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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Lichtman remembers:

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

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

Not everyone is cheering, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The London Video Game Orchestra’s website is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/23/19 Le Pixel Sur Le Faire Défiler

(1) SIGN UP AND LINE UP. LAist says “You Can Reserve Star Wars Land Tickets At Disneyland Starting Next Week”.

Crowds are expected to be intense for Disneyland’s new section of the park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The company announced that you’ll need reservations (at least at first) to take this particular intergalactic journey. Now they’ve released details on just how and when you can score those reservations.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, aka Batuu, aka Black Spire Outpost, aka Star Wars Land opens Friday, May 31, and reservations open on May 2 — a week from Thursday. The reservations are free and are currently required to get into Galaxy’s Edge between opening day and Sunday, June 23.

Those reservations open May 2 at 10 a.m., and the park promises that full details on how to make those reservations will be released that morning at 8 a.m. You’ll be able to get those specifics via the Disney Parks Blog and Disneyland.com.

But “First visitors to Disney’s Star Wars land will get just four hours to see it all” warns the Los Angeles Times.

The opening of the 14-acre land is expected to create such a crush of fans that Disneyland engineers and landscapers have been working for several months to come up with ways to widen walkways and improve queueing systems to accommodate more visitors.

Disneyland managers announced last month that the efforts to ease congestion included removing several smoking areas from the resort and banning extra wide strollers by May 1.

The new land, which will resemble an out-of-the-way outpost on the planet Batuu, will feature two rides, four eateries, one space-themed cantina and five retail shops.

Only one of the two rides in the land — the interactive Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run — will operate when the land opens. The second attraction in the new land — Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — will open later in the year.

(2) THEY DO NOT LIKE IT. The Guardian reports: “Tolkien estate disavows forthcoming film starring Nicholas Hoult”.

On Tuesday morning, the estate and family of Tolkien issued a terse statement in which they announced their “wish to make clear that they did not approve of, authorise or participate in the making of this film”, and that “they do not endorse it or its content in any way”.

A spokesperson for the estate told the Guardian that the statement was intended to make its position clear, rather than heralding future legal action.

John Garth, author of the biography Tolkien and the Great War, said he felt the estate’s response to the film was “sensible”.

“Biopics typically take considerable licence with the facts, and this one is no exception. Endorsement by the Tolkien family would lend credibility to any divergences and distortions. That would be a disservice to history,” he said. “As a biographer, I expect I’ll be busy correcting new misconceptions arising from the movie. I hope that anyone who enjoys the film and is interested in Tolkien’s formative years will pick up a reliable biography.”

(3) STOKERCON. StokerCon 2019 chair Brian W. Matthews wrote a stronger-than-average post about the convention’s antiharassment policy: “A Fellowship of Respect”.

…Reports of harassment at StokerCon™ 2019 will be followed up by the convention chairs, Lisa Morton and Brian Matthews. Anyone found to have violated these rules may be sanctioned, up to and including expulsion from the convention without refund, and if warranted, involvement of the Grand Rapids Police.

It pains me to have to state the obvious, let alone make it the subject of a blog post, but harassment exists, and it will not be tolerated. No one should be subjected to uncomfortable or unwanted attention. Ever. As a community, we understand horror. We write about it all the time. Protagonists. Antagonists. Good people put into terrible situations. Bad people out to cause harm. We live inside the heads of these characters. Frightened? Threatened? The feeling that you want to throw up? We get it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but when it comes to StokerCon™ 2019, don’t be the villain. 

Be the hero.

(4) RETURN TO THE HAGUE. Reunicon 2020, the 30th anniversary celebration of ConFiction 1990, is building increasingly detailed memory webpages to attract prospective attendees.

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the second World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe.

We have created this website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990.

We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague and till then, enjoy the memories we wish to like and follow or share with you all ConFiction1990.

(5) LEGO CATHEDRAL. In the Washington Post, Marylou Tousignant says the Washington National Cathedral, as a fundraiser, is building a Lego version of itself that will ultimately be 500,00 bricks in total.  Visitors can buy bricks for $2 and put them on the cathedral.  The project is patterned after a similar project at the Durham Cathedral in England. “At Washington National Cathedral, another church is rising — out of 500,000 Legos”.  

The website is cathedral.org/lego.

(6) LEARNING FROM TINGLE. Professor Sarah Uckelman (Durham University) tweeted the following from a seminar on “Computational Creativity Meets Digital Literary Studies.”

Access “DeepTingle” [PDF] here.

(7) ELLISON CALLBACK. Dwight Garner’s review in the New York Times “In Ian McEwan’s Latest, a Ménage à Trois — Software Included” – touches on some authors’ genre/not genre antagonism:

This touchiness runs in both directions. Who can forget Harlan Ellison’s obituary last year in this newspaper, in which he was quoted as saying: “Call me a science fiction writer. I’ll come to your house and I’ll nail your pet’s head to a coffee table. I’ll hit you so hard your ancestors will die.”

(8) AVENUE 5. Slate praises the casting of a forthcoming HBO sff series: “HBO Orders Armando Iannucci’s New Hugh Laurie Outer Space Tourism Comedy Avenue 5 to Series”

Iannucci’s verbally dazzling style of comedy often revolves around forcing characters who hate each other to be stuck in the same room, No Exit-style—meetings, plane flights, more meetings—and then letting them insult each other as elaborately and obscenely as possible. And “on a cruise ship surrounded by the deadly vacuum of outer space” is the most “stuck in the same room with people I loathe” that it’s theoretically possible for a character to achieve, so expect fireworks.

The cast also sounds exceptional: Hugh Laurie, who’s been killing it on Veep, will star as the captain of the space cruise ship Avenue 5. The Book of Mormon’s Josh Gad will play an egocentric billionaire who runs hotels and health clubs and the cruise ship Avenue 5; Suzy Nakamura from Dr. Ken will play his right hand woman. Gad’s other employees include Zach Woods from Silicon Valley as the ship’s head of customer service, Nikki Amuka-Bird as the head of mission control on Earth, and Lenora Crichlow as the ship’s second engineer. The Thick of It’s Rebecca Front will play one of the passengers. Best of all, judging from character description alone, is that Star Trek: Voyager  alum Ethan Phillips will play Spike Martin, a hard-drinking former astronaut who falsely claims to have been “the first Canadian to land on Mars.”

(9) MCINTYRE MEMORIAL. Announced on CaringBridge: Vonda N. McIntyre’s memorial will be held Sunday afternoon on June 9 at The Mountaineers Goodman Auditorium at 7700 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle, Washington. Doors will open at 1:45, an event will start at 2:30, and the memorial will end at 4:30pm.

(10) MCGOVERN OBIT. Guy H. Lillian III reports:“Tom McGovern, a long-term member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, whose article on leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses made a strong article for my genzine Challenger, apparently died of cancer April 21 or 22.”

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Several theories exist about the question mark’s origins but the most widely accepted version is that Alcuin of York, an English scholar and poet born in 735 and a member of Charlemagne’s court, created it. Originally named the “punctus interrogativus” or “point of interrogation,” this mark was a dot with a symbol resembling a tilde or lightning bolt above it, to represent the rise in pitch when a person asks a question. But it wasn’t until the mid-19th Century that it was first referred to as a “question mark.”

