Pixel Scroll 8/18/19 I Am Most Definitely Not Left Pixeled. That Would Be Sinister

A skeleton Scroll – but there are only so many hours in the day!

(1) DUBLIN 2019 MASQUERADE AWARDS. Issue #8 of the Worldcon daily newzine has the full list of Masquerade award winners — https://dublin2019.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Issue8-final.pdf [PDF file].

(2) WORLDCON ATTENDANCE. The daily newzine reported that when the Registration desk closed Saturday night, the convention had registered a total of 5,554 attendees across all days.

(3) HUGO LOSERS PARTY PROBLEM. Alex Acks and a busload of people invited to the Hugo Losers Party were told they couldn’t get in when they arrived because the place was already filled to capacity. Thread starts here.

(4) GAMERGATE AT 5. Brianna Wu’s op-ed “I Wish I Could Tell You It’s Gotten Better. It Hasn’t” is part of the New York Times retrospective on the fifth anniversary of the start of Gamergate.

When Gamergate began, I was the head of development for my game studio, Giant Spacekat. I watched for months as a mob of trolls harassed women in game development with death threats and rape threats, and violated their privacy until they quit or gave up their careers.

What follows are a selection of quotes detailing threats and harassment claims from the FBI Gamergate report (2017)….

The men in our field were oblivious, saying it was “not an industry issue.” People in power did nothing.

Since industry leaders would not, I knew I had to act.

(5) REMEMBER WHAT VONNEGUT SAID PEOPLE WERE GOOD FOR. Cara Buckley asks “Why Is Hollywood So Scared of Climate Change?” in the New York Times.

Humans ruined everything. They bred too much and choked the life out of the land, air and sea.

And so they must be vaporized by half, or attacked by towering monsters, or vanquished by irate dwellers from the oceans’ polluted depths. Barring that, they face hardscrabble, desperate lives on a once verdant Earth now consumed by ice or drought.

That is how many recent superhero and sci-fi movies — among them the latest Avengers and Godzilla pictures as well as “Aquaman,” “Snowpiercer,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Interstellar” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” — have invoked the climate crisis. They imagine postapocalyptic futures or dystopias where ecological collapse is inevitable, environmentalists are criminals, and eco-mindedness is the driving force of villains.

But these takes are defeatist, critics say, and a growing chorus of voices is urging the entertainment industry to tell more stories that show humans adapting and reforming to ward off the worst climate threats.

“More than ever, they’re missing the mark, often in the same way,” said Michael Svoboda, a writing professor at George Washington University and author at the multimedia site Yale Climate Connections. “Almost none of these films depict a successful transformation of society.”

(6) A MOVIE ABOUT A WRITER. The Austin Chronicle headline reads “To Know Joe Lansdale Is to Love Joe Lansdale” – and there’s a great deal of truth to that.

Documentary films about authors are few and far between. That’s chiefly because the act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard isn’t anyone’s idea of high drama.

Not so with New York-based documentarian and self-professed fangirl Hansi Oppenheimer‘s All Hail the Popcorn King, a tribute to and examination of Joe Lansdale, the Lone Star State’s “writer of the purple rage.” Lansdale’s genre-defying, outrageously prolific curriculum vitae – some 50 novels, 500-plus short stories, comic books, screenplays, and not least his own brand of “martial science,” aka Shen Chuan – makes for an absorbing portrait of an artist whose imagination knows no bounds. Whether it’s on the screen (Bubba Ho-Tep; Sundance TV’s adaptation of Lansdale’s long-running Hap and Leonard series of novels) or on the page, the life story of this 10-time Bram Stoker Award-winning “Champion Mojo Storyteller” from the piney woods of Nacogdoches is every bit as extraordinary as any one of his artistic endeavors.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he will have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows in Outer Limits, he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. He’s well known as an anthologist and SF writer with Space, Time and Nathaniel, a collection of short stories being his first genre publication. I’ll single out Space Opera and other such anthologies as my favorite works by him. His “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” is the basis for A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Much honored, he’s was named a Grand Master by SFWA and inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He also has received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 65. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction, and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics which is just out.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 61. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “”Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story.
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 53. Australian writer whose Singing the Dogstar Blues won an Aurealis Award for best young-adult novel. The Two Pearls of Wisdom which in the States as Eon: Dragoneye Reborn won a Aurealis Award for the Best Fantasy Novel, and was a 2008 James Tiptree, Jr. Award Honor Book as well.
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 52. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I been reading on the Marvel Unlimited app.

(8) CONZEALAND PR#1. If I didn’t mention it before, CoNZealand Progress Report 1 has been posted. It’s a free download for anyone.

(9) REQUIEM. The climate change dunnit: “Iceland’s Okjokull glacier commemorated with plaque”.

Mourners have gathered in Iceland to commemorate the loss of Okjokull, which has died at the age of about 700.

The glacier was officially declared dead in 2014 when it was no longer thick enough to move.

What once was glacier has been reduced to a small patch of ice atop a volcano.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson and former Irish President Mary Robinson attended the ceremony.

After opening remarks by Ms Jakobsdottir, mourners walked up the volcano northeast of the capital Reykjavik to lay a plaque which carries a letter to the future.

“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier,” it reads.

“In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done.

“Only you know if we did it.”

The dedication, written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, ends with the date of the ceremony and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air globally – 415 parts per million (ppm).

(10) HACKING THE WAY TO GLORY. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “How a Norwegian Viking Comedy Producer Hacked Netflix’s Algorithm”.  

…The key to landing on Netflix’s radar, he knew, would be to hack its recommendation engine: get enough people interested in the show early. Then, hopefully, Netflix’s mysterious algorithm would do its thing.

Netflix had given Tangen an Aug. 18, 2017, date for the premiere of Norsemen in its English-language territories (the show shot back-to-back versions in Norwegian and English). Three weeks before launch, he set up a campaign on Facebook, paying for targeted posts and Facebook promotions. The posts were fairly simple — most included one of six short (20- to 25-second) clips of the show and a link, either to the show’s webpage or to media coverage.

They used so-called A/B testing — showing two versions of a campaign to different audiences and selecting the most successful — to fine-tune. The U.S. campaign didn’t cost much — $18,500, which Tangen and his production partners put up themselves — and it was extremely precise.

(11) WHEN GOOD ISN’T ENOUGH. Odyssey Writing Workshops shares unexpected insights about the slushpile in “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 2 of 2)”.

You used to read slush for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. What were some of the things you learned from reading all of those stories? 

The main thing I learned was that there’s a whole lot of “fine” and even “good” writing out there, far more than there is “bad” (in the slush, at least). The competently written stories abounded, and at first it was very hard to turn those down. There was nothing wrong with them, after all. But eventually, I learned to recognize the gulf between competent writing and a great story. There wasn’t one thing that set every great story apart; it wasn’t that clear-cut. It might be a killer voice, a grab-you-by-the-throat opening, an ending that left you feeling downright emotionally wobbly. Every one of those stories had something that provoked a reaction, and studying the difference between the death scene that was merely competent and the one that felt like a knife to the gut helped me start to think about what the true core of my stories was.

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

Daniel Dern’s Thursday Dublin 2019 Photos

Let’s begin with Peter S. Beagle here and post the rest of Daniel Dern’s gallery after the jump —

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle
Continue reading

CoNZealand Attending Membership Rates Rise October 1

CoNZealand has announced that the cost of Adult Attending Memberships will increase from NZ$400 to NZ$425, on October 1, 2019 at 11:59PM (NZT), 7:59AM (EDT),

The costs of other types of memberships will remain the same:

  • Young Adult Attending (born in or after 2000) will remain at NZ$250
  • Unwaged Attending (NZ Residents only) will remain at NZ$225
  • Child Attending (born in or after 2005) will remain at NZ$105
  • Kid in Tow (born in or after 2015) will remain free of cost
  • Supporting Membership rate will remain at NZ$75

CoNZealand Co-chairs, Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler, said, “We’re thrilled to host one of the world’s most prestigious science fiction conventions and the legendary Hugo Awards, here in Aotearoa.

