Pixel Scroll 4/22/19 Ceci N’est Pas Un Pixel Scroll

(1) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Jimmy Kimmel Live plugs the “Game of Thrones Hotline for Confused Fans.”

There is a lot going on in “Game of Thrones,” and it can be difficult to keep track of what’s what and who’s who. But fortunately help is on the way. Cast members Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, John Bradley, Joe Dempsie, Maisie Williams, Kristian Nairn, Iwan Rheon & Liam Cunningham host a new hotline to assist their confused fans.

(2) RONDO SETS RECORD. Never mind the Dragon Awards – voting just closed in the “17th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards” and would you like to guess how many participants they had? The administrator says —

The final votes are still be tallied, but close to 4,500 people voted this year, a new record.

The results will be posted soon, once the vote is finalized and visual material is prepared for the release.

(3) RELATIVELY LITERATURE. Gautham Shenoy contemplates “Ian McEwan and the (re)invention of science fiction: Why contempt for SF only exposes ignorance” at Factor Daily.

…So in this light, in the context of authors who actively avoid a novel of theirs being described as ‘science fiction’, and given the latest instance of Ian McEwan distancing himself from said label, I’d like to humbly offer a way in which one can tell if it’s an SF novel or not. “Whether a novel is science fiction—or not—depends on who the author is and who reviews it”.

As an advertising professional who has spent almost 20 years in the marketing business and who knows a thing or three about positioning and target audiences, this is perhaps the best description that I think we can arrive at. But where does this leave the reader?

It is up to the individual reader to decide whether he/she/they would rather go by convenient labels than follow interests or read what he/she/they would like to. As a reader – and not just of SF – I am in agreement with the author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, the writer David Mitchell who says that genre snobbery is a bizarre act of self-mutilation because, “It’s convenient to have a science fiction and fantasy section, it’s convenient to have a mainstream literary fiction section, but these should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong…What a shame. All those great books that you’re cutting yourself off from.”

(4) WEIMER DOUBLE-HEADER. Paul Weimer told Facebook readers:

If you thought “Self, I want to hear @PrinceJvstin on a podcast”, today is YOUR day.

You can hear Paul on @SFFAudio talking about @nevalalee’s Astounding – “The SFFaudio Podcast #522 – READALONG: Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee”

-AND-

On @SkiffyandFanty, he talks with their Hugo Finalist crew about Komarr — “Reading Rangers #10: Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold”.

Hello, Rangers! We’re back with everyone’s favorite Space Nancy Drew in Komarr! This time Stina, Paul, and Trish sit around the campfire to talk about women’s agency, budding relationships, whether or not Miles is “dad” material, how good intentions can go horribly, horribly wrong, the politics of isolationism, and more!

(5) KNOWING CAMPBELL. Stanley Schmidt’s guest editorial for Analog “John and Me” takes off from the “The Astounding John W. Campbell, Jr.” panel at last year’s Worldcon moderated by Alec Nevala-Lee. Schmidt’s views of Campbell’s work are very different than those of fellow panelist Robert Silverberg, and he says in closing —

…As for what kind of editing John was doing in his last years, my experience indicates that he was still doing the kinds of things he was famous for, and still doing them very well. It’s unfortunate that some of his personal idiosyncrasies drove away some of his best writers, but that’s a separate question from the quality of his work. Maybe I was fortunate that I didn’t know him personally before I started writing for him, or I might have found it harder, too—though I hope I wouldn’t have let my disagreements with him, even on big issues, make me reject him entirely as a person. I did disagree with his editorials more often in those years than I had earlier, but as far as I knew he was just doing the professional argument-baiting he had always done. Even if I had known that he really held beliefs that I found highly objectionable, I doubt that I would have found that adequate reason to sever all contact with him and his work. A lot of people hold misguided beliefs, but my experience, I think, is a good example of how it’s possible to work productively with somebody, and respect some of his qualities, even while sharply disagreeing with some of his views. Maybe that’s a lesson that a whole lot of people need to relearn about now.

(6) SLF READINGS. The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Deep Dish Reading Series in Chicago resumes on May 9.

(7) DOC WEIR AWARD. The Doc Weir Award is voted on by attendees at the Eastercon and is presented to a fan who has worked hard behind the scenes at conventions or in fandom and deserves recognition. As Fandom.com explains —

The award consists of a silver cup (which must be returned the following year) and a certificate (if someone remembers to create one!)

The cup is engraved with the names of the previous winners, and in fine fannish tradition, it is up to each year’s winner to have their own name engraved at their own cost!

Jamie Scott is the 2019 winner.

Bill Burns of eFanzines has more info on the Doc Weir Award, and a list of all winners from 1963 to 2018 here.

(8) 71ST EASTERCON. Next year’s UK Eastercon, called Concentric, will be in Birmingham at the Hilton Metropole (NEC).

(9) ON THE AIR. Eneasz Brodski offers a “Crash Course in Creating a Podcast” at Death Is Bad.

1. Bona fides

I’m Eneasz Brodski. I produce the Methods of Rationality podcast. It began as me, in my bedroom, with a lot of enthusiasm and a handheld mic after a few hours of research. As of this writing it’s been 6.5 years since I started. I’ve spent over 10,000 hours working on this podcast, I’ve produced over ninety hours of audio fiction spread across 185 episodes, totaling almost 4.5 million downloads. I’ve been a finalist for the Parsec Awards three times. I’ve never done professional audio work, but I have some idea of how to get an amateur podcast going.

(10) WOLFE’S MEANING. In a New Republic article, Jeet Heer declares “Gene Wolfe Was the Proust of Science Fiction”.

…News of Wolfe’s passing spread on the internet on Monday morning, as the first images of the fire at Notre-Dame also started circulating. Many Wolfe fans were struck by the coincidence. “Gene Wolfe is dead and Notre-Dame is engulfed in flames,” the writer Michael Swanwick tweeted. “This is the Devil’s own day.” Swanwick’s grief is understandable. Yet Wolfe himself might offer more consoling counsel. Death and life, his work often showed, are not so much opposites but partners, with the passing of the old being the precondition for the birth of the new. Cathedrals can burn but they can also be rebuilt, and in fact all cathedrals are in a constant state of maintenance and repair….

(11) MARTIN BÖTTCHER OBIT. German film composer Martin Böttcher (1927–2019) died April 19. Cora Buhlert pays tribute — “In Memoriam Martin Böttcher”.

…But Böttcher’s most famous film score would be the one he composed for Horst Wendlandt’s other series, the Winnetou movies of the 1960s, based on Karl May’s adventure novels. Ironically, Martin Böttcher himself had never read a single Winnetou novel, which must make him one of the very few Germans of his generation who did not read Karl May. When someone asked him why he didn’t read the novels, Böttcher answered, “I’ve seen every single Winnetou movie dozens of times. I know how the story goes. I don’t need to read it.”

I’ve written about the Winnetou movies and what they meant for several generations of Germans before, so let’s just listen to Martin Böttcher’s iconic Old Shatterhand theme….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1916 Virginia Heinlein. Editor of Grumbles from the Grave. Also allowed Tramp Royale to be published after her husband’s death. And for some reason allowed longer versions of previously published works Stranger in a Strange Land, The Puppet Masters, and Red Planet to be published. Anyone read these? Used bookstores here frequently had copies of Stranger in a Strange Land so buyers didn’t hold on to it… (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. Bibliographer who was a fan of Weird Tales, Arkham House books, pulps, and pretty much anything in that area. Among his publications are Collector’s Index to Weird Tales (co-written with Fred Cook), Future and Fantastic Worlds: A Bibliographical Retrospective of DAW Books (1972-1987) and Horrors and Unpleasantries: A Bibliographical History and Collector’s Price Guide to Arkham House. He also edited three anthologies which Bowling Green Press printed, to wit Sensuous Science Fiction from the Weird and Spicy PulpsSelected Tales of Grim and Grue from the Horror Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 82. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (previous three films are Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman. I watched the last one, was not impressed.
  • Born April 22, 1946 John Waters, 73. Yes, he did horror films, lots of them. Shall we list them? There’s Multiple ManiacsSuburban GothicExcision, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat and Seed of Chucky. The latter described as a “supernatural black comedy horror film” on Wiki. He also narrates Of Dolls and Murder, a documentary film about a collection of dollhouse crime scenes created in the Forties and society’s collective fascination with death.
  • Born April 22, 1950 Robert Elswit, 69. Cinematographer. An early short film he worked on was a 1982 TV adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story “All Summer in a Day.” He began his career as a visual effects camera operator working on films like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Empire Strikes Back, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He worked on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  • Born April 22, 1959 Brian Taves, 60. Author of The Jules Verne Encyclopedia and Hollywood Presents Jules Verne: The Father of Science Fiction on Screen.  He also wrote Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure: A Critical Biography. Mundy is the author of the Jimgrim / Ramsden stories, a fantasy series. 
  • Born April 22, 1966 Jeffrey Dean Morgan,53. He’s best known for his roles as Dr. Edward Marcase in The Burning Zone, John Winchester on Supernatural, the Comedian in Watchmen, Negan on The Walking Dead  and Harvey Russell in Rampage. He also played Jeb Turnbull in Jonah Hex. And was Thomas Wayne in Batman v. Superman though he was uncredited for it. 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 35. She appeared as the evil sorceress Nimueh in Merlin, and as Lady Christina de Souza in the Doctor Who episode “Planet of the Dead” in the era of the Tenth Doctor. She was also in the comedy film Cockneys vs Zombies as Katy,and played Elanor in Andron. And yes, they rebooted the Bionic Woman series in which she played the lead character Jaime Sommers. It lasted nine episodes. Points to who remembers the original actress without looking her up. 

(13) TV ON THE CHEAP Because Filers may still have time still available for consuming video content – yeah, right — ZDNet points you at the “10 best free video streaming services for cord cutters”.

It’s possible to watch a lot of excellent movies and TV shows for free — if you know how.

When cord-cutting became a thing, it was all about saving money. Today, cord-cutting costs are catching up with cable. Indeed, with Disney Plus coming, with its must-watch package of Marvel Universe, Star Wars, and Disney films, plus internet TV streaming services like AT&T DirecTV Now drastically raising its prices, I can easily see a cord cutter’s total viewing bill crossing the $100-a-month barrier. 

Fortunately, there are some answers.

There’s at least one inexpensive TV-bundling service: Philo TV. At $16 a month for three simultaneous streams of 45 popular channels, it’s a steal. But, if you can live with commercials, there are at least 10 good free streaming services to try.

(14) AFRICAN VOICES. CNN reports “Netflix to launch all girl superhero animation series from Africa”.

As part of its growing acquisition of content from Africa, Netflix has announced its first original African animated series – Mama K’s Team 4.

The series is produced by award-winning South Africa based studio, Triggerfish Animation, and London based kids and family entertainment specialist, CAKE.

Mama K’s Team 4 tells a story of four teenage girls living in a futuristic version of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city. The girls are recruited by an ex-secret agent to save the world.

Designed by Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope, the animation drew inspiration for the visuals from retro 90s hip hop girl groups, Netflix said in a statement announcing the deal….

(15) BY THE BOOK. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Novel finalist reviews.

(16) COMMEMORATIVES. These BrexitStamps are over a year old – but news to me!

(17) NAVIGATING BY THE PUPPY CONSTELLATION. Lou Antonelli has launched a semiprozine for original sff, Sirius Science Fiction, which offers $25 for each original story upon publication.

WHO WE ARE

Sirius Science Fiction is an on-line web site dedicated to publishing original speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, alternate history and horror. We like stories with a sense of wonder and excitement.

In a time when mainstream speculative fiction has been overrun by political correctness and identity politics, we offer a venue free of pretension and ideological litmus tests.

Sirius Science Fiction publishes one original short story a week, plus occasional reprints. Original stories are posted every Friday.

(18) SPOILER WARNING. Well, beware if you’re a fluent Rot-13 speaker. Here’s the surprise ending to “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 8” of Timothy the Talking Cat’s autobiography:

Fbba jr fnj gur Juvgr Pyvssf bs Qbire be ng yrnfg gung’f jung jr nffhzrq gurl jrer ohg rirelobql ryfr jnf fubhgvat “VPR ORET!” Orsber lbh pbhyq fubhg “zna gur yvsr obngf” gur fuvc jnf fvaxvat naq Pryvar Qvba jnf fvatvat naq rirelguvat jnf orpbzvat irel pbashfvat.

(19) YAKETY-YAK. Here’s some art by an Ursula Vernon admirer:

(20) OLD GAME. NPR tells how “For Mongolia’s Ice Shooters, Warmer Winters Mean A Shorter Sports Season”.

On a bright Sunday afternoon in early March, the Tamir River in the steppes of Mongola becomes a bowling alley. Two dozen Mongolian herdsmen have gathered to play musun shagai, known as “ice shooting.” Right now, the ice on the river is perfect. Clear and smooth. The players are cheerful and focused.

Their goal? To send a small copper puck called a zakh down a 93-yard stretch of ice and knock over several cow ankle bones, painted red, none bigger than a golf ball, at the other end. Extra points for hitting the biggest target, made of cow skin.

Together, the targets form a line of tiny red dots that are difficult to see, let alone hit. When that happens, players know because the spectators raise a boisterous cheer.

…This competition, originally scheduled for mid-March, was bumped up by two weeks. “The river was already melting,” Gurvantamir said.

(21) IRON ART. Lots of photos accompany NPR’s feature “The Beauty And The Power Of African Blacksmiths”.

In the fictional world of Marvel’s Black Panther, the Afro-futurist utopia of Wakanda has a secret, almost magical resource: a metal called vibranium. Its mythic ability to store energy elevated vibranium to a central role in the fictional nation’s culture and the metal became part of Wakandan technology, fashion and ceremony.

Of course vibranium isn’t real. But one metal has held a similarly mythic role for over 2,000 years in many cultures across the African continent: iron.

African blacksmiths have been crafting agricultural tools, musical instruments, weapons and symbols of power and prestige out of the raw material for ages. “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths,” a new exhibit at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. showcases Africa’s rich history of ironworking through 225 tools, weapons and adornments from over 100 ethnic groups across Africa.