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

(12) TODAY’S DAY

April 23: World Book and Copyright Day. Pays tribute to authors and books and their social and cultural contribution to the world

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the United States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not really genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels were the like as The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 84. Once publisher of Ace Books who left that in 1980 to found Tor Books. Tor became a subsidiary of St. Martin’s Press in 1987; it became part of the Holtzbrinck group, now part of Macmillan in the U.S. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 73. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 63. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 46. Her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” was a Locus Award and Hugo Award winner and was nominated for a Nebula Award. Ok, I’m impressed. Indeed, I just went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories on iBooks so I could read it. So what else by her should I read? 
  • Born April 23, 1976 Gabriel Damon, 43. Remember Hob, the smart wise assed villain in Robocop 2? Well this is the actor who played him at the age of thirteen years old! I see he also was on Star Trek: Next Generation inThe Bonding” episode as Jeremy Aster, and on Amazing Stories in their “Santa ’85” episode as Bobby Mynes. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) BODILY EXPERIENCES. Ursula Vernon, suffering from some typical traveler’s ailments, has been receiving unsolicited medical advice. One friend suggested leeches. Another said —

(16) THROUGH THE YEARS. Standback recommends a project to Filers —

In Jewish tradition, we count each day of the seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost; 49 days. Sefer Ha’omer is posting a historical SF/F book review every day of the counting — reviewing a 1901 book on Day 1, a 1902 book on Day 2, and so on.

I’ve read some of the essays and really enjoyed them — and I like the historical literature tour, and the selection of lesser-known works by classic authors

Today is Day 4 of the Omer, and here’s the essay for H.G. Wells’ “The Food of the Gods and How It Came To Earth”.

Here’s the project’s Facebook page (2 daily posts, English and Hebrew).

(17) SF MILESTONES. James Davis Nicoll delivers “A Brief History of Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder Anthologies” at Tor.com.

…Sargent had been shopping the initial anthology around for several years without luck. Publishers generally felt the market for such an anthology would be small. She got a lucky break when Vonda N. McIntyre asked Vintage Books how it was that despite having done all-male anthologies, they’d never published an all-women one. Vintage was interested in the idea, provided that someone not on their staff did the editing. McIntyre introduced Sargent to the folks at Vintage and the rest is SF history.

(18) SIGNAL BOOST. “Parkinson’s results beyond researchers’ wildest dreams” – BBC has the story.

A treatment that has restored the movement of patients with chronic Parkinson’s disease has been developed by Canadian researchers.

Previously housebound patients are now able to walk more freely as a result of electrical stimulation to their spines.

A quarter of patients have difficulty walking as the disease wears on, often freezing on the spot and falling.

…Normal walking involves the brain sending instructions to the legs to move. It then receives signals back when the movement has been completed before sending instructions for the next step.

Prof Jog believes Parkinson’s disease reduces the signals coming back to the brain – breaking the loop and causing the patient to freeze.

The implant his team has developed boosts that signal, enabling the patient to walk normally.

However, Prof Jog was surprised that the treatment was long-lasting and worked even when the implant was turned off.

(19) NEW WAY TO LAUNCH SATELLITES. BBC video shows “New aircraft rises ‘like a balloon'”.

Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have helped create a revolutionary new type of aircraft.

Phoenix is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to stay in the air indefinitely using a new type of propulsion.

Despite being 15m (50ft) long with a mass of 120kg (19 stone) she rises gracefully into the air.

…As the project’s chief engineer, he has overseen the integration of Phoenix’s systems.

“It flies under its own propulsion although it has no engines,” he says.

“The central fuselage is filled with helium, which makes it buoyant so it can ascend like a balloon.

“And inside that there’s another bag with compressors on it that brings air from outside, compresses the air, which makes the aeroplane heavier and then it descends like a glider.”

…The point? To create a cheaper alternative to launching satellites.

…The oft-quoted rule of thumb in the space business is that putting a satellite into orbit costs its weight in gold.

(20) ELVES. BBC peeks “Inside the magical world of elves” .

Many people in Iceland believe in little hidden people – huldufólk – or elves. Or so surveys suggest. But do they really?

(21) THE YEAR AT THE UK BOX OFFICE. SF Concatenation has posted its “Science Fiction Films Top Ten Chart – 2018/19” – based on UK box office performance.

Remember, this is the UK public’s cinema theatre box office we are talking about, and not fantastic film buffs’ views. Consequently below this top ten we have included at the end a few other worthies well worth checking out as well as (in some years) some warnings-to-avoid. Also note that this chart compilation calculation did not include DVD sales or spin-off product earnings, and our chart is also subject to weekly vagaries.

(22) DC. Daniel Dern brings word that DC Universe upped its streaming library — now ~20,000 comics. (Marvel says they have 25,000 on theirs.) “Set eye balls to ‘glaze over’!” says Dern.

(23) INFINITY ROCKS. Avengers: Endgame Cast Sings “We Didn’t Start the Fire” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame recaps the entire Marvel franchise by singing their own superhero version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Heather Rose Jones, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Guy H. Lillian III, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/19 Scroll Over Beethoven

(1) A WISE SAYING TO SUIT THE DAY.

(2) APRIL FOOLISHNESS. Here’s a prank that was hard to miss – because the perpetrators e-mailed me the link to the Haines in 2021 Westercon bid.

Haines in 2021 is the byproduct of several days of post-travel exhaustion and mild annoyance at all of the kvetching about the Tonopah bid. You want a bid somewhere that isn’t dry and hot, has no risk of you wandering out into the desert, and that you don’t have to drive several hours to get to? Fine, then! Haines, Alaska solves ALL of those problems!

What we lack in experience, we make up for in location! What we lack in location, we make up for in…well, you didn’t want the experienced team putting together your Westercon, so that’s on you.

Getting there is twice the fun of being there:

By Road: The Alaska Marine Highway System accepts cars for transport. However, if you want to avoid a long ferry ride you can drive from Seattle to Haines in only 34 hours (entering and exiting Canada) via Skagway, involving a short ferry ride.

(3) A MORE OBVIOUS JOKE: Nerdbot gets into the spirit of the day with a news flash — “BREAKING: George Lucas to Film New Star Wars Trilogy”. Clever artwork accompanies the rumor “of a new Jar Jar Binks story line, including the confirmation of him being the one, true Sith lord and the current Emperor of the New Galactic Empire.”

(4) DIVE INTO THE PACIFIC. Juliette Wade’s latest Dive Into Worldbuilding interview is with Vida Cruz about Philippine mythology.

…We started by discussing Vida’s story “Odd and Ugly,” which she describes as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Spanish colonial Philippines. In this tale, the Beast is a Kapre, a kind of hairy giant who lives in a tree and smokes cigars, while Beauty is a farm girl. The story is told in second person from the Beast’s point of view. Vida told us that she had written about these two characters in different iterations, and the Beauty and the Beast portion of the story came last.

Since the Spanish were in the Philippines for over 300 years, education has been heavily influenced by them. There is a dearth of good literature about the early colonial period. When Vida attended Clarion workshop in 2014, she did more research for that story….

Read the summary and/or watch the interview video:

(5) BACK TO THE HAGUE. Here’s a new flyer for Reunicon 2020, the celebration planned for the 30th anniversary of the Worldcon in the Netherlands.

