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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover by Sara Felix

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

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

You can find the issue here:

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

The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/7/21 Scroll Nine From Filer Space

(1) HWA YIELDS TO SAFETY CONCERNS. This year’s StokerCon will be virtual: “StokerCon™ 2021 Special Announcement”. The virtual event will keep the announced May 20 to 23 dates. Next-year’s in-person event will take place in Denver at the same hotel they intended to use in 2021.

The Horror Writers Association has made the difficult decision to shift StokerCon™ 2021 from an in-person event to a virtual platform during its originally scheduled May 20 to 23 dates. With the ongoing pandemic, the emergence of viral variants, and the broad range of travel obstacles around the world, we have deemed this to be the safest, most responsible way to hold the event.

As might be expected with an event of this size, switching to a virtual footing poses many challenges, but Con co-chairs, James Chambers and Brian Matthews; HWA President, John Palisano; Vice President, Meghan Arcuri; Administrator, Brad Hodson; and the officers and trustees of the HWA Board have made significant progress in executing this change.  Our hope is to preserve the spirit of StokerCon and create an event that will resemble as closely as possible our usual programming—panels, presentations, interviews, author readings, ceremonies, and the Bram Stoker Awards® presentation. At this time our plans include the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, Librarians’ Day, Horror University, and the Final Frame Film Competition. And while we won’t be able to gather in the same place, all attendees of this virtual StokerCon will receive—or, outside the U.S., have the option to receive—a printed copy of the beautiful souvenir book created and edited by Josh Viola and HEX Publishing….

(2) BOSKONE’S INTERVIEW SERIES. Boskone 58, to be held February 12-14 has been running a series of interview posts.

Dr. Gillian Polack

…If you were planning a holiday or vacation and could visit any location, whether in the real world or fictional worlds, where would you go? Why? 

I love portal fantasies. I always dreamed of the doors in other peoples’ writing and of walking through those doors into enchanted lands. Then I wrote my own. I now want to visit the house in Borderlanders and travel to strange places. I seldom want to visit anywhere I’ve written about, for I know all the downsides of all the places, but doors that lead to hidden seas or to rooms lined with liquid glass? That’s different.

Here are links to more mini-interviews:

(3) HOUR AFTER HOUR. Jim Freund is “Celebrating 50 years of Hour of the Wolf, his WBAI radio show.

Hour of the Wolf premiered in early 1971, somewhere between January and early March. I was to engineer the majority of her programs. Adler came up with the title, taken from the 1967 Ingmar Bergman film of the same name starring Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Initially there was no consistent opening music theme until early 1972, when we saw the environmentally-aware science fiction movie Silent Running. The best thing in the film (IMO) was the fabulous soundtrack by Peter Schickele of P.D.Q. Bach fame. There is a grand scene in the movie in which we see small robots caring for and watering the last trees in existence; the camera then pans out to an exterior perspective showing us that this is one of many ships set up as environmental domes. The name of this music is “The Space Fleet,” and once we found a copy in a bin in a 69-cent store, it became the official theme music of the show….

…In 1973, Margot and I both passed the entrance qualifications for the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop — an intense six-week seminar that featured a different teacher each week that was a veritable Who’s Who of progressive writing in the era. I could not afford to go to Seattle for that long, much less the entrance fee, plane fare, and room and board. Furthermore, Margot told me if I could not go, I would take over Hour of the Wolf in her absence. And that’s what happened. When Margot came back, she was offered a 7-9 AM slot twice a week, which fit her schedule better, and it was agreed that I would stay over after Hour of the Wolf and engineer her show as well….

(4) BE SERIOUS. While the BBC hasn’t said Jodie Whittaker is moving on, speculation is rife – and Radio Times’ Huw Fullerton scoffs at the rumored replacements. “The next Doctor and why all the guesses are wrong”.

… Every single time we start talking about who the next Doctor should be, people invariably start suggesting names so absurd and unlikely that you have to wonder if they’ve recently returned from a parallel universe, where appearing in a popular British sci-fi series is the pinnacle of creative and financial achievement.

Tilda Swinton? Richard Ayoade? Idris Elba? If people seriously think these sort of names are realistic, they haven’t been paying attention to the way the show is made, or its demands. It’s like watching the judges on The Masked Singer confidently predicting that Brad Pitt has decided to dress up as a talking clock and sing ballads on ITV primetime – while technically possible, not a suggestion that anyone could really take seriously….

(5) PRO TIPS. Lou J. Berger drew on his 15 years of experience for this writing advice on Facebook.

… The second bit of advice is to write for yourself, first and foremost. If you are changing your manuscript because you know exactly how each of your critique partners will judge it, see the above advice about finding a new group. The value of a strong critique group will ALWAYS be better than writing in a vacuum. Unless there’s toxicity. Then get the hell out, immediately.

Writing for yourself means that you write something you want to read. And when you read it through other people’s eyes, you are catering to another person’s will. We’ve been through enough in our lives, bending to the will of others. Don’t let your prose get sullied by that same desperate need to conform. It is in the writing of your HEART that you will find release, and the passions that stir you, in the quiet hallways of your own mind, deserve the treatment that only you, and you alone, can give them. Write your HEART and let the others be damned. If there’s one thing in this godforsaken world that you can lay claim to, it is your innermost, private thoughts, and they shall always be yours, the true essence of what makes you unique….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 7, 1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater aired “The Utterly Perfect Murder” episode. Based on a short story by Bradbury, it concerns the long anticipated revenge of a boy tormented in his childhood who now thinks he has plotted the utterly perfect murder. It’s directed by Stuart Margolian, and stars Richard Kiley, Robert Clothier and David Turri. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 7, 1478 – Sir Thomas More.  Recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church.  Renowned among us for Utopia, which would be just fine if we read it carefully enough to realize that, as Lafferty had a fictional TM repeat in Past Master, it’s a satire.  (Died 1535) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1812 – Charles Dickens.  Many of us know “A Christmas Carol”, with ghosts; he wrote fourscore more fantastic stories, among much else he is still famous for; some say he believed the end of Mr. Krook in Bleak House was possible, others call it fantasy.  I can’t let CD’s greatness go without saying, but it’s mostly outside our field.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1883 – John Taine.  A dozen novels, three shorter stories.  Under another name he earned a Ph.D., taught math at Cal Tech, wrote Men of Mathematics which he wanted to entitle The Lives of Mathematicians, and several others, The Queen of the SciencesThe Handmaiden of the SciencesThe Development of MathematicsMathematics: Queen and Servant of Science, of substantial literary ability in this subject which is far easier to do than to write prose about.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the FearlessFlash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do so although other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1913 – Henry Hasse.  His superb “He Who Shrank” is in the superb Healy-McComas anthology Adventures in Time and Space.  Since this is File 770, I’ll note HH is named co-author of Ray Bradbury’s “Pendulum”, Sep 41 Super Science Stories, which I understand is RB’s first publication in a prozine.  A story “The Pendulum” appeared in the Fall 39 Futuria Fantasia, RB’s fanzine.  The Kent State Univ. Collected Stories of RB vol. 1 lists both: do you know how they differ?  I can’t get at these sources just now.  But we digress.  One novel; twoscore more shorter stories, two with RB, two with Emil Petaja, two with Albert de Pina.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1921 – John Baltadonis.  Today is the hundredth birth-anniversary of this fannish giant (he was in fact 6’2″ [1.9 m] tall).  See the note about him yesterday, No. 6 in the Pixel Scroll.  Don’t neglect his fanart; we did during his life, he never had enough Best Fanartist nominations even to reach the Hugo ballot.  [JH]
  • February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 72. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. (CE)
  • February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 71. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as he has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. (CE)
  • February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two-season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • February 7, 1955 Miguel  Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop  who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voice Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • February 7, 1960 James Spader, 61. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, I did not enjoy that film, nor the Ultron character. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1990 – Jessica Khoury, age 30.  Seven novels. “Read as much as you can, in as many genres as you can.  Read insatiably.  Read ingredients on your food.  Read warning labels on heavy machinery.  Read the newspaper, read magazines, read manga”.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SAME BAT CHANNEL, SAME BAT BROKEN RECORD. Busted again: “AWKKKKKK! Batman No. 1 Sells for $2.2 Million” reports Print.

Last week, reported The Hollywood Reporter, a near-mint copy of the Batman No. 1 comic, published in 1940, “sold as part of Heritage Auction’s comics and comic art events. … The final price was $2,220,000, which included the buyer’s premium fee.” Just in case you’re worrying about how you’re going to pay your monthly health insurance premium or children’s college tuition, that number, to repeat, was $2,220,000—a record for “the most expensive Batman comic ever sold.”

Does that mean that other comic books have sold for more? Well, according to Helen Stoilas in The Art Newspaper, “The rare 1940 issue, which marks the first appearance of the Joker and Catwoman, is the second most-expensive comic book ever sold. Even before the live sale opened on Thursday [Jan. 14], the start of Heritage’s four-day Comics and Comic Art event, online pre-bidding for the comic book had shot up to $1.9 million. Its sale of $2.22 million, to a U.S. bidder on the auction house’s online HA Live platform, knocked out the previous Batman record holder, a copy of 1939’s Detective Comics #27, which introduced the character to the world and sold for $1.5 million at Heritage this past November.”

(10) THROWBACK TEAM. “Justice Society: World War II” on YouTube is a trailer for a new WB cartoon about the original matchup of DC superheroes.

(11) CATCHING UP TO FANDOM. The New York Times shows why “‘Bridgerton’ Is Just the Beginning”.

It’s a world of corsets, stays and chemises. Of weskits, bum rolls, breeches and hoop panniers. For actors, wearing period costume has long meant literally stepping into the past: lacing soft modern flesh into antique shapes and learning how to use the toilet without peeling off multiple layers.

“Bridgerton,” Shonda Rhimes’s racially diverse Netflix series set in 1813 England, has suddenly ignited new interest in Regency fashions. But a global community of hobbyists has been designing, making and wearing clothing from the 19th century and earlier for many years. Long a private obsession fueled by films like “The Leopard” and “Pride and Prejudice,” social media has widened the conversation, with fans of all ages and backgrounds worldwide now trading notes on how best to trim a sleeve or adjust a straw bonnet.

Pre-pandemic, they gathered in Los Angeles at Costume College, an annual conference, at Venice’s Carnival and the Fêtes Galantes at Versailles. Some lucky Europeans, like Filippa Trozelli, find themselves invited to wear their historical clothing to private parties at ancient local estates….

(12) THE FINAL CAT FRONTIER. “Star Trek Enterprise Cat Tree: Bolding Going Where No Cat Has Gone Before” at Technabob. I’m thinking the cats shown posing on this tree might easily be mistaken for aliens.

A USS Enterprise and Deep Space Nine themed cat tree: it’s what every Star Trek loving feline owner’s home has been missing. And now thanks to Etsy seller CE360designs, you can finally fill that void with a custom Star Trek Enterprise 1701D and DS9 Wood Cat Tower. You know they say good things come in small packages, but I imagine this box being on the larger side.

According to the sales copy, “The bottom is a wormhole but can be a Borg ship.”

(13) MARS SPINOFFS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Pays Off Back Home”.

A laser-light sensor that can identify bacteria in a wound may sound far-fetched, but it’s already becoming a reality, thanks in part to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The technology is going to Mars for the first time on Perseverance, which will touch down on the Red Planet in February, but it’s already detecting trace contaminants in pharmaceutical manufacturing, wastewater treatment, and other important operations on Earth.

That’s not the only technology headed to Mars that’s already paying dividends on the ground. Here on Earth, these innovations are also improving circuit board manufacturing and even led to a special drill bit design for geologists….

(14) SLOW WOOD? That’s what Michael J. Walsh asked after reading CBC Radio’s article: “Scientists develop transparent wood that is stronger and lighter than glass”.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have turned ordinary sheets of wood into transparent material that is nearly as clear as glass, but stronger and with better insulating properties. It could become an energy efficient building material in the future.

Wood is made of two basic ingredients: cellulose, which are tiny fibres, and lignin, which bonds those fibres together to give it strength.

Tear a paper towel in half and look closely along the edge. You will see the little cellulose fibres sticking up. Lignin is a glue-like material that bonds the fibres together, a little like the plastic resin in fibreglass or carbon fibre. The lignin also contains molecules called chromophores, which give the wood its brown colour and prevent light from passing through.

Early attempts to make transparent wood involved removing the lignin, but this involved hazardous chemicals, high temperatures and a lot of time, making the product expensive and somewhat brittle. The new technique is so cheap and easy it could literally be done in a backyard….

(15) DAVIDSON READ ALOUD. The Avram Davidson Universe is a podcast dedicated to the life work and impact of award-winning author, Avram Davidson. Episode 6 features “Alan Dean Foster & “Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper”.  It’s a very funny science fiction story about dentists. 

In each episode, we perform a reading and discussion of his works with a special guest. Avram Davidson (1923–1993) was a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and crime fiction. Davidson was born in Yonkers, NY and and served in the Navy during World War II. His life work includes 19 novels and over 200 short stories, all of which have been widely recognized for their wit and originality. Davidson’s works have won awards in three genres: an Edgar Award for mystery, a Hugo Award for science fiction, and three World Fantasy Awards.

(16) SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL. The most genre of today’s TV spots was “Edward Scissorhands – Cadillac Super Bowl Commercial”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Professor Layton” on Honest Game Trailers, Fandom Games says that while Professor Layton is “the world’s worst Sherlock Holmes cosplayer” the game’s many quizzes should appeal to fans of “anime, Agatha Christie, and people who enjoy the puzzle section in the newspaper.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, Will R., Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/20 This Pixel Scroll Title Made From 60% Recycled Material

(1) SIGNAL BOOST. Julie C. Day’s Weird Dream Society, a charity anthology with all proceeds going to RAICES (The Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services), is in the pre-order stage.

Playful, whimsical, or dark, but always thoughtful and tinged with the inexplicably weird, the Weird Dream Society brings together some of the most innovative creators in speculative fiction. Most of the book consists of reprints with a few new stories to round it out.

The anthology includes stories by Nathan Ballingrud, Carina Bissett, Gregory Norman Bossert, Karen Bovenmyer, Christopher Brown, Emily Cataneo, Julie C. Day, Michael J Deluca, Gemma Files, A.T. Greenblatt, Nin Harris, Chip Houser, James Patrick Kelly, Marianne Kirby, Kathrin Köhler, Matthew Kressel, Jordan Kurella, Premee Mohamed, Sarah Read, Sofia Samatar, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Steve Toase, and A.C. Wise.

In addition to his fictional work, author and artist Gregory Norman Bossert generously donated the anthology’s cover illustration.

Proceeds from this charity anthology go to support RAICES, the nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families, and refugees. With offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, RAICES is “a frontline organization in the roiling debate about immigration and immigrants in the world.”