(22) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES. “SpaceX capsule suffers ‘anomaly’ during tests in Florida”.

SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon capsule suffered an “anomaly” during routine engine tests in Florida.

A US Air Force spokesperson told local press the incident, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, had been contained and no-one had been injured.

An unmanned Crew Dragon successfully flew for the first time last month.

This latest incident, however, could delay plans to launch a manned mission to the International Space Station later this year.

Not since the end of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011 has the US been able to send its own astronauts into orbit. It has had to rely instead on Russia and its Soyuz spacecraft.

(23) A ‘STAN LEE’ MOMENT. Daniel Dern asks:

Wanna get caught up on the Avengers: Endgame related comics… or just overload your eyeballs and brain in general?

Try a month of the Marvel Unlimited streaming comic service for $4.99 (normall $9.99/month, jumps to that if you don’t cancel). ~ 25,000 digitized Marvel comics (ranging from from-the-beginning-of-time through at-least-six-months-old).

Best on, sigh, a tablet that can view a comic full size, like the non-cheap iPad Pro 12.9. (which is why I bought one a year or so ago).

(24) AFTER SHAKESPEARE. This is far beyond what prompted Independence Day’s Wil Smith to demand, “What’s that smell?” “Nathan Lane Cleans Up Broadway’s Biggest Pile of Dead Bodies in ‘Gary: a Sequel to Titus Andronicus’”.

Even before the lushly designed curtain rises on Taylor Mac’s Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, which opens Sunday night on Broadway (at the Booth Theatre, to Aug. 4), the fluids start shooting forth.

A woman appears and begins to spurt blood from her slashed neck. The blood flies out sporadically, and this looks a little precarious if you are in the front two rows. The woman, inevitably raspy of voice given her injury, muses on the nature of sequels and revenge.

Then the curtain rises on one of the great stage designs of this Broadway season. The sight of hundreds of human bodies immediately confronts the audience….

In this banqueting hall turned charnel house, there is the prosaically named Gary (Nathan Lane), a former clown now turned laborer, here to do some tidying up of bodies before the inauguration of a new leader the next day. “Bit more of them than I was expecting,” he says of the bodies. His voice is Cockney. Lane—orbiting in his brilliant way from shy to showman, naughty schoolboy to moral fulcrum—at first seems like a mischief-maker, bored on the job and up for fun.

The fourth wall stays permeable throughout; the actors stare out at us, puzzled at our applause….

(25) DERAILERS. ScreenRant shares “10 Superhero Deleted Scenes That Could Have Changed Everything.”

Deleted scenes in movies are fun to watch but they are even more fun to watch when they are from superhero films. Instead of arguing over which Universe you enjoy more, DC or Marvel, sit back and watch these deleted scenes and let us know what you think in the comments below. Let’s take a look at Screen Rant’s video, ten Superhero Deleted Scenes That Could Have Changed Everything. And we have the plot holes from some of your favorite movies including the X-Men series, Marvel’s Iron Man, the Hugh Jackman film Logan, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice plus many more.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/2/19 Get Me Pixels! Pixels Of Scroller-Man!

(1) HUGO FOR A WAR YEAR. Cora Buhlert provides a very fine walkthrough of today’s Retro nominees in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part I: The 1944 Retro Hugo Awards”.

The most remarkable thing about the 1944 Retro Hugos is that there is no Heinlein. Not a single Heinlein story was nominated for the Retro Hugos this year, not because fandom has suddenly lost its taste for Heinlein, but because Heinlein was too busy in 1943 testing military equipment at the Navy Yard* to write science fiction. Also notable by his absence (except for one fairly obscure story) is Isaac Asimov, who was also too busy testing military equipment at the Navy Yard to write, though unlike Heinlein, Asimov didn’t have a choice, because he was at danger of being drafted and expected (not without justification) that he’d be killed if he were ever taken prisoner, as Alex Nevala-Lee describes in his (excellent) chronicle of the Golden Age and what followed Astounding.

World War II also took other Golden Age stalwarts such as Lester Del Rey (also busily doing something at the Navy Yard) and L. Ron Hubbard (busily shooting at phantom subs off the Mexican coast) out of the game, leaving the field open for other voices and the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists certainly reflect that. This is a good thing, because it means that writers who are not normally recognised by the Retro Hugo Awards (though some of them have been recognised by the regular Hugos) finally get their dues.

(2) CURRENT EVENTS. Then Buhlert follows with extensive analysis of the 2019 Hugo ballot — “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2019 Hugo Awards”. These include comments and concerns about the Best Series category. (How’s it working for you?)

Best Series

This is the third year of the Best Series category and personally, I’m getting really frustrated with it, even though I initially supported the idea. But the way I viewed the Best Series Hugo (and the way it was originally sold) was as a way to award the sort of extremely popular SFF series that are beloved by fans and regularly hit bestseller lists, but whose individual volumes are almost never recognised by the Hugos, because the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts (see Wheel of Time, which was obviously misclassified in Best Novel, but would have been a natural for this category). When the category was announced, I assumed we’d see finalists like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (which might have been nominated, except that the series hasn’t had a new book in years, because Jim Butcher is apparently ill), the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (which actually ended in 2018 and really would have deserved a nod), the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (not to my taste, but obviously beloved by many), etc… But that’s not what we’re seeing in this category. Instead, we’re getting the same finalists we’re seeing elsewhere on the ballot. Perhaps the Hugo electorate aren’t really series readers to the degree initially assumed. Or maybe they just have a really weird taste in series.

(3) CLARIFYING TWEET. Archive of Our Own is up for the Best Related Work Hugo. The facility of the site, not the individual works of fanfic. Did someone need that explained, or were they only amusing themselves? Just in case, someone explained it:

(4) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The dates for the next two LA Vintage Paperback Shows have been set — March 8, 2020 and March 28, 2021.

(5) STRONG WILL. Red Wombat needs to get something done before heading to China:

(6) HEINLEIN BOOK PUBDATE PUSHED BACK. The publisher of the recently recovered Robert A. Heinlein novel titled Six-Six-Six has put out a newsletter with more information about the project:

Work on the new Heinlein work continues, but we are experiencing some production delays and so may have to postpone the release from November, to Spring of 2020…. 

Some questions on the new Heinlein answered:

1. Is Spider Robinson completing an unfinished work by Heinlein? NO. Neither Spider Robinson, nor anyone else has been tasked with completing the book. The book is complete. It did survive in fragments, but the fragments contain the complete book. It is being edited (as is every published book) to eliminate errors, inconsistencies, etc. But the work is 100% Heinlein.

2. Is this the rumored alternate text to The Number of the Beast? Yes. This is the alternate text that Heinlein wrote. There are many reasons that have been suggested as to why this was never published, including certain copyright issues that may have existed at that time (the book uses the characters created by other authors, and the book acts as a homage to a couple of authors Heinlein admired).

3. Is the unpublished version similar to the published version? No, though it largely shares the first one-third of the book, it then becomes a completely different book in every way. In the published version the villains are largely forgotten as the novel evolves into something else completely. The unpublished version is much more of a traditional Heinlein book, with a much more traditional storyline and ending.

4. What is the release date? We are trying to publish it by November, but it appears we may have to delay it till Spring 2020 due to a number of reasons

(7) MCINTYRE TRIBUTE. SFWA grieves for one of sff’s finest people — “In Memoriam – Vonda N. McIntyre”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo noted, “Vonda was one of our best and brightest, and she had three times the heart of most of the people I know. I’m so glad she managed to finish the book she was working on, but her loss hits so many of us who loved her and her words with a hardness that is tough to bear. Be kind to each other today in her honor; I can’t think of any way that would be better to celebrate the goodness and grandeur that she was.”

(8) ON THE FRONT. Joachim Boaz posted an array of McIntyre’s book covers at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations: “Updates: Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019)”.

(9) LEARNING TERRIBLE SECRETS. Kat Hooper reviews Aliette de Bodard at Fantasy Literature: In the Vanisher’s Palace: A fascinating world”.

The best part of In the Vanisher’s Palace is de Bodard’s fascinating world. I want to know more about the Vanishers and how they destroyed Yên’s society. I’d gladly read other stories set in this world. I also loved the “non Euclidean” and “escherscape” palace which at first makes Yên nauseated.

(10) IN COUNTRY. Elitist Book Review’s Vanessa got a kick out of No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne.

If you read KILL THE FARM BOY, then NO COUNTRY FOR OLD GNOMES is the same in tone, silliness, puns, wordplay, and corny jokes. Except this time we don’t see much of Gustave, Grinda the Sand Witch, Fia, and the others; no, this is about the gnomes Offi and Kirsi and their new friends whose quest to stop the halflings turns into a journey fraught with danger.

(11) THE FUTURE OF INFIDELITY. Abigail Nussbaum’s first Strange Horizons review of the year discusses Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman”.

Theory of Bastards is set in the near future, and Schulman does an impressive job (especially for a newcomer to the genre) of constructing a plausible and thought-out portrait of life in the coming decades. She casually drops into the narrative such ideas as a future type of internet in which computer-generated avatars present the news, or a combination implant and gene therapy that turns the deaf bonobo keeper’s mouth into another ear, able to perceive vibrations and translate them into sound. But for the most part, the picture she paints is not encouraging.

(12) HAUNTED PAST. Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton trace “The Birth of the Modern Ghost Story” at CrimeReads.

In December of 1847, John D. Fox moved his family to a house in Hydesville, New York. Although the house had an odd reputation (the previous tenant had vacated because of mysterious sounds), it wasn’t until March of the following year that the family’s troubles began. Before long, daughters Kate and Margaret claimed to be communicating with the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered in the house. The communications took the form of rapping noises in answer to questions asked aloud.

The Fox sisters (along with a third sister, Leah, who acted as their manager) soon parlayed their rapping skills into celebrity. The young ladies held public séances, underwent “tests,” and inspired copycat mediums around the world. By the time the Foxes were debunked, they’d helped to inspire a new religion, Spiritualism, which was popular in both America and Great Britain, that held as its central tenet that the spirits of the dead continued to exist on another plane and could be contacted by human mediums. The Spiritualist movement had no less a figure as its international spokesperson than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wife Jean was also a medium.

It’s no coincidence that the ghost story experienced a rebirth of popularity at about the same time….

(13) REMAINS OF JANRAE FRANK. The Worcester (MA) Telegraph includes Andrew Porter’s photo of the late author in its coverage: “Daughter claims ashes of mother thought buried in pauper’s grave”.

Janice Frank’s body was often a burden to her, and she likely would be unfazed by the fact that her cremated remains have been lying, unclaimed, in a funeral parlor since her untimely death in 2014 at 59.

But the news that she was there stunned her daughter, Sovay Fox, and her daughter’s partner, Hallie Hauer, who both thought she’d been given a pauper’s burial and had given up on ever having possession of her ashes.

Ms. Frank, born in 1954, contracted polio from the vaccine that was designed to prevent it. She was 8 years old, and the disease left her with a deformed leg. She walked her whole life with a cane.

A journalist and author, she told other writers that the best of their craft would come from tapping into their own pain, and it seemed she had a bottomless well of suffering from which she often wrote.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 2, 1914 Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!)  That’s it for filmed genre roles but theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth of course at Sheffield. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 2, 1933 Murray Tinkelman. Illustrator of genre covers during the Seventies. Glyer has a most excellent look at him here in his obituary posting. I’m very fond of his cool, diffuse style of illustration that made it seem as if the subject of the cover was just coming into focus as you looked at them. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 2, 1939 Elliot K. Shorter. Fan, bookseller, and Locus co-editor once upon a time. He was attending conventions by the early Sixties and was a major figure in Sixties and Seventies fandom, and involved in a number of APAs. And as Glyer notes, he spread his larger than life enthusiasm wide as he ‘belonged to the Tolkien Society of America, Hyborean Legion, the City College of New York SF Club, ESFA, Lunarians, Fanoclasts and NESFA.’ He was involved in the Worldcon bid and helped run Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon which came out of the bid. All of this is particularly remarkable as he was one of the very few African-Americans in Sixties fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 2, 1975 Adam Rodriguez, 44. His first genre role is on All Souls, the haunted hospital drama, as Patrick Fortado. He’s also in season three of Roswell as Jesse Esteban Ramirez. 
  • Born April 2, 1978 Scott Lynch, 41. Author of Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is to my utter surprise now at seven with the forthcoming one. I know I read The Lies of Locke Lamora  but who here has read the entire series to date?  And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors? 

(15) STAND BY FOR SADDLE SORES. Who needs to work, anyway? The Wrap gets fans excited to hear that “AMC to Host 59-Hour, 22-Film Marvel Movie Marathon Ahead of ‘Avengers: Endgame’”. So excited they crashed the site trying to get tickets.

Are you devoted enough to watching “Avengers: Endgame” that you’re willing to sacrifice two-and-a-half days of your life hyping up for it?

AMC is hosting yet another Marvel movie marathon leading up to “Endgame,” a 22-film marathon saga that covers every MCU dating back to 2008’s “Iron Man” and concludes with “Endgame.” And just … why? Does anyone honestly need this?

Those who do brave the experience will get special marathon collectibles, content, concession offers and will get to see “Avengers: Endgame” at 5 p.m. local time on April 26, one hour earlier than regular public show times.

(16) CLASSIC ILLUSTRATIONS. The Society of Illustrators in New York hosts its “Masters of the Fantastic” exhibit through June 8. Includes work by many artists including Winsor McCay, Kinuko Y. Craft, Leo and Diane Dillon, Vincent Di  Fate, Ed Emshwiller, Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, and Frank Frazetta.

The art of the fantastic gives vision to our dreaded nightmares and our most fervent hopes. Stories of fantasy and science fiction have risen from the quaint traditions of the tribal storyteller through children’s fables and pulp magazines to dominate today’s cultural mainstream. Through their use on the covers of bestselling books, to their appearance in blockbuster movies, TV shows and videogames, illustrative images play a central role in the appeal and popular acceptance of the fantastic narrative and the Society of Illustrators is pleased to celebrate this rite of passage with an exhibition of more than 100 examples of the genre’s finest artistic works. MASTERS OF THE FANTASIC encompasses a full range of otherworldly images—from dragons, specters and demons, to the far reaches of deep space—in the form of paintings, drawings and sculpture, highlighting the works of the artistic innovators who have given shape and substance to the world’s most imaginative kinds of storytelling.