In short, we have now organized a World Science Fiction Congress in The Hague 28 years ago (and 30 years in August in 2020), in which we had rented the congress building and also many hotel rooms in The Hague, including the then Bel Air hotel was our headquarters. The SF congress lasted five days and had around 3500 visitors from around the world, in addition to thousands of so-called “supporting” members, who could not come but did support our congress. More information via: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/48th_World_Science_Fiction_Convention

It was a huge success at the time. And they have been asked for a follow-up for years. As remaining committee members, we have decided to respond to this at the 30th anniversary in 2020 in the form of a kind of reunion meeting, a so-called REUNICON 2020.

(6) TIPTREE CORRECTION. Ben Roimola, Editor-in-chief and publisher of the only Swedish language sf-fanzine in Finland, Enhörningen (www.enhorningen.net) spotted something in the Tiptree Award press release that needed correcting. He contacted Pat Murphy, who shared it with me, and you may find the explanation equally interesting. He writes: 

I am thrilled and extremely happy to see Maria Turtschaninoff’s novel ”Maresi” on the Tiptree Honor List! It’s such a great novel (as are all her novels) for readers of all ages from YA upwards. Thank you for choosing it among the honor list!

BUT, there is a small error in the text about the novel. On the web page (https://tiptree.org/2019/03/gabriela-damian-miravete-wins-2018-tiptree-award-honor-and-long-list-announced) your write ”This young adult novel was translated from Finnish.”, but the novel was actually translated from Swedish. You see, Finland is a bilingual country with Finnish and Swedish as the official languages (and Sami as a third one in the northern parts). Maria Turtschaninoff is part of the minority of Finns who have Swedish as their main language. Yes, she is a Finn and the novel is published in Finland and it is a Finnish novel, BUT it is written and published in Swedish. ”Maresi” has been translated in Finnish, but the English translation is, of course, made from the original Swedish language novel.

We Swedish speaking Finns are such a small minority (anly about 5% of the population), that it is understandable to make an error such as the one you made, but we do exist and want to point out the fact that we do. 🙂

(7) EYES WIDE SHUT. At The Believer, B. Alexandra Szerlip revives one of Hugo Gernsback’s enthusiasms in “Vintage Tech: Learn While You Sleep (Hypnopaedia)”, about programs that allegedly educate you while you are sleeping.

“Hypnopaedia aka Sleep Learning had been thrust upon the world in 1921, courtesy of a Science and Invention cover story. Echoing Poe, Hugo Gernsback informed his readers that sleep ‘is only another form of death,’ but our subconsciousness “is always on the alert.’  If we could ‘superimpose’ learning on our sleeping senses, would it not be ‘an insatiable boon to humanity?/’ Would it not ‘lift the entire human race to a truly unimaginable extent?’

Gernsback proposed that talking machines, operating on the Poulsen  Telgraphone Principle (magnetic recordings on steel wires) be installed in people’s bedrooms.  The recordings library would be housed in a large central exchange; subscribers could place their orders by radiophone.  Then, between midnight and 6 AM,requests would be ‘flashed out’ over those same radiophones, onto reels, each with enough wire to last for one hour of continuous service.  Eight reels would give the sleeper enough material for a whole nights’ work!”

(8) AH! SWEET IDIOCY! “Laney himself would not allow it to be reprinted during his lifetime, evidently fearing lawsuits,” says Fancyclopedia 3. What fan can resist that bait? Today David Langford added Francis T. Laney’s Ah! Sweet Idiocy! to his free ebook page – download it here. And chip in a bit for fan funds if you please.

This infamous memoir and polemic about the 1940s Los Angeles fan scene was published in 1948. This first ebook edition was added to the TAFF site on 1 April 2019. Cover painting of Laney by Dan Steffan. 85,000 words of Laney plus 18,000 of additional material for a total of 103,000 words.

Please be warned that a few passages display a level of homophobia perhaps excessive even by 1948 standards.

Francis Towner Laney’s many brief and often affectionate character sketches of contemporaries may be of more interest now than all the fiery rhetoric about political machinations and (gasp) homosexuality in and around the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, a gigantic arena of controversy in which world-shaking elections could be deadlocked with 8 votes to 8. Still-remembered subjects of Laney “vignettes” include Forrest J Ackerman (alternately a close friend and deadly rival), Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and A.E. van Vogt, while among his offstage correspondents were Anthony Boucher and August Derleth. Ah! Sweet Idiocy! has always been controversial: Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “Canadian faned Beak Taylor reportedly quit fandom after reading it. Laney himself would not allow it to be reprinted during his lifetime, evidently fearing lawsuits.”

David Langford has added brief notes on abbreviations never or only belatedly explained in the text; with help from Robert Lichtman, a summary of its reissues since Laney died; and from Rob Hansen’s photo archive, contemporary snapshots of Laney and many other featured fans. Also included are Harry Warner Jr’s 1961 appraisal and Alva Rogers’s 1963 rebuttal of Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, “FTL & ASI”.

Rob Hansen has posted a page of photos from the 1930s and 1940s that are in addition to those he supplied for the ebook: “LASFS & Others, 1930s/40s”.

(9) TAILS OF THE TEXAS RANGERS. In “A Dinosaur Tried To Throw The First Pitch at a Rangers Game And It Did Not Go Well” on mlb.com, Andrew Mearns says the Texas Rangers had Roxy the dinosaur throw out the first pitch at Globe Life Park to promote Dino Day at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  But Roxy didn’t do well because dinosaurs have very weak arms!

(10) WHERE THE SCARES COME FROM. NPR’s Linda Holmes discusses how “Fears Are Forever In Jordan Peele’s ‘Twilight Zone'”. SEMI-SPOILER WARNING — lots of context/spoilers for older work; spoiler-free for first four new episodes.

What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

The Twilight Zone ran from 1959 to 1964. It was adapted into a film in 1983, then revived on television for brief runs in 1985 and 2002. Now, it returns on CBS’s streaming service CBS All Access, hosted and executive produced by the man who may be America’s most exciting filmmaker, Jordan Peele. He developed the new version alongside a team of executive producers including Simon Kinberg and Glen Morgan (Morgan was one of the primary writers behind The X-Files). Peele, in his films Get Out and Us, has spent a lot of time thinking about one of The Twilight Zone’s central questions, going back to original creator and host Rod Serling: What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

It’s true that Serling’s show was always connected, both in text and in subtext, to events of the moment. The fear of nuclear annihilation was ever-present in characters who built shelters and feared missiles. Allegories connected to the civil rights movement and other efforts to escape systemic injustices were common. Space travel was everywhere, both as opportunity and threat. The human legacy of endless war hung over the world always. Not-fully-trusted technology, like robots and large airplanes, held dangers, while technology that felt like it might arrive soon, like time travel, perhaps held even more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 1, 1885 Wallace  Beery. He starred in the first adaptation of Doyle’s The Lost World, filmed in 1925. He’d be Long John Silver in a 1930s adaptation of Treasure Island, and he was in Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely. No interest in the later works she set here. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 1, 1930 Grace Lee Whitney. Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek. She would reach the rank of Lt. Commander in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Folks, I just noticed that IMDB says she was only on eight episodes of Trek. It seemed like a lot more at the time. Oh, and she was in two video fanfics, Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 77. His best works include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection and the Return to Nevèrÿon series. He is one of the most honored writers in the history of the genre, a well-deserved accolade. My short must read list for him includes The Jewels of AptorDhalgrenBabel-17 and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 66. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values (both of which I like), the Men in Black trilogy (well one out of three ain’t bad), and Wild Wild West (what a piece of shit that is). He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and is the same for Men in Black: International, the forthcoming possible reboot of that series. 
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 59. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that think ever got released on DVD. 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 56. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done. His screenwriting not so much. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. 
  • Born April 1, 1964 Marcus Hutton, 55. He’s making the Birthday list because he played Sgt. Leigh In “The Curse of Fenric” story on Doctor Who during the Seventh Doctor. It’s one of the best stories done in the Sylvester McCoy years. 
  • Born April 1, 1997 Asa Butterfield, 22. He played the young Mordred in the Merlin series and Norman in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, also was in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as Jacob “Jake” Portman. He was Gardner Elliot, a Martian boy who travelled to earth in The Space Between Us. 