Paul Jessup has reviewed the project for Vernacular Books:

…But I’ve never been one for rules or guidelines, and really neither is this collection. I will say, I knew a few of these stories ahead of time, they were favorites published in off beat anthologies and magazines back in the day, so seeing them here was a joy and a promise of things to come. You know an anthology is going to be good when you recognize some of your favorites right away….

Weird Dream Society will be released May 26, 2020. Pre-order eBook: Amazon | Kobo | B&N Nook; Pre-order Paperback: Amazon | Barnes&Noble. Find out more at Twitter, their website, and Goodreads.  

(2) PROFIT SHARING. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling is observing it a bit differently than usual. “JK Rowling donates £1m to two charities”

JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter adventures, is donating £1m to charities supporting vulnerable people during the lockdown.

Half of the money will go to Crisis which helps homeless people, and half to Refuge to support victims of domestic abuse.

Rowling’s donations come amid #HarryPotterDay on Twitter.

Saturday also marks the anniversary of one the author’s major events in her stories.

On Twitter, Rowling said: “Today’s the 22nd anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, but I am going to be honest and say that it feels inappropriate to talk about fictional deaths.

“Too many people are losing loved ones in the real world.”

Rowling, who wrote many of her Harry Potter stories while living in Edinburgh, said many vulnerable people who were homeless or in an abusive relationship were suffering at this time.

(3) COMMUNITY RALLIES. Shelf Awareness reports an epic fundaising success to help comics and book stores.

In five days, #Creators4Comics raised $433,166 for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) to support comics stores and indie bookstores hurt by Covid-19. The group’s charity auction featured 635 separate auctions on Twitter and other platforms by comics creators, authors and celebrities.

“Comic shops and indie bookstores have supported so many of us,” said Kami Garcia, author of the graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven, who brought the organizers together. “They aren’t just places where we buy books and comics. These stores are places where we find belonging.”

Among the participants were Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Hill, Shannon Hale, Mike Mignola, Brad Meltzer, Mariko Tamaki, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Marissa Meyer, Danielle Paige, Gene Luen Yang, Tom King, Bryan Edward Hill, Jason Aaron, Marc Guggenheim, Gail Simone, Vita Ayala, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cassandra Clare, Marieke Nijkamp, Margaret Stohl, Jock, Mico Suayan, and G. Willow Wilson. Seth Meyers, Damon Lindeloff and Robert Kirkman made generous matching donations.

Since March 13, 135 comics retailers and their households have received more than $150,950 in financial assistance for rent, food and essential medications from Binc–more than double the amount distributed last year to this sector of the book industry. In total, 722 comic book stores have now applied for aid….

(4) GENRE PALADIN. Joshua Gillingham takes up the cudgels “In Defense of Genre Fiction”.

…Well, some might say that reading genre fiction is a bit like ordering pulled-pork sandwiches over and over, that it makes you predictable (i.e. boring). Others might add that writing genre fiction is little more than an act of trying to resuscitate long-dead tropes while trying to pass off cheap imitations as original work. Given these two stereotypical notions, especially within the writing community, there can be a lot of shame or defensiveness around reading or writing these kinds of stories. Therefore, I feel the need to present an argument in defense of genre fiction, its readers, and its writers…. 

(5) SERLING SILVER. Herbie J. Pilato continues his “Writing for Your Life” series with “Rod Serling and ‘The Twilight Zone’” at Medium.

The development and execution of The Twilight Zone and its induction into the annals of TV history is a story of an obsessive need for acceptance on many levels.

Submitted for your approval:

Exhibit A: Rod Serling, Zone’s creator, executive producer, central writing force, and charismatic host. The show’s popularity preyed upon his endless reservoir of ideas, originally inspired by his obsession with the past and his preoccupation with aging, mixed in with a measure of courage and faith, and the survival techniques he learned in the army….

(6) AHH NATURE. “Sir Tim Cattenborough Presents The Life Cycle of a Novel” – a Camestros Felapton production.

[A stunning new nature documentary by world famous publisher, naturalist and national treasure Sir Timothy Cattenborough]

Our beautiful planet Earth. From up here on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro we can see the vast vistas of nature’s own miracles and what greater miracle can there be than the majestic novel — one of the natural world’s most miraculous miracles.

Here I am in the forests of Borneo gazing in wonder at the spectacular site of thousands of novels making their nests among the natural shelving of the great pine trees of northern Scandinavia. Whether it is these great majestic creatures of the plains of Patagonia or the more common domesticated novel of these rolling hills of Southern England, the novel is a familiar sight to us all.

But very few people have ever managed to see the hidden lifecycle of a novel. How are they born? How do they grow? And how, via the miracle of evolution do they reproduce? Today, via special cameras disguised as robots disguised as librarians we have, over a gruelling five minute project, at last gained unique footage of the novel’s lifecycle….

(7) MAY THE FOURTH. This will make your Starbucks mocha grande seem cheap by comparison. NBC Los Angeles tells Star Wars fans “Blue Milk on May the Fourth, You Can Have”.

Scum & Villainy Cantina, in Hollywood, can kindly help us locate the cosmic libation, however.

The “Star Wars”-sweet venue, which also celebrates a number of different fandoms via a host of events, will celebrate May the Fourth by offering 21+ fans Wretched Blue Milk Snack Packs for $11.38 each.

(8) TEMPTING TIDBITS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not directly SF (although McPhee has written about Freeman Dyson, just not here.)

The Patch, John McPhee’s newest [in 2019] (and 7th) collection of short pieces, has two parts:

  • six long sports or sport-related articles (mostly golf) (~ 90 pages)
  • “an album quilt” — ~130 pages of dozens of his shorter articles (or excerpts from same)

In case “John McPhee” and “new collection of short pieces” isn’t enough to make you borrow or buy the book, here’s links to 3 sections of quilt, and if these aren’t enough to get you to borrow or buy this book (and, by extension, proceed to read more of his books), well, then more wouldn’t help.

1, “Pools and pools and pools of chocolate — fifty-thousand pound, ninety-thousand pound, Olympus-length pools of chocolate…”

2. [Found via Google Books.] “When Martha, my youngest daughter, was seventeen, her English teacher–Mrs. Thomas–write forty-seven vocabulary words on the blackboard and told the class to write a short composition using all forty-seven words: aspersion, audacious, avarice, blanch…”

(DPD notes, in searching for this, by omitting McPhee’s name, the above search’s results includes “A Glossary for the Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith”.)

3, McPhee tries an eary word processor – quoted in “The Machine That Was Going To Tranquilize This Scene Was Locked Away In A Quiet Cubicle”.

“Joseph Martin, computer methodologist at the [New York] Times, has been pursuing for some years what he describes as ‘the ideal philosophy of creating a newspaper’… you start by ‘capturing the keystroke at the origin.'”

(DPD notes, the first URL does not contain the full text of what’s in the book.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 2, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow aired its “Red Dust” episode. As the copy provided not the network says, “The first human mission to another solar system loses 2 crew on a red dust-covered planet, which once had an advanced civilization. Due to allergies, neither of the shipmates got anti-radiation shots, so the remaining crew aren’t concerned about their own return to Earth. But then the red dust starts to appear everywhere on the space ship.” It was directed by Don Medford from a script by Irving Elman from the play by noted SF writer Theodore Cogswell, a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. His “The Wall Around the World” novelette as published in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction was nominated for a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4. The cast was Fred Stewart, Lex Barker, Skedge Miller and Robert Patten. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best-known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read quite a lot of but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read decades on. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English as most of us don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Next Generation playing the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragorn in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1941 Paul Darrow. He‘s best remembered for playing Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7. He also had two appearances on Doctor Who, playing Captain Hawkins in Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Third Doctor story, and later Trekker in Timelash, a Sixth Doctor story. He also played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Link” in the Science Fiction series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 74. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock,” simply called Landlord.  Don’t let don’t deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No: The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 74. Editor and annotator of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein, as well as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, and the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. I particularly recommend his Sandman annotations as Gaiman was actively involved in them and they’re quite interesting. 
  • Born May 2, 1948 Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was the club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider of Incidental Comics captures the present season of the world.

(12) JOB LOSSES. Condolences to gifted editors Diana M. Pho, Diana Gill, and Melissa Frain who were among Macmillan’s COVID-19 employee layoffs.

(13) JUST WHAT WE NEED. Tipper Gore will be happy to hear that “Deezer develops AI to detect explicit song lyrics”. But what’s their stand on shaving cream?

Streaming service Deezer is developing technology to automatically detect explicit content in songs.

The company has been looking into the issue because record labels often fail to identify offensive lyrics when they submit songs, it explained.

In fact, it said, a “substantially large part” of its library did not have a tag indicating whether or not a song contained strong language or themes.

In response, it is researching a way of automatically flagging up such content.

Although the technology is not yet “fit for tagging songs as explicit in a fully automated manner,” it could be used to help humans identify potentially explicit material.

The problem has grown exponentially bigger over the last couple of years, with profanities cropping up ever-more frequently in mainstream pop songs by the likes of Ariana Grande and Beyonce.

Added to that, a streaming service like Deezer can receive up to 40,000 new tracks every day, making it impossible for humans to review all the lyrical content.

Parents are particularly keen to screen out explicit content – but while mainstream services like Deezer, Apple and Amazon Music offer the ability to “turn off” explicit songs, the results are patchy at best.

(14) LIGHTNING AND LIGHTNING BUGS. “Random House Copy Chief: Stand Tall, Wordsmiths! (But Choose Your Battles)” – a print summary of a linked 25-minute interview; includes realization that singular “they” was necessary. (From 2019.)

Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer is not a fan of the word “very.”

“It’s not a dreadful word,” he allows, but “it’s one of my little pet words to do without if you can possibly do without it.”

“Very” and its cousins “rather” and “really” are “wan intensifiers,” Dreyer explains. In their place, he advises that writers look for a strong adjective that “just sits very nicely by itself” on the page. For example, “very smart” people can be “brilliant” and “very hungry” people can be “ravenous.”

Dreyer gets the final say over questions related to grammar, style and clarity at Random House. Now he’s sharing his writing advice in the new book Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

“Words are my business, and the meaning of words is my business,” he says. “To watch language twisted and distorted — that gets under my skin and makes me unhappy.”

(15) IRON (LIFTING) MAN. Game of Thrones actor breaks 501kg deadlift record”.

Game of Thrones actor Hafthor Bjornsson has set a world deadlifting record by lifting 501 kg (1,104 lbs).

Bjornsson, a powerlifter who portrayed Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the HBO series, broke the record at his gym in his native Iceland.

He lifted the barbell for two seconds, before dropping the weights and roaring in delight.

The event was streamed by sports broadcaster ESPN and filmed for Bjornsson’s YouTube channel.

Bjornsson, who is 2.05m tall (6ft 9in), previously won the World’s Strongest Man competition in 2018.

(16) KNITS UP THE RAVELED SLEEVE OF SPACESUITS. Richard Trenholm’s CNET article “Dreams of the future: How sci-fi sees sleep” dates to 2018, but its references – like this one to the Culture – make it timeless.

…A much smarter option for dodging the duvet is employed by space pirate captain Kraiklyn in Ian M Banks’ novel Consider Phlebas. He could put each side of his brain to sleep individually so he could stay constantly awake and no one could sneak up on him in bed. The downside was that his personality changed depending on whether his left or right brain was in charge.

Generally, though, catnap-compressing contraptions are surprisingly rare in speculative fiction — it seems sleep is just too fundamental a human requirement for even sci-fi writers to mess with. Still, that doesn’t stop us trying out all manner of apps and sleep trackers to improve the quality of our kip….

(17) ABOUT SF’S PREDICTIVE POWERS…. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Terry Gilliam, ’12 Monkeys’ screenwriters reunite, admit they ‘had no clue’ when creating film’s fictitious virus” says that when he asked 12 Monkeys co-screenwriter David Peoples what research he did about designing the virus in the film, he said, “How about not at all?  We had no clue,” a thought seconded by director Terry Gilliam.

The sci-fi story follows a prisoner (Bruce Willis) plucked by scientists to time travel (though the filmmakers prefer to think of it as “mind travel”) to the mid-’90s to discover the root of the virus, which is thought to be generated by an anarchist faction known as The Army of the 12 Monkeys.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Conspiracy Cruise” on Vimeo is a short film by Brad Abrahams that asks what happens when members of conspiracy fandom on a cruise are attacked by the conspiracy!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/27/20 Abbot And Cos-Scroll-O Meet The Pixel Monster

(1) LATEST COMICS BARGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “ComiXology Now Offering 60-Day Free Trial of Their Unlimited Service” reports The Inventory. ComiXology’s $5.99/month Unlimited gives you access to “over 25,000 digital comics, graphic novels, and manga from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and more!”

At free, this is a deal you can’t beat. (Assuming you’ve got a reasonable viewing device, in terms of screen size.) The regular price isn’t shabby, either, as long as you find stuff you like. (I did, but after a year-ish of binging, had found most/enough.)

Aside from DC and Marvel — a smaller and sometimes different selection than what you’d find on their own unlimited sites — there’s Dynamite, IDG, Fantagraphics, etc. IIRC, there’s Saga, Trees, ERB/Barsoom stuff, and some original-from-ComiXology titles (none of which grab me, but your jauntage may vary).

If you’ve already started exploring ComiXology’s FREE offerings, you’ll find more in many of those titles to keep going with.

BTW, if you haven’t already gotten a free Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) account through your library, do that! You can’t read as much, but the price is right.

And you can find many of Hoopla’s offerings on ComiXology, which in turn will let you make more use of your Hoopla monthly limit.

(See my “All In Color For A Zorkmid” post for more on all this.)

Here’s my question for Filers: What device are you using to read your digital comics on? In particular, is anybody using a tablet/2-in-1 other than an iPad Pro 12.9 where the screen is big enough to let you read it in the printed-comic-equivalent full size? E.g., on a Chromebook that supports that ComiXology Android app? Let me know (via a comment).

‘Nuff read!

(2) CONTEST WINDOW OPENS. “B&N Launches National Children’s Short Story Contest” – a chance for some, details at Publishers Weekly.

During these unprecedented times when families are hunkered down at home together due to the Covid-19 virus, Barnes & Noble is giving aspiring young authors a chance to showcase their creativity—and become published. Between April 27 and May 29, contestants can submit written or graphic short stories to be considered for inclusion in an anthology that the company will release in time for this year’s holiday season.

(3) COUGH IT UP MARVEL. Emily Asher-Perrin is right! Avengers: Endgame Never Showed Us Its Greatest Scene”.

But I would like to register a complaint: You see, the most interesting arc of the film is nowhere to be found on screen. And I request that Marvel produce the deleted footage of this arc, otherwise I’m not really sure why this movie was made at all.

I’m speaking, of course, about how Doctor Stephen Strange stage managed an entire apocalypse solely for Maximum Dramatic Effect.

(4) EMPTY THE MAGAZINE. Good eReader says “Barnes and Noble will stop selling new magazines”.

Barnes and Noble has shuttered over 500 of their 600 bookstores in the United States and the bookseller has announced they are no longer going to be ordering new magazines and will cease carrying them altogether.

