthumous privacy.  

The new Anthony Bourdain documentary, “Roadrunner,” is one of many projects dedicated to the larger-than-life chef, writer and television personality. But the film has drawn outsize attention, in part because of its subtle reliance on artificial intelligence technology.

Using several hours of Mr. Bourdain’s voice recordings, a software company created 45 seconds of new audio for the documentary. The A.I. voice sounds just like Mr. Bourdain speaking from the great beyond; at one point in the movie, it reads an email he sent before his death by suicide in 2018.

“If you watch the film, other than that line you mentioned, you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the A.I., and you’re not going to know,” Morgan Neville, the director, said in an interview with The New Yorker. “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”

The time for that panel may be now. The dead are being digitally resurrected with growing frequency: as 2-D projections, 3-D holograms, C.G.I. renderings and A.I. chat bots….

(4) CHUTZPAH. Miguel Esteban’s memoir “Octavia Butler and the Pimply, Pompous Publisher” in the Los Angeles Review of Books reminds me of me trying to corral material from pros for my first fanzine earlier in the same decade – excluding offering to pay for it, of course.

…In 1979, when I was 14, I was determined to publish a biweekly, 24-page magazine of and about science fiction entitled Transmission. I commissioned Octavia, who was 32, to write an essay. (I do not believe I ever told her my age.) On July 28 of that year, I had heard her speak at the Fantasy Faire convention in Pasadena, California, where she participated in a panel debating the topic “How Science Fiction Handles Social Change.” [1] Pasadena was Octavia’s hometown.

… On August 3, 1979, I spoke and then wrote to Octavia, inviting her to contribute a 3,000-word essay to the inaugural (and ultimately only) issue of Transmission Magazine….

I offered her $50, which she accepted on the condition that she retain the copyright and the right to resell the essay three months after publication. “Since I am the only black woman writing sf, I have a feeling I’ll be needing this article again,” she explained.

At the end of the month, Octavia sent me her first draft, titled “Lost Races of Science Fiction.” We spoke over the phone, following which this cocky, 14-year-old editor sent his comments to an established and revered writer….

(5) LET’S BUNGLE IN THE JUNGLE. “’It’s Like a Joy Bomb!’ Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson Open Up About New Disney Jungle Cruise Movie” in Parade Magazine.

Who would fare better in a jungle, Dwayne Johnson or Emily Blunt? “I’d like to think I would be OK,” Johnson says, then points his finger at Blunt, his co-star in the new action-packed summer movie Jungle Cruise. “You would struggle.”

But the actress is not having it. “You would be lost without your lip balm!” she says. “And you wouldn’t have your soap. He’s the cleanest human being alive. He needs to shower about five times a day.” Blunt slams down her hand and looks at their interviewer. “Now, what else do you want to know?”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1953 – Sixty- eight years ago on this date, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, a Merrie Melodies cartoon starring Daffy Duck as space hero Duck Dodgers, premiered before films playing in the United States. This cartoon was the first of many appearances of the Duck Dodgers character including the Duck Dodgers series on the Cartoon Network. Porky Pig is here as a space cadet as is Marvin the Martian who first appeared very briefly in Haredevil Hare, a 1948 cartoon. It was directed by Charles M. Jones from a story by Michael Maltese and produced by Edward Selzer though he’s uncredited in the cartoon. 

George Lucas wanted it be shown before Star Wars during its initial run in theaters  but couldn’t get the rights.  At Noreascon 4, it was nominated for a Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form though The War of the Worlds (1953; Paramount) would win. Bits of the cartoon are on YouTube but the entire cartoon is not. You can purchase it on iTunes in a twofer with another Daffy cartoon, “The Scarlet Pumpernickel” for a buck ninety nine. Yeah I bought it. (And don’t get started me on the rabbit hole of watching Warner Brothers cartoons!) 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one and than twice more in the two part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega FactorA Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  He was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. Kindle has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio of being a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at the usual suspects shows a two story collections but none of her novels. Interestingly there are myriad stories by her offered up separately for sale. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 73. I am reasonably sure that I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. He has but one English language Award, a BSFA for Best Short Fiction for “The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires” though he has a lot of nominations. The Hooded Swan series is available as separate novels from the usual suspects for two dollars and ninety-nine cents each. 
  • Born July 25, 1969 D.B Woodside, 52. He has a recurring role as Principal Robin Wood on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, mostly in season seven.  Later he’s Amenadiel on Lucifer. He has one-offs in Prey which I’ve never heard of and Numb3rs.
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 50. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 48. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed, her second time around. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast.. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is suppose to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, It won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel.
  • Born July 25, 1979 Bryan Cogman, 42. He wrote eleven episodes of The Game of Thrones. He also acted in it, that being a cameo in “The Lion and The Rose” episode as a Dragonstone waiter. He would share a Hugo at Chicon 7 for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form for Game of Thrones, Season One. He’s writer and producer of the forthcoming The Sword in The Stone series on Disney+. He’s also a write and consulting producer for the forthcoming The Lord of The Rings on Amazon’s streaming service.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy’s solves a problem and creates a neighborhood attraction.

(9) SLOUCHING TOWARD THE ISS. “Russian Module Headed for the ISS Is Still Having Problems”Gizmodo has the details.

Russia’s newly launched International Space Station module Nauka is still in the fight as of Friday afternoon, as early reports indicate that the module’s backup engines have fired successfully. That’s a big relief for Roscosmos, which nearly saw its long-awaited module become a tragic piece of space trivia instead of the newest piece of the International Space Station. But it’s not out of the woods yet.

The first glitch in Nauka’s journey happened yesterday, when the spacecraft didn’t complete its first orbit-raising burn. This meant that the uncrewed Nauka wasn’t on track to actually intercept the ISS, which it’s scheduled to dock with on Thursday, July 29. The problem was attributed to a software issue in a computer aboard Nauka, which prevented the spacecraft’s main engines from firing. Nauka’s team was able to manage a remote course correction, but a second bout of course corrections were deemed necessary, and scheduled for today. One early report from journalist Anatoly Zak indicated that one of the spacecraft’s engines sputtered back to life in a mission. The “backup engine seems to have fired fine,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in an email today, though he added that the status of the engines was not yet certain and it would likely be a few hours before a new dataset from Nauka verified the situation.

The thrusters are just one piece of the engineering puzzle, so the new module is hardly home free…. 

(10) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF HOMICIDE. Mashable introduces the trailer for a new animated series: “’Blade Runner: Black Lotus’ trailer: Adult Swim and Crunchyroll team up”.

A new trailer for the team-up between the Cartoon Network offshoot and anime streamer Crunchyroll serves us a first look at this CG take on the sci-fi dystopia dreamed up by filmmaker Ridley Scott. The 13-episode series stars, on the English-language side, Jessica Henwick (Netflix Marvel’s Colleen Wing) as a female replicant with a mysterious backstory and purpose.

(11) JOE DANTE RETROSPECTIVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Joe Dante’s Battle With Hollywood,” the Royal Ocean Film Society looks at the career of Joe Dante through three films:  Looney Tunes:  Back In Action, which Dante says took up a year and a half of his life and was micromanaged to death; Explorers, which has its moments but is essentially a rough draft, and Gremlins 2:  A New Batch, which is a crazy film that has Leonard Maltin killed on screen for writing a bad review and Robert Picardo marrying a gremlin!

(12) RARITIES. YouTube’s “The Auction Professor” calls these the “Top 20 Most Valuable Vintage Paperbacks”. Editions of Richard Bachman? Check. Something published by Vargo Statten – what? I didn’t know anybody outside of fanzines had ever heard of Vargo! As for the Star Wars and nonfiction books about Dune, I’m sorry to say I’ve never owned any of them! (If I own it, it’s not rare, predictably.) Don’t miss the “bonus” commentary following the credits.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 2/10/21 You Spin Me Right ’Round, Breqi, Right ’Round Like Radchaai, Breqi

(1) ROBOT IN MY I. Louder revisits the Seventies to find out “How Alan Parsons made I Robot, his science fiction masterpiece”.

It was June 1977, and the US was being invaded by robots. Leading the charge were R2-D2, C-3PO and the glass-domed dynamo that stared from the cover of the Alan Parsons Project’s album I Robot

“It was impeccable timing by George Lucas,” Parsons recalls with a chuckle, “to be so considerate to bring out Star Wars at the same time as our album.” The previous year, Parsons, the audio engineer behind Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, had turned auteur, mining the works of Edgar Allan Poe on his debut album Tales Of Mystery And Imagination (“It didn’t set the world alight,” Parsons says). 

Now, Parsons and his creative partner Eric Woolfson had found literary inspiration in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. The sci-fi writer’s morality-based story collection was built around his Three Laws of Robotics – robots must obey, protect and never harm humans. 

Woolfson had a “pleasant conversation” with Asimov, who loved the idea of musicalising his book. Unfortunately the author had already sold the rights to a film/TV company. Undeterred, the duo dropped the titular comma, then wrote their own version…. 

(2) FIRST REDWALL MOVIE. “’Redwall’ Animated Feature & Series Questing to Netflix”Animation Magazine says it’s in development. My daughter read the whole series.  