(12) SIGNAL BOOSTED. Wow – we made the big time!

(13) THE HORROR. I Like Scary Movies is making its first stop in Los Angeles. Ticket info at the link.

I Like Scary Movies is a groundbreaking interactive art installation celebrating some of your favorite films, including the first chapter of IT, The Shining, The Lost Boys, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Beetlejuice!

• We have timed entry every 15 minutes so that you aren’t waiting in line just to get in! Visitors can expect to spend an average of 90 minutes on their quest to capture their own iconic moments as they explore the rich worlds that have come to life.

• This first-of-its-kind exhibit spans 25,000 square feet (nearly half a football field!) and features amazing large-scale photo opportunities!

• Come play with us! “Sink” into the infamous carpet from the The Shining’s Overlook hotel and explore “redrum” hedges. Swallow your fear as you pass through the jaws of IT’s Pennywise and explore the clown’s sewer lair. Have a seat in the throne of Freddy Krueger and step into his boiler room to become snatched by his giant glove from A Nightmare on Elm St. Then have a turn as recently deceased guests in the Netherworld waiting room before visiting Beetlejuice’s graveyard. Test your strength as you hang from the Santa Clara train tracks before becoming part of a “noodle” dinner from The Lost Boys. These are just a few things that fans will interact with on their way to the Gift Shop at the end of the journey, where we’ll have exclusive merchandise for you to take a part of your experience home with you!

• The exhibit does not feature “scare actors” or strobe lights.

(13) HERLAND AUTHOR. Kate Bolick, in “The Equivocal Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” at the New York Review of Books website, praises Gilman’s pioneering horror short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and her dystopia Herland, but also notes her support of racism and eugenics.

… There is a snake in this garden, however—not in the plot, but in Gilman’s conception of this utopia-in-her-time: a desire for racial purity. For all her progressiveness when it came to equality for the sexes, Gilman was a xenophobe, a regrettably common response at the turn of the last century to the waves of immigrants resettling in urban areas. This prejudice dovetailed with her simultaneous embrace of eugenics, then a respectable academic field and a widespread enthusiasm even among, or especially among, social reformers. Between her passion for science and sociology and her constitutional faith in the forward march of progress, Gilman was quick to adopt the idea that some human populations are genetically superior to others, and that by playing to the strengths inherent to each race, poverty could be eradicated and society vastly improved. 

Moreover, at a time when sex education and effective birth control weren’t widely available, Gilman saw in eugenics an answer to the scourges of sexually transmitted diseases (a major public-health issue until penicillin was found to treat syphilis in 1943) and involuntary motherhood. Feminists and activists in general were divided over eugenics: Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, and Olive Schreiner all shared Gilman’s views, while Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and Florence Kelley fought against them.

(14) BE HISTORY. Marquette University, which has a huge J.R.R. Tolkien collection, wants to hear from fanboys and girls for an oral history project about the author. 

Check out this story on USATODAY.com: “Here’s your chance to become part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s oral history”.

Marquette is kind of a pilgrimage site for Tolkien fans. I thought we should collect their voices,” says William Fliss, curator of Marquette’s Tolkien collection.

Fans are given just three minutes to briefly expound on why they love Tolkien. To help people distill their thoughts, Fliss asks them to answer three questions:

When did you first encounter the works of J.R.R. Tolkien?

Why are you a Tolkien fan?

What has he meant to you?

(15) AFRO FANTASY ALBUM. NPR’s Michel Martin reports that “Fantasy Collides With African Culture In Blitz The Ambassador’s ‘Burial Of Kojo'”.

On his 2014 album, Afropolitan Dreams, hip-hop artist Samuel Bazawule, also known as “Blitz the Ambassador,” vividly describes his journey from wide-eyed immigrant to multinational success story. In one song he declares: “I think I’m relocating back to Ghana for good.”

And, he did.

Taking leave from his home in Brooklyn and returning to the country of his birth was a fateful decision that Bazawule credits as the inspiration for his first feature film, The Burial of Kojo. The modern fable of a young girl navigating the spirit realm to find her father after his mysterious disappearance, the film takes place entirely in Ghana, using a cast and crew made up almost entirely of locals.

The Burial of Kojo caught the eye of producer and director Ava DuVernay , who acquired it earlier this year for distribution by her production company, ARRAY. On Sunday, the film makes its premieres on Netflix — the first original film from Ghana to be released on the streaming platform.

(16) THRONE FOR A LOOP. “A Game of Thrones Fan Traveled To The Arctic As Part Of A Worldwide Scavenger Hunt”. Chip Hitchcock comments, “As someone who works convention logistics, I want to know how the throne got there without everyone noticing the activity.”

Some fans watch Game of Thrones. Others live it.

The final season of the HBO hit television series premieres in two weeks. But some fans got an early treat this month when the TV network challenged people to a worldwide scavenger hunt.

For those who don’t watch the show, the ultimate symbol of power in the fictional Game of Thrones kingdom of Westeros is the Iron Throne. So, HBO placed six of them in different locations around the world and tweeted the hashtag #ForTheThrone, along with a cryptic 12 second video. Fans could also view hour-long 360-degree videos of the thrones in various terrains.

Soon after, fans around the world began their quests.

One of those individuals was Josefine Wallenå, a 25-year-old gamer and project manager from Sweden.

After looking at one of HBO’s tweeted clues closely and its caption, she realized one of the thrones might be nearby.

(17) LIVE! FROM THEIR MOTHER’S BASEMENT. “Dead Pixels: A comedy ‘about gamers for gamers'” — looks like this is UK-only for now, but most UK content seems to get spread around eventually.

Dead Pixels is a new comedy about gamers that promises to be “on their side”.

One of the stars of the show, Alexa Davies, tells Newsbeat: “It’s about fully understanding where people who play come from.”

Part live action and part computer animation, the show is based on a fictional game called Kingdom Scrolls.

“A lot of the funny bits are about characters’ frustrations with the balance between real life and the game,” says Alexa.

(18) WELL, DID IT? The question in Rowan J. Coleman’s headline is a tad blunt – “Crusade – Did It Suck?”

