Pixel Scroll 7/27/20 Sir! I’ve Isolated The Reverse Pixel Flux Coupling!

(1) CAN VIRTUAL CONS BE MADE BETTER? In “What Lessons Can Future Conventions Learn From Virtual San Diego Comic-Con?”, Io9 staffers Beth Elderkin, Jill Pantozzi, Cheryl Eddy, James Whitbrook, Charles Pulliam-Moore, and Germain Lussier assess what didn’t work about SDCC 2020, “from a lack of support for the artists and vendors who would usually be on the show floor, to the lack of fan involvement, to how to create a sense of energy that the convention’s swath of ‘family Zoom call’ style pre-recorded panels were lacking.” 

(2) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO showed its Lovecraft Country trailer to San Diego Comic-Con’s @Home audience.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Ars Technica offers “An Ars roundup of the many trailers unveiled this weekend during Comic-Con@Home” where you can see all the others.

People might not be able to flock to San Diego Comic Con this year in person, but the virtual convention, Comic-Con@Home, has been running all weekend, with countless panels, sneak peeks, and teasers and trailers for upcoming TV shows—but not many films, because let’s be honest: it’s not looking so good for major theatrical film releases in the fall. On Thursday alone, we got the full trailer for Bill and Ted Face the Music, a teaser for the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost horror comedy Truth Seekers, and the first trailer for S2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials. Rather than continue to cover each individually, we decided to compile the remaining trailers of interest into a single roundup post.

(4) A CAUTIONARY TALE. Linda D. Addison offers her experience with Covid-19 as a warning in this public Facebook post.

I’m sharing what my life has been like since June 8 because I’ve seen too many people not taking Covid-19 serious. This virus is real. If sharing this wakes even one person up, it’s worth it.

I’ve been as safe as possible, going to the supermarket every two weeks for supplies, wearing a mask, sanitizing everything, however, 7 weeks ago I got very sick for 9 days with symptoms of mild coronavirus, talked to my doctor and stayed in self isolation for more than 2 weeks. I was fortunate that my temp never went high enough or my breathing bad enough that I had to go to the hospital. Since then, I’ve lived with continued cough, fatigue, shortness of breath (using inhaler from doctor helps).

This is happening to many people in recovery (look up Covid Long Haulers). So I’m sleeping a lot, healing will come, but this is so new there’s not much the medical field can do at this point. I’m ok. My friend, Jill, lives around the corner and has been helping by dropping off stuff.

PLEASE, wear a mask (if not for yourself, for anyone who crosses your path)!

(5) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Vulture’s Mark Harris, in “The Neverending Story of Those Neverappearing Avatar Sequels”, contends that although James Cameron says Avatar 2 has been delayed because of the coronavirus, the guy is suh a perfectionist that it’s highlyunlikely we will see Avatar 3,4, or 5.

…The wait for more Avatar has become something of a running joke, so much so that a Twitter thread I started when it was already a running joke is now well into its sixth year. The first sequel was originally announced almost a decade ago, in October 2010, with a projected release date of December 2014. Since then, its opening date has, at regular intervals, been moved back one year at a time — except once, in 2017, when it moved back two years. But the film has also morphed from a two-sequel series into a four-sequel series, with a lingering sense that the mountain was being made bigger as a way of justifying the length of the climb. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 27, 1997 Stargate SG-1 premiered on Showtime where it would run for its first five seasons. The show which was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. It’s based rather loosely off the Stargate film. The initial core cast was Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge.  It would run for a decade with the last five years being on Sci Fi. Two spinoff series, Stargate Atlantis which would run five seasons, and Stargate Universe which would last two seasons. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a stellar 91% rating. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 27, 1870 – Hilaire Belloc.  Orator, poet,correspondent,sailor, satirist, soldier, activist.  Cautionary Tales for Children includes “Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion” and “Rebecca, who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably”; 1907 readers would quickly recognize the parody.  A hundred fifty books; we can claim half a dozen novels (illustrated by G.K.Chesterton!), as many shorter stories.  (Died 1953) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1891 – Ruth Plumly Thompson.  Following Frank Baum’s death, she wrote two dozen Oz books.  Three other novels, six dozen shorter stories, ten dozen poems.  Also wrote for The Smart SetThe Saturday Evening PostLadies Home JournalJack and Jill.  Many regard her as a worthy successor.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1908 – W.I. Van der Poel, Jr.  Art director for Galaxy 1950-1960.  A score of covers – but not, it seems, appearing there.  He is however on this famous 1952 Emshwiller cover – see the key here.  Look at The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1927 – Mel Hunter.  A hundred book and magazine covers, eight dozen interiors.  Here is the May 53 Galaxy.  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is Double Star – the Great Lorenzo at right.  Here is the Jun 58 If.  Here is the Mar 61 F & SF.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best-known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost-beyond-counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 81. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. For all practice purposes, she’s not available in digital format. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1948 Juliet Marillier, 72. She’s a New Zealand born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She’s a regular contributor to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1949 – Cora Lee Healy, 71.  Fanartist, has done some pro work.  Here is a cover for Algol.  Here is “Starward”.  Here is another astronomical.  She has been in Energumen and Granfalloon; she did the Ace of Cups in the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see this review by a Tarot collector; although the reviewer says the Deck is out of print; copies can still be obtained; if all else fails, ask me, John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057).  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1950 Simon Jones, 70. He’s well known for his portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He first portrayed the character on radio for the BBC and again on television for BBC Two. Jones also featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film in a cameo role. He’s in Monty Python’s The Meaning of LifeBrazil and 12 Monkeys as well.  (CE) 
  • Born July 27, 1952 – Bud Webster.  Our Gracious Host has done better than I could.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1958 – Kate Elliott, 62.  Two dozen novels (some under another name), a dozen shorter stories; interviewed in ApexLightspeedLocusMindsparks.  “The Sword of Heaven [in two parts, An Earthly Crown and His Conquering Sword] I call my Mozart novel because of the speed it flowed out of me….  my Beethoven novel The Law of Becoming was like hacking through the jungle into unknown country….  Being a parent has made me a better writer.”  Unconquerable Sun just released this month.  Mills College woman.  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 52. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein which I’m reading now, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which is up for a Hugo next week. Her work Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1979 – Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, 41. Three dozen short stories; poems; essays, reviews, interviews, in AnalogClarkesworldFoundationNY Review of SFStrange Horizons.  Anthology (with Robert Silverberg), When the Blue Shift Comes.  Traveler of Worlds, conversations with Silverberg.  Good moderator of the Asimov centenary panel at Loscon 46.
  • Born July 27, 1984 – Hao Jingfang, Ph.D., 36.  Vagabonds just appeared in English and Spanish this year.  A score of shorter stories; Best-Novelette Hugo for “Folding Beijing”, first won by a Chinese woman.  Translated into English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish.  Interviewed in LightspeedMonde chinois (in French).  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) NEW TUNES TOON. SYFY Wire’s points out you can watch the new cartoon as part of this Comic-Con@Home video panel: “Boo! Looney Tunes Cartoons Debuts New Porky And Daffy Short At Comic-Con@Home”,

“We wanted to tap into the zany energy of the 1940s stuff,” added supervising producer Alex Kirwan. “That was our favorite era of the shorts and we just wanted more of that. We didn’t want to set out to reinvent it and we didn’t want to set out to put new sensibilities on it … What we love about the shorts is that they’re wonderful slapstick humor and we just wanted to get back to [that] and be really true to the way they paired the characters and the way they built comedy dynamics.”

(10) WATCH ALEX ROSS AT WORK. Over the last two months, Marvel has revealed 28 “Timeless” variant covers created by Alex Ross, which will begin to hit local comic shops in September. See Ross craft his iconic painted covers, and see how his timeless imagery was made into a magnificent mural in Marvel’s NYC offices in this video.

(11) FROM BACK STORY TO NO STORY. “Peter Shinkoda says Marvel exec claimed ‘nobody cares’ about Asian people” – BBC has the story.

Daredevil actor Peter Shinkoda says his storyline was cut after a Marvel executive said “nobody cares about” Asian characters.

Shinkoda played Nobu in the Marvel Netflix series, which was cancelled at the end of 2018.

But he says his character’s “back story was dropped” on orders from former Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb.

“I’m kind of reluctant to say this, but… I’m going to take this moment,” Shinkoda said during a virtual talk.

“Jeph Loeb told the writers’ room not to write for Nobu and Gao – and this was reiterated many times by many of the writers and show runners – that nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,” he alleged.

The Canadian actor, who was taking part in a #SaveDaredevil roundtable discussion with actors from the show, said a storyline about Nobu’s journey to America ended up being dropped.

(12) THE SUN SHINES ON EVERYBODY. And some take more advantage of that than others:“What the heroin industry can teach us about solar power”

If you have ever doubted whether solar power can be a transformative technology, read on.

This is a story about how it has proved its worth in the toughest environment possible.

The market I’m talking about is perhaps the purest example of capitalism on the planet.

There are no subsidies here. Nobody is thinking about climate change – or any other ethical consideration, for that matter.

This is about small-scale entrepreneurs trying to make a profit.

It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply of heroin.

(13) RETURN TO SENDER. “Nasa Mars rover: Meteorite to head home to Red Planet”.

A small chunk of Mars will be heading home when the US space agency launches its latest rover mission on Thursday.

Nasa’s Perseverance robot will carry with it a meteorite that originated on the Red Planet and which, until now, has been lodged in the collection of London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

The rock’s known properties will act as a calibration target to benchmark the workings of a rover instrument.

It will give added confidence to any discoveries the robot might make.

This will be particularly important if Perseverance stumbles across something that hints at the presence of past life on the planet – one of the mission’s great quests.

“This little rock’s got quite a life story,” explained Prof Caroline Smith, head of Earth sciences collections at the NHM and a member of the Perseverance science team.

“It formed about 450 million years ago, got blasted off Mars by an asteroid or comet roughly 600,000-700,000 years ago, and then landed on Earth; we don’t know precisely when but perhaps 1,000 years ago. And now it’s going back to Mars,” she told BBC News.

(14) I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING. NPR reports “Lottery Winner In Jamaica Avoids The Spotlight Dressed As Darth Vader”.

It’s not uncommon for lottery winners to want to avoid the spotlight, right? But showing up dressed as Darth Vader to collect your check is a new one. It happened in a galaxy not so far away, in May Pen, Jamaica, when a man claimed his $95 million prize in a dark lord of the Sith costume. 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that Saruman is spinning Gandalf around, he “forces Gandalf to learn breakdancing against his will.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/20 You Make Me Vote Like A Natural Person…

(1) WORLDCON AMBITIONS. Tammy Coxen wants to remedy the problem of groups bidding for Worldcons without having any knowledge of the norms and customs of the convention they want to run. With input from many others, she has created an introduction — “So You Want to Bid for a Worldcon”.

Have you ever thought about running a Worldcon? Because Worldcon has been going on for so long (over 80 years!) there are a lot of expectations, traditions, norms and customes about how to do that, and if you don’t know about them, it’s really hard to win your bid! We haven’t necessarily done a great job of communicating that to people, so (with a lot of help from friends) I put together this intro guide. This is not a how-to document with details – this is more big picture. I think it’s useful to all bidders, but it should be especially useful to people who are new(er) to Worldcons. Please feel free to share.

(2) AURORA AWARDS NEWS. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association reminded people today that the Aurora Awards Eligibility lists close February 29, 2020. And the announcement comes with a warning —

This means that if there are any works you wish to nominate for an award which are not found on the public eligibility lists you will need to submit them before 11:59PM EST February 29, 2020.

Nominations will open March 1, 2020.  

