Pixel Scroll 11/24/20 Do I Dare Disscroll The Pixelverse?

(1) GRATING EXPECTATIONS. Piper J. Drake analyzes readers’ reactions based on default views of history in “Marginalized people living varied and fulfilled lives in genre fiction is historically accurate” at the SFWA Blog.

Earlier this year, an author of color announced the acquisition of her new historical romance series. In direct reply to her tweet, someone publicly questioned the historical accuracy of the series. The author of color was prepared because she knew she would be challenged about “historical accuracy” and she provided an organized response. The challenger deleted her tweet but doubled down on her right to question the author and circled back to her own feed to gain sympathizer support for the attitude she was getting from the author of color because she “just asked a question.” For those sympathizers, I broke down the original challenge to demonstrate why it wasn’t just a question but, in reality, an insidious attack.

Let’s unpack this, because one might wonder why we’re even discussing historical accuracy in science fiction and fantasy. After all, these genres are fiction. Accuracy doesn’t need to come into play.

But here’s the thing: when the question of historical accuracy is raised regarding fiction, it’s rarely — if ever — actually about facts or history. 

It’s about the default, the norm.

It’s about what some people consider to be true simply because they’ve never questioned those assumptions, and the reality they default to is often wrong…. 

(2) SERPELL ON AFROFUTURISM. The Huntington has posted “Black Matter”, in which Namwali Serpell, professor of literature at Harvard, author of The Old Drift, and recent recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke award for the best science fiction novel published in the UK, discusses the origins of afrofuturism. This is the Ridge Lecture for Literature

(3) PICKING UP AFTER PICARD. Abigail Nussbaum copes with Trek-induced anxieties in “One More Adventure: Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard, which she says ends up wasting its beloved titled character.

I watched the first few episodes of Star Trek: Picard this spring, and then stopped. I could blame a lack of time, too many shows on my schedule and not enough hours to keep up with all of them (this was the reason that I similarly ended up dropping the most recent season of Legends of Tomorrow, which I wrote up on my tumblr last week). But really, the reason was that Picard made me anxious. All new Star Trek does. I find it impossible to watch these shows without the constant awareness that the people who are the franchise’s current stewards have, at best, a teaspoon’s-depth understanding of what it is and why it works, and I end up feeling constantly on guard against the next travesty they’re sure to commit. Which also makes me kind of sick of myself, for watching like that, being unable to let go, unable to trust the story to take me where it wants to go—even if that distrust is well earned. It’s for this reason, I think, that I found this summer’s new animated foray into the franchise, Lower Decks, so relaxing. The show is wall-to-wall fanservice, with absolutely no pretension of doing anything new with its material. So while the result is, inevitably, uninvolving, it’s also easier to trust.

Picard, in contrast, seems designed to agitate my NuTrek anxieties….

(4) CRITICS’ CHOICE. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar line up their picks of the year: “2020 books: Best science fiction, fantasy and horror” in the Washington Post. The list of five opens with —

The Only Good Indians

By Stephen Graham Jones

Jones, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, conjures a revenge story involving friends who are haunted by a supernatural entity. The tale calls to mind classics such as “It” and “Ghost Story.” Jones’s take is a fresh and enticing tale — and features a memorable foe.

(5) ‘TIS THE SEASON. Journey Press hopes you’ll do some gift shopping off their booklist — “Received from Galactic Journey, reposted with permission”, signal boosted by James Davis Nicoll.

As you may know, the book business has been hit inordinately hard by COVID. Printing and shipping have been disrupted, but more importantly, bookstores have been locked down. Those that are open have lower foot traffic for obvious and good reasons.

For presses like mine , which have prioritized brick and mortar shops over Amazon, it’s been a rough time.

With the holiday season coming up, I wonder if you might consider one or more of our books as gift possibilities — for others…and yourself. Not only would you be getting some great reading material, you’d be helping me and Journey Press out at a time when we could really use some good news. I guarantee you will enjoy all of these, as will anyone you give them to:

(6) BE EARLY BIRDS. The annual “H.G. Wells Short Story Competition” offers a £500 Senior and £1,000 Junior prize and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.

The theme for the 2021 HG Wells Short Story Competition will be “Mask”. The competition will open in early 2021, and close in July 2021.

Get started now while we wait for them to start taking submissions.

(7) RIPPLES ON THE POND. Engadget delivered the news — “The Hugo Awards will have a video game category in 2021” with a link in the last sentence to the post here – presumably the strong case was made in the comments, or the linked article by Ira Alexandre.

…As things stand, video games won’t be an ongoing fixture at the Hugo Awards. That’s not unusual. The awards have consistently experimented with categories. In 2002 and 2005, for instance, it gave out awards to the best websites, but hasn’t done so since. The good news is that the Hugo Study Committee will consider adding a permanent Best Game or Interactive Experience category, and there’s a strong case to be made for their inclusion.  

On the other hand, PC Gamer is condescending in its coverage: “The Hugo Awards are getting a videogame category—but only for 2021”.

…Hold on, I hear you say, haven’t games been meaningful prior to early 2020? Isn’t the continued growth of the gaming industry a pretty strong signifier of how many people spend a large amount of time gaming, pandemic or no? 

Well, even though videogames do have a rather large audience overlap with science fiction novels, the people who actually nominate and vote for the awards may not be a prime gaming audience. These are the same people who just last year showed that when it comes to diversity, the Hugos still have some way to go, and who reference Pong in reply to their own gaming category announcement. Back in 2006, a newly-introduced videogames category to the Hugo Awards was dropped due to lack of interest.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premiered on ABC. It was produced and written by George Lucas. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure was considered mostly harmless by critics. It is treated as canon by Lucas. It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 24, 1849 – Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Four novels for us including The Secret Garden, nine shorter stories; much other work outside our field including Little Lord Fauntleroy, first loved, then hated (“an awful prig”), perhaps due for re-examining.  John Clute, whom I love to agree with because it’s so seldom, says “The supernatural content of [SG] is slight … but the book as a whole, like the best fantasies, generates a sense of earned transformation….  ‘Behind the White Brick’ stands out…. has a swing and a drive … makes one regret that FHB did not write full-length fantasies.”  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected.  She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1912 – Charles Schneeman.  Ten covers, three hundred interiors.  Here is the May 38 Astounding.  Here is the Jan 40.  Here is the Nov 52.  Here is the Aug 68 Riverside Quarterly.  This is for Gray Lensman.  This is for “The Scrambler”.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman.  (No punctuation after the J).  Pioneer and indeed a founder of fandom; collector (he was the Grand Acquisitor); editor, literary agent.  Famous for wordplay, he was known as 4e, 4sj, and much else.  At Nycon I the first Worldcon he and Morojo – an Esperanto nickname, they were both Esperantists – wore what he called futuristicostumes, pioneering that too.  Winning a Hugo for #1 Fan Personality, never given before or since, he walked off stage leaving it, saying it really should have gone to Ken Slater.  For years administered the Big Heart, our highest service award.  In one of his more inspired puns, called us the Imagi-Nation.  (Died 2008)
  • Born November 24, 1942 – Alicia Austin, 78.  Fan and pro artist.  Three dozen covers, four hundred eighty interiors.  Inkpot; one Hugo; World Fantasy Award; Guest of Honor at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon; more.  This Program Book page shows her logograph for L.A.Con (in retrospect L.A.con I).  Artbook Alicia Austin’s Age of Dreams.  Here is The Last Castle.  Here is Solomon Leviathan’s Nine Hundred Thirty-First Trip Around the World.  Here is Bridging the Galaxies.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 72. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife, Jeanne Robinson.  In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than be comfortably listed here. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1949 – Jim Warren, 71.  A hundred covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Artbooks The Art of Jim WarrenPainted Worlds.  Here is All Flesh is Grass.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Here is a Disney-related image (JW is an official Disney artist).  He is self-taught.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1951 – Ruth Sanderson, 69.   Eight short stories, a score of covers, two dozen interiors for us; much other work outside our field.  Two Chesleys. World Fantasy Con 2011 Program Book.  Here is The Princess Bride.  Here is The Snow Princess.  Here is The Golden Key.  Here is The Twelve Dancing Princesses, in a grayscale coloring book for adults.  Here is her Little Engine That Could.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 63. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 63. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. I other genre work, She was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s popped doing what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “ Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 63. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence whose first novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works. Noon was the winner of the Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 55. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s sf because of the metanarrative aspect. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio shows why you never got that flying saucer as a kid. 
  • Lio also prompts this note to self: Avoid horror movie pop-up books.
  • Pearls Before Swine discusses the challenges of writing during the lockdown.
  • Off the Mark has an X-ray vision of a Thanksgiving Day truth.

(11) DOCTOROW. Register at the link to watch Cory Doctorow’s talk on “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” — 2020 Beaverbrook Annual Lecture Part 2 on November 30 at 12:00 Eastern. A live Q&A session will follow.

His lecture, “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” will build from his recently published book of the same name, and will respond to the current state of surveillance capitalism through a critical analysis of technological and economic monopolies.

(12) CONTESTS OF NOTE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Haben Kelati has a piece about contests for kids.  She lists three of them and I thought two were pertinent.

The Geek Partnership Society has a contest for kids to write poetry, comic books, or short stories with sf or fantasy elements, with prizes being $50-75 gift cards: Writing Contest – Geek Partnership Society.

NASA has a contest where kids imagine who they’d bring on an expedition to the Moon’s south pole and one piece of technology they’d leave on the Moon to help future astronauts.  Three first prizes get trips to see an Artemis-1 launch and nine second prizes get tours of the Johnson Space Center. Future Engineers :: Moon Pod Essay Contest.

(13) HE WAS FIRST. “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Gene Luen Yang” includes video of Yang’s presentation.

When Gene Luen Yang was named the 2016-2018 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the honor represented more than just recognition for his extraordinary work. It was also a profound acknowledgment of the importance of a genre that was once relegated to being mere comics.

Yang was the fifth National Ambassador, but the first graphic novelist to receive the honor.

The Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council bestow the ambassadorship on a writer for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and a dedication to fostering children’s literacy.

In “Dragon Hoops” (First Second), Yang’s first nonfiction work, he turns the spotlight on his life, his family, basketball and the high school where he once taught. In “Superman Smashes the Klan” (DC Comics), a Chinese-American teenager awakens to find his house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross.

In the video Yang recorded exclusively for the Library, he speaks eloquently about the importance of libraries in disseminating stories: “Libraries are the keepers of stories. Stories define culture, right? Whether or not we have hopeful culture or a culture that’s mired in despair is completely up to the stories that we tell. It’s completely up to the stories that are taken care of by our libraries, that are collected and disseminated by our libraries.”

(14) WELCOME TO AARP. My fellow geezers, here’s a chance to play the video games of your youth without that Atari console you wouldn’t have anyway because if you did you’d have sold it by now. “Atari Video Games – Classics Available To Play Online”. Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command, and Pong.

(15) CALCULUS OR BUST. In the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews says he is re-reading Have Space Suit, Will Travel and notes that Heinlein foresaw a dominance of “progressive education,” where students pick the courses of interest to them. “Progressive education hard to pin down because it’s everywhere”

…It is called progressive education. It took a beating in the 1950s, particularly from conservatives like Heinlein. In his novel, he describes a future time when humans are living on the moon and exploring the solar system, but the progressive commitment to student-centered learning in the United States has led to this class schedule described by the book’s hero, an ambitious high school sophomore:

“Social study, commercial arithmetic, applied English (the class had picked ‘slogan writing’ which was fun), handicrafts .?.?. and gym.” The school has no math classes beyond algebra and geometry, so the hero’s father persuades him to learn trigonometry and calculus on his own to pursue his dream of going to space.

…Heinlein died in 1988 at age 80.  He might be pleasantly surprised that in the real 21st century, even at a small-twon school like the one in his book, calculus is likely to be available, as well as college-level courses in chemistry and biology and reading of real literature.  My visits to schools often reveal that despite Heinlein’s doubts, progressive education has deepened learning with projects and topics relevant to students’ lives.

(16) IN DOUBTFUL TASTE. The New York Times wants to know “Why Were Canadians Warned Not to Let Moose Lick Their Cars?”

Visitors at a Canadian national park were greeted with a rather unusual digital road sign this weekend: “Do not let moose lick your car.”

The sign caught the imagination of the internet and led to questions like:

“What happens if a moose licks your car?”

“Is it really that big of a problem?”

And, perhaps most salient: “Exactly how would you stop them?”

As it turns out, the signs were put up by officials of Jasper National Park, in … Alberta, to try to stop moose from licking road salt off idling cars — a serious problem that can present dangers to the vehicles, the drivers and the moose.

Steve Young, a spokesman for the park, said … moose usually got their salt, a vital part of their diets, from salt licks… But the animals discovered that they could get the mineral from cars splashed with road salt. (It has begun snowing in Jasper, and salt can help melt ice on roads.) continues….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  In “Watch Dogs: Legion” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the future London portrayed in this series “is like now, only 20 percent more Elon Musk-ified.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Darah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers

Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.

Even worse for some authors, depending on the circumstances discussed below, their audiobooks will remain subject to Audible’s distribution scheme for years to come.  There’s a colloquial version of the laws of thermodynamics that seems to apply: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t get out of the game.”

Susan May, Scott Baron, and Cory Doctorow are three writers who have been focusing the spotlight of publicity on these issues.

Scott Baron defined the key problem on Facebook:

Recently Audible has been actively promoting “exchanging” titles. Treating it as a library rather than a book store. The issue is, they literally take every exchange and treat it as a RETURN for authors.

That means authors are now taking HUGE hits on that platform. Every exchange takes a sale out of an author’s pocket. We don’t see one penny if it is exchanged.

Cory Doctorow synopsizes how Amazon’s companies ACX and Audible do business in this series of tweets.

Susan May educated her readers about how authors create audiobooks and offer them for sale, and what the attraction had been for going exclusively with Audible – or was, before this financial abuse was uncovered — in “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

First, May describes the business basics.

