Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

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

World Fantasy Con 2020 Apology for Program Draft Seeks to Stem Participant Attrition

After seeing the complaints voiced about the draft program for World Fantasy Convention 2020 (“Virtual WFC 2020 Program Attracts Criticism”), the WFC 2020 committee directed an apology at several writers on Twitter.

We are sorry that our program caused hurt and concern, thank you to those that commented. We are working with our team and panelists to amend this and will be revising it as an ongoing process.

And they pulled the panel descriptions, explaining on the convention’s Program webpage:

We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.

But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members’ expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year’s convention. We hear you, and we appreciate your feedback. We’re working to revise the descriptions – with the help of some of those amazing panelists! – and will update them here as they’re finalized.

WFC2020 Chair Ginny Smith also responded to File 770’s post in a comment here, saying in part:

We have sponsored 46 people of color to participate in the convention at no cost (so far – more to come I hope), and have worked very hard to ensure that every panel is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. The panelist list hasn’t been published yet, but when it is I hope the list demonstrates our commitment to equity and diversity.

But some authors who were going to be on the program have already seen enough to make up their minds.  

David Levine wrote on Facebook and Twitter on October 8.

Very sorry to say this, but I’m going to have to withdraw from World Fantasy Convention 2020. Despite a lot of effort on many people’s part, the recent fiasco with panel descriptions demonstrates that the convention simply doesn’t understand how to operate in a diverse world without stepping on marginalized people. I hope that the World Fantasy Convention ? board recognizes that it has a serious, ongoing problem and takes strong action to change course in 2021 and beyond.

The Writing Excuses podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and author and web cartoonist Howard Tayler will not provide content for use by the virtual convention. (Note: Sanderson is one of WFC 2020’s Author Special Guests.)

Also, this tweet from K. Tempest Bradford was retweeted by Mary Robinette Kowal, a signal boost with extra impact because it was Kowal who led the effort to bail out the 2018 Worldcon program.

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted on October 7 that after being told what panel he was on, he was bowing out.

Yilin Wang dropped out October 6.

One writer who has not dropped out, Kate Heartfield, still has some misgivings:

There are three weeks to go before WFC 2020 begins. When the revised program descriptions and panel assignments come out, the decision of other program participants to stay or go will be revealed if they have not announced it before then.

Update: Kate Heartfield tweeted on October 9 that she has now withdrawn from WFC2020 program and membership.

Cat Rambo has also dropped out.

Pixel Scroll 7/23/20 Flat Scrolls And Geocentric Pixels

(1) HIS DARK MATERIALS TRAILER. Decider has eyeballs on Comic-Con@Home where this new trailer was aired today.

HBO is celebrating Comic-Con@Home with a first look at Season 2 of His Dark MaterialsDuring today’s virtual panel for the show, HBO unveiled the trailer for the upcoming season of the drama, which introduces some fresh faces.

The YouTube description adds –

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.

(2) DO IT YOURSELF. There’s only one of me so I can’t write a post about every one of these items – darn it! Here is programming for Thursday, July 23, 2020, for Comic-Con International – much of it available for replay on YouTube.

(3) COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? A second trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Available On Demand and in theaters September 1.

(4) SCARES THAT CARE. Brian Keene and friends have done a few 24-hour telethons to raise funds for Scares That Care.  The most recent event was canceled due to Covid.

They are opting to do a virtual fundraiser on August 1st.  It’s only 13 hours, but it looks like it will be packed with lots of interesting panels. See the FAQ and schedule at the Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event link. Say, they get the same kind of questions as the Worldcon!

Q: I’m a celebrity who works in the horror genre. Why wasn’t I included in programming?
A: We tried to accommodate as many horror professionals as we could, but unlike our physical Scares That Care Weekend charity events, we are limited by the technological restrictions and time constraints of this virtual event. However, you can still help the cause by sharing the event with your fans and encouraging them to donate.

(5) HOLY SH!T. The New York Times shared a discovery — “How to Sell Books in 2020: Put Them Near the Toilet Paper” .

If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.

When the coronavirus forced the United States into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up.

“They sell groceries, they sell toilet paper, they sell everything people need during this time, and they’re open,” said Suzanne Herz, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor. “If you’re in there and you’re doing your big shop and you walk down the aisle and go, ‘Oh, we’re bored, and we need a book or a puzzle,’ there it is.”

Big-box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled.

Dennis Abboud is the chief executive of ReaderLink, a book distributor that serves more than 80,000 retail stores, including big-box and pharmacy chains. He said that in the first week of April, his company’s sales were 34 percent higher than the same period the year before.

“With the shelter in place, people were looking for things to do,” he said. “Workbooks, activity books and just general reading material saw a big increase.”

(6) PROMOTION TOOLS. C.E. Murphy gives readers a look behind the curtain in “Writing Career: Running The Numbers”.

…And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! 🙂

So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))

Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.

(7) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Even God Has a Place Called Home” by Ray Mwihaki, a story about environmental health, witchcraft, technophilia, and transcendence.

On Monday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they wll host another virtual event on Zoom, with Ray and science fiction author Christopher Rowe.

(8) CLARKE AWARD LOWDOWN. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter about this year’s nominees for the prize: “The Best Science Fiction of 2020”.

…In terms of who the audiences are for these books, on the one hand, if you like science fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here but if you haven’t really tried the genre before, or if you might have been put off, I’d stress that these are all books published in 2019, for a 2020 prize, so they’re very contemporary-feeling in terms of their characterisation, quality of prose, plotting and so forth. You can definitely trace their lineage through the different eras of science fiction as it has evolved as a genre, and all of these books interrogate and tease and play with that tradition in different ways, but are also respectful of it. That’s the difference between, say—insert name of mainstream author—who has discovered a science fiction concept and written a book about it, then does a press tour where they try and convince you they’ve somehow invented robots, or space travel or parallel universes, or whatever. You know: ‘Before me science fiction was just cowboys in space, but my book is about real futures…’

(9) RENDEZVOUS WITH JOHN CLUTE. In “Arthur C. Clarke’s Scientific Romances Eschew Spectacle for Dumbstruck Wonder”, John Clute takes Rendezvous with Rama as the text to explore his views for LitHub readers.