“It will probably be a bigger deal for smaller publishers who count on the money they get upfront from B&N,” said one industry veteran, who noted that big newsstand titles, like Hearst’s Cosmopolitan and Meredith’s People, are far more reliant on other retailers.

(5) COVID COSPLAY. In the Washington Post, Maura Judkis says that cosplayers took the mandatory mask-wearing requirements to dress up as characters. “We regret to inform you that your inflatable T. rex costume is not virus-proof”.

Hence the Spider-Man in the canned food aisle.  The dinosaur roaming the deli section. The unicorn walking a dog. These sightings, though not nearly as common as surgical masks and gloves, have accented our lockdown landscapes with flecks of whimsy: A couple visited their relatives wearing costume spacesuits. In China, one woman picked up medication dressed as a giraffe. In Italy, a man was reportedly arrested after breaking quarantine to go outside in a T-rex suit.

(6) MOVIE MAKING. Filer Cliff sent this link to “RenderMan: An Advanced Path-Tracing Architecture for Movie Rendering”, a paper describing a project he’s been working on. He says, “This is the software used for all Pixar movies, the Star Wars movies (and pretty much all of ILM’s output), Lord Of The Rings (but not The Hobbit) and is the oldest and one of the most widely used renderer in movie production. This was the software that Hanrahan and Catmull originated and which earned them the Turing Award you mentioned a few weeks ago.” The article begins —

Pixar’s RenderMan renderer is used to render all of Pixar’s films and by many film studios to render visual effects for live-action movies. RenderMan started as a scanline renderer based on the Reyes algorithm, and it was extended over the years with ray tracing and several global illumination algorithms.

This article describes the modern version of RenderMan, a new architecture for an extensible and programmable path tracer with many features that are essential to handle the fiercely complex scenes in movie production. 

(7) ROCKET OWNER. The person who won the auction of the prop Hugos from the set of Knives Out.

(8) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post has two articles about the video game Animal Crossing.  Michael Andor Brodeur interviews Animal Crossing’s composer, Kazumi Totaka, and says his music is “a blissful 24-hour lullaby that’s helping countless players weather countless hours of forced downtime.”  “The Animal Crossing soundtrack is an unlikely lullaby for a nervous world”.

Right now, millions of households and headphones around the globe are filled with the music of one of the world’s most popular and influential composers.

Over the past month, homebound listeners have spent hundreds of hours immersed in his latest work — a suite of never-ending melodies — but most of them don’t even know his name. They consume his music the same way one breathes air, with an unceasing and unconscious appetite.

Elise Favis says the the latest Animal Crossing, “Animal Crossing:  New Horizons,” gives players more control over the environment in the game and more opportunities to customize the game to make it more of a form of personal expression. “Everything you need to know about the Animal Crossing: New Horizons major update”.

…Upon booting up your recently-updated game, you’ll notice your mailbox has two messages, one from Bank of Nook and the other from Nintendo. The bank notifies you of a reduced interest rate for your account (this is likely to curb the all-too-quick road to wealth many players have taken) and attaches a gift of a rug shaped like a bag of bells. As for Nintendo, their message thanks you for downloading the update and gives you a decorative world map to hang on the wall.

Outside of slashing your interest rate (it’s unclear how much the rate has changed), these freebies are welcome.

(9) ANDRUS OBIT. Longtime fanzine fan Reed Andrus died April 25. He was interested in all things associated with the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genres. He once said Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review was his gateway into fandom. He also contributed to the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s Yesterday and Today (1974), co-edited Laughing Osiris (1974-1978), and published Bull of the Seven Battles which Brian Earl Brown’s Whole Fanzine Catalog (1979) jokingly described as “a personalzine so confident of its limited appeal and exclusive audience that it doesn’t list the address in the zine itself…”

Andrus said in a comment here at File 770 he was a cancer survivor who underwent surgery in 2007.

For more than three decades his work appeared in print and online, from the Charlotte Austin Review, and Mystery News to The Thunder Child. He studied for a Ph.D in US history at the University of North Texas.

Andrus found a fannish home in the Classic Horror Film Board discussion forums. Known there as “oldmanster,”  he left over 6,800 comments between 2005 and 2014.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 27, 1955 The Devil Girl From Mars premiered. It was produced by Edward J. Danziger and Harry Lee Danziger as directed by David MacDonald. It was written by James Eastwood and John C. Maher  It starred Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Adrienne Corri and Hazel Court. Critics in general called it a delightfully bad film with the Monthly Film  Bulletin saying it was “Everything, in its way, is quite perfect.” The audience reviewers over at Rotten Tomatoes apparently don’t agreed as they give it a 22% rating. You can decide for yourself as you can see it here as it’s in the public domain.
  • April 27, 1963The Day of the Triffids premiered in the USA. It was produced by George Pitcher and Philip Yordan, as directed by Steve Sekely.  It’s rather loosely based on the 1951 novel of the same name by John Wyndham (who was toastmaster at Loncon 1) as scripted by Bernard Gordon and Philip Yordan. It starred Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore and  Mervyn Johns. Critics who were familiar with the novel weren’t terribly happy with the film. It currently rates a 52% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Yes, it’s in the public domain, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 27, 1901 Frank Belknap Long. John Hertz say that Long should be singled out for the “To Follow Knowledge” novelette which he lovingly discuses here. I only add as John didn’t note it, that he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1920 Doris Baumgardt. Well-known and loved fan, illustrator and writer. She was a member of the Futurians, and a founding member of FAPA. She was also a member of the CPASF and the Science Fictioneers. She was one of five members of the Futurians allowed into the first World Science Fiction Convention by Sam Moskowitz — the other four were Isaac Asimov, David Kyle, Jack Robinson and Richard Wilson. She wrote three pieces of short fiction that were published in the Forties and Fifties; she contributed artwork to fanzines. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 27, 1922 Jack Klugman. He was in an amazing four Twilight Zone episodes (“A Passage for Trumpet,“ “A Game of Pool,” “Death Ship” and “In Praise of Pip,” plus one-offs on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Outer Limits. Does Around the World in Eighty Days count as genre adjacent? If so, he was in the Eighties ministries. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 27, 1957 Rachel Caine, 63. She has two ongoing endeavors, the Weather Warden series which is most excellent and the superb Great Library series. I can’t speak to the Morganville Vampires series as I don’t do vampires really. And yes, I know she’s got a number of other series, far more than can detailed be here. 
  • Born April 27, 1958 Caroline Spector, 62. She was an Associate Editor at Amazing Stories for several years, but her main genre connection is her fiction in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series where she has seven stories. She also a Shadowrun novel, Worlds Without End. (Now that was an interesting RPG!) she also has an essay, “Power and Feminism in Westeros” in James Lowder’s Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A “Game of Thrones” to “A Dance with Dragons
  • Born April 27, 1958 Jon Cassar,  62. Producer, The Orville. Not my cup tea but I many y’all love it. His director and producer genre credits are extensive and include Person of InterestTouchContiniumTerra NovaFringeHuman TargetForever Knight and that’s not an inclusive list by any means. 
  • Born April 27, 1963 Russell T Davies, 57. Responsible for the 2005 revival of the BBC One of Doctor Who. (A Whovian since the very beginning, he thinks “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” has the best dialogue in the entire series.) Of course he’s also responsible for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well. (Need I note that the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was his idea?) Oh, and a few years back, he produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Born April 27, 1967 Erik Thomson, 53. Scottish actor who’s best remembered  for being Hades on Hercules: The Legendary JourneysYoung Hercules and  Xena: Warrior Princess. His first acting role was as an unnamed young man in the “By The Numbers” episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater
  • Born April 27, 1986 Jenna Coleman, 34. Clara Oswald, Companion to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors.   She remains the longest serving companion since the series was revived. Genre wise, she was also Connie in Captain America: The First Avenger, and did voice voice work on the animated reboot of Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, she showed up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio discovers the challenges for vampires during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Marmaduke demonstrates how to achieve orbit.

(13) COMIC BOOK DIAGNOSIS. “‘This is beyond the Great Depression’: will comic books survive coronavirus?”The Guardian goes looking for the answer.

…The comics world is now split between many have-nots and two very prominent have-alls: DC Comics and Marvel Comics, subdivisions of massive publicly traded corporations Disney (Marvel) and AT&T (DC), worth $192bn and $224bn respectively. Though Marvel and DC have taken a hit from the pandemic, they’re still so big that professionals and retailers look to them not just for guidance, but also for relief. DC has donated $250,000 to a charity for bookshops, and, for the first time since the 1970s, is allowing retailers to return unsold comics. A spokeswoman said the company was also assessing new ways to distribute comics to shops for mail-order and kerbside pickup programmes. The Guardian has also seen an email from DC sent to shops last week, saying it will start distributing comics through three new companies – two of which are reportedly run by retailers that directly compete with the shops themselves.

And Marvel has cut its editorial staff by half, according to a source familiar with the situation. A Marvel spokesman said the company would not confirm numbers, but that all the cut staff were furloughed, not laid off, and the firm would continue providing health insurance “for the duration of the furlough period”. Bleeding Cool also reports that Marvel has stopped work on at least 20% of its forthcoming books. However, it is offering some discounts to publishers

(14) SOCIAL DISTANCE MUSIC. “Hands Off: A 100th Anniversary Guide to Theremin Music” at Bandcamp.

The year is 1920. At a government-run think tank in Petrograd, a brilliant young Soviet scientist harnesses the power of something called the “heterodyne beat frequency” to create a mysterious-looking, antennaed box that creates a high-pitched wail, which intensifies when his hands come closer to it. This might sound like the plot of some sci-fi film noir, but it’s the real-life origin story of the device that bears Professor Léon Theremin’s name. An electronic instrument that you play without touching would seem like the quintessential axe of the virtual era, but 2020 actually marks the theremin’s 100th birthday.

“It’s an extremely simple concept,” says Steven M. Martin, director of Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, the 1993 documentary that helped precipitate a renaissance for the enormously influential instrument. “The circuitry is very elegant. That was the basis for all electronic music up until the digital era. All [analog] synthesizers…were based on the same principle that Theremin pioneered.”

Originally, the theremin was seen as a sort of space-age violin, far more difficult to master than old-school instruments due to the lack of a physical reference point…. 

(15) EVERYBODY CHIP IN! The BBC reports “Belgians urged to eat more chips by lockdown-hit potato growers”.

Belgians are well known for loving chips (frites), often with a big dollop of mayonnaise, but hard-up farmers now want them to eat chips twice a week.

Romain Cools of the potato growers’ union Belgapom presented it as a matter of survival, as a major export sector fears ruin in the coronavirus crisis.

About 750,000 tonnes of potatoes are piled up in Belgian warehouses, as the lockdown has sent orders plummeting.

“Let’s all eat chips twice a week, instead of just once,” Mr Cools urged.

Since mid-March, restaurants in Belgium and many other markets for potato growers have closed. The cancellation of Belgium’s many spring and summer festivals has added to their woes.

Moreover, the international trade in potatoes has been hit. Belgium is one of the world’s top exporters of potato products, including frozen chips. It sends more than 1.5m tonnes annually to more than 100 countries.

One small bright spot in this story is that Belgapom will now deliver 25 tonnes of potatoes a week to food banks in Flanders – produce that will otherwise simply rot, Belgian media report.

(16) PINNING DOWN THE STORY. “HBO Makes ‘Hellraiser’ Series Development Deal; ‘Halloween’s David Gordon Green To Direct Early Eps” reports Deadline.

HBO has made a deal to develop a series from the classic horror franchise Hellraiser, with Halloween helmer David Gordon Green set to direct the pilot and several more initial episodes that brings to the small screen for the first time Pinhead, the iconic pincushion-domed villain who heads a group of pasty-faced villains sent from hell, known as the Cenobites.

(17) GRIM WONDERLAND. In “Book Review: Looking Glass by Christina Henry”, The BiblioSanctum’s Mogsy praises a collection of short fiction.

Novellas and anthologies? Typically not my thing. But since this collection was not only written by Christina Henry but is also part of her incredible Chronicles of Alice world, I knew I would make an exception. Looking Glass features four new stories set in the same universe as Alice and Red Queen, which reimagines Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through dark horror lens. It is not a sequel per se, but seeing as this grim quartet of interlinked short tales serves as a continuation of the saga, it would be helpful to have read the previous novels.

(18) CLIPPING SERVICE. David Doering found this 1966 newspaper photo of one of my relatives using a remote banking terminal, arguably a forerunner of the ATM. Dr. Richard Glyer had a practice in Mountain View, CA. I think I met him, or for certain, his widow. She was a painter and my father had one of her landscapes.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Man 2020” on Vimeo, Steve Cutts explains why plants and animals are happy that humans are staying home.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/22/20 Then Curl Up On The Pile And Sleep For A While, It’s The Scrolliest Thing, It’s The Pixel Dream

(1) DRAGON CON STILL ON SCHEDULE. Dragon Con told Facebook readers today they are proceeding with plans for their Labor Day event.

Many things in the world are uncertain right now. One thing isn’t: We are planning to throw one sorely-needed, amazing celebration come Labor Day. We’re moving forward to keep #DragonCon2020 on schedule.

Currently, there are no plans to reschedule or cancel the event, however we’re keeping in touch with the experts either way, and working with our venue partners to make sure everything and everyone stays safe, happy, and healthy.

Rest assured if at any time we feel that cannot be accomplished, we will do what is needed to protect our community.

(2) POPPING OFF. Gideon Marcus used a clever theme to pull together Galactic Journey’s review of the latest issue – in 1965 – of F&SF: “[APRIL 22, 1965] CRACKER JACK ISSUE (MAY 1965 FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION)”.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with America’s snack, as ubiquitous at ball games as beer and hotdogs.  As caramel corn goes, it’s pretty mediocre stuff, though once you start eating, you find you can’t stop.  And the real incentive is the prize waiting for you at the bottom of the box.  Will it be a ring?  A toy or a little game?  Maybe a baseball card.

This month, like most months recently, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is kind of like a box of Cracker Jacks.  But the prize at the end of the May 1965 issue is worth the chore of getting there.

(3) PATREON’S UNLUCKY NUMBER. “Patreon lays off 13% of workforce” reports TechCrunch.

Creative platform Patreon  has laid off 30 employees, which is 13% of its workforce, TechCrunch has learned.

“It is unclear how long this economic uncertainty will last and therefore, to prepare accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to part ways with 13% of Patreon’s workforce,” a Patreon spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “This decision was not made lightly and consisted of several other factors beyond the financial ones.”

…The startup ecosystem has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with layoffs no longer the exception, but the rule. Still, it’s peculiar timing for Patreon, given the company touted an increase in new memberships during the first three weeks of March….

(4) VISITOR FROM BEYOND. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Jeff Hecht (who’s sold sf stories everywhere from Analog, Asimov’s and Interzone to Nature and various anthologies — ) has an article in the April 21, 2020 Sky & Telescope on recent interstellar visitors: “The Origins of Interstellar Objects”.