Audible has their own publishing/distribution company where you can produce your book and then that book is distributed to Audible, Amazon and Apple. If you choose to “go exclusive” and distribute only to these three, you are granted the princely profit split of 40%. This is after spending sometimes upward of $6 to $8k on an audiobook. To give you an idea, my last audiobook Destination Dark Zone cost me $US6,200 to produce.

If you’re not exclusive to Audible and decide to distribute your book to other retail stores such as Kobo, Scrib’d and local libraries, then you only receive twenty-five percent of your sales or your share of the pot from memberships.

Oh, that’s right, I didn’t mention that. There’s three ways an author is paid. When an Audible member uses a monthly credit which they receive as part of their membership, a rights holder receives a share of the pot created by the number of memberships paid, minus Audible’s profit. This pot varies each month. So we never know how much this per download share will be until the day we are paid, but it’s something close to $US5, while members pay $14.95 for a membership with one credit per month to use on a book.

When you pay, say, $7.49 on Amazon for an add-on audiobook when you’ve purchased the eBook, we are paid $2.99 on the forty percent split. Should you buy an audiobook as a member from Audible and not use a credit, according to my reports, members pay $9.15 for most of my books, and I receive $3.61.

Some rights holders don’t have an exclusive deal with Audible. Many don’t because they believe in not putting all their eggs in Amazon’s basket. Well, they get less. So, just go right ahead and nearly halve these payments because they only receive twenty-five percent. It’s not much is it compared to what readers and members pay for each book or monthly subscription fee?

… So, this whole system seems a little unfair, right? Authors pay for everything, take all the risk for a smaller cut of the profits, while the richest man in the world’s company keeps the lion’s share and controls everything.

But that’s only the background, so readers can picture the injustice that May explains next:

Even more insidious than the low royalty rates paid us by Audible is something I call #AudibleGate, of which you may not be aware. Audible is promoting returns of any audible book for “any reason, no questions asked,” even if the person has listened to the whole Audible book and enjoyed it. The return is permissible up to 365 days and in some countries it’s been reported that it’s infinity. What??? Hey now, no, Susan May, how would that work? Surely not. That would be objectively unfair to the author. Might even be illegal.

Why, yes, it is unfair and morally wrong and possibly even theft by stealth. You’re so smart to realize that. Do tell Audible because they don’t seem to get it.

Audible are actively promoting this “benefit” to their members as a way of incentivizing them to stay locked in each month because you can only return audiobooks if you’re a member. Hmm, that’s clever marketing. Audible even sends emails encouraging users to return a book, screens pop up after you finish reading suggesting a return, and there is even an obvious “return” button on the app which changes wording depending on whether you’ve finished the book or are part way through. Part-finished it’s “RETURN TITLE”. Finish the book and it changes to “EXCHANGE.”

Who loses when I return a book? readers think.

Audible! Surely, Audible? Surely not authors? And who cares anyway? Audible’s owned by the world’s richest man, so, it’s not big deal to return a book. It’s my right. It’s part of being an Audible member.

Well, you’re favorite authors lose, my wonderful reader. Our accounts are debited for that returned book, sometimes a year later. We, the hard-working content creators and narrators eat this loss, not Amazon. Let me repeat this for impact. Authors pay for this “benefit” and many times we are not earning any money for the sale of an audiobook even if it is thoroughly enjoyed by the reader. Audible though, they don’t miss out, they still get your monthly subscription payment. Authors weren’t asked if we wanted to offer this “benefit” or if we agreed to it or were happy to pay for it. Audible just did it for their own commercial benefit.…

Then, May quantifies how prevalent this abuse is.

How many readers, I hear you ask, are returning books? Surely everybody is honest and wouldn’t do this unless the book is absolutely terrible and you’ve only listened to an hour or so?

Ah, ah, ah, nearing fifty percent returns for many authors. Some less, but not by much. My number is fifty per cent. Think on that now. They’re halving my sales to prop up their business. My books can’t be that bad. If they were that bad, they should kick me off the platform for poor customer experience.

We don’t know how long they’ve been doing this but we feel it could be the past eighteen months or longer, maybe a lot longer, maybe even years but growing slowly as more people spread the word about how to easily return books.

The true state of affairs was not readily apparent to authors because of the timing of the return transactions and the format of Audible’s earnings statements. Then, in October, authors got some shocking news when something caused several weeks’ returns to be reported collectively:

… So, until a recent glitch occurred (which they’re “sorry for the confusion”, or because they finally got found out) where ACX clawed back three weeks of returns in one day on the 20th October, many authors had no idea this was even happening.

Authors simply awakened to see they had lost ten, twenty, thirty, and in some cases hundreds of sales. That was for those who’d been keeping tally of their sales to date for the month (quite a few don’t). Some had suspected something was amiss, like myself, but didn’t know how many were being returned exactly. We only saw the minus figures and zeros on a regular enough basis to know there was an issue.

Susan May is taking what action she can:

…Many authors, myself being one, are not creating any more audiobooks until this is resolved. We don’t get paid much per sale, the lion share is kept by Audible, even though we pay up to anything around $8k to create an audiobook, and then add marketing on top of that. Now they are also stealing up to half of our small percentage return to bump up their own profits.

WHY DON’T WE LEAVE AUDIBLE AND ACX?

Yes, we are all leaving Audible to go wide, if we haven’t already, but they still represent a large chunk of the pie, and even if you place your books through another distributor to deliver to Audible, you’re still losing via the returns on the Audible platform.

There is also the annoying detail of a lock-in contract of seven years which prevents authors from leaving even if they are unhappy and bonded into a feudal farming-style, unfair practice literally cheating them.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you’ve been returning audiobooks and misusing the system, whether you were completely unaware of the implications to an author or not, please STOP. JUST STOP. In the physical world, this is akin to eating at a restaurant, enjoying the food and then a month later asking for your money back because you fancy eating at the restaurant again and can’t afford to pay, or don’t want to pay, or want to eat at another place because you’ve already tried their food but you want them to pay by refunding your money. We will never know who you are, we authors, but we will be grateful if you stop doing this.

May asks:

Please spread the word to your friends and family how the system works at Audible…

In compliance with her request about half of what she has to say is quoted here. There’s even more you can learn by reading her complete post — “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/20 I Sing The Pixel Electric, The Files Of Those I Love Scroll Me And I Scroll Them

(1) UK LOCKDOWN BEGINS. “England is going into a month (at least) of hard lockdown,” says Jonathan Cowie – see details at SF2 Concatenation. About that sff/science news publication Cowie reassures:

We have enough articles in and thirty or so book reviews in hand for a spring edition of  SF² Concatenation in January.

If lockdown ends as planned in December, then there’ll also be a pre-Christmas Best of  ‘Futures’ short story.  If not then we’ll roll it into the Spring edition.

(2) ISS AT 20. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Today’s (Tues Nov 3) Science section of the New York Times is mostly about the International Space Station, celebrating “20 years of…”, including a two-page spread with like a dozen short items, three of which are by Mary Robinette Kowal. It looks like these are reprinted.

Here’s the collective link.

And here’s Kowal’s trio:

Andrew Porter also sent a note:

If you can access this, gorgeous photos and historical background. Note to editors: the photos, being from NASA, can be used with credit. “How the Space Station Became a Base to Launch Humanity’s Future “ at the New York Times.

(3) NEW TAFF REPORT PUBLISHED. John Coxon’s 2011 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report is now available. Covers his perambulations through Canada and the USA, and attending Renovation (the 69th World Science Fiction Convention).

  • In electronic form here (£5.00)
  • Or as a physical book from Lulu (£20.00)

(4) FUTURE WALK. “Cory Doctorow on his drive to inspire positive futures” – an interview at Polygon.

We’ve been talking a lot at Polygon about whether it’s possible for science fiction to model a positive future. Your earliest science fiction books felt utopian, but your recent books, especially the Little Brother series,is much more cynical and concerned about America. Has the way you think about technology and the possibility for a positive future changed since your early books?

I don’t know, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is definitely a complicated utopia, because it supposes that a non-monetary mechanism for allocating resources would just become money again, right? That it would just turn into another unequal rich-get-richer society. So it is, in some ways, a critique of the utopian idea of reputation economics.

Walkaway is about utopianism, in the sense that it’s a book in which crises are weathered. One of the things I recognized when I went out on tour with that book and started talking to people about it is that utopianism is not the assumption that nothing will go wrong. Being an engineer who builds a system on the assumption that it won’t break doesn’t make you an optimist, it makes you an asshole. That’s the thing that makes you decide we don’t need lifeboats for the Titanic.

Instead, being hopeful and utopian means believing that when things break down, we can rebuild them. One of the things we’re living through right now is people acting as though we have lost, as a species, the ability to weather big global crises, like we want to build the pyramids with Egyptian technology or something. Like it’s the practice of a lost civilization that we will never recover. To be an optimist, or to be utopian, is to believe that we can rise to challenges.

Not that challenges will be vanquished once and for all — even if you built a stable system where everything worked well, that system would be subjected to exogenous shocks….

(5) THE COMMONWEALTH, ER, FEDERATION OF PLANETS. The Royal Mail is taking pre-orders for their Star Trek Special Stamps.

Our Star Trek Special Stamps and limited edition collectibles celebrate classic characters from the ground-breaking TV series and big-screen blockbusters.

The Royal Mail blurb says of this panel —

Twelve new illustrations celebrate British actors who have boldly explored the final frontier as Starfleet captains or crew members.

(6) HEARD THAT VOICE BEFORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] SNL alum Darrell Hammond, who does a GREAT impression of Sean Connery, sent out a tweet with a highlight reel of his Connery dueling on Jeopardy! with Will Farrell as Alex Trebek.

(7) SESSIONS OBIT. John Sessions, an English actor whose genre credits include Gormenghast, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Dr Who, Outlander, and the audiobook versions of Asterix, died November 2. He was 67.

In the 2014 Doctor Who episode “Mummy on the Orient Express,” he provided the voice of Gus, a sentient computer controlling the titular train. He also co-created and starred in the cult ’90s comedy series Stella Street and made TV appearances in Skins, Outlander, and Friday Night Dinner.

His impeccable impression of his late friend Alan Rickman, which you can watch here, proved especially popular over the years.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 3, 1967 — “I, Mudd” first aired as the eighth episode of the second season of the original Trek series. Written by Stephen Kandel from a story by Gene Roddenberry, it was directed by Marc Daniels. It reprised the character of Harry Mudd as played Roger C. Carmel who first appeared in “Mudd’s Women”, a season one episode. Although Kandel is the credited writer on the episode, though David Gerrold performed an uncredited extensive rewrite. Carmel was rumored to have been planned to reprise the character on Star Trek: The Next Generation but died before that could happen. He did voice the character in “Mudd’s Passion”, an episode of the animated series. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born November 3, 1925 – Monica Hughes, O.C.  Twenty novels, half as many shorter stories, for us, not counting three dozen children’s books of which some are SF; various others.  Dress designer in London and Bulawayo.  Codebreaker in the Women’s Royal Naval Service.  Gardener.  Beachcomber.  Phoenix Award, Hal Clement Award, Vicky Metcalf Award, Alberta Ross Annett Award.  Order of Canada.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1929 Neal Barrett, Jr. Heavily nominated for many awards including a number of Hugos but he never won any. He was Toastmaster at LoneStarCon 2.  He was prolific writing over two dozen novels and some fifty pieces of short fiction including a novelization of the first Dredd film. As good much of his genre work was, I think his finest, best over the top work was the Wiley Moss series which led off with Pink Vodka Blues. He’s generously available at usual digital suspects. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born November 3, 1933 – Jack Harness.  Among much else he was the Fan With Too Many Names; Scribe JH, Jxtn Muir, Hawkman, the Golux; these bred variations, like “Wheet-wheet”.  They all had origins.  He’d been Hawkman in the Chicon III (20th Worldcon) Masquerade.  Thurber’s Golux in The Thirteen Clocks wore an indescribable hat, Jack wore indescribable shirts.  He dreamed up card games, fanart, cooking.  For a while LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) played strange poker; I believe he invented Soft Shoe, where you could shuffle off to bluff a low.  Once he sat staring upward so long that other players demanded to know what he was doing; he answered “I’m worshiping the ceiling”; this was put into song.  The LASFS Secretary has been the Scribe ever since his term; he wrote, not the minutes, but the Menace of the LASFS; this too stuck.  I could go on, but I won’t.  (Died 2001) [JH]

  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 stories. One web source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born November 3, 1942 Martin Cruz Smith, 78. Best remembered for Gorky Park, the Russian political thriller, but he’s also done a number of  genre novels in The Indians Won (alternate history), Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy (PI with psychic powers) and two wonderful pulpish novels, The Inca Death Squad and Code Name: Werewolf
  • Born November 3, 1946 – Kathryn Davis, 74.  Two novels, four shorter stories for us.  Six other novels.  Janet Heidinger Kafka PrizeMorton Dauwen Zaubel AwardLannan Award for Fiction.  “When you are lost in the uncanny woods of this astonishing, double-hinged book [Duplex], just keep reading, and remember to look up.  Kathryn Davis knows right where you are”, NY Times 20 Sep 13.  [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 64. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify? (CE) 
  • Born November 3, 1957 – Dan Hollifield, 63. Editor of Aphelion.  Two short stories there, collection Tales from the Mare Inebrium.  Has read The Past Through TomorrowIshmaelRainbow MarsOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jane Austen, and Dickens.  [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 57. Son of Jim Henson, he co-owns and runs the Jim Henson Company. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth. (CE) 
  • Born November 3, 1968 – Janni Lee Simner, 52.  Seven novels, thirty shorter stories. “Five Reasons Not to Self-Publish” in Reflection’s Edge, “Folkroots” about Icelandic folklore in Realms of Fantasy after Thief Eyes.  Judy Goddard Award.  Guest of Honor at CopperCon 31, TusCon 41.  [JH]
  • Born November 3, 1995 – Kendall Jenner, 25.  This top model and Kardashian relative wrote two SF novels (with a sister and ghostwriters).  The amazing astounding planetary startling thing is that she did it at all; hard even for us to imagine in 1939.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark’s entry “In which Armageddon awaits” illustrates a plan to unite humanity. But we are dealing with humans, after all. [H/t to David Langford.]
  • The Far Side often has thoughts I’ve never thunk before – this one’s about flying saucers.