Following the landmark Babylon 5 is no easy task, but J.Michael Straczynski took a stab at it with Crusade. Was it any good?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/19 Long Thoughtful Commentses Wrapped Up In Sings, These Are A Few Of My Scrolliest Things

(1) SCIENCE IS A MOVING TARGET. James S.A. Corey thought they had the science right but a NASA spacecraft proved them gloriously wrong. National Geographic got the creators of The Expanse to write Dawn a fan letter — “Dear Dawn: How a NASA robot messed up our science fiction”.

Dear Dawn:

Did we do something to piss you off? Because to tell you the truth, your attacks on our books seemed kind of personal.

In 2011, we came out with a science-fiction novel called Leviathan Wakes that featured a big plotline on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In particular, we imagined a hard, nickel-iron Ceres with a population of millions thirsty for water harvested from the rings of Saturn. We did pretty well with the story; it got a Hugo nomination, and the publisher bought some follow-ups.

Four years later, we were launching a television show based on the book, starring the embattled crew of an ice hauler trying to keep Ceres Station hydrated. That was 2015—the same time you became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. And as we gathered in the writer’s room and on set, what did you tell us? Ceres has water. Lots of it. Not only that, you found large deposits of sodium carbonate on Ceres’s surface, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize it’s evidence of ice volcanoes. Seriously. Ice volcanoes….

(2) WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE DEAL. SF author Ramez Naam (Nexus series) is  a “futurologist” as well, and he just wrote an excellent extended tweet about the Green New Deal and how it might be better. Thread begins here.

(3) ENTERPRISE. “Jeff Bezos, long known for guarding his privacy, faces his most public and personal crisis” is an article by Craig Timberg, Peter Whoriskey, Christian Davenport, and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post about how Jeff Bezos broke his long-standing efforts to remain as private as possible in his battle against the National Enquirer. Not the most titillating part of the story, but there is a sci-fi reference in it —

in the early 2000s, Bezos started quietly acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres in West Texas, where Blue Origin now launches its New Shepard rocket.  He purchased the land under corporate entities named for explorers.  Thee was Joliet Holdings and Cabot Enterprises, the James Cook and William Clark Limited Partnerships and Coronado Ventures.

All were linked to a firm with a Seattle post office called Zefram LLC, namedafter Zefram Cochrane, a character in the Star Trek franchise.

(4) WISHING HIM A RAPID RECOVERY. Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore wrote about the burdensome and painful health problems he’s been coping with in his February editorial.

…One of the diagnostics for stroke the doctor ran on me at the emergency room was a CT scan. He said, “Good news, I’m confident you are not having a stroke. But … some bad news, your scan shows a sizable lesion on the front of your mandible.“

(5) CROSS-GENRES. Vicki Who Reads picks out eight niche favorites in “Fantasci Book Recs: Books In Between Science Fiction and Fantasy!”

I love fantasy and I love science-fiction (though, sci-fi a little more than fantasy). And I think it’s really interesting when authors sort of combine the two–mixing sci-fi and fantasy (and ends up just being labeled under fantasy, typically).

But this leads to the creation of the fun, intermediate genre (at least, that’s what it is in my mind), fantasci. The intersection of science-fiction and fantasy where it’s not magic, but it’s not science either….

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

This book is so darn underappreciated, and it deserves ALL the love! I was sucked into the story and had such a hard time stopping, and then the ending completely wrecked me.

Like . . . is it legal to inflict these types of emotions upon me? Idk, but this book had me CRYING late at night as I read a bout [redacted]. And it’s a sort of space fantasy that’s based on Indian mythology and has me swooning.

Gosh. My heart still hurts and I need the sequel ASAP. If this book isn’t on your TBR, you’re doing something wrong because it is AMAZING and the ending is so horrible (for my heart) but so worth it.

You can read my review here!

(6) ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s “Detail and Image” online writing class today. The thread is here.

(7) WORLDCON REUNION. Kees van Toorn, Chairman ConFiction1990, today announced plans for Reunicon 2020:  

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the first true World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe. We are still creating a website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990. We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague.

(8) PLEASE BE SEATED. ThinkGeek s offering a Star Trek TOS 1:6 Scale Captain’s Chair FX Replica for $59.99.

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

Is that the ship intercom, or the self-destruct button? You better read up on your engineering schematics before sitting in a captain’s chair, or your tenure will be shorter than Spock’s patience for illogical behavior.  
 
Quantum Mechanix has created an extremely detailed FX replica of the most important part of the original USS Enterprise: the captain’s chair. This 1/6 scale replica doesn’t just look good – it also lights up and makes sounds. Powered by either three AA batteries or a mini-USB plug (not included), this captain’s chair replica has four different light and sound settings including: standard bridge operations, ship-wide announcement, viewscreen scanning, and of course, red alert.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says Wiki but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of It? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lead role. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside'”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is marked by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! Oh and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 66. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956Timothy Truman, 63. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 38. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the world of Brewster Rockit, some newspaper columns are very easy to write.

(11) IN RE VERSE. A star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (labeled on Wikipedia as a “actor, singer, dancer, and rapper”) told The Hollywood Reporter he hopes to write a song for the sequel (“‘Spider-Verse’ Star Shameik Moore Hopes to Record a Song for the Movie’s Sequel”). The interview also ranges into Moore’s other genre interests. It turns out he’s a fan of the Harry Potter movies.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Spider-Verse soundtrack had a few hits, including Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” Have you pitched yourself to do a track for the Spider-Verse sequel?

Shameik Moore: They were asking me to make a song for Spider-Man before any of the songs on the soundtrack were even being considered. The only reason I am not on the soundtrack is because I couldn’t quite come up with a song myself to write from Miles’ point of view. So next time, hopefully. The music that I’ve been making is for me. It’s not really for Spider-Man. It’s for who I am. My music is a bit edgier.

(12) THE GREAT SKY ROAD. Andrew Porter sent screenshots of some flights of fancy seen on the February 4 episode of Antiques Roadshow.

(13) LOCUS LIST CONSIDERED. Adri Joy and Joe Sherry have actually read a lot of these books so their discussion of what did and did not make the list is quite substantial: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: Locus Recommended Reading List” at Nerds of a Feather.

…What did you expect, or want, to see here that isn’t?

Joe: The first thing I specifically looked for was Matt Wallace’s final Sin du Jour novella Taste of Wrath. I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t make the list simply because I’m not sure it’s received a fraction of the attention and love that the series deserved. I passionately and sometimes aggressively love those stories and it has been a perpetual disappointment to me that they haven’t been nominated for everything they are eligible for and even for some things they aren’t. I’m holding out for a Best Series Hugo nod, but maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second thing i looked for, and this was mostly out of curiosity, was whether anything from Serial Box made the cut. Nothing did. Because I’m that sort of wonk, I did a super quick check of previous years and the first season Tremontaine made the list. I’m not surprised by that either, because Tremontaine is an expansion of the Swordspoint world and I would expect to see Locus recognize Ellen Kushner. I do wonder if next year we’ll see recognition for The Vela or Ninth Step Station. Both seem like something that might get some extra attention, eyeballs, and acclaim.

(14) LOOK FOR THE BEAR NECESSITIES. BBC reports “Russia islands emergency over polar bear ‘invasion'”. They must be running out of Coca-Cola.

A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say.

Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings.