Unlike in previous years, works that are not on the Eligibility lists prior to the opening of Nominations will NOT be able to be added.  

(3) BENFORD Q&A. At Buzzy Mag, Jean Marie Ward conducts the “Gregory Benford Interview – The future is all we have left”.

Jean: We’re so glad to have you. Your most recent published books are both alternate history. “The Berlin Project” looks at the world that might have been if the U.S. had the A bomb before D-day. “Rewrite” offers a sequel to your classic timescape with a Groundhog Day twist. What occasioned this desire to remake recent history?

Gregory: Because it’s so tempting. There are so many pivot points, particularly in World War II and I as a physicist was very close to the issue of, how do you get the Uranium-235 to make bombs? You have to separate it out from the heavier 238 isotope. And the decision of how to do that, I had two choices and General Groves was forced to make the choice because the scientists were divided and he chose the wrong one and it cost us a year in the Second World War. It’s generally agreed by historians that had we suggested or made happen centrifically a separation, spinning cylinders, we would have chopped a year off the gaseous diffusion that Oak Ridge used and spent $1 billion doing. So, how would that change the war? You would have the bomb at D-day, well, how would you use it? And I use this title, “The Berlin Project” because that’s what the scientists in the project called it the first few years because the target was Berlin. Groves said that was too obvious.

So he called it the Manhattan Project and opened an office in Manhattan to give the excuse of, well, of course it was near Columbia University where all his work was done, but still they were always focused on Berlin. So, that was just too tempting because I was a postdoc for Edward Teller at Livermore for two years and then a staff member. He offered me a staff position which I took before I went to UC Irvine. And Teller told me all these delicious stories about the Manhattan Project. And I knew so many of them. The woman who helped me to do physics at UC San Diego, Maria Kepert Mayor, when I was working on problems with her and did a bunch of nuclear physics, again for my thesis, she won the Nobel Prize. And she told me all kinds of delicious stories about the Manhattan Project….

(4) GIBSON BAFFLED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the February 15 Financial Times, John Thornhill interviews William Gibson.

Gibson knew the late (John Perry) Barlow well, but he says he is ‘absolutely baffled by the naive utopianism of the early Internet pioneers, who enthused about disruption.  Barlow professed to love Neuromancer — according to Gibson — but appeared to have missed the central idea that cyberspace also had its downsides.  Even today Gibson says he is puzzled by older readers who approach him at book signings to thank him for inspiring them to pursue a career in tech.

“They’d read a book in which there didn’t appear to be any middle class left and in which no characters had employment.  They were all criminal freelancers of one sort or another. So, it was always quite mysterious to me.”

(5) BRINGING DIVERSITY TO SPACE. “Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier” is airing this week on the Smithsonian Channel. It also can be viewed on YouTube.

America’s experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race are well documented. However, few know about the moment these two worlds collided, when the White House and NASA scrambled to put the first black astronaut into orbit. This is the untold story of the decades-long battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the first superpower to bring diversity to the skies, told by the black astronauts and their families, who were part of this little known chapter of the Cold War.

…On Aug. 30, 1983, the astronaut Guion Bluford embarked as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger, making him the first African-American in space. This documentary features him alongside Edward Dwight, an Air Force pilot edged out of a position with NASA, and Frederick Gregory, the first African-American to command a NASA mission, to examine the complications of sending a black man into space during the Cold War. 

Also included are Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the first Cuban astronaut sent into space by the Soviet Union, and Ronald McNair, an African-American pilot who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.

(6) JOHNSON OBIT. Fame came late in Katherine Johnson’s life for her contributions to the early space program. “Smithsonian Curators Remember Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Highlighted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Who Died at 101”.

…Striking out during “a time when computers wore skirts,” she once said, Johnson quickly proved her incomparable worth. So trusted were her calculations that astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, considered them an integral part of his preflight checklist—even after the equations had been transferred over to modern electronic machines. “When he got ready to go,” Johnson said of Glenn, “he said, ‘Call her. And if she says the computer is right, I’ll take it.”

Her work fueled innumerable feats of aeronautics, several of which were outlined in the 26 research papers Johnson published over her decades-long career. The earliest of these publications made Johnson one of the first women at NASA to become a named author or co-author on an agency report, according to Margalit Fox at the New York Times.

…Though Johnson’s landmark contributions went mostly unheralded by mainstream media throughout her tenure at Langley, the 2010s finally brought her name into the public eye. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who described Johnson as “a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars,” reports Russell Lewis for NPR. The next year, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures, as well as a movie adaptation by the same name, highlighted the accomplishments of Johnson and her colleagues.

The film was nominated for three Oscars. When Johnson took the stage at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony, the mathematician—then 98 years old and the only one of the movie’s central characters still alive at the time of its release—received a thunderous standing ovation. That fall, NASA dedicated a new Langley building in her honor, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility….

The Washington Post obituary also includes many details of her personal life and early career at NACA and its successor, NASA.

…Mrs. Johnson had a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and spent her early career studying data from plane crashes, helping devise air safety standards at a time when the agency’s central concern was aviation….

Chris Garcia wrote her bio when the Bay Area’s Computer History Museum made her a Fellow last year:

… NACA was renamed National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in 1958, and Johnson became an aerospace technologist within NASA’s Spacecraft Controls branch. In 1960 she coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, an important report that laid out the equations for determining landing position for orbital spaceflight. In 1961 she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Earth orbital mission….

(7) MORE ABOUT BARBARA REMINGTON, In “Blast from ye past”, DB follows this intro with some intriguing comments and insights about the late artist:

Barbara Remington has died, at 90. Really old-time Tolkienists will remember her name as that of the artist who created the covers for the first issue of the Ballantine paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings, which may be seen pictured in her obituary here. (Note they’re all actually one painting split into three parts, which was also issued as a single poster without overprinting.)

Ballantine’s goal was to get the books in the shops quickly, to compete with the unauthorized Ace paperbacks, so they gave Remington very little time to work….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 24, 1952Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here.
  • February 24, 1960 The Amazing Transparent Man premiered. It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, and starred Marguerite Chapman and Douglas Kennedy. It and Beyond the Time Barrier were film in Dallas in two weeks. Critics in general liked it, but the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is a lousy 16%. You can see the film here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let not to overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 87. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 75. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 73. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted  Battlestar Galactica. He made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 69. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 54. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 54. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 52. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seven Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Bizarro is a look-twice.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a silly twist on a common parents-with-a-teenager line.
  • And the brilliant Tom Gauld again –

(11) MARTIAN HOPS. “Hunting for ‘marsquakes,’ NASA lander finds a surprisingly active red planet” reports the LA Times.

…The lander, which touched down on the red planet 15 months ago, has detected plenty of seismic activity, an unexpectedly strong local magnetic field and around 10,000 whirlwinds passing over the Martian surface.

The findings, published Monday in a suite of six papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, will help scientists unlock the secrets of Mars’ interior and understand why it looks so different from Earth.

“What these results really are showing us is that Mars is an active planet today,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, and a co-author of the new studies.

InSight is situated in a roughly 27-yard-wide impact crater in western Elysium Planitia, a volcanic plain whose surface material ranges in age from 3.7 billion to just 2.5 million years old. About 1,000 miles away lies Cerberus Fossae, a volcanic region full of faults, evidence of old lava flows and signs that liquid water once ran on the surface.

(12) HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR. In the Washington Post, Homer Hickam argues that it’s time for a “moon rush” and “once electricians, plumbers, miners, and construction workers start going to the moon, and the middle class starts using products made with materials from Luna, the United States will turn into a true spacefaring nation.” “Let the moon rush begin”.

As these efforts get going, however, it’s important to avoid the thinking of a half-century ago and look at the moon in a different way. This is, after all, not your grandfather’s moon. After the Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s and ’70s, a series of robotic missions discovered that Luna was a lot more interesting than many had previously thought. It has abundant water and oxygen, as well as helium, platinum, thorium, rare earth metals and other minerals that may well be worth digging up and transporting back for use in thousands of products. Last year, a gigantic blob of metal, as yet unidentified but significantly larger than the Big Island of Hawaii, was discovered beneath the lunar south pole. Whatever it is, it has value. The quiet far side of the moon could also provide a location for interstellar observatories, and tourists who would pay a lot to have a lunar vacation are inevitable. In other words, a real business case can be made for the moon, a case that could not only put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers but also open up jobs for skilled workers on the lunar surface.

(13) FEEL THE HEAT. Own the “Darth Vader Helmet BBQ Grill” for a mere $724.97! Yahoo! Lifestyle adds:

In addition to the Darth Vader version, Burned by Design LTD makes a R2D2 fire pit, a Storm Trooper fire pit, a Death Star fire pit, and a Boba Fett fire pit. So find your favorite character and enjoy one of those long, outdoor summer nights.

(14) FEEL THE BEAT. “Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound” – BBC video.

William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.

(15) SET AN EXAMPLE. “Marvel’s Black Panther film costumes to star in new Ipswich exhibition”.

Costumes from Marvel’s Black Panther film will feature in an exhibition designed to help “young black people shape their sense of identity”.

Three costumes from the big-screen hit will be on show at Unmasked: The Power of Stories in Ipswich.

Organisers were inspired by the film’s message about the capacity of storytelling to unite or divide people.

Contributor Phanuel Mutumburi said the exhibition would provide opportunities for people to join in.

Ipswich’s communities were “at the heart” of the exhibition, which would highlight important issues for different communities within the Suffolk town, said organisers.

(16) MAKING DEW. BBC traces “The ethereal art of fog-catching”.

In chronically dry regions around the world, communities are finding ways to live from the water suspended in the air – creating valuable drinking water from mist.

When Abel Cruz was just a boy, near the Peruvian region of Cusco, he had to walk for more than an hour every day to collect water from the nearest source and take it back home. Then he realised that, during the rainy season, drops accumulated in the banana leaves.

“When we saw that, my father and I built natural canals with the leaves to collect the water,” he says. “The first drops were a bit dirty and dusty, yet it was useful to wash dishes.”

The leaves, however, only lasted for around two weeks. “So we cut bamboo in half and we replaced the canal pipes with them, which lasted a lot longer,” explains Cruz. “That is how I got involved with collecting water.”

Today Cruz is collecting water in a very different way – he catches fog.

With large sheets of mesh strung up on hillsides, it is possible to harvest the thick mists that drift across the arid Peruvian landscape. Tiny droplets condense on the netting and dribble down into pipes that carry the water into containers where it can be used to irrigate crops or even as drinking water.

Each net can capture between 200-400 litres of fresh water every day, providing a new source of water for communities that have had no easy access to regular supplies. Cruz has helped to install more than 2,000 of these fog catching nets in eight rural communities across Peru as well as in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The impact has been dramatic.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mitigation of Shock from Superflux on Vimeo is about an installation by Superflux displaying the gloomy world of 2050 after climate change and economic collapse.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/16/19 It Must Be Pixels, ‘Cause Ink Don’t Scroll Like That

(1) NEBULA ACTIVITY. SFWA is now selling tickets to the 2020 Nebula Conference taking place May 28-31, 2020 in Woodland Hills, CA (part of Los Angeles)

SFWA members and other individuals who are interested in the field of science fiction and fantasy are welcome to attend SFWA’s Nebula Conference. Attendees may participate in workshops, programming and special events throughout the weekend.

You do not need to be a member of SFWA to attend. We encourage anyone with a connection to the field to join us.

And SFWA members can now cast nominating ballots for the Nebulas.

(2) HORN TOOTING. A.C. Wise is collecting links to eligibility posts, and already has a great many here – “What Have You Done, What Have You Loved? 2019”.