(11) PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM. In “Honest Trailers: National Treasure” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say if you like historical mysteries, National Treasure “places the setting on ‘easy’ for a scavenger hunt anyone can figure out –even kids and Americans!”

(12) PREFERRED FUTURE. Sf writer Ariel S. Winter’s CrimeReads article “In A Pandemic World, We’re All Engaging In Speculative Fiction” says the speculative future we’re thinking about now is one where we can see our friends, not socially distance, and not wear face masks.

… “Wearing surgical face masks was [Laughton’s] least favorite part of being in a hospital. He hated the warm, damp feeling of his own breath coating his cheeks and nose, but it was the law.”

When I wrote that scene, the idea that I would be legally required to wear my own face mask in the months before the novel came out was impossible. The future I was writing towards was focused on humanoid, self-aware, artificial intelligences rather than the fictional pandemic that had given rise to the AI’s power. Artificial intelligence was the part of my novel that I envisioned for the future, not a plague.

While all fiction writing could be called a thought experiment, writing about the future is a special kind of thought experiment that doesn’t just ask how particular events affect particular people, but how collective historic events affect the way all people live. If one thing changes—technology, biology, history—what does life look like then?

(13) REACTIONS PREFERRED. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Amnesia:  Rebirth,” Fandom Games says this is a game for gamers who like solving “puzzles prepared for learning-impaired monkeys” with characters who chug far too much laudanum.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ. Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John Coxon, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day johnstick.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/20 The Credential’s Door Into Summer

(1) NUANCES ERASED IN MARKETING DUNE. “In Dune, Paul Atreides led a jihad, not a crusade” – why that matters is the focus of Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s opinion piece at Al Jazeera.

….But fans familiar with the books noticed a major omission in its promotional materials: any reference to the Islam-inspired framing of the novel. In fact, the trailer uses the words, “a crusade is coming”, using the Christian term for holy war – something that occurs a mere three times in the six books of the original series. The word they were looking for was “jihad”, a foundational term and an essential concept in the series. But jihad is bad branding, and in Hollywood, Islam does not sell unless it is being shot at.

Dune is the second film adaptation of the popular 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Set approximately 20,000 years in the future on the desert planet Arrakis, it tells the story of a war for control of its major export: the mind-altering spice melange that allows for instantaneous space travel. The Indigenous people of this planet, the Fremen, are oppressed for access to this spice. The story begins when a new aristocratic house takes over the planet, centring the narrative on the Duke’s son Paul.

The trailer’s use of “crusade” obscures the fact that the series is full of vocabularies of Islam, drawn from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Words like “Mahdi”, “Shai-Hulud”, “noukker”, and “ya hya chouhada” are commonly used throughout the story. To quote Herbert himself, from an unpublished 1978 interview with Tim O’Reilly, he used this vocabulary, partly derived from “colloquial Arabic”, to signal to the reader that they are “not here and now, but that something of here and now has been carried to that faraway place and time”. Language, he remarks, “is mind-shaping as well as used by mind”, mediating our experience of place and time. And he uses the language of Dune to show how, 20,000 years in the future, when all religion and language has fundamentally changed, there are still threads of continuity with the Arabic and Islam of our world because they are inextricable from humanity’s past, present, and future….

(2) LEARNING HORROR. Sarah Gailey adds to her Personal Canons “Wayside School”, a tribute to Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series.

…In addition to tapping into the deep, gut-level instability of growing up, Sachar wrote some truly choice moments of horror into these books. It’s horror for children, in that it’s a little gross and a little ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it ineffective. …

These are all presented as genuinely frightening, and they land beautifully. When I read these books as a child, I was aware that they were funny and unrealistic — but I also felt a lingering sense of unease. The school was not a safe place, and the teachers were not safe or trustworthy people. The rules rarely made sense, but the consequences to breaking them were very real. Everything constantly seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

These are the books that taught me to love being unsettled….

(3) STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Congratulations to the Strange Horizons’ reviews section which celebrated a milestone anniversary. Their twentieth-anniversary round table of reviewers past and present, featuring Rachel Cordasco, Erin Horáková, ML Kejera, Samira Nadkarni, Abigail Nussbaum, Charles Payseur, Nisi Shawl, Aishwarya Subramanian, and Bogi Takács, discusses “what reviewing is, why it matters—and why they bother with it.”

Abigail Nussbaum: I see my reviewing as an offshoot of fandom. In the late 90s and early 00s I was active in a few fandoms—X-Files and Harry Potter, mostly—but gravitated almost exclusively to what would now be described as “meta,” analysis and reviewing rather than fanfic. Around the mid-00s I was active on a message board called Readerville, dedicated to discussions of books, which helped me both to expand my reading and explore my impulse to talk about the things I’d read. I started a blog in 2005 basically because I had a lot to say and nowhere to say it—certainly not at the length I wanted. A few months later, Niall Harrison got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Strange Horizons, and the rest is history.

(4) TECH AND MORALITY. “Cory Doctorow: ‘Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists’” – a Q&A conducted by The Guardian’s Ian Tucker about Doctorow’s new book, Attack Surface.

The protagonist in your new novel tries to offset her job at a tech company where she is working for a repressive regime by helping some of its targets evade detection. Do you think many Silicon Valley employees feel uneasy about their work?
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with technology knows the amount of control that it gives you. If you can express yourself well to a computer it will do exactly what you tell it to do perfectly, as many times as you want. Across the tech sector, there are a bunch of workers who are waking up and going: “How did I end up rationalising my love for technology and all the power it gives me to take away that power from other people?”

As a society, we have a great fallacy, the fallacy of the ledger, which is that if you do some bad things, and then you do some good things, you can talk them up. And if your balance is positive, then you’re a good person. And if the balance is negative, you’re a bad person. But no amount of goodness cancels out the badness, they coexist – the people you hurt will still be hurt, irrespective of the other things you do to make amends. We’re flawed vessels, and we need a better moral discourse. That’s one of the things this book is trying to establish.

(5) CONSEQUENCES OF IMAGINING THE WORST? Doctorow is also on tap at Future Tense in a first-person piece about “The Dangers of Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories”.

When I moved to California from Toronto (by way of London), I was shocked by the prevalence of gun stores and, by their implication, that so many of my reasonable-seeming neighbors were doubtless in possession of lethal weapons. Gradually the shock wore off—until the plague struck. When the lockdown went into effect, the mysterious gun stores on the main street near my house sprouted around-the-block lines of poorly distanced people lining up to buy handguns. I used to joke that they were planning to shoot the virus and that their marksmanship was not likely to be up to the task, but I knew what it was all about. They were buying guns because they’d told themselves a story: As soon as things went wrong, order would collapse, and their neighbors would turn on them.

Somehow, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I’m a science-fiction writer, and I write a lot of disaster stories. Made-up stories, even stories of impossible things, are ways for us to mentally rehearse our responses to different social outcomes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s conception of an intuition pump—“a thought experiment structured to allow the thinker to use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem”—suggests that fiction (which is, after all, an elaborate thought experiment) isn’t merely entertainment.*

That’s true. And it’s a problem….

(6) UNFORGOTTEN. Never mentioned by the actress, but Glorious Trash remembers Diana Rigg’s work in “Minikillers (1969)”.

German producers H.G. Lückel and D. Nettemann had an entrepreneurial idea: to provide entertainment for people getting their cars refilled at gas stations in Germany. The idea was to place TV sets by the pumps, so customers could watch a short film while their car was filled (this was before the days of self-service.)  They envisioned an espionage thriller to capitalize on the James Bond/Eurospy genre. Casting about for a famous lead, they eventually settled on Diana Rigg — fresh from her biggest role in the Bond film On Her Majestys Secret Service. After negotiating, Rigg agreed to appear in these films. 

Minikillers is a series of four short films, tied together into a coherent storyline: the idea was that customers would keep coming back to that particular gas station to see the conclusion. The series was shot on 8 millimeter and without dialog; sound effects and music were added later. In a way the project comes off like a silent film; all is relayed via movement, gestures, and facial expressions. 

Rigg apparently did not realize the uber-low budget of these films until the camera(s) started to roll. However true to her contract she shot each of them…and never mentioned them again. 

As they are up on YouTube: 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Terry Pratchett won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the Mythopoeic Society. It was his second Award from them as five years earlier he’d won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for A Hat Full of Sky, the second of the novels involving the young witch Tiffany Aching. That novel would also garner the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. The series as a whole would later be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature but the Award went to Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 13, 1872 – Boris Zvorykin.  Designer and illustrator; illustrated books, decorated churches, worked for Tsar Nicholas II.  Left at the Revolution, eventually went to Paris, in 1930 translated & illustrated four Russian fairy tales, also did porcelain for Porzella later incorporated in Villeroy & Boch.  In 1978 Jacqueline Onassis found and produced his book, The Firebird (in English).  Here is a print illustrating Boris Godounov.  Here is one for Tsar Saltan.  Here is “The Snow Maiden”.  Here is a set of his V&B plates.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1906 – William Morrison.  Four novels, eighty shorter stories; “The Science Stage” in F&SF; memoir in Greenberg, Olander & Pohl’s 1980 thirty-year Galaxy anthology; posthumous collection The Sly Bungerhop (2017).  Ph.D. research chemist under another name.  Comics, credited with creating J’Onn J’Onzz the Manhunter from Mars.  Wrote about archeology, ballet, opera, theater, Rome.  (Died 1980)  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1923 – Iona Opie, C.B.E.  Folklorist, anthologist, with her husband Peter; their collection of children’s books and ephemera 16th-20th Centuries is in the Bodleian Lib’y (20,000 pieces; two-year public appeal raised the £500,000 cost); audiotapes of children’s games & songs in the British Lib’y.  Oxford Dictionary of Nursery RhymesLore & Language of Schoolchildren; two dozen stories for us in The Classic Fairy Tales; two dozen more books.  Coote Lake Medal jointly.  Iona made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1926 Lenny Bruce. Yes, the foul-mouthed stand-up comic. ISFDB lists him as having co-authored three essays with Harlan Ellison in Rouge magazine in 1959 all called “Bruce Here”. Rogue also printed SF stories as well from Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Mack Reynolds and Harlan Ellison to name some of their writers. It lasted but six issues. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 64. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 61. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1967 Kate Walsh, 53. She has the recurring role of The Handler in The Umbrella Academy series. Walsh starred as Sandra Anderson in the biblical horror film Legion, and was a sexy waitress in the Bewitched film. She was Amal Colb in Scary Movie 5, the fifth and final installment in the Scary Movie franchise. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1967 – Petri Hiltunen, 53.  Cartoonist and illustrator.  Puupäähattu award.  His Praedor comics led to a role-playing game of the same name.  In his comic strip The Return of Väinämöinen, the Eternal Sage of Kalevala ends his self-imposed exile to find he might have been gone too long, e.g. these newfangled “potatoes” are now considered a traditional food.  PH contributes to the SF magazine Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Wanderer”); he’s well known in Finnish fandom e.g. at Finncon.  Here is an illustration for Knight of the Cursed Land.  Here is the cover for his graphic-novel version of Macbeth.  Here is an illustration for the board-game Aegemonia.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 51. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. Eureka novels sound fascinating but this is the only one that I found so far. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1975 – Jana Bauer, 45.  Her Witch Vanisher is available in English; the publisher says she has a deviously humorous narrative style.  She edits Exchanges, short prose from different countries, and Forget-me-nots in Slovenian and English for the children of Slovene emigrants (I’ve left out the Slovenian titles because of software character trouble).  In the Land of Gingerbread was the first Forget-me-not (see p. 2 of this newsletter).  For Scary Fairy in the Fearful Forest see here.  A dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 44. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1983 – Lesley Nneka Arimah, 37.  Nat’l Magazine Award, O. Henry Award, Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  “Skinned” (Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories, Machado ed. 2019) and four more for us in her collection What Does It Mean When a Man Falls from the Sky?, Kirkus Prize and don’t miss its last review at her Website, where also she says she is working on a novel about you.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEL GROWTH. Vulture has “The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, the history of an art form that continues to draw us in”, which provides a deep dive into animation history for people who want to know more about animation.

(11) GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT. Cat Rambo reads a story for Halloween.

This short urban fantasy story originally appeared in Stamps, Tramps, and Vamps, edited by Shannon Robinson. It takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and involves a tattoo artist who’s got a different purpose in mind than her latest client does. It seemed like it would be a fun Halloween story to share!

(12) STATE OF THE NATION. There’s a lot more to think about than I expected in Zippia’s “Map Of Each State’s Favorite Halloween Candy (Spoiler: Some States Have Really Bad Taste)”. Here are first three of nine bullet points.

  • Starburst is a favorite with 6 states loving the fruity squares above all else
  • The winner is in, and between chocolate and non-chocolate candy it’s a…toss-up.
  • 25 states prefer chocolates candies while 25 prefer gummies, fruit-flavored candies, and other non-chocolate candies.

(13) TUNING UP. Genre adjacent, at least. “Delia Derbyshire Documentary Gets New Trailer: Watch” at Pitchfork.

…Derbyshire, an early electronic music pioneer, worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, where she composed the theme for the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who. Written and directed by Caroline Catz, the film features archival materials, interviews with Derbyshire’s colleagues and collaborators, and dramatizations starring Catz herself as the composer. Derbyshire’s original compositions are featured alongside a soundtrack by Cosey Fanni Tutti, constructed from samples Derbyshire’s posthumously released “Attic Tapes.”

(14) UNCLE WALT. Defunctland is “the show about the past…of the future!” Here are two of its episodes devoted to Walt Disney’s landmarks Disneyland and EPCOT.