“We expect more than 2000 people to attend from all over the world, making it one of the largest conventions ever held in Wellington.”

CoNZealand (and all WorldCons) is different from other large conventions in that it is not-for-profit and run entirely by volunteers. The convention has a strong focus on participation and sharing of knowledge.

There are no tickets or gate-sales for CoNZealand. Everyone taking part — fans, authors, publishers, artists, dealers, panelists, and everyone else — buys a membership.
 
Attending memberships provide access to all five days of CoNZealand and many events that will take place over that time, including the Masquerade and the Hugo Awards ceremony, as well as panels, talks and workshops.

All members can nominate and vote in the 2020 Hugos, nominate works for the 2021 Hugos, and vote on the site selection of the 2022 WorldCon.

Full information is available on the CoNZealand website: https://conzealand.nz/registration. Memberships are available for immediate purchase from the same link.

“We also have an installment plan that allows you to pay your membership fee over time. The price is locked, based on when you first purchase or upgrade your membership type. So registering before the increase means you can take advantage of the cheaper price, even if you pay in installments.
 
“With a myriad of programme items to choose from, you wouldn’t want to miss it for the world!” Cates and Buehler said.

[Based on a press release.]

Changes in New Zealand Entrance Requirements Start 10/1

The CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) blog has notified readers there will be “New entrance requirements for New Zealand from 1 October”.

Entrance requirements to New Zealand (NZ) are changing on 1 October 2019. Please read these instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to NZ before.

The key change is that New Zealand is introducing a pre-travel electronic authorisation process, called an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel, and will apply to many citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver programme, including the United States of America, the UK and most European countries (full list here).

Once an NZeTA has been obtained, most citizens of Visa Waiver programme countries will be able to travel to NZ as a tourist without a visa for up to 9 months in an 18-month period if they meet certain requirements.

Points to note:

  • Australian citizens do not need an NZeTA.
  • Allow up to 72 hours for processing, although it could take as little as 10 minutes.
  • You may also have to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). The IVL costs NZD $35 and is paid at the same time as the NZeTA.
  • From 1 October 2019, even if you are from a visa waiver country, you must hold an NZeTA before you travel.
  • A NZeTA request costs NZD $9 on the free app, or NZD $12 if completed online.
  • Check that your passport will not expire within 3 months after the date you plan to leave New Zealand.

For more information about the NZ Electronic Travel Authority, visit the NZ Immigration website.

Pixel Scroll 8/7/19 The Files Of Master Scroll And Number Ten Pixel

(1) WHITE AWARD LONGLIST. The James White Award’s 2019 longlisted stories have been posted – titles only, not author names yet: “judging is still going on and we want to preserve anonymity as part of the selection process.” They received 355 submissions.

The James White Award Short Story Competition was established in 2000. It is open only to non-professional writers and offers them the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone,

(2) SF IN CHINA. Derek Künsken’s news-filled “SF in Beijing Report” for Locus Online tells about his visit to Another Planet Science Fiction Convention this past May.

It’s interesting to try to understand where Chinese science fiction conferences are coming from and why this one in particular is being led by a multi-media SF company. I chatted with Ji Shaoting, the CEO of FAA. She’s a former journalist at the Xinhua news Agency who later co-founded Guokr, a massive Chinese-language pop-science website with a few stories, and pop-culture blog, and a fan club called Future Affairs Administration. Her work with FAA and Guokr caught the attention of an investor who wanted to create a repository of IP that could be developed into movies, TV, games, etc., because he “believes in the imagination industry.” FAA transitioned from a fan club into a company whose business goals are publishing SF and developing new Chinese writers.

(3) GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY. The Addams Family animated movie comes to theaters October 11.

Get ready to snap your fingers! The first family of Halloween, the Addams Family, is back on the big screen in the first animated comedy about the kookiest family on the block. Funny, outlandish, and completely iconic, the Addams Family redefines what it means to be a good neighbor.

(4)NEW ZEALAND ENTRANCE CHANGES. The CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) blog has notified readers there will be “New entrance requirements for New Zealand from 1 October”.

Entrance requirements to New Zealand (NZ) are changing on 1 October 2019. Please read these instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to NZ before.

The key change is that New Zealand is introducing a pre-travel electronic authorisation process, called an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel, and will apply to many citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver programme, including the United States of America, the UK and most European countries (full list here)….

There is additional information in the full post.

(5) DON’T WASTE A MOMENT. Heritage Auctions’ Intelligent Collector interviews sff art collector Glynn Crain in  “Amazing Sci-Fi Story”. The Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science-Fiction Collection goes under the hammer August 13-14.

If Glynn Crain has a tip, it is don’t ignore late-night phone calls. Especially if you are a collector.

Crain vividly recalls the evening several years ago that he and his wife came home from the movies. “It was about 10 o’clock and a friend of mine had left a message. ‘Hey Glynn, give me a call when you get a chance.’ I didn’t call him back until the next evening. I didn’t think there was any urgency. Well, there was urgency and when he couldn’t get ahold of me, he picked up the phone and called someone else and the painting sold instantly.”

The friend’s find was a painting by famed illustrator Stanley Meltzoff, who in the 1950s created dozens of covers for novels by science-fiction author Robert Heinlein and others. “[Meltzoff] influenced a host of illustrators that came later,” Crain says, “people like Paul Lehr, Vincent Di Fate, and on and on. He’s revered. It was a painting I would dearly love to have, a fantastic example.

“It’s in a good home now,” says Crain, 63, who knows the collector who acquired the painting. “But that was definitely the one that got away. There’s a saying: ‘You don’t regret the art you buy. You regret the art that you don’t buy.’ For some reason, you thought it was too expensive or you just couldn’t come to terms with the person who had it or the timing wasn’t right or maybe you didn’t have the money. It’s always the things you pass on that you really regret. That was something I learned quickly.”

(6) HOGGING THE LIMELIGHT. Let Alexandra Erin sing it for you —

(7) RED INK. Fortunately, Disney’s been recording billion dollar ticket sales from several hits, because the company took a bath on Dark Phoenix. Yahoo! Finance reports“‘Dark Phoenix’ was a giant bomb that hurt Disney earnings”

And yet, “These improvements were partially offset” by a loss from the 21st Century Fox (21CF) business. And the loss at 21CF was “driven by the performance of ‘Dark Phoenix,’ for which we also recorded a film cost impairment.”

(8) NUTTALL OBIT. Early UK fan Stanley Nuttall (1926-2019) died April 26. He was a former Chairman of the Liverpool Science Fiction Society and the British Interplanetary Society. He was made a Knight of St. Fantony at Cytricon III (1957). Dave Kyle quoted Nuttall quite extensively in his Mimosa article “The Noble and Illustrious Order of St. Fantony”.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 7, 1942 Invisible Agent premiered.
  • August 7, 1953 Spaceways debuted.
  • August 7, 2012 — The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars at Bradbury Landing.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 7, 1933 Jerry Pournelle. Yes, I read his Byte column. And much of his Janissaries series and more than a bit of his CoDominium work as well but I’ll hold that his best work was The Mote in God’s Eye that he co-authored with Niven. The follow-up, The Gripping Hand, wasn’t nearly as good unfortunately. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 83. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art . Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. 
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 62. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence  of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman BeyondJustice Leagueand yes, Duck Dodgers And Tiny Toons as well which are superb, too. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 59. Obviously, Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now, has he done any other genre? Well he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first person video game shooter. 
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 59. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. 
  • Born August 7, 1964 A. J. Hartley, 55. His Steeplejack is not only really well-written but has an interesting conception as he tells here. Though written for the Tor Teen line, I recommend it as it’s a fun series. Well fun as dystopias go. 
  • Born August 7, 1975Charlize Theron, 44. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including 2008), Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Addams Family as Mortica Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.
  • Born August 7, 1978 Cirroc Lofton, 41. Jake Sisko on Deep Space Nine which I still consider the best Trek series to date, though Discovery is now my second favorite series. Lofton btw, like many performers on all of the series, has shown up in the fan-made video series. He’s played Jacob, no last name, on two part “Requiem” of Star Trek: Renegades. Presumably the name change was because he didn’t have permission to appear as his Trek character. And he played Sevar on Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, another such endeavor.  
  • Born August 7, 1979 Eric Johnson, 40. Scifi’s Flash Gordon on the series of that name that they aired from August 10, 2007 to February 8, 2008. Look, I’m used to Flash Gordon series that are nearly a century old so I had no idea no one had been done recently. Anyone see this?