(17) TO THE MOON. In the March 29 Financial Times, Jan Dalley reviews a virtual reality voyage to the moon by performance artist Laurie Anderson collaborating with Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chien Huang, in an installation currently at Art Basel Hong Kong.

The hateful headset is instantly forgotten as, with gut-lurching suddenness, the ‘floor’ shatters beneath you and you are cast off, a weightless space traveller in the wonder of the galaxy.  And quickly dumped on the surface of the moon, quaking (in my case), to face and explore a series of visions and adventures:  ghost dinosaurs composed of mathematical symbols splinter into nothing as you navigate yourself toward them (one is replaced by a phantom Cadillac); a glittering diamond-shaped mountain sucks you on high among its giant peaks, perilously close; a plethora of swirling, hideous space junk crashes into your visor before you realise you have grown an immensely long pair of arms with which, presumably, to fend off the aggressions of this man-made trash, while behind looms the immense, terrifyingly beautiful sight of Earthrise.  A fathomlessly deep stone rose (remember Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince?), still and lovely, is vast enough to be slowly circled by its own eerie moons.  Later you lose your body completely; suddenly you’re on a donkey ride; an entire galaxy explodes into a vast cosmic firework display.

(18) TWO HEADS ARE BETTER. Bill Nye and Bob Picardo talk all about how advocating for space really works in the February edition of The Planetary Post.

(19) WHAT A JOB. NPR investigates new frontiers in homeowners insurance: “Step 1: Build A House. Step 2: Set It On Fire”.

An hour south of Charlotte, N.C., two forks in the road beyond suburbia, a freshly constructed house sits in a wind tunnel waiting to be set on fire.

To the left of the house is a brick wall with a hole in the middle, made by a 2-by-4 propelled at 70 miles per hour.

In front of the house is a metal staircase five stories tall. At the top are the hail guns.

More than 100 fans begin to turn, slowly at first and then faster. The ember generators flicker on. The fire is about to begin.

The past two years have been particularly costly for insurance companies that are on the hook for billions of dollars in damage done by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other disasters. As these disasters become more frequent and expensive, in part because of climate change, insurers are investing more in this research facility that studies how to protect homes and businesses from destructive wind, water and embers.

The facility in rural South Carolina is run by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a nonprofit research organization funded by U.S. insurance companies….

(20) HOW TO FAIL PHYSICS. “NASA: India’s satellite destruction could endanger ISS”. Chip Hitchcock’s summary: “The perfectly safe test wasn’t. Follow-on to links you didn’t use last week; now there’s hard evidence — but somebody should have figured that a blowup in LEO would send debris up, not just down and sideways.”

Nasa has called India’s destruction of a satellite a “terrible thing” that could threaten the International Space Station (ISS).

The space agency’s chief, Jim Bridenstine, said that the risk of debris colliding with the ISS had risen by 44% over 10 days due to the test.

However he said: “The international space station is still safe. If we need to manoeuvre it we will.”

India is the fourth country to have carried out such a test.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the test – Mission Shakti – with great fanfare on 27 March, saying it had established India as a “space power”.

In an address to employees, Mr Bridenstine sharply criticised the testing of such anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

He said that Nasa had identified 400 pieces of orbital debris and was tracking 60 pieces larger than 10cm in diameter. Twenty-four of those pieces pose a potential risk to the ISS, he said.

…Delhi has insisted it carried out the test in low-earth orbit, at an altitude of 300km (186 miles), to not leave space debris that could collide with the ISS or satellites.

(21) HEAVE AWAY, MR. RICO. As the world of robotics continues to evolve, we’ll soon be seeing more “physically augmented” employees in the workplace: “Exoskeleton Prototypes Sent to U.S. Navy, Special Command”

Sarcos Robotics is responsible for some incredible technology. Last July, we introduced you to the company’s Guardian S, the 4-foot-long inspection robot that uses magnetic tracks to inch along everything from metal walls to oil pipelines.

The Salt Lake City-based company is also responsible for the Guardian GT robot, which allows an operator to remotely control two massive robotic arms on a tracked (or wheeled) robot to perform dangerous inspection and maintenance tasks in the nuclear, oil and gas, and construction industries.

The company also designed a powerful robotic exoskeleton, the Guardian XO, a smooth, battery-powered exoskeleton initially designed to give industrial workers the ability to repeatedly lift 200 pounds without any physical exertion.

As we’ve seen continued industry buy-in, as well as ongoing innovation, Sarcos has started to land some big contracts that could increase the amount of physically augmented workers in the workforce.

In early March, Sarcos partnered with the U.S. Navy to evaluate how workers at naval shipyards could benefit from exoskeletons. Through the deal, shipyard workers could one day use the XO to work with heavy payloads and use power tools. The deal also calls for the Guardian S to potentially inspect confined spaces — for example, in submarines as they are modernized or retired.

(22) WASTE NOT. “NASA Announces Winners of Recycling in Space Challenge”.

Figuring out how to repurpose food packaging, plastic, paper, fabric and other types of waste without gravity to work with is difficult. That’s why NASA, in partnership with NineSigma, created the Recycling in Space Challenge.

The purpose of the challenge is to engage the public to develop methods of processing and feeding trash into a high-temperature reactor. This will help NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems and space technology programs develop trash-to-gas technology that can recycle waste into useful gases.

The NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) crowdsourcing challenge received submissions from participants around the world. A panel of judges evaluated the solutions and selected one first place and two second place winners.

The award recipients are:

·        Aurelian Zapciu, Romania – $10,000 for first place, Waste Pre-Processing Unit

·        Derek McFall, United States – $2,500 for second place, Microgravity Waste Management System

·        Ayman Ragab Ahmed Hamdallah, Egypt – $2,500 for second place, Trash-Gun (T-Gun)

The three winners brought a variety of approaches to the table for the challenge. Zapciu’s submission proposed incorporating space savings features and cam actuated ejectors to move trash through the system, before bringing it to another mechanism to complete the feed into the reactor. McFall’s submission indicated it would use a hopper for solid waste and managed air streams for liquids and gaseous waste. Hamdallah proposed using air jets to compress the trash and cycle it through the system instead of gravity.

 (23) ZOMBIE ALL-STARS. The Dead Don’t Die promises —

— the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat and Tom Waits. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. In Theaters June 14th.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/21/19 I’ll File You, My Pixel, And Your Little Scroll Too!

(1) MCINTYRE. Followers of CaringBridge learned today that Vonda N. McIntyre has finished work on her book. Jane Hawkins announced:

Vonda has finished Curve of the World!  Be ready for a great read in a while! (No clue about publication date or anything like that.)

(2) PEAK OF THEIR CAREERS. Congratulations to Jason Heller (interviewed about his shortlisted book by File 770 in February), Alex Acks, and others whose work of genre interest made the finals of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards. Winners will be announced May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures, Alex Acks (Queen of Swords)
  • While Gods Sleep, L.D. Colter (Tam Lin)
  • Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars, Warren Hammond & Joshua Viola (Hex)

General Nonfiction

  • Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, Jason Heller (Melville House)

Juvenile Literature

  • The Lighthouse Between the Worlds, Melanie Crowder (Atheneum BFYR)
  • Del Toro Moon, Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow)
  • Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue, Jeff Seymour (Putnam)

(3) MARGINALIZED VOICES IN YA. Neither the headline on Katy Waldman’s New Yorker article, “In Y.A., Where Is the Line Between Criticism and Cancel Culture?”, nor the subhead, “When it comes to young-adult novels, what, precisely, is the difference between the marketplace of ideas and a Twitter mob?”, genuinely reflects her approach to the topic she discusses, however, they’re enough to help you decide whether you’d like to dive into the information she’s assembled.

…[A] disparaging Goodreads review, which took issue with Jackson’s treatment of the war and his portrayal of Muslims, had a snowball effect, particularly on Twitter. Eventually, Jackson tweeted a letter of apology to “the Book Community,” stating, “I failed to fully understand the people and the conflict that I set around my characters. I have done a disservice to the history and to the people who suffered.”

The Jackson fracas came just weeks after another début Y.A. author, Amélie Wen Zhao, pulled her novel before it was published, also due to excoriating criticisms of it on Twitter and Goodreads….

(4) DREAMING ABOUT THE DISNEY/FOX MERGER. Firefly fan and artist Luisa Salazar has created new Disney Princess images for Zoe Washburne, Inara Serra, Kaylee Frye, and River Tam.

(5) TWO RUSCH BOOKS IN NEW BUNDLE. “The 2019 Truly Epic Fantasy Bundle”, curated by Kevin J. Anderson, is available for a short time from StoryBundle.

Epic Fantasy is a genre that stretches the boundaries of the quest. Whether a triumph of good vs. evil, or a search for meaning or truth, these stories take readers to a new place.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Thought Gazer by Raymond Bolton
  • MythWorld by James A. Owen
  • Rider’s Revenge Trilogy Book 1: Rider’s Revenge by Alessandra Clarke
  • The Fey Book 1: The Sacrifice by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Set in Stone by Frank Morin

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus TEN more!

  • Shadow Blade by Chris Barili
  • The Taste of Different Dimensions by Alan Dean Foster
  • The Whisper Prince Book 1: Fairmist by Todd Fahnestock
  • The Fey Book 2: The Changeling by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • The First DragonRider by Kevin McLaughlin
  • Accidental Thief by C.J. Davis and Jamie Davis
  • Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests by James A. Hunter, D.J. Bodden, N.H. Paxton & More
  • Half-Bloods Rising by J.T. Williams
  • Nova Dragon – Book One of the Goblin Star by Gama Ray Martinez
  • The Dragon’s Call Book 1: Dragon Sword by Angelique Anderson and Craig A. Price, Jr.

(6) AT THE CORE. The current Nature reports on “X-ray chimneys in the Galactic Centre”. Fermi gets mentioned, no sign of Santa, though.

X-ray observations of the Galactic Centre have uncovered chimney-like structures filled with hot plasma. The discovery might reveal how energy is transported from this central region to far-off locations….

The centre of our Galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole that currently emits electromagnetic radiation extremely weakly, but could have been much more active in the past. Observations of ?-rays have revealed two huge structures known as Fermi bubbles located above and below the Galactic plane1 . These bubbles are filled with highly energetic particles moving at close to the speed of light, which were released from the Galactic Centre a few million years ago. 

(7) TIE-INS. International Association of Media Tie-In Writers President Jonathan Maberry interviews “Pirate King” Chris A. Jackson.

What are you writing now? 

Actually, my latest tie-in gig came right through IAMTW! Thanks, guys! One of our members is not only a tie-in writer himself, but is an editor for Mongoose Publishing, a British game publisher. They’re doing a reboot of the great old SF RPG, Traveller, and the editor, Matthew Sprange, asked the group for anyone familiar with the game who was interested in writing a short story tie-in. I played Traveller a lot back in my college days, and jumped at the chance. I’ve since written four stories for Mongoose and I’m delighted with the experience!

What’s your fan experience been like?

Mixed, but primarily positive. We all get those one-star reviews, right? A few stand out, however, and they are curiously all of the same theme: men who don’t like romance in their fiction. Mostly, I just eye-roll these and let them go. You don’t like romantic elements in your fiction, don’t read mine, but don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong. For the most part, the fan response has been great, and the feedback from my publishers has been wonderful. You know you’re doing your job right when people come up to you at conventions begging for your next novel, and publishers actually solicit you for work without prompting. That, above all else, speaks for itself.

(8) HANRAHAN OBIT. The International Costumers Guild reports Jamie Hanrahan died March 20. He was an early member of S.T.A.R. San Diego, and his other fanac included a term as co-editor of PyroTechnics, “The Now and Then Newsletter of General Technics.” His son Chuck wrote, “There was some kind of cardiac event and despite all heroic attempts, they were unable to restore a cardiac rhythm.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 21, 1902 Gustav Fröhlich. Not widely known before landing the role of Freder Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Though my German be rusty, I see no indication that anything else he did was genre in nature. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 21, 1936 Margaret Mahy. New Zealand author of over a hundred children’s and YA books, some with a strong supernatural bent. She won the Carnegie Medal twice for two of her fantasy novels, The Haunting and for The Changeover, something only seven authors have done in total. (Died 2012,)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 73. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the Time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials.
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 63. She is a consulting editor for Tor and is best known for Making Light, ablog she shares with her husband Patrick. You can blame them for the Puppy target John Scalzi. And she is also one of the regular instructors for the writing workshop Viable Paradise.
  • Born March 21, 1958 Gary Oldman, 61. First genre film role was as Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Next up is the lead role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And, of course, he was Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg In Fifth Element followed by being Lost in Space‘s Dr. Zachary Smith which in turn led to Harry Potter’s Sirius Black and that begat James Gordon in the Batman films. Although some reviewers give him accolades for us as role as Dr. Dennett Norton in the insipid Robocop remake, I will not. Having not seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I can’t say how he is as Dreyfus in it.
  • Born March 21, 1962 Matthew Broderick, 57. Very long, so let’s get started… He started off in WarGames but appeared over the years in LadyhawkeProject XThe Lion King franchise (surely talking lions are genre, aren’t they?), Infinity (anything about Richard Feynman is genre), GodzillaInspector Gadget, the remake of The Stepford WivesThe Tale of Despereaux and Adventure Time.
  • Born March 21, 1966 Michael Carroll, 53. He also writes Judge Dreddfor 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine. He has other genre work such as the New Heroes series (known in the States as the Quantum Prophecy series) and the Pelicos Trilogy which is part noir mystery and part end of all things human as well.
  • Born March 21, 1985 Sonequa Martin-Green, 34. She currently plays Michael Burnham on Discovery. She had a brief recurring role as Tamara in Once Upon a Time and a much longer recurring role on The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams but I’ve never seen her there as zombies hold no interest to me. Well Solomon Grundy does…  and she was in the Shockwave, Darkside film.
  • Born March 21, 1986 Scott Eastwood, 33. Deputy Carl Hartman in Texas Chainsaw 3D (truly horrid idea that) Lieutenant GQ Edwards in Suicide Squad and Nathan Lambert in Pacific Rim: Uprising.