Brian Jacques’ Redwall fantasy book series will be reimagined in animation thanks to a rights deal between Penguin Random House Children’s U.K. and Netflix: A feature film based on Jacques’ first book in the series, Redwall, is currently in development with writer Patrick McHale (Over the Garden Wall, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio), as well as an event series based on the character of Martin the Warrior.

The deal marks the first time that the film rights to the entire book series have been held by the same company and the first time a feature film of any of Jacques’ works will be made….

(3) SFWA STORYBUNDLE.  The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) released its newest StoryBundle, Expansive Futures, a curated collection of books offered at a steeply discounted price. Readers who purchase Expansive Futures can opt to donate part of their purchase price to support SFWA’s ongoing work. The Expansive Futures StoryBundle will be available from February 10 to March 4, here.

Readers choose what price they want to pay for the initial five books. Spending $15 unlocks thirteen more books that they can receive with their purchase. Further details about how StoryBundle operates are available here

The books in the bundle are:

  • Starship Hope: Exodus by T.S. Valmond
  • Raptor by John G. Hartness
  • The Chiral Conspiracy by L.L. Richman
  • Ganymede by Jason Taylor
  • The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Eternity’s End by Jeffrey A. Carver
  • When You Had Power by Susan Kaye Quinn
  •  Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood
  • The Solar Sea by David Lee Summers
  • The Cost of Survival by J. L. Stowers
  • Claiming T-MO by Eugen Bacon
  • The Hammer Falls by Travis Heermann
  • Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet by Philip Harris
  • Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin
  • Knight Errant by Paul Barrett & Steve Murphy 
  • A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
  • Two Suns at Sunset by Gene Doucette

(4) COMEDY COMPANION. “Doctor Who’s Chris Chibnall: ‘John Bishop brings a different flavour’”, as he explains to Radio Times.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall has praised comedian and actor John Bishop for “bringing a different flavour and a different humour” in his role as companion Dan in series 13 of the BBC sci-fi show.

Bishop was unveiled in a special teaser at the end of New Year’s special Revolution of the Daleks on January 1st and, according to the BBC, his character will become “embroiled in the Doctor’s adventures” in the now-filming series 13, where he’ll “quickly learn there’s more to the Universe(s) than he could ever believe”.

Explaining why he cast Bishop in the new series, Chibnall told Doctor Who Magazine: “I’ve always got my eye out for performers who are loved, and wondering how good they might be as actors. There’s such a great history of performers who start out as comedians transitioning into becoming terrific actors – the best example being Robbie Coltrane in Cracker. John’s somebody I’ve been keeping a beady eye on for years….”

(5) D&D SURPASSED. “Horror RPG Call of Cthulhu is bigger than D&D in Japan”Dicebreaker delves into the numbers.

Horror roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu has overtaken Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity in Japan, with its success driven by an explosion in interest among younger fans and a growing audience of female players over the last decade….

According to the game’s production studio Arclight, most Call of Cthulhu players in Japan are women aged between 17 and 35. By way of comparison, Wizards of the Coast revealed last year that most Dungeons & Dragons players are under 30, with 40% aged 24 or younger and around a fifth aged between 30 and 34. The majority of D&D players – more than three-fifths – identified as male, with 39% identifying as female. Players who identified as non-binary or “other” comprised less than 1% of the audience.

(6) FOR THIS THEY GET PAID. Fox Meadows lights into Locus reviewer Katharine Coldiron in “Sequel Rights: A Review of Locus Reviews”.

… The absolute gall of any reviewer to start with the second book in a series and then complain that they don’t understand what’s going on, as though this is somehow the fault of the text! It shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ve read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, a book whose plots and politics are both deep and intricate – as, indeed, one might expect from the first book of a projected series! Of course Coldiron had no idea what was going on. Which begs the question: why, if she had no intention of reading the first book in the series, did Coldiron feel the need to review the sequel – and why, even more pressingly, did Locus decide such an abysmal review was worth publishing in the first place?

With such a terrible starting point, it’s hardly a surprise that the full review – which is not yet available online – gets worse as it goes on. That Coldiron repeatedly gets a main character’s name wrong (Rayyan instead of Rayyal) is a minor sin in comparison to describing a book whose setting is explicitly based on the pre-colonial Philippines as a “richly imagined world [that] resembles England before the Norman Conquest.” That Coldiron somehow made this error this despite the customs, nomenclature and general everything about Villoso’s world is bizarre; to quote a different review, “This world isn’t your pseudo-medieval European world. It’s unequivocally Filipino with inspiration from other sources in Southeast Asia. Not once does Villoso allow you to believe this is anything but a fantasy set in a world inspired by the Philippines.”

Over and over, Coldiron talks about how difficult it is to keep track of various details of a narrative which – and I cannot stress this enough – is the sequel to a book she has not read, without ever stopping to consider that this is her problem rather than the author’s…. 

After Meadows analyzes several more examples of Coldiron’s reviews, Meadows says:

… If Coldiron was posting her reviews on a private blog, or at any venue less esteemed than Locus, it’s doubtful that I’d have bothered to write this piece; or at the very least, to have written this much. The real problem, though, is not Coldiron herself: it’s that Locus has failed to notice the regularity with which her reviews rebuke POC for things she either praises or lets pass when written by white authors; has allowed the inclusion of racism and microaggressions within her work without apparent editorial oversight; and has now seen nothing wrong with publishing a wildly unprofessional review that blames a sequel volume for the reviewer’s failure to have read the first instalment. It’s maddening and upsetting in equal measure, and at a time when both SFF and the wider literary community are ostensibly trying to do better by marginalised writers, it’s a sign of how thoroughly white privilege still blinds so much of the industry to its failings, even among those who consider themselves well-intentioned.

(7) EIGHT GREAT. Radio Times unveils the “RadioTimes.com Awards 2021 – Vote for the Best Sci-Fi Show”. Voting is open until February 14. The results of the RadioTimes.com Awards will be announced on 7th March 2021.

The choices on the ballot are —

  • Devs – BBC
  • Doctor Who – BBC
  • His Dark Materials – BBC
  • Lucifer – Netflix
  • The Boys – Amazon
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor – Netflix
  • The Mandalorian – Disney Plus
  • The Umbrella Academy – Netflix

(8) PLENTY OF DOOMS TO GO AROUND. James Davis Nicoll singles out “Five Books Showcasing Humanity’s Talent for Self-Extinction” for Tor.com.

…To put it more simply, perhaps the Great Silence isn’t due to galactic civilizations shunning us, but rather due to the sad probability that no civilizations last long enough to communicate before they find some innovative way to remove themselves from the playing board….

Even the perennially upbeat Clifford Simak can see how it might happen!

City by Clifford Simak (1953)

Humanity at the beginning of the 21st century had so much promise. Famine and energy shortages were vanquished; humans had acquired the basic toolkit to construct a utopia. Yet a handful of centuries later, humans were all but extinct, save for one small, irrelevant city of dreamers in suspended animation. Between those two moments lies an endless cavalcade of good intentions gone horribly awry, each one leading well-intentioned humans towards total extinction.

(9) PRO TIPS. “Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott” at the Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog.

You have collaborated with several authors. What advice do you have for writers who are interested in collaborating on fiction? What pitfalls are there to avoid?

First, the obligatory practical advice: if you’re going to collaborate, get the terms of the collaboration down in writing. Assume that one or both of you will drop dead, and your heirs will hate each other, and put your arrangements into at least a letter of agreement that all parties involved sign. I have only had to invoke this once, and it was utterly crucial to have the signed letter. It made what could have been a protracted legal mess merely unpleasant and saved the project. Get things in writing. Always.

Beyond that, my most successful collaborations have been with people who shared the same approach toward storytelling. I focus on story and character over theme or message; I get excited about my work and can spend hours making notes on the possible plot(s) and figuring out the connections among the characters and the ways they work in their worlds. I work best with people who share that interest in story and character, and with people who are also enthusiasts. (For me, there’s nothing better than getting an email from a collaborator with six links to videos of reconstructed Renaissance transitional fencing styles to illustrate a point. Your mileage may vary.) It’s basically a matter of understanding your own working style and trying to find a collaborator whose style meshes well with yours.

(10) ONE-MINUTE READ. “‘I basically had a midlife crisis’: Author N.K. Jemisin explains why it’s never too late to quit your day job” at Fast Company.