… In his rendering of the 2001 story, Clarke may be marginally more emollient than Kubrick when it comes to assessing humanity’s chances of genuine uplift at the hands of a transcendent superbeing, but compared with contemporary in-house American SF visions of the future, both novel and film are baths of cold water.

Both were tortuously understood by many genre viewers as optimistic paeans to technological progress, with a bit of hoo-ha at the end; and Clarke himself never directly contradicted Kubrick’s dramatic rendering of his own exceedingly measured presentation of his clear message—also articulated in Childhood’s End, and hinted at strongly in Rendezvous with Rama—that as a species we may simply not quite measure up.

But this calm magisterial verdict, couched smilingly, mattered little to his own career, even when understood correctly. The huge success of 2001 had both made him rich and transformed him into a world gure; an addressable, venerated guru whose declarations on the shape-of-things-to-come were now given to the world at large. The best of this nonfiction work was collected years later as Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999), a huge volume whose title perfectly sums up the coign of vantage from which he wrote: which is to say, as though from the future itself, from somewhere on the far side of the slingshot ending….

(10) MORE UK FANHISTORY ONLINE. Rob Hansen has expanded THEN’s 1961 coverage of the SF Club of London. And “I’ve also added a link to a report by George Locke on the 1960 Minicon in Kettering. I didn’t think any report beyond a couple of sentences in Skyrack existed for that con so I was quite surprised to stumble across it.” Scroll down to 1960s section for links on the THEN index.

Then there’s the 1967 London Minicon, with photos. All part of filling in the history.

(11) BACK TO BASICS. “It’s Time to Re-Re-Re-Meet the Muppets”, and the New York Times makes the introductions.

At the dawn of “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s, a visit to the Muppet Labs consisted of watching its nebbishy proprietor, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demonstrate misbegotten inventions like an exploding hat or a self-destructing necktie with a brief burst of pyrotechnics, a canned explosion sound and a puff of smoke.

Today, a return visit to those labs on the Disney+ series “Muppets Now” features Honeydew and his agitated assistant, Beaker, using a homemade device called the Infern-O-Matic to reduce everyday items — a carton of eggs, a wall clock, a guitar — to smoldering piles of ashes.

If this scene from “Muppets Now” feels manic and combustible — and even a bit familiar — that is by design: as Leigh Slaughter, vice president of the Muppets Studio, explained recently, she and her colleagues are hopeful that this series will conjure up “that true Muppet anarchy — that complete chaos.”

She added: “If they’re going to take on real-world science, we thought, we have to burn things. We have to drop things. We have to blow things up.”

“Muppets Now,” a six-episode series that debuts on July 31, is both Disney’s attempt to bring those familiar, fuzzy faces to its streaming service and a parody of internet content. Its segments feature characters like Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef in rapid-fire comedy sketches that lampoon popular online formats.

The new series also strives to reconnect the Muppets with the disorderly sensibility they embodied in the era of “The Muppet Show” and get back to basics after other recent efforts to reboot the characters fizzled out.

“The thinking is to stop trying so hard to be like everybody else and just be the Muppets,” said Bill Barretta, a veteran Muppet performer and an executive producer of “Muppets Now.” “Let’s celebrate the fact that they all have to deal with each other and just be silly and play and entertain again.”

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 23, 1995 The Outer Limits aired “I, Robot”. This is a remake of the November 14th, 1964 episode that aired during the second season of the original Twilight Zone. This is not based on Asimov’s “ I, Robot” but rather on a short story by Eando Binder that ran in the January 1939 issue of Amazing Stories. The script was by Alison Lea Bingeman who also wrote episodes of RobocopFlash GordonForever KnightBeyond Reality and The Lost World at that time. Adam Nimoy was the director and Leonard Nimoy, his father, was in it as he been the earlier production playing a different character. (CE)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 23, 1889 – Yuri Annenkov.  Illustrator, portraitist, theater and cinema designer.  Zamyatin said he “has a keen awareness of the extraordinary rush and dynamism of our epoch.”  Here is a Synthetic landscape.  Here is the photographer M.A. Sherling.  Here is Zamyatin.  Here is a frog costume.  Here is Miydodir, an animated washstand that eventually makes the boy at left wash.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1910 Ruthie Tompson, 110. An animator and artist. Her first job was the ink and paints, uncredited, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was involved in every animated from film Disney for three decades, stating with Pinocchio (Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form). Some she was an animator on, some she was admin on. She worked on Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, too. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1914 – Virgil Finlay.  Pioneering illustrator.  Hugo for that in the first year we gave them; five Retrospective Hugos.  First sale, the Dec 1935 Weird Tales; probably 2,600 works of graphic art; fifty poems, mostly published after his death.  Here is a cover for The Stars Are Ours.  Here is the Dec 56 Galaxy.  Some of his marvelous monochrome: The Crystal Man“Flight to Forever”; I haven’t identified this, can you?  SF Hall of Fame.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  See the Donald Grant and the Gerry de la Ree collections.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1926 Eunice Sudak, 94. Novelizer of three early Sixties Roger Corman films: Tales of TerrorThe Raven and X, the latter based of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. She wrote a lot of other novelizations but they weren’t even genre adjacent.(CE)
  • Found Fandom July 23, 1937 Cyril M. Kornbluth. Wikipedia says July 2 is his birthday — 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom says July 23 is the date he discovered fandom. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction which Wildside Press has all of n a single publication, available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1958.) (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1947 – Gardner Dozois.  Three novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian.  Two Nebulas.  Editor of Asimov’s 1984-2004; two dozen Asimov’s anthologies, many with Sheila Williams.  Four years editing Best SF Stories of the Year, thirty-five of The Year’s Best SF (no, I shan’t explain, and I shan’t tell the jelly-bean story, either).  Four dozen more anthologies; one Nebula Showcase.  Fifteen Hugos as Best Pro Editor; one as Best Pro Editor, Short Form.  Skylark Award.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1948 – Lew Wolkoff, 72.  Long-time laborer in fanhistory and the workings of our conventions.  Some highlights: co-chaired ArtKane IV, an art-focussed con in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1979; assembled Phoxphyre, a fanzine anthology of the 1936 Philadelphia convention, with reminiscences by Baltadonis, Goudket, Kyle, Madle, Newton, Pohl, Train, 1983; Program Book appreciation of Barbi Johnson, a Guest of Honor at Lunacon 26, 1983; helped design the base for the 1951 Retro-Hugo trophy, 2001; chaired PSFS (Philadelphia SF Soc.) Young Writers’ Contest, 2018; got 120 audiotapes of Philcon proceedings to the SF Oral History Ass’n; founded, or purported to found, the SF Union of Unpublished Authors (“ess-eff-double-U-ay”, i.e. taking off SFWA the SF Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1949 – Eric Ladd, 71.  Twenty covers for us.  Here is The Falling Torch.  Here is Convergent Series.  First suggested to Bob Eggleton that BE should exhibit in our Art Shows.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1954 – Astrid Bear, 66.  One of the great entries in our Masquerade costume competitions was The Bat and the Bitten, Karen Anderson and her daughter Astrid at the 27th Worldcon.  In 1983 Astrid married Greg Bear; they have two children.  Here is AB at the 76th Worldcon on a panel discussing the 26th (L to R, Astrid, Tom Whitmore, Mary Morman, Ginjer Buchanan, Suzanne Tompkins, Gay Haldeman).  For the 71st, since Jay Lake whom she and all of us loved had contrived to obtain whole-genome sequencing, and AB had become a fiber artist, she made Jay Lake Genome Scarves in time to give him one, as you can see here.  Fanzine, Gallimaufry.  It’s not true that this book is about her.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1970 Charisma Carpenter, 50. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancason Veronica Mars.  She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1982 —  Tom Mison, 38. He is best-known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. Currently he’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to that he Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Fresh from his Hugo voter reading, Dann writes, “In light of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, I thought this xkcd might be useful.  Check out the mouse-over/alt text.”