(10) NAME THAT MOON. Gently thieved from John Scalzi’s Twitter feed (like so many good things are), Phil Plait’s tweet leads us to his post on SYFY Wire “Contest: Pick names for Jupiter’s new moons!”

We already have wonderful names for some of Jupiter’s moons, like Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto (the four Galilean moons), Amalthea, Metis, Adrastea, Themisto, Carpo (also the little-known sixth Marx brother), Himalia, Leda… well, you get the picture. There are dozens more.

Now that these newly discovered moons have been confirmed it’s time to name them. In general, the discoverer can suggest names to the International Astronomical Union (or IAU), the keeper of rules and lists of names. They’ll mull things over and decide if the names are up to snuff.

Faced with this, Sheppard and his team have decided to do something fun: Hold a contest where you, Earthling, can suggest names for these tiny worlds*!

All you have to do is submit your suggestions to the team by simply tweeting them to the handle @JupiterLunacy (ha!) on Twitter, either as a text tweet or as a short video, and adding the hashtag #NameJupitersMoons. Cool!

(11) GIVING WRITER’S BLOCK A NEW MEANING. Also tweeted by Scalzi — he’s discovered a use for the toxic waste social media miscreants aim at GRRM:

(12) YMMV. David Doering has a point: “Saw the announcement of a Funko Stan Lee doll on Amazon to be released in April. What made me curious is the delivery options: I do not think the word ‘Expedited’ means what you think it does…”

(13) BARRIE AWARD. Philip Pullman has won the J.M. Barrie lifetime achievement award. The Guardian has the story —

Author of His Dark Materials acclaimed as ‘a magical spinner of yarns’ who appeals to all ages – especially children

(14) SLEUTH. BookRiot has a neat quiz called “Which kickass literary investigator are you?”

(15) TOUGH NEIGHBORHOODS. At Crimereads, Adam Abramowitz discusses how gentrification threatens crime and noir fiction set in big cities, because the dodgy neighborhoods where those stories are set are rapidly vanishing: “Noir in the Era of Gentrification”.

On the New York end, the bus route would take us through the Bronx, the borough announcing itself unfailingly with the calling card of a vehicle sitting squarely on its rims, hard by the side of the highway, engulfed in flames—welcome to the Bronx! Similarly, the arrival at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 41st Street and 8th Avenue brought its own thrills. After all, it was a place described in a 1970 New York Times where “two types of people could be found inside, some are waiting for buses. Others are waiting for death.” Though they left out the pimps waiting for those starry-eyed ingénues from Middle America, those corn-fed easy marks, sad scripts in waiting.

 (16) EUROPE REBUILT. Cora Buhlert’s latest article Galactic Journey is about postwar architecture: “[March 21, 1964] Building the City of the Future upon Ruins: A Look at Postwar Architecture in Germany, Europe and the World”.

…One of my favourite new buildings in my hometown Bremen is the Stadthalle, a multi-purpose arena for exhibitions, sports events and concerts. Designed by Roland Rainer and completed only this year, the Stadthalle is notable by the six concrete struts which jut out of the front of the building and hold both the stands as well as the roof in a design reminiscent of tents and sailing ships.

For the Kongresshalle conference centre in Berlin, built for the Interbau exhibition of 1957, American architect Hugh Stubbins designed a spectacular hyperbolic paraboloid saddle roof, inspired by the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. The people of Berlin quickly nicknamed the organic structure the “pregnant oyster”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How to Write Descriptively” on YouTube, Nalo Hopkinson, in a TedEd talk from 2015, uses the work of Kelly Link, Cornelia Funke, and Tobias Buckell to provide samples of how to write imaginatively.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, JJ, Frank Catalano, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/19 A Pixel Traveling At 0.72C Is Approving a Rotating Scroll Travelling At 0.4C. Where’s The Best Place To Get Souvenir Turtles?

(1) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. Bones isn’t a sff show (most of the time) but the litigation will send ripples throughout all the media empires: “Fox hit with $179-million judgment in dispute over profits from ‘Bones’ TV show” (LA Times).

In a stunning decision that could have widespread repercussions in the TV industry, Fox has been hit with a $178.7-million judgment in its profit participation dispute with the team behind the hit series “Bones.”

The ruling, which was decided in arbitration, excoriated senior Fox executives and criticized the studio and network for its conduct. The decision has also rattled other studios, including the highest echelons of the Walt Disney Co., which is bringing aboard some of the same executives in its $71 billion acquisition of Fox.

Hulu is also at the center of the storm, with accusations that Fox withheld revenues from “Bones” when the series became available for streaming on the digital platform. Fox owns a 30% stake in Hulu, along with other major studios.

… “The Arbitrator is convinced that perjury was committed by the Fox witnesses,” the ruling stated. “Accordingly, if perjury is not reprehensible then reprehensibility has taken on a new meaning.”

(2) STAND AND DELIVER. It’s Facebook’s ambition to supplant Patreon, but how greedy can you get? Very. See ComicsBeat’s roundup on the topic: “Shocker: Details of Facebook’s version of Patreon reveal very creator unfriendly terms”.

Despite some bumps, it’s obvious that Patreon’s subcription model for crowdfunding is a success, to the tune of $500 million in creat or payouts in 2019. With that kind of money floating around, it’s no wonder that some other giant entities – including YouTube and Facebook –  want to tap into the cash stream and launch their own subcription models to support creators.

Facebook’s version, “Fan Subscriptions,” rolled out last year in a very private test, offering to charge fans $4.99 a month for access to exclusive content by their favorite creators.

The program just expanded to offer its services to more content creators. And as Tech Crunch reports, reading the terms reveals, to the surprise of no one, that they are vastly less favorable to content creators than Patreon.

The Tech Crunch article says:

Facebook  will drive a hard bargain with influencers and artists judging by the terms of service for the social network’s Patreon-like Fan Subscriptions feature that lets people pay a monthly fee for access to a creator’s exclusive content. The policy document attained by TechCrunch shows Facebook plans to take up to a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue minus fees, compared to 5 percent by Patreon,  30 percent by YouTube, which covers fees and 50 percent by Twitch.

Facebook also reserves the right to offer free trials to subscriptions that won’t compensate creators. And Facebook demands a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use” creators’ content and “This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.”

(3) NUMBER NINE. [Item by Greg Hullender.] Mike Brown just presented a paper with new results that significantly narrow down the parameters for a hypothetical Planet Nine beyond Neptune. He wrote a few blog posts about it, the most useful of which is probably this one: “version 2.X”.

The upshot is that this should make it easier to find, but it also seems more likely than ever that it’s really out there. Looking at that projected orbit, it’s way, way beyond Neptune. And, yes, it’s massive enough to have “cleared its orbit,” so it’s still a planet, even by the new definition.

In principle, there is so much more that I would like to say, but at this point I think it’s becoming progressively clearer that my coffee supply ran out a couple paragraphs ago, and in an effort to prevent further degradation of the text, I will get straight to the final point: if Planet Nine is smaller, does that mean it’s harder to find with a telescope? Counterintuitively, it’s the opposite. The smaller distance from the sun more than makes up for the diminished surface area. Indeed, if we make naive baseline assumptions about P9’s albedo and adopt the interpolated exoplanet mass-radius relation to estimate P9’s size, Planet Nine turns out to be about one magnitude brighter than we previously thought. Annoyingly, though, the aphelion is very close to (in?) the galactic plane, where confusion due to background stars can readily impede detection. Still, unless we are unlucky and P9 is unexpectedly small and/or dark, it should be within the reach of LSST and comparable telescopes like Subaru. The good news is that in the case of Planet Nine hypothesis, time truly will tell.

(4) OR HE COULD PHONE IT IN. A.V. Club reports “George R.R. Martin turned down a Game Of Thrones cameo for a very good reason”.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that series showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked him to travel all the way from his house in New Mexico to Ireland to film a cameo in one of the final season eight episodes, which, he says, he was “tempted to do.” Unfortunately, he’s a little too busy working on The Winds Of Winter, the next novel in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series–or so he says.

Anyway, if everyone wants this badly enough they can find a studio with a green screen in New Mexico, have Martin perform his bit, and fill in the rest with CGI.

(5) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has put together another Women’s History Month bundle, The 2019 Feminist Futures Bundle. She says –

This one has a great range of stuff in it, with some terrific indie and small press reads. One book I am particularly pleased to have there is K.C. Ball’s collection, which I edited. K.C. was a dear friend whose passing I wrote about here.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities by K.C. Ball
  • Sunspot Jungle by Bill Campbell
  • Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
  • Queen of Roses by Elizabeth McCoy

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SIX more!

  • Albatross by R.A. MacAvoy and Nancy L. Palmer
  • Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer
  • The Child Goddess by Louise Marley
  • Exile by Lisa M. Bradley
  • The Goodall Mutiny by Gretchen Rix
  • Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

(6) MEET THE CAST. SciFiNow has packaged them in one post — The Twilight Zone teaser videos: meet the cast of the West End stage show”.

Reprising their highly praised performances from the Almeida run are Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Adrianna Bertola and Neil Haigh, who will be joined for the West End premiere by Alisha Bailey, Natasha J Barnes, Nicholas Karimi, Dan Crossley, Dyfan Dwyfor, Lauren O’Neill and Matthew Steer.

Here they are, talking about it…

(7) GET YOUR KICKS. Take a break and enjoy Genevieve Valentine’s lively and humorous “Red Carpet Rundown: The 2019 Oscars”.

Glenn Close. This is why some people who can reasonably expect a win still dress simply rather than go for something Fashiony; there’s no shame in seeming surprised you won, but the biggest shared glance-and-nod on this entire red carpet was Glenn Close dressing like the Oscar she was here to collect, and of course she was, because she had it in the bag, because she’d spent the entire red-carpet season in toned-down suits and gowns that looked extremely Career Oscar and reserved and dignified while she collected awards, and she threw it all out the window at the very last turn for this cape with four million beads (four MILLION beads!) to show up and get her statue, and then she didn’t get it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He teamed for one season with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1957 Timothy Spall, 62. Before his more famous roles, he started off in late Sixties horror film Demon Dream as Peck Much later he’ll appear as Rosencrantz In Hamlet. And then we came to him as Mr. Poe in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve yet to see. And of course he’s Peter Pettigrew, nicknamed Wormtail, in the Harry Potter franchise.  And yes, he’s done much, much more than that for genre roles, so do feel free to chastize me for not listing what you think is his best role. 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 59. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits has “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1962 Adam Baldwin, 57. Genre roles include Firefly and its continuation in Serenity as Jayne Cobb. Colonel John Casey in Chuck, Independence Day as Major Mitchell and Mike Slattery in The Last Ship. He’s also done voice work such as Hal Jordan and Jonah Hex on Justice League Unlimited, and Metamorpho on Beware the Batman
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 55. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie. he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for some episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship asTex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1966 Peter Swirski, 53. He’s a academic specialist on the late SF writer and philosopher Stanis?aw Lem. As such, he’s written the usual treatises on him with such titles as Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the FutureLemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World and From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Monty & Doc visit the past to find out how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed only to be surprised…
  • …but Monty still needs to be careful with his eggplant emoji; the Pharaoh might get the wrong idea.

(10) MAINTAIN AN EVEN STRAIN. Another dead author gets his name on a book above the title, though at least they acknowledge he didn’t write it (AP News: “Sequel to Michael Crichton’s ‘Andromeda Strain’ due in fall”). An authorized sequel to The Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson—is due for a November 12 release by HarperCollins.

Its publication marks the 50th anniversary of “The Andromeda Strain,” Crichton’s techno-thriller about scientists fighting a lethal extraterrestrial microorganism. Released when Crichton was just 27, it was later adapted into a feature film and television miniseries, with Ridley Scott among the producers.

“It’s exciting to be shining a spotlight on the world that Michael so brilliantly created and to collaborate with Daniel Wilson,” [his widow,] Sherri Crichton[,] said in a statement. “This novel is for Crichton fans; it’s a celebration of Michael’s universe and a way to introduce him to new generations, and to those discovering his worlds for the first time.”

[…] “As a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton, it’s been an unbelievable honor to revisit the iconic world that he created and to continue this adventure,” Wilson said in a statement.

(11) MARS NEEDS LEGS. Wired UK says that, “Astronauts arriving on Mars won’t be able to walk. VR may save them.” It sounds a bit odd, but (re)training the brain to pay attention to signals from your inner ear is important after a long period of weightlessness.

It lasts around 23 minutes and feels “like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on fire, then crashing really hard.”

That’s how retired Nasa astronaut Ron Garan describes the return from space, strapped into the tight confines of a Soyuz capsule plummeting through the atmosphere back to Earth. The touchdown, slowed by a parachute and – at the very end – six small rockets, is called “soft,” but in reality it’s extremely rough.

We’ve all seen the scenes once the capsule has landed – astronauts and cosmonauts being carried away from Soyuz and carefully lowered into chairs. This is not a precaution; people returning from space literally cannot walk. The reason, however, is not the rough re-entry, but the fact that while in space, they have kind of lost their legs – albeit temporarily.

(12) DON’T YOU WANT SHORT FICTION TO LOVE: Continuing to read with cupidity,  Jason once again points to some February fiction he enjoyed including a possibly odd combination of horror and a Valentine’s Day tale in “Month in Review: February 2019”.

Counting a few stories from the late-breaking Tor.com Short Fiction and the last BCS and Terraform stories from January, February produced 48 stories of 210K words. It also produced the odd results of two recommended dark fantasy/horror stories with no SF or general fantasy and five otherwise noted SF stories with no fantasy (though one could easily be considered yet another sort of dark fantasy/horror). Three of the five come from my two February Tangent reviews of Constellary Tales and InterGalactic Medicine Show, which have some oddness of their own. The former was born recently and I reviewed the second issue. The latter contained the surprising announcement of its death in the editorial. So the gods of short fiction giveth and taketh away.