(11) THE DRAGONS HATCH. Fast work! Mere hours after the ballot went live Cora Buhlert posted an epic analysis of the Dragon Awards nominees in “The 2019 Dragon Award Finalists: Mainstream Respectability at Last?”

So the Dragon Awards finally seem to be moving towards what they were supposed to do, namely reward broadly popular works in a variety of genres. Indies and eager self-promoters can still grab slots in the less popular down ballot categories, but except for military science fiction they no longer dominate any one category. Chris Kennedy still managed to grab a few slots for his publishing outfit, but then maybe he is one of the few who still care. Meanwhile, the 20Booksto50K/LMBPN Publishing folks are notable by their complete absence. There are a few puppy/puppy adjacent authors, but most of them have fanbases beyond the puppy bubble. And indeed, Camestros Felapton dug up Brad Torgersen’s reaction to the ballot and a list of which finalists he considers the relevant ones. It’s about the names you’d expect except for Philip Ligon, who’s notable by his absence.

(12) THE ORIGINAL CRASHLANDERS. Meanwhile, could tardigrades be hibernating on the Moon for however long it takes for us to get up there and terraform it? The Guardian speculates “Tardigrades may have survived spacecraft crashing on moon”.

The odds of finding life on the moon have suddenly rocketed skywards. But rather than elusive alien moonlings, the beings in question came from Earth and were spilled across the landscape when a spacecraft crashed into the surface.

The Israeli Beresheet probe was meant to be the first private lander to touch down on the moon. And all was going smoothly until mission controllers lost contact in April as the robotic craft made its way down. Beyond all the technology that was lost in the crash, Beresheet had an unusual cargo: a few thousand tiny tardigrades, the toughest animals on Earth.

(13) LIKE FOSSILIZED SPACESHIPS. In last week’s Science — “Fossils show large predator prowled Cambrian sediments”.

In the summer of 2018, palaeontologists hammering away at 500-million-year-old rocks high in the Canadian Rockies turned up hundreds of specimens of an unknown but evidently hyperabundant creature. With a hand-size carapace that looks like it was sketched out in science fiction concept art,the diggers nicknamed it “the spaceship.” Now, they’ve given the creature its first scientific description and a name: Cambroraster falcatus—after the famed Millennium Falcon starship from Star Wars

(14) DINNER IS SERVED. Contrary to popular belief, carnivorous cats and canines probably didn’t hunt the same limited pool of prey — “Fossils Reveal Why Coyotes Outlived Saber-Toothed Cats” in the Smithsonian.

…Per CNN’s Ashley Strickland, the scientists’ research pinpoints a different explanation for S. fatalis and other giant cats’ demise, positing that factors, including climate change and an uptick in nearby human populations, precipitated the species’ eventual extinction. (The team is collaborating on a second study with experts across six institutions to further refine these causes, Chrissy Sexton notes for Earth.com.)

Smaller predators such as coyotes and grey wolves, on the other hand, weathered harsh conditions by adapting to the times. As DeSantis tells National Geographic’s John Pickrell, “When the large predators and prey go extinct, not only do [the smaller animals] shrink, but they fundamentally change their diet and start scavenging to become the opportunists we know today.”

(15) NOVEL: ENDORSEMENT. Here’s the plug on the cover of JDA’s next book: “’Could be the most dangerous sci-fi novel of my lifetime. Read it before it’s banned.’ – MIlo Yiannopoulos.” Jon is sure I’ll want to pick that up the first day.

(16) GREASED LIGHTNING. “Stonehenge: Neolithic People Moved Enormous Rocks Using Pig Fat for Lubrication, Archaeologist Says”Newsweek has the story.

In a study published in February, researchers examined how the stones were quarried. They suggested the Neolithic people may have constructed a platform to excavate the rocks, then used wooden levers to lower the rocks onto a wooden sledge that could then have been “hauled away with ropes.”

The largest of the stones, known as the sarsen trilithons, are over 25 feet in height and weigh over 30 tons. These were moved from a site 18 miles away.

Researchers have also previously suggested these sledges were greased to help move them along—past experiments show the most efficient way to transport them would be a greased timber slipway. However, physical evidence to back this up was lacking—the logs used for the sledges are unlikely to have been preserved.

In a study published in Antiquity, Shillito, from the U.K.’s Newcastle University, has said fat residues found on pottery near Stonehenge may help back the greased sled theory….

(17) ALL RISE. Surprisingly, it worked: “The ancient Egyptian yeasts being used to bake modern bread”.

The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.

An amateur Egyptologist and one of the inventors of the Xbox game console, he’s also a keen hobby baker who routinely posts pictures of his breadmaking projects on social media.

He has, he admits, made his fair share of “horrible, rock-like loaves”. But this experiment was in a different league altogether.

The first step was to extract the yeast without destroying the vessels where it was held. With the help of archaeologist Dr Serena Love, Mr Blackley gained access to the collections of Egyptian beer- and bread-making vessels held in two museums in the US city of Boston.

(18) POLLY WANNA KLINGON? It could have eaten them for snacks: “Ancient parrot in New Zealand was 1m tall, study says”.

A giant parrot that roamed New Zealand about 19 million years ago had a height of 1m (3ft 2in) – more than half the average height of a human, a new study has found.

The remains of the parrot were found near St Bathans in New Zealand’s southern Otago region.

Given its size, the parrot is believed to have been flightless and carnivorous, unlike most birds today.

…”There are no other giant parrots in the world,” Professor Trevor Worthy, a palaeontologist at Flinders University in Australia and lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Finding one is very significant.”

The Smithsonian calls it “Squawkzilla”.

(19) END OF THE TRIAL. BBC tells how “Franz Kafka papers lost in Europe but reunited in Jerusalem”.

The National Library [Israel] unveiled the documents after years of international searches and legal disputes.

It was left the collection in 1968 by Max Brod, the friend who Kafka had trusted to burn his writings after his death in the 1920s

But Brod refused, later going on to publish them instead.

Brod then left the papers to the National Library of Israel in his will.

However, after he died in 1968 they disappeared – eventually sparking a hunt which led investigators to Germany, Switzerland, and bank vaults in Israel.

It was, the National Library’s spokeswoman Vered Lion-Yerushalmi said, a story which was in itself “Kafkaesque”.

The final batch, which has just been sent to Jerusalem, had spent decades stored in vaults at the headquarters in Zurich of Swiss bank UBS.

(20) COLLATERAL DAMAGE. NPR explains why it’s crackers to slip a wild wasp the dropsy in snide: “New Evidence Shows Popular Pesticides Could Cause Unintended Harm To Insects”.

Consider, for a moment, the circuitous journey of the insecticide called thiamethoxam, on its way to killing a wild wasp.

Alejandro Tena, a researcher at the Valencia Institute of Agricultural Research, in Spain, mixed the chemical into water used to irrigate clementine trees. This is a common practice among citrus farmers. As intended, the tree roots absorbed the insecticide, and it spread throughout the trees’ branches and leaves.

A mealybug landed on the clementine tree, bit through the bark, and began feeding on tree sap underneath. The bug ingested traces of the insecticide. This, in fact, is how thiamethoxam is supposed to work.