…Comet Borisov was easy to recognize as a comet, but our first interstellar visitor, 1I/’Oumuamua, was like nothing astronomers had seen before. It was elongated, tumbling erratically, porous, moving oddly, releasing only wisps of gas — even evoking thoughts of derelict alien spaceship….

In terms of SF relevance (beyond “we also are interested in science fact stuff”), Jeff notes, regarding this article, “The only SF twist was saying they finally found a way to explain the origin of ‘Oumuamua other than as an alien spacecraft.”

(5) MOORCOCK REVEALED WHEN PAYWALL FALLS. Stacy Hollister’s “A Q&A With Michael Moorcock” is an interview with Michael Moorcock about his novel King Of The City that first appeared in the November 2002 Texas Monthly, which has lowered its paywall for the rest of the year.

texasmonthly.com: What’s your mission as a writer?

MM: I’m very moralistic. I think I bear a certain responsibility for the effect of the fiction I write. Anger at injustice, cruelty, or ignorance is what tends to fire me up. I try to show readers where we might all be wearing cultural blinders. I hate imperialism, so therefore much of my early work was an attempt to show admirers of the British Empire, say, what kind of injustice, prejudice and hypocrisy such an empire is based on. I am very uneasy with current Anglophone rhetoric about responsibilities to other parts of the world, for instance. King of the City deals with some of this, especially the destruction of African society by imperial rapacity.

(6) SMALL SHOW RECAP – BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the time ship ended up in British Columbia in 2020 and ended up in a woods which ultimately led them to the set of Supernatural.  They didn’t see any members of the cast, but they did see Sam and Dean’s car and opened the trunk, which was full of monster-fighting equipment.  They then used the equipment to fight a bunch of zombie-like creatures, and learn the creatures have killed the crew shooting Supernatural.

“How will they finish season 15?” one of the legends asks.

Well, now we know why Supernatural still has seven episodes left to shoot…

(7) ENTERTAINMENT FOR SJW CREDENTIAL OWNERS. Martin Morse Wooster, our designated Financial Times reader, peeked behind the paywall and found that in the April 17 issue Sarah Hemming reviews fiction podcasts.

Nadia, star of Russian For Cats (created by Pam Cameron), has escaped from prison and is desperately seeking refuge.  She discovers it with Brian, a loser who lives in a caravan in a state of great disorder and despondency.  When Nadia arrives, he finds a confidante and she finds sanctuary.

The only thing is, Nadia is a cat:  a talking cat fluent in Russian.  Here’s a story ideally suited to lockdown :a gently absurd thriller, featuring a chatty feline, the chance to learn Russian (a short lesson follows each episode), and a sinister explanation for popularity of cat memes.  Is your cat spying on you?  Do you need to ask?

(8) MT. TSUNDOKU CALLS YOU. Steven Cooper today made the Asimov biblioraphy that was referenced in the Scroll a few days ago available to purchase as a print-on-demand book from Lulu — An Annotated Bibliography for Isaac Asimov. Thanks to Bill for the discovery.

(9) CASEY OBIT. Past President of the Philadelphia SF Society Hugh Casey died April 21 after a long illness, including a stroke. He is survived by his partner Stephanie Lucas.

In happier times Hugh made File 770 with this humorous incident from 2002:

Philadelphia SF Club President Hugh Casey almost made his show business debut in September. “I was supposed to be checking out an alternate location for meetings, but was unable to make it due to being held up in traffic. In fact I ended up driving into the middle of filming for Kevin Smith’s upcoming movie Jersey Girl – apparently disrupting a shot and getting some crew members very angry at me. I did not see either the director or the stars.”

In 2017, when Casey battled cancer, his friends rallied to raise money for his medical expenses by creating “HughCon”

…The Rotunda has donated their space, Star Trek-themed band The Roddenberries have donated their time and talent, a number of makers and vendors have donated items for our silent auction, and a lots of people have donated their time and effort 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 22, 1953 Invaders from Mars premiered. It directed by William Cameron Menzies and produced by Edward L. Alperson Jr. from the script written by Richard Blake with the story by John Tucker Battle.  It starred Jimmy Hunt, Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum, Leif Erickson, and Hillary Brooke. Invaders from Mars was nominated for a Retro-Hugo at Noreascon 4 but lost out to The War of The Worlds. Critics at the time liked it quite a bit, and At Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 82% among audience reviewers. You can watch it here.
  • April 22, 1959 The Monster Of Piedras Blancas enjoyed its premiere. It was produced by Jack Kevan who started out as a makeup artist on The Wizard of Oz as written and directed by Irvin Berwick who was associate produced later on for The Loch Ness Horror. The screenplay was by H. Haile Chace It starred Jeanne Carmen, Les Tremayne, John Harmon, Don Sullivan, Forrest Lewis, and Pete Dunn. It received universally negative criticism with most calling it amateurish with the script, dialogue, and monster design being noted s being bad. It holds a not terribly bad 33% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You’re in for for a special treat as you can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1902 Philip Latham. Name used by Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, With the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comeback novel starts this way: ‘ When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .’ It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. An editor and bibliographer of pulps whose non-fiction Work and genre anthologies are both fascinating. Among the latter are such publications as Sensuous Science Fiction From the Weird and Spicy Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps, and from the former are Future and Fantastic Worlds: Bibliography of DAW BooksThe Arkham House Companion: Fifty Years of Arkham House and Collector’s Index to Weird Tales. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 82. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (previous three films are all Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman. I watched the last one, was not impressed.
  • Born April 22, 1944 Damien Broderick, 76. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality” in SF. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good.
  • Born April 22, 1967 Sheryl Lee, 53. Best remembered as being cast by David Lynch as Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson in Twin Peaks and in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and reprised in the later Twin Peaks. Her other interesting genre role was playing the title role in Guinevere based on Persia Woolley’s Guinevere trilogy. Finally, she was Katrina in John Carpenter’s Vampires for which she won the very cool sounding Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Born April 22, 1977 Kate Baker, 43. Editor along with with Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace of the last two print issues Clarkesworld. She’s won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award (Special Award: Non Professional) in 2014, all alongside the editorial staff of Clarkesworld. She’s a writer of three short genre stories, the latest of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear here. (Warning for subject matters abuse and suicide.)
  • Born April 22, 1978 Manu Intiraymi, 42. He played the former Borg Icheb on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. A role that he played a remarkable eleven times. And this Birthday research led me to discovering yet another video Trek fanfic, this time in guise of Star Trek: Renegades in which he reprised his role. Any Trekkies here watch this? 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 36. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”. She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BREAKTHROUGH. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Steenz (pseudonym of Christina Stewart) and Bianca Xunise as two African-American comic strip creators who have broken into the world of newspaper comic strips, as Steenz has taken over Heart of the City and Xunise has joined the artists producing Six Chix. “Newspaper comics hardly ever feature black women as artists. But two new voices have arrived.”

“The ‘powers that be’ — white male editors at white publications — have kept folks of color to a minimum on their pages so as not to cause a stir. That’s the case still,” says Barbara Brandon-Croft, whose trailblazing strip “Where I’m Coming From” was distributed by Universal Press Syndicate from 1991 to 2005 — making her the first black woman to achieve national mainstream syndication as a cartoonist.

“You had to go to the black newspapers — as early as the ’30s — to find black characters drawn by black hands,” she says. ”And a black woman lead — what? Jackie Ormes’s ‘Torchy Brown’ was truly groundbreaking.” (Ormes, the first African American woman to have a syndicated comic strip, was elected to the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame in 2018.)

(14) KEEP THEM DOGIES MOVIN’. There’s money to be made! “‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 Already in the Works at Disney Plus”.

The October premiere date for Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” may still feel like it’s far, far away, but pre-production has already begun on a third installment of the wildly popular Disney Plus series, Variety has learned exclusively.

Sources close to the production have confirmed that creator Jon Favreau has been “writing season 3 for a while,” and that the art department, led by Lucasfilm vice president and executive creative director Doug Chiang, has been creating concepts for Season 3 “for the past few weeks.”

…The Mouse House also has two others series from a Galaxy far, far away in the works, namely an Obi-Wan Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor reprising the iconic role, and a Cassian Andor series starring Diego Luna, which recently added Stellan Skarsgard and Kyle Soller, as Variety reported exclusively.

(15) RELIEF FOR COMICS STORES. “Comic Book Publishers Unite for Fund to Help Stores”The Hollywood Reporter runs the numbers.

As the comic book industry seeks to rebuild in the wake of store closures and publication pauses caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) is announcing the formation of a new fund specifically aimed at assisting comics, the Comicbook United Fund.

Combining the $100,000 pledged last year to BINC from the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group to support comic book retailers with the $250,000 pledged earlier this month by DC, the Comicbook United Fund is intended to be the central location for any and all figures and organizations hoping to raise money for comic book retailers.

(16) EMERGENCY. The roleplaying game designer Guy McLimore (FASA’s Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game, Mekton Empire, The Fantasy Trip) says he had to break social distancing for an exceptionally good reason:

(17) STEWARDS OF THE FUTURE. Wil Wheaton penned a visionary essay to accompany his voicing of a C.L. Moore audio story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: The Tree of Life by CL Moore”.

…I’m sure, in her incredible, gifted, magnificent imagination, she never even considered for a second that, almost 100 years into her future, someone whose parents weren’t yet born would take her work, bring it to life in a unique way, and then distribute that new work to anyone who wants it, in the world, without even getting out of my desk chair.

What amazing thing is sitting just over our horizon? What amazing thing is waiting for our grandchildren that we can’t even imagine right now? Why aren’t we doing more to protect our planet and each other, so our grandchildren don’t have to live in some apocalyptic nightmare?

(18) RELIC. “Hawking’s family donate ventilator to hospital”.

Stephen Hawking’s personal ventilator has been donated to the hospital where he was often treated to help patients diagnosed with coronavirus.

The physicist, who had motor neurone disease, died in 2018, aged 76.

His family donated the medical equipment he bought himself to the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

Prof Hawking’s daughter Lucy said the hospital was “incredibly important” to her father and Dr Mike Davies said staff were “so grateful” to the family.

(19) SPEAKING IN PARSELTONGUES. “Scientists discover a new snake and name it after Salazar Slytherin”CNN has the story.

A team of researchers from India, upon discovering a new species of green pit vipers, have decided to name the snake after the one, the only Salazar Slytherin. Their findings were published this month in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

For those not familiar with Harry Potter, a quick history lesson. In a nutshell, Salazar Slytherin was one of the founders of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with his pals Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff.

Along with being some of the most powerful witches and wizards of their time in the Harry Potter world, they’re also the namesakes of the four Hogwarts houses.

Slytherin, partly known for his ability to talk to snakes, is linked to the animals — the snake is, after all, the symbol of the Slytherin Hogwarts house. That’s why the researchers chose the name Trimeresurus salazar.

 (20) NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH. NBC’s Dallas/Ft. Worth affiliate sent a crew to capture this scene: “Stormtrooper Patrols Richardson Neighborhood With Coronavirus-Related Messages”.

A Richardson man who has had a lifelong love of “Star Wars” and particularly stormtroopers, took to the streets to bring a smile and an important message to his neighbors.

Rob Johnson dressed up as a stormtrooper and patrolled the sidewalks near his home carrying signs reminding people “Good guys wear masks” and “move alone, move alone.”

The stormtrooper shows a sense of humor too, with one sign reading, “Have you seen my droid, TP4U?”

(21) TV TIME. Edgar Wright’s doing a thing on Twitter:

Not specifically genre related but it looks fun. Here’s some relevant replies:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/21/19 This Could Involve Thiotimoline

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy is taking nominations for the Stabby Award until December 28. See the complete guidelines at the link.

Nominations will continue to take place here on /r/Fantasy. Nomination rules are below. Please read them and ask any questions under the comment pinned at the top of the thread.

The method for voting will be explained when the voting thread goes live. The nominations thread will close December 26 at 12:30 p.m. PST. The voting thread will go live no later than about 10 pm on Saturday, December 28.

(2) DIZZYLAND. For your maximum confusion, the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest presents its Top 10 Finalists. First prize goes to “Dual Axis Illusion.”

This spinning shape appears to defy logic by rotating around both the horizontal and vertical axis at the same time! To make things even more confusing, the direction of rotation is also ambiguous. Some visual cues in the video will help viewers change their perception.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint has posted on Facebook a fully detailed account of the medical problems that caused him to be hospitalized during NASFiC, and the course of treatment since, leading up to —

….Within a few weeks, my condition has improved drastically. My 02 saturation levels are back to normal and I’ve stopped having to use oxygen supplements. I spent the past weekend engaged in a long overdue cleansing of the basement – think “scouring of the shire” –which had me going up and down stairs for hours carrying heavy stuff without getting short of breath right away. Granted, after a few hours I’d get a little fatigued and need to rest a bit, but gimme a break. See “almost 73,” above. When I was a teenager, I spent a whole summer once digging ditches. Those days are behind me.
(Happily. It’s not like I enjoyed it at the time any more than I would today. It’s just that at the age of 17 I was ABLE to do it.).

Okay, enough. This turned into a very long post so I’ll wait a day or so before posting a progress report on how my work is coming along. The gist is: “Quite well, actually.” As I said earlier, as long as I was sitting on my butt or lying down I was able to keep working despite the hypoxemia – and, o joyous day! – my current (and hopefully last) profession involves sitting on my butt or lying down pretty much 100% of the time.

(4) MARRIAGE MASH. Comicbook.com points the way as “Funny or Die Mashes Up Marvel and Star Wars With Marriage Story”.

…The new clip from the site cuts up footage from Marriage Story as well as both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars sequel trilogy to tell a similar story, but with Black Widow and Kylo Ren trapped in a relationship that has since become poisoned.

While both Driver and Johansson are earning buzz for their portrayal of the estranged couple undergoing divorce proceedings in Marriage Story, many fans are interested in their roles in their respective franchises.

(5) BROOKER OBIT. Tony Brooker (1925-2019), mathematician and computer scientist who designed the programming language for the world’s first commercial computer, died on 20 November 2019 aged 94. See the New York Times tribute.

Mr. Brooker had been immersed in early computer research at the University of Cambridge when one day, on his way home from a mountain-climbing trip in North Wales, he stopped at the University of Manchester to tour its computer lab, which was among the first of its kind. Dropping in unannounced, he introduced himself to Alan Turing, a founding father of the computer age, who at the time was the lab’s deputy director.