(13) MORE ON NEBULAS. J.A. Sutherland shines light on sff’s major awards and their different goals. Thread starts here.

Efforts to cast the kerfuffle over the 20BooksTo50K Nebula list as tradpub vs. indie civil war are tripped up by some of the facts.

It has come to our attention that one of our books, THE CONTINUUM by Wendy Nikel, was included in the 20booksto50K “slate” Nebula recommendation list. Neither the author nor anyone involved with World Weaver Press was aware of this list until yesterday, nor do we endorse it. While we would be thrilled to see this novella nominated for any of the major SFF awards, it needs to be nominated on its own merits, not as some sort of statement regarding “indie” vs. “trad pub.” Besides, we are actually a traditional publisher. Just a small one.

And JDA didn’t pay attention to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne saying he has a five book contract with HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, Wijeratne and his co-author are keeping the nomination but considering turning down the award if they win.

Cora Buhlert has an extensive review of what all parties have been saying in “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”. She concludes:

As for the whole “indie versus traditional” rhetoric, honestly, that debate is so 2012. The stigma against self-publishing has long since evaporated. Can’t we move on and accept that indies, traditionally published authors and hybrids are all part of the same genre? The Nebulas aren’t hostile to indie works – the 2014 Best Novel finalist The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata was self-published, at a time when SFWA wasn’t even open to indie writers yet. The Hugos aren’t hostile to indie works  – the novelette “In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire in 2013 was the first self-published finalist and there have been several since.

Besides, most people were initially willing to give 20Booksto50K the benefit of a doubt. The reaction was mostly along the lines of, “Well, they’re new and don’t know the culture and etiquette. They’ll learn and maybe some of the stories are good.” But the huffy responses from some 20Booksto50K Nebula finalists and other members of the group (Lawsuits? Really?) have destroyed a lot of good will, not just towards this group, but also towards indie writers in general. And I really doubt that was the intent.

(14) IF THIS GOES ON. Bernard Lee’s cover art for Parvus Press’ forthcoming collection of original science fiction, IF THIS GOES ON: A Science Fiction Look at the Politics of Our Future, has been accepted into the exhibitions for both the Society of Illustrators East and West annual exhibitions.

Bernard is a California artist and illustrator and painted this cover as oil on canvas. It pictures the Lincoln Memorial lost to the waters of the Chesapeake following rampant, unchecked global warming. Underwater flora rise ominously behind the statue of the Great Emancipator and sandbar sharks, native to the Chesapeake, have taken residence inside the Memorial’s remains.

Said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press, “It was nearly impossible to provide clear direction for the cover of a collection this diverse. But Bernard Lee rose to the challenge and produced a beautiful work of art that’s really a stand-alone contribution to the collection in its own right.”

The Society of Illustrators Exhibition in New York runs through March 9, 2019 as part of “Illustration 61” at the Society of Illustrations Museum in New York, located on 128 East 63rd Street. “Illustration West 57”, the annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles will be exhibiting the artwork in March. IF THIS GOES ON releases on March 5.

(15) NETFLIX. The OA Part II airs March 22.

No one survives alone.

(16) OPEN THE BOOK BOMB BAY DOORS. Following last week’s avalnche of posts by romance writers calling foul on people’s unscrupulous exploitation of Amazon’s business model comes one from Larry Correia defending himself for doing something no one has complained about: “A Note About Book Bombs” [Internet Archive link.] Isn’t there’s a Bible verse “The wicked flee where no man pursueth”?

A Book Bomb is when you get as many people as possible to buy a specific book on a specific day, with the goal of pushing it as high up in the sales rankings as possible on Amazon, with the goal of getting it onto some bestseller lists, so that more new eyeballs see it. This is a great way to expose an author to new readers.

Lots of people do this, but the ones we do here on Monster Hunter Nation tend to work better than average….

I’ve had bitter cranks whine about how this is “gaming the system” because apparently authors are supposed to sit quietly while tastemakers and critics decide what should be popular. No thanks. I’ll game that system then, and appointed myself a tastemaking critic. But a BB ain’t cheating because these are all legit sales using actual money, being purchased by actual human beings, who will hopefully enjoy the book enough to leave a review and purchase the author’s other books…. 

An altruistic effort to share his platform – what’s to complain about that?

(17) DREAM BIG. “OneWeb satellite internet mega-constellation set to fly” – BBC has the story.

London-based start-up OneWeb is set to launch the first six satellites in its multi-billion-pound project to take the internet to every corner of the globe.

The plans could eventually see some 2,000 spacecraft orbiting overhead.

Other companies are also promising so-called mega-constellations, but OneWeb believes it has first-mover advantage with an operational system.

…Assuming these pathfinders perform as expected, OneWeb will then begin the mass rollout of the rest of the constellation towards the end of the year.

This will see Soyuz rockets launching every month, lofting up to 36 satellites at a time.

To provide global internet coverage, there will need to be 648 units in orbit.

(18) SNEAK PREVIEW. “Sir Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust out in October”. Here a clip from the top of the story; also has author commentary.

Sir Philip Pullman’s second instalment in his Book of Dust series, where he returns to the world of His Dark Materials, will be released in October.

Heroine Lyra Silvertongue is back as an adult in The Secret Commonwealth.

Lyra was a baby in the first book in the Book of Dust trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, which was critically acclaimed when it was released in 2017.

The new book is set 20 years after that, and seven years after the end of the His Dark Materials series.

Sir Philip’s publishers have released an extract from the start of the new book which sees Lyra at odds with her daemon Pantalaimon after they unwittingly witness a murder.

The book sees Lyra, now an independent young woman, “forced to navigate a complex and dangerous new world as she searches for an elusive town said to be haunted by daemons.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/19 Those Who Don’t Learn From Pixelry Are Doomed To Rescroll It

(1) RETRO HUGO FAN CATEGORY RESOURCE. Joe Siclari and the FANAC Fan History Project are providing support to Dublin 2019 Retro Hugo voters:

The nomination forms have gone out for Dublin 2019’s Retro Hugo awards for works published in 1943. It’s often very difficult to find materials relevant to the Fan Categories for the Retros, but we have a solution!  FANAC.ORG has assembled the list of fanzines published in 1943, with links to those available on line. We’ve made several hundred fanzines available, and more will be added if they become available at http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1943.html .

Here you’ll find fanzines from 4sj, Doc Lowndes, J. Michael Rosenblum, Bob Tucker, Jack Speer, Larry Shaw, F. T. Laney and other stalwarts of 1943 fandom (and also Claude Degler). There are genzines, FAPAzines, newszines, and letterzines. There is fannish artwork, and fannish poetry.  There’s even the first publication of Lovecraft’s “Funghi From Yuggoth”. Fanzines which meet the issue requirements for Best Fanzine are so marked. 

Hugo nominations continue through March 15, 2019.

(2) THE SHOW WON’T GO ON. Scott M. Roberts, the editor of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalatic Medicine Show #67 announces the end. The magazine will publish two more issues before shutting down.

I am sad to report that Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show will be pulling up stakes in June 2019. I’ve been a reader since the first issue, and on the staff since 2009. My kids have grown up with the magazine in their lives, and I am fiercely proud of all that we’ve accomplished.

I am also very, very pleased with the state of science fiction and fantasy in general today. When IGMS first rolled onto the scene, online magazines were few and far between. Now the main mode of consumption of short SFF literature is online in one form or another (podcasts, e-issues, webpages, etc). And the voices of SFF today are vibrant, strident, beckoning, beseeching, screeching, awesome myriads. We have been a part of that polysymphonic wonder. We were one of the first to tell our truest lies on the brave digital frontier.

(3) RAVING ABOUT RAVENS. Adri Joy is an early bird, sharing her reaction to Leckie’s new novel: “Microreview [Book]: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie” at Nerds of a Feather.

Ah, ravens. They’re smart, they’re beaky, they come in murders, and many in our world are better Londoners than I am. They’re also the subject of more than their share of both folklore and, through that, fantasy interest. Whether they’re harbingers of death, guides to the spirit world, speakers of prophecy and truth or otherworldly tricksters, there’s a lot of mileage in these feathery next-level dinosaurs. Now, in Ann Leckie’s first novel-length foray into fantasy, a raven god is front and centre, alongside a cast whose human members often play second fiddle to their divine counterparts.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you’ll share spring rolls with Ruthanna Emrys and him in episode 89 of his podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Ruthanna Emrys

Ruthanna Emrys is best known for the H. P. Lovecraft-inspired Innsmouth Legacy series, which so far includes the 2014 novella “The Litany of Earth,” followed up by the novels Winter Tide in 2017 and Deep Roots in 2018. Her fiction has also appeared in such magazines as Strange Horizons and Analog Science Fiction and Fact, plus anthologies such as Timelines: Stories Inspired by H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction.

We discussed the ways in which her first exposure to Lovecraft was through pop culture references rather than the original texts, the reasons for the recent rise of Lovecraft recontextualisation, how tea with Jo Walton convinced her she was right to go ahead and write her first Innsmouth Legacy novel, why she ascribes to the tenets of the burgeoning Hopepunk movement, her love of writing X-Men fanfic and her hatred of gastropods, how she recovered from a college professor’s unconstructive criticism, the time George Takei was nice to her at age 8 after she attended her first con in costume on the wrong day, and much more.

(5) NEW AWARD HONORS SUE GRAFTON. Mystery Writers of America has established the Sue Grafton Memorial Award for the best novel in a series with a female protagonist. (Do I hear Puppies howling?) The announcement is here.

Thirty-five years ago, Sue Grafton launched one of the most acclaimed and celebrated mystery series of all time with A is for Alibi, and with it created the model of the modern female detective with Kinsey Millhone, a feisty, whip-smart woman who is not above breaking the rules to solve a case or save a life. Like her fictional alter ego, Grafton was a true original, a model for every woman who has ever struck out on her own independent way.

Sue Grafton passed away on December 28, 2017, but she and Kinsey will be remembered as international icons and treasured by millions of readers across the world. Sue was adored throughout the reading world, the publishing industry, and was a longtime and beloved member of MWA, serving as MWA President in 1994 and was the recipient of three Edgar nominations as well as the Grand Master Award in 2009. G.P. Putnam’s Sons is partnering with MWA to create the Sue Grafton Memorial Award honoring the Best Novel in a Series featuring a female protagonist in a series that also has the hallmarks of Sue’s writing and Kinsey’s character: a woman with quirks but also with a sense of herself, with empathy but also with savvy, intelligence, and wit.

The inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award will be presented at the Edgar Awards on April 25. The nominees are:

  • Lisa Black, Perish – Kensington
  • Sara Paretsky, Shell Game, HarperCollins – William Morrow
  • Victoria Thompson, City of Secrets, Penguin Random House – Berkley
  • Charles Todd, A Forgotten Place, HarperCollins – William Morrow
  • Jacqueline Winspear, To Die But Once, HarperCollins – Harper

(6) A VANCE MYSTERY. At Criminal Element, Hector Dejean reviews The Man in the Cage by John Holbrook Vance, better known as Jack Vance, which won the 1961 Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel, even though it wasn’t his first novel in either genre:  “Jack Vance’s Edgar Award: A Mystery Novel Wrapped in an Enigma”.

Vance was extremely talented and prolific, publishing his first book, The Dying Earth, in 1950, and his last work of fiction, Lurulu, in 2004. In 1957, he published his first mystery novel, Take My Face, using the pen name Peter Held. Later that year, he published another novel, titled either Isle of Peril or Bird Island, under the name Alan Wade. (Different versions exist, and according to some Vance-ologists the book doesn’t really qualify as a crime novel.) A year later, he wrote his first mystery to be published under his full name, John Holbrook Vance. That book’s title, according to sources on the Internet, was Strange People, Queer Notions.

This is where things get odd. Following a trip to Morocco—Vance was as impressive a traveler as he was a writer—Vance wrote a mystery set in North Africa; John Holbrook Vance was the name on this one as well. The book was The Man in the Cage, and it’s quite good—I would even say it’s a standout book, especially for readers curious about Vance who might not care for the conventions of sci-fi and fantasy. The MWA agreed, and in 1961 they gave it an award, making Vance’s awards-shelf one of the more diverse of any American author.

Awarding Vance isn’t the weird part. It’s that the book won the Best First Novel by an American Author award, even though it was not Vance’s first book, nor even his first mystery….

Dejean then goes on to laud the merits of the story itself.

(7) CONTRASTING EDGARS AND HUGOS. Criminal Element is also doing a retrospective of all Edgar Award winners for best novel: “The Edgar Awards Revisited”. Cora Buhlert sent the link with a comment: “It’s an interesting project and I was struck by how many women won Edgar Awards in the early years (the first five winners are four women and Raymond Chandler), which is very different from the early years of the Hugos.”

(8) CRIMEMASTER AWARD. The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has awarded its 2019 CrimeMaster Award to Lisa Gardner.

Storied crime author Lisa Gardner writes award-winning novels that are addictive. Thankfully for us, there are more than 30 of them, with some 22 million copies in print. That’s more copies than the entire population of New England, where she and her family live.

(9) TAKE COVER. Regarding the #CopyPasteCris plagiarism scandal, Nora Roberts is one of the authors whose work was appropriated, and as Kristine Kathryn Rusch phrased it —

Nora’s particularly outspoken about what she has gone through, and I have to admit, I snorted tea when I read this comment from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

When I saw “Nora Roberts” [on this list] my first thought was, “Everybody, get underground NOW.”

Today Roberts posted her appropriately furious response: “Plagiarism Then and Now”.

I personally don’t believe fiction writers should use ghosts. Celebrity auto-biographies and such, that’s the job. If a fiction writer uses a ghost to help flesh out a book, or hires a book doctor to whip a book into shape, I strongly believe that person should be acknowledged–on the book.

The reader deserves honesty. The reader’s entitled to know she’s buying the author’s–the one whose name’s on the book–work, not somebody that writer hired for speed or convenience. And I’ll state here as I have before. If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.

I do not, never have, never will comprehend how someone can feel any pride claiming a book they didn’t write.