Unfortunately, though, the pesticide’s journey wasn’t over. Traces of it showed up in a sticky, sugary, substance called honeydew that the mealybugs excrete. Honeydew is an important food for other insects, such as wasps and hoverflies. In Tena’s experiments, wasps and hoverflies that fed on this contaminated honeydew died in large numbers. Wasps and hoverflies are a fruit grower’s friends, because they help to fight harmful insects.

Tena’s study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is just the latest evidence that a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids, sometimes just called “neonics,” can pose risks to the insect world that are not fully understood.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Retrobites:  Hanna Barbera (1961) CBC” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 1961 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary in which Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera explained how an episode of “The Flintstones” was made.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, 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 8/6/19 In The File, The Mighty File, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

(1) LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE AFFECTS A DRAGON CON HOTEL. CNN reports one person has died of Legionnaires’ disease after staying at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. Further —

Eleven others who stayed at the Sheraton Atlanta have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, while another 61 probable cases have been identified, according to Nancy Nydam, director of communications at Georgia Department of Public Health.

“Probable cases” are people who have symptoms of the disease but have not yet had a laboratory test to confirm the disease — a serious form of noncontagious pneumonia.

“Based on epidemiological evidence we have an outbreak among people who stayed at the (Sheraton Atlanta) during the same time period,” said Nydam. Guests who complained of lung problems and were later diagnosed with Legionnaires’ had attended a convention at the Atlanta hotel in early July.

The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel has been closed since early July while it is being tested to determine whether it is the source of the outbreak. It is one of Dragon Con’s five main hotels, listed as sold out on the con website. Dragon Con begins August 29.

Though the bacterium causing Legionnaires’ has not yet been confirmed at the hotel, Sheraton Atlanta voluntarily shuttered its doors and hired outside experts to conduct testing, Nydam said.

“Sheraton Atlanta remains closed until at least August 11,” Ken Peduzzi, the hotel’s general manager, said in a statement Tuesday. Public health officials and environmental experts are working with the hotel to determine if it is the source of the outbreak, he said.

About one in 10 people who get sick from Legionnaires’ disease will die, a recent government report found.

(2) AURORA AWARDS VOTING BEGINS. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association announces to members that voting for the Aurora Awards is now open, and will continue until September 14.

If you have not yet logged in, or you need to renew your membership, go to the member login page.

If you have not yet been a member of CSFFA, this year or in the past, you can go to the become a member page to join us. Membership costs $10 for the year and is renewed every year in January.

If you just want to see the public ballot, it is here.

The winners will be announced at Can-Con October 18 – 20, 2019 in Ottawa (http://can-con.org/).

(3) WHEATON SUES. The Hollywood Reporter tells why Wheaton filed: “Wil Wheaton Sues Geek & Sundry Over Web Series Profits”.

… Wheaton and his loan-out company Media Dynamics on Monday sued Legendary Geek & Sundry for breach of contract. The actor claims Legendary in 2015 hired him to create, write, executive produce and host a web series called Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana and he’d be paid $50,000 and 50 percent of the net profit from the series. 

Legendary had the exclusive right to distribute and promote the web show, but it was supposed to “consult meaningfully” with Wheaton before doing so, according to the complaint. The actor says Legendary defied that provision and negotiated license agreements with Sinclair Broadcasting, Hulu and Pluto TV without informing him. 

Wheaton expects Legendary has collected significant fees in connection with those deals, and therefore he’s due his share, but says the company won’t let him audit its books. 

Wheaton is seeking at least $100,000 in damages and is asking the court to order that a full accounting be conducted. 

(4) F&SF COVER. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder has unveiled The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Sep/Oct 2019 cover, with art by David A. Hardy.

(5) TO INFINITY AND PITTSBURGH. NBC Sports Craig Calcaterra is among the admirers: “Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove shows off his Infinity Gauntlet glove”.

Yesterday Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove showed off his new glove for Players’ Weekend. And while it was a big hit and made me laugh, in hindsight it seems, I dunno . . . inevitable that someone would go with this model.

(6) MORE ON MACMILLAN LIBRARY EBOOK POLICY. In a CNN opinion piece, Vermont librarian Jessamyn West comments on the ongoing controversy regarding Macmillan’s library ebook purchase policy (first tested by Tor Books): “Libraries are fighting to preserve your right to borrow e-books”.

…Public libraries in the United States purchase a lot of e-books, and circulate e-books a lot. According to the Public Library Association, electronic material circulation in libraries has been expanding at a rate of 30% per year; and public libraries offered over 391 million e-books to their patrons in 2017. Those library users also buy books; over 60% of frequent library users have also bought a book written by an author they first discovered in a library, according to Pew. Libraries offer free display space for books in over 16,000 locations nationwide. Even Macmillan admits that “Library reads are currently 45% of our total digital book reads.” But instead of finding a way to work with libraries on an equitable win-win solution, Macmillan implemented a new and confusing model and blamed libraries for being successful at encouraging people to read their books.

Libraries don’t just pay full price for e-books — we pay more than full price. We don’t just buy one book — in most cases, we buy a lot of books, trying to keep hold lists down to reasonable numbers. We accept renewable purchasing agreements and limits on e-book lending, specifically because we understand that publishing is a business, and that there is value in authors and publishers getting paid for their work. At the same time, most of us are constrained by budgeting rules and high levels of reporting transparency about where your money goes. So, we want the terms to be fair, and we’d prefer a system that wasn’t convoluted….

(7) POST-CONZEALAND NZ TOUR OFFERED. Val and Ron Ontell bid fans “Welcome to our 2020 tour of the North and South islands of New Zealand”:  

Back-to-back non-US Worldcons has presented some unique challenges.  One has been to arrange two tours back-to-back, but we have done it.  With our Ireland tour about to begin, we are pleased to announce that we will be running a tour of both islands of New Zealand in connection with CoNZealand in 2020.  

The proposed itinerary is here [PDF file]

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!, Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series  He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle just the latter. (Died 1947.)
  • Born August 6, 1926 Janet Asimov. Author of some half dozen novels and a fair amount of short fiction on her own, mostly as J.O. Jeppson; co-author with Isaac of the Norby Chronicles. Her Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, came out thirteen years ago. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 6, 1934 Piers Anthony, 85. Ok I’ll admit that I’m not at all familiar with him as comic fantasy isn’t my usual go-to reading. I know he’s popular so I’m going to ask y’all which of his novels would be a great introduction to him. Go ahead and tell which novels I should read. 
  • Born August 6, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 63. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read? 
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 57. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles was as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since-cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one…
  • Born August 6, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 47. I remember the book group I was part of having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways.

(9) DISNEY V. BULLETPROOF BACKPACKS. “Disney Seeks to Shut Down Avenger and Princess-Themed Bulletproof Backpacks “ says The Hollywood Reporter.

…The “Ballistic Shield” recently unveiled by TuffyPacks, a Houston-based manufacturer of bulletproof backpacks, has a brightly colored picture of the Avengers charging headlong into view, with Captain America and his famous shield front and center.

Amid an epidemic of gun violence in America highlighted by recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and Gilroy, Calif., the TuffyPacks shield is designed to keep children safe from handgun bullets.

TuffyPacks rolled out its latest models, which include a “Disney princess” theme featuring Jasmine from Aladdin, Cinderella, Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel from Tangled, less than a month ago. In addition to Disney’s Avengers and Princesses, other themes include “Harry Potter,” “Major League Baseball” and “Camo.” They all retail for $129.

But the new bulletproof backpacks aren’t exactly endorsed by the Walt Disney Co. or Warner Bros. 

“None of these products were authorized by Disney, and we are demanding that those behind this stop using our characters or our other intellectual property to promote sales of their merchandise,” a spokesperson for Disney says in a statement

(10) PLAN B. In a follow-up to a recent Pixel, NPR reports “Amid Protests In Hawaii Against Giant Telescope, Astronomers Look To ‘Plan B'”.