It’s that time of year again! Editors, publishers, and authors’ minds turn toward Year’s Best list, and awards. Which also means it’s time for said authors, editors, and publishers to get out there and self-promote. It can feel icky or uncomfortable, but it’s a valuable service to those who nominate for awards, and those who just want to catch up reading what they might have missed during the year. So step forward, take a deep breath, and shout about what you wrote this year. While you’re at it, shout about the things you loved too! No one can read everything that comes out in a given year, but together we can help each other find excellent things to read, and perhaps even nominate.

(3) WORDS & MUSIC. The lyric video of Taylor Swift singing “Beautiful Ghosts” from the motion picture Cats is online.

(4) UPON REFLECTION. Some who commented about a new YA Twitter donnybrook linked in yesterday’s Scroll (item #16) have adopted a new perspective, including N.K. Jemisin whose thread starts here.

(5) RAPID CONTRACTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog reportedly has severed ties with all its freelancers:

(6) FORD RIGHTS. Will Shetterly’s comment on Slate’s article “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” (linked here yesterday with news that Ford’s books are coming back into print) shed additional light:

I was one of Mike Ford’s friends and editors, and I want to go on record with this: Martha Fry was extremely helpful when we wanted to keep his Liavek stories in print. The breakdown in communication between his original family, his fannish family, and his agent has many reasons, but there are no villains in that story. There are only gossips who love drama, as there are in any community. If anyone claims his first family tried to make his work unavailable, I will point to the Liavek anthologies as evidence that’s not true.

(7) KSR STUDY. The University of Illinois Press has released Kim Stanley Robinson by Robert Markley, the Trowbridge Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Award-winning epics like the Mars trilogy and groundbreaking alternative histories like The Days of Rice and Salt have brought Kim Stanley Robinson to the forefront of contemporary science fiction. Mixing subject matter from a dizzying number of fields with his own complex ecological and philosophical concerns, Robinson explores how humanity might pursue utopian social action as a strategy for its own survival.

Robert Markley examines the works of an author engaged with the fundamental question of how we—as individuals, as a civilization, and as a species—might go forward. By building stories on huge time scales, Robinson lays out the scientific and human processes that fuel humanity’s struggle toward a more just and environmentally stable world or system of worlds. His works invite readers to contemplate how to achieve, and live in, these numerous possible futures. They also challenge us to see that SF’s literary, cultural, and philosophical significance have made it the preeminent literary genre for examining where we stand today in human and planetary history.

(8) DISNEY+. “Disney+ Warns Users About ‘Outdated Cultural Depictions’ in Titles”The Hollywood Reporter works to discern how the policy is applied.

At the bottom of the description for Disney’s 1940 classic animation Fantasia on the studio’s newly minted Disney+ service, there is a line that is garnering attention from viewers: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The disclaimer can be found in the streaming platform’s synopsis of many of Disney’s classic animated titles, including 1941’s Dumbo, 1967’s The Jungle Book, 1953’s Peter Pan and 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, as well as other offerings like 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1955’s Davy Crockett. 

Disney+ features the studio’s massive library that dates back over eight decades, and the verbiage serves as a caution against some racist and culturally insensitive depictions and references in Disney’s older offerings.

While Lady and the Tramp features Siamese cats depicted as East Asian stereotypes and Peter Pan includes a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?,” it is unclear what the criterion is for Disney titles to receive the “outdated cultural depictions” disclaimer. Aladdin, which has been critiqued for its racist depictions of Middle Eastern and Arab culture, does not feature the disclaimer in its synopsis.

Disney has not returned The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.

One feature entirely absent from the streaming platform is the 1946 live-action animation hybrid Song of the South. The movie, which inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, has been widely criticized for its portrayal of African-Americans and apparent glorification of plantation life. It has been the studio’s policy to keep the film from theatrical and home entertainment rerelease. 

The new streaming service is also making news for another decision: “‘Simpsons’ Episode Featuring Michael Jackson Kept Off Disney+”.

Disney did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why the episode is missing and who made the call. 

It is assumed “Stark Raving Dad” is off Disney+ because Michael Jackson (not officially credited) was the guest star. Jackson voiced Leon Kompowsky, a man Homer meets while in a mental institution who sounds like Jackson. The episode was a favorite among fans for several years. 

In March of this year, “Stark Raving Dad” was pulled from broadcast circulation following the release of the HBO documentary film Leaving Neverland, in which the late pop star was accused by multiple men of molestation when they were boys. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 16, 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon and François Truffaut, the film is both a financial and critical success. It currently has a hundred percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre role was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The Invaders, The Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did. Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all…  (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 16, 1952 Shigeru Miyamoto, 67. Video game designer and producer at Nintendo. He is the creator of some of the best-selling game franchises of the company, such as Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.
  • Born November 16, 1952 Robin McKinley, 67. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are Sunshine, Chalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire,UK. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She was Hera in Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome.
  • Born November 16, 1967 Lisa Bonet, 52. First genre work was isEpiphany Proudfoot in Angel Heart, a decidedly strange horror film. More germane was that she was Heather Lelache in the 2002 A&E adaptation of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. She later played Maya Daniels in the Life on Mars series as well. 
  • Born November 16, 1967 Eva Pope, 52. Genre is a slippery thing to define. She was a one-off in Adventure Inc. (might be genre) as well the Splinter film (horror with SF pretensions), Life on Mars (SF maybe) and Spooks: Code 9 (alternate UK history). Is she genre? 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 47. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fave SF films of all time. Also has been in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A Haunted House 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  Roswell, The Tick, Pushing Daisies and Z Nation.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 42. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be best remembered for her role as a Nebari who was a member of the crew on Moya on the Farscape series. Other genre appearances include Beastmaster, The Lost World, Quantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the web series Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Maggie Gyllenhaal, 42. She’s had some impressive genre appearances in such works as Donnie DarkoThe Dark Knight, voice work in the superb Monster House and the equally superb Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

(11) ELLISON REMEMBERED. Fanac.org has uploaded an audio recording of the Worldcon 76 (2018) “In Memoriam: Harlan Ellison” panel.

Worldcon 76 was held in San Jose, CA in 2018. This Memoriam panel (audio, with pictures) features memories and anecdotes from Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg (who was a friend of Harlan’s for 65 years), Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat Segaloff (Harlan’s biographer). Each of the panelists had a close relationship with Harlan, and these loving but clear-eyed reminiscences are a comfort to those that miss him, and hopefully to those readers who never had a chance to meet him. Harlan was an enormous presence in science fiction. His stories, his scripts, his kindnesses and his sometimes unbelievable missteps will be long remembered. Recording provided by Karen G. Anderson and Richard Lynch.

(12) ABOUT LEWIS. Publishers Weekly is right to hedge its bet in the title — “10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis “ because I knew three of these, and a few of you probably know them all!

9. Lewis’s first book was a collection of poetry he wrote as a teenager. Before he planned to be a philosopher, the teenage Lewis hoped to become a great poet. He wrote poetry with the hope of publishing his work and gaining fame. He returned to England after being injured in France during World War I and published his collection as Spirits in Bondage under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

(13) A MEMORY REVERED. “Wales’ Tecwyn Roberts hailed as ‘hero of the space age'” – BBC has the story.

Tributes are being paid to “one of the great unsung heroes of the space age”.

Tecwyn Roberts, from Anglesey, helped set up mission control rooms and enabled astronaut Neil Armstrong to communicate with Earth from the Moon.

Experts have hailed Roberts’ expertise as events are held to mark the 50 years since Nasa’s second lunar landing.

A flag will be placed on his grave during the anniversary of Apollo 12 which flew from 14-24 November 1969.

“Without Tec[wyn], Nasa and mission control as it exists today would probably not have happened,” said Nick Howes, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Tecwyn Roberts could rightly be labelled as one of the great unsung heroes of the space age.”

Mr Howes was speaking in an interview published by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which has also hailed Roberts as a “pioneer”.

He was chief of the network engineering division by the time of the first landing on the Moon and helped to ensure there was communication with astronauts.

…Gary Morse, a former Nasa space shuttle network director, said Roberts “essentially invented” the flight director position.

“He didn’t say much but when he did it was very important,” he said.

(14) MORE TOR BUCKS. Here’s a number most writers would be happy to sign for – “James Rollins lands huge 7-figure deal for epic fantasy series”. Entertainment Weekly is there when the cash register rings.

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author best known for his blockbuster thrillers has signed a major seven-figure deal with Tor Books for Moon Fall, a fantasy series that’s been eight years in the making.

Moon Fall opens a riven world trapped between fire and ice, merging his fascination with the natural world, his love of adventure, and his knowledge of the wonders found at the evolutionary fringes of scientific exploration. It centers on a young girl who foretells a new apocalypse approaching, one that will end all life for all time. Her reward is a charge of grave heresy, punishable by death. As she flees, she gathers an unlikely alliance of outcasts to join her cause to save their world. The journey will take them into lands both burning bright and eternally frozen, to face creatures unimaginable and enemies beyond reason. All the while, hostile forces will hunt them. Armies will wage war around them.

(15) R-RATED B.O. Joker is still bringing people through the turnstiles: “The Joker Hits $1 Billion at Box Office — Making It the First R-Rated Movie to Reach the Milestone”.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, has surpassed $1 billion in gross sales at box offices world wide, Entertainment Weekly reports. The milestone makes the blockbuster the first R-rated movie to hit the $1 billion mark, according to the outlet.

It also means that the movie, which tells the tale of the rise of Batman’s arch-nemesis, has now officially beat out Deadpool as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. The Ryan Reynolds-stared film made $783 million.

(16) WELL-KNOWN BRAND. Martin Morse Wooster assures us, “I normally wouldn’t write about Tanya Edwards’s Yahoo! Lifetstyle story ’10 Gifts That Will Impress The Ultimate Star Wars fan’ because it is an Ebay infomercial.  BUT the Darth Vader Helmet 2-Slice Toaster is definitely worth a photo!”

(17) PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF. Starlux Airlines is an actual company that begins operations in Taiwan in 2020, with all new Airbus planes. They just launched their safety video:

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

Pixel Scroll 9/8/19 To Be Placed On Our “Do Not Teleport” List, Please Press 1

(1) WRITTEN AS A WARNING. Margaret Atwood was featured today on CBS Sunday Morning: “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood: ‘I have never believed it can’t happen here’”.

…When asked her inspiration for the handmaids’ outfits, Atwood replied, “The concealment of the body, number one, and the limitation of the body, number 2, so other people can’t see you, but you also can’t see other people.

“So, that, and the Old Dutch Cleanser package from the 1940s,” she added. “A vision from my childhood.”

Outside the church, Atwood is recognized by teenagers attending day camp. At 79, she is Canada’s most famous living writer. She’s published 60 books, but “The Handmaid’s Tale” has overshadowed the others. In English, it’s sold more than eight million copies.

She began the book in West Berlin in 1984: “A symbolic year because of Orwell, and how could I be so corny as to have begun ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that year?  I couldn’t help it!”

(2) NO AWARD. David Pomerico was incensed that Anne Groell finished behind No Award in the Best Professional Editor, Long Form Hugo category. While some of these tweets are a bit overwrought (“Of course, maybe Anne wronged 97 of you somehow, but knowing her like do, I find that hard to believe”), it’s very fair to say most voters have only a very general idea what an editor does, and to wonder how they decided to fill out their ballots. Thread starts here.

I have observed in the fan categories that No Award votes can function as a protest against the existence of a category. If something similar is at work here, it would only be unfortunate collateral damage that a person received fewer votes than No Award on the first ballot. Note that although she wasn’t the first choice of very many voters, the sixth place runoff shows 446 people ranked Groell ahead of No Award.