In this episode, Kevin finally reaches the opening of Disneyland, focusing on the development and history of Tomorrowland 1955, the first, hastily-made version of the famous theme park land, including attractions such famous attractions as Rocket to the Moon, Autopia, Space Station X-1, the Matterhorn, the Skyway, Submarine Voyage, and the Monorail.

Walt Disney made ambitious plans for a City of Tomorrow named E.P.C.O.T. just before his death in 1966, but the plans were soon abandoned. What were Walt’s ideas for his city of the future, what happened to the project, and would it have worked?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight:  Eclipse Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the third Twilight movie has a very strange title, because “Why would you spend two hours looking at an eclipse?”

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Will R., John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/18/20 You Scrollious Scatterbrained Primitive Phile of Pixelated Pistons

(1) DC “TRANSFORMS” ITS DIGITAL COMIC PLATFORM/OFFERING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “DC UNIVERSE Transforms Into DC UNIVERSE INFINITE!” I’ve been a happy-enough subscriber to DC Universe since its launch a year or so ago. My main motivation was the live action Doom Patrol (which I’ve loved) and to a lesser extent, l-a Titans (medium well done, though often fuzzy which plotlines were in motion, and canon-quirky, but they got Krypto, even), and for streamed comics, though not as satisfying a selection or as well organized as Marvel’s offering. But definitely worth the modest price. “New release comics are now available 6 months after they hit stores” — that’s sooner, for DC, although Marvel has already been doing this (for some issues/titles).

It looks like the price is staying the same for now, $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year.

io9’s post “The Excellent DC Universe Is Dead, and a Comics-Only Service Is Taking Its Place” helps clarify that the video content is jumping over to HBO Max.

Today DC Entertainment announced that as of January 21, 2021 DC Universe will “evolve” into DC Universe Infinite, a comics only service. It’s a shame, because DC Universe has lowkey been one of the best streaming services you could drop cash on every month—if you’re a giant nerd like myself.

The combination of old superhero TV shows, endless reams of comics, and solid original monthly programming like Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn made it a good deal…

(2) WHAT’S THAT SOUND. Cory Doctorow, in “We Need to Talk About Audible” at Publishers Weekly, is making a move against the dominant audiobook seller.

…A few months after its move in the music business, Amazon completed its acquisition of a scrappy upstart audiobook company called Audible. At the time of the acquistion, Amazon publicly announced it would remove Audible’s DRM. After all, why would a company with a self-proclaimed “relentless customer focus” impose such restrictions on audiobook users?

Fast-forward 12 years, and Audible has accomplished remarkable things. The company has helped grow the audiobook market to the point where it is a vital revenue stream for publishers. And Audible commands a huge share of the digital audiobook market—as much 90% of the market in some verticals.

But, they never removed the DRM.

…Last week, I launched a Kickstarter for presales of the audiobook. Because I am set up to act as an e-book retailer for my publishers (including both Tor and Attack Surface UK publisher, Head of Zeus) I was able to list both the series backlist and the Attack Surface audiobook on the crowdfunding campaign. As of this writing, we have raised more than $207,000.

Look, $207,000 is a lot of money. And my family’s finances have taken a severe beating since the Covid-19 crisis hit—I’m sure you can sympathize. We need this. Thank you.

But I’m not doing this for the money. Rather, my not-so-secret plan is to fundamentally shift how publishers relate to authors who are willing to stand up against Audible’s exclusive non-negotiable DRM-enforced exclusive market strategy. Giving authors leverage over Audible isn’t just about getting it to back down on its DRM policy. It also empowers us work with libraries, against whom Audible maintains a total blackout, refusing to license any of its exclusive audio content at all, forcing America’s library users to buy subscriptions through Amazon’s data-hungry, monopoly-reinforcing app.

My belief is that once more authors and publishers find they can succeed outside of the Audible funnel, Amazon will have to give Audible customers and the authors and publishers who supply the content the technical means and legal right to take their business elsewhere if they choose. And once that happens, publishers and authors will finally regain some of the leverage needed to negotiate fair deals from Audible.

I recognize that not every author can do what I’ve done with Attack Surface. That said, there are plenty of writers with platforms who can—I mean, if I can do it they can do it too….

(3) CELEBRATE AVRAM DAVIDSON. In the premiere episode of the “The Avram Davidson Universe” podcast, which debuted September 16, Seth Davis sits down with Ethan Davidson, to discuss growing up with Avram Davidson as his father and to listen to a reading of “Or All The Seas With Oysters.”

In each episode of the podcast and video series, they will perform a reading, and discuss Davidson’s works with a special guest. Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

(4) SECOND AGE. Someone blabbed about Amazon’s production where Bleeding Cool could overhear them: “The Lord of the Rings: Morfydd Clark Talks “Massive” Prequel Series”.

… Writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay are developing the series and serving as showrunner, with Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) serving as a consultant. Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes. Amazon Studios produces, in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema. The prequel series stars Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman, and Maxim Baldry.

The new stories will take place prior to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” and look to focus on the “Second Age” – a time when the Rings of Power were first revealed. “J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team. I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story,” explained Bayona at the time the news was announced.

(5) SPACE, THE FINAL AUDITION. A new reality show wants to send one of you to the International Space Station in 2023. Assuming “you” means the kind of person who can win in the cutthroat world of reality TV. Deadline reports “Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In 2023; Space Hero Company & Propagate Producing”.

Following the success of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon mission, which marked the return of the U.S.’ capability for manned flights and the first private company to get people into orbit, a reality series wants to send a civilian into space.

Space Hero Inc., a U.S.-based production company founded by Thomas Reemer and Deborah Sass and led by former News Corp Europe chief Marty Pompadur, has secured a seat on a 2023 mission to the International Space Station. It will go to a contestant chosen through an unscripted show titled Space Hero. Produced by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate, the series will launch a global search for everyday people from any background who share a deep love for space exploration. They will be vying for the biggest prize ever awarded on TV.

The selected group of contestants will undergo extensive training and face challenges testing their physical, mental and emotional strength, qualities that are essential for an astronaut in space. I hear the idea is for the culmination of the competition to be in a an episode broadcast live around the world where viewers from different countries can vote for the contestant they want to see going to space. 

(6) DUNE PREQUEL? ScreenRant’s “Dune Will Be Different Than Any Other Book Adaptation” on YouTube suggests that the indications are that the new movie will be faithful to Frank Herbert’s novel and reveals that a prequel series, with Denis Villeneuve directing the first episode, is in development at HBO Max.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2005 Snake Agent,  the first of Liz Williams’  Detective Inspector Chen novels, was published on the now defunct Night Shade Books. Set in the near future city of Singapore Three where Heaven and Hell were very real and far too close, the series would reach six novels and two short stories before concluding for now according to the author with Morningstar.  Jon Foster provided the cover art for the first four which are all on Night Shade. The first five novels are available from the usual digital suspects. Do read them in order as they do have a story that develops with each novel. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 18, 1824 – Richard Doyle.  His cover for Punch 6 was used for the P masthead nearly a hundred years.  Master illustrator of elves and fairies as Victorians imagined them; see herehere (“The Elf-King Asleep”), hereherehere.  Here is his cover for Jack and the Giants.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1937 – Ed Cagle.  Fanwriter until his early death (age 43).  His fanzines were Kwalhioqua and (with Dave Locke) Shambles.  Eric Mayer said, “Kwalhioqua was such an amazing zine I even remember how to spell it.  No one before or since has written like Ed.  His humor was outrageous, warped, rude, but never cruel.  He found weird perspectives on things.”  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 – Joan Johnston, 72.  Lawyer with a master’s degree in theater; became a best-selling author, forty contemporary and historical romances.   Five Romantic Times awards.  Well into her Hawk’s Way series of Westerns she wrote a prequel with a Texas Ranger pulling a 19th Century woman into the 20th Century (A Little Time in Texas), expectable (by us) issues for the author, reactions from readers – some applauding, I hasten to add.  Success resumed; 15 million books in print; no blame from me.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 72. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for awhile) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is. Most of the Thieves’ World Series is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1952 Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones drummer. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1953 – Michael Nelson, 67.  Local club, WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n).  Chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 (successor to Disclaves).  Helpful and reliable at other tasks too, e.g. Hugo co-administrator (with K. Bloom) at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon.  Currently Publications Division head for DisCon III the 79th Worldcon scheduled for August 2021.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1961 – Chris O’Halloran, 59.  Fan Guest of Honor (with husband John) at Baycon 2013.  Often found working in the Masquerade (onstage costume competition at SF cons); e.g. at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin) chief of the running crew we for some reason call ninja (instead of the existing Kabukiterm kuroko); sometimes competes, e.g. speaking of Torcon 3 she was part of the Best in Show “Trumps of Amber from Zelazny’s books.  She helped an outreach program bring six thousand free books to the 18th WonderCon.  Master’s degree in Library Science.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1980 – Kristine Ong Muslim, 40.  Fifty short stories, two hundred twenty poems; recent collection, The Drone Outside; recent introduction, The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature.  Co-editor Lontar 1-10 (journal of SE Asian SF; 2013-2018); Lightspeed special issue “People of Colo(u)r Destroy SF”.  Translator, particularly of Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 36. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics, and she wrote the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has the sequel EB never finished.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider is “Against Despair.”

(10) MOVIE FANS REMAIN AWOL. “Movie Theaters Returned. Audiences Didn’t. Now What?” asks the New York Times.

“Tenet” was supposed to mark the return of the movie theater business in the United States. Instead, it has shown just how much trouble the industry is in.

After five months of pandemic-forced closure, the big movie theater chains reopened in roughly 68 percent of the United States by Labor Day weekend, in large part so they could show the $200 million film, which Warner Bros. promoted as “a global tent pole of jaw-dropping size, scope and scale.” But “Tenet,” directed by the box office heavyweight Christopher Nolan, instead arrived with a whimper: It collected $9.4 million in its first weekend in North America and just $29.5 million over its first two weeks.

Theaters remain closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest markets in the United States and the center of Mr. Nolan’s fan base. In the areas where “Tenet” did play, audience concern about safety — even with theater capacity limited to 50 percent or less in most locations — likely hurt ticket sales. Box office analysts also noted that “Tenet” is a complicated, cerebral movie with little star power; a frothier, more escapist offering may have had an easier time coaxing people back to cinemas….

(11) THE WRITER’S EDGE. Brad Parks, in “How Will Crime Fiction Authors Hold Up In The Coming Zombie Apocalypse?” on CrimeReads, asks several crime writers what they would do if faced with a horde of ravenously hungry zombies. Tagline: “Crime fiction writers will survive the zombie apocalypse, but only the women.”

.. “Of course crime writers will survive. You may think it’s because we have done the exhaustive research on anti-zombie weapons in addition to mastering techniques for martial arts and amazing feats of self-defense in the face of a rising zombie population. Alas, the true reason for our survival will stem from our keen ability to avoid public places and hide in dark corners for months at a time.” —Danielle Girard, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of White Out

(12) DEJA FIVE. James Davis Nicoll remembers “Five Unforgettable Books Involving Amnesia” at Tor.com. First on the list:

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970)

Carl Corey wakes in Greenwood, an unfamiliar hospital. He has no idea how he got there. Indeed, thanks to his amnesia, he has only the staff’s word that he is “Carl Corey” and not, to pick a name entirely at random, Corwin of Amber. Some applied violence later and the curiously untrusting Carl Corey learns the name of the benefactor paying for his stay at the hospital: his sister, Evelyn Flaumel.

Escaping the hospital, he confronts the woman in question, who turns out to be no more Evelyn Flaumel than he is Carl Corey. She is, however, his sister. In fact, Corwin has a number of siblings, a Machiavellian litter imbued with powers unknown on the Earth on which Corwin woke, many of whom are rivals for the otherworldly Crown of Amber and some of whom might, if they knew he had escaped Greenwood’s comfortable oubliette, simply kill him.

(13) SHATNER RARITY. Available for bid through September 24 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions — “William Shatner Shares His Memories of Growing Up Jewish — Signed ‘Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew'”. Image at the link.

William Shatner autograph essay signed ”William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”, with Shatner describing his happy memories of growing up Jewish. Composed on his personal embossed stationery, Shatner writes about ”Some Hanukkah Memories”, in full, ”First of all I’d like to say I recently released a Holiday album – I was going to call it ‘Dreidel Dreidel’ but then I thought better of it. Maybe I should have – maybe.

I was born in the Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood of Montreal Quebec Canada to a Conservative Jewish family – my Paternal Grandfather ‘Wolfe Schattner’ anglicized his family name to Shatner. All four of my grandparents were immigrants – they came from the Austria-Hungary and Russian Empires – location of present day Ukraine and Lithuania.

Third – during my childhood – the menorah stood somewhere on the mantelpiece – it was silver and black from use no matter how often it was polished – it stood there until used and then it was used with great reverence.

Fourth, my mother standing over the frying pan, pouring in a mixture of potatoes – ground-up potatoes into the sizzling fat – the oil – and frying up potato pancakes. The memory of those potato pancakes with applesauce and the family crowding around eating the pancakes is a memory that is indelible. / Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.5”. Near fine condition.

(14) BY JOVE. “Hubble Captures Crisp New Portrait of Jupiter’s Storms” — NASA has shared the images.

Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color – again.

(15) BOGUS LEGOS. NPR interviews “Lego Fans Tricked By Counterfeit Kits”.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Legos are more than a toy. They’re an investment. The company that makes those little plastic building blocks pulled in more than $5.5 billion in sales last year. They often sell Legos in special kits, sometimes depicting famous movie scenes. And they retire those kits after a while, making them collector’s items for fans and upping their value. But where there’s money to be made, there are also scams. Let’s go into the world of counterfeit Lego sets with Stacey Vanek Smith and Sally Herships from the podcast The Indicator at Planet Money.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: Tom Glascoe (ph) lives in Dayton, Ohio. He has three kids, and they all love Lego, which is how he got into trouble. He’d been looking for a Lego X-Wing Resistance Fighter for his son.

TOM GLASCOE: And so perusing Facebook one day, I saw an ad for it for what seemed to be a low but maybe not too low of a price.