A consortium of scientists hoping to build the world’s largest optical telescope on Hawaii’s tallest peak has applied to site it instead in the Canary Islands amid ongoing protests by native Hawaiians who oppose construction of the instrument on what they consider a sacred volcano.

For weeks, protesters have delayed the start of construction on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea volcano of the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, which astronomers say will have a dozen times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

In a written statement on Monday, TMT Executive Director Ed Stone said that obtaining a permit to build in Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa, was meant as a “‘Plan B’ site … should it not be possible to build in Hawaii.” However, he emphasized that Mauna Kea “remains the preferred site.”

(11) SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS. David Wellington shares “Five Things I Learned Writing The Last Astronaut at Terrible Minds.

Everyone in space is ugly and ready for a fight.

Human bodies were never meant to exist in weightless conditions. All the fluid being pumped around your body right now needs gravity to get it to the right place. Think about hanging upside down from a jungle gym, the blood rushing to your head. How long do you think you could handle living like that? How many days in a row?

In microgravity, all of your internal organs climb up into your chest cavity, because the mass of the Earth isn’t holding them down anymore. This makes it a little hard to breathe. Farts collect inside your intestine until the pressure suddenly forces them out when you least want them to. Fluid builds up in places it shouldn’t, and there’s no good way to pump it back out of your tissues. The most dramatic—and obvious—way this effects you is that your face gets super puffy, distorting your features. And that’s when you learn just how much of living with other people is processing their facial expressions. Since everyone in space looks like they have the mumps, people start to get irritable. Innocent comments get misconstrued, and tempers flare. I spoke with one astronaut who joked that in the future one big career option is going to be “space lawyer”. Because of all the fistfights that are sure to break out during long missions to Mars. Of course, bouncing off other people all the time and getting in their way is inevitable given the close quarters. It might be better than the alternative, though…

(12) NOT WITH A BORROWED TONGUE. But maybe with this one: “Glasgow scientists develop artificial tongue to tackle fake whisky”.

An artificial “tongue” which can taste subtle differences between whiskies could help tackle the counterfeit alcohol trade, according to engineers.

They have built a tiny taster which exploits the properties of gold and aluminium to test differences between the spirits.

The technology can pick up on the subtler distinctions between the same whisky aged in different barrels.

It can tell the the difference between whiskies aged for 12, 15 and 18 years.

Engineers say the tongue “tasted” the differences with greater than 99% accuracy.

Alasdair Clark, of the University of Glasgow’s school of engineering, said: “We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue – like us, it can’t identify the individual chemicals which make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures.

(13) SKOAL! “Archaeologists find ‘Viking drinking hall’ during Orkney dig”reports the BBC. Chip Hitchcock sends the link with a note – “The Orkneys appear to have had many Earl/Jarl Sigurds; AFAICT, the one mentioned here is not the one who died in 1014 fighting for an Irish crown, as Debra Doyle filked in ‘Raven Banner’ back before she became known as a fiction writer.”

Archaeologists have found what could be a Viking drinking hall during a dig in Orkney.

The site, at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, is believed to date back to the 10th Century and may have been used by the chieftain Sigurd.

…Westness is mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga – a historical narrative of the archipelago – as the home of Earl Sigurd, a powerful 12th Century chieftain.

The name Skaill, which is a Norse word for “hall”, suggests the site could have been used for drinking and was high-status.

(14) PLAYING CATCH-UP. The Goodreads Blog does a rundown of “The 24 Most Popular Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels of 2019 (So Far)”. Some were published last year, but other items are things you missed while doing your Hugo reading.

A mercenary seeks a missing child, a dead man’s brain is reactivated, a woman travels to the Mayan underworld, a disease drives its victims mad with false memories. These are just a few of the plots that have captured readers’ attention in this year’s batch of science fiction and fantasy novels.

To identify the books resonating with readers, we looked at sci-fi and fantasy novels published so far this year in the U.S. Then we filtered that list by average rating (everything on this list has at least a 3.5-star rating), number of reader reviews, and additions to readers’ Want to Read shelves (which is how we measure buzz and anticipation).

(15) HABEAS CORPUS. BBC finds out “What happens to a body donated to science?”

A man who donated his mother’s body to what he thought was Alzheimer’s research learned later it was used to test explosives. So what does happen when your body is donated to medical science?

Last week new details of a lawsuit emerged against The Biological Resource Centre in Arizona following an FBI raid in 2014 in which gruesome remains of hundreds of discarded body parts were discovered.

The now closed centre is accused of illegally selling body parts against the donors wishes.

Newly unreleased court documents revealed that families of those whose bodies had been donated to the centre said they believed their relatives remains would be used for medical and scientific research.

Jim Stauffer is one of the multiple plaintiffs suing the centre. He told Phoenix station ABC 15 he believed his mother’s donated body would be used to study Alzheimer’s, a disease she had, but he later found out it was used by the military to examine the effects of explosives.

He says on the paperwork he was given by the centre he specifically ticked ‘no’ when asked if he consented to the body being used to test explosives.

So how does the body donation business operate in the US and what expectations do people have about these facilities?

(16) COURT MUSICIAN. “Simpsons composer Alf Clausen sues Fox following ‘firing'” – BBC has the story.

A man who wrote music for The Simpsons for 27 years is suing its makers for allegedly firing him due to his age.

Composer Alf Clausen, 78, said he was sacked from the show in 2017.

In his claim, Clausen states he was informed that the show was “taking the music in a different direction”.

“This reason was pretextual and false,” the claim reads. “Instead, plaintiff’s unlawful termination was due to perceived disability and age.” The BBC has approached Fox for a comment.

At the time of Clausen’s departure, the show’s bosses stated they “tremendously value[d] Alf Clausen’s contributions” to the show.

According to trade paper Variety, Clausen was replaced by Bleeding Fingers Music, a music production company co-founded by Russell Emanuel, Hans Zimmer and Steve Kofsky.

Clausen’s suit says his replacement “was substantially younger in age, who was not only paid less, but was not disabled”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Destination Moon 1950–On The Set With George Pal 1949” on YouTube is an hour-long show, first broadcast as an episode of City at Night on Los Angeles station KTLA in 1949, from the set of Destination Moon that includes rare interviews with Robert A. Heinlein and Chesley Bonestell.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Eric Franklin, Rich Lynch, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Nina Shepardson, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 6/11/19 When You Have Eliminated the Impixellable, Whatever Remains, However Unfileable, Must Be The Scroll

(1) GET ERIDANI TO THE PRESS. Alex Shvartsman has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of “Eridani’s Crown”.

When Eridani’s parents are murdered and their kingdom is seized by a traitorous duke, she plans to run. After she suffers yet another unendurable loss, the lure of revenge pulls her back.

Eridani’s brilliance as a strategist offers her a path to vengeance and the throne, but success may mean becoming everything she hates. To survive, she must sway religious zealots, outwit ambitious politicians, and confront bloodthirsty warlords, all with few allies and fewer resources. Yet the most menacing obstacle she must overcome is the prophecy uttered by a powerful sorceress:

Everyone you know and trust will come to betray you. 

In the opening hours his supporters have already given $1,009 of the $5,000 goal. The Kickstarter continues until July 11. He invites readers to preview the book —

Download and read an unedited copy of one of my favorite chapters. This is an early chapter, so it’s mostly spoiler-free. Mostly. (Note: The text has been laid out by me. The actual book will be laid out by a pro and therefore will look a lot nicer.)

Read “Forty-Seven Dictums of Warfare” at Daily Science Fiction. This was published as a standalone short story and is expanded within the novel. Spoilers for Teo, a minor but relevant character, as well as some other minor spoilers.

(2) TUNING UP FOR THE MOON “NASA’s return to the moon preparations include building ultimate music playlist — and your help is wanted” – the Virginian-Pilot has the story.

As NASA prepares for a trip back to the moon in 2024, it’s asking for the public’s help building the perfect playlist of songs for its astronauts.