(3) PKD’S FINAL RESTING PLACE. “Arts and Entertainment: Community celebrates Philip K. Dick” — The Fort Morgan (CO) Times covers a local PKD festival. Why Fort Morgan? For a couple of good reasons:

…PKD died in Santa Ana, California, on March 2, 1982, at the age of 53. After his death, Hollywood would make some of his work popular with films such as “Blade Runner” (based on his short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”); “Total Recall” (based on “We can Remember it Wholesale”); “Minority Report” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dick is buried at the Fort Morgan cemetery next to his twin sister, Jane, who died at 6 weeks old. That grave is a popular draw for fans of the prolific science fiction author from all over the world, with cemetery workers often seeing little trinkets related to his tales left on the stone.

Another connection to Fort Morgan with the late author is that his father’s family was from Fort Morgan.

Two years ago, an expert on author Philip K. Dick who goes by Lord Running Clam (aka David Hyde) saw his dream of having a PKD Festival held in Fort Morgan come true.

And this year, the second version of that every-two-years festival was held.

… One of the big events at this year’s PKD Festival was a panel discussion about “The Man In The High Castle.”

“The Man in the High Castle” is what many consider to be Dick’s first masterpiece, but not everyone feels that way. The panel consisted of Ted Hand, Dr. Andrew Butler, Tessa Dick and Frank Hollander.

(4) CLINGERMAN APPRECIATION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week is “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” by Mildred Clingerman (1918–1997), originally published in 1956 by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and recently anthologized in The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women.

During the last couple of decades the name Mildred Clingerman has popped up in prominent spots around the science fiction universe. Her works have been included in several significant anthologies and even in textbooks; indeed, her story “Wild Wood” is one of the more memorable entries in the late David G. Hartwell’s landmark collection of Christmas fantasy tales. In 2014 she received a posthumous Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, joining such previous honorees as R. A. Lafferty, Leigh Brackett, and the collaborative team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. And two years ago her family assembled The Clingerman Files, a book collecting most of the science fiction stories that appeared during her lifetime, along with two dozen unpublished tales found in her papers.

(5) TRUE CONFESSION. Cat Rambo is taking inventory:

(6) Q&A. Odyssey Writing Workshops taps into the experience of a successful grad — “Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts”.

Your story “Thanks for the Memories,” an interactive story about a woman piecing her life together one memory at a time, came out in Sub-Q in December 2018. What were some of the challenges in writing a story structured that way?

I had so much fun writing “Thanks for the Memories,” and it’s based on a story I wrote for my last week of Odyssey. I could never make it quite work in prose, but making it interactive and letting the player/reader experience the feeling of trying to work out the main character’s past from within her shoes, using her memories, was the perfect fit of story and format. The hardest part of doing it, other than learning a new coding language to write the piece, was figuring out how to make the piece non-linear (so you could experience the memories in any order), but also structured (so there was a set beginning, middle, and end to drive the story). My solution was to create a frame narrative with a ticking clock and key moments that always happened when the player got through a certain number of memories. That way their experience of the memories could always be different, but the story would still have a shape and forward plot momentum. I like to think it worked out in the end.

(7) HINTS OFFERED. At Writer’s Digest, Robert Lee Brewer has curated a list of links to other WD articles that will show you “How to Write a Science Fiction Novel”.

Whether you want to write about peace-loving aliens or a heartbreaking dystopian future, there are a number of practical strategies for starting your novel, building your world, and landing a satisfying finish. In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel using some of the best advice on WritersDigest.com.

(8) A HISTORIC CONNECTION. Actor Robert Picardo celebrates Star Trek’s premiere 53 years ago today by sharing Trek-related things found in storage boxes at The Planetary Society’s headquarters. One is a signed letter from Gene Roddenberry encouraging the Star Trek community to join the Society.

Star Trek: Voyager’s holographic doctor, Robert Picardo, also serves on The Planetary Society Board of Directors. However, he is not the first connection between Star Trek and The Planetary Society. In 1980, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, wrote a letter and sent it out to a Star Trek fans mailing list. In the letter, Gene invited his fans to join us on our mission to explore the cosmos. Hear the letter as read by Robert Picardo, listen to his Jean-Luc Picard impression, and see inside Bill Nye’s office for more Star Trek artifacts on hand at The Planetary Society.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 8, 1966 Star Trek’s first aired episode, “The Man Trap,” was written by George Clayton Johnson.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8, 1911 William Morrow. He’s the first original Trek Admiral appearing as an Admiral in two episodes, Admiral Komack, in “Amok Time” and as Admiral Westervliet “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.  Other genre appearances include Cyborg 2087, Mission ImpossibleColossus: The Forbin ProjectPanic in Year Zero!The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Rollerball and Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also took multiple roles (even the Queen) in The Mouse That Roared. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 74. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And he was the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a not quite so dismal 24%. 
  • Born September 8, 1948 Michael Hague, 71. I’m very fond of East of the Sun and West of the Moon retold by he and his wife Kathleen. Not to be missed are his Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit which are both lovely takes on those tales. 
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 65. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The New Adventures of SupermanThe Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor and later publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he was awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form. He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. 
  • Born September 8, 1971 Martin Freeman, 48. I’m not a fan of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films but I really do think he made a very fine Bilbo Baggins. Now I will say that I never warmed to Sherlock with him and Benedict Cumberbatch. Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu works better for me.  
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 44. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. Speakers’ Corner finds an author who did a literal book launch: “Science Fiction Should Be Re-Named Science Prediction: Q&A With Sarah Cruddas”.

What inspired you to pick up a pen and write a book for children?

The Space Race: The Journey to the Moon and Beyond – which was released this May – is my third children’s book. Although I don’t see it as just a children’s book. Nearly all of us have a child like wonder about space, and I want to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters and how it is shaping our lives. What inspired me to write this book is that I wanted to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters. I even launched the book to the edge of space (using a balloon) to help showcase just how close space really is.

Wait, hang on – you actually launched your book into space?

Haha yes!

I launched my book to space using a special type of balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The science behind it is relatively simple, the gas in the balloon weighs less than the air around it, so that causes it to rise. The balloon continues to rise and expand until the air that surrounds is equal in pressure – at the edge of space at an altitude which in this case was 33.1km. It then pops and falls to the Earth by parachute.

However it’s also complicated in the sense, you have to notify the CAA and also track the balloon and predict rough landing sight using weather patterns. But it shows that space is truly not far away.

(13) GOOD AS GOLD. Somewhat unexpectedly, Joker has taken top prize at the Venice Film festival. Slate has the story: Joker Steals Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival!”.

               The Joker, that caliph of clowns, that prince of pranksters, that malevolent mischief-maker whose cunning capers continually confound the courageous crimefighters of Gotham City, has struck again! This time, the caped crusaders’ archest arch-nemesis has left Gotham for bella Italia—ancestral home of local heiress J. Pauline Spaghetti—to pull off his most daring, dastardly deed to date: Stealing the Golden Lion, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film festival, and awarding it to Joker, screenwriter and director Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed meditation on poverty, grief, and the myriad ways the social and economic forces of the Reagan era turned decent people into Clown Princes of Crime.

               The Joker’s fiendish feat of film flimflammery is a festival first: According to the Cinematic Milestone Bat-Disclosure Unit, Joker is the first superhero movie to win the Golden Lion. The festival jury, headed by Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, has not commented on its role in the Joker’s scheme, but Commissioner Gordon believes that an empty box of “Joker Brand Film Festival Jury Hypnotic Gas Pellets (Italian Formulation)” found in the gondola where deliberations were held may hold a clue to the mystery. Authorities acknowledge, however, that their theory that the festival jury was biased in favor of supervillains is not entirely consistent with the fact that they awarded the festival’s next highest award, the Grand Jury Prize, to a small-time sex offender named Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy, a movie about the Dreyfus affair. Holy Ham-Handed Historical Analogy, Batman!

(14) NAVIGATING OZ. Daniel Tures looks back at the books and 1939 movie in “Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, Oh My!” at the Los Angeles Public Library blog.

…As one of the cultural touchstones of the 20th century, almost any look into the history or production of The Wizard of Oz will spin the reader down endless rabbit holes of film criticism and intellectual wandering. From Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, silver shoes in Baum’s original book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, to E. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen’s iconic songs, and with heirs from The Wiz to the films of David Lynch, it stands at the crux of Hollywood history.

We tend to think of the books as being written in one place, and the movies based on them being made in another—yet strangely enough L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage actually lived in the town of Hollywood from 1910 to 1919, at the end of his life, just as it was being transformed from a little-known agricultural paradise to a world-famous moviemaking one.

(15) KYLO REN IS DONE WITH IT. “Darth Vader’s Screen-Used Helmet From Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Goes up for Auction”: ComicBook.com says you’ll need a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Are you a Star Wars fan with $250,000 to spend? If so, iCollector has an item for you! The online collectibles auction is boasting a Darth Vader helmet worn onscreen by David Prowse in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

(16) HISTORY OF SF FILMS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, has been doing a History of Science Fiction, and in the third installment covers 1955 to 1959. He hopes viewers will support his efforts at www.patreon.com/marczicree.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Top Elf, PhilRM, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/18 Baby, It’s Scrolled Outside

(1) CARRYING ON. Pat Cadigan continues her series of Dispatches from Cancerland” with “Two Years Of Borrowed Time & I’m Still Not Dead”:

I’d love to write a lot of inspirational entries about still being alive but Buffy the Vampire Slayer was right when she said, ‘The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.’ It’s also the busiest. I’ve been so busy continuing to be alive, I haven’t had time to wax rhapsodic about continuing to be alive.

That my sound sarcastic but in truth, I wish I could. I wish I could tell you that every glitch and inconvenience, every little (and not so little) ache and pain, every boring chore and utterly grey day is a reminder that it’s still great to be alive and to know that I’m going to be alive for some indefinite period of time.

Cancer and I have reached a stand-off that puts it in the background of my life. In fact, it’s so much in the background that I really do forget I have it.

(2) MEXICANX INITIATIVE CELEBRATED. The “Mexicanx Initiative Scrapbook” brings back the memories:

This is a collection of memories, a spontaneous burst of creative works, a celebration of Mexicanx creators and fans, and a documentation of something that started with passion and a vision and grew into so much more.

The Mexicanx Initiative, started by Worldcon 76 Artist Guest of Honor, John Picacio, and sponsored by many wonderful and caring members of the Worldcon community, brought 42 Mexican and Mexican-American people to San Jose, California in August of 2018 to attend Worldcon 76.

Stories, essays, food, poems, art, and so much more were born of this experience….

(3) JEMISIN ON SHORT STORIES. Abigail Bercola discusses How Long ‘til Black Future Month with the author in “A True Utopia: An Interview With N. K. Jemisin” in The Paris Review.

INTERVIEWER

In the introduction to How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, you write that short stories presented a way for you to work out techniques and consider perspectives without the commitment of a novel. What else do short stories offer you that the novel doesn’t?

JEMISIN

Really, that’s the main thing. You’re still putting a pretty hefty mental commitment into making a short story. Even though it’s relatively brief, you still have to come up with a world that’s coherent. I find short stories almost as difficult to write as novels, it’s just less time-consuming. Short stories are hard for me. That’s why the collection is something like fifteen years worth of short stories. They asked me to write several new ones for the collection and I was just like, Not likely to happen. In fact, I can really only write them when I’m between novels because they take away from whatever energy I’m trying to pour into a novel.

(4) GATTS TAKES THE HELM. Giganotosaurus has someone new in charge: “Please Welcome Our New Editor, Elora Gatts”. Departing editor Rashida J. Smith makes the introduction —

I have the distinct joy to hand off the role of editor to Elora Gatts, recently of PodCastle. She is a keen and insightful reader and I can’t wait to read the stories she picks for the zine.