(15) WORLDCON TIME OUT OF JOINT. Bill Higgins started out teasing David Levine about CoNZealand’s July 16 “Wild Cards” panel, then his imagination ran away with him:

(16) THIS JUST IN…THE ONION. “Disaster: Luigi Left His Space Heater Plugged In For 3 Days And The Entire ‘Paper Mario’ Kingdom Burned Down”.

For years, Luigi’s kindhearted nature and well-meaning oafishness have endeared him to millions of fans who were willing to look past his lengthy history of incompetence. But it seems like the iconic Nintendo character might have just passed the point of no return: The big guy in green apparently left his space heater plugged in for three days straight, and now the entire Paper Mario kingdom has burned to the ground….

(17) STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. CBS All-Access dropped a clip today.

Get an exclusive look at a hilarious scene from the upcoming series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, an all-new animated comedy featuring the voices of stars Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler) and Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner).

(18) LONG MARCH TO MARS. NPR reports “China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars”

A heavy-lift Long March-5 roared off a launch pad on Hainan Island Thursday, carrying China’s hopes for its first successful Mars mission – an ambitious project to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet in one shot.

If everything goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 will be China’s first successful mission to Mars, after a previous attempt failed in 2011 — gaining it membership in an elite club including only the U.S. and Russia, of nations who have successfully landed on the planet. (Even so, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander, which touched down in 1971, transmitted for mere seconds before contact was lost.)

…The goals of the mission are to map surface geology, examine soil characteristics and water distribution, measure the Martian ionosphere and climate and study the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

The BBC adds details: “China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth”.

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.

The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.

Called Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, the rover won’t actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.

This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.

…The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars’ equator. The rover will study the region’s geology – at, and just below, the surface.

Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.

This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.

(19) THERE WLL BE SPACE WAR. Or so Jerry Pournelle might have said.“UK and US say Russia fired a satellite weapon in space” – BBC has the story.

The UK and US have accused Russia of launching a weapon-like projectile from a satellite in space.

In a statement, the head of the UK’s space directorate said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.”

The statement said actions like this “threaten the peaceful use of space”.

The US has previously raised concerns about this Russian satellite.

In his statement, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, head of the UK’s space directorate, said: “Actions like this threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.

“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

(20) FIRST PEOPLE. “Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas”.

Humans settled in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, according to new finds from Mexico.

They suggest people were living there 33,000 years ago, twice the widely accepted age for the earliest settlement of the Americas.

The results are based on work at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude rock shelter in central Mexico.

Archaeologists found thousands of stone tools suggesting the cave was used by people for at least 20,000 years.

(21) DIH-DIH-DIH-DAH. “Secret Morse code tune sees game removed in China”.

A popular mobile game has been taken offline in mainland China for “rectification work”, after netizens discovered its musical director had written a song containing Morse code with a hidden Hong Kong pro-democracy message.

According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the Cytus II musical rhythm game, produced by Taiwan’s Rayark Games, has been removed from China’s mainland app stores.

This was done after netizens discovered a controversial song by Hong Kong musical director ICE, real name Wilson Lam, on his Soundcloud account.

The piece, Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was actually posted on his page in March, but after netizens discovered it contained in Morse code the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, many in the mainland called for him to be sacked.

(22) RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU. Floors that can scare you – a gallery of wild images at Imgur.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailers:  SpongeBob Square Pants–Rehydrated on YouTube says that “children and extremely inebriated adults” will enjoy this new version of a classic SpongeBob SquarePants game featuring “Rube Goldberg machines that require a Ph.D. in SpongeBob to complete.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 4/10/19 Got A Ride With A Filer And The Pixel Scroll Man To A Town Down By The Sea

(1) NEGATIVE EXPOSED. The Hawaii Tribune Herald invites you to “Meet Powehi, the first black hole ever witnessed”:

The first image of a black hole, taken with the help of two Hawaii telescopes, was released today.

The supermassive black hole located in the center of Messier 87 galaxy was named Powehi, meaning embellished dark source of unending creation.

Astronomers consulted with Larry Kimura, of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language, who sourced the name from the Kumulipo, a primordial chant describing the creation of the universe.