The agency is taking suggestions from around the world for this playlist and you can submit your picks via this this form or on Twitter using the #NASAMoonTunes hashtag.

With the trip to the moon expected to take three days each way, the astronauts could potentially need a fairly robust list. You can hear some of the early choices at thirdrockradio.net.

NASA will accept nominations through June 28, but has a couple rules. First, no songs with “explicit titles, lyrics and themes.” Also, the songs must exist on an official streaming service (meaning sites like YouTube or SoundCloud won’t cut it).

(3) THE INSIDE STORY. A book edition of Nnedi Okorafor’s LaGuardia comics is available for pre-order from Dark Horse.

In an alternate world where aliens have integrated with society, pregnant Nigerian- American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka, has just smuggled an illegal alien plant named Letme Live through LaGuardia International and Interstellar Airport . . . and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding.

She and Letme become part of a community of human and alien immigrants; but as their crusade for equality continues and the birth of her child nears, Future–and her entire world–begins to change.

Written by Nnedi Okorafor, Hugo and Nebula award- winning author and the writer of Marvel’s Shuri.

Numerous sample pages are part of this Publishers Weekly article.

(4) SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW. Behind a semi-permeable paywall, Vanity Fair tells “Everything George R.R. Martin Is Doing Instead of Finishing A Song of Ice and Fire. Here’s the latest addition to the list —

… As confirmed Sunday in Microsoft’s keynote at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3), Martin is currently collaborating with FromSoftware on Elden Ring, his first non-Game of Thrones video game, according to the Verge. FromSoftware has made several acclaimed video games, including Dark Souls, and as a fantasy game Elden Ring is well within Martin’s wheelhouse. But as exciting as the prospect might be for fantasy-game lovers, this will probably mean that Martin’s non-video-game-loving fans will have to wait even longer for the thing they really crave….

(Notwithstanding this Scroll item, File 770’s official position is that George R.R. Martin doesn’t need anyone’s approval to use his time and creative energy however he likes. As are we all,)  

(5) APPOINTMENT WITH DESTINY. And it appears from this NJ.com article that Martin’s schedule now includes attending this ceremony in October: “New Jersey Hall of Fame to induct George R.R. Martin, Martha Stewart, Laurie Hernandez (but not Anthony Bourdain)”.

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the honorees for the class of 2018 at Newark Liberty Airport. The group of 19 inductees includes five women and 17 men (one band is in the mix). They will be honored at a ceremony in Asbury Park this October.

Martin, 70, grew up in Bayonne, and Stewart, 77, grew up in Nutley….

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. Jim C. Hines shares info about his wife’s health setback in “Another Personal Update and Changing Plans”. The hope is —

If all goes well, the doctors are talking about maybe using CAR T-cell therapy after chemo. Ideally, we’re hoping this would be the new “finishing move” against the cancer.

(7) IN THE AUDIENCE. Z has generously posted a set of panel notes from Continiuum 15, the Australian National Convention.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 11, 1927 Kit Pedler. In the mid-1960s, Pedler who was a scientist became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. He would help create the Cybermen. In turn, he wrote three scripts for the series: “The Tenth Planet” (with Gerry Davis), “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (also with Gerry Davis). Pedler and Davis also created and co-wrote Doomwatch which ran for three seasons on the Beeb. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 11, 1929 Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 11, 1933 Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film who cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.)
  • Born June 11, 1945 Adrienne Barbeau, 74. She was in Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites
  • Born June 11, 1959 Hugh Laurie, 60. Best known as House to most folks, his most recent genre role was as Mycroft Holmes in the Holmes and Watson film. He’s has past genre roles in The Borrowers, the Stuart Little franchise, TomorrowlandBlackadder: Back & Forth and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)
  • Born June 11, 1968 Justina Robson, 51. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series. I’ve not started her Natural History series, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LOL VS. LAW. [Item by ULTRAGOTHA.]So, an Attorney named T. Greg Doucette in North Carolina stumbled across the #StandWithVic hashtag and Vic Mignogna’s lawsuit (or, as he calls it, the LOLsuit) and started commenting on how badly it was written and, more generally, why it would probably fail. The resulting thread (into its sixth day!) is both hilarious and an education in defamation, actual malice (a term of art) tortious interference, and really bad lawyering. Behold! The thread starts here.  

(11) HALLOWEEN RECLAIMED. Your Worldcon visit may not stretch quite this long, but Lonely Planet wants you to know that “A new festival will celebrate Ireland as the birthplace of Halloween”.

The Púca festival will take place this year in Ireland’s Ancient East from 31 October to 2 November. It will make Ireland the place to be this Halloween, and it is expected that visitors from around the world will come and celebrate the country’s ancient traditions. According to Irish folklore and more recent archaeological evidence, Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain. Samhain means ‘summer’s end’ in old Irish, and it marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new one.

(12) FAN MAIL. In “Hugo 2019 – Looking at Fan Writers Part 1”, Camestros Felapton considers what the nominees have on offer in the Hugo Voter Packet.

… And having read through the packet entries, I am no closer to voting beyond “I read this person regularly” versus “I don’t read this person much”. All worthy entries but I worry that the packet process gives a distorted view of fan writing as mainly reviews with some critical essays. I don’t want that to be read as disparaging reviews as part of fan writing, they are always going to be a key part of it.

(13) MEXICANX. John Picacio has started a read-along of the #MexicanXInitiative Scrapbook, which is nominated for a Hugo Award. Most of the tweets are not threaded, but the first entry is below, and the next five are: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5).  

Coincidentally, this is the 40th mention of the MexicanXInitiative in posts at File 770.

(14) HUGO CONTENDERS. Doris V. Sutherland provides substantial food for thought in “2019 Hugo Award Reviews: Short Stories” at Women Write About Comics.

Between them, these six stories take us on a trip through fairy tale lands with strange new inhabitants, past an alternate version of the United States’ founding, into a contemporary library staffed by witches, and finally towards a future of dangerous new technology. Some of these lands may be outwardly familiar; but this time, we are seeing them from unusual perspectives, our storytellers ranging from African-American slaves to sororal velociraptors. The overarching theme is undeniable — but the six writers represented here have given that theme a strong set of variations.

(15) THE BAG OF SHAME. The New York Times reports “Canadian retailers shaming plastic bag users”.

Some retailers in Canada have become creative to try and discourage consumers from using plastic bags, including by shaming them.

Shoppers at East West Market in central Vancouver who decide to pay for a plastic bag are given a bag with an embarrassing logo emblazoned on it like “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium,” “Dr. Toews Wart Ointment Wholesale” or “The Colon Care Co-Op.”

(16) STICKING WITH IT. Gastro Obscura shows many examples of “The Surprising, Overlooked Artistry of Fruit Stickers”.

Some of the world’s best, most surprising graphic design can be found in one of the most mundane places: your local supermarket. …When most people encounter these stickers, it’s only to peel them off and try, often unsuccessfully, to flick them into the trash. But Kelly Angood sees something else in them, and peels them carefully off before adding them to her collection of hundreds—spanning countries, decades, and a dizzying variety of fruit.

(17) HIDEOUS PROFITS. The stickers might be the most beautiful part of these fruits and veggies, and yet there’s money to be made selling them: “’Ugly’ Produce Subscription Service Misfits Market Raises $16.5M”.

Today Misfits Market, the New York-based company that sells subscription boxes of irregularly-shaped produce, announced that it had raised a $16.5 million Series A funding round (h/t Techcrunch). Greenoaks Capital led the round.

…So-called “ugly” produce is having a moment. In addition to Misfits Market, companies like Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest also sell cosmetically imperfect and surplus produce through subscription boxes at a reduced cost, while Full Harvest serves the B2B side.

(18) STARING INTO THE MIRROR. Abigail Nussbaum takes on the Black Mirror, ‘Striking Vipers’” episode at Asking the Wrong Questions.