(5) A FUTURE WITHOUT HER. Wow. No sooner did she introduce The Verge’s “Better Worlds” than she was out.

(6) NYRSF’S TWELFTHMONTH. With the aid of C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez, the New York Review of SF Readings Series maintains its tradition of having families perform at the December gathering.

The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series provides performances from some of the best writers in science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, etc.  The series usually takes place the first Tuesday of every month,

C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes in the Borough of Queens. She is an audiobook narrator, the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine, a Rhysling Award-winning poet, and the author of World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories (Mythic Delirium 2015).  Her recent short fiction can be found in Sword and Sonnet, an anthology of battle poets, and in Ellen Datlow’s Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Carlos Hernandez is the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria (Rosarium 2016) and most recently, as part of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint of Disney Hyperion, the novel Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (2019).  By day, Carlos is an associate professor of English at the City University of New York, with appointments at BMCC and the Graduate Center, and a game designer and enthusiast.  Catch him on Twitter @writeteachplay.

The event takes place December 11 at the Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7

(7) THE HUMANITY BUREAU. A dystopian thriller set in the year 2030 that sees the world in a permanent state of economic recession and facing serious environmental problems as a result of global warming. The film, starring, Nicolas Cage, Sarah Lind, and Jakob Davies, [correction] was released in April 2018.

(8) NEW CAR SPELL. When John Scalzi went to shift to a higher gear he discovered he’d already used his quota.

And is he getting any sympathy?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 7, 1945 – Clive Russell. Currently Brynden Tully in Game of Thrones. Other genre roles include but are not limited to Helfdane in The 13th Warrior (a retelling of Beowulf), Mr. Vandemar in the Neverwhere series, Lancelot’s Father in King Arthur, Bayard in the Merlin series, Maqueen in the 2010 remake of the classic 1941 film The Wolfman, and Tyr in
    Thor: The Dark World.
  • Born December 7, 1945 – W.D. Richter. As a screenwriter, he was responsible for Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Dracula, and Big Trouble In Little China. As a director, he brought Late for Dinner and Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension to us. He was also co-writer with Stephen King on the adaptation of King’s Needful Things novel to film.
  • Born December 7, 1965 – Jeffrey Wright. Felix Leiter in the James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace which I rather liked, Beetee in The Hunger Games films which I’ve not seen, and played the real-life Sidney Bechet in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, a series I adored.
  • Born December 7, 1978 – Kristofer Hivju. His first genre role was as Jonas in The Thing, based on the John W. Campbell novella Who Goes There?, and it is a prequel to the 1982 film of the same name by John Carpenter. He next shows up as an unnamed security chief in M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth. He’s currently Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones.
  • Born December 7, 1979 – Jennifer Carpenter. Ok, usually I pay absolutely no attention to Awards, but she got a nomination for her work as Emily Rose in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It was the MTV Movie Award for Best Scared-As-Shit Performance. It later got renamed to Best Frightened Performance. She’s apparently only got two other genre credits, both voice work. One is as Black Widow in Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher which is a horridly-done anime film that I do not recommend; the other is as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, the animated version of the Mike Mignola Elseworld series which I strongly recommend. Possibly the Limitless series she was in is genre, possibly it isn’t…
  • Born December 7, 1989 – Nicholas Hoult. His first genre role was as Eusebios in Clash of the Titans which was a 2010 remake of of the 1981 film of the same name. He went on to play The Beast aka Hank McCoy in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse. Other roles included that of Jack in Jack the Giant Slayer, followed by a role in Mad Max: Fury Road as Nux, and he’s slated to be in the forthcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

(10) OSCAR BUZZ. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday interviews A Quiet Place director John krasinski, who says his film is worthy of an Oscar and voters should think of it as more substantial than the typical horror movie: “John Krasinski turned ‘A Quiet Place’ into a surprise hit. So how about an Oscar?”

John Krasinski knew he had a potential hit on his hands when he attended a test screening for “A Quiet Place.” A horror movie about a family battling largely unseen creatures who attack at the slightest noise, the film transpires with no verbal dialogue: The characters communicate with American Sign Language, or through meaningful glances and gestures. This wasn’t Krasinski’s first effort as a director; still, he and his wife, Emily Blunt — who play the parents in “A Quiet Place” — weren’t sure audiences would accept a genre picture that harked back to cinema’s silent roots more than its special effects-driven present.

(11) FUTURE PAST. Vintage Everyday remembers — “Closer Than We Think: 40 Visions of the Future World According to Arthur Radebaugh”.

From 1958 to 1962, illustrator and futurist Arthur Radebaugh thrilled newspaper readers with his weekly syndicated visions of the future, in a Sunday strip enticingly called “Closer Than We Think”.

Radebaugh was a commercial illustrator in Detroit when he began experimenting with imagery—fantastical skyscrapers and futuristic, streamlined cars—that he later described as “halfway between science fiction and designs for modern living.” Radebaugh’s career took a downward turn in the mid-1950s, as photography began to usurp illustrations in the advertising world. But he found a new outlet for his visions when he began illustrating a syndicated Sunday comic strip, “Closer Than We Think,” which debuted on January 12, 1958—just months after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik—with a portrayal of a “Satellite Space Station.” …


15. Electronic Home Library

The media library of the future was going to be rich and varied. But there’s something a bit off about this prediction from 1959. Maybe it’s the film canisters lining the shelves. Or maybe it’s the 3D-TV sans glasses that Pop is watching. Or maybe it’s the fact that Mother is reading a book on the ceiling in what looks like the most uncomfortable way to read a book of all time.

(12) TREK BEHIND THE SCENES. Titan Comics has released Star Trek: Epic Episodes, a special collection of the best of Star Trek Magazine focusing on the stunning 2-part episodes and landmark episodes of both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Presenting cast and crew interviews, guides, behind the scenes exclusives and revelations on the making of everyone’s favorite epic episodes

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY.

(14) VADER WHIPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] He’s alive! He’s dead! He’s alive! He’s Daaaaaaaaarth Vaderrrrrrrrr! (Gizmodo/io9: “Marvel Found a Replacement for Chuck Wendig’s Scrapped Darth Vader Comic Surprisingly Quickly”)

In the space of weeks, Marvel went from proudly announcing a new Darth Vader miniseries at New York Comic Con to scrapping the whole thing entirely. Now, less than a month later, they’ve already found a replacement.

Marvel has announced—via the official Star Wars websiteVader: Dark Visions, a new limited miniseries that will launch in March. That’s just two months after the Chuck-Wendig-penned Shadow of Vader miniseries was set to originally debut. Instead, days after its announcement in October, Marvel fired the writer from the project three issues in, with Wendig citing internal concern at the publisher over his political commentary on social media as a primary reason for his exit.

(15) TRAVELING MUSIC. Brian May, former lead guitarist for Queen and current astrophysicist, is writing a soundtrack for the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule scheduled for December 31/January 1 — Parabolic Arc has the story: “Brian May Creating New Music for New Horizons Ultima Thule Flyby”.

View this post on Instagram

TO BE CONTINUED !!! NEW !!! New Horizons ! Launched nearly 13 years ago from Cape Canaveral, this NASA probe made history with its spectacular fly-by of Pluto in 2015. Now it’s on course to fly close to Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day – 1st January 2019. This 60 second clip is the first of three brief tasters of my own new “New Horizons“ track, which will pay homage to this mission. We will reveal the song in full on 1st Jan. Visit the official NASA website at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/ Image credit: NASA and APL. And watch this Space !!! Thanks to the mighty John Miceli for epic drums on this track. Thanks to the legendary Don Black for helping me write it. Also to my co-producers and engineers Justin Shirley-Smith and Kris Fredriksson. And respects to Kris for putting this clip together. And. Special thanks to NH Project Instigator Alan Stern. Bri

A post shared by Brian Harold May (@brianmayforreal) on

(16) SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Paul Weimer finds new frontiers of fantasy in “Microreview [book]: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri” at Nerds of a Feather.

Empire of Sand is an immersive and compulsively readable epic fantasy that draws on traditions and cultures and milieus, the Mughal Empire, a culture and heritage hitherto rarely seen in the Western fantasy tradition.

(17) HOW TO FIND THEM. Todd Mason’s book review link post, “Friday’s “Forgotten” Books (and Short Fiction, Magazines, Comics and more): the links to the reviews: 7 December 2018″, will get you connected.

This week’s books, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from); certainly, most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles” —

  • Frank Babics: The Reality Trip and Other Implausibilities by Robert Silverberg
  • Les Blatt: Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh
  • Elgin Bleecker: Lie Catchers by Paul Bishop
  • Brian Busby: Maclean’s, December 1918, edited by Thomas B. Costain (and featuring Robert Service’s poem “The Wife”)
  • Alice Chang: All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi
  • Martin Edwards: On Suspicion by “David Fletcher” (Dulan Barber)
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics: December 1973 and the best of ’73
  • Will Errickson: Winter Wolves by Earle Westcott
  • Curtis Evans: Scared to Death and Death in the Round by Anne Morice
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds, June 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock and Langdon Jones
  • Barry Gardner: Beggar’s Choice by Jerry Kennealy
  • John Grant: The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich; A Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh; The House by the Lock by A. M. Williamson
  • James Wallace Harris: Friday by Robert Heinlein
  • Rich Horton: Where I Wasn’t Going (aka Challenge the Hellmaker) by Walt and Leigh Richmond; Absolute Uncertainty (and other stories) by Lucy Sussex; some short fiction by John Crowley
  • Jerry House: Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines by Ray Bradbury
  • Kate Jackson: Courtier to Death by “Anthony Gilbert” (Lucy Malleson); Murder by Matchlight by E. C. R. Lorac
  • Tracy K: Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger
  • Colman Keane; The First Short Story Collection by “Anonymous-9” (Elaine Ash)
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 4 edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Glimpses by Lewis Shiner
  • Margot Kinberg: The Invisible Onesby Stef Penney
  • Rob Kitchin: Red Plenty by Francis Spufford
  • B.V. Lawson: Five Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon G. Eberhart
  • Evan Lewis: Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard by L. Sprague de Camp, Catherine Crook de Camp and Jane Whittington Griffin; Carmine Infantino et al.: “Charlie Chan: The Hit and Run Murder Case” (Charlie Chan, June/July 1948)
  • Jonathan Lewis: The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin
  • Steve Lewis: Behold, Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer; Blood Shot by Sara Paretsky; “Double Dare” by Robert Silverberg (Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1956); “The Silver Mask Murders” by Erle Stanley Gardner (Detective Fiction Weekly, 23 November 1935)
  • Mike Lind: The Moving Target by “Ross Macdonald” (Kenneth Millar)
  • Gideon Marcus: Gamma, July 1963, edited by Charles Fritch
  • Todd Mason: some 1963 and 1973 fantasy magazines: Gamma, July 1963, edited by Charles Fritch; Magazine of Horror, August 1963, edited by Robert A. W. Lowndes; Fantastic, September 1973, edited by Ted White; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1973, edited by Edward Ferman; The Haunt of Horror, August 1973, edited by Gerard F. Conway
  • Francis M. Nevins: Q.E.D., Hell-Gate Tides and Dead End Street by [Emma] Lee Thayer
  • John F. Norris: Death at the Wheel by Vernon Loder
  • John O’Neill: The Fungus by “Harry Adam Knight” (John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle, in this case)
  • Matt Paust: Death of a Dissident by Stuart Kaminsky
  • James Reasoner: A Day Which Will Live in Infamy edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Richard Robinson: Stakeout on Page Street by Joe Gores
  • Gerard Saylor: The Zealot by Simon Scarrow
  • Jack Seabrook: “And the Desert Shall Blossom” by Loren D. Good (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, March 1958)
  • Steven H. Silver: “The Tweener” by Leigh Brackett; “Worlds within Worlds” by Roger Dee; “The Power of Kings” by John DeCles; “Intaglio” by Kurt R. A. Giambastiani; “In the Bosom of His Family” by John Dalmas; “Death in Transit” by Jerry Sohl; “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” by Jo Walton
  • Kerrie Smith: The Honourable Thiefby Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
  • Kevin Tipple: Snowjob by Ted Wood
  • “TomCat”: The Strawstack Murder Case by Kirke Mechem
  • Danielle Torres: Singing in Tune with Time: Stories and Poems About Ageingedited by Elizabeth Cairns
  • Prashant Trikannad: Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
  • David Vineyard: The Darkness at Windon Manor by “Max Brand” (Frederick Faust)
  • A.J. Wright: the work of W. C./William Chambers Morrow
  • Matthew Wuertz: Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1954, edited by H. L. Gold

(18) ROCKET MAN. iCollector is offering this item for another six days — “Bill Campbell “Rocketeer” costume ensemble with hero metal rocket pack”. They’re looking for a $125,000 bid.