When Mr. Brooker described his own research at the University of Cambridge, he later recalled, Mr. Turing said, “Well, we can always employ someone like you.” Soon they were colleagues….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1963 — During Doctor Who’s first season, the first part of “The Daleks” aired. Written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin. The Daleks which are created and co-owned by Terry Nation will make their first appearance in this story.  The below image is Dalek free so that I don’t spoil your appreciation of their first appearance.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. premiered. Hoping to take bite out of the kid-friendly box office, it was produced by Burt Topper and Joseph Barbera (yes, that Barbera as it was a Hanna-Barbera film), and a cast headed by Wesley Eure, Valerie Bertinelli and Conrad Bain. Critics found it mediocre at best, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it as it has Currently a 32% rating there.  
  • December 21, 1979Disney’s The Black Hole premiered. Intended as The Mouse’s Reponse to Star Wars, it was directed by Gary Nelson.  A cast of Joseph Bottoms, Maximilian Schell, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, and Ernest Borgnine were to be found here, while the voices of the primary robot characters were provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens who both were uncredited. Special effects were developed in-house as apparently were most of the matte paintings used. Critics for the most part didn’t like it, and it holds a 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And it bombed at the box office.
  • December 21, 2010 Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus premiered. Robert Picardo was the sole performer of genre interest in it, and it was directed by Christopher Ray, son of noted exploitation director Fred Olen Ray. Is it genre? Is it sci-fi?  No one liked it, the critics gave it scathing reviews, and currently it has a 19% score among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It has, alas, at least two sequels. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3, New Worlds SF, Science Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 82. Sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella? Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film. 
  • Born December 21, 1943 John Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 75. He’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings, more short fiction than I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 71. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone)in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 53. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including Flatliners, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Three Musketeers,  voice work in Armitage: Poly-Matrix, Dark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration,  Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Mirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TOP COMICS. The Hollywood Reporter’s “Heat Vision” reporter Graeme McMillan names “Heat Vision’s Top 10 Comics Of the Decade”. Anchoring the list is — 

Smile (A Dental Drama) by Raina Telegmeier (Scholastic, 2010)
Telegmeier is, simply put, likely the most important figure in comics of the last decade; after a string of adaptations of the Babysitters Club novels for Scholastic, she’s spent the last ten years creating more comic readers than arguably any other creator with a series of graphic novels for publisher Graphix that mix autobiography with pure fiction, combining clear, easy to understand, visuals with writing that’s accessible and consistently smart and (perhaps most importantly) respectful of its target audience. Smile, Telegmeier’s first book this decade, remains perhaps the finest example of her work, with her story of dental problems as a kid able to win over any audience.

(10) GIFT IDEAS. If you have any last-minute shopping needs, then why not consider Brit Cit published SF/F? SF² Concatenation has a news page with the season’s science fiction and also fantasy book releases from the major UK genre imprints, not forgetting nonfiction SF and popular science. Titles available from large genre bookshops in N. America as well as some online peddlers.

(11) BEEN TO THE MOVIES. John Scalzi says the baker didn’t give the ingredients time enough to rise — “Review: The Rise of Skywalker”.

There are a lot of moments in Skywalker that, while affecting, could have been even more so if they hadn’t been so gosh darn rushed. The prequel trilogy had excellent actors who weren’t utilized fully because as a director Lucas didn’t know what to do with people; the Disney trilogy has excellent actors who aren’t utilized fully because they simply don’t have the time to process, onscreen, the overwhelming emotions they’re supposed to be having. Abrams the director steps on several of those moments because apparently he’s got another plot point he’s gonna cram in. It’s deeply rare, especially these days, that I say a film should be longer — Jesus, they really don’t need to be any longer — but Skywalker genuinely could have benefited from an extra ten or fifteen minutes, just to let its actors do their jobs.

(12) PUNCH PULLED. Leonard Maltin declined to throw his popcorn box at the screen – after all, says he, other people will like the excess: “Star Wars: Variations on a Theme”.

I had a good time watching J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, even though I felt sucker-punched more than once. The filmmaker knows that this is the last time he (or possibly anyone) will get to play with George Lucas’s original concept and characters and his giddiness gets the better of him. Without spoiling any surprises, let’s just say that elements of identity, the powers of the Force and matters of life and death are toyed with in the name of “gotcha” entertainment.

At the same time, Abrams knows that diehard fans share his sentimental longing to spend a little more time with the people who first won our hearts in the initial installments of the Star Wars saga. He milks this for all it’s worth, and if he errs on the side of excess I bet there are lots of folks who won’t mind.

(13) SALUTE TO THE SEVENTIES. Tim Kreider’s New York Times op-ed “What if ‘Star Wars’ Was Just a Movie?” is full of pronouncements about things that are obvious – if you agree with the analysis.

…Lots of critics pointed out that the coda of “Star Wars,” when three heroes march up a corridor between columns of massed soldiers, is a visual quote of the wreath-laying at Nuremberg in “Triumph of the Will,” but everyone seems to assume this is a random allusion, devoid of historical context. It’s not as if Lucas was oblivious of the source. His film is full of fascist iconography — all, up until this moment, associated with the Empire. Assuming this final image is deployed intentionally, it might be most hopefully interpreted as a warning: Don’t become the thing you’ve fought against. The intimation of a hidden kinship between our hero and his enemy was right there in Darth Vader’s name all along — the dark father.

(14) MORE DISSENT FROM ROWLING’S TWEET. “‘Harry Potter’ Helped Me Come Out as Trans, But J.K. Rowling Disappointed Me” is a New York Times op-ed. (Site limits free articles.)

… As a devoted Harry Potter fan who also happens to be transgender, it was like a punch in the gut.

For the past decade, I’ve been an active player in the Harry Potter fan community, serving as the spokesperson for an independent nonprofit inspired by the boy wizard, sitting on the brain trust for a prominent Harry Potter fan conference and making videos about the impact the series has had on my life. I’ve seen the mind-blowing creativity of fans — from wizard rock music to cosplay to fan fiction that will make you weep — as well as their unparalleled capacity for positive change. Fans have organized in Harry’s name to donate over 400,000 books around the world, campaign in support of marriage equality and even convince Warner Bros. to switch to ethical sourcing for its Harry Potter-branded chocolates.

It was this community of loving, passionate people who accepted me with open arms when I came out as transgender at the age of 25. While I was nervous about coming out to some relatives and acquaintances, I never doubted that the Harry Potter fan community would accept me for who I was. After all, we all adhered to the values we learned from the books about being yourself, loving those who are different from you and sticking up for the underdog….

(15) A PAIR OF SCIENCE ROUNDUPS. Science has just published its round-up of top science of the year. In the mix is the biological recovery at the dinosaur asteroid impact site, a look at the human precursor Denisovan species, quantum computing breakthroughs and new Horizons Kuiper belt object encounter.

Also, what went wrong for scientists in 2019, including the Amazon burning.

Forest fires consumed thousands of square kilometers of the Amazon this year, and many blame the policies of Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, for fanning the flames.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) estimates the number of fires in the Amazon increased by 44% compared with 2018. One factor was an increase in deforestation, to about 9700 square kilometers in the 12 months through July, the largest area since 2007–08, INPE reported in November. Ranchers and farmers cut down and sell valuable trees and then burn the forest to make space for planting crops or raising cattle. Remote sensing indicated that this year’s fires tended to be far away from where crops are grown, suggesting ranchers were probably responsible….

(16) MEOW MIX. A cat with representation! The Hollywood Reporter invites you to “Meet CAA’s Million-Dollar Cat Client”.

It’s been a tough year for viral cats. Grumpy Cat passed away May 14 at age 7 following a urinary tract infection, and, on Dec. 1, Lil Bub, a special-needs perma-kitten with an ever-dangling tongue, died in her sleep at age 8. Going strong, however, is Nala Cat, a Siamese-tabby mix with 4.3 million Instagram followers, who happens to be the sole feline client of powerhouse agency CAA….

(17) ANOTHER STAR ON THE HORIZON? “Bionic cat Vito becomes ‘superstar’ with his prosthetic legs” – BBC has the story. Photos at the link.

A six-year-old cat has become an internet “superstar” as the first in Italy to receive two prosthetic hind legs following a serious road accident.

Vito, or Vituzzo, had both rear legs amputated after they were crushed by a vehicle in Milan while his owners were away on their honeymoon.

The couple, former basketball player Silvia Gottardi and her wife Linda Ronzoni, returned home immediately.

Vito’s story has been widely shared with the hashtag #vituzzosuperstar.

His surgery to attach two prostheses by inserting them directly into his remaining upper leg bones has reportedly never before been achieved successfully in Italy.

(18) SEUSS-COOKED MEAL. What’s this wrapped up in breakfast-scented paper for you from Sam? Surprise reveal, there’s a second serving of Green Eggs & Ham on Netflix.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, N., John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/8/19 The Moon is A Harsh Marstress

(1) CURRENT FUTURES. Mary Beth Griggs tells fans where they can “Dive into a new sci-fi anthology set in the world’s oceans” at The Verge.

Genetic editing, holograms, and underwater cities each make appearances in the 18 stories and 18 accompanying illustrations. The stories were edited by sci-fi author Ann VanderMeer, and come from authors all over the world. One author, Lauren Beukes, even wrote her story, “Her Seal Skin Coat” while in Antarctica.

…The 18 writers — all women — were prompted to imagine a future in which the innovations of today have had a positive impact, and have altered humanity’s relationship with the ocean.

The stories are available to read free here — Current Futures: A Sci-Fi Ocean Anthology.

The original stories were authored by Elizabeth Bear, Lauren Beukes, Catherynne Valente, Brenda Peynado, Karen Lord, Gu Shi, Marie Lu, Nalo Hopkinson, Sheila Finch, Mohale Mashigo, Gwyneth Jones, Kameron Hurley, Madeline Ashby, Deborah Biancotti, Brenda Cooper, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Malka Older, and Vandana Singh.

The original artwork is by Tracy J. Lee, Nancy Liang, Cornelia Li, Robin Eisenberg, Jing Jing Tsong, Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor, Andreea Dobrin, Ayelet Raziel, Chiara Zarmati, Daria Kirpach, Rosanna Tasker, Alyssa Winans, Christina Dill, Kaela Graham, Priscilla Kim, Jazmen Richardson, Kristen Zirngibl, and Michela Buttignol.

(2) COMICS COLLECTION PRESERVED. The University of South Carolina has acquired one of the largest collections of its kind: “The Gary Lee Watson Comics Collection includes 143,000 unique comics, 20,000 magazines, 15,000 paperbacks and 5,000 pulp publications and other items.” “Blockbuster comics collection comes to UofSC”

It took two trips to Ohio to pick up the collection — with two 26-foot-long moving trucks. Weighing in at about 36,000 pounds, the collection represents all comics genres and publishers and gives the university community access to a significant percentage of all comics ever published.

The collection also represents all eras of American comics production, including the Platinum Age (1897-1938), when comic books often consisted of compilations of newspaper comic strips, Golden Age (1938-1950), during which superheroes like Superman were born, Silver Age (1956-1970), Bronze Age (1970-1985) and Modern Age (1985 to present).

A comics collection may seem out of sync for the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, which is best known for its Audubon prints, medieval manuscripts and Scottish literature, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Pat Conroy collections. “This is a new direction for us,” says Sudduth, “but this is precisely what special collections are really all about.”

The Library Journal also covered the story: “University of South Carolina Receives a Gift of Over 180,000 Comics”.

While all your favorite superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, etc., are to be found, there are also some early characters such as Mutt and Jeff from the beginning of the twentieth century. Those were the days when comics were actually comical. Undoubtedly, there are many as yet unidentified titles hidden away in all of those boxes.

An estimated value has been placed on the collection of $2.5 million.

(3) ROMERO ARCHIVES. And a different genre collection has landed at the University of Pittsburgh – Library Journal has the story: “University of Pittsburgh Acquires Romero Collection, To Found Horror Studies Center”.

University archives can be a resting place for papers and special collections—or they can reanimate them so that they may live on. The University of Pittsburgh’s (Pitt) University Library System (ULS) has acquired the archives of pioneering horror filmmaker George A. Romero (1940–2017), including correspondence, scripts, footage, promotional material, and props from his legendary films. These include Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, both shot near Pittsburgh. The new archive will form the foundation for a future horror studies center, building on collections already housed in ULS archives and special collections and funded in part by the George A. Romero Foundation.

Pittsburgh is an appropriate home for the George A. Romero Collection, to be housed in Pitt’s Hillman Library; Romero graduated from Carnegie Mellon University (then the Carnegie Institute of Technology) in 1960 and stayed in the area shooting commercials and short films, including a segment for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The film that launched his career, the 1968 horror movie Night of the Living Dead, was shot outside Pittsburgh, and his second zombie film, Dawn of the Dead (1978), takes place in a shopping mall in nearby Monroeville. As the films’ popularity grew, Pittsburgh became known as the “Zombie Capital of the World.” Local events celebrating Romano include annual “zombie walks,” where fans dress up as the undead and stagger through the mall and Evans City Cemetery.

(4) WTF MOMENTS. WhatCulture invites you to count down Avengers: Endgame – 40 WTF Moments. Number 40 is Hawkeye asking for mayo on his hot dog. (I suspect some of you may wind up asking WTF about these choices.)

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 8, 1949 — George Orwell’s 1984 was first printed, in London. (Read James Bacon’s related post here.)

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 8, 1910 John W. Campbell Jr. As you well know, he was editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later to be called Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from late 1937 until his death and was part of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. A not terribly prolific writer, his novella Who Goes There? was adapted as The Thing from Another World, The Thing and yes once again The Thing. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 8, 1928 Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo Award–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo Award for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 8, 1943 Colin Baker, 76. The Sixth Doctor. Ok let’s admit that Doctors are a matter of personal taste. So don’t be offended when I say he is my least favorite Doctor. Neither his character nor costuming was to my liking. That he came between Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy who I both really like definitely doesn’t help. If you like him as a Doctor, good for you. 
  • Born June 8, 1946 Elizabeth A. Lynn, 73. She is well known for being one of the first genre writers to introduce gay and lesbian characters as part of her stories. So in honor of her, the widely known A Different Light chain of LGBT bookstores  took its name from her novel of that name. Her best known work is The Chronicles of Tornor series. 
  • Born June 8, 1947 Sara Paretsky, 72. Best best known for her private detective novels focused on V.I. Warshawski, she has one genre novel in Ghost Country. It, too, involves V.I. Warshawski and may or may not involve things of supernatural nature.
  • Born June 8, 1973 Lexa Doig, 46. Cowgirl the hacker on TekWar,  Andromeda Ascendant/Rommie on Andromeda and  Sonya Valentine on Continuum. Also Dale Arden in the animated Flash Gordon series. One-offs in Earth: Final Conflict, The 4400Stargate SG-1, Eureka, V, Smallville, Supernatural and Primeval: New World

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro cracks a pretty good Aladdin joke.

(8) DRAGONS FOR HIRE. I have it on good authority from io9 that “The Game of Thrones Series Finale Would Have Been Very Different if an AI Had Been in Charge”. College Humor turned the output into this video:

(9) WORDS TO LIVE BY.

(10) WISDOM PASSED ON. Elsewhere at the Australian National Convention, people were equipped with what they needed to survive:

(11) SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVILS. Not exactly SJWCs…. “Tasmanian Devils filmed in Australia playing in the snow”.

Snow may have caused travel issues in Australia, but these Tasmanian Devils still had fun.

The endangered marsupials live at a special breeding facility in the country’s southeast.