“It is awesome that we, as Hawaiians today, are able to connect to an identity from long ago, as chanted in the 2,102 lines of the Kumulipo, and bring forward this precious inheritance for our lives today,” Kimura said in a press release.

The two Hawaii telescopes involved in the discovery — James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Submillimeter Array — are part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, a network of radio observatories around the world…..

(2) NEBULA CLARIFIED. SFWA’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy is now classified as a Nebula. This was not always so, as David D. Levine explains in his blog post “I am now officially a Nebula Award winner!” He first began to wonder if something had changed when he saw this tweet —

Suddenly I was Schroedinger’s Award Winner. Was I a Nebula winner or not? That depended on whether the change was deliberate and whether it applied retroactively. Not that it really mattered, of course. The award trophy is the same, and it means exactly as much or as little as it did before. But, for me, it would be huge if I could call myself a Hugo- and Nebula-winning writer. I always wanted to, and I had been disappointed to discover after winning the Norton that I couldn’t. But now I could. Or could I?

As Levine explains, the official answer is: Yes.

(3) LION KING TRAILER. Disney’s The Lion King opens in theaters on July 19.

Director Jon Favreau’s all-new “The Lion King” journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. The all-star cast includes Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon. Utilizing pioneering filmmaking techniques to bring treasured characters to life in a whole new way, Disney’s “The Lion King” roars into theaters on July 19, 2019.

(4) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Fahrenheit 451 was Barnes & Noble’s bestselling trade paperback in March, according to the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog “B&N Bestsellers in Science Fiction & Fantasy: March 2019”.

(5) 2020 INVITES SCHOLARLY SUBMISSIONS. CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon, has issued a “Preliminary call for papers” for its Science and Academic Stream. Guidelines at the link.

Paper, Panel and Round Table proposals are invited for the CoNZealand 2020 Science and Academic Stream, an academic convention traditionally included as part of the annual World Science Fiction Convention.

Contributions are sought for a multidisciplinary academic program that will engage audiences, including not only fellow academics but also many of the world’s top science fiction authors and a well-educated and highly engaged public. In addition to traditional academic research that engages science fiction as a subject of study, scholars are encouraged to present research on or about any academic or scientific subject that is likely to engage the imagination of this eclectic and forward-thinking audience.

Potential contributors should note that science fiction explores all aspects of the future of humanity, and academic presentations on the social sciences, humanities and the arts have historically been as popular as those on science and science-related topics.

(6) HEAR MARTHA WELLS. Nic and Eric interview award winning author Martha Wells about her Murderbot series and other works. The Wells interview starts at 36:43 in episode 190 of the All the Books Show.

(7) MARVEL HISTORY. TheHistory of the Marvel Universe arrives in July. A massive Marvel info dump? “This is not that,” says writer Mark Waid.

The Marvel Universe is a sprawling, interconnected web of rich history, dating back to its very beginnings…and now, it’s all coming together in a huge new story!

This July, Marvel invites readers to join legendary writer Mark Waid (Avengers No Road Home) and Exiles artists Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez for a brand-new tale in what is destined to become the DEFINITIVE history of the Marvel Universe!

History of the Marvel Universe will reveal previously unknown secrets and shocking revelations, connecting all threads of the past and present from the Marvel Universe! From the Big Bang to the twilight of existence, this sweeping story covers every significant event and provides fresh looks at the origins of every fan’s favorite Marvel stories!

“We’ve seen Marvel histories and Marvel encyclopedias and Marvel handbooks, and I love that stuff. I absorb them like Galactus absorbs planets,” Waid told Marvel. “This is not that. There’s information here, but there’s also a story. The Marvel Universe is a living thing, it is its own story, and we’re trying to approach it with some degree of heart to find the heart in that story so it doesn’t read like 120 pages of Wikipedia.”

 (8) THORPE OBIT. The South Hants Science Fiction Group reports that Geoff Thorpe (1954–2019) was discovered dead at home last week. Here’s their announcement, courtesy of Terry Hunt:

We are sorry to hear that long-time SHSFG member Geoff Thorpe passed away last month. He discovered fandom later in life when longtime UK fan Fran Dowd met him online on Library Thing and convinced him that he might enjoy SF conventions. He attended the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow and was subsequently introduced to the SHSFG. He joined the group in 2006 becoming a regular, active member hosting Book Club meetings and Christmas parties. He remained a con-goer, attending Eastercons and World Cons as well as a host of smaller cons in the UK and continental Europe.

He also represented Cambridge University and England in domestic and international Tiddlywink competitions.

Thorpe began commenting at File 770 in 2012, and was involved in a number of discussions about WSFS rules.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 10, 1939 Max von Sydow, 90. He played  Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the Never Say Never Again and Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. He shows up in the Exorcist II: The Heretic as Father Lankester Merrin while being King Osric in Conan the Barbarian. Dreamscape sees him being Doctor Paul Novotny while he’s Liet-Kynes the Imperial Planetologist in Dune. He was Judge Fargo in Judge Dredd (and yes, I still like it), in Minority Report as Director Lamar Burgess, Sir Walter Loxley in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and finally in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lor San Tekka.
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 66. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, not to mention some 629,000 words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the Encyclopedia of SF, and contributed some eighty thousand words of articles to the Encyclopedia of Fantasy as well.
  • Born April 10, 1957 John Ford. Popular at Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing  a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 27. She had the lead role of Rey in the Star Wars sequel films, starring in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She charmingly voiced Cottontail in Peter Rabbit. Though not genre, she is Mary Debenham in the most recent Murder on the Orient Express which I’m looking forward to seeing. Her first film, Scrawl which is horror, is due to be released this year. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • There’s an inescapable logic to this death at Rhymes with Orange.
  • Bizarro envisions a scene at the Camelot Home for the Aged.

(11) PLAYING THE PERCENTAGE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna says that Olivia Jaimes, a year after taking on Nancy, has turned Nancy into a character that Rhymes With Orange cartoonist Hilary Price describes as “100 percent geek, 0 percent meek.”  But Jaimes isn’t making enough money from “Nancy” to quit her day job: “’Nancy’ and artist Olivia Jaimes continue to make the comics page ‘lit’ one year in”.