HERSHIPS: The X-Wing was half price – just 30 bucks.

GLASCOE: The pieces weren’t the same quality, and they didn’t go together quite as nicely as regular Legos.

(16) PETA CALLS FOR PEEPS PURITY. “PETA Demands That Just Born Make Vegan Peeps Because ‘The World Is In Turmoil’”Delish covers both sides.

Peeps, as it turns out, can’t seem to catch a break. The brand’s production is under fire again this week, albeit for an entirely different reason. Actor James Cromwell sent a letter to the CEO of Just Born demanding that the recipe for Peeps go vegan, because “the world is in turmoil.” ICYMI: One key ingredient in peeps is gelatin, which can be obtained from pork skin and bones.

“We use pork derived gelatin in our Peeps marshmallow to achieve a light, soft texture,” Peeps explains on its website: “Gelatin allows us to incorporate small finely divided bubbles allowing you to bite through the marshmallow cleanly with a creamy mouth feel.”

The demand is oddly-timed because the manufacturer has already said their will be no Halloween or holiday Peeps at all due to the pandemic.

(17) BUTTERFLY EFFECT. In the alternate timeline I now occupy, an author called Chuck Tingle plugs his Hugo nominations on the cover of his recent novel.

In this thrilling tale of The Tingleverse, you decide which path to take. With multiple endings to discover and several consequences to face, the reader is the star of the show as you fight to see your name in lights!

Will you and a punk rock unicorn take over the fine art scene after a battle with giant rats in Venna Beach?

Will you encounter The Valley Girls, a roving band of desert-dwelling barbarians in diesel-powered war machines, and live to tell the tale?

Will you find yourself house-sitting for dinosaur superstar Bob Downer, Jr. in the Tinglewood Hills, only to discover things are not exactly as they seem?

The decision is yours!

(18) WOOKIEE WEAR. Yahoo! News is there when “Adidas and Star Wars Launch Fur-Covered Chewbacca Sneaker”.

Adidas has teamed up with Star Wars once again, this time paying tribute to one of the series’ most iconic characters with an eye-catching sneaker collaboration.

The duo revealed their Rivalry Hi Chewbacca, a fur-covered high-top inspired by the beloved wookiee warrior, earlier this week. It features a neutral-toned color palette to represent the sci-fi desert landscape and hardware embossed with the words “STAR” and “WARS” on each shoelace.

Adidas and Star Wars also gave a nod to the belt Chewbacca wore during Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by adding a strap on the tongue of the show, and an image of the of the big-hearted wookie covers the soles.

Adidas RIVALRY HI STAR WARS SHOES Ode to Chewbacca https://www.adidas.co.uk/rivalry-hi-star-wars-shoes/FX9290.html CR: Adidas Originals

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Jurassic Park for 8 Cellos” on YouTube, Samara Ginsberg accompanies herself seven times playing the theme from Jurassic Park while cosplaying in a furry green dino costume!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/20 The Voyage Of The Space Pixel

(1) RECOGNIZING THE TROUBLE. Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant is set for an October release. Learn more about the author’s experience writing it in “Comma-Shaped Jades And Other Curiosities: An Article By Yoon Ha Lee” at SciFiNow.uk.

One of the things people warned me about when it comes to writing novels is that no matter how smoothly novel N goes, there’s no guarantee that novel N+1 will also go smoothly. I learned this the hard way in writing Phoenix Extravagant.

I thought I had the plot all planned out, and I knew my protagonist was going to be a painter, and that there would be a mecha dragon. As for the worldbuilding, well, I’d make that up on the fly.  That’s what I did with the hexarchate and it more or less worked then; why not now?

You’re probably thinking that making things up on the fly is where I went wrong, and that’s not quite true. If I try to linearize worldbuilding down a checklist, it kills the world flat dead for me. No: the issue was a bigger one. I picked the wrong setting….

(2) WHERE’S THE BEEF? What’s the first thing New Zealanders wanted to do when the government eased lockdown restrictions from level four to level three? Not what I’d guess. “New Zealanders are so eager to eat burgers after the coronavirus lockdown that police are having to enforce crowd control”.

Police in New Zealand have been required to enforce crowd control measures at a popular fast food outlet after large numbers of people rushed to buy burgers following a relaxing of the country’s lockdown measures on Tuesday.

New Zealand, which has reported 1,474 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, spent almost five weeks under a strict, level four lockdown. The country eased into level three restrictions on Tuesday, meaning some children could go back to school and 400,000 people were able to go back to work.

But for many, it was a chance to finally eat the fast food they had been craving. Under level three restrictions, a limited number of restaurants and cafes have been permitted to reopen. According to TVNZ, that resulted in long queues of cars at KFC and McDonald’s drive-thrus outlets throughout Auckland, the country’s biggest city.

(3) ROBOT CENTENARY NEARS.  Jaroslav Olsa Jr. has a plan for celebrating Capek’s famous robot story when its hundredth birthday rolls around. If you can help, email him at olsa-jr (at) post (dot) cz

One hundred years ago, in November 1920, drama “R. U. R. Rossum´s Universal Robots” by Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) saw its first edition. Story about a rebellion of artificial people ending with an extinction of humanity saw the first use of the word “robot”.

Though Isaac Asimov didn´t like the play, he rightly commented that R. U. R. is “immortal for that one word. It contributed the word ‘robot’ not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written.”

This year we will have an anthology of original science fiction stories set and connected to Capek´s world of R.U.R. But we are also thinking about an international anthology of the best robotic stories from all over the world… as another homage to maybe the most famous Czech – ROBOT. If you know such excellent piece from the East or West, South or North, send me a copy of the story…

(4) PRATCHETT’S FUTURE ON THE SMALL SCREEN. Media adaptations of favorite writers’ work can be chancy, but Variety makes this sound like a great idea: “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Series to Be Adapted by Endeavor Content, Motive Pictures”.

Narrativia, the production company launched by Pratchett in 2012, has struck an exclusive development deal with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content for a series of TV adaptations. It is not yet known which of the “Discworld” books will be adapted initially….

Rhianna Pratchett, co-director of Narrativia and Pratchett’s daughter, said: “Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realised on screen in a form that my father would be proud of. It’s wonderful to embark on this journey with Motive and Endeavor Content, who both perfectly share our vision to make this a reality.”

Rob Wilkins, managing director of Narrativia, added: “The Discworld books are a huge source of joy to millions of readers, and rightly so; every paragraph, phrase and footnote was crafted with brilliance and flair and we are committed to bringing Terry’s world to the screen with the respect and care it deserves. With this partnership, we are delighted to say that Discworld has finally found its home.”

(5) FLYING SOLO. Cinema’s hottest pilot is in trouble again. “Harrison Ford plane incident under investigation by FAA” reports PageSix. He did the Kessel run in thirteen parsecs, but he screws up crossing a runway at a Southern California airport.

Harrison Ford says an airport runway incident now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration came about because he “misheard a radio instruction.”

The 77-year-old star, who is an avid pilot, was operating a plane at California’s Hawthorne Airport on April 24 when he crossed a runway while another aircraft was landing.

“Mr. Ford crossed the airport’s only runway in his aircraft after he misheard a radio instruction from [air traffic control],” Ford’s rep told Page Six in a statement Wednesday. “He immediately acknowledged the mistake and apologized to ATC for the error. The purpose of the flight was to maintain currency and proficiency in the aircraft.”

His rep added that no one was injured in the incident and “there was never any danger of a collision.”

The FAA confirmed that the two aircraft were approximately 3,600 feet away from each other at the time….

(6) WRITE IF YOU GET WORK. The good news is — “Harrison Ford Reportedly Being Eyed For Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Role”. Let WeGotThisCovered tell you all about it.

…According to our sources – the same ones who told us that the Guardians will cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder and Now You See Me 3 is in development, both of which have since been confirmed – Harrison Ford is reportedly wanted for a villainous part in the film. It’s unclear exactly which one it could be at the moment, but one possibility is the High Evolutionary, a role that his former Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill has been linked to in the past. In certain canon, the character has a hand in the creation and subsequent experiments on Rocket, which ties into the vague plot details that we know so far.

(7) ANDERS INTERVIEW. At Black Gate, Brandon Crilly introduces his “Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019”.

At Can*Con 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Author Guest of Honour Charlie Jane Anders sits down for a one-on-one with programming lead and author Brandon Crilly, discussing her latest novels, short fiction, and her work in fandom and the SFF community.

Which made me curious what’s the latest subject Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz are discussing on the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast. The answer — “Episode 55: 9 New Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now”.

In these tough times, we need great TV shows more than ever. We have lots of opinions about nine new series that are making us happy because they’re smart, fun, and — best of all — colorful! Plus, we’ve got recommendations for over a dozen more not-so-new shows that are worth digging up from last year, or last century. Stay safe at home and plunge your mind into dazzling new worlds. 

(8) OSCARS AFFECTED. NPR publicizes a “Academy Awards Eligibility Rules Change Due To COVID-19”.

With movie theaters shuttered and film festivals canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, films once slated for the big screen are now premiering in people’s homes, streaming on digital platforms or showing as video on demand. In an unprecedented move, the board governing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow movies that originally had theatrical release dates but are now being screened online to be eligible to be considered for awards.

“The historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a statement. Until now, to qualify for awards, a film had to run at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County. Under the new rules, when theaters reopen, films may qualify for awards if they have theatrical runs in L.A., New York, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Miami or Atlanta.

(9) WHERE TO HEAR FROM DOCTOROW. The Essence of Wonder livestream will offer “Cory Doctorow Being Civil With Security Experts” on May 9.

Cory Doctorow will join Gadi [Evron] on Saturday (9 May) to talk on DRM, Right to Repair, and COVID-19/Med-Tech, read from “Unauthorized Bread”, and moderate a panel discussion featuring Steve Crocker, Martin Roesch, Keren Elazari, Ron Gula, Dmitri Alperovich, and Caleb Sima, discussing the challenges of digital policy when facing security and privacy realities.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 29, 1950 Dimension X’s “No Contact” aired. The copy at the time described the episode such, “It was in the year 1982 that space men first discovered the great galactic barrier… 5 exploratory ships went out and none came back each disappearing mysteriously at the same vanishing point an invisible wall somewhere in the vast outer reaches that became known as the wrecker of spaceships.” Mel Brandt as usual was the announcer and  with George Lefferts being the writer, and the cast being Donald Buka, Matt Crowley and  Cameron Prudhomme. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre, but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Gam,e are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which was decidedly genre. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 60. Hominids won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. 
  • Born April 29, 1958 Michelle Pfeiffer, 62. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?hin The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 50. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film. 

(12) MORE ABOUT KERSHNER. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Today being Irvin Kershner’s celebration of what would have been his 97th birthday, here is a little photo and story. “Kersh” is the older gentleman in the blue shirt and black jacket holding court with the line, (The hat in the lower right belongs to George Clayton Johnson.)  This was the premiere of Roger Lay Jr’s graduate thesis film, Chrysalis, based on Ray Bradbury’s story. Ray was sitting to George’s left, out of picture.  They held court before the screening.

Kersh kind of snuck into the theater, unbeknownst to Roger, so he was not introduced.  Once the screening was over and thank yous expressed people in attendance were getting up and heading for the door or giving a final good-bye to Ray.  I realized that most of the people in the audience were “future” directors.  I shouted out how many liked The Empire Strikes Back?  All hands were raised.  I pointed out Kersh, introduced him and the fact that he directed it.  A line quickly formed.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range depends on a little inside joke. Robert Bloch would have understood it.
  • The Argyle Sweater returns with another batch of “not-so-famous second careers” – three are genre.

(14) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. Two Chairs Talking, the podcast where past Australian Worldcon chairs Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “talk about books, movies and other stuff,” is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Grigg says Episode-26: “Now We Are One” is “a special episode in which Perry and I each pick our five favourite books/series of all time and explain why we love them so much.”

For the record, the books discussed are: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

(15) CATCHING UP. Wil Wheaton admits it was news to him — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift”. Hear him read it on Soundcloud.

A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.

… By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.

I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about….

(16) PROMISE MORE THAN FULFILLED. Tsana Dolichva reviews The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz”:

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz is a time-travelling science fiction novel. I picked it up based on the promise that there would be both time travel and lesbians, though it turned out to be more diverse than just that description implies….

…But the overarching story is about fighting for rights and the methods by which history is made/changed. An ongoing debate in the book concerns the efficacy of collective action vs the Great Man theory; whether history can be changed incrementally and/or whether killing Hitler actually does anyone any good. But this is more a book about the characters, mostly women, looking out for each other, no matter the time period. If that’s your jam, then this may well be the book for you.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight a Jeopardy! contestant’s genre answer was mistaken.

The category: 19th Century novels.

The answer: “It’s first line ends, ‘the period was so far like the present period…for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'”

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Time Machine’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’?”

(18) LIKE FANTASIA’S HIPPOS. BBC reports“Dancing gargantuan black holes perform on cue”.

Astronomers have been able to test key consequences of Einstein’s theories by studying the way a couple of black holes move around each other.

One of these objects is a true colossus – a hole weighing 18 billion times the mass of our Sun; the other not quite so big at “only” 150 million Sun masses.

Scientists managed to predict their interactions very precisely.

They did so by including their warping effects on space-time and by assuming the larger hole had a smooth “surface”.

The black hole pairing, known as OJ 287, exists about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth.

Scientists have long recognised a sudden brightening from this system that occurs twice every 12 years. The outburst of energy is equivalent to a trillion suns turning on at once in the holes’ host galaxy.

The best explanation for this extraordinary behaviour is that the smaller object is routinely crashing through a disc of gas and dust that’s accreting on to its larger companion, heating the inspiraling material to extremely high temperatures in the process.

But this flaring is somewhat irregular. Sometimes the brightening episodes in the 12-year period occur as little as one year apart; other times, as much as 10 years apart.

It speaks to the complexity of the path the small hole takes around its partner – a complexity the research team has now built into a highly sophisticated model.

(19) NO PET ROCKS. The court extends a fannish rule: “AI cannot be recognised as an inventor, US rules”.