Extraordinary ensemble includes the hero metal Cirrus X3 Art Deco-styled “flame” rocket pack with leather harness and buckles, glove with built-in ignition trigger, signature leather jacket, fireproof stunt jodhpur pants, and a production made signature Rocketeer helmet.

(19) SONGS FOR SCROLL SEASONS. Matthew Johnson reworked a carol in comments:

Hark! The herald pixels scroll
“The comment section’s free of trolls!
Double fifths and sevens filed
Dog and shoggoth reconciled.”
Joyful, all you Filers rise,
For new books are on half-price;
When a typo you proclaim
Of libations appertain.
Hark! The herald pixels file,
Rotating the WABAC dial,
“From Mount Tsundoku’s overlook
I see cats sitting on my books.”

And I’m told Anna Nimmhaus has been singing:

Pixel scroll,
Oh my little pixel scroll,
I’ll comment to you.

You were my first love,
And you’ll be my fifth love,
You won’t lack for egoboo,
I’ll comment to you.

In this whole world
Each day one scroll’s unfurled,
Let me help it unfurl.
I’ll comment to you.

Possibly inspired by the Shirelles’ hit song “Soldier Boy” (F. Green & L. Dixon, 1962)

(20) CALL ME WHATSISNAME. Could it be… Moby Dick in space? In theaters December 14.

When a deep space fishing vessel is robbed by a gang of pirates, the Captain (Holt McCallany) makes a daring decision to go after a rare and nearly extinct species. On the hunt, his obsession propels them further into space and danger as the crew spins into a downward spiral of mutiny and betrayal.

 

[Thanks to Paul Di Filippo, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/25/17 When All Of A Sudden There Arose Such a Pixel

(1) STAR EXPLAINER. The New York Times profiles sf fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno in “Searching for the (Star) Light at the Vatican Observatory”.

Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.

What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”

“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”

The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”

(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. And here’s what you can look forward to if you keep watching the skies – “Astronomy Calendar For 2018”

(3) TRACKING SANTA. It wasn’t an unlisted number after this happened: “NORAD’s Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport”.

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.

“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”

(4) DIAGNOSIS GRINCH. The Washington Post’s Susan Svrluga, in “The Grinch needs a good cardiologist, and other holiday stories explained by scientists”, interviews area scientists who answer scientific questions posed by fictional works, such as why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s nose glows.  (It could be because Santa’s sleigh crash-landed into the Red Sea and Rudolph got doused in glowing coral.)  Among the scientists interviewed was Johns Hopkins medical school cardiologist Dr. David Kass, who argues the reason why the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a day after he pigs out on Whoville food is that the Grinch is a snake and snake’s hearts expand after big meals.

(5) THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN. Charles Stross, jockeying to keep his series eligible for a future year where he thinks there will be more UK voters to back him, asks —

Please do not nominate the Laundry Files for the best series Hugo award in 2018.

(Explanation below the cut.)

The rules for the best series Hugo award stipulate:

Previous losing finalists in the Best Series category shall beeligible only upon the publication of at least two (2) additional installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words after they qualified for their last appearance on the final ballot and by the close of the previous calendar year.

This means that if series X is shortlisted in 2018 and loses, it won’t be eligible again until two more installments amounting to 240,000 words have been published in a subsequent year.

There is a significantly better chance of either series winning the award at a British—or Irish—worldcon, such as the one in Dublin in 2019, simply because the worldcon attendees will include more of my UK readers. However, a nomination in 2018 would probably lose (there are plenty of very good series works by American authors: consider Max Gladstone or Seanan McGuire, for example) and thereby disqualify me from eligibility in 2019.

(6) NOT TOO LATE. If you didn’t already get the gift you wanted this holiday season, maybe you can fill the void with the “Star Wars R2-D2 Coffee Press”. Or not – I keep visualizing giving R2 a sinus headache every time…

(7) OBITUARY.  Heather Menzies-Urich (1949-2017), best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died December 24 at the age of 68. Her main genre credit was starring as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run (1977-78). She had an uncredited role in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969); other genre appearances include Sssssss (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (one episode, 1977), Piranha (1978), Captain America (1979), Endangered Species (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 25, 1980 Altered States first premiered in theatres.
  • December 25, 1999 Galaxy Quest opened.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NAUGHTY. The Guardian’s research shows Home Alone atop the pyramid — “Data sketch: the most pirated Christmas movies”. It’s A Wonderful Life is listed, too – I thought it was in public domain now?

(12) CHIANG OP-ED REBUTTED. Tech Crunch’s Jon Evans mounts a defense: “Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley”.

Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.

To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.

…But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.

(13) WATER IS COMING. I don’t know if it would melt the Wall, but it wouldn’t do any good to the rest of the world — “This is what global warming would do to the ‘Game of Thrones’ planet”.

The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet’s long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.

Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.

(14) A TOM LEHRER HOLIDAY. Mr. Sci-Fi renders the Science Fiction Christmas Song (recorded in 2014.)

Sci-Fi Ubergeek Marc Zicree sings Tom Lehrer’s Christmas song as great science fiction Christmas images from 1950s Galaxy Magazine and other sources flash by. Marc just recorded this song for Coast to Coast AM’s Christmas Album, with proceeds going to charity.

 

(15) THE DARTH VADER YULE LOG. A seasonal tradition (since 2015).

Gather the younglings for a centuries old family tradition the Darth Vader Yule Log. Sith Lords will be roasting on an open fire, as you sit back an enjoy some holiday classics.

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, and Steve Green for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Swarovski Crystal Star Wars Figures

John King Tarpinian snapped this photo of Swarovski’s window display at his local mall.

Just won the lottery and need the right holiday gift for the Star Wars fan in your life? That’s the price level we’re talking about, for the big guy, anyway…


Star Wars – Darth Vader, Limited Edition 2017

$ 10,250.00

Limited to 300 pieces worldwide, this unique masterpiece is only crafted on demand and comes with a certificate of authenticity. An exclusive design showing Darth Vader, one of the most popular and iconic characters from the Star Wars movie series, with over 29’000 hand-set crystals. Authentic and detailed, this stunning Limited Edition showcases Swarovski’s expertise in the Pointiage® technique, and each piece takes over 120 hours to complete. Each one is engraved with its own edition number on the granite base, and delivered in a premium blue suitcase. The shipping procedure includes insurance and a delivery notice. Find out more about this procedure under Online Shop Assistant – Order Process. Decoration object. Not a toy. Not suitable for children under 15.

  • Size: 10 3/4 x 5 1/2 x 3 7/8 inches

Star Wars – R2-D2

$ 239.00

Fans of Star Wars: The Force Awakens can find a home for iconic droid R2-D2. The lovable character has been expertly crafted in crystal and features 446 luminous facets and detailed prints. Sure to amuse and impress, it’s a must-have for any aficionado. Decoration object. Not a toy. Not suitable for children under 15.

  • Size: 2 5/8 x 1 3/4 x 1 5/8 inches

Star Wars – C-3PO

$ 325.00

From a galaxy far, far away to your own home, with this stunning depiction of C-3PO. Exquisitely crafted in golden and red crystal, it boasts black detailing and a white crystal base. In all, the ever-helpful droid, which featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, features 537 sparkling facets. The perfect present for those who follow the Star Wars franchise. Decoration object. Not a toy. Not suitable for children under 15.

  • Size: 4 3/8 x 2 1/8 x 1 7/8 inches

Star Wars – BB-8

$ 129.00

Bring the excitement of Star Wars into your home with this exquisite depiction of BB-8. Instantly recognizable from his turn in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, everyone’s new favorite droid has been expertly crafted in crystal with 226 sparkling facets and detailed prints. A must for any Star Wars fan. Decoration object. Not a toy. Not suitable for children under 15.

  • Size: 1 7/8 x 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14/17 The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Scrollbar And The Pixels From Mars

(1) PRO TIP FROM SFWA. SFWA Director Kate Baker issued this word to the wise —

(2) WINDYCON APOLOGY. At Windycon.org, the Windycon 44 statement regarding the Tutti Frutti Literature panel title and description from convention chair Daniel Gunderson.

Now that the convention is over, we have had the opportunity to read through the many posts and comments on the subject. We have taken to heart the hurt and anger caused by the poor choice of wording used in the title and description of this panel.

We are very sorry we offended. While this was not our intention, it was the result, and for this we sincerely apologize.

We will be working to ensure this does not happen in the future. These are some specific steps we will take moving forward.

We will push back the programming timeline significantly. This will allow for more careful choice in wording for panel titles and descriptions. This will also allow more time for oversight and review of titles and descriptions.

We will work to keep titles and descriptions clear and unambiguous. Panel titles should be sufficiently clear that the entire intent of the programming item can be understood from the title alone. Descriptions will be used to provide additional information about the panel, but will not be relied on to supplement an insufficient title.

We will make sure to run titles and descriptions past a larger group of individuals who were not involved in the generation process. This will provide the opportunity to have outside individuals point out potentially problematic phrasing that programing may not have been aware of, or may have been blinded to by already understanding the original intent.

As of this posting, we have removed the programming item from our online programing list, so we do not continue to offend.

Again, we deeply apologize for any pain this may have caused.

(3) HELP NEEDED. Long-time LASFSian Mike Donahue has started a GoFundMe appeal — Help Mike Donahue keep his home. He gives the full explanation at the link. It begins:

I’m in imminent danger of a bank sale on my house, which is in foreclosure. No date has yet been set. I’ve been given a pay up date of Dec 5 2017. They can move before that, I don’t know. And they don’t tell you the info you need.   Or how long after that they force the sale on the house. I was in an auto accident in January, which greatly strained my cash resources….

(4) SUPERPEDESTRIAN. In the early Seventies, Margaret Atwood wrote Kanadian Kulchur Komics under a pseudonym. She tells what it was like in — “Margaret Atwood reflects on the significance of her This Magazine comic strip”.

Yes, it’s a blast from the past! Or if not a blast, maybe a small firecracker?

Whose past? My past, obviously: I was Bart Gerrard, one of my noms de plume—the name of a then-forgotten and probably now more-forgotten Canadian newspaper caricaturist of the turn of the century.

…The central joke of the Survivalwoman comics was this: in 1972 I’d published a book called Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, which had made waves of a sort, not all of them friendly. This book was an attempt to distinguish what people wrote in Canada from what they wrote in the United States and the United Kingdom, in riposte to what we were so often told: that there wasn’t any Canadian literature, or if there was, it was a pale echo of things written in large, cosmopolitan, important places. Survival against the odds—both natural and human—I took to be one of the leitmotifs of such Canadian writing as I could get my hands on then, in the dark ages before the Internet, print-on-demand, and Abe Books.