“I’d actually recommend people think very critically about it before making a go at a career in comics,” Jaimes says. “You don’t have to make the thing you love your job. Prioritize your own emotional well-being above ‘making it’ in any classical sense.”

(12) DEL ARROZ STIRS THE POT. JDA really did try to sign up for the Nebula Conference, I’m told —

JDA also made time today to fling poo at the Nebula Conference program – “The Nebula Conference Panels Are Listed And It’s Hilarious” [Internet Archive link].

I’d definitely say the panel highlight is “Managing a career through Mental Illness” something that is at least very useful for all of SFWA’s leadership from my experiences with them.

(13) HPL HONORED WITH FOSSIL. “Scientists Discover 430 Million-Year-Old Sea Cucumber”. They named it after something in Lovecraft – but if this is supposed to be a monster, it’s not very big!

Because of its many tentacles, the new organism was named Sollasina cthulhu, in honour of the monster from the works of Howard Lovecraft., according to the CNET portal.

The remains of organism were found at a site in Herefordshire, UK. The size of the organism did not exceed 3 cm, and the scientists discovered that the remains were 430 million years old.

(14) SPIN YOUR FATE. Archie McPhee offers the “What Would Bigfoot Do?” notebook for $7.95.

Bigfoot spends a lot of time alone, just thinking, as he wanders through the forest. As with anyone who has done that much self-reflection, he’s got a lot of wisdom. So, when you’re confused about what to do next, you could do worse than asking, “What would Bigfoot do?”

(15) INTRO TO RPG. Chris Schweizer tells a neat D&D story. Thread starts here.

(16) A PROMISE THEY MIGHT KEEP. According to NPR, “Facebook Promises To Stop Asking You To Wish Happy Birthday To Your Friend Who Died”. I know it’s always a red-letter day for me when all of my FB friends with birthdays are still around to enjoy them.

On Facebook, people linger long after death.

A friend’s photo might pop up on a timeline. A child’s video might show up in Facebook “Memories,” highlighting what happened on this date in years past. Sometimes these reminders bring a smile to the faces of friends and family left behind.

But Facebook’s algorithms haven’t always been tactful. Unless someone explicitly informs Facebook that a family member has died, Facebook has been known to remind friends to send birthday greetings, or invite a deceased loved one to an event.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Monday announced that the social network will use artificial intelligence to determine when someone has died, and stop sending those kinds of notifications. Sandberg didn’t explain exactly how the new artificial intelligence features will work, but a Facebook spokesperson told NPR the company will look at a variety of signals that might indicate the person is deceased. The spokesperson wouldn’t provide details on what those signals may be.

(17) DIANA DISHES. “Why Dame Diana Rigg ‘loves to be disliked'” – I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

As Game of Thrones returns for its final series, Dame Diana Rigg – aka Olenna Tyrell – looks back on her time with the hit HBO show.

She may have had many of the best lines on Game of Thrones, but Dame Diana Rigg says she has not watched the series “before or since” she appeared in it.

Accepting a special award at this year’s Canneseries TV festival in France, the British actress said she “hadn’t got a clue” about what was happening on the show.

Olenna left at the end of the last series by drinking poison – a death scene she said was “just wonderful”.

“She does it with dignity and wit, and wit is not often in final death scenes,” says the actress, who will celebrate her 81st birthday in July

(18) FAMILY REUNION. ComicsBeat pointed out teaser for the animated Addams Family, to be released October 11.

Give it a look-see below, and if it sends ya, you’ll be able to see it on Halloween (very apropos). The Addams Family stars Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll with Bette Midler and Allison Janney

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

Pixel Scroll 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 9/7/18 Pixel Yourself On A Spinning Space Station, With Alien Porters With Arthropod Eyes

(1) HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about battling website and ISP) problems in “Business Musings: Website Issues”. The post begins —

It’s tough to write my blog when my website is down…for the second time in two weeks. Both times had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the website hosting service, which is so monumentally incompetent that I’m speechless.

I learned a lesson during this incident. A big important lesson.

And it ends —

…And as I (and the kind folks at WMG) rebuild, we will be doing so with an eye to a 2018 website, not a 2010 website. We’ll make information easy to find. The weekly features will remain as well.

It’s going to take a bit of time, but it was something I needed to do. Bluehost forced me into it.

They also taught me a valuable lesson. Every few years, I need to re-evaluate every service that I hire to help with my business, not just to see if the service is doing well, but also to make sure the service itself is the same company that I hired a few years before.

Things change quickly in this modern world, and I really need to incorporate that awareness of change into my own business planning…

In between, Rusch explains how she learned the lesson the hard way.

(2) ABOUT GRIMDARK. Paul Weimer analyzes “The Fugue of Fantasy and the Grimdark Interregnum” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In the history of epic fantasy, following this analogy and paradigm, there has always been a voice in a minor key, a strain of fantasy with antiheroes, shades of dark grey and darkness, worlds where hope and optimism are not valued or are even punished. Violence is the name of the game, dystopic amorality the norm and the worlds are often the successor states or the  ruins of another, brighter time. The classical Western European model of the first few centuries after Rome fell is the historical ur-model, and indeed, many novels use thinly disguised or even explicitly set in that time period. The latest iteration of this minor-key fantasy, which had in recent years become a dominant theme in epic fantasy, is what we call Grimdark….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor in episode 76 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I reached out to Dauntless Don — we all had nicknames back them; he was Dauntless, I was Sparkling — and said, hey, how about if when I’m on the way back to the airport at the end of Readercon, I swoop down, take you out for dinner, and we chew over the old times. And that’s exactly what we did, at the Safehouse in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, along with Dauntless Don’s wife, the Marvelous Marsha, whose voice you’ll occasionally hear in the background of this episode.

Don started out his career in comics by writing some of the best horror stories to appear in the pages of Creepy and Eerie — and I remember well reading the first of them in the early ’70s. When he moved on to Marvel Comics, he did groundbreaking work with such characters as Black Panther, Killraven, and Luke Cage. In fact, his two-year “Panther’s Rage” arc was ranked as the third most important Marvel Comics storyline of the ’70s by Comics Bulletin. In 2015, he was awarded the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing at San Diego Comic-Con International.