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

Russia classes them as endangered.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

(15) SLIP-AH-DEE-DOO-DAH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 2017? No way. 2018? Um, negatory. January 2019? Nope. February? Nope, nope, nope. March? Well, maybe. SpaceX has announced another slip (albeit a modest one) in the schedule for the first (un-crewed) launch of the to-be-crewed version of the Dragon capsule (ExtremeTech: “SpaceX Pushes Crewed Dragon Test Back to March 2”). Boeing is aiming for April for Starliner—their competing capsule—to have its first launch.

NASA kicked off the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2010 to support the development of new crewed spacecraft. Here we are, almost a decade into the program and on the verge of a manned launch. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it may be a little longer still. SpaceX has announced yet another delay in its Dragon 2 test flight, which was supposed to take place this month. 

The precise date has slipped numerous times, and this is after ample delays in earlier phases of the program. We’re in the home stretch now, so each change in the schedule is that much more frustrating. SpaceX initially wanted to conduct the first test launch of its crewed Dragon capsule in 2017. Then the timeline slipped to 2018, and then it was late 2018. More recently, SpaceX promised a January 2019 launch… and then it decided February was more likely. You can probably blame the government shutdown for that one. Now, we’re looking at March 2, according to SpaceX. 

(16) ROLE PLAYING. Last summer Simon Pegg talked about characters he’s played – including one that was a bit autobiographical.

Simon Pegg breaks down his favorite and most iconic characters, including Tim from “Spaced,” Shaun from “Shaun of the Dead,” Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” Gary King from “The World’s End,” Scotty in “Star Trek,” Unkar Plutt in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Benji Dunn in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

(17) CAN A BOT BE AN INK-STAINED WRETCH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story has a personal edge for me as I encounter robot-written stories quite often when using MaxPreps to catch up on various high school sporting events. (Though, those particular stories are obvoiusly written by an Artificial Stupidity.) Forbes, which has dipped a toe in AI journalism itself, takes a look at the growing phenomenon (“Did A Robot Write This? How AI Is Impacting Journalism”).

How do you know I am really a human writing this article and not a robot?  Several major publications are picking up machine learning tools for content. So, what does artificial intelligence mean for the future of journalists?

According to Matt Carlson, author of “The Robotic Reporter”, the algorithm converts data into narrative news text in real-time.

Many of these being financially focused news stories since the data is calculated and released frequently. Which is why should be no surprise that Bloomberg news is one of the first adaptors of this automated content. Their program, Cyborg, churned out thousands of articles last year that took financial reports and turned them into news stories like a business reporter.

Forbes also uses an AI took called Bertie to assist in providing reporters with first drafts and templates for news stories.

(18) UNHEARD OF. Part of the experiment has failed says Gizmodo: “Small Satellites That Accompanied InSight Lander to Mars Go Silent”.

A pair of small satellites that joined the InSight mission on its way to Mars haven’t been heard from in over a month—but the experimental mission is still an important success for NASA.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 30-pound satellites named WALL-E and EVE. The relatively inexpensive satellites were the first time that CubeSats had entered the space between planets. The mission could foretell a future of spacecraft bringing more CubeSats with them in the future. 

[…] NASA lost contact with WALL-E on December 29 and with EVE on January 4. It’s possible that the probes’ antennae aren’t pointed at Earth properly, or that their solar panels aren’t pointed at the Sun and their batteries died, according to the press release.

(19) I CAN HELP. A little bit of sibling rivalry in Washington state:

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

Annemarie van Ewyck (1943-2017)

Annemarie van Ewyck, an internationally-known Dutch fan, died January 15 at the age of 73. (She spelled her name van Ewyck when she wrote for File 770, and ConFiction chair Kees van Toorn spelled it that way when he announced her passing on Facebook, but the Dutch Wikipedia article about her spells it van Ewijck, as it appeared on some of the books she translated, and who wants to buck the Wikipedia?)

Van Toorn wrote, “She has been instrumental to Dutch Fandom in the ’60 and ’70 when she was ‘motor’ of the NCSF [Netherlands Contact Center for Science Fiction].” She edited the clubzine Holland SF for 19 years, and from 1970-1982 she was married to NCSF co-founder Leo Kindt.

She worked as a translator of a wide spectrum of fiction and nonfiction. In 1977, she was nominated for the King Kong Award, a prize for translations within horror, science fiction and fantasy. Jack Vance reportedly was her favorite SFF writer to translate.

Van Ewyck was a key member of the Dutch Worldcon bid for 1990. To help pique American fans’ interest in attending ConFiction, she wrote a trio of articles for File 770, two of which are available online at Fanac.org, “Fantastic Literature Below Sea Level” about SFF in the Netherlands and “Netherfandom”, which begins by telling how Forry Ackerman was instrumental in planting the seeds of fandom there.

In later years, writes van Toorn, “She organized many local conventions, was the den mother in many green rooms; started Cozy Cons – just to bring fans together to have a good time, no real programmes but just fun, talk and beers.”

Pixel Scroll 4/18/16 It’s Better To Pixel Out, Than To Scroll Away

(1) WHILE YOU WERE WAITING. Ann Leckie must be wondering if any of us are paying attention.

Quite frequently someone at a reading will ask me if I’ll ever explain about that icon Breq is carrying. And the answer is, I already have.

(2) JUST SAY THANKS. Joe Vasicek has some intriguing “Thoughts on series and perma-free”.

For the last five years, the conventional wisdom among most indie writers has been to write short books in sequential series and make the first book permanently free. It’s a strategy that works, to a certain extent. It’s what got me from making pizza money on my book sales to making a humble living at this gig. However, I’m starting to question that wisdom….

….Also, when you have a book that’s permanently free, it tends to accumulate a lot of negative reviews. It’s strange, but some people seem to feel more entitled to XYZ when they get it for free, as opposed to paying for it. Or maybe these are the people who try to go through life without actually paying for anything? Who hoard everything, even the stuff that they hate, so long as they can get it for free? I don’t know.

Certainly, that’s not true of everyone who reads free books. But when you have a perma-free book, it tends to accumulate more of the barely-coherent “dis buk sux” kinds of reviews from people who probably weren’t in the target audience to begin with. And over time, that tends to weigh the book’s overall rating down, which unfortunately can be a turn-off for people who are in the book’s audience.

(3) TIPTREE AUCTION. Here’s an advance look at an item in the Tiptree Auction at WisCon.

On Saturday, May 28, fans of the Tiptree Award will have the opportunity to bid on a genuine blaster that was once the sidearm of Space Babe, a legendary feminist superhero. (Blaster is modeled here by a Space Babe impersonator). This rare item will be part of the annual Tiptree Award Auction, to be held at at WisCon in Madison Wisconsin….

 

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

(4) MANCUNICON. Starburst brings you Ed Fortune’s 2016 Eastercon report.

Event highlights included interviews with the Guest of Honour John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Aliette de Bodard, Hugo Award-winning author Ian McDonald, British Fantasy Award-winning creator Sarah Pinborough, and noted astrophysicist David L. Clement. Each drew a huge crowd, and coloured the event in their own unique way. Notably, Clement spearheaded a science-heavy approach to many of the panel items, and many of the talks centred on science and Manchester’s iconic research centre, Jodrell Bank. The iconic building, which has inspired many works of science fiction throughout its history, was thoroughly explored in many talks and lectures.

(5) NUMBER FIVE. Nina Munteanu, at Amazing Stories, continues the series — “The Writer-Editor Relationship, Part 2: Five Things Writers Wish Editors Knew – and Followed”.