I didn’t try to publish anything until I was 30, when I basically had a midlife crisis. I was in a city I didn’t like, had not reached various milestones I wanted to reach, and was in student loan debt up to my eyeballs…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2001 — Twenty years ago, China Miéville ‘s Perdido Street Station wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The other nominees that year were Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents, Mary Gentle’s Ash: A Secret History, Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep, Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space and Adam Roberts’ SaltPerdido Street Station would also win a BFA and be nominated for the BSFA, Otherwise and Nebula Awards.  (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 10, 1904 – Lurton Blassingame.  Literary agent to John Barth, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, William F. Nolan.  More letters to him in Grumbles from the Grave than anyone else; some from him too.  Loved fishing, hunting, playing bridge, watching opera and ballet.  After half a century his firm sold to Eleanor Wood’s Spectrum Literary Agency, 1979.  His wife died the next year.  His papers are at Univ. Oregon.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr. I certainly best remember him as  playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (look, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.) (CE) 
  • Born February 10, 1920 Alex Comfort. No smirking please as we’re supposed to be adults here. Yes he’s the author of The Joy of Sex but he did do some decidedly odd genre work as well. Clute at EoSF notes  that his “first genuine sf novel, Come Out to Play (1961), is a near-future Satire on scientism narrated by a smug sexologist, whose Invention – a potent sexual disinhibitor jokingly called 3-blindmycin (see Drugs) – is accidentally released over Buckingham Palace at the Slingshot Ending, presumably causing the English to act differently than before.” ISFDB lists only a few genre works by him but EoSF has a generous lists of works. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born February 10, 1920 – Robert P. Mills.  Edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (managing editor since F&SF began; editor, after Tony Boucher; succeeded in turn by Avram Davidson) and Venture.  Ten years managing editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  Five F&SF anthologies: Best of F&SF 9th, 10th, 11th Series; A Decade of F&SFTwenty Years of F&SF (with Edward Ferman).  Also The Worlds of SF.  Three Hugos (Best Magazine to F&SF under RPM).  One short story.  After F&SF, a literary agent; sold firm to Richard Curtis, 1984.  Papers at Univ. Texas.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1934 – Fleur Adcock, age 87.  Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature. Cholmondely Award.  One short story for us.  A score of poetry collections; tr. The Virgin and the Nightingale (medieval Latin poems); ed. (with Jacqueline Simms) The Oxford Book of Creatures (verse & prose).  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with  Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelization of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 68. I’m not going to even attempt a complete précis of his career. I read and much enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin and oddly enough his Grimm: The Icy Touch is damn good too in way many of those sharecropped novels aren’t. I see that to my surprise he wrote a episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1953 – Tom Whitmore, age 68.  Three decades a partner in “The Other Change of Hobbit” bookshop.  Chaired Potlatch 2, SMOFcon 2 (SMOF is Secret Master Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke); co-chaired ConJosé the 60th Worldcon, Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention 3 the 66th; also Fan GoH at Westercon 36, Loscon XIV, Boskone 26 (as Special Guest, Boskone has no Fan GoH; anyway, see Debbie Notkin’s appreciation), Capclave 2006.  Book reviews in Locus.  Morris dancer.  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1967 Laura Dern, 54. I’m going to note she’s in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as Sandy Williams which is not genre but which is one fucking weird film. Jurassic Park where she is Dr. Ellie Sattler is her first SF film followed by Jurassic Park III and a name change to Dr. Ellie Degler.  Such are the things movie trivia is made of. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has her showing as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.  I think her first genre appearance was on Shelley Duvall’s Nightmare Classic. (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1970 – Robert Shearman, age 51.  Fourscore short stories.  Two of them Doctor Who; ed. The Shooting Scripts (with Paul Cornell, Russell Davis, Mark Gatiss); Rob and Tony’s Marathon Watch of “Doctor Who” vols. 1-2 (with Toby Hadoke).  Interviewed in Nightmare.  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes, 45. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos in the most excellent Twelth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  It wasn’t her first genre role as that would’ve been Tamara in that incredibly awful Avengers film. She also played Zoe Reynolds in MI5 which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. She has also provided the voice of Lara Croft in a series of Tomb Raider video games.  (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1987 – Cody Martin, age 34.  Four novels, three shorter stories, with Mercedes Lackey (whose name, incidentally, means servant of mercy); five novels and a shorter story in the Secret World Chronicles (which is also a podcast) with Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Dennis Lee, Steve Libby.  Eagle Scout.  Gamer.  “After I started writing him, John Murdock drifted away from me….  It surprised me, pleasantly.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) MILESTONES. In “The Animation That Changed Cinema” on YouTube, Lewis Bond and Luiza Liz Bond look at how great artists like Lotte Reininger, Jan Svankmajer, and Brad Bird changed and improved animation.

(15) WORLD OF TOMORROW KICKSTARTER. Don Hertzfeldt’s Kickstarter to fund “World of Tomorrow: The First Three Episodes” on Blu-ray has raised $218,446 of its $30,000 goal in the first two days. People who pledge $20 get a copy. There are incentives for higher pledges.

WHAT WILL BE ON THE NEW BLU-RAY?

  • the first three episodes of the series: “world of tomorrow”, “world of tomorrow episode two: the burden of other people’s thoughts”, and “world of tomorrow episode three: the absent destinations of david prime”
  • “intro”, a short cartoon that was created for the 2017 tour and has only ever been seen in theaters
  •  a 32 page booklet, including brand new liner notes for all the titles
  •  additional bells and whistles TBD 

(16) HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD. “Wynonna Earp: New trailer shows her back on the hunt in Purgatory”: SYFY Wire sets the frame:

…“All I want is to stop feeling guilty for what I am, when what I am is necessary,” Wynonna, played by Melanie Scrofano, says at the beginning of the clip. The trailer then goes on to show Wynonna on a bit of a bender — killing demons, getting drunk, hooking up, and passing out, all with Peacemaker back by her side.

(17) DERAILED BY DISNEY DEAL. Disney bought the studio, Blue Sky, that was making the Nimona cartoon (and other things) and has fired all the staff on Nimona and other projects. “Nimona Movie Cancelled by Disney Less Than a Year Before Release”Comicbook.com has the story.

Fans of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator Noelle Stevenson and her original comics were saddened today when news came that Disney is shutting down the former 20th Century Fox animation studio Blue Sky and with it cancelling their feature film adaptation of Stevenson’s Nimona. The movie was less than a year away and had been in development since around 2015, with a release date already scheduled for release on January 14th of 2022. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, sources indicated that the movie was “about 75% complete” and theorized that perhaps another studio could step in and finish the project.

… This marks the latest project that was in development at Fox or one of its subsidiaries that had fans excited and was subsequently cancelled by Disney….

(18) WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES PRINTED WITH THAT? In the Washington Post, Laura Reiley says that Israeli firm Aleph Farms says it has a process for 3-D printing steaks, and discussed other companies that are coming up with “cultivated: meat and fish. “The world’s first lab-grown rib-eye prompts questions about how cultivated meat will be regulated”.

… Aleph Farms’ new 3-D bioprinting technology— which uses living animal cells as opposed to plant-based alternatives — allows for premium whole-muscle cuts to come to market, broadening the scope of alt-meat in what is expected to be a rich area of expansion for food companies.

Several other companies are sprinting to capture what is expected to be a robust appetite for what is often called “cultivated meat.” San Diego-based BlueNalu has announced its intent to bring cell-based seafood products to market in the second half of this year; Israel-based Future Meat Technologies and Dutch companies Meatable and Mosa Meat aim to have cultivated meat products in the market by 2022, each with proprietary methods of growing meat tissues from punch biopsies from live or slaughtered animals.

But the lack of a regulatory framework could stymie the companies’ race to market. In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the world’s first head of state to eat cultivated meat, and that same month Singapore became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval for the sale of cultivated meat. It remains unclear when other countries will follow suit. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has not set a date for when it will rule on the matter….

(19) AREN’T YOU SHORT FOR AN IMPERIAL WALKER? SYFY Wire shows “Walking car proven possible by Hyundai TIGER concept”.

It’s probably safe to say that Hyundai is betting big on the future of transportation. Last week, we got wind of their plan to build the world’s smallest airport for flying cars, and then yesterday, the South Korean company just went even more futuristic by presenting its “walking car” concept, TIGER, aka the transforming intelligent ground excursion robot.

Branded as the company’s first uncrewed ultimate mobility vehicle (UMV), TIGER is meant to transform from a four-wheel drive vehicle to a four-legged walking machine….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/19 Why Do Belters Wear Red Suspenders?

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2020 cover art is by Max Bertolini.

(2) RECOMMENDATIONS. Andrew Liptak shares his list of “10 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out this December” at Polygon. Following his first choice, Gideon the Ninth

…The second is Cixin Liu’s Supernova Era. Liu is best-known for the epic novels The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End, which put Chinese science fiction on the map for US readers. This novel, which sees Earth’s adult population wiped out after radiation from a supernova passes by, is about the young survivors as they work to rebuild human civilization once again. Like Liu’s other novels, it’s an ambitious, fun read that reminds me quite a bit of science fiction’s classic eras.

(3) A FELINE UNIVERSE. All you students of worldbuilding probably already know this: “An Attempt to Answer All Your Questions About the Plot and Universe of Cats at Vulture.

What the hell does “Jellicle” mean?
According to T.S. Eliot’s widow Valerie Eliot (at least as described in Lloyd Webber’s memoir), the word comes out of T.S.’s private joke about how the British upper class slurred the words “dear little cats” together to somehow make a sound like “Jellicle.” Eliot also wrote about “Pollicle Dogs,” based off the phrase “poor little dogs.” There’s a poem, “The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles” that gets ported into Cats, where the cats all dress up as dogs and make fun of them. This is frankly anti-dog, but what did you expect in Cats?