…A creature like Serruyo can have a decent run, make some money–make some best-seller lists–before she (or he, or they, who knows?) is found out. And the pain, the scars, the emotional turmoil this causes to the victims of plagiarism never ends.

Serruyo won’t be the only one using that underbelly, exploiting the lack of real guardrails on Amazon and other sites for a few bucks.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, all of this. I’m not nearly done. Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders. Then we’re going to salt the freaking earth….

(10) IT’S OFFICIAL. I learned today that Iowa declared November 2018 to be Speculative Poetry Month. Impressive!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! Was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok he’s not genre but damn if he’s fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929James Hong, 90. Though not genre, became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee In  Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize him in Colossus: The Forbin Project, he’s Dr. Chin, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. its back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1930 Edward Hoch. The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of detective fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine  of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best-known work suggests my question really isn’t relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011)
  • Born February 22, 1944 Tucker Smallwood, 75. Space: Above and Beyond as Commodore Ross is by far my favorite genre role by him. I think his first genre appearance was as President Mazabuka on Get Smart followed by one-offs on Babylon 5, Bio-Dome, X-Files, Contact, Millennium, NightManVoyager, Seven Days, The Others, The Invisible Man, The Chronicle, Mirror Man and Spectres. After that he landed a role on Enterprise playingXindi-Primate Councilor for an extended period of one season. 
  • Born February 22, 1956 Philip Kerr. Though better known for his Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s, his write several genre friendly works. A Philosophical Investigation is set in a near future UK where it is possible to test for violent sociopathy and the consequences of that. The other is Children of the Lamp, a more upbeat YA series set in London involving djinns and rather obviously young children. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 22, 1959 Kyle MacLachlan, 60. Genre-wise known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks  and its weird film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Paul Atreides in Dune, Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, Clifford Vandercave In The Flintstones, Calvin Zabo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet (OK not genre, just weird).
  • Born February 22, 1968 Jeri Ryan, 51. Seven of Nine of course but she’s had other genre roles including being Juliet Stewart  in Dark Skies, an UFO conspiracy theory series. She’s showed up in  briefly roles in Warehouse 13, The Sentinel, Helix and had recently showed up in the Arrowverse.
  • Born February 22, 1972 Duane Swierczynski,47. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. In her monthly column for The Paris Review, YA of Yore, Frankie Thomas takes a second look at the books that defined a generation.

What Was It About Animorphs?

For children’s books in particular it was an era of quantity over quality, an unremitting glut. In those pre–Harry Potter days, a typical “series” meant hundreds of books churned out on a monthly basis by teams of frantic ghostwriters. You could order them by the pound. Often they came with a free bracelet or trinket, as if resorting to bribery. There were 181 Sweet Valley High books, 233 Goosebumps books, and so many Baby-Sitters Club books that their publisher, Scholastic, has never made the full number public (by my count it was at least 345 if you include all the spin-offs)—and they were all, to a certain degree, disposable crap.

But then there was Animorphs….

Harry Potter and the Secret Gay Love Story

The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was published in the summer of 2003, by which point Harry was fifteen and those of us growing up along with him had discovered sex. The Harry Potter years also happened to coincide with the Wild West era of the internet and the rise of abstinence-only sex education; as a result, for better or for worse, erotic Harry Potter fan fiction played a major and under-discussed role in millennial sexual development. This was especially true if you were queer—or, not to put too fine a point on it, if you were me—and had picked up on the secret gay love story that existed between the lines of Rowling’s text.

I refer, of course, to Sirius and Lupin….

(14) THEY’RE MADE OF MEAT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A team from Sweden’s Lund University is searching for the elusive Borkborkborkino particle, which would be proof that the Chef field exists. Or at least I guess that’s what they were doing at this year’s “Stupid Hackathon Sweden” event. Gizmodo has the story: “Particle Physicists Build a Meatball Collider.”

A team of particle physicists wanted “to unveil the deepest secrets of the Universe—and of Swedish cuisine.” So, naturally, they built a Swedish meatball collider.

The MEAL, or MEatball AcceLerator collaboration, could answer important questions such as why we’re made of meatballs, rather than anti-meatballs, or whether we can create dark meatballs. The proof-of-concept experiment was a success.

[…] they’ve got lofty goals for their next steps, according to the project’s slides: “Get funding for a meatball—anti-meatball collider that has the circumference of the solar system and meatballs the size of the Earth.”

(15) VIRGIN TEST. “Virgin test flight blasts to edge of space” — Reuters has video coverage.

A Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Friday soared to the edge of space with a test passenger successfully for the first time, nudging British billionaire Richard Branson’s company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

(16) ONLY THE BEGINNING.It will take two months to land, but it’s on its way: “Israel Launches Spacecraft To The Moon” – NPR has the story. (See also, BBC: “Israel’s Beresheet Moon mission gets under way”.)

An Israeli spacecraft blasted off this evening, aiming to land on the moon. And if the mission is successful, it would make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface – after the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China.

It would also be the first privately initiated project to do so, although it was assisted by government partners, as Nature notes. “The feat seems set to kick off a new era of lunar exploration – one in which national space agencies work alongside private industries to investigate and exploit the moon and its resources,” Nature added.

The spacecraft, which is called Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”), was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

It was initially conceived as part of Google’s challenge called the Google Lunar XPRIZE for a private company to complete a soft landing on the moon. The Israeli non-profit SpaceIL was one of five international teams in the running for the $20 million grand prize; Google announced last year that the contest would end with no winner because no team was prepared to launch by the deadline. Still, the Israeli engineers at SpaceIL continued to work toward landing a spacecraft on the moon.

(17) A SCALZI CONSPIRACY FONDLY REMEMBERED. John Scalzi’s classic prank showed up in the background of a recent Big Bang Theory episode.

Mayim Bialik photographed the items in Wil Wheaton’s TV set apartment on Big Bang Theory and got him to explain their significance.

Wil and I both grew up on camera, and we also are geeky nerds who share a passion for discussing our mental illness struggles publicly. We are very similar, and it’s so refreshing to work with him.

The set that was used as his living room was really special because it contained actual items from Wil’s real life house. I was so delighted to see artwork, fan art, and memorabilia from his life—and I was so delighted that I photographed all of it and asked him to describe each item.

Wil Wheaton received the painting in 2008 and when it was finally revealed to him who had sent it, he wrote about the experience in “evil and awesome (but mostly awesome)”.

Without knowing that I needed a reminder not to take this stuff so seriously, without knowing – in April, when the wheels were set into motion – that around the beginning of August I’d be feeling pretty lousy about getting cut from the show I look forward to attending every year, John did what good friends do: pick you up when you’re down, and provide reality checks when you need them the most.

(18) UNFORGETTABLE. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books with Simon Ings”:

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

John Christopher got under my skin as a child and has never let me go. Kids’ books like The Prince in Waiting fed me those nostalgic and valedictory notes you need if you’re going to write into the British fantasy tradition. Much, much later I discovered the man had teeth: Death of Grass is a sort of John-Wyndham-without-the-apology tale about how personal virtue actually works in a disintegrating culture. Kindness is not a virtue. It is a sentiment. There, I’ve said it. But JC said it first.

(19) OSCAR-WORTHY FX. Here are three BBC posts with behind-the-scenes info about movie special effects.

The film Solo: A Star Wars Story has been Oscar nominated in the best visual effects category.

Visual effects supervisor Julian Foddy of ILM London spoke to Al Moloney about some of the challenges the company faced in helping to make the film.

The film Christopher Robin has been Oscar nominated in the best visual effects category.

Visual effects supervisor Chris Lawrence spoke to Al Moloney about some of the challenges the company faced in helping to make the film.

Robert Rodriguez’s latest stint as director is on the sci-fi blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel.

The film was written and produced by James Cameron, who originally planned to direct it.

Rodriguez says he made the movie for half the price Cameron would have, but with a reported budget of $200m (£154m), it still cost considerably more than your average indie-flick.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak speaks to the director and cast of the film, to find out more.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/19 I Said I Didn’t Get Nothin’, I Had To Pay Fifty Dollars And Scroll Up The Pixels

(1) BAD BUSINESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees disaster in store for those who will do anything to make their Amazon hamster wheel turn faster: “Business Musings: Ghostwriting, Plagiarism, and The Latest Scandal”.

… They will be dealing with this for months, maybe years. And I sure wish them the best.

That’s bad enough, but what this mess has revealed is that ugly underbelly of indie that I noticed a while ago, and decided to run away from.

This ghostwriting thing? It’s a disaster waiting to happen. For everyone. I expected the problems to be contractual with the writers who hired the ghostwriters, particularly the dumbfucks who don’t have a contract or any kind of written agreement with their ghostwriters.

I did not expect plagiarism although, given the contracts I’ve seen from traditional publishers, I should have.

I mean, what’s to stop the ghostwriters from plagiarizing? It’s not their name on the manuscript. And I know some of the writers who are hiring ghostwriters. Those writers aren’t vetting the books. They’re not doing the kind of due diligence that college professors and high school teachers do to see if the writing is plagiarized. (There are programs that search for similar wording all over the internet.)

The writers are not overseeing the projects at all, and are doing it for all the wrong reasons. These writers want more product out, to goose Amazon algorithms, not to get the best stories possible to their readers. …

(2) 20BOOKSTO50K AND THE NEBULAS. Cora Buhlert covers a range of topics in “Some Thoughts on the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”, such as the professional connections of some newer nominees.

…Which brings us to the other notable trend on this year’s Nebula shortlist, namely the surprising amount of indie writers nominated. There are six indie writers and five indie books/stories nominated for Nebula Awards this year, which is a lot more than we’ve seen before. Now the SFWA opened membership to self-published writers a few years ago, so it was only to be expected that we would start to see more indie books on the Nebula shortlist (disclaimer: I’m not an SFWA member).

I also guess another disclaimer is in order: I don’t hate indie authors. I’m one myself, for heaven’t sake. I also promote a lot of indie books, both on this blog and over at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I included Jonathan P. Brazee’s nominated novella Fire Ant in one of my new release round-ups last year – at any rate, the title rings a bell.

Because what’s really notable is how different the five indie finalists are from the rest of the finalists. For starters, the indie finalists are all space opera with strong military leanings or outright military science fiction. Again, this isn’t too surprising, since a whole lot of indie SFF writers, including the massively successful ones who are most likely to be SFWA members (there is a minimum income threshold for SFWA eligibility), write space opera and military SF.

Furthermore, most (five of six – I’m not sure about Rhett C. Bruno) of the indie Nebula finalists are affiliated with the 20Booksto50K group founded by Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, 20Booksto50K started out as a Facebook group for business minded indie writers (the name implies that 20 books should bring you an income of 50000 USD), but by now they are also holding regular writers’ conferences. 20Booksto50K is a huge group – I think they have twenty thousand members or something – and because of their business focus, a lot of financially successful indie writers, i.e. the ones also most likely to join SFWA, are members….

Camestros Felapton shares screenshots and asks more questions in “The Nebulas & 20booksto50, not-a-nudge-nudge-slate”.

Cora notes the presence of several nominees associated with the 20booksto50 group. I discussed this group last year after they received several finalist positions in the Dragon Awards. The group is centered on helping indie writers write and promote their books and notable figures in the group are Craig Martelle, Michael Anderle and Jonathan Brazee.

So was there a 20bboksto50 slate? Well, they have a closed Facebook group but it’s not a particularly mysterious group or highly exclusive and I don’t thing it is a secret (but perhaps not well known) that they’ve had a recommended reading list for the Nebulas for a few years.

Here’s a screenshot of the start of the relevant post this year (I’ll post the text further on)….

(3) BALLANTINE TRIBUTE. TheSmithsonian Magazine says   “Sci-Fi Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Betty Ballantine”. Subheading: “‘Introverted and quiet’ Betty, who ran the editorial side of the Ballantine publishing companies, deserves her due for changing the industry.”

The next time you pick up a science fiction novel, you should take a moment to thank Betty Ballantine for helping bring the genre into the mainstream.

Ballantine and her husband, Ian, were two halves of a pioneering team that revolutionized the publishing industry in the 20th century. The couple was inseparable, says Beth Meacham, executive editor at science fiction and fantasy publishing company Tor Books, but it’s the “boisterous and charismatic” Ian, who ran the promotional and sales side of their publishing companies, who frequently is given the majority credit for their success. The “introverted and quiet” Betty, who ran the editorial side of the business, also deserves her due for changing the industry.

Meacham calls Betty, who died at her home in Bearsville, New York, at the age of 99 earlier this month, a “quiet magician, working behind the scenes with the writers.”

(4) CON CRISIS SOLVED. LibertyCon sold all its memberships, like they do, and everything was great. Then suddenly they had to find a new venue.

On Wednesday, 20 Feb 2019, at 2pm we received a call that no convention wants to get. Due to delays in their construction schedule, we will not be able to hold LibertyCon at the Read House this year on May 31 – June 2, 2019. After some very late night and early morning discussions and negotiations, we are relieved to say that we have a new home for the next several years, but with so many conventions using Chattanooga as a destination, we could not get the same weekend.

LibertyCon will now be held at the Marriott and the Chattanooga Convention Center on June 28 – 30, 2019.

(5) COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD AWARDS. Genre took home some of the honors — Variety: “‘Black Panther,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ ‘Westworld’ Among Costume Designers Guild Winners”.

“Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24.

[…] In the television categories, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” took the contemporary award, while Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and HBO’s “Westworld” won for period and sci-fi/fantasy, respectively. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” took the reality-competition prize.

“The Wife” star Glenn Close received the organization’s Spotlight Award, while Ryan Murphy received the Distinguished Collaborator Award. “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter received lifetime achievement recognition.

(6) NETFLIX WILL AIR MOVIE BASED ON LIU CIXIN STORY. SYFY Wire: “Netflix bringing Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth to the U.S.”

China’s film industry is truly making itself known around the globe these days. Especially now that Netflix has announced it’s snagged the rights to release The Wandering Earth, the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster touted as the country’s first mainstream sci-fi hit on par with the production quality and thrills of a Hollywood tentpole.