(12) MOMBOT. I Am Mother started airing on Netflix on June 7.

A sci-fi thriller about a teenage girl (Clara Rugaard), who is the first of a new generation of humans to be raised by Mother (Rose Byrne), a robot designed to repopulate the earth after the extinction of humankind. But the pair’s unique relationship is threatened when an injured stranger (Hilary Swank) arrives with news that calls into question everything Daughter has been told about the outside world and her Mother’s intentions.

(13) CAT BACKWARDS. Space.com inquires: “Can Physicists Really Save Schrödinger’s Cat?”

…In physics, Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment in which a cat is trapped in a box with a particle that has a 50-50 chance of decaying. If the particle decays, the cat dies; otherwise, the cat lives. Until you open the box, however, you have no idea what happened to the cat, so he exists in a superposition of both dead-and-alive states, just as electrons and other subatomic particles simultaneously exist in multiple states (such as multiple energy levels) until they’re observed. When a particle is observed and randomly chooses to occupy just one energy level, it’s called a quantum jump. Physicists originally thought that quantum jumps were instantaneous and discrete: Poof! And suddenly, the particle is in one state or another.

But in the 1990s, more physicists began to suspect that the particles follow a linear path as they take their jump, before entering their final state. At that time, physicists didn’t have the technology to observe those trajectories, said Todd Brun, a physicist at the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the research. That’s where Devoret and his co-authors come in.

The Yale physicists shone a bright light at an atom and observed how the light scattered as the quantum jump occurred. They found that the quantum jumps were continuous rather than discrete, and that jumps to different discrete energy levels held to specific “flight” paths.

Once the physicists knew the specific state the atom approached, they were then able to reverse that flight, by applying a force in just the right direction with just the right strength, said lead author and Yale University physicist Zlatko Minev. Correctly identifying the type of jump was crucial to successfully reversing the flight, he added. “It’s very precarious,” Minev told Live Science….

(14) THE ROOK. STARZ premieres The Rook on June 30.

The first step toward Myfanwy’s future is uncovering her past. Starring Emma Greenwell, Olivia Munn, Jon Fletcher, and Adrian Lester.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/19 Scroll Up for the Mystery Tour

(1) APOLLO 11 FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY COINS. Today the U.S Mint began offering for sale coins from the “2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program”.

This year, we honor that historic achievement with the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program, a collection of coins as unique in construction as they are stunning to behold. The program comprises curved coins in gold, silver and clad. The design of the coins’ obverse is a nod to the space missions that led up to the Moon landing, while the reverse features a representation of the famous “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” photograph.

A collectSPACE article has the full list:

The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins are being offered in seven editions:

  • An uncirculated-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $25.95.
  • A proof-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $27.95.
  • An uncirculated-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $51.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $54.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A 5-ounce proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 100,000, for $224.95, with an order limit of 5 per household.
  • An uncirculated-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $408.75, with an order limit of one per household.
  • A proof-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $418.75, with an order limit of one per household.

The U.S. Mint has also produced an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 2019 proof half dollar set, which includes one Apollo 11 50th Anniversary proof half dollar and one Kennedy enhanced reverse proof half dollar, “to commemorate the enduring relationship between President Kennedy and the American space program.” The set is a limited edition of 100,000 units and retails for $53.95.

The sale of the coins will benefit three foundations —

As authorized by Congress in 2016, proceeds from the sale of the U.S. Mint coins benefit three space-related organizations that preserve space history and promote science and engineering education: the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” gallery, scheduled to open in 2022.

If all of the Apollo 11 commemorative coins are sold, then they will raise a total of $14.5 million, with half going to the Smithsonian and the remaining funds divided between the two foundations.

(2) ARISIA. The Monday edition of Arisia’s daily newzine said the con’s total registration was 3,190.

Last year’s attendance was 3,930.

(3) HOPE. Leigh Alexander and John Scalzi did an Ask Us Anything session at Reddit today to promote The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project. Here’s an excerpt.

Q: Your most optimistic vision for the future comes true. What is it, and why is it actually awful in reality?

Leigh Alexander:

A: Optimism is biased data. Whatever I imagined as ‘ideal’ would have some kind of blind spot among the people I failed to consider. I don’t even care to speculate aloud, lest some celestial monkey’s paw shudders one more finger closed.

I really find Star Trek: The Next Generation soothing because you have Patrick Stewart, one of the world’s most brilliant actors, taking this little cardboard set, these goofy prosthetic aliens, with just the utmost sincerity — and in so doing, he represents what we think of as the ‘best’ of humanity in space.

But then of course there are all these times that the optimistic ‘ideals of the show reveal this provincial normativity that we wouldn’t expect to still exist in the fully automated luxury space future — so many of the aliens just have the same gender binary, same hierarchical titles, same everything as “the humans”. 

Whatever I can imagine would be good for us in the future won’t be relevant to all of us by the time we get there. But I do hope that being good to each other is an ongoing part of our evolution, that with each generation we get better at that. That’d be the dream.

John Scalzi:

My most optimistic vision is that people treat other people decently, and also incorporate the idea the planet will be here after they are, so maybe don’t trash the place. Neither of these require any SF concepts to be implemented, and honestly it’s difficult to see what the downside of these would be in tandem. 

(4) ACADEMY OVERLOOKS ANNIHLATION. Jeff VanderMeer has some thoughts about Oscar snubs. To begin with, he linked to Slate — “The Oscars Have Snubbed the Weird Annihilation Noise”.

For some unknown reason, voters chose to honor those movies and their music instead of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s score and its magnificently spooky centerpiece, “The Alien,” home to a cluster of hypnotic notes that Slate has dubbed the weird Annihilation noise. (Listen at the 2:40 mark….)   

VanderMeer continues:

That was definitely a weird snub. But I really think the bigger snub is that Tessa Thompson wasn’t up for anything–whether for Annihilation or her other films from last year. Really truly mindboggling. Also, I thought Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation should at least have been considered–the performance was great and without her the whole thing would’ve been so understated as to be ridiculous.

(5) STUMPING THE HOST. Bradley Walsh, host of UK game show The Chase, claimed he couldn’t even understand this question. On the other hand, Filers should have no problem —

The 58-year-old presenter was hoping his team would be able to get through to the final chase, having already seen Richard the librarian go through with £6,000.

But as he read out the next question to Jo from Buckinghamshire, he could not make out what it was asking.

Baffled, he said: “In 2017, a special edition of what book was released that can only be read when the pages are burnt?

“What!? I don’t understand!”

The tricky puzzle had answers of A. Fahrenheit 451, B. Frankenstein, or C. Fifty Shades Of Grey.

(6) MEKAS OBIT. Experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas died January 23 – Gothamist has the story: “Jonas Mekas, Avant-Garde Film Auteur & Co-Founder Of Anthology Film Archives, Has Died At Age 96”.  Andrew Porter realized this is genre news because “Jonas and his brother Adolfas appeared on the cover of the April 1963 F&SF, as depicted by artist and fellow filmmaker Ed Emshwiller.” The full story is online at Underground Film Journal.

To the moon, Jonas! The blog Potrzebie posted up this scan of the cover of a 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction featuring a dashing young Adolfas Mekas piloting a rocketship while his skeletal brother Jonas Mekas looms in the background. Apparently the cover is illustrating a tale of a spaceman who starves himself so his brother can pilot their lost ship back to civilization.

(7) PAVLOW OBIT. British actress Muriel Pavlow (1921-2019) died January 19, aged 97. Genre appearances included Hansel and Gretel in 1937, Project M7 in 1953 and one episode of R3 in 1965.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911C.L. Moore.  Author, and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written as a collaborative undertaking, resulting in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. I’m  the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1942Gary K. Wolf, 77. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 75. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I still love, wrote the amazing patch up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting aside his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 52. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. Oh I’ve got to see that! 
  • Born January 24, 1978Kristen Schaal, 41. Best known as Carol on The Last Man on Earth, the post-apocalyptic comedy. Other genre creds includes her role as Gertha Teeth in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, an adaptation of Darren O’Shaughnessy’s The Saga of Darren Shan, Miss Tree In Kate & Leopold, Pumpkin / Palace Witch in Shrek Forever After, Tricia in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, The Moderator in The Muppets film and the Freak Show series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MISSION POSSIBLE. The South FloridaSun Sentinel reported on January 18: “Holy heist, Batman! Thief drops through roof to nab $1.4 million in comics”.

A fortune in Batman comics has been stolen from a West Boca man and he is reaching out to the comic-collecting community around the world in the hopes of getting nearly 450 prized books back.

In a letter posted on social media sites, Randy Lawrence said his registered collection was valued at $1.4 million and that it was stolen from an indoor air-conditioned, double-locked storage unit.

A later Sun Sentinel story says that some of the collection has since been recovered: “Comic book collector ‘hopeful’ after small part of his stolen $1.4 million collection is found”.

It’s only a few checks off his list of missing pieces, but Randy Lawrence is hopeful he’ll get his $1.4 million in comic books back.

Police in Phoenix arrested a man who tried to sell four of Lawrence’s nearly 450 missing comic books.

(11) TOLKIEN’S FELLOWSHIP. Extra Credits continues its new season with episode 2 of “Extra Sci Fi” – “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

J. R. R. Tolkien wasn’t *just* a fantasy author–he was a mythology master. As a result, he ended up inventing some of the most popular genre tropes that science fiction heavily draws upon. Fellowship of the Ring introduces the theme of the “lessening of the world” and the decay of humanity.

(12) GERMAN CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s oldest crime fiction award, have been announced. Cora Buhlert, who sent the link, adds: “One of the runners-up in the national crime novel category, Finsterwalde by Max Annas, is actually sort of science fictional.”

Winner national:

  • Mexikoring by Simone Buchholz

Runners-up national: 

  • Tankstelle von Courcelles by Matthias Wittekindt
  • Finsterwalde by Max Annas

Winner international:

  • 64 by Hideo Yokoyama

Runners-up international: 

  • Krumme Type, Krumme Type (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) by Tom Franklin
  • Blut Salz Wasser (Blood, Salt, Water) by Denise Mina

(13) SPACE, THE FINAL FRONT EAR. Another day, another Star Trek opinion piece. Writing at FilmSchoolRejects.com, Charlie Brigden takes a turn “Ranking The ‘Star Trek’ Themes.”

Music has always been a huge part of Star Trek, from 1966 and that fanfare to the modern stylings of Star Trek: Discovery, which begins its second season this week. Over the course of 13 movies and seven television series, not to mention a boatload of video games, various composers have tried their best to musically represent Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of gunboat diplomacy and utopian societies. But which theme reaches maximum warp first? Which of the many pieces of music can deal with the most phaser hits and deciphering technobabble? Let’s find out.

Brigden says a good bit about each of the themes, but stripping it down to just the list:

15. Enterprise
14. The Animated Series
13. The Voyage Home
12. Deep Space Nine
11. Generations
10. Discovery
9. Nemesis
8. Star Trek ’09
7. The Undiscovered Country
6. Insurrection
5. Voyager
4. The Wrath of Khan
3. First Contact
2. The Original Series
1. The Motion Picture

(14) GOING TO THE WELLS ONCE TOO OFTEN. “War of the Worlds – as explained by Timothy the Talking Cat” is on feature at Camestros Felapton. It’s all amusing, and the ending is an especially droll bit of satire.

…Meanwhile, across the vast emptiness of space incredible minds were watching Earth and thinking “I know, let’s invade Surrey”. You have to remember that this wasn’t the 1950s when invading aliens preferred to target sleepy small towns in America. This was the nineteenth century and if you were an alien and you were thinking of making a trip to Earth, your first thought was “Surrey”. It’s a case of a local tourist board being just a bit too successful with their promotion of local sights. “Visit Sunny Woking” said the brochure that a Martian advance scout had picked up at Waterloo Station in an extremely brief visit in 1885…

(15) JEOPARDY! PATROL. Andrew Porter saw it on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: Potent Poe Tales

Answer: This Poe story’s title is realized as the narrator flees the “House” as it cracks and is torn asunder.

Wrong question: “What is the house with a crack in its wall?”

(16) PITCH MEETING. ScreenRant adds to its series with “Glass Pitch Meeting: Shyamalan’s Sequel To Split And Unbreakable.”

(17) FLY BY NIGHT. Where’s your flying car? Here’s your flying car… if you have a license to fly experimental aircraft and if you can settle for a few feet up for a few seconds. At least so far. Yahoo! Finance has the story (“Boeing’s flying car lifts off in race to revolutionize urban travel”).

Boeing Co said on Wednesday its flying car prototype hovered briefly in the air during an inaugural test flight, a small but significant step as the world’s largest planemaker bids to revolutionize urban transportation and parcel delivery services.

Boeing is competing with arch-rival Airbus SE and numerous other firms to introduce small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

[…] Boeing’s 30-foot-long (9 meter) aircraft – part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing plane – lifted a few feet off the ground and made a soft landing after less than a minute of being airborne on Tuesday at an airport in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said.

Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight.

“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, said in a news release announcing the test flight.

(18) CHINA BLOCKS BING FOR A DAY. The BBC found “Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China” on Wednesday.

US tech giant Microsoft has confirmed that its search engine Bing is currently inaccessible in China.

Social media users have expressed concern that the search engine might be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.

Chinese authorities operate a firewall that blocks many US tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft hasn’t said if the outage may be due to censorship, or is merely a technical problem.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

A BBC correspondent in China attempted to visit the site, and was able to access it through a Chinese internet provider on a desktop, but not on a smartphone.

Many US tech companies are keen to tap into the Chinese market, but have a difficult relationship with the authorities in Beijing.

The government’s internet censorship regime, often known as the “Great Firewall”, uses a series of technical measures to block foreign platforms and controversial content.

Chinese authorities have also cracked down on Virtual Private Networks, which allow users to skirt around the firewall.

NPR reports Bing was accessible again in China on Thursday.

The Microsoft search engine, Bing, is back online in China after apparently being blocked on Wednesday, a company spokesperson told NPR.

“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

…Microsoft President and Chief Legal Counsel Brad Smith explained that it’s not the first time the search engine has been blocked. “It happens periodically,” he said in an interview with Fox Business News from Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

(19) SPIRITS IN THE VASTY WOODS. See video of “The giant trolls hidden in the woods of Denmark”.

Cheeky trolls that tower over passers-by can be found in the Danish wilds. Constructed using wood found around the city, the sculptor behind them wants to bring people into nature.

Go for a walk in a Danish forest and you may spot a giant troll peeking out from behind a tree, or lounging luxuriously across the ground. These folkloric creatures are made by recycling artist, designer and activist Thomas Dambo, who sculpts the enormous beings from reclaimed wood.

(20) RED DWARF RETURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Red Dwarf is back, baby! Or anyway, it will be. Den of Geek had the story (“Red Dwarf Series 13 Confirmed”) all the way back in April 2018.