An artificial intelligence system has been refused the right to two patents in the US, after a ruling only “natural persons” could be inventors.

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected two patents where the AI system Dabus was listed as the inventor, in a ruling on Monday.

US patent law had previously only specified eligible inventors had to be “individuals”.

It follows a similar ruling from the UK Intellectual Property Office.

(20) CHECKING UP ON THE OTHER DOCTOR. “Dr Chuck Tingle is the glue holding this fragile and crumbling existence together,” says Jake Dowzell. The current crisis has inspired these two topical tinglers.

Meanwhile, a Tingle fan has found a way to show love through Animal Crossing.

(21) SEEDING TIME. Nothing to do with sff, but I found it a relaxing report.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/14/20 You’re The Nosferatu, On The Grave’d Durante

(1) TOPICAL TV IDEAS. The Vulture asked TV’s idle talent to take up the challenge: “If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode”. Tagline: “Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.” If you scroll way down there’s one for Picard, although most of the others are funnier. By comparison, this bit for Sheldon Cooper is spot on —

“I’m not one to brag, but I was practicing social distancing back when it was called ‘Who’s the weird kid alone in the corner?’ And at the risk of sounding like a hipster, I was washing my hands 30 times a day before it was cool. I do, however, miss being with my friends. Sitting around eating Chinese takeout, sharing my scientific ideas and correcting theirs … that’s my happy place.” —Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., The Big Bang Theory (Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro)

(2) SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR WRITERS. Publishers Lunch has a standing free reference page listing organizations that offer emergency grants to authors and other creators. Two examples:

Poets & Writers has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to “provide emergency assistance to writers having difficulty meeting their basic needs.” They will provide grants of up to $1,000 to approximately 80 writers in April. The board allocated $50,000, which has been supplemented by gifts from supporters including Michael Piestch and Zibby Owens.

We Need Diverse Books will provide emergency grants to diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals “who are experiencing dire financial need.” They will give grants of $500 each, and are limiting the first round of applications to 70.

(3) A WORD IN DEFENSE. From Publishers Weekly:“Internet Archive Responds to Senator’s Concern Over National Emergency Library”.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is defending the legality of the organization’s National Emergency Library initiative to a U.S. Senator who last week raised concerns that the effort may be infringing the rights of authors and publishers.

…In his three-page response to [Senator] Tillis, Kahle rejected those criticisms, and explained the creation of National Emergency Library using the Senator’s constituents to illustrate its utility.

“Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access,” Kahle explained, adding that North Carolina’s public libraries house more than 15 million print book volumes in 323 library branches across the state. “The massive public investment paid for by taxpaying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it,” he writes. “The National Emergency Library was envisioned to meet this challenge of providing digital access to print materials, helping teachers, students and communities gain access to books while their schools and libraries are closed.”

Kahle further maintained that “the vast majority” of the books in the National Emergency Library, mostly 20th Century books, are not commercially available in e-book form, and said the collection contains no books published in the last five years.

“[For] access to those books, readers and students can continue to turn to services like OverDrive and hoopla,” Kahle explained, making what defenders say is a critical distinction: commercial providers offer patrons access to e-books; the National Emergency Library is providing stopgap digital access to scans of paper books that are locked away in shuttered libraries and schools. “That is where the National Emergency Library fills the gap,” Kahle insists.

(4) LEGACY. [Item by Steve Davidson.] From Faaneds on Facebook: A friend is going through the personal effects of a passed fan and came across a number of LOCs by Michael W. Waite. Does anyone here know if there are any family members/friends who would appreciate having these?

(5) HAVE A LISTEN. Wil Wheaton links to his reading of a Doctorow story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Return to Pleasure Island by Cory Doctorow”.

I was talking to my friend, Cory, over the weekend, and we decided that we would each read and release something the other had written, because why not?

I’m a huge fan and admirer of Cory both as a human and as a creative person. He’s been my primary mentor since I started writing professionally, and I owe him more than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. It’s not unreasonable to say that, without Cory’s guidance and kindness, I wouldn’t be a published author.

So it’s with excitement (and a little trepidation, because I don’t want to disappoint my friend) that I chose one of Cory’s fantastic short stories from way back in 1999, which he describes this way:

This is the story of the ogres who run the concession stands on Pleasure Island, where Pinocchio’s friend Lampwick turned into a donkey. Like much of my stuff, this has a tie-in with Walt Disney World; the idea came to me on the Pinocchio ride in the Magic Kingdom, in 1993.

You can grab my narration at my Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy it.

(Public domain ebook versions of the story are also available at Project Gutenberg.)

(6) SPACE VERSE. Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Emily Hockaday posted the “National Poetry Month Podcast 2020” today.

Happy National Poetry Month! We have a dozen poems here pulled from past and current issues to celebrate our poets this year. Each of these poems is striking in its own way, and I hope you enjoy the many voices and styles to come. First up is “All Saints Day” by Lisa Bellamy, read by Diana Marie Delgado, followed by “All the Weight” by Holly Day, read by Emily Hockaday, “The Celestial Body” read and written by Leslie J. Anderson, “The Destroyer is in Doubt about Net Neutrality” read and written by Martin Ott, “Unlooping” read and written by Marie Vibbert, “Attack of the 50 foot Woman” read and written by Ron Koertge, “The Language of Water,” by Jane Yolen, read by Monica Wendel, “Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricycle” read and written by Steven Withrow, “Objects in Space” by Josh Pearce, read by R.J. Carey, “Small Certainties” by Sara Polsky, read by Emily Hockaday, “Palate of the Babel Fish” read and written by Todd Dillard, and finally “After a Year of Solitude” by Lora Gray, read by Jackie Sherbow.

(7) SOUNDS PRETTY NUTTY. In the Washington Post, as part of his annual celebration of Squirrel Week, John Kelly has a piece about the Norse god Ratatoskr, a squirrel with a giant horn in the center of his head who ferried messages up and down the great World Tree. “Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods”. Incidentally, long before there was File 770, Bruce Pelz’ Ratatosk was the fannish newzine of record.

…Most of what we know about the stories Vikings told each other comes from Snorri Sturluson, who was an Icelandic poet and lawyer, a combination not quite so rare then as now. Snorri (1179-1241) was ambitious. He journeyed from Iceland to Norway to ingratiate himself with leaders there and pick up skills….

(8) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. “’I May Have Gone Too Far In A Few Places’ And 9 Other Famous George Lucas Star Wars Quotes” compiled by ScreenRant.

In May of 1944, George Walton Lucas Jr. was born, twenty-three years later, he graduated from USC, and a decade after that he changed the world forever by releasing Star Wars. The Star Wars franchise is a phenomenon like no other, and nobody, not even the maker himself, could have predicted its impact.

The headline quote is #9. Here is ScreenRant’s commentary:

…Before The Last Jedi came to be, the prequels were the kings of controversy. After seeing a rough cut of his film in 1999, Lucas said the famous quote to a small screening room “I may have gone too far in a few places.”

Ironically, in behind the scenes videos of The Phantom Menace, Lucas talks about how the key to these types of films is not to go too far. This quote shows Lucas’ self-awareness and references the disjointedness of the movie.

(9) SULLIVAN OBIT. Ann Sullivan, the Disney animator behind The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, has died at the age of 91. She is the third member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home to die as a result of the coronavirus. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

… Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. Sullivan worked in the paint lab on…1989’s The Little Mermaid…and 1992’s Cool World. She painted for the 1990 short The Prince and the Pauper; 1994’s The Lion King; 1995’s Pocahontas; 1997’s Hercules; 1999’s Tarzan and Fantasia 2000; 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove; and 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on 1994’s The Pagemaster and for performing additional caps and painting on 2004’s Home on the Range.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 14, 2010 — In the United States, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was produced by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted 54% rating. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and if need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the best of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 85. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
  • Born April 14, 1936 Arlene Martel. No doubt you’ll best remember her as T’Pring in Star Trek’s “Amok Time” as it was a rather memorable episode. She also had roles in one-offs in a lot of genre series including Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission:ImpossibleThe Delphi BureauI Dream of Jeannie,  Man from AtlantisMy Favorite Martian,  The Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 71. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” (adapted to television twice, first into the same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”.) He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”.
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 62. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar.
  • Born April 14, 1977 Sarah Michelle Gellar, 43. Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I watched every episode. Great show. Even watched every bit of Angel as well. Her first genre role was as Casey “Cici” Cooper in Scream 2 followed by voicing Gwendy Doll in Small Soldiers. Her performance as Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions is simply bone chillingly scary. I’ve not seen, nor plan to see, either of the Scooby-Do films so I’ve no idea how she is Daphne Blake. Finally, she voiced April O’Neil in the one of latest animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 38. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”  novella (lovely title that) won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do a short while later. Very impressive. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BE YOUR OWN VILLAIN. We’ve heard the saying that everyone is the hero of their own story. In contrast, Brian Cronin reminds readers about “That Time That Jerry Siegel Plundered the Funny Pages to Defeat Superman” at CBR.com.

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today, we look at Jerry Siegel plunder the Funny Pages as he, himself, becomes the villain of a Superman story involving other newspaper comic strips!

The whole thing went down in the opening story in 1942’s Superman #19 (by Siegel, Ed Dobrotka and John Sikela)… 

(14) DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. ScreenRant tries to explain “Just What is the Direct Market In Comics and Where Did It Come From?”

With the coronavirus pandemic grinding the comic book industry to all halt, there has been much talk about what is to be done with the “direct market”. But just what exactly is the direct market, and how did it come to be? And perhaps more pressing, what will happen to the direct market in a post-COVID-19 world?

Believe it or not, there was a time comic books were purchased outside of comic book shop, carried by newsstands, grocery stores, and even gas stations. However, the comic book shop model, primarily engineered by Phil Seuling in 1972, offered several advantages. The system was known as the “direct market” because it bypassed traditional newspaper and magazine distributors. It offered a much more diverse line of content than the newsstands, including comic books aimed at an adult audience. One of the primary advantages for the distributor was that the comic books were unreturnable unlike newsstands, which would traditionally return all unsold merchandise…. 

Much history ensues. Then —

…Because of all of these factors and more, the future of the direct market is looking increasingly uncertain. In addition to the growing concern that many retailers will have to close their doors due to the coronavirus, the comic book industry itself seems destined for an overhaul. Some comic book shop owners are considering the possibility of re-negotiating with Diamond, while others are considering trying to bypass the current distribution system altogether. The direct market has served the comic book industry well for nearly fifty years, but it might be time to ask – what will best serve the comic book industry for the next fifty?

(15) GOOD REASON TO PREEN THEIR PLUMAGE. In “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Hugo Awards”, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry talk about their Hugo nomination for Nerds of a Feather, and some of the other works they’re glad made the final ballot.

Adri: There have been a few feelings knocking around! And about an hour of my life in which it has been unclear whether I should cry, shout, laugh, breathe, throw up, and indeed if I could do any one of those things without the others happening too.

Also, while I’ve definitely experienced the post-announcement Twitter love before, CoNZealand’s decision to schedule a streamed announcement at a timezone that worked for as many Hugo-voter-heavy countries as possible, and the general enthusiasm for people to get online at the moment and hang out, meant that the announcement feed and stream just felt so full of frenzied excitement and love for everyone. Definitely a very heightened moment and, yeah, I’ll absolutely take that finalist status, even if I was already swanning around Dublin wearing the “Finalist” badge ribbon last year.

Joe: I absolutely enjoyed that youtube sidebar chat during the announcement, even if it ultimately did amount to a bunch of people just mashing their keyboards at the same time in excitement.

(16) I’LL TAKE ‘DUBIOUS PRODUCT NAMES’ FOR $100. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This is what comes from not having any Humanities majors in your company… There’s enough obvious cheap-shot jokes that I’m not even going to bother including one here. From PRwire: “Pepperdata Introduces New Kafka Monitoring Capabilities for Mission-Critical Streaming Applications”.

With Streaming Spotlight, existing customers can integrate Kafka monitoring metrics into the Pepperdata dashboard, adding detailed visibility into Kafka cluster metrics, broker health, topics and partitions.

Kafka is a distributed event streaming platform and acts as the central hub for an integrated set of messaging systems. Kafka’s architecture of brokers, topics and data replication supports high availability, high-throughput and publish-subscribe environments. For some users, Kafka handles trillions of messages per day.

Managing these data pipelines and systems is complex and requires deep insight to ensure these systems run at optimal efficiency….

(17) HALL OF FAME. R. Graeme Cameron has finally received the hardware, and I enjoyed his description on Facebook.

Since I was not present when Eileen Kernaghan, Tanya Huff and myself were inducted into the CSFFA Science Fiction Hall of Fame during the Aurora Awards ceremony at Can-Con last year, CSFFA planned to present the plaque to me (and I assume to Eileen) at the Creative Ink Festival in May this year. But, as we all know, Covid-19 forced the CIF to cancel.

Consequently, CSFFA elected to mail me the plaque….

The Janus-like trophy features on one side the visage of an aging knight representing venerable fantasy, blended with vegetation and rather resembling a forest-spirit Don Quixote, an ancient book to the right of his beard, and on the other side the fresh face of a proud, young aviatrix representing the cutting edge of science fiction as perceived back in the 1930s, a rocket ship in flight just to the right of her neck. A most splendid and evocative trophy. Each inductee gets a plaque like this one. The trophy is on display throughout the year in various libraries.

(18) HIGH-SPEED HYPERLOOP PROJECTS WILL BEGIN OPERATION NO EARLIER THAN 2040. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Let’s make notes in our calendars so we can check whether they’re right…

Economics, not technology, pose the largest barriers to building the Hyperloop according to a new Lux report: “High-speed Hyperloop projects will begin operation no earlier than 2040”.

Lux has found that, while the Hyperloop concept is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective. The Hyperloop differs from conventional rail because it operates in a vacuum system that reduces aerodynamic drag, thus enabling higher speeds and greater energy efficiency. There are four main design elements creating technical challenges with the Hyperloop: pillar and tube design, pod design, propulsion and levitation of the pods, and station design.