[…] Netflix hasn’t issued a release date for the film on its platform, but considering the streaming giant doesn’t operate in China due to local regulations favoring homegrown streaming services, it marks a major acquisition for the U.S. streaming service.

(7) HEADLINER. What does it mean, anyway, for an AI to be dubbed “female”? “China Unveils the World’s First Female AI News Anchor”Futurism.com has the story.

On Tuesday, China’s state-run news outlet Xinhua announced the latest addition to its news team: Xin Xiaomeng.

But Xin never went to journalism school — or any school — because “she” is not a real person. Instead, she’s an artificial intelligence created by Xinhua and search engine Sogou — making her the world’s first female AI news anchor.

Xin will make her professional debut during March’s Two Sessions, the name given to a pair of annual meetings featuring China’s legislature and its top political advisory body.

She won’t be the only AI news anchor covering the event either….

(8) HULKAMANIA. From WIRED we learn: “Thor Is Going To Be Playing the Hulk”. Hulk Hogan, that is.

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time once again for The Monitor, WIRED’s look at all the news coming out of the world of pop culture. What’s hot today? Well, Chris Hemsworth is set to play Hulk Hogan, The Wandering Earth is coming to Netflix, and Idris Elba is set to host Saturday Night Live. Pretty steamy, amirite?

(9) NEW MOON. Nature reports they discovered a “A new moon for Neptune”:

Hippocamp, a previously undetected moon of Neptune, has a peculiar location and a tiny size relative to the planet’s other inner moons, which suggests a violent history for the region within 100,000 kilometres of the planet.

The discovery of Hippocamp is intriguing because of the moon’s relationship to Proteus and the role that both objects might have had in the history of Neptune’s inner system. Hippocamp, the smallest known inner moon of Neptune, orbits just 12,000 km inside the orbit of Proteus, the planet’s largest inner moon (Fig. 1). Both moons migrate outwards because of gravitational interactions with Neptune, but smaller Hippocamp moves much more slowly than Proteus. Therefore, Hippocamp resides nearer to the location at which it formed than does Proteus, which suggests that the two bodies were much closer together in the past.

Whether Hippocamp formed in place from material that did not originate from Proteus or was born of Proteus remains to be determined. Nevertheless, applying the techniques that were used to find it might result in the detection of other small moons around giant planets, or even planets that orbit distant stars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Astounding, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Marvel Tales, Super Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. He was awarded a special Hugo Award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and  Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 84. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol.  To say  he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 73. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. He is the only actor to have appeared in all of the  films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest,  voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he olayed Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role.(Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1949 Frank Brunner, 70. Comics artist whose career started at such venues as Creepy, Web of Horror and Vampirella. Worked later mostly at Marvel Comics on such features as Howard the Duck where he did his artwork for his early features. He also did the art for the  Chamber of Chills, Haunt of Horror, and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction anthologies. In addition, he and Moorcock collaborated on a adaptation of the latter’s sword-and-sorcery hero Elric in Heavy Metal magazine. 
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as Robert G. Durant in both Darkman and Darkman II: The Return of Durant. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 58. Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is three novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.
  • Born February 21, 1962 David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read it. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 42. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) BILL ON BIG BANG. Here’s a two-minute featurette about William Shatner’s Big Bang Theory appearance.

(13) EATS, SHOOTS, AND LEAVES. That’s what this Gizmodo story made me think of: “Japanese Spacecraft Hayabusa2 Touches Down on Asteroid Ryugu”.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft has completed one of its most exciting challenges yet: On Thursday evening, it touched down on the asteroid Ryugu, fired a tantalum bullet into the rocky surface, and ascended back into orbit around the tiny world, according to updates from the mission’s English-language Twitter account.

During its brief contact with the asteroid, the spacecraft should have attempted to collect rock samples kicked up by the bullet, the Planetary Society explained. The return of these samples to Earth is a major goal of the mission. 

(14) TOY FAIR. This Uproxx.com has a good con going — “We Went To Toy Fair And Looked At Lots Of New ‘Star Wars’ Toys, Which Look A Lot Like Old ‘Star Wars’ Toys”.

Every year I find it more and more difficult to make up excuses that I can send to my editor so that I can cover Toy Fair. As far as I can tell, Uproxx isn’t a toy collecting website (not yet, at least, but if I ever get my way…) and I don’t know much about the intricacies and nuances of toy reporting except that, sometimes, I like looking at new toys. (Watching the toy reporters at work is truly something. They will spend hours taking painstakingly detailed photographs of every single flake of paint on a new action figure. I only wish I could be that detailed about anything.)

But, whatever, I like going! Especially, of course, to look at Star Wars toys. One of my last “pure” memories of being a little kid was turning that corner into the toy aisle of whatever department store we happened to be at that day, then seeing rows and rows of vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures on that now-classic packaging. (Toys ‘R’ Us was never really in the equation for me. I’ve been seeing a lot of Toy ‘R’ Us nostalgia lately, but, in the greater St. Louis region at the time, our toy store was Children’s Palace. If I remember correctly, the store looked kind of like a castle. I wish there were Children’s Palace nostalgia.)

(15) SIPPY ACTION. Charles Payseur made me click! “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF”.

These are stories that got my blood pumping, that made me want to run outside and punch an eagle in the face. Or, perhaps more accurately, they made me want to climb into a mech suit and punch the moon! I mean, come on, the moon is pretty smug up there, always looking down on everyone. Just saying. Anyway, the action doesn’t always have to be traditional battles and brawls. Some of these stories are about a chase, or a race. Some are about war and the struggle of the individual against the weight of history and press of injustice. But these stories run hot, fast, and furious, and I think that stories like that deserve to be seen, because they do show how much fun and thrilling short SFF can be without sacrificing nuance or meaning.

(16) BEE SERIOUS. The world’s biggest bee has been re-discovered, after decades thought lost to science — “World’s biggest bee found alive”.

The giant bee – which is as long as an adult’s thumb – was found on a little-explored Indonesian island.

After days of searching, wildlife experts found a single live female, which they photographed and filmed.

Known as Wallace’s giant bee, the insect is named after the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, who described it in 1858.

Scientists found several specimens in 1981, but it has not been seen since.

(17) WHAT A DRAG. BBC has research that shows “Stonehenge: Preseli stone ‘transported over land'”.

Stones from Pembrokeshire used in the construction of Stonehenge may have been transported by land rather than sea, archaeologists have found.

A study found some of the stones were taken from the northern part of quarries in the Preseli hills, making it easier to transport them over land.

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

Earlier research suggested the bluestones were taken south to the coast.

…However, the new study of crops at Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin found the stones were removed from further north in the Preseli hills – making it easier for ancient people to go over the hills rather than around them.

The referenced Antiquity paper opens —

Geologists and archaeologists have long known that the bluestones of Stonehenge came from the Preseli Hills of west Wales, 230km away, but only recently have some of their exact geological sources been identified. Two of these quarries—Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin—have now been excavated to reveal evidence of megalith quarrying around 3000 BC—the same period as the first stage of the construction of Stonehenge.

(18) CUE TWILIGHT ZONE THEME. Two minor league pitchers with identical names and heights and hair color and beards and glasses and Tommy John surgery (with the same doctor no less) and a distinct resemblance had their DNA checked to show that they are not, in fact, related. They do, however, share that they are 53% of Germanic ancestry. “2 Baseball Players Named Brady Feigl Take DNA Tests To See If They’re Related”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Nick Mamatas, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 2/6/19 Pixels In The Hands Of An Angry Scroll

(1) BETTER WORLDS. Latest in the Better Worlds series on The Verge is “Skin City” by Kelly Robson.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Skin City” in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

Andrew Liptak’s Q&A with author Robson: “Kelly Robson on burlesque and privacy in a futuristic Toronto”.

Tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for “Skin City.”

One of my big fandoms here in Toronto is Nerd Girls Burlesque. They are a wonderful troupe of nerdy burlesque dancers who recently put on a Game of Thrones burlesque show, two fantastic and incredibly well-attended the Harry Potter burlesque nights, and a Doctor Who burlesque show. I love them. I think they’re fantastic. They’re so witty and so delightful. So when I think about Toronto or when I think about a better world in Toronto, it definitely includes them. I wanted to write about a nerdy burlesque dancer, and I wanted to put her front and center in the city, and I wanted Toronto to be known for that kind of thing.

(2) BEST PRACTICE. It’s just good manners:

(3) WHAT IT IS. Jeff VanderMeer reviewed the book for the LA Times: “Marlon James’ ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ unleashes an immersive African myth-inspired fantasy world”.

James certainly makes his own unique contribution to the process of decentralizing the white European experience in fantasy fiction, although it’s important to recognize that this process has been underway for some time — and in so many different ways that it’s just plain lazy to compare this novel with, say, works from the last decade by Nnedi Okorafor or David Anthony Durham or Nora Jemisin or Minister Faust or Nisi Shawl or Kai Ashante Wilson (perhaps even beyond lazy). Neither is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” Afrofuturism or even, really, “the African Game of Thrones,” as many – including James – have called it.

What it is … is the latest Marlon James novel.

(4) GOT CHARACTERS WHO ARE STILL WITH US. As the next and final season of Game of Thrones approaches, publicity is cranking up (Mashable:New ‘Game of Thrones’ pics tease Varys’ return and more surprises”). A dozen new still photos have been released.

We’re just months from Game of Thrones’ final season, and HBO has released the first stills of Season 8 to get this hype train moving.

Though mostly character shots, it’s thrilling to see our favorite characters again – alive, for the time being, and moving around Westeros with the speed and urgency established in Season 7. Most surprising is the return of Varys (Conleth Hill) to the North…or does that snow mean winter is spreading south with the White Walkers?

(5) PROTIP. Myke Cole was yanking peoples’ chains:

Of course, one person actually went looking for the list. (See Twitter thread.)

(6) VORLICEK OBIT. [Apologies for substituting certain letters in his Czech name which WordPress won’t reproduce.] Vaclav Vorlicek, a Czech director of fantasy films that are greatly beloved throughout Europe, died February 6. Cora Buhlert says he’s “definitely one of the greats of our genre who deserves to be remembered” and has written an appreciation:

You may never have heard Vaclav Vorlicek’s name until today, but if you were a kid in Eastern and/or Western Europe in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, you have almost certainly watched his films at some point. Because Vaclav Vorlicek was the man behind many of those Czech fairytale movies that were afternoon television staples for children all over Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Because – uncommon for the time – Vorlicek’s films crossed the iron curtain and entertained children on both sides.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1923 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. Stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely shitty remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1925 Patricia S. Warrick, 94. Academic who did a lot of Seventies anthologies with Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander with such such titles as Social Problems Through Science FictionAmerican Government Through Science Fiction and Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction. She did write two books of a more serious nature by herself, The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction and Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick.
  • Born February 6, 1927 Gerard O’Neill. Author, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space and though lesser known, 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future. Conceptualized ideas of permanent space habitats and mass drivers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Rip Torn, 88. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Questionable Content comic strip’s workplace is the Coffee of Doom coffeehouse. One of the baristas is highly educated.

(9) SIGNPOSTS. Wim Crusio says you should avoid The Road to Hell. No, he’s not talking theology, he’s reviewing a novel: “Recent Reads: David Weber & Joelle Presby, The Road to Hell”.

However, there are serious problems with this series, which I am afraid is symptomatic for Weber’s recent work. Like the Safehold series, this one moves at a glacial pace. In 1009 pages, we advance from November 29, 1928 CE to May 3, 1929 CE. Barely three months… And this in a multiverse where it takes months even to send a message from one end of a chain of universes to another. The use of CE dates (in addition to the calendars used by the two opposing universes) makes me fear the worst: is the story at some point going to add a gate to our own universe? Which, of course, should be at some point in our future? Meaning that at a pace of 3 months per 1000 pages we have something like 400,000 pages to look forward to? Please no!

In fact, I’m not even sure that I will by the next installment in this series, because the glacial pace with which the narrative advances is not even the worst part of this book. No, those are the endless discussions of military logistics….

(10) THANKS FOR THE PRIVILEGE. This went badly. Anand Giridharadas accepted a speaking engagement at a club for wealthy progressives. Thread starts here.

(11) SPIKE-O-SAURS. These dinos look very punk: “Newly Discovered Spiked Dinosaurs From South America Look Like Creatures From ‘No Man’s Sky’”.

Paleontologists in Argentina have uncovered a dinosaur unlike anything ever seen before. Alive some 140 million years ago, these majestic herbivores featured long, forward-pointing spikes running along their necks and backs. These spikes may have served a defensive role, but their exact purpose now presents a fascinating new mystery.

(12) CLIMATE’S INFLUENCE ON JAPANESE HISTORY. “How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future”.

Locked inside the wood of Japan’s hinoki trees is an unprecedented 2,600 year-long record of rainfall patterns that are helping to piece together how weather shapes society.

At his laboratory in a wooded grove in northern Kyoto, Takeishi Nakatsuka holds up a vacuum sealed bag. Inside, bobbing in a bath of brown water, is a glistening disk the size of a dinner plate and the color of rich gravy. This soggy circle is the remnants of a 2,800-3,000-year-old tree, recovered from a wetland – water included, so the spongy wood does not deform – in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, just north of Hiroshima. Within this ancient trunk lie secrets that can help us prepare for the future.

Nakatsuka, a palaeoclimatologist at Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, along with a diverse team of 68 collaborators, has spent the last decade developing a novel method to reveal bygone precipitation patterns and interpret their effect on society. The results offer unprecedented insight into 2,600 years of Japanese rainfall patterns. By teasing out information locked inside the preserved wood of ancient forests, they are able to reveal just how much rain fell around the country over the past two and half millennia. It is an extraordinary record.

About every 400 years, the researchers found, the amount of rain falling on Japan would suddenly become extremely variable for a period. The nation would toggle between multi-decadal bouts of flood-inducing wetness and warmer, drier years that were favorable for rice cultivation. As the rains came and went, Japanese society prospered or suffered accordingly.

As weather patterns today increasingly defy expectations and extreme events become more frequent and severe, this window into past climate variability hints at what may be in store for us in the coming years. “Today is not different than 1,000 or 2,000 years ago,” Nakatsuka says. “We still have the same lifespans and we are still facing large, stressful multi-decadal variation.”