The boys from the Dwarf will be back for a thirteenth series…

Red Dwarf XIII is happening! Dave has ordered a brand new series of our favourite space sitcom, as confirmed by Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules at Thames Con, and then duly reported by British Comedy Guide shortly thereafter.

Baby Cow Productions are set to start filming series XIII in the first few months of 2019, and Doug Naylor will be back to write all the new episodes. Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie will, of course, all be along for the ride.

Now there’s an update at Den of Geek (“Red Dwarf: the Dave era, Series XIII, and beyond”) which considers history and possible future projects.

With more Red Dwarf on the way, [columnist] Mark [Harrison] ponders how the sci-fi sitcom’s revival on Dave has secured its future…

For a show that’s three million and 31 years into deep space, Red Dwarf is in pretty rude health. It’s been just over a year since the programme came to the end of its 12th series, the second of a two-series production block shot in early 2016, on UK TV channel Dave, and it looks as if there’s still plenty more to come from Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Your Cocoon” on Vimeo, Jerry Paper explains why you can’t have any fun if you’re a detached head.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/19 I Wept Because I Had No Scrolls, Until I Met A Man With No Pixels

(1) UK COMICS FANDOM HISTORY RESOURCES. Rob Hansen has added a section to his UK fanhistory website about how SF fandom provided a breeding ground there for comics fandom. “There are photos and, of course, a multitude of links — both in the body of the article and at the end —  that may be of interest, as well as a piece by Ron Bennett on sourcing old comics in Singapore back in the day that I don’t think many in our fandom would’ve seen before” — “Comics Fandom: First Stirrings”.

There used to be a saying in science fiction fandom that “it’s a proud and lonely thing to be a fan”, and for those who imagined themselves the only fan in their location it could be lonely indeed. The birth of the first SF fan groups in the 1930s gradually changed that, but what of comics fans? There’s enough of an overlap in interest between the two that SF fandom offered them a home, but it still wasn’t comics fandom.

When the 23 year old Brian Lewis went along to the inaugural meeting of his local group, the Medway Science Fiction Fan Club, on Thursday 28th August 1952 he soon became a valued member, contributing artwork to its clubzine THE MEDWAY JOURNAL. Before the end of the decade he would begin working as a professional comic artist, so had there been a comics fandom in 1952 it’s possible Lewis might have sought that out instead. But it was to be another decade before comics fandom in these islands began slowly stirring to life.

(2) WEIRD CITY TRAILER. A glimpse of a newly available YouTube Original —

From the mind of Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders comes WEIRD CITY, a satirical anthology set in the not-too-distant future metropolis of Weird. In this dystopian setting of our show, the middle class has completely vanished dividing Weird City into two sections: Above the Line (The Haves), and Below the Line (The Have Nots). Presiding over the denizens of the city is the strange and mysterious Dr. Negari, who weaves all of our stories together. Each episode is a topic that pertains to present day life in America and the world: social media addiction, online dating, fitness obsession, etc.. WEIRD CITY captures the unease of modern urban living, in a bizarre and peculiar lens.

(3) MCGUIRE CLASS. Cat Rambo tweeted highlights from the online writing class taught by Seanan McGuire: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Writing In Your Own Worlds”.

(4) NOT A MASTERPIECE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston finds the new (in 1964) novel by John Brunner isn’t up to snuff: “[January 12, 1964] SINKING OUT OF SIGHT (the February 1964 Amazing)”.

The blurb for the lead story in the February 1964 Amazing says: “Once every few years a science fiction story comes along which poses—and probes—philosophical questions: for instance: What is life that Man must live it?  In a novel rich in incident, fascinating of character, John Brunner questions the essential meaning of life and death and purpose.”

That’s the pitch for Brunner’s 74-page “complete novel” The Bridge to Azrael.  The last time we saw such an editorial panegyric, the mountain labored and brought forth—well, not a mouse.  A capybara, maybe.  Anyway, a modestly capable pulp-inflected novella, Daniel F. Galouye’s Recovery Area, not exactly the promised philosophical masterpiece for the ages.  Sort of the same here, but worse: the mountain has labored and brought forth a mess.

(5) WHERE’S THE BEEF? On Facebook, Steven Barnes made an insightful comment about the working of history:

I suspect that at some point, we’ll have a meat substitute that has all the values of the real thing. About a generation after that, people will be claiming cows were pets. and a generation after that, there will be debates about what kind of utter monsters meat eaters could possibly have been.

(6) KENYON UPDATE. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s newsletter tells readers some of her books have been rescheduled at the same time her 28-year marriage is ending:

…Due to a number of events that are out of my hands and with the heaviest heart, I have to announce that Tor has decided to move several books this year, including At Death’s Door which will come out in the usual Dark-Hunter slot in September. Delaying the final Deadman’s Cross novel and moving the next Dark-Hunter title to 2020 was not something I wanted or had control over, and I know many fans will be greatly disappointed. Believe me, no one is more disappointed about this than I am, and since honesty, integrity, and transparency run thick in my DNA, I wanted to let all of you know what’s going on since there have been so many false rumors running loose lately. As many of you know, the last several years have been a very challenging and daunting time for me – both emotionally and physically.

There were so many great things that happened last year. We launched two wonderful books – Death Doesn’t Bargain and Stygian – to such great fan reception, making lists and news, and I spent a lot of 2018 on the road visiting with readers at major events and conventions across the U.S. Something I intend to do this year as well, and to go abroad to England, Australia and Portugal.

But it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses as I’m coping with the dissolution of my twenty-eight year marriage to a man I made the mistake of putting through law school by working three jobs so that he wouldn’t have to work any while he studied. A man who is now turning the skills I paid for against me as he ruthlessly lies about me and fights me for *MY* copyrights to characters, series and worlds that I had long before I ever met him (something he has admitted to on record time and again) and to books he knows he never helped to write or plot because he forbid me to even talk about my writing in front of him….

(7) SPACE ART CHALLENGE. ArtStation introduces Adobe’s space-themed art contest: “Adobe Dimension From the Moon to Mars—Apollo 50th Anniversary Challenge!”

For six decades, NASA has led the peaceful exploration of space, making discoveries about our planet, our solar system, and our universe. From October 2018 through December 2022, NASA will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program that landed a dozen astronauts on the Moon between July 1969 and December 1972 and NASA’s first crewed mission – Apollo 8 – that circumnavigated the Moon in December 1968.

Adobe is challenging you to imagine the history and future of human exploration in space to celebrate this momentous anniversary and the release of Adobe Dimension 2.1. We’re calling on you to tell the stories of past and future space missions using free 3D assets from the Adobe 3D Stock “NASA: 60th Anniversary 3D Celebration” gallery and Adobe Dimension to compose and render a space-based scene following the challenge theme: From the Moon to Mars—Apollo 50th Anniversary.

Special guest judge former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a veteran of four missions to the International Space Station and the astronaut who painted the first watercolor in space, will judge the submissions with the Adobe Dimension team. 

Challenge Requirements

Your challenge is to create a visually compelling scene using at least one 3D asset inspired by NASA and optimized for Dimension that celebrates NASA’s ongoing mission to pioneer the future of space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. Whether it’s the Apollo moon landings, or future initiatives to the moon and beyond, we want to feel the wonder and pioneering spirit of the astronauts and the vehicles that take them there. You’ll also be required to composite and render your submission using Adobe Dimension 2.1, but any other software (Pixologic ZBrush, Substance Painter, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) can be used to create elements for your scene.

IMPORTANT: The final work must be submitted as a digital image. You can use any 2D, 3D techniques as long as you 1) include 1 asset from the Adobe 3D Stock “NASA: 60th Anniversary 3D Celebration gallery and 2) render the final scene in Adobe Dimension.

(8) CHOOSE YOUR OWN LAWSUIT. NBC News reports “Netflix sued by ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book publisher over ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’“.

The publisher of the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” books is suing Netflix, claiming the streaming service infringed on its trademarked format for the new film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”

Chooseco, which was formed in 2004 to re-release several classic titles of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books originally published in the 1980s and 1990s, announced the suit on Friday.

“We have received an unprecedented amount of outreach from people who believed we were associated with the creation of this film, including parents who were concerned that we had aligned the CYOA brand they knew and loved with content that surprised and offended them,” Shannon Gilligan, co-founder and publisher of Chooseco, said in a statement.

(9) GENERAL LEE. io9/Gizmodo alerts viewers — “PSA: Stan Lee’s Last Animated Appearance Will Be Airing This Sunday”.

The late comics legend’s final animated cameo will be on Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest, airing this Sunday. 

When Lee passed in November, we knew that he had some cameos already recorded, and now his final one in the world of animation is preparing to air. According to Marvel.com, he’ll be playing an important but brief role in an episode of the Disney XD Black Panther series. In the episode, titled “T’Chanda”, T’Challa will learn secrets about his grandfather. During that learning experience, Lee will appear in a flashback scene set in the 1940s, where Lee plays an Army General.

(10) ROBERTS OBIT. Worldcon Business Meeting veterans can share a moment of silence after reading this obituary circulated by the American Institute of Parliamentarians.

AIP has learned that Henry Martyn Robert III, passed away on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Maryland. He was 98 years old. 

Henry was the grandson of General Henry M. Robert and the senior member of the authorship team for Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR). He began his association with RONR when he assisted his mother, Sarah Corbin Robert, in writing the 1970 edition, the most extensive general revision of Robert’s Rules. He has been actively involved in every edition since that time. His contributions to the parliamentary world are significant, and he will be missed.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 12, 1940The Invisible Man premiered theatrically.
  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman television series made its debut.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1628 Charles Perrault. He was a French author and member of the Académie Française. He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from the much earlier folk tales. The best known of his tales include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots),  Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Belle au bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty) and Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard). As such, his stories form many of the roots of fantasy as we do it. (Died 1723.)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 67. An odd one as I  have read his Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1955 Rockne O’Bannon, 64. Creator of five genre series in Alien NationCultDefianceFarscape and seaQuest. He also help write the Warehouse 13 pilot. He has also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V, among many other projects. (I loved Farscape and seaQuest but thought Defiance went bad fast.) 
  • Born January 12, 1957 John Lasseter, 62. Animator fired from Disney for promoting computer animation who joined Lucasfilm which eventually became Pixar under Steve Jobs. And where he directed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Cars and Cars 2. He also Executive Produced Toy Story 3 as well as Zootopia, Finding Dory and Incredibles 2.
  • Born January 12, 1960 Oliver Platt, 59. My favorite role by him is Porthos in The Three Musketeers but his first genre role was as Randy Steckle in Flatlineers and he later played Rupert Burns in the Bicentennial Man film on Asimov’s The Positronic Man. He voices Hades in Wonder Woman, not surprising given his deep voice. 
  • Born January 12, 1970 Kaja Foglio, 49. Writer, artist, and publisher. Foglio co-won the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2009 for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, and co-won two more Hugo Awards the following years. Having won three three years running, they removed themselves from further competition.  If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing. Her husband Phil Foglio and colorist Cheyenne Wright do stunning work.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) CUTE REFERENCE. The Atlantic’s article “The Fellowship of the Ring Finders” tells about “A website connects people who have misplaced their rings with metal detectorists who know where to look.”

Usually, stories of this variety almost always end in tears. Yet these three people found their lost rings, frantically Googling some iteration of I lost my wedding ring and stumbling upon a network of metal detectorists who help people locate their misplaced jewelry. They had found their way to the Ring Finders, a service that pairs these people with one of 430 sleuths stationed around the world.

According to the British insurance company Protect Your Bubble, 11 percent of people have lost their wedding rings in the past five years. Since wedding rings can cost upwards of $6,000, losing them can be especially painful for couples, and yet it also gives detectives adept in the art of finding lost rings a chance to intervene and be the hero.

Probably a good thing this service wasn’t available to Sauron during the Third Age of Middle-Earth!

(15) CUTBACK. News that “SpaceX To Lay Off 10 Percent Of Its Workforce” comes surprisingly soon after they’d just finished replacing the Iridium telephone satellites.

SpaceX, the pioneering space technology company led by Elon Musk, will lay off about 10 percent of its more than 6,000 employees.

The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, a company spokesman confirmed the layoff without specifying how many employees will be released.

(16) DOCTOR RUNS UP AGAINST BREXIT. Fansided asks: “Doctor Who: UNIT’s suspension – a move too far?”

One of the most controversial moments in New Year’s Day special Resolution was the suspension of UNIT. Was the removal of a major part of Doctor Who a step too far for Chris Chibnall?

Perhaps the most significant scene in Resolution was when the Doctor tried to call her friends at UNIT. Instead of reaching Kate Stewart and an organization that she’s fought alongside with for decades, she was instead forwarded to Polly at the “UK Security Helpline”.  This was when the Doctor (and the fans) were given a bit of a shock when Polly informed her:

UNIT operations have been suspended pending review.

That’s right. For the moment, at least, UNIT isn’t around to help the Doctor save the day. The reason? Well, officially, it’s because funding was withdrawn from international partners. The implied reason? Brexit. Brexit killed UNIT, or at the very least, put it into deep sleep. At least, according to Chris Chibnall.

(17) WHO SCRIPTS. Io9’s Julie Muncy learned how you can “Pass the Weekend with the BBC’s Backlog of Doctor Who Screenplays”

…it turns out the BBC Writer’s Room website features an extensive backlog of screenplays for BBC shows. Their latest post is the first episode of this past season of Doctor Who, featuring the debut of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

(18) A HOLE IN SPACE. National Geographic thinks “Astronomers may have finally seen a star become a black hole”.

As dinosaurs stomped across ancient Earth more than 200 million years ago, a massive star was entering its death throes. The resulting cosmic explosion was so unusual, it left astronomers scratching their heads when its glow at last reached our planet last June.

Now, the mysterious flash may have an origin story. Based on the latest observations of the strange supernova, nicknamed the Cow, a team of 45 astronomers argues that it may represent the first time humans have captured the exact moment a dying star gave birth to a black hole.

(19) GLEANING THE STARFIELDS. NBC News tells how “Citizen scientists discover strange new world that pro astronomers missed”.

With help from a dead spacecraft [2015 Kepler data], citizen scientists just discovered an alien world that professional astronomers had overlooked.

The newfound exoplanet orbits a small red star 226 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Taurus. Roughly twice as big as Earth, K2-288Bb circles its host star in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water and possibly life could exist.

[…] Scientists are excited about K2-288Bb not only because of the possibility that it could support life, but also because it’s unlike anything in our solar system: a solitary, midsize planet circling a star that has a nearby stellar companion.

(20) STAR TREK LINKAGE. IGN analyzes the implied promise: “Star Trek: Explaining the Picard Show’s Timeline and How It Connects to the J.J. Abrams Movies”.

Many Star Trek fans are psyched that Patrick Stewart is returning to the role of Captain Picard for an all-new TV series on CBS All Access. And while story details on the show have been scarce, we do know that it will be about the legendary character exploring the next chapter of his life some 20 years after we last saw him in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis.