(4) NEW TESTAMENTS. “In the 2010s, The Handmaid’s Tale Arrived Margaret Atwood on whether anything shocks her anymore.”The Vulture’s Molly Young interview with Atwood includes this passage about fan tributes.

What, if anything, did you make of that?
My readers deal with those things. They notice them before I do. I expect that Kylie Jenner heard from some of them along the lines of “We appreciate the thought, but you kind of missed it.” There were some themed tequila. People often do this in a very well-meaning way; they’re not trying to be unpleasant. It has been the occasion when I’ve been speaking somewhere and I will be greeted with Handmaid’s Tale cupcakes because the person doing the catering is such a fan. Will I turn up my nose at such cupcakes? No, I will not. I will not do that.

Will you eat the cupcake?
That depends on my relationship to sugar at the moment. If I were in a sugar-eating moment, I would certainly eat the cupcake. I have a collection of artifacts: I have LEGO handmaids and commanders made by the children of one of the publicists in London. I’ve got some knitted chickens from a pro-choice outfit in Texas that knits chickens for charity. She made me some themed knitted chickens. First one is called “the Henmaid’s Tale.” It has an outfit. I have a piece of honey-point embroidery done before the embroiderer had read The Testaments or even knew about it. It says F*CK AUNT LYDIA So there are these things that appear, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s people playing in the sandbox. I’m happy to have people playing in the sandbox, although sometimes they get a little off, but that is to be expected. There are people right now writing military histories of Gilead, and I look forward to reading them because I’m not going to do that.

(5) NEW VANDERMEER. Arkady Martine for NPR concludes that “Clarity Isn’t The Point In Confusing, Absorbing ‘Dead Astronauts'”.

Jeff Vandermeer’s latest novel, Dead Astronauts, is a kaleidoscopic and fractured mosaic: In a long-changed, post-climate-apocalypse world, a trio of saboteurs — or escapees — or simply survivors — attempt over and over again to dismantle the work of the Company, an entity which may have once been a biotech corporation but now churns out broken and altered-beyond-recognition monstrosities in an endless stream. The three — who are the closest the reader gets to protagonists in the first half of the book — are only nominally human, and only nominally astronauts. Like nearly everything else Vandermeer has created in Dead Astronauts, they are allegories, figments, fables for a dissolving world where narrative and language are as subject to corruption as modified flesh.

Their leader is Grayson, an astronaut returned to Earth who can see futures and truths out of her blinded eye. With her are Chen, who sees the world in equations and probabilities, constantly on the verge of ego-dissolution into mathematics and emotional trauma; a man who might once have been a salamander, or many salamanders, but who definitely once worked intimately for the Company — and Moss, whom Grayson loves. Moss is sometimes a woman, sometimes a person — when she wants to be, for Grayson — and always a sentient moss, splittable into many selves, charged with (or choosing) to use herself to reseed the broken world with viable life.

(6) STARGIRL TEASER TRAILER.  “The staff chose me, and I choose you.”

Stargirl premieres Spring 2020 on DC Universe and The CW. Stargirl follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger), who inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. The project reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in a fun, exciting and unpredictable series

(7) STAY FROSTY. BBC’s Sounds devotes a segment of CrowdSicence to the question: “Could humans hibernate during interstellar travel?”

Science fiction is full of people settling on distant planets. But even the closest stars would take millennia to reach with current speeds of travel, by the time any passengers reached an extra solar planet, they would be long dead. 

So CrowdScience listener Balaji asked us to find out whether humans could hibernate for interstellar travel?

To uncover the science fact behind this idea, Anand Jagatia holds a tiny hibernating dormouse at the Wildwood Trust in Kent, and meets Dr Samuel Tisherman who puts his patients into suspended animation for a couple of hours, to save their lives after traumatic injuries that cause cardiac arrest. We ask if Dr Tisherman’s research could be extended to put healthy individuals to sleep for much longer periods of time? 

It’s a question that neuroscientist, Professor Kelly Drew is studying, in Alaska Fairbanks. She uses Ground Squirrels as a model to understand internal thermostats, and how hibernating mammals manage to reduce their core temperatures to -3 degrees Celsius. 

Anand speculates wildly with science fiction authors Adrian Tchaikovsky and Temi Oh whose characters in their books ‘Children of Time’ and ‘Do You Dream of Terra Two?’ traverse enormous distances between habitable planets. 

But is human stasis something that would actually be useful? John Bradford is the director of SpaceWorks, this company works with NASA to try to investigate human hibernation for space travel. He’s trying to make space-based human hibernation a reality, and it seems that may be closer than you’d think. 

(8) DALEKS! Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes keeps her TV tuned to vintage Doctor Who — [December 7, 1964] Panic On The Streets Of London (Doctor Who: THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH).

…Cue the montage! Daleks in Trafalgar Square! Daleks at the Albert Memorial! This is what location shooting is for. I don’t care if the rest of the series takes place in my shed, it’s worth it to see a Dalek surrounded by pigeons, further proving that Daleks are not the masters of Earth, because pigeons bow to no man, or alien pepperpot….

(9) FUTURE WHO. Meanwhile, in 2020…. Or it will be when this airs: “‘Doctor Who’ To Return With Biggest Episode Ever As Showrunner Chris Chibnall Shakes Up Sci-Fi Show”Deadline has the story.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall… told Deadline that Jodie Whittaker’s Tardis-travelling time lord will be thrown into action in a “movie-like” two-part curtain-raiser called Spyfall, which will premiere on BBC One and BBC America on January 1, 2020.

“Episode one is probably the biggest episode of Doctor Who we’ve done, or has been done, I would imagine. Physically, there’s a lot of stunts, there’s a lot of locations, it’s a globe-trotting action thriller,” he said. “But you don’t want to lose sight of character and intimacy and emotion. You can’t do everything at 11.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 7, 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered. Starring all of the expected suspects plus the now departed Indian model and actress Persis Khambatta, the film did very well but not well enough to not stop the studio from stripping Roddenberry of creative control of all things Trek. Reviewers and critics alike give it a 42% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • December 7, 1984 2019: After The Fall of New York premiered. This Italian film was directed by Sergio Martino in both the English and Italian versions. The film starred Michael Sopkiw and Anna Kanakis, and George Eastman. Wiki says it was influenced by Escape from New York. One critic noted that “Graphic scenes of rape and murder await the viewer, as well as rats, midgets, and subway-riding revolutionaries.” Despite that, or because of it, it has a decent 59% rating among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 7, 1984 2010: The Year We Make Contact premiered. Written, produced, shot and directed by Peter Hyams. It’s based off Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two, the sequel to the film. It starred Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, John Lithgow as Walter Curnow and Helen Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk. It would outgross both Dune and Starman who opened roughly when it did. And yes it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Aussiecon Two beating out The Last StarfighterDuneGhostbusters and The Search for Spock.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 7, 1915 Eli Wallach. I‘ve a fondness for anyone who appeared on the Sixties Batman series. He played Mr. Freeze in a two part story, the third actor to do as both George Sanders and Otto Preminger had done so in previous two part stories. He also had one-offs in Worlds Beyond, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Veritas: The Quest and Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 7, 1923 Johnny Duncan. Was the Sixties Batman the first Batman series? You know better. Johnny here was Robin on Batman And Robin (1949) for Columbia Pictures Corporation. It ran for fifteen episodes with roughly fifteen or so minutes apiece. Robert Lowery was Wayne / Batman. He has only one other genre appearance, an uncredited one in Plan 9 from Outer Space as Second Stretcher Bearer. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she completed her draft of The Empire Strikes Back just before she died. (Died 1978.)
  • Born December 7, 1945 W.D. Richter, 74. As a screenwriter, he’s given us Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Dracula, and one of my most loved films, Big Trouble In Little China.  As a director, he gave us Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, another of my most loved films. He’s not getting love for the reboot of Big Trouble In Little China with Dwayne Johnson that he’s apparently involved with. Grrrr!
  • Born December 7, 1947 Wendy Padbury, 72. She’s Zoe Heriot, a Companion to the Second Doctor. She first appears in “The Wheel in Space” where she is the librarian on board the Wheel.  Big Finish has made use of her character rather well. Her only genre film was Cathy Vespers in The Blood on Satan’s Claw (not to my to-be-viewed list), and she was regular cast member Sue Wheeler in the Freewheelers series which at least genre adjacent. Think Avengers only younger. 
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 70. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli
  • Born December 7, 1959 William John King, 60. Author who works exclusively in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 Universes. Now I’ve not read in that universe, but I discovered recently, well in the last few months I think, that Games Workshop actually has some forty shops around the US where you can buy their miniatures, get them painted and just hang out. They also sell some fiction, both hardcopy and audiobooks, all Warhammer of course. Neat?

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss shows there’s no end of things alien visitors must keep in mind.
  • Frank and Ernest think that, a synonym for wimpy, “snowflakes” is an illogical choice.

(13) THE ORIGINALS. Profiles in History will hold an auction of rare original comicbook art on December 12, “Comic & Illustration Art the Property of a Distinguished American Collector”. The entire catalogue is viewable online, or as a download.