(13) IT’S A HIT! “Cosmic pile-up gives glimpse of how planets are made”.

Astronomers say they have the first evidence of a head-on collision between two planets in a distant star system.

They believe two objects smacked into each other to produce an iron-rich world, with nearly 10 times the mass of Earth.

A similar collision much closer to home may have led to the formation of the Moon 4.5 billion years ago.

The discovery was made by astronomers in the Canary Islands observing a star system 1,600 light years away.

One planet – called Kepler 107c – is thought to have an iron core that makes up 70% of its mass, with the rest potentially consisting of rocky mantle.

Another planet further towards the star – known as Kepler 107b – is also about 1.5 times the size of Earth, but half as dense.

(14) UPDATING KIPLING. Did you wonder? “When did the kangaroo hop? Scientists have the answer”.

Scientists have discovered when the kangaroo learned to hop – and it’s a lot earlier than previously thought.

According to new fossils, the origin of the famous kangaroo gait goes back 20 million years.

Living kangaroos are the only large mammal to use hopping on two legs as their main form of locomotion.

The extinct cousins of modern kangaroos could also hop, according to a study of their fossilised foot bones, as well as moving on four legs and climbing trees.

The rare kangaroo fossils were found at Riversleigh in the north-west of Queensland in Australia.

(15) HISTORY-MAKING DUDS. BBC takes you “Inside the museum dedicated to failure” – video.

Welcome to the home of the biggest product flops of all time, including Sony Betamax, an electrocuting face mask and a Swedish alternative to marshmallows.

(16) MOTHER COMPLEX. “Netflix Acquires Rights to Sci-Fi Thriller I Am MotherComingSoon.net has the story. The flick was mentioned in the January 27 Pixel Scroll.

(17) NEW DUMBO TRAILER. Opens in the UK March 29.

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

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

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

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

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

A collectSPACE article has the full list:

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

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

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

The sale of the coins will benefit three foundations —

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

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

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

Last year’s attendance was 3,930.

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

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

Leigh Alexander:

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

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

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

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

John Scalzi:

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

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

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

VanderMeer continues:

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

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

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

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

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

“What!? I don’t understand!”

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winner national:

  • Mexikoring by Simone Buchholz

Runners-up national: 

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

Winner international:

  • 64 by Hideo Yokoyama

Runners-up international: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Category: Potent Poe Tales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NPR reports Bing was accessible again in China on Thursday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/18 Three…(Click)…Two…(Click)….One…(Click)…Godstalk!

(1) DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL AIRS TOMORROW. And you can preview the New Year’s Day Special Doctor Who: Resolution.

The Doctor Who cast talk about what to expect in the New Years Day Special, Doctor Who: Resolution.

(2) THE YEAR’S MOST WTF. ScienceFiction.com is right – there were plenty: “The Most WTF Moments Of 2018”.

There were a lot of memorable moments in pop culture in 2018, including many highs, as well as a few lows.  But in addition to that, there were a few events that were just weird or shocking, to the point that some folks are still reeling months later.   Yes, there were many deaths.  There were also a large number of sexual misconduct accusations.  But omitting those, here are a few other moments that you may recall.

Their list begins with —

12. Netflix Dropped A Surprise Movie, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ After The Super Bowl

(3) 2018 MOST INFLUENTIAL SFF WOMEN. At SYFY Wire, the Fangrrls column lists their “2018’s most influential women in genre.”

This was a hard year. For many of us, 2018 was surreal, and for many more, it was deeply painful. But in the face of adversity, as always, it is the women who made us feel we can survive, thrive, and make a difference. 

In 2018, women like Christine Blasey Ford stood firm against a wave of screams attempting to silence, dismiss and discredit her. But firm she stood. For better or worse, and still experiencing attacks and threats, she and so many other women reminded us that we are strong. Often because the world has given us no choice. But it’s what these women do with that strength that is empowering, inspiring, and life-changing for those of us their lives touch. 

The genre world is no different. This year, we were still told, constantly and from people who should know better, that there is simply not room at the table for us, or, possibly worse, gaslit into believing there aren’t enough of us capable or even willing to do the work men are handed with far less experience

These women inspired us to say “f*ck that” and be everything the world says we can’t be. And we are eternally grateful.

Details are in the article for about each selectee. The list (along with an attempt to distill the roles for which each woman was selected) is:

* Eve Ewing (academic, author, visual artist)—selected by Sara Century

* Jody Houser (comic book author)—selected by Riley Silverman

* N.K. Jemisin (author, activist)—selected by S.E. Fleenor

* Jodie Whittaker (actor)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Laila Shabir (founder/CEO of Girls Make Games)—selected by Courtney Enlow

* Margot Robbie (actor, producer)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Janelle Monáe (musician)—selected by Clare McBride

* Ava DuVernay (director)—selected by Tricia Ennis

* Natalie Portman (actor, activist)—selected by Emma Fraser

* Tessa Thompson (actor, singer, songwriter)—selected by S.E. Fleenor

* Christina Hodson (screenwriter)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Brie Larson (actor, activist)—selected by Carly Lane

(4) GOING TO HAVE TO REFILL THE MIRROR. A.V. News says “Bandersnatch was so complex that season five of Black Mirror has been delayed”.

We never would’ve guessed this, but it turns out that developing an interactive movie with tons of branching paths and alternate endings is kind of difficult. Perhaps that’s why most movies only have the one narrative and end the same way no matter how many times you watch it?

…The movie has so many different variations based on what choices you make that Brooker (the creator of Black Mirror) says he has “forgotten” how many different endings there are, going so far as to reject producer Annabel Jones’ claim in a Hollywood Reporter interview that there are five “definitive” conclusions.

That Hollywood Reporter piece goes deep into how Bandersnatch was made and some of the behind-the-scenes magic that allows it to work, but the biggest reveal is that Bandersnatch required such an “enormous” amount of time and work that the fifth season of the oppressively dark sci-fi horror series has been delayed….

(5) NEW BUHLERT POSTS. Galactic Journey has published Cora Buhlert’s review of Andre Norton’s Ordeal in Otherwhere (her first Norton), as well her original 1960s recipe for spaceman’s punch, a New Year’s party favorite.

Cora also has a poem in Issue eleven of the poetry webzine Umbel & Panicle, out today, which also features photographs by Paul Weimer and Elizabeth Fitzgerald.

(6) EVOLVED GINGERBREAD. Aftonbladet reports how “Caroline’s gingerbread makes success”. Hampus Eckerman translated the first part of this Swedish-language article for Filers to enjoy:

In Caroline Eriksson’s family, it has always been a tradition to build gingerbread houses.

But over the years, Caroline began to get tired of “just” building houses.

This year she has built a 130×90 centimeter replica of Alien – made in gingerbread.

For three and a half weeks, Caroline Eriksson, 31, has worked with the gingerbread during evenings and weekends.

Building gingerbread houses always used to be a tradition in Caroline’s family during her childhood in Tyresö. But in recent years, the gingerbread cookies have become increasingly advanced.

– After a few years I got tired of doing houses and started to do more special things like boats and some movie creations, says Caroline.

For several years, Caroline has lived in Oslo. In 2013, she participated in a gingerbread competition in Norway and since then the gingerbread cookies have become more extreme.

– Then I built Optimus Prime, the transformer robot, in gingerbread. I won the competition which was super cool and after that, the tradition of making a gingerbread figure every year continued. I try to challenge myself and make more crazy creations every year, says Caroline.

(7) SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARDS YEAR KICKS OFF. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and will be taken until the window closes on March 30, 2019.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2018 calendar year.

…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. The awards will be presented at Geysercon – the 2019 National SF&F Convention.

(8) AMONG THE RUINS. Harvard Gazette’s ‘Stepping inside a dead star” offers “A virtual reality experience of being inside an exploded star.” You’ll need the VR hardware to try this out.

Cassiopeia A, the youngest known supernova remnant in the Milky Way, is the remains of a star that exploded almost 400 years ago. The star was approximately 15 to 20 times the mass of our sun and sat in the Cassiopeia constellation, almost 11,000 light-years from earth.

Though stunningly distant, it’s now possible to step inside a virtual-reality (VR) depiction of what followed that explosion.

A team led by Kimberly Kowal Arcand from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Center for Computation and Visualization at Brown University has made it possible for astronomers, astrophysicists, space enthusiasts, and the simply curious to experience what it’s like inside a dead star. Their efforts are described in a recent paper in Communicating Astronomy with the Public.

The VR project — believed to be the first of its kind, using X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory mission (which is headquartered at CfA), infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical data from other telescopes — adds new layers of understanding to one of the most famous and widely studied objects in the sky.

(9) ROMAN OBIT. NPR reports: “Nancy Grace Roman, ‘Mother Of Hubble’ Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93”. She defied a guidance counselor who asked “what lady would take math instead of Latin”; joined NASA when it was 6 months old.

When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, her favorite object to draw was the moon.

Her mother used to take her on walks under the nighttime sky and show her constellations, or point out the colorful swirls of the aurora. Roman loved to look up at the stars and imagine.

Eventually, her passion for stargazing blossomed into a career as a renowned astronomer. Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, where she served as the agency’s first chief of astronomy.

Known as the “Mother of Hubble,” for her role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, Roman worked at NASA for nearly two decades. She died on Dec. 25 at the age of 93.

(10) LUSK OBIT. SYFY Wire reports the death of classic Disney animator Don Lusk:

Don Lusk, longtime Disney animator and Hanna-Barbera director, has died. The multi-hyphenate artist behind dozens of iconic characters roaming throughout animation was 105. His longevity was only matched by his output, as Lusk’s six decade career saw him make the faces of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie Brown, Babar, Papa Smurf, and Goofy familiar to an entire culture.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1958 The Crawling Eye showed up at the drive-in.
  • December 31, 1958  — The Strange World Of Planet X made for a good double bill at the drive-in.
  • December 31, 1961The Phantom Planet appeared in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 31, 1937  — Anthony Hopkins, 80. I never know what I’ve going to find when I look these Birthday possibilities so imagine my surprise when I discover his first genre role was Ian McCandless in Freejack followed soon by playing Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula! He went to have a number of genre roles including being C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands, the lead in The Mask of Zorro, the narrator of that stink, stank, stunk How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Odin in three Thor MCU films. 
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 75. First SF character he played was Avatar in Slipstream, later roles included Dr. John Watson in Without a Clue, Minister Templeton in Photographing Fairies, The Great Zamboni In Spooky House, Specialist in A.I., Man in the Yellow Suit in Tuck Everlasting,  Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and that’s just a partial listing. God he’s had an impressive genre history! 
  • Born December 31, 1945Connie Willis, 73. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even I who isn’t generally impressed as you know by Awards! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the DogDoomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there.
  • Born December 31, 1949Ellen Datlow, 69. Let’s get start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which, yes , I know, it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories for them from time to time. If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site. Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzine and Subterranean Magazine
  • Born December 31, 1958 Bebe Neuwirth, 60. Ok she’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself is apparently still ongoing. 
  • Born December 31, 1959Val Kilmer, 59. Lead role in Batman Forever where I fought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the reboot of Knight Rider.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In this Brewster Rockit, Cliff Clewless may have the right idea—retroactive New Year resolutions.

(14) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter, Jeopardy! game show genre reference correspondent, spotted another:  

Double Jeopardy Answer, for $3,000: He wrote 1899’s “Father Goose”; he came up with a “Wonderful” adventure the following year.

Wrong question: “Who is [Upton] Sinclair?” [which cost the contestant $3 grand]

Correct question: Who is L. Frank Baum?

(15) POOP QUIZ. Meanwhile, Daniel Dern is proposing his own game show – “Today’s SF and SF-adjacent Pop Quiz.”

What (a) SF story, and (b) folk song (story, more precisely) do these articles make you think of:

“Maine woman who makes artwork out of moose poop might be getting a TV show”

which in turn refers back to —

“People love this Maine woman who makes artwork out of moose poop”

Stay tuned to ROT-13 for the answers —

a) Gur Ovt Cng Obbz ol Qnzba Xavtug

b) “Zbbfr Gheq Cvr,” ol gur yngr Oehpr “H. Hgnu” Cuvyyvcf, Gur Tbyqra Ibvpr bs gur Terng Fbhgujrfg naq “Nzrevpn’f Zbfg-Srnerq Sbyxfvatre,” bevtvanyyl ba uvf TBBQ GUBHTU nyohz — urer vg abj

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Abgr, V ybir gung n jro frnepu gheaf hc uvgf yvxr:

    Fubc Zbbfr Gheq Cvr: Nznmba

Gur FS-nqwnprag nfcrpg: Cuvyyvcf jnf n thrfg (TbU, creuncf) ng ng yrnfg bar FS pbairagvba — ZvavPba?

And that’s the name of that tune!

(16) KSR’S LATEST. Vidvuds Veldavs totes up the pluses and minuses about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon for readers at The Space Review.

[Note: the review contains spoilers regarding the novel.]

Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, Red Moon, is set in 2047. China has become the dominant player on the Moon with large-scale operations at the South Pole. The US and other players have facilities at the North Pole. China achieved this position using the experience of massive infrastructure projects to mount an operation possibly larger and more intensive in scope than the U.S. Apollo project. According to the novel, President Xi Jinping secured the commitment of the Chinese Communist Party at the 20th People’s Congress in 2022 to the goal “… that the moon should be a place for Chinese development, as one part of the Chinese Dream.” Insofar as 2022 is still more than three years into the future, Robinson may be advocating for such a future. Xi Jinping is highly praised in the book for his Moon declaration as well as for the environmental cleanup that takes place on Earth. The hills surrounding Beijing in 2047 are green and the air is fresh and breathable as a result of the environmental policies of Xi.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF YEAR IN NEWS. The BBC’s “2018 in news: The alternative end-of-the-year awards” features videos of masterfully-incompetent criminals, and of an attempt to stifle press questions that got shown up by a phone app.

(18) YOUNG JUSTICE. The final trailer of Young Justice Season 3: Outsiders has been released. The TV series will premiere January 4.

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