We discussed how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old, he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future Black Panther artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the ’70s wouldn’t have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing Lady Rawhide, and much more.

(4) ALIEN ENCOUNTER NUMBER CRUNCHING. James Davis Nicoll discourages the idea that we’ll be meeting aliens in reality: “Doing the Math: Aliens and Advanced Tech in Science Fiction”. After reading Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, maybe that’s a relief?

Everyone loves them some aliens. But …if the encounter is to work out to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is best if the aliens not be too advanced (because they could brush us aside like ants) or too primitive (we might brush them aside like ants). No, there’s a Goldilocks zone for aliens, in which they are close to the same tech level as humans … and can interact peaceably with us.

Which leads me to wonder: just how likely is it that two unconnected civilizations could reach the same technological level (roughly) at the same time?

Time for some large, round numbers….

(5) EXCEEDING THE READ LIMIT. Walter Mosley declares, “Enough with the Victors Writing History”, at LitHub.

I have studied the great powers that vie to control what they want us to believe about the past; but I don’t identify with them. I identify with the librarians who, when asked by GW Bush to report on their visitors’ reading habits, held up a hand and said, “First Amendment.” I identify with outsider artists and labor organizers and autodidacts who either refuse to or are unable to believe in the lies foisted upon us by the conquerors. I identify with the belief that there exists a history out there just beyond the reach of our powers of cognition. And I believe that a lie is a lie; that if you coexist with a population that helped to build your house, your culture, your music, a population that helped to raise your children and fine-tune your language, and you deny that culture’s impact on who you are… then your knowledge of history will fail you and the past will devour you and your children.

If you deny your past your future will be a detour around your fondest hopes and dreams…

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note, “While best known for his detective fiction, Mosley has written a handful of sf… and is a big sf fan… I’ve got a photo from Millennial PhilCon (Worldcon 2001) of him and Orson Scott Card, just after they met and near-simultaneously said to the other ‘I’m a huge fan.’”

(6) WOMBAT TO RETURN TO ALBUQUERQUE. Kevin Sonney boosts the signal –

(7) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Chabeli Herrera in the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Kennedy Space Center has opened up the Astronaut Training Experience, which simulates a trip to Mars by having visitors “strap onto a microgravity simulator: and then carry out a repair on the space station.  There’s also a simulation of Mars Base 1, where visitors can “work together to solve various technical problems” including “programming a team of robots to clean dust off the base’s solar panels.” — “Like real astronaut training, Kennedy Space Center’s new simulators let you work in zero gravity, drive Mars rover”.

Like a scene from “The Martian,” the botany lab in Mars Base 1 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex grows vegetables under the glow of fluorescent purple lights.

But it’s not all potatoes like in the 2015 film. This room can grow anything from cress to tomatoes, and all of the crops are planted and harvested by guests playing astronaut for the day.

The botany room is one of several new features at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, a two-year project designed to simulate astronaut training and work on Mars. The attraction opened in February, but officials gathered Thursday to officially kick off the opening of the ATX with representatives from its sponsor, aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

(8) SPEAK MEMORY. Hear the Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel at Worldcon 76:

(9) SHELLEY OBIT. Actress Carole Shelley (1939-2018), who appeared on stage in The Odd Couple and Wicked, and voiced characters in the Disney animated movies The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973), died August 31 reports the New York Times:

A new generation of theatergoers knew Ms. Shelley for originating a less sympathetic character in the musical “Wicked,” a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

The show opened in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, the putatively good witch, and Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. (“Wicked” was still running on Broadway, with a different cast, when Ms. Shelley died.)

Ms. Shelley played Madame Morrible, a college official who pairs Glinda and Elphaba as roommates. She later helps arrange a series of events that push Elphaba toward wickedness.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958  — Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 2017 – Jerry Pournelle died. Cat Eldridge notes: “Author, The Mote in God’s Eye with Larry Niven, numerous other works including the Janissary series, and superb tech commentary writer as well. His Byte column was something I very much looked forward to reading every month.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7 – Karen Frenkel, 63. Author, Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (1985) with Isaac Asimov. Available on her website.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A Hollywood in-joke you’ll all get – Long Story Short.
  • Scene from a comic con by Nigel Auchterlounie —

(13) HIGH CONCEPT. This December in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1.

(14) CATS IN THE VICINITY OF SFF. David D. Levine made a fan —

(15) ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data from the Chandra X-ray telescope has been combined with optical data to image a distant galaxy that seems to be encircled by black holes and/or neutron stars (International Business Times: “Ring Made Of Black Holes? Massive Cosmic Structure Found Encircling Distant Galaxy”). Galaxy AM 0644-741 was involved in a recent (astronomically speaking) collision with another galaxy that boosted star formation. The most massive of those stars had a very short life and have since gone supernova, leaving behind black holes and neutron stars.

Out of the newborn baby stars, the most massive ones probably led a short life, spanning on the scale of millions of years. They lost their nuclear fuel with time and exploded as supernovae, where the majority of the stellar material is blown away, leaving black holes 5 to 20 times heavier than the sun or dense neutron stars carrying approximately same mass as the sun.

This indicates the ring is either made from stellar-mass black holes or neutron stars that are accompanied by close companion stars. The dense objects are drawing gas from their stellar counterparts, forming a super-hot spinning disk which acts as a detectable X-ray source for Chandra.

Though the researchers behind the discovery — a team from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Italy — couldn’t confirm the identity of individual sources making up the ring, they believe this could either be a case of all black holes or all neutron stars, or a mix of both.

The NASA website (“Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays”) that AM 0644-741 is only one of several galaxies with such X-ray rings and adds a link to the pre-print article on the arXiv service.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

(16) PULPFEST DATES IN 2019. The dates for PulpFest 2019 are the same weekend at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon but that may not represent an actual conflict for more than a few fans.

PulpFest 2019 will take place from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” PulpFest will be joined by FarmerCon. Hopefully, they’re not too hung over from this year’s Philip José Farmer centennial.