Pair that leitmotif with the fact that, in the world of comix, Canada did not have a superhero of its own—Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Johnny Canuck and their bros and sisses having vanished with the demise of the wartime “Canadian Whites” in approximately 1946. (King of the Royal Mounted did not count, being American. Anyway, King had no superhuman features, unlike the present-day Wolverine.)

So what more appropriate than Survivalwoman: a superheroine with no discernable powers, who had a cape but could not fly—hey, it was Kanada, always lesser—and came equipped with snowshoes? The visual design was based on me—curly hair, short—as was part of the personality—earnest and somewhat clueless.

(5) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. If any of you have good celebrity connections, David Brin could use a hand getting invitations out to people he’d like to have involved in his 20th anniversary screening of The Postman.

I’m putting out a call! If any of you know genius cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, or genius cinematic composer James Newton Howard, I’m hoping to invite them to a special, 20th anniversary screening of The Postman at UCSD’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Whatever its faults, the film is musically and visually one of the dozen or so most gorgeous films ever made. (With a small but growing cult following.)

I’d invite Kevin Costner – who certainly gets some credit for that beauty – and screenwriter Brian Helgeland too – (or any of the younger Costners in the film) because I think the flick had more heart that any other from that era. Alas, no method I’ve researched seems to penetrate the Hollywood protective barriers, not even for Mr. Windon. And Tom Petty is now beyond reach, alack.

(6) SPFBO FINALS. Mark Lawrence has set up a post to track the “Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Finals”. At this stage, the 10 finalists will be chosen based on the scores of participating blogger-reviewers. They are: Bookworm Blues, Fantasy-Faction, Fantasy Book Critic, Lynn’s Books, The Qwillery, Pornokitsch, Ventureadlaxre, Fantasy Book Review, Booknest, and Kitty G video reviews.

There’s not much to see there yet, but it will become more interesting as the results are filled in.

Filers will be interested to know there are links to a large number of book reviews at the post for the first phase of the Blog-Off, in which 200 of the 300 works under consideration were eliminated.

(7) FRESH HORROR. Brett J. Talley, whose name has appeared in this blog before as a Bram Stoker nominee, is up for a federal court appointment. The Daily Beast has the story: “Before He Was Tapped By Donald Trump, Controversial Judicial Nominee Brett J. Talley Investigated Paranormal Activity”. There’s more at the link about his interest in Lovecraft.

Brett J. Talley, nominated by President Donald Trump to the Federal District Court in Montgomery, Alabama, has never tried a case, is married to a White House lawyer, and has been dubbed as unqualified by the American Bar Association.

… But ghost chasing wasn’t a quirky side-hobby. Indeed, before he became the embodiment of the Trump administration’s efforts to pack the courts with young, conservative, sometimes dubiously-credentialed judges, Halley wrote books about paranormal activities that earned him numerous plaudits. And not just within the horror fiction scene. Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager in 2012, was a fan too.

“I find it hilarious that no one is writing about his horror writing. He has a cult following.” Stevens told The Daily Beast. “I have to say I wasn’t really aware he was a lawyer as my dealings with him were as a writer on campaign. He’s an interesting, smart guy. But so is Stephen King.”

(8) FIN DE CYCLE. James Davis Nicoll, in “Seasons Crying No Despair”, says it wasn’t easy, but David Axel Kurtz’ Northern Tier won him over.

Those reservations aside, I got drawn into Slip’s story, which is saying a lot when you consider how very much I dislike bicyclists as a group. Having been run over on numerous occasions by scofflaw bicyclists, I live for a future in which the use of bicycles is limited to the Marianas Trench, the Lunar farside, and the surface of the Sun, places I do not plan to visit any time soon. I am not the target market for thrilling tales of bicyclists and the increasingly vast armies who stalk them. Nevertheless, Slip won me over; she persisted.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 14, 1851 Moby Dick is published.
  • November 14, 1969 – Apollo 12 took off.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 14 – Cat Rambo
  • Born November 14 – Wolf Von Witting
  • Born November 14 — Moshe Feder
  • Born November 14 – Edd Vick
  • Born November 14 – Charles Mohapel

(11) FINAL FRONTIER. Fan-made Star Trek Continues released Part II of its last episode “To Boldly Go.” (Find Part I here.) Executive Producer Vic Mignogna (also the series’ “James T. Kirk”) told Facebook followers:

No vocabulary can express how much this production has meant to me. From the very beginning, all I knew was that I wanted to make one episode of Star Trek the way I remembered it. Would anyone like it? I didn’t know. Would I make another? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wanted to pay tribute to Bill, Leonard, Gene and everyone who made the show that meant so much to me when I was a boy. I would use all the skills that TOS inspired me to try for the first time to make the best episode I could. I never imagined so many amazing people would do so much, and I’m deeply humbled by their involvement. I will be forever grateful to the cast, crew & volunteers who selflessly gave so much to make Star Trek Continues a reality. And to you, the viewers and fans, for your support and enthusiasm. With bittersweet joy, we present our final episode. Hopefully, it will be a long lasting tribute and historic ending to the most iconic television series in history.

 

(12) COMING SOON ON AMAZON. People are having a lot of fun with the idea of a new Lord of the Rings series on Amazon. This idea beats Dynasty and Dallas to pieces.

(13) PRE-RINGS CIRCUS. Nathaniel Ingraham tries to figure out what the Amazon series will be like in “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel will need to forge its own identity”. One of his ideas comes from a video game:

Of course, Amazon new series won’t be the first new narrative set in Middle-earth. The most recent example is the 2014 video game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and its newly-released sequel). The game drew players in by using the familiar setting of Mordor, a familiar timeframe (between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), iconic characters like Gollum and crucial elements like the Rings of Power. But it also starred entirely new characters, expanded Tolkien’s mythology and told an entirely new story.

It wasn’t perfect (that ending!), but Shadow of Mordor overall did an admirable job at taking a familiar setting and writing a new story around it. It’s the kind of product that could serve as a blueprint for how Amazon can create a new property that will hook loads of viewers while still paying service to longtime fans. Simply being able to reference The Lord of the Rings will be enough to bring in many viewers — millions have seen Jackson’s films and won’t care if the series is telling stories Tolkien himself didn’t dream up. Add in the fact that Game of Thrones will wrap up in 2018 or 2019 and it’s easy to imagine those viewers getting their fantasy methadone from Amazon’s new series.

Ultimately, the enduring popularity of Tolkien’s work is what Amazon is banking on here. Yes, there will absolutely be a cadre of fans who hate what Amazon produces, but that group will almost certainly be outnumbered by people enjoyed The Lord of the Rings at some point in their life and decide to give Amazon’s series a shot — if the show is good.

(14) MORDANT OF THE RINGS. Adam Whitehead engages in less serious – well, frankly hilarious – speculation about “Ideas for the new LORD OF THE RINGS TV series” at The Wertzone.

This Ent-focused conservation programme, voiced over by David Attenborough, will fuse almost-thrilling episodes where the Ents discuss a problem for hours on end with notes on the shameful deforestation of Fangorn Forest and destruction of the surrounding ecosystem.

(15) DARK VADER. Mark Hepworth sent this photo with his brew review: “I thought a beer item might enliven the scroll. I came across this in a local-ish pub and obviously had to try it. It was much more drinkable than I’d expected from a Sith Lord!”

(16) MARTIANS AND SIGOURNEY WEAVER. Mark Swed reviews “‘War of the Worlds’: Delirious opera rises from the death and destruction of L.A.” in the Los Angeles Times.

So here’s what you need to know about the heavily hyped “War of the Worlds” that [Yuval] Sharon mounted at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon for the L.A. Phil, in collaboration with his own massively disruptive opera company, the Industry, and the nonprofit Now Art L.A. A new opera and new kind of opera by Annie Gosfield, it does everything an opera’s supposed to. It does a lot opera’s not supposed to do. That includes immersive opera, one of Sharon’s specialties as the mastermind of “Hopscotch,” the celebrated opera in autos two years ago.

…On the most basic level, this is a fairly straightforward operatic adaption and update of Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast, based on H.G. Wells’ science-fiction novel “The War of the Worlds.” At a time when radio broadcasts were beginning to be interrupted by news flashes, Welles treated the play as an ordinary dance-band radio program with increasingly frightening bulletins of an alien invasion.

The brilliantly theatrical night-before-Halloween prank caused panic among some gullible listeners, giving credence to Russian futurist Velimir Khlebnikov’s prediction that radio had the power to become the Great Sorcerer. Sharon sees the panic as an early-warning sign of the imposing threat of fake news.

Riffing on the radio show, this “War of the Worlds” begins as a symphony concert, albeit one with a celebrity host, Sigourney Weaver. The opera will eventually take over the concert, which is meant to include Gosfield’s new celestial orchestral cycle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Holst’s “The Planets.”

…Weaver breaks in again and again on the first two movements with reports from outdoors, which are beamed into the hall (audio only, this is radio). Astronomy professor Pierson (actor Hugo Armstrong), standing on a parking lot, attempts to allay fear with his soothing British accent. Mrs. Martinez (mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmán) offers a more feverish firsthand account of the scary machines and creatures somewhere on Main Street. Gen. Lansing (baritone Hadleigh Adams) haplessly leads the troops in attacking the aliens.

Before long the music creeps into the action. The Martians have an alien voice in soprano Hila Plitmann’s stratospherically supernatural coloratura (and she does look like she might have stepped out of an outtake of “Alien”), accompanied by theremin and otherworldly percussion. Sharon’s libretto follows Peter Koch’s original radio play fairly closely. L.A. doesn’t fare any better than New York City. Civic officials are of little help, although the mayor valiantly tries. There is political humor for all.

…Finally, there are those decommissioned sirens left over from the Second World War that still peek out from behind billboards and buildings around town, noticed primarily by history buffs. They’re the symbol of the production and were one of the motivating ideas for both Sharon and Gosfield, who was obsessed with them when she studied at CalArts in the 1980s.

In the end, they are about the least interesting thing visually, theatrically or sonically about the production. It is not that they aren’t marvelous in their mysteriously antiquated way; it is just that every other aspect of this opera and its sensational production and performance happens to be more marvelous.

(17) SECURE THE NOMINATION. Timothy the Talking Cat has picked up a new vice: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter Awards”.

“Ahem, here is what I was just writing:

Dear Mr or Mrs Pulitzer, Hello. As you may know I am one of the best writers in the world. You may have already read some parts of my latest book “McEdifice Returns” a psychological drama about one man’s struggles to come to terms with his past.

I guess you are probably thinking ‘We’d love to give Timothy one of our Pulitzer Prizes but people might think it is just a way of making our prize look more popular and relevant with the cool kids’. Fear not! That is exactly the right kind of move that will help the sadly faded and increasingly irrelevant Pulitzer Prize strike a chord with modern audiences who frankly a sick of all that liberal clap-trap and just want some good old fashioned entertainment.

So I hereby give you permission to award me a Pulitzer.

Yours,

Timothy the Talking Cat

PS This is like totally a nomination so you’ll understand that from now on I’ll be saying ‘The Pulitzer Prize nominated author Timothy the Talking Cat’. That’s great free publicity for your prize. No need to thank me – just trying to help you out.

“Hmmm, I see you have also written similar letters to ‘Mr Oscar and your friend Tony’ as well as ‘Ms or Mr Grammy'”

(18) MARVEL’S MULTIPLE AVENGERS. This cover art just jumps off the screen.

Avengers: Disassemble! The epic weekly takeover continues this February when Kim Jacinto takes the reigns to draw the second month of Marvel’s biggest team adventure, and Marvel is excited to reveal the covers for issues #679 – #682 of AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER by Mark Brooks.