  1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue

Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.

A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback….

(6) KELLY LINK. Marion Deeds picked the right day to post a review of a Kelly Link story from Get in Trouble at Fantasy Literature.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2016, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her that one of the summer families is coming up early and she needs to get the house ready. However, that family isn’t the only group of summer people that Fran “does for,” and this is the point of Link’s exquisite, melancholy tale.

(7) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. While Doctor Who can travel to anyplace and nearly any point in time, he invariably ends up in London. The Traveler at Galactic Journey seems likewise constrained always to arrive at the same opinion of John W. Campbell, although his fellow fans voted Analog a Hugo for this year’s work — “[April 18, 1961] Starting on the wrong foot”.

Gideon Marcus, age 42, lord of Galactic Journey, surveyed the proud column that was his creation.  Three years in the making, it represented the very best that old Terra had to offer.  He knew, with complete unironic sincerity, that the sublimity of his articles did much to keep the lesser writers in check, lest they develop sufficient confidence to challenge Gideon’s primacy.  This man, this noble-visaged, pale-skinned man, possibly Earth’s finest writer, knew without a doubt that this was the way to begin all of his stories…

…if he wants to be published in Analog, anyway.

(8) ON MILITARY SF. SFFWorld interviews Christopher Nuttall.

Christopher Nuttall’s Their Darkest Hour has just been released as part of the Empire at War collection where four British Science Fiction authors have joined forces to show the world that British Military Science Fiction is a force to be reckoned with….

So what is different with British Military SF? Obviously in Their Darkest Hour you have the UK setting that probably will be more familiar to a Europeans than Americans, but do you also think there are other aspects where British authors are able to bring something different and unique to military SF? 

I think that’s a hard question to answer.

There is, if you will, a cultural difference between American MIL-SF (and military in general) and British MIL-SF.  Many American military characters (in, say, John Ringo’s work) are very forward, very blunt … I’d go so far as to say that most of them are thoroughly bombastic.  Think a Drill Instructor screaming in your face.  While a great many British characters are often calm, competent and basically just get the job done.  We’re not as outwardly enthusiastic as the Americans; we’re more gritty endurance, stiff upper lip and just keep going until we win.

To some extent, I think that comes from our differing experiences.  The Americans are staggeringly rich and, even as early as their civil war, had little trouble keeping their troops supplied.  Britain, particularly in the years after 1919, had very real problems making ends meet, let alone keeping the troops supplied.  We operate on a shoestring and know it.  The Falklands was our most successful war in years, yet it was a very close run thing.  We simply cannot afford to be as blatant as the Americans.

I think that is reflected in our SF too.  Independence Day was followed by Invasion: Earth, a six-episode TV series set in Britain.  Independence Day is blatant; the enemy is clearly visible, merely overwhelmingly powerful.  Invasion: Earth has an enemy who hides in the shadows, at least up until the final episode.  They both represent, too, a very different set of fears.

(9) OVER THE EDGE OF HISTORY. Jeff Somers considers “6 Historical Fiction Novels That Are Almost Fantasy” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith Set in the so-called “Dark Ages,” after Rome abandoned Britain but before the squabbling kingdoms and tribes were unified under one crown, Griffith’s novel tells the true story of the Christian saint Hild, who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby, patron saint of learning. In 7th century Britain, she is the 6-year old niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, and becomes his seer and mystic upon arrival at his court. The reality of otherworldly forces is taken for granted as real in this brutal, violent land, and Griffith plays with the concept expertly as Hild becomes increasingly masterful at sniffing out plots and advising her uncle in ways that often seem magical. Anyone who has been awed by a brilliant mind’s ability to perceive what most cannot will witness that superpower at work in Hild, one of the most complex and deeply-drawn characters to ever appear in a novel—historical, fantasy, or otherwise.

(10) AN OP-ED. David Dubrow, in “David A Riley and the HWA”, criticizes how Horror Writers of America handled the recent controversy. And he’s announced he’ll be publishing an interview with Riley about it.

At times it’s interesting to get under the hood of the writing business and see how the sausage is made, to mix cliched metaphors. This issue happens to concern horror writers, so it has particular meaning for me at this time.

In short, an English horror author named David A Riley was set to be on the jury for the anthology segment of the upcoming Bram Stoker Awards. As it turns out, Riley was once a member of a far-right, nationalist political party in the UK called the National Front. A Tumblr blog was created to curate some of Riley’s online commentary, titled David Andrew Riley Is a Fascist. Wikipedia’s entry on National Front can be found here.

When outraged members protested Riley’s appointment to the jury, Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton issued a tepid statement on Facebook that satisfied nobody. As is so often the case, the most arresting thing wasn’t the statement, but the ensuing discussion. Three distinct elements stood out and are worth examination….

Second, the thread has really big buts. The biggest but is, of course, “I believe in free speech, but…” A clever reader always ignores everything before the but in any statement containing a but. Anyone who puts his big but into the free speech discussion is not on the side of free speech, but is actually in favor of criminalizing speech he finds offensive (see what I did there?). As someone who worked at the bleeding edge of First (and Second) Amendment issues in publishing for over thirteen years, I find the big buts disturbing, but they’re there, and they stink like hell….

(11) THE FIRST RULE OF CHICXULUB. According to the BBC, this is “What really happened when the ‘dino killer’ asteroid struck”.

Where armies of trees once stretched skywards, seemingly escaping from the thickets of ferns and shrubs that clawed at their roots, only scorched trunks remain. Instead of the incessant hum of insect chatter blotting out the sound of ponderous giant dinosaurs, only the occasional flurry of wind pierces the silence. Darkness rules: the rich blues and greens, and occasional yellows and reds that danced in the Sun’s rays have all been wiped out.

This is Earth after a six-mile-wide asteroid smashed into it 66 million years ago.

“In the course of minutes to hours it went from this lush, vibrant world to just absolute silence and nothing,” says Daniel Durda, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. “Especially in the thousands of square miles around the impact site, the slate was just wiped clean.”

Much like putting in all the edge pieces of a jigsaw, scientists have outlined the lasting impacts of the meteor strike. It claimed the lives of more than three-quarters of the animal and plant species on Earth. The most famous casualties were the dinosaurs – although in fact many of them survived in the form of birds….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 18, 1976 — Melissa Joan Hart. She’s not a teenaged witch anymore.

(13) THE STARLOST. Created then disowned by Harlan Ellison, the 1970s series The Starlost can be seen here on YouTube. The link takes you to the entire series for Starlost (16 episodes plus the “sales pitch.”)

Complaining about how the show was dumbed down from the original concept, Ellison took his name off the credits and substituted his Writers Guild alias Cordwainer Bird.

(14) DUTCH TREATS. Wim Crusio reminisces about conversations with writers at the 1990 Worldcon, in “Writing science, writing fiction (I)”.