(14) BIG BROTHER WASN’T WATCHING? Daring Fireball carries the phone maker’s response to news linked in yesterday’s Scroll: “Ultra Wideband Technology: Apple’s Explanation for Why Newer iPhones Appear to Collect Location Data, Even When Location Services Are Disabled”

…Nick Heer:

“This makes complete sense to me and appears to be nothing more than a mistake in not providing a toggle specifically for UWB. It seems that a risk of marketing a company as uniquely privacy-friendly is that any slip-up is magnified a hundredfold and treated as evidence that every tech company is basically the same.”

It is totally fair to hold Apple to a higher standard on privacy than other companies. But Heer is exactly right: when they do make a mistake, it’s going to be magnified. The mistake here wasn’t that location data was leaked?—?including to Apple’s own servers, apparently. The mistake was not making it clear in Settings that UWB requires location data for regulatory compliance. Most people don’t even know what UWB is at this point.

(15) SOME RANDO. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak in “Ryan Reynolds Discovers He’s an NPC in the First Trailer for Free Guy explains it more clearly than the studio’s synopsis, so let’s go with Liptak. He begins —

Non-player characters (NPCs) are a staple of video games: the anonymous members of a crowd that make up the background of the story you’re playing. At São Paulo’s Comic Con Experience (CCXP) today, 20th Century Fox unveiled a first look at Free Guy, about such a character who realizes that the world he inhabits isn’t what it seems.

(16) LOVE AMONG THE PENGUINS. I was never allowed to see Bruce Pelz’ chart of the romantic entanglements of LASFS members, but I bet it looked something like this… “Japan’s aquarium penguins lead complicated lives of feuding, love — and incest”. CNN has the complete chart posted here.  

…Such is the intrigue surrounding the sex lives of these black and white birds that, for the second year running, Kyoto Aquarium and Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium, have released a chart detailing the tangled love lines among them.

…Rozu (or Rose) was a pick-up artist and a penguinizer before meeting Warabi, formerly the most popular penguin in the aquarium.

After falling in love, the two are now in an exclusive relationship and “can’t bear to leave each other’s side for more than one second.”

Then there’s inter-species love.

The two Penguin Relationship Charts also reveal how the aquariums’ caretakers are unwittingly pulled into the penguins’ affairs of the heart.

Caretaker Nagaoka’s friendship with penguin Hanabi has made Hanabi’s wife Ichigo jealous, turning Nagaoka and Ichigo into enemies.

Chiyouchin is said to have “neverending love” for his caretaker Oshiro.

Caretaker Tanaka wants to befriend Kiriko, but Kiriko blows hot and cold — sometimes sulking with Tanaka for as long as 20 minutes.

(17) CONSENTACLE. “Consentacle is a board game about having consensual alien sex in space “ – let SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” explain:

… While we at SYFY FANGRRLS don’t often talk about board games, we thought we would make an exception for this one, because it’s about playing through a consensual female-focused alien encounter with some sexy tentacles, and if that’s not our area of expertise, I don’t know what is.

Consentacle is a co-operative board game set in space, where the whole aim is for players to communicate as best they can with a language barrier in place. One player takes on the role of a curious blue-haired human astronaut, while the other takes on the role of a sensitive and caring feminine tentacle-covered alien. Neither of your species shares a spoken language, and as such the players are not allowed to use words to communicate their plans during the game. Both players and characters establish consent, then attempt to fumble their way wordlessly through a sexy space encounter, keeping each other’s needs and wants in mind.

Different acts between the pair will produce different “satisfaction” resource tokens, and the players have to work out what each other needs, and try to anticipate their plays, for mutual resource building in tandem. Each player has their own deck of cards, which have various effects when used solo or in combos, with some cards better used one-sided or in tandem….

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/18 My Pixels Touched Dog Pixels! Agh!

(1) F&SF. Gordon Van Gelder shared F&SF’s Nov/Dec 2018 issue cover:

(2) ISS CREW OKAY AFTER FAILED TAKEOFF. Astronauts bound for the ISS safely returned when their rocket failed soon after launch — “Space crew survives plunge to Earth after Russian rocket fails”.

A Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut were safe on Thursday after a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan, leading to a dramatic emergency landing.

The two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as rescue crews raced to reach them, according to the U.S. space agency NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.

The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian booster rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

(3) WHALE OF A TALE. L.A. Smith has a fascinating writeup about this 8th century artifact — “The Franks Casket” – carved from whalebone.

…So, the pictures and inscriptions on the casket are a great source of scholarly discussion. To top it all off, there seems to also be some numerological significance to the number of runes on the casket. There are 72 runes on the front and left panels, and a total of 288 runes in total. The 72 could correspond to the 72 disciples mentioned in the Latin Vulgate Bible familiar to the Anglo-Saxons. The number 288 is a multiple of 24, which is the number of runes in an early continental Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet, which had magical significance for the Anglo-Saxons.

Phew! No wonder many scholars have devoted so much time and effort on trying to decipher the runes and pictures on this little box. The more you look at it, the more you discover.

This beautiful box has so much to tell us about this fascinating period in England’s history….

(4) ANIME TRIAGE. Petréa Mitchell reviews 15 anime series and approves many as the title of her Amazing Stories post hints — “Anime roundup 10/11/2018: Sturgeon Takes a Holiday”. For example —

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime premiere – Satoru Mikami is a single geek who suddenly gets stabbed to death on a Tokyo street, only to find himself in a fantasy world, granted fabulous powers, and hobnobbing with a mighty dragon. Typical light-novel power fantasy, right? Well, there are a couple of catches. One is that he’s been reborn as the weakest creature possible. The other concerns the visual presentation of the show itself.

When adapting a popular property, a show is expected to make a predictable amount of money off selling Blu-Rays and merchandise to hardcore fans. Since those fans will buy it no matter what, most shows like this have a look about them that the only minimum necessary effort was made. In this case, a similar calculation seems to have been made, only the conclusion was that those fans will still mindlessly purchase it if it turns into an art film.

This premiere is one visual treat after another, from the careful attention to detail in the movement and posture of people in modern Tokyo, to the trippy mixed-media imagery as Satoru falls into another reality, to the wild expressiveness wrung from a ball of goo. This still has some of the usual problems of light-novel adaptations— the protagonist is already ridiculously overpowered, too much game terminology, and a lot of time spent sitting around and talking— but between the unique twist and the look of this episode, it’s actually enjoyable.

(5) FIRST MAN REVIEW. NPR’s Linda Holmes reports that “‘First Man’ Considers Glory, Grief And A Famous Walk On The Moon”:

…We encounter Armstrong at three points: 1961, leading up to the start of his training as an astronaut; 1965, just before his first space flight; and 1968, as he prepares to be the first person to walk on the moon. His family life progresses alongside his much more famous professional one: the loss of his two-year-old daughter from brain cancer, the grief that nearly consumes him after, the sacrifices that his service demands from his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), and his relationship with his two boys, to whom he hesitates to explain the dangers of space travel….

(6) WHAT WE LEARNED FROM WAR GAMES. The answer is: absolutely nothing. BBC reports “US weapons systems can be ‘easily hacked'”.

…The committee’s members expressed concerns about how protected weapon systems were against cyber-attacks.

The report’s main findings were:

  • the Pentagon did not change the default passwords on multiple weapons systems – and one changed password was guessed in nine seconds…

So, does the United States use its birthday as a password? – July41776….

(7) RIVERDALE RECAP. A public service message from Martin Morse Wooster:

For people who are wondering how much Riverdale is like Archie Comics, I offer the folllowing recap of last night’s show.

Archie Andrews was found guilty of murder, but he was framed by Veronica’s father.  The underground offers to sneak him into Quebec but he decides to stay in Riverdale and take his punishment.

Veronica finds out where the jury in Archie’s trial is sequestered and sneaks into the hotel in a maid’s outfit but is thrown out before she can engage in jury tampering.

Betty is an Adderall addict and is stopped before she can fill a forged prescription.

But the gang still relaxes at Pop’s Malt Shop!

Also, I learned that fans who want Betty and Jughead to have a relationship are known as “Bugheads.”

(8) GLASS. M. Night Shyamalan’s next picture, about tortured people with superpowers, will be released in the U.S. on January 18, 2019.