Lux Research found that pod design is the fastest-growing area for Hyperloop patent activity, with a focus on improving comfort and performance. Customer comfort is important due to the compact, enclosed spaces with no windows, which can increase the likelihood of customers getting sick. Optimizing pod performance is key to minimizing drag and reducing costs because pod design choices have a significant impact on tube design and aerodynamics. Propulsion and levitation systems have the least patent activity, in part due to the fact that Hyperloop will likely adapt magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology.

One of the biggest technical challenges will be identifying the optimal system pressure and minimizing leakage of the vacuum system, which, if higher than expected, can increase operating costs and reduce top speeds. “Selecting the Hyperloop’s tube pressure is the most important factor impacting cost, for both operational expenses and the initial capital needed for tube design and construction,” says Lux Research Associate Chad Goldberg….

(19) IN FRANCE. Is this anywhere near Remulac? Reuters reports: “Space scientists use COVID-19 lockdown as dry run for Mars mission”.

French space scientists are using the COVID-19 lockdown as a dry run for what it will be like to be cooped up inside a space craft on a mission to Mars.

The guinea pigs in the experiment are 60 students who are confined to their dormitory rooms in the southern city of Toulouse – not far removed from the kind of conditions they might experience on a long space mission.

When the French government imposed movement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, space researcher Stephanie Lizy-Destrez decided to make the most of a bad situation, and signed up the student volunteers.

It’s not an exact simulation of space flight: tasks such as picking up samples from a planet’s surface using a lunar rover do not feature, and the students can break off from their virtual space journey for a daily trip outside.

Instead, they conduct computer-based tasks such as memory tests and mental agility tests. They keep a daily journal, and every five days have to complete a questionnaire.

(20) SOCIAL DISTANCING EARTH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spacecraft BepiColombo’s handlers have published a GIF of Earth as seen from the craft during a recent flyby. BepiColombo was slingshotting past Earth on its way to a Mercury survey mission. BC presumably wished us well in handling COVID-19, and made sure to stay far enough away not to pick up the virus. “BepiColombo takes last snaps of Earth en route to Mercury”.

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

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

2019 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 2/12/20 The Tickbox Shops Of Isher

(1) BLACK HISTORY MONTH. At the PowellsBooks.Blog: “Black History Month: What’s New in Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

One of the more exciting publishing developments of recent years has been the increased support for science fiction and fantasy books written by authors of color and featuring diverse protagonists and world-building based on non-Western mythology and history. Writers like N. K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Cadwell Turnbull have been expanding the ways traditional tropes can be extended or subverted to address issues like marginalization, colonialism, and sexual violence, while delivering thrilling stories steeped in magic. Here are eight of our favorite recent sci-fi and fantasy novels by Black authors; for a more exhaustive list of reading suggestions, visit our Black History Month page.

(2) RIOT BABY AUTHOR. On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,  see a video clip of “Tochi Onyebuchi – ‘Riot Baby’ and Using Sci-Fi to Dive Into Real-Life Issues”. “What’s dystopian for some is just reality for us.”

Author Tochi Onyebuchi discusses the themes of his novel “Riot Baby” and reflects on the sci-fi genre’s history as a powerful means of tackling social and political issues.

(3) BEWARE THE FRUMIOUS MAGISTRATE. “Netflix Loses Bid to Dismiss $25 Million Lawsuit Over ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch'”The Hollywood Reporter explains how.

A Vermont federal judge is taking Netflix on a journey where the First Amendment won’t immediately protect the streamer. On Tuesday, Netflix failed in its first efforts to escape a lawsuit brought by the trademark owner of “Choose Your Own Adventure” over the 2018 immersive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Chooseco LLC, a children’s book publisher, filed its complaint in January 2019. According to the plaintiff, it has been using the mark since the 1980s and has sold more than 265 million copies of its Choose Your Own Adventure books. 20th Century Fox holds options for movie versions, and Chooseco alleges that Netflix actively pursued a license. Instead of getting one, Netflix released Bandersnatch, which allows audiences to select the direction of the plot. Claiming $25 million in damages, Chooseco suggested that Bandersnatch viewers have been confused about association with its famous brand, particularly because of marketing around the movie as well as a scene where the main character — a video game developer — tells his father that the work he’s developing is based on a Choose Your Own Adventure book….

(4) FRESH TOWELS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Back in 1979 at the Brighton Worldcon Christopher Reeve said that while he was appreciative of people voting overall and Superman winning the Hugo for Best Dramatic presentation, clearly those here in the hall wanted Hitch-hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

Now, nearly 42 years on, back where it all started on BBC Radio 4, they are re-broadcasting the final season.

If you have not yet downloaded as .mp3 then now’s your chance. The first episode is online and the rest will follow weekly and available for a month.

(5) NOT COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU. Unless you’re going to be in the UK on April 10. But there’s also supposed to be a digital release. AVClub: “Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and a big-ass dragon star in the wacky trailer for The Iron Mask.

As far as we can tell, and based on this trailer, The Iron Mask has nothing to do with that Leonardo DiCaprio movie from the ’90s. It is, however, the kind of movie that has something for everyone—and a whole lot of it. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mustachioed bad guy of vague European descent (Russia…?). Jackie Chan has long, glorious silver hair and ridicules Schwarzenegger, who yells things like “IT’S THE TOWAH!” and we’re supposed to understand that this tower is very important. Also Jason Flemyng is there, and he’s a cartographer, or so the official synopsis tells us. Charles Dance is involved because this is a movie that checks all his boxes: period, British, wacky fantasy with dragons and shit, and Schwarzenegger. (Wait. Is this actually one of the movies from Last Action Hero?)… 

(6) MATCHING FOR DOLLARS. Cory Doctorow contends “Our Neophobic, Conservative AI Overlords Want Everything to Stay the Same” at the LA Review of Books.

… This conservativeness permeates every system of algorithmic inference: search for a refrigerator or a pair of shoes and they will follow you around the web as machine learning systems “re-target” you while you move from place to place, even after you’ve bought the fridge or the shoes. Spend some time researching white nationalism or flat earth conspiracies and all your YouTube recommendations will try to reinforce your “interest.” Follow a person on Twitter and you will be inundated with similar people to follow. Machine learning can produce very good accounts of correlation (“this person has that person’s address in their address-book and most of the time that means these people are friends”) but not causation (which is why Facebook constantly suggests that survivors of stalking follow their tormentors who, naturally, have their targets’ addresses in their address books).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 12, 1940 The Adventures Of Superman radio serial first aired with “The Baby From Krypton” episode. It first started on WOR in New York on this date and the radio serial would air on various networks though 1951. In all, 2,088 original episodes of the show aired on American radio.  Bud Collyer played Clark Kent and of course Superman with Joan Alexander being Lois Lane, Batman even appeared when Bud Collyer needed vacation time and he was performed by Stacy Harris. It was sponsored by  Kellogg’s Pep Cereal. It finished fourth in the Retro Hugo voting For Short Form video Hugo presented at MidAmeriCon II at Kansas City. You can listen to this episode here.
  • February 12, 1981 Escape from Galaxy 3 (original title Giochi erotici nella terza galassia also known as Starcrash II, keep that in mind for a minute please) premiered. Directed by Ben Norman and produced by Dino Mangogno, this Italian film starred Sherry Buchanan, Fausto Di Bella, Don Powell, Chris Avram, Attilio Dottesio and Max Turilli. The film is infamous for using stock footage from Starcrash for all its model scenes. No, it didn’t get a great reception. Creature Feature said that it was  “chintzy, had unconvincing, anemic acting and silly sound effects.” The reviewers over at Rotten Tomatoes haven’t bothered to rate it yet, but most of the Amazon reviewers who bought the VHS tape give it just one star. You of course can watch it for free here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 Louis Russell Chauvenet. Member of First Fandom, and a founder of the Boston’s Strangers Club which ran the first Boskones.  He’s credited with coining the term “fanzine” and may have also coined “prozine” as well. He published a number of zines from the later Thirties to the early Sixties. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 91. He’s written three novels (Courtship Rite, The Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. 
  • Born February 12, 1933 Juanita Ruth Coulson, 87. She’s best known for her Children of the Stars series. She was a longtime co-editor of the Yandro fanzine, and she’s a filker of quite some renown. Yandro won Best Hugo at Loncon II in 1965.
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 78. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire,” which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of Galaxy Quest into novel form. 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 75. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The Avengers, Star Maidens, Hammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Tales of the Unexpected, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 12, 1954 Stu Shiffman. To quote Mike in his post, he was “The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.” You can read Mikes’ gracious full post on him here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 12, 1960 Laura Miller, 60. Author of an essay whose title tickles me to the end: “It’s Philip Dick’s World, We Only Live In It“. Originally appearing in the New York Times, 24 November 2002, it was reprinted in PKD Otaku, #9 which you can download here.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE PERSON IN THE GRAY FLANNEL POWER SUIT. An infographic video answers the question, “How do exoskeletons impact the workplace?”

Since 1965, when the first exoskeleton was produced for military use, exoskeletons have been increasingly popular in the manufacturing world, supporting workers and improving the quality of their working hours.

In 2018 more than 7,000 units were sold in manufacturing (ABI Research data), but the potential market need would be 60,000 units for all types of exoskeleton, with an estimated growth rate of more than 50% from 2019 to 2024. A trend that, taking into account the increasing average age of population in industrialized countries, could grow again.

Although some of the work in factories is automated, human input is still crucial and remains at the heart of many operations, including value-added and repetitive ones, but which require a high level of precision: for example, a worker lifts his arm 4,600 times a day, almost a million times a year to perform some tasks.

For example, in wearable robotic technologies that support workers in their jobs, the MATE passive technology exoskeleton, which does not require batteries or motors, provides postural support that follows the movements of the arms without resistance or misalignment. This generates a 30% reduction in stress on the main shoulder muscles….

(11) EVERONE’S HAPPY. “Beer Waste Saves Montana Town $1 Million On Water Treatment”.

As America’s craft beer industry continues to boom, the waste it generates can pose challenges for sewer systems. But if it’s used in the right spot, in the right amount, it’s potentially beneficial and can actually save wastewater treatment plants money.

In Bozeman, Mont., the Water Reclamation Facility treats more than 6 million gallons of water every day from sinks, showers, toilets — really anything that goes down a drain. That includes liquid waste from more than 10 breweries in this city of nearly 50,000.

Because it’s rich in yeast, hops and sugar, brewery waste can throw off the microbes that wastewater plants rely on to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. The two nutrients can cause algae blooms in rivers and kill off fish.

“But if we can use [brewery waste] correctly and put it in the right spot, it’s very beneficial to the process,” engineering consultant Coralynn Revis says.

Revis led a pilot project here last summer to try to do just that. Bozeman worked with a local brewery to feed its beer waste to the treatment plant’s bacteria at just the right time in just the right dosage.

“This is super simplified, but like, if they’re eating their french fries, they need a little ketchup with it. So to get the nitrate out, you dose a little carbon, and the bugs are happier,” Revis explained.

The sidebar from 2018, “Beer Prices Could Double Because Of Climate Change, Study Says”, is also interesting.

(12) NOT BOATY. “Scots author Iain Banks celebrated by deep dives adventurer” – BBC has the story.

The late Scottish author Iain Banks has been remembered in a US adventurer’s expedition to visit the deepest points in every ocean.

Victor Vescovo is the first person to complete the feat, diving in a submarine named after a spaceship in Banks’ science-fiction stories.

The fan of Banks’ work called the sub Limiting Factor.

The vehicle was used to reach the floor of the Pacific, Indian, Southern and Atlantic oceans.

Other vessels in the Five Dives Expedition, including Limiting Factor’s support ship Pressure Drop, were also named after spaceships or drones in Banks’ books.

The deepest of the dives was a 10,924m drop to the bottom of the Marianna Trench in south east Asia. Mr Vescovo and his team are now preparing to use the vessels in setting new maritime records.

(13) TRUST US. Somebody blabbed! “Swiss machines ‘used to spy on governments for decades'”.

US and German intelligence services secretly gathered the classified communications of governments for decades through secret control of an encryption company, reports say.

Swiss firm Crypto AG supplied encoding devices to more than 120 governments from the Cold War era up to the 2000s.

But the spies reportedly rigged the devices so they could crack the codes and read the messages.

They harvested secrets from countries including Iran, India and Pakistan.

The highly-classified programme between the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Germany’s BND Federal Intelligence Service has been detailed in reports by US newspaper the Washington Post, German broadcaster ZDF and Swiss channel SRF.

The outlets gained access to a classified internal CIA history that called the operation the “intelligence coup of the century”.

(14) CLOUDS OF WITNESS. BBC finds “German man shocked to see marriage proposal on Google Maps”.

A German man’s marriage proposal has been captured in an aerial picture used by Google Maps, to the surprise of him and his fiancée.

Part-time farmer Steffen Schwarz spelled out the words “Will you marry me?” in German in a field of corn, according to local media reports.

The 32-year-old then got his girlfriend to fly a drone over the field last year, revealing the romantic message.

But his proposal got a bigger audience than he had planned.

Mr Schwarz told local media that he had no idea his proposal had appeared on the popular mapping service until he was alerted by an aunt in Canada who sent him a screenshot.

The proposal, which he spelled out using a seeding machine, extends across the entire width of the almost two-hectare (five-acre) field in Huettenberg, central Germany.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/19 The Void Pixel’s Tale

(1) 2019 WORLD FANTASY AWARDS PHOTO. Lee Whiteside took this picture of the winners and accepters at Sunday’s World Fantasy Awards ceremony.

Left to right: Kathleen Jennings (accepting for Best Novella winner Kij Johnson), Emma Törzs (Best Short Fiction co-winner as well as accepting for co-winner Mel Kassel), C. L. Polk (Best Novel), Tobias S. Buckell (Best Collection with Paolo Bacigalupi), Reiko Murakami (accepting for Best Artist winner Rovina Cai), Irene Gallo (Best Anthology) and Rajan Khanna (accepting for Scott H. Andrews, Special Award – Nonprofessional)

(2) WATCHMEN PODCAST. ScienceFiction.com alerts listeners when “HBO Launches ‘The Official Watchmen Podcast’”.