It feels strange to talk about Black Mirror reinventing itself. Even if you leave aside the fact that this is a show in its fifth season (plus two specials), a point where habits tend to be firmly fixed, what would be the impetus for it? From its scandalous premiere in 2011, Black Mirror has always been lauded for being exactly what it is. Even the people who have criticized it—for its cynicism, for its nastiness, for its reflexive distrust of technology—have helped to cement its brand, our idea of what a Black Mirror story is like and can accomplish. And yet, when you finish watching the three episodes of the just-released fifth season, there is no other way to describe them than as a departure. It’s probably the strongest season the show has fielded since its first, but it’s also the least Black Mirror-ish.

(19) SARTORIAL SPLENDOR. Sometimes it’s hard to make the perfect Hugo night fashion statement, then again, Scott Edelman shows that sometimes it’s s snap:

(20) RO, RO, RO YOUR ROBOAT. The Boston Globe shows how “In the future, Amsterdam’s canals might have robot boats”.

In the Amsterdam of the future, you might step out of the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House, or one of the city’s hazy “coffee shops” and hop onto a robot boat to take you to your next destination. Outside the place you’re staying, in the early morning hours, you might hear other robot boats carrying away the trash.

That’s the vision of researchers at MIT, who teamed up several years ago with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.

They hope that one day, “roboats” will busily ply the city’s 165 canals, carrying people, goods, trash, and from time to time forming themselves into floating stages or bridges.

In a paper presented recently at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, the researchers said they had taken another step in their ongoing project: developing the capability for the roboats to identify and connect to docking stations and other boats.

“The aim is to use roboat units to bring new capabilities to life on the water. . . . The new latching mechanism is very important for creating pop-up structures,” Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said in a statement from MIT.

(21) HEAVY METAL. Phys.org says this will be an especially hard piece of cheese: “Mass anomaly detected under the moon’s largest crater”.

A mysterious large mass of material has been discovered beneath the largest crater in our solar system—the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin—and may contain metal from the asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater, according to a Baylor University study.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected,” said lead author Peter B. James,

(22) THOUGHTS ABOUT A COLLECTORS EDITION. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] As I was getting settled in to my new apartment, I saw a Star Trek collectors edition special magazine.  I thought, “Star Trek in a small town in a farm state.  Evidence that Star Trek is widespread and endures.”  I was too busy buying furniture and household items to examine it.  I went back to the supermarket where I thought I remembered seeing it.  Then the other supermarket.  Didn’t even find any magazines, so I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.  Then I found it in the Dollar General store.  But Dollar General is a national chain.  But whether that magazine means Star Trek is in a small town or means Star Trek is national, that magazine tells us something about Star Trek.  And it’s the original series characters on cover, not JJ Abrams ones or the Discovery ones.  As for the magazine itself, it contains nothing new to Trekkies.  And it was $15  –  ouch.  

(23) WINGING IT. Here’s the trailer for Carnival Row, the Cara Delevingne, Orlando Bloom fantasy series destined for Amazon.

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

CoNZealand Will Also Host the 41st NZ National Science Fiction Convention

CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in Wellington from July 29–August 2, 2020, has announced it will also host the 41st New Zealand national science fiction convention (natcon), including the Sir Julius Vogel (SJV) Awards.

Co-chair of CoNZealand Norman Cates said, “By hosting the natcon alongside CoNZealand, we can showcase work by New Zealanders not just to our local members, but also to the wider international fannish community.”

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards recognize excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents. All SJV finalists will be admitted to the SJV Award Ceremony (and at no cost if they are not members of CoNZealand.)

The main difference for the SJV Awards is that voting will take place before CoNZealand, due to practicalities of administration.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand’s (SFFANZ) annual general meeting, the SFFANZ business session and the bidding session for future national NZ conventions will also be held at CoNZealand. All SFFANZ members will be able to attend these SFFANZ events at no cost.

Mr. Cates said, “We acknowledge that attending CoNZealand is more expensive than attending a regular natcon. We are therefore committed to ensuring the important natcon events are accessible to all those who wish to attend.”

“We’re happy to be able to offer SFFANZ members and the New Zealand fan community an opportunity to attend events that are regular fixtures at our natcons,” said Mr Cates.

The vote for hosting rights occurred at Geysercon, the 40th NZ natcon, recently held over Queen’s Birthday Weekend in Rotorua. CoNZealand was the only bidder. Before the vote, a number of sessions were held over the weekend to discuss how CoNZealand might meet its responsibilities should it be selected.

For more information, see www.conzealand.nz.

CoNZealand’s New Membership Rates Take Effect June 17

CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced the following changes in attending membership prices will go into effect after midnight, June 16, 2019 (NZT):

  • Adult Attending Membership rate will increase from NZ$370 to NZ$400
  • Young Adult Attending (born in or after 2000) will increase from NZ$225 to NZ$250
  • Unwaged Attending (NZ Residents only) will remain at NZ$225
  • Child Attending (born in or after 2005) will remain at NZ$105
  • Kid in Tow (born in or after 2015) rate will remain free of cost
  • Supporting Membership rate will remain at NZ$75

The convention takes place in Wellington, New Zealand from July 29-August 2, 2020.

INSTALLMENT PLAN. The convention offers an installment plan that allows membership fees to be paid over time. The price is locked based on when a membership is first purchased or upgraded.

MORE INFORMATION. All classes of CoNZealand membership are available for immediate purchase through the convention website. Full information on membership classes and terms can be found here.

CoNZealand Co-chairs, Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler, said, “We are delighted to be able to host the Worldcon in our home city of Wellington, New Zealand. Joining the Worldcon gives science fiction fans access to every part of this unique event, including a choice of hundreds of programme items, attending the Hugo Award Ceremony, attending the Masquerade, exploring the Art Show or adding to your collection in our Dealers’ Room. Joining now offers you the cheapest rate for attending the event and we can plan more precisely, with better knowledge of our income. It’s a win-win.”

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/19 Cirque Du Scroll

(1) A NICE ROUND NUMBER. Air New Zealand just might take up George R.R. Martin’s suggestion to fly a bunch of his fans to next year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand.

(2) CONZEALAND. Here’s an interview with the 2020 Worldcon chair recorded not long ago, but before the events in the first item.

We are back with our video coverage from Wellygeddon 2019, this time we talked to Norman, one of the awesome people behind CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, which is happening on 29th July – 2nd August 2020, and they are looking for volunteers!

(3) NO CHESSIECON THIS YEAR. Chessiecon 2019 has been cancelled. The convention had been planned for November 29-December 1, 2019 in Baltimore. Refunds are promised. The committee says the con will return in 2020. Chair Joshua Kronengold explained:

None of us wanted this outcome. However, lack of responsiveness from the hotel, combined with information from current and former staff about its current state, has led us inexorably to a lack of confidence that the Red Lion is capable of hosting a convention to our standards. This hotel has been used by first Darkover since 1988 and Chessiecon from the start, but over the years we have received an increasing number of complaints about it, and this year the problems have become untenable. The committee discussed the options in considerable depth before reaching this decision, but see no way to continue for 2019 without sacrificing the quality of our convention. We decided it would be more productive to focus our energies on future years….

(4) THEY’LL BE BACK. Terminator: Dark Fate comes to theatres November 1, 2019.

Welcome to the day after Judgment Day. …Linda Hamilton (“Sarah Connor”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“T-800”) return in their iconic roles in Terminator: Dark Fate, directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and produced by visionary filmmaker James Cameron and David Ellison. …Also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta.

(5) NEXT KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Chuck Wendig and Keith R.A. DeCandido on Wednesday, June 19th.

Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, Zer0es/Invasive, and Wanderers coming in July 2019. He’s also written comics, games, film, and more. He was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, an alum of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and served as the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. He is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and books about writing such as Damn Fine Story. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Keith R.A. DeCandido is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his fiction writing career. His media tie-in fiction — which earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 — covers 33 different universes, from Alien to Zorro. His original work includes stories set in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End and Super City, as well as the somewhat real locales of New York and Key West. His 2019 novels include Mermaid Precinct, the latest in his fantasy police procedural series; Alien: Isolation, based on the classic movie series; and A Furnace Sealed, launching a new urban fantasy series taking place in the Bronx, where Keith currently lives with assorted humans and felines.