M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—2000’s Unbreakable, from Touchstone, and 2016’s Split, from Universal—in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller: Glass. From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 11, 1922 – G.C. Edmondson (José Mario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton), Author from Mexico who mostly wrote Westerns under several pen names – and, being fluent in six languages, he also did translations – but produced a number of science fiction works, many involving time travel and Latin America, including the Nebula Award-nominated The Ship That Sailed the Time Stream and its sequel, the trilogy The Cunningham Equations (co-written with C. M. Kotlan), and numerous short works in his Mad Friend universe.
  • Born October 11, 1928 – Doris Piserchia, 90, Author of more than a dozen of what multiple sources call “darkly comic novels”, including her penultimate novel, I, Zombie which she published under the pseudonym Curt Selby, and a somewhat larger number of short fiction works. Because she had a story in The Last Dangerous Visions, she has been labelled New Wave by some who didn’t do their research properly. Like most genre writers of the 70s and 80s, she has greatly benefited from digital publishing, with all of her backlist now republished in that format.
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Patrick Parrinder, 74, Writer and Critic from England who is one of the foremost experts on H. G. Wells, having written works specializing on that author subtitled Shadows of the Future, Science Fiction and Prophecy, and The Critical Heritage. Not to be mistaken as a one-trick pony, he’s also penned Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching and Utopian Literature and Science.
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Julek Heller, 74, Artist and Illustrator from Jerusalem who emigrated to England, who did cover art for around 80 novels and more than 50 works of interior art, mostly in the 80s and 90s, including covers for works by Norton, Moorcock, Silverberg’s Majipoor series, and several Mammoth Books. He also provided artwork for the 1978 TV series Pinocchio.
  • Born October 11, 1945 – Gay Haldeman, 73, Writer, Translator, and Member of First Fandom who has Masters degrees in Linguistics and Spanish. A fan and con-goer since 1963, she has contributed many letters, essays, and convention reports to genre and fannish publications, a fair number of them written in Spanish. She and her author husband Joe have been Guests of Honor at numerous conventions – including a relaxacon in Sydney, Australia named Haldecon – and she has been much in demand as a con Toastmaster. She and Joe were given the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award (NESFA’s Skylark Award) in 1996.
  • Born October 11, 1950 – William R. Forstchen, 68, Writer and Historian, whose early novel series included Ice Prophet, Wars of Heaven, Gamestar Wars, and The Lost Regiment, and more recently the One Second After post-apocalyptic novels. Has also contributed novels to the Star Trek, Riftwar, and Wing Commander universes. He was Guest of Honor at InConJunction XIX.
  • Born October 11, 1953 – David Morse, 65, Actor, Writer, Singer, and Director, who has had main roles in the Hugo-nominated Twelve Monkeys, The Green Mile, The Boy, Double Vision, the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge-inspired Passengers, and the Hugo-winning film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Locus-winning Contact, as well as parts in World War Z, Joe Hill’s Horns, TV series Friday the 13th: The Series, Tales from the Crypt, SeaQuest DSV, Medium, and Blindspot, and the Stephen King miniseries The Langoliers.
  • Born October 11, 1962 – Joan Cusack, 56, Actor and Writer especially known for comedic roles, who had main parts in the Hugo-nominated Addams Family Values (for which she received a Saturn nomination), the film adaptation of David Gerrold’s Hugo- and Nebula-winning The Martian Child, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and a plethora of voice roles in animated features including the Hugo-nominated Toy Story movies and TV specials, Chicken Little, and Mars Needs Moms.
  • Born October 11, 1965 – Lennie James, 53, Actor, Screenwriter, and Playwright from England who has had main roles in the genre TV series The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and Jericho, and movie roles in Blade Runner 2049, Sahara, Lockout, and the (in JJ’s opinion) vastly-underrated Lost in Space.
  • Born October 11, 1965 – Sean Patrick Flanery, 53, Actor who starred in the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and also had lead roles in the genre films Powder, Demon Hunter, The Insatiable, Veritas, Prince of Truth, InSight, The Devil’s Carnival, and The Evil Within, and guest roles on Stargate: SG-1, The Twilight Zone, The Dead Zone, The Outer Limits, Charmed, and Touched by an Angel.
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Claudia Black, 46, Actor from Australia best known for her roles as Aeryn Sun on Farscape (for which she won a Saturn Award) and Vala Mal Doran on Stargate SG-1 (for which she won a Constellation Award, Canada’s counterpart to the Saturn Award), who also appeared in the films Pitch Black and Queen of the Damned. Her first genre role was as Cassandra on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, followed by episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, Beastmaster, The Dresden Files and Haven, a recurring role on The Originals, and a main role on Containment. She has also provided character voices to animated films and TV series, and a very large number of videogames, including Uncharted, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Final Fantasy.
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Nir Yaniv, 46, Writer, Editor, Musician, and Fan from Israel who in 2000 founded the webzine of the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy and was its chief editor for seven years. He later edited several issues of Chalomot Be’aspamia, Israel’s only professional printed science fiction and fantasy magazine. He co-authored with Lavie Tidhar the short novel The Tel Aviv Dossier, and has published a collection of his short fiction, The Love Machine and Other Contraptions; several of his stories have been translated into English by Tidhar. As a musician, he created the first Hebrew-language SF music-themed album, The Universe in a Pita, and more recently has begun writing and directing short films of strong genre interest.
  • Born October 11, 1974 – Ian Mond, 44, Writer, Critic, and Podcaster from Australia who has published a dozen of his own stories, plus a few Doctor Who stories. He was Tuckerized by fellow Australian and Doctor Who writer Kate Orman in the tie-in novel Blue Box. For eight years, he co-hosted with Kirstyn McDermott the Hugo-nominated and Ditmar-winning book podcast, The Writer and the Critic, and his reviews of genre fiction have garnered him two Atheling nominations. He started reviewing for Locus Online in June this year.
  • Born October 11, 1978 – Wes Chatham, 40, Actor best known for a main role in the Hugo-winning TV series The Expanse, as well as a role in the two-movie Hunger Games installment Mockinjay.
  • Born October 11, 1974 – Doona Bae, 34, Actor from South Korea whose most notable genre role has been as a lead in the TV series Sense8 but has also had roles in Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, as well as several South Korean science fiction and horror films including The Ring Virus and The Host and the manga adaptation Air Doll.
  • Born October 11, 1985 – Michelle Trachtenberg, 33, Actor and Producer who started early in genre roles with a guest role on Space Cases at the age of 11 and a main role on Meego at the age of 12. At 14, she took on a main role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which she received 3 Saturn nominations. Her other appearances include the films Inspector Gadget, Can’t Be Heaven, Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish, Black Christmas, 17 Again, and The Scribbler, and guest spots on the live-action and animated TV series Sleepy Hollow, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Robot Chicken, The Super Hero Squad Show, SuperMansion, and Superman/Shazam. She currently has a starring voice role in the animated SF series Human Kind Of.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FRANKENSTEIN. Sean O’Hara talks about how Mary Shelley’s preface to the book was an attempt to whitewash her life — “The History of Frankenstein Part I: Lies, Damned Lies, and Mary Shelley’s Preface to Frankenstein”

Most of us are familiar with the tale of how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein — how she and her husband Percy were on vacation in Switzerland and happened to be staying near Lord Byron, and on a dark and stormy night, after reading some German horror stories, they decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story. It all sounds so genteel. Something you’d see on Masterpiece Theater.

It’s also pure BS.

Mary and her step-sister Claire were the Kardashians of the early 19th Century. And I don’t mean they were wild by the standards of their day. They did things that would still make the front page of TMZ. If they were alive today, they’d be feuding with Beyonce and Taylor Swift, I guarantee it.

So where did the sanitized version of the story come from?

Why Mary Shelley herself….

— Then steps back to look at her mother, the feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft: “The History of Frankenstein Part II: That Time the World’s First Feminist Married the World’s First Libertarian”.

But their happiness was short lived. Wollstonecraft became pregnant at the end of 1796, and she and Godwin decided, despite their mutual misgivings about marriage, to wed so their child would be legitimate. But Wollstonecraft was by now thirty-eight, an age at which child birth became dangerous. Her daughter Mary was born safely, but Wollstonecraft contracted a postpartum infection and died a mere two weeks later, leaving her two daughters in the care of a forty year old man who had spent his entire life as a bachelor.

There are several more posts in this series at O’Hara’s blog, Yes, We Have No Culottes.

(12) KIRBY YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Scott Bradfield recommends “Reading irresponsibly with Jack Kirby” at the LA Times.

Probably what I miss most in our perilous, terrifying and end-of-times-like historical era is the ability to read irresponsibly. There’s just too much responsible reading around; it can drive you to drink. Everything we’re supposed to read keeps looming up out of the darkness, bristling with portents, economic data, apocalyptic planetary crises and an endless urgent blizzard of news bulletins about tweets, personal liberties, gun violence and conflagrations both natural and metaphorical — all of which require more sober attention than most of us can muster. Increasingly (and understandably), reading has become a duty to be performed by conscientious citizens and students. And I’m sorry, but jeez, that just isn’t right.

When I was young, reading irresponsibly was easy. I did it all the time. In fact, well into my late teens and early 20s I could easily lose myself in books and comics; it just came with the territory.

(13) WFA CONTENDER. Lela E. Buis sings the praises of a World Fantasy Award nominee: “Review of City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty”.

…So, counter to the depressive trend in the WFA finalists this year, this is a romance and an intrigue. All these people are lying to each other, and political groups are plotting right and left. Daevabad is exotic, the details of the city life, the temples and the palace very well assembled. I didn’t have any problems visualizing the people, the creatures or the scenery–the author has done a lot of research. The characters are slightly flat, but the story is more focused on the action and intrigue than on revealing their deepest inner thoughts. The reader is left to deduce a lot of what’s going on from their actions….

(14) MURDER MOST ‘BOT. And Buis gives five stars to the conclusion of the Murderbot series, but says it is not flawless – “Review of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells”.