Start making your plans for the 48th convening of PulpFest and its celebration of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more. Join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” Please bring your friends!

(17) ALMOST. James Davis Nicoll credits John Varley for showing us “How to Make a Near-Utopia Interesting: John Varley’s Eight World Stories” at Tor.com.

Peace and prosperity sound like they’re good things, but perhaps not for authors. What kind of plots can be imagined if the standard plot drivers are off the table? How does one tell stories in a setting that, while not a utopia, can see utopia at a distance ? The premise seems unpromising, but thirteen stories and a novel argue that one can write absorbing narratives in just such a setting. So how did Varley square this particular circle?

(18) AN OSCAR ON HOLD. About that new “popular film” Oscar? Like the Magic Eight-Ball says – “Ask again later” — “Oscars postpone plans for new popular film category”.

…The award, which could have recognised films popular with audiences but not critics, was only announced last month.

In a statement, the Academy’s CEO said she had “recognised the need for further discussion” with its members about the proposal first.

…In previous years, films which have done well at the box office with audiences – including Mamma Mia, Avatar and the Mission Impossible franchise – have been snubbed by the Academy.

The Oscars’ organisers did not elaborate in their August announcement how eligibility for the new category would have been established.

Some Hollywood critics suggested the new category’s “popular” tag was confusing and could risk creating a two-tier system among films.

It was feared films praised by critics and audiences alike, such as Dunkirk and Get Out, would risk being relegated to the new category rather than standing a chance in the prestigious Best Film award category.

(19) MORE RUBY SLIPPER NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Smithsonian has a little more info, including how the recovered shoes were authenticated, as well as more info about the ownership of this pair and the others pairs still extant: “After 13-Year Chase, F.B.I. Nabs Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers”.

…The slippers, it turns out, were not actually owned by the Judy Garland Museum. Instead, they were property of a collector named Michael Shaw, who purchased them in 1970 for a mere $2,000, reports Jennifer Medina for The New York Times. Shaw, who also owns one of Dorothy’s dresses, a witch’s hat and a munchkin outfit from the 1939 movie, was in the habit of loaning out the slippers to museums around the country, donating his display fee to children’s charities. The slippers were on display as part of a 10-week traveling tour when they were stolen on the night of August 28. According to a press release from the Grand Rapids police, a thief or thieves broke into the museum’s back door and smashed open the plexiglass case. There were no cameras on the premises and the museum’s alarm failed to sound.

…After the shoes were apprehended, the F.B.I. brought them to the Smithsonian, which owns another pair of slippers used in the filming, to confirm their ruby slippers were the real deal. For the last two years, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been analyzing and conserving a different pair of slippers donated to the museum in the late 1970s as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The F.B.I. brought the purloined pair to objects conservator Dawn Wallace for a look.

“We were able to spend two days looking at them and doing close examination as well as some analysis,” Wallace tells Smithsonian.com. “Not only did we have a physical examination, but we were able to conduct some technical analysis of the material to confirm that they were in fact consistent.”

Wallace says two other details cinched the case: First, it’s difficult to fake 80 years of aging on a pair of shoes. Second, the pair in the Smithsonian’s collection is actually a mismatched pair of ruby slippers, with the left sized “5C” and the right sized “5BC.” The pair recovered by the F.B.I. turned out to be the mates of the museum’s shoes (which are set to go back on display in a climate-controlled case on October 19)….

Since Mr. Shaw had received an $800,000 insurance settlement quite some time ago, the shoes belong to the insurance company now.

(20) FOYLES SOLD:BBC reports “Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon” – the Foyles Charing Cross Road location hosted this year’s Clarke Award announcement.

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to “champion” real bookshops in the face of online rivals.

The sale includes Foyles’ well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014.

Waterstones said the deal would help booksellers fight back against Amazon’s “siren call”.

The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

[Thanks to Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Worldcon 76 Program Troubles

When Worldcon 76 program participants were sent their schedules over the weekend such controversy resulted that the schedule was taken offline this morning, Chair Kevin Roche issued an apology, and the committee now is reviewing the participant bios, asking to hear from Hugo nominees who haven’t been put on the program and, presumably, filling the vacancies left by writers who have now dropped out.

Three issues drawing the most fire in social media have been —

  1. Respect for people’s chosen pronouns (and related concerns about LGBTQAI+ and POC participation);
  2. Whether new writers are being accepted onto programming (with skepticism fueled by the realization that several newer writers who are Hugo nominees are not on the program); and
  3. Dissatisfaction with responses by the Worldcon 76 program division.

Lighting off the social media cycle was Hugo nominee Bogi Takács’ call for an apology after seeing eir bio in the program database. (The thread starts here.)

Takács also pointed to undeserved criticism from Worldcon 76 Program Division Head Christine Doyle for going public:

Takács received an apology from Chair Kevin Roche:

Unfortunately, Roche’s general apology was preceded by another one based on some wrong information, leading to this exchange:

Hugo nominee JY Yang voiced concerns for POC as well:

Another comment:

Yang later wrote another thread (starts here) to make such points as these –

Michi Trota, in a thread that starts here, reminded programming why these creators are Hugo nominees in the first place —

In other thread, Trota wrote:

Amal El-Mohtar did this roundup of the issues —

For the record, the email Program Division Head Christine Doyle sent to program participants yesterday said in part:

We had over 2000 people ask to be on the program, and unfortunately there was no way to accommodate everyone. Similarly, we had over 2000 program items submitted, with lots of duplication in some areas, and we couldn’t schedule them all.

We realized that many people didn’t receive our initial communications, because they were either blocked without us getting notice (i.e., earthlink), or filtered into the promotions bin (gmail).

We may contact some people for headshots and bios. If the headshot and/or bio that we have for you is not to your liking, please contact us with suggested edits or replacements. A note about names: for consistency and fairness, we are not using any prefixes (honorifics) or suffixes for your name unless it changes who you are (Sr/Jr/III). That said, we fully expect all of those details to be in the bios. Let us know if we need to edit the bio to get this included.

The present controversy has cost Worldcon 76 some of its best-known participants.