The Official Watchmen Podcast launches after the third episode of the series airs on November 3rd. Over three episodes, host Craig Mazin (HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl) discusses Watchmen with its Executive Producer and Writer, Damon Lindelof. Join Mazin and Lindelof as they divulge narrative choices, explore the show’s connection with the groundbreaking graphic novel, and how it reflects our modern times. Make sure to watch episodes one through three of Watchmen before listening. The Official Watchmen Podcast is produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios.

(3) MAKE ROOM. If Marie Kondo didn’t get you started decluttering, maybe this post by Wil Wheaton will do it: “The Purge”. This excerpt is followed by a moving account of the emotional work he went through in the process.

…As I was cleaning up my emotional baggage, working on strategies to protect myself from my abusers, and practicing mindfulness daily, I realized that I had a ton of STUFF just sitting around my house, cluttering up my physical living space the way my emotional trauma and pain was cluttering up my emotional space. So I made a call, and hired a professional organizer to come to my house, go through all my bullshit with me, and help me get rid of all the things I didn’t need any more.

This process was, in many ways, a metaphor.

We spent several days going through my closets, my game room, my storage spaces in my attic and shed, and eventually ended up with FIVE TRUCKLOADS of stuff I didn’t need. Most of it was clothes and books and things that we donated to shelters, which was really easy to unload. I acquire T-shirts so much, I regularly go through my wardrobe and unload half of what I have, so it’s easy to get rid of stuff without any emotional attachments.

But there were some things that were more difficult to get rid of, things that represented opportunities I once had but didn’t pursue, things that represented ideas that I was really into for a minute, but didn’t see through to completion, things that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t really fit into my life, etc….

(4) AO3 TO THE RESCUE. Yahoo! will be closing downYahoo! Groups – at least as people are used to it — for good on December 14, by which point all uploaded content will be lost: “Yahoo is shuttering Yahoo Groups. Fandom will never be the same”.

The death of Yahoo Groups is a particular blow to text-based fan communities, which thrived on the platform in the 2000s. Yahoo message boards and email lists were crucial to the early days of fandom, both as a publishing platform and as a semi-private meeting place in the days before social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit. Yahoo Groups were particularly integral to Harry Potter and English-language anime fandoms, overlapping with the rise of Livejournal in the early 2000s. These fannish mailing lists were home to reams of fanfiction and in-depth commentary on pop culture, and spawned lifelong friendships (and, OK, the occasional deathly feud) within their communities.

AO3 has offered sanctuary to fanworks that are at risk because of the Yahoo Groups shutdown:

We have two processes in place — one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.

Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.

…If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.

If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team’s chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.

(5) CONZEALAND MINORS POLICY. Here are some features of CoNZealand’s “Minors Onsite Policy” for the 2020 Wordcon,

A minor is anyone under the age of 18. In New Zealand, the law requires that no minor under the age of 14 be left unattended. …

Overall Policy 

All Kid-in-tow and Child memberships must be tied to an adult membership. All minors under 16 should have a sticker on the back of their badge detailing up to two adults (over 18) who are responsible for them.  

Due to the nature of licensing and regulation in regards to child care in New Zealand, it will not be possible for us to provide child care at CoNZealand. Please refer to the links to nanny and babysitting services at the end of this document.

Memberships

There are three types of memberships for minors at CoNZealand:

  1. Kid-in-tow (no charge)—born in or after 2015 (generally 5 and under)
  2. Child ($105)—born in or after 2005 (generally 5-15)
  3. Young Adult ($250)—born in or after 2000 (generally 15-20)

These age groups do not exactly align with the differing expectations for supervision of minors. New Zealand law requires that no child under the age of 14 be left unattended. 

(6) ABOUT THE CAMPBELL AWARD. If you didn’t read it in August on Boing Boing, Locus Online has reposted Cory Doctorow’s opinion piece, “Jeannette Ng Was Right: John W. Campbell Was a Fascist”.

At the Hugo Awards ceremony at this summer’s Dublin Worldcon, Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Ng gave an outstanding and brave acceptance speech in which she called Campbell – the award’s namesake and one of the field’s most influential editors – a “fascist” and expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

I am a past recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2000) as well as a recipient of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2009). I believe I’m the only person to have won both of the Campbells, which, I think, gives me unique license to comment on Ng’s remarks, which have been met with a mixed reception from the field.

I think she was right – and seemly – to make her re­marks….

(7) SOMETHING IN COMMON. BBC explains an award and poses a question: “Staunch Book Prize: Should writers ditch female victims?”

From the escapades of an intern-turned-spy in Turkey’s capital to the tale of a priest in 15th Century Somerset, there might not be an obvious connection between the novels shortlisted for this year’s Staunch Book Prize.

But they have one thing in common: none of them involve physical or sexual violence towards women.

The prize, which is in its second year, recognises thrillers in which “no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered”.

But while some commend it for challenging stereotypes, others accuse it of ignoring social realities.

Speaking to the BBC, shortlisted authors and other writers share their views on why female characters are so often the victims of violence – and whether that needs to change.

(8) GENTLEMEN, BE OBLITERATED. The Space Review’s article “Nuking the site from orbit: when the Air Force wanted a base on the Moon” mentions Heinlein’s 1940s vision of a moon base with atomic weaponry.

…The concept of the Moon as a strategic base apparently dates at least back to 1948 and an article by Robert S. Richardson titled “Rocket Blitz From the Moon” in the mass-market Collier’s magazine. The article was beautifully illustrated by famed space artist Chesley Bonestell. In one Bonestell painting a bullet-shaped rocket (illogically equipped with large aerodynamic fins) is blasting off from a lunar crater. Another rocket stands prepped in the background and a lunar base is tucked into the side of a mountain. In the next illustration—probably Bonestell’s most dramatic painting ever—Manhattan has been blasted with at least three atomic bombs.

Richardson’s article focused primarily on the physics of the Moon: the low gravity, the lack of air, the trajectory and velocity calculations for firing rockets at the Earth. Rather than advocate that the United States should build a lunar rocket base, Richardson warned that another country could undertake a secret project to develop a lunar base and achieve strategic surprise against the United States. He did not clearly explain why the Moon would be a good place for basing missiles other than its presumed safety from Earth observation, and he noted that it would take at least a day for a rocket to reach Earth with its warhead. Considering that there were other means of basing long-range strategic weapons that did not involve the massive cost of a space program and a lunar base, Richardson’s idea was fanciful at best. But Collier’s was a large circulation magazine, not a science fiction pulp, and this short article certainly reached a big audience and probably fired some imaginations.

Richardson was not the only person writing about the possibilities of using space as a platform for attacking Earth. Robert Heinlein co-wrote a non-fiction article in August 1947, also for Collier’s, called “Flight into the Future.” Heinlein and his co-author, US Navy Captain Caleb Laning, suggested basing atomic weapons in orbit, and Heinlein later used this idea in his book Space Cadet. The 1950 movie Destination Moon, which Heinlein co-wrote, also echoed a similar theme (see “Heinlein’s ghost (part 1)”, The Space Review, April 9, 2007). One of the characters in the movie explains why a lunar base is necessary: “There is absolutely no way to stop an attack from outer space. The first country that can use the Moon for the launching of missiles will control the Earth. That, gentlemen, is the most important military fact of this century.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 81. His breakthough series  was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carol Anne Douglas, 75. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the  Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character.
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 70. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film.
  • Born November 5, 1960 ?Tilda Swinton, 59. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 58. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh, Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born November 5, 1964 Famke Janssen, 55. Her first genre role was Xenia Onatopp in the Bond film GoldenEye and her longest running genre role was as Jean Grey / Phoenix (Dark Phoenix) in the X-Men film series. Counting horror which I do, she’s got a number of genre appearance including Lord of IllusionsThe WolverineHouse on Haunted HillDeep Rising and Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Born November 5, 1970 Tamzin Outhwaite, 49. She was Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint on Paradox, a SF police series that ran for just five episodes and received really harsh reviews. Her only other SF role was as the Captain in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver” which was scripted by Neil Gaiman. 

(10) BE FREE! ABC news reports “Chicago book returns surge 240% after city eliminates fines”.

“Just by word of mouth and also on the library’s social media pages like Facebook, we saw a lot of patrons say, ‘Oh my God. This is so great. I’m gonna bring back my books. I’ve been hesitant to come back to the library because I owe these fines,'” Telli said.

Chicago became the nation’s first major city to forgo overdue fines, which went into effect Oct. 1 and erased all outstanding fees. Mayor Lori Lightfoot framed the policy change as her latest attempt to remove barriers that deter youth and low-income patrons.

Lightfoot is also making an effort to open libraries on Sundays. The mayor’s 2020 budget includes an $18 million property tax increase to honor her promise to establish Sunday hours at Chicago’s 81 libraries. Currently, the Harold Washington central library and three regional libraries are open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

(11) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Even Book View Café’s  Madeleine E. Robins will sometimes “RTFM*”.

I am, by nature, a dive-in-and-figure-it-out sort of technology user. This may come from my early days as a computer user, when my then room-mate and sometime business partner dropped a box on my desk and said “we’re doing a user’s manual for X Corp. Can you learn this” — this being PageMaker, the forerunner of InDesign, a page layout program–“by next week? I should have copy for you then.”

Reader, I did not rise up and slay him; I learned the program, eventually well enough that I taught classes in it. I still use those skills:  one of the things I do at my day job is to use InDesign to produce the posters, ads, and other marketing materials that the museum I work at needs for promotion….

(* Read the Fucking Manual.)

(12) PERFECTLY CLEAR. Will this New York Times opinion piece make it all better? Next question! “Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.”

…In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other….

(13) ELRIC MEETS DUNGEON SYNTH. A Moorcock-obsessed United Kingdom musician who goes by the name Elric is working in the “dungeon synth” genre (an eerie combination of goth, classical, and folk tunes played on 80s synths). The releases are on Bandcamp and are named “Antihero”, “Stormbringer”, and “Elric of Melnibone”. They are all “name your price.” As Bandcamp said about one of the releases:

It’s safe to say that fantasy literature and role-playing games (the tabletop and the video variety) loom large in the world of Dungeon Synth, and Elric expertly combines both of them. Inspired by the chiptune soundtracks of games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well as (obviously) the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock, Elric’s music is the perfect soundtrack to crawling through (16-bit) alcoves, searching for abandoned potions and treasure while trying to avoid the hungry ghouls hidden in the shadows.”

(14) DO ME A SOLID. “Searching For Solid Ice As Scientists Freeze In To Study A Warming Arctic” – BBC delivers lots of meaty detail and pictures.

High up in the Arctic Ocean close to the North Pole, a solitary ship floats in darkness, moored to an expansive piece of ice.

If all goes according to plan the ship will remain with that ice for an entire year, so that scientists on board can study the Arctic system and how it’s responding to climate change.

It’s a project called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). But finding a piece of ice thick and stable enough to host the mission’s science and logistics is not easy, and there may be challenges for the ice and the scientists in the months ahead.

…The MOSAiC expedition – about a decade in the planning – is an international collaboration involving hundreds of scientists and almost 20 countries. Their goal is to better understand the changing Arctic and improve how it’s represented in climate models.

“We need this information because the Arctic is changing so rapidly, and it’s a place that we have not observed very well in the past,” says Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-coordinator for MOSAiC.

The last time scientists looked at the Arctic Ocean system so comprehensively was more than 20 years ago. But the Arctic has been warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the picture there has changed dramatically.

That’s why these researchers want a year out in the ice: to get an updated look at how the physics, the chemistry, and the biology of this area work during all four seasons.

(15) BIG HOOCH. NPR finds “Climate Change Is Disrupting Centuries-Old Methods Of Winemaking In France”.

In France, climate change is already impacting one of the country’s most emblematic industries — winemaking. French vintners say heat, drought and erratic weather is altering the landscape and their centuries-old way of working.

Brothers Remi and Gregoire Couppé are fourth generation winemakers who craft a top vintage, grand cru St Emilion. In the last few years they’ve been confronted with some new challenges. Forty-four-year-old Remi Couppé says there’s no denying the weather is getting hotter and drier.

“Because of the grapes. They show us the change,” he says. “Especially in alcohol. The alcohol level has been getting higher in the last five years.” These days, the alcohol content by volume can reach 15%, he says; when he was a boy, “it was maximum 12 [% ABV]. It’s causing me some problems when I start the vinification process, because I have to use new yeast to avoid too much alcohol. It’s really new for me.”

The higher alcohol levels come from increased sugar in the grapes due to more sun and heat. What’s also new are some of the plants sprouting up between the vines. Couppé picks a flowery-looking weed, holding it up to the blazing sun. “This plant is from the south of Europe and I never saw it here in my life before four years ago.”

Couppé says you have to be careful when using the mechanized harvester now, because such plants can get mixed in and ad a taste to the grapes.

The brothers say in the past three years they’ve completely stopped a process called “stripping,” where most of the vine leaves are removed just before the harvest. Now they need the leaves’ shade to keep the grapes from burning on the vine. Couppé points to a shriveled, sun-exposed cluster of grapes next to the dark, plump ones still shaded by the leaves.

(16) OUTSIDE OPINION. BBC tells how “Voyagers shed light on Solar System’s structure”.

Data sent back by the two Voyager spacecraft have shed new light on the structure of the Solar System.

Forty-two years after they were launched, the spacecraft are still going strong and exploring the outer reaches of our cosmic neighbourhood.

By analysing data sent back by the probes, scientists have worked out the shape of the vast magnetic bubble that surrounds the Sun.

The two spacecraft are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth.

Researchers detail their findings in six separate studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We had no good quantitative idea how big this bubble is that the Sun creates around itself with its solar wind – ionised plasma that’s speeding away from the Sun radially in all directions,” said Ed Stone, the longstanding project scientist for the missions.

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