On the not so great side, I’ve got some nits to pick with the whole story arc at this point. I suspect the series was written fairly quickly, as Wells has said it’s a short story that got out of control, and after the huge success of the first novella, she quickly got in gear to produce the rest. Tor was also in a hurry to follow up on the initial success, and went light on the editing. That means there are some inconsistencies in the content.

(15) CHIBNALL ON WHO. Showrunner Chris Chibnall discusses his new vision for Doctor Who.

(16) WHO PANEL AT NYCC. Here’s the full Doctor Who panel from New York Comic-Con 2018, with Jodie Whittaker, Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens.

(17) THE NOSE KNOWS. io9’s Germain Lussier is thrilled to hear that “The Most Disgusting Scenes in Star Wars Are Now Scented Candles”.

Scents like “Trash Compactor,” “Inside of a Tauntaun,” “Rancor,” and “Sarlacc Pit” are just some of the scents available in these new, officially licensed candles. There are some more pleasant sounding ones, too, like “Bantha Milk,” “X-Wing Cockpit” and “Yoda’s Cooking Pot”—as well as just plain weird ones like “Death Star Destroyed,” “Millennium Falcon,” “Han Solo Carbonite” and “Lightsaber Duel.”

(18) AND SMALLER FLEAS TO BITE ‘EM. Science Alert is sure “You’ll Never Guess What Scientists Want to Call The Moon of a Moon”.

Stars have planets, and planets have satellites we call moons; but can a moon have its own satellite? And if it did, what would we call it?

In a paper currently up on pre-print resource arXiv, astronomers Juna Kollmeier of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Sean Raymond of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux have called them submoons.

But other scientists are using the far more delightful term moonmoon, so that’s what we’re going to go for.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In La Futur Sera Chauve (The Bald Future) on Vimeo, Paul Cabon imagines how limited his life will be when he loses his hair.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/19/18 Smells Like Teen Pixel

(1) THE DOCTOR IS IN. Stylist got the Thirteenth Doctor to revisit social media about her casting: “Watch: Jodie Whittaker brilliantly responds to Twitter trolls”.

Although the announcement regarding Whittaker being cast in the role was met with many sexist comments last year, the reaction, on the whole, has been a positive one.

“We live in a very unique time, people upload every moment to the internet so you can see the excitement and, in some instances, the fear people have,” Whittaker said, in reference to reading reactions online. “But when you see those videos, from all different ages of all different people from all different worlds about a show – and I hadn’t even done it yet – that’s ace because, if they’re accepting me into their family, what we want to do is make that family bigger.”

Which is why Whittaker popped into the Stylist office to look back on the Twitter reactions from a year ago – the good and the bad.

 

(2) FISH TICKS. Ian Sales (brilliantly) nitpicks the science in the movie Meg in the service of a greater truth about sff storytelling — “The megalodon in the room”.

…And yet… this is, I hear you say, completely irrelevant. It’s a film about a giant fucking prehistoric shark. Which reached lengths of 18 metres (bigger in the this film). Why cavil about submarines and submersibles and depths and pressures when the film is about a giant fucking prehistoric shark? All those facts quoted above, they mean nothing because it’s a film about a giant fucking prehistoric shark!

This is where we part company – myself, that is, and my imaginary critic(s) – because the megalodon, as the title of this post indicates, that’s the central conceit. The story is its scaffolding. Science fiction tropes work the same way. They’re either bolstered by the plot, or by exposition, or by the entire corpus of science fiction. Such as FTL. Or AI. Complete nonsense, both of them. But no one quibbles when they appear in a science fiction because the scaffolding for them has been built up over a century or more of genre publishing…

In every science fiction, we have a megalodon in the room. Sometimes it’s the central conceit, sometimes it’s what we have to tastefully ignore in order for the conceit not to destroy the reading experience. But that science fiction, that conceit, is embedded in a world, either of the author’s invention or recognisably the reader’s own….

(3) ROANHORSE. Paul Weimer’s “Microreview [book]: Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse” at Nerds of a Feather makes me want to read the book —

…That’s where Maggie Hoskie comes in. She’s been trained as a monster hunter by the very best, but she is new to fighting monsters on her own. And it is in the fighting monsters on her own that she is drawn into a plot that will not only gain her a partner, but also uncover a threat to the entire world inside the walls and the people who live there. Can Maggie protect herself, and those around her, when she must also restain an even greater monster–herself? And just what DID happen to her old mentor, anyhow?

This is the central question at the heart of Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel, Trail of Lightning.

There is plenty to love in Trail of Lighting, and Maggie as a main character is front and center the heart of the novel and she makes the novel sing….

(4) OKORAFOR AT EMMYS. As The Root sees it, “She Got That Glow: Writer Nnedi Okorafor Gets the Escort of a Lifetime to the 2018 Emmys”.

When you’re an emerging name in the realm of fantasy and science-fiction writing and your first novel is being adapted into a series by award-winning premium network HBO, there are few things better than being invited to the Emmys.

That is, of course, unless your escort for the evening is none other than network darling and best-selling author George R.R. Martin, whose Game of Thrones once again nailed the Outstanding Drama Series award (its 47th Emmy) at this year’s ceremony—oh, and did we mention that Martin is executive producing your series, too?

This is exactly the dream writer Nnedi Okorafor was living on Monday night as she attended the Emmys alongside Martin, whom she says brought her with him for all of his red carpet interviews to promote the upcoming Who Fears Death, a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story of a young North African woman, based on the Chibok, Nigeria schoolgirls who were kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014….

(5) LOOKING FOR HELP. Olav Rokne and a couple friends at the Hugo Awards Book Club started discussing about film adaptations of Hugo-shortlisted works. He says, “In the ensuing debate, we started compiling a list of various films and TV shows, which ended up being the seed for a blog post on the subject” — “Hollywood has a mixed history adapting Hugo-shortlisted works”. For instance —

Flowers For Algernon is probably the Hugo-winning work that has been adapted most often. On top of various stage productions, there were four movies including one that won an Academy Award, a Tony-nominated musical, and a video game. Several of these adaptations — such as the 1968 movie Charly — seem to have been produced with an understanding of what made the original resonate with audiences.

Rokne hopes Filers will do more than just read the post: “Reason I’m sending this to you, is that I know that there are probably works that are missing from this list. We deliberately excluded Retro Hugo shortlists from the list, as well as adaptations of graphic stories. So this is just prose works from contemporaneous Hugo shortlists that have been adapted. Do you think you, or anyone in your File 770 community would know of movies or TV shows that my friends and I missed from this list?”

(6) STAR WARS MILITARY PAPERWORK. Angry Staff Officer shows what it would look like “If the Hoth Crash was an Air Force Investigation”.

…The mishap aircraft was assigned to Rogue Squadron, assigned to the defenses of Hoth. The mishap crew consisted of a mishap pilot and mishap gunner, both assigned to Rogue Squadron. It was determined that the mishap gunner died instantly, and the mishap pilot was able to escape the Hoth system in an unassigned X-Wing.

The board president found clear and convincing evidence that the cause of the mishap was due to the pilot failing heed sound crew resource management (CRM) principles and ignoring repeated warnings from the mishap gunner regarding failed mission essential systems. Furthermore, the board found other causal factors relating to poor maintenance standards and practices, and contributing factors relating to unsound tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)….

(7) QUIS CUSTODIET? BBC reports “IBM launches tool aimed at detecting AI bias”.

IBM is launching a tool which will analyse how and why algorithms make decisions in real time.

The Fairness 360 Kit will also scan for signs of bias and recommend adjustments.

There is increasing concern that algorithms used by both tech giants and other firms are not always fair in their decision-making.

For example, in the past, image recognition systems have failed to identify non-white faces.

However, as they increasingly make automated decisions about a wide variety of issues such as policing, insurance and what information people see online, the implications of their recommendations become broader.

(8) GARBAGE COLLECTION. In space, no one can hear you clean — “RemoveDebris: UK satellite nets ‘space junk'”.

The short sequence shows a small, shoebox-sized object tumbling end over end about 6-8m in front of the University of Surrey spacecraft.

Suddenly, a bright web, fired from the satellite, comes into view. It extends outwards and smothers the box.

“It worked just as we hoped it would,” said Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre.

“The target was spinning like you would expect an uncooperative piece of junk to behave, but you can see clearly that the net captures it, and we’re very happy with the way the experiment went.”

(9) THE INSIDE STORY. BBC explores “Captain Marvel: Why Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is a Marvel game-changer”.

Captain Marvel is the hero that Samuel L. Jackson, as Shield boss Nick Fury, called for help at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

She’s super strong, can fly, survive in space and project energy (among other things) making Carol Danvers to The Avengers what Superman is to Justice League: the big hitter.

“She’s more powerful than, possibly, all The Avengers combined,” says Claire Lim, a huge comic book fan and a presenter for BBC’s The Social.

“It’s important they’re actually putting a female front and centre as a superhero powerful enough to beat this threat.”