Synopsis: Whether writing a good novel or a killer scientific article, the process is much the same: What scientists can learn from science fiction authors…

Many years ago, back in 1990, I attended my first Science Fiction Worldcon, called “ConFiction“, in The Hague. An interesting feature that year was the “Dutch Treat”. One could sign up with a group of about 10 people and invite a science fiction writer for lunch and talk with them in that small circle. To me, these “treats” were the highlights of that particular meeting. I did as many of them as I could and have fond memories of speaking with John Brunner, Harry Harrison (a Guest of Honor, accompanied by his charming wife, Joan), Fred Pohl, Brian Aldiss, and Bob Shaw (I think that’s all of them, but I am writing this from memory, so I may have forgotten one). Of course, these conversations spanned many topics and I was not the only participant, but at some point or another I managed to pose the same question to each of them, namely: how do you write a story (be it a short story or a novel in multiple parts). Do you just start, do you write some parts first and only continue when you’re completely done with revising them, or something else entirely?

(15) REJECTION. Editor Sigrid Ellis’ post “On handling publishing rejection” tells things that can’t really be said in rejection letters. Some of them would be encouraging to writers!

Speaking from my work as a short fiction editor, I can 100% genuinely assure you — sometimes your story is fantastic, it’s just not what that venue needs at that time.

I hated writing those rejections. I knew that the writers would take them as a sign that the story wasn’t any good, no matter how much I tried to say “I swear to GOD it’s not you, it’s us! We just need something lighter/darker/fantasy/sf this month I SWEAR!!!”

Of course authors take that hard. Because — and here’s the secret — the generic blow-off letter is very similar to a genuine, personal rejection. That similarity is on PURPOSE. It permits everyone to save face. It allows everyone to walk away, dignity intact. But, then, if you get a personal rejection, you understandably might wonder if this is just the blow-off.

I know. It’s hard, and I know.

But here’s what I always wanted every author to do when they received a rejection, whether standard or personalized…..

(16) STRICTLY ROMANCE. The first romance-only bookstore starts in LA. (Strictly speaking, The Ripped Bodice is in Culver City.)

Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, vastly outselling science fiction, mystery and literary books.

And there’s only one rule for writing a romance – it has to have a happy ending.

Yet the romance genre has long been dismissed as smut or trashy by many in, and out, of the publishing world – a fact that mystifies sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who last month opened the US’s first exclusively romantic fiction bookstore.

Their shop in Los Angeles is called The Ripped Bodice, and the store’s motto is “smart girls read romance”.

(17) DEFINING X. They say it’s the intersection of politics and Marvel comics: “A People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 9: The Mutant Metaphor (Part I)” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A lot of people have discussed the manifold ways in which the “mutant metaphor” is problematic, but what I’m going to argue in this issue is that a big part of the problem with the “mutant metaphor” is that it wasn’t clearly defined from the outset, in part because it wasn’t anywhere close to the dominant thread of X-Men comics.[i] While always an element of the original run, as much time was spent on fighting giant Kirby robots or stopping the likes of Count Nefaria from encasing Washington D.C in a giant crystal bubble. And this was always problematic, because in the shared Marvel Universe, you need to explain why it is that the X-Men are “feared and hated” and must hide beneath the façade of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, whereas the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were treated as celebrities and could live openly on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, respectively.

So what did the “mutant” metaphor mean initially?

One of the best ways to understand how the “mutant metaphor” was originally understood is to look at depictions of anti-mutant prejudice. In the early Lee and Kirby run, anti-mutant prejudice is described almost entirely as a mass phenomenon, a collective hysteria that takes hold of large groups of people. You can see this especially in the way that crowds of humans descend into violence in contexts that you wouldn’t normally expect them. Like sports events:…

(18) SKYWALKERED BACK. J. J. Abrams made a little mistake…. CinemaBlend has the story: “Star Wars: J.J. Abrams Backtracks Statement About Rey’s Parents”.

Earlier, J.J. Abrams sat down with Chris Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival to talk about the director’s work in television and film. During the Q&A segment, a young fan asked the identity of Rey’s parents and Abrams said “they aren’t in Episode VII.” This implies that just about every fan theory is wrong, but Entertainment Weekly caught up with Abrams after the show and he was able to clarify his statement:

What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.

So, Rey’s parents could be somewhere in The Force Awakens as opposed to not being in it at all. That’s a pretty serious backtrack, but it opens the floor back up for fans to come up with theories on the heroine’s lineage. This potentially limits the amount of suspects, but most theories were already focused on Force Awakens characters. There are a few contenders that have risen above the rest, each with there own amount of logic and speculation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Wolfgang Jeschke (1936-2015)

Wolfgang Jeschke in 2008.

Wolfgang Jeschke in 2008.

Wolfgang Jeschke, one of Germany’s most acclaimed science fiction writers and a former Worldcon guest of honor, passed away June 10 at the age of 78.

Jeschke was one of the first members of SFCD (Science Fiction Club Deutschland), founded in 1955. He contributed stories to fanzines and semiprozines, and co-edited a fanzine of his own, Ad Astra, with Peter Noga.

He grew up wanting to be an aircraft designer and to work for NASA, but once out of high school his love of literature proved stronger than those earlier ambitions. He studied philosophy and German literature at a Munich university, then left school to take a job as an assistant editor with Kindlers Literaturelexikon, an encylopedia publisher.

When Kindler proved willing to open a new science fiction paperback line, Jeschke became involved. His work on “Science Fiction für Kenner” (“Science Fiction for Connoisseurs”) brought him to the attention of Germany’s leading sf publisher, Heyne Verlag. In 1973 they hired him as a consultant, and in 1979 made him their sole sf editor.

At Heyne Verlag he was allowed to publish unabridged translations of foreign novels, which up to that time was not the policy. That required marketing the books at a higher price, which was successful because he published important novels like John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar. Heyne Verlag eventually increased its schedule from 4 titles a month in 1973 to 12 a month in 1984. He worked at Heyne until his retirement in 2002.

One of his specialties was editing anthologies — ISFDB lists 71, SF Encyclopedia puts the number at over 100.

He wrote numerous short stories and penned five novels. Most of the novels won top German awards — in 2014 his Dschiheads won the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis and the Kurd Laßwitz Preis for the Best German-language Novel. Altogether he won the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis 18 times in various categories.

He received the Harrison Award from World SF in 1987.

Jeschke was a Guest of Honor at ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon in The Hague.

And last year the European Science Fiction Society inducted him to the society’s Hall of Fame.

The Base on Mars

This story reminds me of when I was duped into making a last-minute addition to the 1990 Worldcon program that turned out to be a lecture about the “Face on Mars”:

Space.com reports a self-described “armchair astronaut” claims to have identified a human (or alien) base on Mars.

David Martines noticed a mysterious rectangular structure that appears to be on the Red Planet’s surface while trolling the planetary surface using Google Mars, a new map program created from compiled satellite images of the planet.

“This is a video of something I discovered on Google Mars quite by accident,” said Martines, the armchair astronaut, in a now-viral YouTube video. “I call it Bio Station Alpha, because I’m just assuming that something lives in it or has lived in it.”

What he’s seeing — a long, pixelated, white object — is located at 49’19.73″N 29 33’06.53″W. “It’s over 700 feet long and 150 feet wide. It looks like it’s a cylinder or made up of cylinders,” says Martines.

However, that intergalactic party pooper, Alfred McEwen, the principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful telescope currently orbiting Mars, says what Martines sees is not on Mars, only on the photo. It’s nothing more than a flaw in the image, a linear streak produced by a cosmic ray interfering with the camera.

The truth is out there – but this time, it’s not that far out.