The event takes place Wednesday, June 19, starting 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY

(6) DOLLARS AND SENSE. Patch O’Furr winds up a three-part series in “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 3)”.

“Resistance” can mean something unintentional, like friction. It doesn’t necessarily mean a deliberate anti-commercial mission. At the roots of fandom, noncommercialism probably meant doing DIY things the mainstream wasn’t doing. Now, when some furries make a living from business with other fans, you can call it organically indie. That’s not exactly a coordinated alternative, like socialistic co-ops….

How commercialism creeps in and complicates the fandom: There’s an exchange when fandom had roots in the mainstream, built an alternative place, and then influences the mainstream back. To win over fans as consumers, outsiders might tiptoe up to a line between respectable and weird, but not cross it. They may get resistance while the line protects independence. In fandom or out, engaging can be shaky for projects that need serious support (like a movie that needs a budget to get made right.) Worthy projects can fail because you can’t please all the people all of the time. Others can succeed by pleasing people while scamming or exploiting the base that made it possible.

If furry is commercializing, it can be seen in success of furry game devs, Youtubers, or Esports stars (like SonicFox). On the outside, furries show up in commercials/ads and music videos of non-indie artists. Psuedo-fursuits at Walmart or cheap knockoffs at DHGate may rise closer to fandom quality….

(7) AMONG THE STARS. The Harvard University Press does a “Q&A with Jo Dunkley, author of Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide”, which includes a shout-out to a Dublin 2019 guest of honor:

The book features many of the great names we would expect to see—the Galileos and Einsteins—but you also draw attention to unheralded and underappreciated astronomers, many of them women. Is it fair to say that some of the lost remarkable work done over the past 100 years has been done by women, either as individuals or in teams, like the Harvard Computers?

They have had a huge impact. The Harvard Computers in the early twentieth century, including Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and later Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, were responsible for making sense of the different types of stars, understanding how to measure vast distances in the universe, and figuring out what stars are actually made of. Other pioneering women include Vera Rubin, who solidified the evidence for invisible dark matter, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell. She discovered an entirely new type of spinning star that is so dense that a teaspoonful would weigh as much as a mountain.

(8) FANAC FOR THE MASSES. SF fan Louis Russell Chauvenet coined the word “fanzine” in 1940. It has since permeated popular culture – witness  the LA Zine Fest (happening May 26) which encourages people “make a fanzine about a band, artist, activist, organizer, writer…anyone who inspires you!”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 23, 1921 James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in FlightA Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek novels though he pumped them out — nearly ninety all told if I’m reading ISFDB right. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name (Arthur Merlyn). (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Joan Collins, 86. Edith Keeler in the “City of the Edge of Forever” episode — initial script by  Harlan Ellison with rewrites by Gene Roddenberry, Steven W. Carabatsos and D. C. Fontana. I see she’s done a fair amount of other genre work including being Baroness Bibi De Chasseur / Rosy Shlagenheimer in the “The Galatea Affair” of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Siren Lorelei in the “Ring Around the Riddler” and “The Wail of the Siren” episodes of Batman
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 84. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Her Scottish castle set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and just plain fun. I’d also recommend Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  
  • Born May 23, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 40. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November Storms, This Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here.
  • Born May 23, 1986 Ryan Coogler, 33. Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also directed, as he will Black Panther 2. Producer, Space Jam 2 (pre-production) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity comes up with another delightfully dreadful Game of Thrones-themed pun.

(11) THE GODFATHER MEETS THE FAIRY GODMOTHER. The way Steph Post sees it, “Fairy Tales Are Really Just Hard-Boiled Crime Stories” – at CrimeReads.

…Modern crime fiction has nothing on the ingenuity, brutality and sheer bizarreness of the offenses committed in classic fairy tales. Moreover, fairy tales are ruthless. Our contemporary crime novels have the monopoly on moral ambiguity, true, but fairy tales take no prisoners and often offer no redemption. Mercy is not a hallmark of the genre and even the kindest, most benevolent maid-turned-princess isn’t afraid to take out her wicked stepmother.

(12) SYMBOLS OF THE RENAISSANCE. Mlex writes, “I recently had an opportunity to interview Prof. Arielle Saiber, author of Measured Words.” Hear what they had to say in this podcast — “On Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy”.

A conversation with Arielle Saiber, Professor of Romance Languages at Bowdoin College. Covering topics that range from hallucinatory landscapes to Dante’s primum mobile, our conversation touched on the quest for harmony between the computational aspects of math and the physical aspects of writing, printing, and typography. Based on the lives of four scholars who lived during the Italian Renaissance, we explore their use of symbols and codes, their modes of teaching and expression, and the interdisciplinary nature of their work.

(13) THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING. At Death Is Bad, Eneasz Brodski explains his reasons for thinking the “Final Episode of Game of Thrones was kinda good, in a way”.

…But when you take it all together–the amazing series, the precipitous decline, and the absolute travesty of Season Eight… it final episode comes through as a good mood piece. This episode was the final death rattle of a show we once loved. It was a funeral for vision and beauty. Everything was dark and dreary and awful, and even the sunny day at the end was basically a spiteful sun-god laughing at all men’s follies; rather than cheerful.

(14) CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLE (AND EVERY OTHER) MAN. This robotic delivery concept is making news today:

Ford is teaming up with Agility Robotics to explore how the company’s new robot, Digit, can help get packages to your door efficiently with the help of self-driving vehicles. Not only does Digit work collaboratively with self-driving vehicles, but it can also walk up stairs and past unexpected obstacles to get packages straight to your doorstep.

(15) EXECUTIVE CREDENTIALS. BBC recalls “The cat who saved a Japanese rail line”.

Not only did Tama’s sweet nature and photogenic features make her popular with commuters on the Kishigawa railway, but the ‘cat master’ became so famous she was knighted.

On a bright May morning at Japan’s Idakiso train station, a small cat basked in the sun as her photo was taken by a group of tourists before getting a tummy tickle from a toddler. While the white, tan and black kitten purred and meowed in the arms of a visitor, one of the station workers looked on with a grin, interjecting only to gently reposition the cat’s brimmed conductor hat whenever it threatened to slip over her eyes.

“Having her around the station makes everyone happy,” he said, as the cat playfully swiped at a tourist’s iPhone. “I sometimes forget that she is my boss.”

Meet Yontama, the latest in a line of feline stationmasters that has helped save the Kishigawa railway line in Japan’s Wakayama prefecture, a largely mountainous and rural part of the country famous for temple-studded hillsides and sacred pilgrimage trails.

This story began in the late 1990s with a young calico cat called Tama. The kitten lived near Kishi Station – the final of 14 stops on a 14.3km line that connects small communities to Wakayama City, the region’s hub ­– and would frequently hang out by the railway, soaking up affection from commuters.

(16) A MOST ROBORATIVE BEVERAGE. Archeologists anticipated two possible outcomes when they did this — “Israeli researchers brew ‘ancient beer’ with antique yeast”.

Israeli researchers have unveiled a “breakthrough” beer made from ancient yeast up to 5,000 years old.

Researchers from the Antiquities Authority and three Israeli universities extracted six strains of the yeast from old pottery discovered in the Holy Land.

It is believed to be similar to beverages enjoyed by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

The team said it hoped to make the drink available in shops one day.

“I remember that when we first brought out the beer we sat around the table and drank… and I said either we’ll be good or we’ll all be dead in five minutes,” said Aren Maeir, an archaeologist with Bar-Ilan University. “We lived to tell the story”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Anvil on Vimeo, Geriko tells about a young woman downloading her brain in preparations for the afterlife.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Andrew, Keith Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Mlex, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]