(10) BBC RADIO 4. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sends links to a pair of BBC radio highlights —

  • BBC Radio 4 religion program (British BBC not US bible belt take) Beyond Belief on the religious dimensions to Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, the tale of a scientist who creates a creature that ultimately destroyed him, has been a popular subject for films for many years. But the religious content of the original novel written by Mary Shelley is lost on the big screen. Her story centres on the scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who plays God. His creation identifies first with Adam and then with Satan in Paradise Lost. He has admirable human qualities but is deprived of love and affection and becomes brutalised. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are Andrew Smith, Professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield; Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor of English Literature at the University of the West of England; and Dr James Castell, Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University.

“Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, this is an interesting world I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, don’t you think?”

Douglas Noel Adams wasn’t even fifty when he died in 2001, but his imagination had already roamed far. He created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Meaning of Liff and several episodes of Doctor Who, plus the Dirk Gently character and Last Chance to See.

Nominating him is his co-writer on Last Chance to See, the zoologist Mark Carwardine. Mark’s role, Adams said later, was to be the one who knew what he was talking about. “My role was to be an extremely ignorant non-zoologist to whom everything that happened would come as a complete surprise.”

Joining Mark Carwardine and Matthew Parris in the bar where this was recorded is Douglas Adam’s biographer, Jem Roberts. With archive of Stephen Fry, John Lloyd, Naomi Alderman, Griff Rhys Jones and Geoffrey Perkins.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 19, 1964 The Outer Limits first aired Harlan Ellison’s “Soldier.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 19, 1922 – Damon Knight. Author, editor, critic. Kate Wilhelm who was his wife is also regrettably no longer with us either. His 1950 short story, ‘To Serve Man’ was adapted for The Twilight Zone. His first story, ‘The Itching Hour’, appeared in the Summer 1940 number of Futuria Fantasia which was edited and published by Ray Bradbury.

Ok, it’s going to hard briefly sum up his amazing genre career so but let me note he was a member of the Futurians and a reviewer as well as a writer until F&SF refused to run a run of his.  Novels of his I’ll single out are Hell’s PavementThe Observers and Special Delivery but don’t think I’m overlooking his brilliant short stories.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes that ‘In 1995, he was granted the SFWA Grand Master Award – which from 2002 became formally known, in his honour, as the Damon Knight Grand Master Award. He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003.’

  • Born September 19, 1947  — Tanith Lee. Writer of over ninety novels and over three hundred short stories. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award best novel award for Death’s Master. I am very fond of the Blood Opera Sequence and the Secret Books of Paradys series. World Horror Convention gave her their Grand Master Award and she also received multiple Nebulas, World Fantasy Awards, British Fantasy Awards and a Lambda Literary Award as well.
  • Born September 19 – Laurie R. King, 66. Writer best known for her long running series that starts off with a fifteen-year-old Mary Russell (she was born on 2 January 1900), who runs into a middle-aged individual she realises is, in indeed, Sherlock Holmes – the former consulting detective of Baker Street, now retired to Sussex, where he tends bees. She however has written one SF novel to wit Califia’s Daughters which is set in the near future and inspired by the ancient myth of the warrior queen Califia.
  • Born September 19 – N.K. Jemisin, 46. One of our best writers ever. Author of three outstanding series, The Inheritance Trilogy the Broken Earth and  Dreamblood series. Better than merely good at writing short stories as well. Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture which she co-wrote with Stephen H. Segal, Genevieve Valentine, Zaki Hasan, and Eric San Juan is highly recommended.

Only winner as you know of three Hugo Awards for Best Novel in a row which got the Puppies pissed which allows me   to congratulate her for getting Beale kicked out of SFWA. Oh and also won myriad Nebula, Locus, Sense of Gender and even an Romantic Times Award.

Damn she’s good.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • From 2005 but it’s news to me – “Cartoonland legalizes gay marriage” at Reality Check.

(14) ALL HALLOW’S EVE HEDONISM. Looking for an exotic and expensive Halloween event in LA? How about an evening of food, booze and drama for $300/night as the “Disco Dining Club & Grim Wreather Present: The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid, H.G. Wells’ botanical horror short story, set in a Victorian greenhouse on the grounds of the 1906 Rives Mansion in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles.

A 3-night, botanical horror dinner party.

This 50-person an evening dinner party will take place Friday October 26th, Saturday October 27th, and Sunday October 28th.

Exploring the symbiotic relationship between man and flower, The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid’s uniquely decadent interpretation of Halloween dares to elevate the Fall season. This is your favorite holiday exaggerated with all the opulence, grandeur and hedonism of any Disco Dining Club soiree.

(15) BRANDON SANDERSON IS ONE ANSWER. Last night on Jeopardy! there were a couple of sff-related answers during Double Jeopardy in the “I Got Your Book” category — Show #7822 – Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Do you know the right questions?

(16) NOT THAT HOT. Spacefaring Kitten is not all lit up about the latest adaptation of Bradbury’s classic: “Microreview [Film]: Fahrenheit 451” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Of course, there’s only so much the film can do, given its source material. Fahrenheit 451 is ultimately making a philosophical armchair argument, and transforming that into high-adrenaline political action was never an easy task. For anybody living in 2018, banning fiction as a way to lessen tensions between different worldviews is as nonsensical a proposition as it gets, because practically all other imaginable kinds of human interactions (social media, journalism etc) are much more effective in polarizing societies around the world today. Perhaps this would have been an interesting theme to look into in the movie adaptation, and quite possibly something that Bradbury would be thinking about if he was writing Fahrenheit 451 today….

(17) ASK MCKINNEY. In “The YA Agenda — September 2018” at Lady Business, Jenny (of the Reading the End bookcast) has five questions for L.L. McKinney.

What were you watching, eating, and listening to when you were working on A Blade So Black?

Coffee. Always coffee. And sometimes red bull. If I went to a cafe, I’d get a chai latte and pumpkin something. Maybe pumpkin bread or a muffin, or a scone during that season. As far as watching, lots of TNT reruns, and Frozen. My nephew was in love with Frozen. When it came to listening to stuff, for the most part, I listened to a particular playlist. Before Spotify, it was a watchlist of music videos on YouTube. Now, well, we got Spotify. I think you can still find both lists if you search A Blade So Black on either platform.

(18) FINDING THE LATEST SF IN THE FIFTIES. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett says about “On the Newsstand”, “This particular post is mostly by a fellow by the name of Dave Mason and goes into great detail about magazine distribution and promotion in the fifties. I can assure you the topic is far less dry than you’re assuming. Trust me on this one.”

…Poor Joe Fan! All he wants is to buy the latest issues of Astounding, Galaxy, and if he’s feeling particularly sophisticated, F&SF. Unfortunately for Joe the delivery of his favourite reading material was a cooperative effort. In order for Joe to set eyes upon any magazine the delivery process required not just a publisher but a printer, distributor, and retailer as well. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that none these businesses cared about Joe’s reading preferences. In particular Joe’s druggist had little incentive to sell that one extra copy of any title. Even today the average retailer of magazines has hundreds of magazines in stock, and really, so long as all these titles as a group sell a decent number between them each month what does it matter to the business if a particular title sells 6 copies or only 5?

(19) CHIBNALL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Seems a little early to be debunking the new Doctor Who showrunner. Nevertheless! NitPix delves into Chris Chibnall’s resume, discovers he has written only four Doctor Who episodes and hasn’t written a Doctor Who episode in 5 years.  Then they analyze those four episodes and are decidedly unimpressed. (Because who ever wanted to watch a YouTube video by somebody who is impressed by their subject?)

(20) PROSPECT. The trailer and poster for Prospect (a DUST film) are out (VitalThrills.com: “Prospect Trailer and Poster Preview the Sci-Fi Film”). The film, starring Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass, Andre Royo, Sheila Vand, and Anwan Glover, will have a theatrical release on November 2 and will come to the DUST site some time in 2019.

A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. They’ve secured a contract to harvest a large deposit of the elusive gems hidden in the depths of the moon’s toxic forest. But there are others roving the wilderness and the job quickly devolves into a fight to survive. Forced to contend not only with the forest’s other ruthless inhabitants, but with her own father’s greed-addled judgment, the girl finds she must carve her own path to escape.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, Lenore Jones, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the frighteningly imaginative Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Moffat Leaves Doctor Who

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has quit and will be replaced by Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall reports Radio Times.

Other than the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special, Moffat’s final season of episodes has been deferred by the BBC til 2017.

Explaining the decision to hold Moffat’s last series until next year, BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore said: “I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel.   2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait!”

…Moffat said of his decision to quit: “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

A brand new companion is expected to come on board in Moffat’s final season.

A Doctor Who fan since the age of four, Chibnall’s resume includes the award-winning series Broadchurch (with David Tennant), and credits for The Great Train Robbery, United, Law & Order: UK, Life on Mars and Torchwood.

There’s video of Chris Chibnall critiquing Doctor Who in 1986 on BBC feedback show Open Air, as a representative of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. He told the show’s writers at the time he’d been disappointed with the 14-part Trial of a Time Lord

He added, “It was also very clichéd, it was very routine running up and down corridors and silly monsters.”

Chibnall is also in this behind-the-scenes video discussing the 2012 Doctor Who episode he scripted, “The Power of Three.”