“In month two of NO SURRENDER, the rubber hits the road as we learn what’s really going on and who is behind it,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “A couple different Avengers make the supreme sacrifice, the action grows ever more intense—and the stage is set for the return of a major player in the Marvel line-up of stars! Oh, and the origin of Voyager!”

Co-written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto and Paco Medina, AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER unites the casts and creative teams of three titles into one weekly book of exciting action. It all starts with AVENGERS #675 this January, when the teams of THE AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS, and U.S. AVENGERS come together in a story as exciting and powerful as the Marvel Universe itself.

(19) FASHION JUSTICE. Ashley Boucher, in “‘Justice League’ Amazonian Bikinis Have Twitter in Uproar: ‘Men Ruin Everything’” in The Wrap, says that there are many tweets complaining that the Amazons in Justice League wear bikinis while those in Wonder Woman didn’t.

The costumes worn by the Amazon women are noticeably different than they were in “Wonder Woman,” and viewers are afire online with discussions about how the change represents differences in the male and female gaze.

In “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, the costumes were designed by Lindy Hemming, and covered the Amazons’ torsos with armor. In “Justice League,” directed by Zach Snyder, the costumes were designed by Michael Wilkinson. And while Wilkinson’s outfits keep a similar Gladiator vibe, they feature small bra tops and bottoms that some say more closely resemble bikinis than what you’d want to wear into battle.

 

(20) HISTORIC HOOCH. Back when the Little Old Winemaker was young: “‘World’s oldest wine’ found in 8,000-year-old jars in Georgia”.

Scientists say 8,000-year-old pottery fragments have revealed the earliest evidence of grape wine-making.

The earthenware jars containing residual wine compounds were found in two sites south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, researchers said.

Some of the jars bore images of grape clusters and a man dancing.

Previously, the earliest evidence of wine-making was from pottery dating from about 7,000 years ago found in north-western Iran.

(21) COST CUTTING. Darth Vader has been discounted: “Star Wars game in U-turn after player anger”.

Games publisher EA has changed a rule in its Star Wars Battlefront II video game after a huge backlash.

During the game, players have to obtain credits – either by buying them or through long hours of game play – to unlock popular characters including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Many players said it was unfair as the gaming required worked out at around 40 hours per character, unless they paid.

EA says the number of credits required will now be reduced by 75%.

“Unlocking a hero is a great accomplishment in the game, something we want players to have fun earning,” said executive producer John Wasilczyk from the developer Dice, in a statement.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Dave Doering, David K.M.Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, rcade, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 9/6/17 The Itsy Bitsy Pixel Scrolled Up To Kilgore Trout

(1) OUR LOCAL WATERING HOLE. It couldn’t be more perfectly named. I really need some Filers to scout out this place in Hollywood. the Scum & Villainy Cantina. They welcome not only Star Wars cosplayers, but also Trekkies, Marvel fans, and fans of Alf. Sci-fi trivia nights, intense lightsaber battles, and other antics provide entertainment.

The Scum and Villainy Cantina is nestled in the black hole of Hollywood, CA. We’re open to the public! Come in and get your geek on. All fandoms welcome. We feature themed drinks, food and games from all your favorite geek staples. Costumes always highly encouraged

 

(2) DEL TORO. Here’s what Guillermo del Toro told The Frame’s John Horn in his latest interview: “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’ brings the filmmaker to tears”.

On seeing ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ as a child:

In a strange way, “Creature” is an off-shoot of “King Kong.” And “King Kong” is an off-shoot of “Beauty and the Beast” and the fascination with gorillas in the 19th century … But what I loved about it — I was six years old, watching [“Creature”] on TV and three things awakened in me: one that I shall not disclose; the second one was, I thought it was the most beautiful image I’d ever seen. I had the Stendahl Syndrome moment, in which I was overwhelmed with beauty; and the third one I felt, I hope they end up together. And they didn’t … It took me 40-something years and 25 years as a filmmaker to correct that cinematic mistake.

On his adaptation of “Creature”:

That was the point of [“The Shape of Water”] for me: the celebration of otherness, which I think is very timely. Also, the idea that we are controlled by fear right now. We are divided by fear. I wanted to make a movie about love, which sounds disingenuous because right now cynicism sounds smarter.

(3) FILM REVIEW. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber gives the new del Toro five stars: “The Shape of Water is a new beauty-and-the-beast tale”.

If you want to know what to expect from The Shape of Water, just think of it as Amélie meets The Creature from the Black Lagoon – except that they also meet The Little Mermaid, some Hidden Figures and the inhabitants of La La Land. Oh, and they bump into James Bond, too. And then there are various characters from the Coen brothers’ back catalogue. That probably sounds like three or four meetings too many, but don’t worry – The Shape of Water is unmistakably a Guillermo del Toro film. Indeed, I’d be inclined to call it the Guillermo del Toro film: the fantasy masterpiece that blends all of his fondest obsessions into one sumptuous whole.

(4) SJW CREDENTIAL ALERT. We interrupt this newscast….

(5) JUST PLAIN BILL. The LA Doctor Who convention Gallifrey One has pulled off a coup: “Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas and David Bradley at Gallifrey One 2018”. The event takes place February 16-18 next year.

Gallifrey One is delighted to announce the confirmation today of three major headline guests for our 2018 convention, The 29 Voyages of Gallifrey One, taking place next February: Doctor Who Series 10 stars Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas, and the new incarnation of the First Doctor himself, David Bradley.

(6) STAR WARS. Hear Craig Miller tell about his work “Marketing Star Wars in 1977” on the Blabba the Hutt podcast.

Today Jamie gets to combine his love for Star Wars, and his love for Marketing as he speaks with -Lucasfilm consultant on Marketing, Publicity and Licensing for Lucasfilm from 1977 – 1980, including the marketing for Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977 and The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.

How did Craig help build the profile of a film that should have been a complete failure? How did the Lucasfilm marketing team capture the imagination of film lovers in 1977?

Join us for a trip back in time with one of Lucasfilm’s hero’s Craig Miller.

(7) HELSINKI REMEMBERED. Tiffani Angus and Chris Butler have more to say about Worldcon 75 at the Milford SF Writers Blog. The excerpt is from Angus’ report.

I also spent time on the more mentally taxing side of volunteering by being on two panels and giving a paper. On the Friday, I was on Building Resistance, which was more about real-life than fictional situations. Later in the afternoon I participated in Two’s Company: Collaborative Genre Writing, which was an odd place for me as someone whose only collaborative genre project was my first novel—which took 10 years to write and hasn’t seen the light of day! Between those two panels I gave a paper/presentation with a rather attention-grabbing title: Where are the tampons? The Estrangement of Women’s Bodies in Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction. Luckily, the audience forgave my zombie and menstrual-blood images and I received some very positive feedback and a lot of questions. Once things settle down a bit, I hope to be able to find a home for the piece. In between all of that, my colleague Dr Helen Marshall and I conducted audio interviews with several editors and authors to use as part of the distance-learning component of the MA in SFF that will start next spring at Anglia Ruskin University.

(8) CHARLES DICKENS. The Man Who Invented Christmas comes to theaters on November 22.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The E. in Wile E. Coyote stands for Ethelbert.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Read A Book Day

On Read a Book Day, it’s not compulsory to read a whole book but the day serves as inspiration to people to read a section of a book they particularly enjoyed, to read with children, to donate a book to a children’s school library, or to host a book reading party.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 6, 1956 Fire Maidens from Outer Space premiered.
  • September 6, 1957 20 Millions Miles to Earth made its West German debut.

(12) SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE. What comes after blonde stout(*)? Pink chocolate! Callebaut introduces naturally rosy form; will fans bite?  The Bloomberg reporter hopelessly demands: “Don’t Call It Pink Chocolate”.

Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s largest cocoa processor, has come up with the first new natural color for chocolate since Nestle SA started making bars of white chocolate more than 80 years ago. While it has a pinkish hue and a fruity flavor, the Zurich-based company prefers to refer to it as “ruby chocolate.”

The new product may help boost sales in a struggling global chocolate market that producers hope has touched bottom. As Hershey cuts 15 percent of its staff and Nestle tries to sell its U.S. chocolate business, ruby chocolate raises the possibility that next Valentine’s Day may arrive with store shelves full of natural pink chocolate hearts.

(*) Chip Hitchcock remarks that blonde stout is “available at Yard House chain, at least in this area. Yes, it sounds strange — and it’s not perfectly blonde, actually a little murky — but it tastes like stout.” Now you know.

(13) WELL EXCUUUUUUSE ME! More whinging about US cultural imperialism. Do the Brits need something like that French academy that tells people to stop saying “hot dog”? “How Americanisms are killing the English language”.

Throughout the 19th Century, Engel contends, “the Americanisms that permeated the British language did so largely on merit, because they were more expressive, more euphonious, sharper and cleverer than their British counterparts”. What word-lover could resist the likes of ‘ornery’, ‘boondoggle’ or ‘scuttlebutt’? That long ago ceased to be the case, leaving us with words and phrases that reek of euphemism – ‘passing’ instead of dying – or that mock their user with meaninglessness, like the non-existent Rose Garden that political reporters decided No 10 had to have, just because the White House has one (it doesn’t exactly have one either, not in the strictest sense, but that’s a whole other story).

Call me a snob, but there’s also the fact that some American neologisms are just plain ungainly. I recently picked up a promising new American thriller to find ‘elevator’ used as a verb in the opening chapter. As in, Ahmed was ‘elevatoring’ towards the top of his profession in Manhattan.

Nowadays, no sphere of expression remains untouched. Students talk of campus and semesters. Magistrates, brainwashed by endless CSI reruns, ask barristers “Will counsel please approach the bench?” We uncheck boxes in a vain effort to avoid being inundated with junk mail that, when it arrives regardless, we move to trash…

(14) FOR RESIDENT ALIENS. The Guardian is touting this place: “Need more space? UFO-shaped home goes up for sale in New Zealand”.

A rare spaceship-shaped home has been put for sale in New Zealand, attracting international interest as sci-fi and architecture nerds scramble to secure a UFO abode by the sea.

Futuro houses were created in 1968 by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as pre-fab, portable ski chalets. Shaped like an egg and constructed from fibreglass-reinforced polyester plastic the unusual houses became cult designs, with less than 100 ever produced.

“There is something magical about the shape of an egg, it’s smoothness and strength and the spaceship is like that; it is an iconic shape that attracts you to it,” says Juanita Clearwater, an architectural designer, who is selling her beloved Futuro.

(15) HISTORIC CAMERA. On the auction block is the “High Speed ‘Empireflex’ Camera Designed and Built by ILM” for The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Minimum bid: £100,000.

The high-speed ‘Empireflex’ VistaVision camera was designed and built by Industrial Light and Magic for Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and was used extensively on ILM productions for more than 20 years. The camera’s name references both the film for which it was built, and the reflex viewing system incorporated into the unit. It was the first reflex VistaVision camera ever built and was dubbed ‘one of ILM’s pride and joys’ by Cinefex magazine in 1980. After Star Wars: A New Hope, ILM sought to upgrade its equipment and manufactured some of the first new VistaVision cameras since the film format’s hey day during the 1950s. VistaVision, which is traditional 35mm turned on its side to create a larger image area, was originally conceived by Paramount as a response to television. ILM utilised it as the format of choice due to the need for a larger image area in photochemical effects work, where pieces of film were frequently copied several times.

(16) I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING. TV chef Gordon Ramsay’s best rants/insults have been synched up with Darth Vader’s scenes from the Star Wars movies. The maker found enough material for two videos —

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Camestros Felapton, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]