But a recent interview with Star Trek executive producer Alex Kurtzman has revealed some interesting hints about the Picard show, even while it’s gotten some folks confused about which timeline it takes place in. Let’s nerdsplain this thing!

[…there follows much exposition, concluding with…]

So while the Picard show will take place in the traditional Prime Timeline, the producers have found a clever way to connect it to the events of the modern movies. The series is expected to debut in late 2019.

(21) LITTLEFINGER, DEAD OR ALIVE? Carl Slaughter says, “Intriguing theory.  Lots of clues.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/9/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth

(1) YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION. Deadline says a TV series based on a Hugo-winning novel is in development: “‘Yiddish Policemen’s Union’ Alt-History Drama Set From Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman, PatMa, Keshet & CBS Studios”.

What if Alaska is home of a big Jewish settlement and the fledgling state of Israel was destroyed? That is the setup of a TV series project based on Michael Chabon’s acclaimed 2007 alternative history book Yiddish Policemen’s Union. CBS TV Studios, Nina Tassler and Denise DiNovi’s PatMa Productions and Keshet Studios have acquired a spec drama script by husband-and-wife writing duo Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. The project will be taken out shortly to premium cable and streaming networks….

Yiddish Policemen’s Union, published in 2007 by HarperCollins, has received the Hugo, Sidewise, Nebula and Ignotus awards. Chabon’s other notable books include Wonder Boys (1995), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Telegraph Avenue (2012), and Moonglow: A Novel (2016). He received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001.

(2) TOLKIEN COMES TO AMERICA. The Morgan Library & Museum in New York will host the “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibit from January 25-May 12.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth celebrates the man and his creation. The exhibition will be the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations. Drawn from the collections of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee), the Morgan, and private lenders, the exhibition will include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

[It is] an exhibition organized by the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford in collaboration with the Morgan Library & Museum, New York with the support of The Tolkien Trust.

(Robin Anne Reid, who toured the exhibit when was at The Bodleian in Oxford, wrote an overview, ”Visiting Middle-Earth”. Reid predicts the Morgan version will not be as large.)

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018 Future Tense Fiction — a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— published a story on a theme. A new story came out December 29: “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz.

It was time to start the weekly circuit. Robot leapt vertically into the air from its perch atop the History Museum in Forest Park, rotors humming and limbs withdrawn into the smooth oval of its chassis. From a distance, it was a pale blue flying egg, slightly scuffed, with a propeller beanie on top. Two animated eyes glowed from the front end of its smooth carapace like emotive headlights. When it landed, all four legs and head extended from portals in its protective shell, the drone was more like a strangely symmetrical poodle or a cartoon turtle. Mounted on an actuator, its full face was revealed, headlight eyes situated above a short, soft snout whose purple mouth was built for smiling, grimacing, and a range of other, more subtle expressions.

It was published along with a response essay by AI programmer Janelle Shane, “No Robot Like Robot”

In 2018 the A.I. robot CIMON was sent to the International Space Station—and that’s when the awkwardness began. A floating sphere with a digital face displaying a few simple expressions, CIMON was supposed to help astronauts through many-step procedures by displaying information and answering questions. When astronaut Alexander Gerst tested it, he found CIMON’s maneuverability impressive but its social awareness perhaps less so. It had been programmed to know Gerst’s favorite song, but had to be ordered multiple times to stop playing it. “Let’s sing along with those favorite hits,” it interrupted, as Gerst tried to get it to record video. Moments later it seemed to take exception to Gerst’s mild comments on its flying ability. “Don’t be so mean, please,” it told him. “Don’t you like it here with me?” Soon it seemed CIMON’s mood detection system had a “hangry” category and had confusedly placed Gerst in it. “Oh, dear, I feel you. I can already hear your stomach roaring. Should we take a look for when it is time for food?” CIMON was soon stowed away.

(4) BIO COMICS. Print recommends the “3 Best Biographical Comics of 2018”. First on the list —  

Femme Magnifique: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World

editor: Shelly Bond (Black Crown)

In Femme Magnifique, Michelle Obama is quoted as saying, “We’ve got a responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who come before us by doing all that we can to help those who come after us.” And that, in a nutshell, is what this book is helping to accomplish. Appropriately subtitled 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World, it includes biographies of Michelle and of Hillary Clinton, Harriet Tubman and Margaret Sanger, Disney’s Mary Blair and Brenda Starr’s Dale Messick, Björk and Laurie Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin and Elizabeth Cady Stanton… you get the idea.

(5) DC GOES MORE UNLIMITED. According to a press release from DC —

DC, comiXology, and Amazon have announced that select DC and DC Vertigo titles are now available through multiple subscription services at no additional cost: comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Reading. Expanding availability to these three services makes it easier than ever for Amazon customers to enjoy DC’s Super Heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Justice League, as well as DC Vertigo’s high concept series like Sandman, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, 100 Bullets, Fables, and more.

With the addition of thousands of select DC single issues, collections and graphic novels – including exclusive fan-favorites from the DC Vertigo imprint –  comiXology Unlimited remains $5.99 a month with a 30-day free trial for new members. Kindle Unlimited members will also enjoy a selection of single issues, collections and graphic novels, while subscribers of Prime Reading will have access to a curated and rotating list of highly regarded DC and DC Vertigo graphic novels, for no additional cost. This expansion across the three services provides the perfect entry points for those new to DC and DC Vertigo.

(6) EXTRA TREKS. More Trek animation and “Short Treks” are on the way says The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’: Second Animated Series, More ‘Short Treks’ Coming to CBS All Access”.

Alex Kurtzman tells The Hollywood Reporter that there will be a “minimum of two” animated series as he continues to build out the franchise.

Alex Kurtzman isn’t done building out the Star Trek franchise for CBS All Access.

The franchise captain has plans for at least one more animated series to join the previously announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, the half-hour animated comedy from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty). Additionally, CBS All Access has ordered two more installments of shortform series Star Trek: Short Treks — both of which will be animated. Both installments will debut in the spring, after Star Trek: Discovery wraps its second season on CBS All Access. 

(7) PICARD. And another Hollywood Reporter article, “‘Star Trek’ Boss: Picard Leads “Radically Altered” Life in CBS All Access Series”, hints at the answer to the other big Trek question —

What is the next chapter in the life of Jean-Luc Picard?

That’s the question Star Trek diehards have been asking since August, when Patrick Stewart officially boarded an untitled CBS All Access series that will see him play Picard for the first time since 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. Little is known about the plot of the show, which has been described as an exploration of the next chapter of Picard’s life. Fans have speculated that it will find him serving as an ambassador, just as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock did in the later years of his life.

Now, Trek captain Alex Kurtzman is pulling back the curtain on the upcoming project, revealing that a cataclysmic event depicted in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie impacted Picard in a big way. In that film, written by Kurtzman and former producing partner Roberto Orci, it was revealed that Nimoy’s Spock failed to save the Romulan homeworld Romulus from a supernova several years after the events of Nemesis.

(8) SPACE COMMAND. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicrees, discusses his Space Command pilot.

A hopeful vision of the future spanning the galaxy! Starring Ethan McDowell, Doug Jones, Robert Picardo, Bruce Boxleitner, Mira Furlan.

(9) SAMUEL L. JACKSON. The coolest ever: “120 Movies, $13 Billion in Box Office: How Samuel L. Jackson Became Hollywood’s Most Bankable Star “.

He arrives exactly on schedule, not a minute early, not a minute late, and comes dressed in character: Armani cashmere shirt, translucent Alain Mikli eyeglasses and, of course, a Kangol cap. There are no formalities, no handshakes, no, “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Samuel L. Jackson.” He simply strolls into the restaurant in midtown Manhattan — a short walk from the $13 million condo he shares with his wife of 38 years, LaTanya Richardson, who’s currently starring as Calpurnia in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird — slips into a corner booth and buries his face behind a menu.

“Go ahead,” he says. “I’m listening.”

This is how the world’s most successful actor begins an interview.

(10) IO TRAILER. Io is a new sff series coming to Netflix on January 18:

Sam, one of the last survivors on a post-cataclysmic Earth, is a young scientist dedicated to finding a way for humans to adapt and survive, rather than abandon their world. But with the final shuttle scheduled to leave the planet for a distant colony, her determination to stay is rocked by the arrival of another survivor, Micah. She must decide whether to journey with him to join the rest of humanity and begin life anew, or stay to fight for Earth’s survival.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890  — Karel Capek. Author of the his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I trying to remember what I read by him him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for Galaxy, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and  genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 69. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack
  • Born January 9, 1955 J.K. Simmons, 64. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1956 Imelda Staunton, 63. Voice of the Snow Queen in The Snow Queen’s Revenge, A Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, Polly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dolores Jane Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which I thought was a so-so film at best) and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well and Knotgrass In Maleficent and the sequel. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows some people look farther ahead than others.

(13) RICHARD & WENDY PINI. SYFY Wire’s “Behind the Panel” interviews “Elfquest Creators On How They Met & Jack Kirby Stories You Never Knew.”

Richard & Wendy Pini have been the creative force behind Elquest for 40 years. And now it’s ending. They tell us what the future holds, how they met (it’s AWESOME), Jack Kirby stories & more. These two are just the best – and this interview will show you.

(14) PRE-THRONES CASTING. “‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Casts 8 Rising Stars “The Hollywood Reporter tells who they are:

The cast of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel is coming together.

The premium cable network has cast eight rising stars to join Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse in the pilot from writers Jane Goldman and franchise mastermind George R.R. Martin. Additionally, SJ Clarkson (Jessica Jones, Succession and the upcoming Star Trek feature) has been tapped to direct the pilot.

Cast as series regulars are Naomi Ackie (next appearing in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars), Denise Gough (Guerrilla, Tony-nominated for Angels in America), Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd, Twilight, Mortal Instruments), Sheila Atim (Harlots), Ivanno Jeremiah (Black Mirror, Humans), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (To the Bone) and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

As with all things Game of Thrones, details about their characters are being kept under wraps. The only character detail that has been revealed is that Watts is taking on the role of a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.

(15) AND PRE-GRRM. The PBS series Finding Your Roots kicked off its fifth season with “Grandparents and Other Strangers”, which includes a session with George R.R. Martin.  

Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor Andy Samberg and author George R. R. Martin answer some family mysteries when DNA detective work uncovers new branches of their family trees. The DNA analysis upends family history and reveals new relatives.

(16) IN FLUX. The Washington Post’s John Kelly tracks down the “big nerd” and ’80s sci-fi movie fan who put an ad in the Post asking for a “flux capacitor” like that in Back to the Future: “Who placed a classified ad in The Washington Post looking for a flux capacitor?”

A mysterious ad appeared over the weekend in The Washington Post Classifieds, under the Electronics category, sandwiched between Collectibles and Furniture. It took up three lines and it read: “WANTED — Flux Capacitor — Needed to complete an important project. Must be in good condition. 571-444-5995.”

Because, after all, what use is a busted flux capacitor? You’d never get your DeLorean to achieve time travel, as explained in “Back to the Future,” that documentary movie released in 1985.

I called the number and got a recording. It was of a harried-sounding man saying, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, we’re gonna see some serious [stuff].”

I left a message and my cellphone number….

…He collects replicas of movie props, including the hoverboard that Marty McFly rode and the self-lacing Nikes he wore. Doc even owns a DeLorean. (“I’m in one right now, waiting to go to lunch,” he said.)

Doc’s stunt — placing “Back to the Future”-inspired ads — reminded me of the 2014 movie “Safety Not Guaranteed,” based on a joke ad a writer placed inviting people to travel back in time with him.

(17) A TRANS-FJORD TUNNEL, HUZZAH! “Norway Embarks On Its Most Ambitious Transport Project Yet” and NPR is there:

Driving the nearly 700 miles along the coastal route from the city of Kristiansand in the south to the city of Trondheim now takes about 21 hours and requires seven ferry crossings. To cut travel time in half, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has launched a nearly $40 billion transportation project that will include the world’s longest floating bridge and — perhaps — a first-of-its-kind floating underwater traffic tunnel.

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note that “This article has what could easily become my favorite proverb for the new year: ‘It’s a saying that there’s nothing in the world that is in a bigger rush than a dead fish,’ Kleppe says.”

(18) SEXISM AT CES. BBC reports “‘Award-winning’ sex toy for women withdrawn from show”.

A sex toy designed for women has been banned from the technology show CES.

Lorna DiCarlo said it had been invited to display its robotic Ose vibrator at CES, after winning an innovation award.

CES organiser the Consumer Technology Association, which granted the award, said it had included the device by mistake and could withdraw any immoral or obscene entry at any time.

Lorna DiCarlo chief executive Lora Haddock said the CES and CTA had a history of gender bias.

In a statement to The Next Web, the CTA said: “The product does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted.

“We have apologised to the company for our mistake.”

But, in a statement on the Lora DiCarlo website, Ms Haddock cites several examples of other female-oriented products included in the award category the vibrator was in.

“Two robotic vacuum cleaners, one robotic skateboard, four children’s toys, one shopping companion robot – looks like all of women’s interests are covered, right?” she said.

…Ms Haddock said there was a double-standard at CES when it came to sexual health products targeted at men versus women.

“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit, with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle,” she said.

(19) CLEANUP ON VEIN SIX. A kind of advance in fighting cancer: “Sponge offers hope of ‘less toxic’ chemotherapy”.

Scientists believe they may have found a way to make cancer chemotherapy treatment less toxic to the body.

They have begun testing a tiny sponge that sits inside a vein and removes excess chemo drugs from the blood once they have attacked the target tumour.

Experts say the early work, in the journal ACS Central Science, offers hope of avoiding treatment side-effects, such as hair loss and nausea.

So far, it has been tried in pigs, but researchers want to test it in people.

If all goes well, those trials could happen within a couple of years, says scientist Dr Nitash Balsara, from the University of California.

(20) YOU BOUGHT IT, YOU UN-BREAK IT. “Climate change: ‘Right to repair’ gathers force” – BBC has the story.

It is frustrating: you buy a new appliance then just after the warranty runs out, it gives up the ghost.

You can’t repair it and can’t find anyone else to at a decent price, so it joins the global mountain of junk.

You’re forced to buy a replacement, which fuels climate change from the greenhouse gases released in the manufacturing process.

But help is at hand, because citizens in the EU and parts of the USA will soon get a “right to repair” – of sorts.

This consists of a series of proposals from European environment ministers to force manufacturers to make goods that last longer and are easier to mend.

The European proposals refer to lighting, televisions and large home appliances.

At least 18 US states are considering similar laws in a growing backlash against products which can’t be prised apart because they’re glued together, or which don’t have a supply of spare parts, or repair instructions

(21) EQUAL TIME. Cthulu’s response to President Trump’s speech last night:

(22) MAGNOLIA PARK. Help save John King Tarpinian’s favorite Burbank neighborhood:

The retro charm of Burbank’s unique shops is what makes Magnolia Boulevard a must-visit destination for all. Beloved by the community and visited by people worldwide, we are now in danger of losing everything that makes this strip unique.

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