N.K. Jemisin dropped out of Worldcon 76 programming:

Mary Robinette Kowal is going to the con but is getting off the program:

Several writers say they are dropping off the program to (in effect) leave room for newcomers.

John Scalzi, in “Being Seen at Worldcon”, sums up what he terms to be —

A Twitter thread on the recent contretemps at Worldcon 76, where many newer writers (including some Hugo finalists) were not represented on the initial programming slate

Including this comment:

David Gerrold said on Facebook:

Re: Worldcon.

There are program items I cannot step out of (specifically the memorial panel for Harlan Ellison), but I have written to the Worldcon Committee and asked them to cancel my reading and slot in a Hugo nominee or a person of color or a woman into that spot instead.

I will be taking a second look at a couple other panel assignments as well.

David D. Levine also offered to vacate his place on Worldcon 76 program.

(This is unlikely to be an exhaustive list, just the ones I found.)

Worldcon 76 Chair Kevin Roche has announced on Facebook (with a parallel Twitter thread):

(From the Chair)

I directed the Program Division to take down the preliminary program information that was released yesterday evening. There were too many errors and problems in it to leave it up.

I am sorry we slighted and angered so many of the people we are gathering to meet, honor, and celebrate. This was a mistake, our mistake. We were trying to build a program reflecting the diversity of fandom and respectful of intersectionality. I am heartbroken that we failed so completely.

We are tearing the program apart and starting over. It was intended to be a reflection of the cultures, passions, and experiences of Worldcon membership, with room for both new voices and old. What we released yesterday failed to do that; we must do better.

Many of you have offered to help us do a better job. Thank you. We cannot accept all those offers, but yes, we will be turning to some of you to help us do it better this time.

We will continue to reach out to the Hugo Finalists we have missed connections with, to ensure any who wish to be on the program will have a place on it.

Kevin Roche
Chair, Worldcon 76 in San Jose

An additional complaint about how the bios seem to have been created:

More dissatisfaction about program from two Hugo nominees.

Suzanne Palmer (thread starts here).

K.M.Szpara (thread begins here)

Alexandra Erin responded to the latest social media cycle with these thoughts about the application of lessons from the culture wars to the science fiction community. (Thread starts here.)

Furthermore, Alexandra Erin has decided what is needed is a “Queer Rapid Response Team for WorldCon 76”.

So, this is one of those posts that’s going to be mystifying to a lot of people but make perfect sense to others. It’s a busy day and I don’t have the time or wherewithal to go into the background. The short version is: WorldCon 76 is fudging up quite badly in how it treats attendees, up to and including finalists for its crown jewel Hugo Award. Multiple genderqueer, non-binary, and non-conforming members have spoken up about feeling unsafe and disrespected, and WorldCon’s safety team is not inspiring a lot of confidence.

Accordingly, I am taking one of my standing offers at WisCon and expanding and formalizing it for the larger WorldCon: I am forming a Queer Rapid Response Team. Before the convention next month, I will set up an automated channel that will text any messages onward to everybody on the team. The idea is that if anybody in the family needs an escort, needs a friendly face, needs emotional support, or whatever, we can form up on them like queer Voltron.

Pixel Scroll 12/1/17 HiphoPixeltamus Vs. RhymenoScrollos

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Famed comics writer Marv Wolfman joins Scott Edelman for gelato in Episode 54 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Marv Wolfman

As I prepared to lunch with this episode’s guest, I was startled to realize I’d last interviewed him in 1974—43 years ago! Back then, I was an assistant editor in the Marvel Bullpen, while Marv Wolfman was (among many other things) scripting Tomb of Dracula and editing Crazy magazine, not yet having ascended to the role of Editor-in-Chief. And it was my job to report on his doings for the readers of F.O.O.M., Marvel’s official fan magazine.

Over the course of his career, Marv did a whole lot more than what I talked with him about back then. He went on to script the adventures of many legacy characters for both Marvel and DC, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Superman, and Green Lantern, and during that time he also co-created the characters of Blade, Bullseye, Destiny, Nova, and many others. He wrote the Teen Titans comic for 16 years. There’s even more to Marv than that, of course, as you’ll find out when you give this episode a listen….

We discussed his horrifying early job as a DC Comics intern destroying (and in some cases rescuing) original art, why he loves the science fiction writer Alfred Bester, how his writing back when he started out was a blend of John Broome and Stan Lee, what he learned from binge-reading 181 issues of Spider-Man before starting to script it himself, what it was like returning to DC after his years at Marvel, why he felt he could write Tomb of Dracula even though when he was handed the assignment he’d never read the Bram Stoker novel or seen any of the movies, his secret to making the Teen Titans seem like actual teens, why he owes his career to Gene Colan, and much, more.

(2) JOSHI DEFENDS HIMSELF. S.T. Joshi tees off on Brian Keene once more in his November 15 blog post.

Let us consider his assertion that I have gone out of my way to attack certain individuals who have criticised Lovecraft only because they are women (Ellen Datlow), persons of colour (Daniel José Older), persons in the LGBTQ community (S. J. Bagley [although his membership in this community is news to me]), and self-styled “‘white trash’ Appalachians” such as himself. If anything could reveal Mr. Keene’s nincompoopery—not to mention identity politics run amok—this must be it. Mr. Keene ignores the fact that I have also addressed other individuals—unimpeachably Caucasian and undeniably male—such as China Miéville (see my blog of August 23, 2014), Charles Baxter (blog of December 3, 2014), Robert Dunbar (blog of February 27, 2015), and others. Then there’s Niels Hobbs, about as chalk-white a Nordic as one could ask for. But more significantly, Mr. Keene is blithely unaware of how his assertion can be flipped around and made to bite him in the posterior. By his own reasoning (if it can be called that), anyone who criticises me for any reason must be an anti-Asian racist. For it cannot be news to Mr. Keene that I was born in India and am an immigrant to this country (but a U.S. citizen of long standing). Is Mr. Keene therefore prepared to admit that he is a racist? How about it, Mr. Nicolay? What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Lockhart?

But of course this is absurd. I have never accused any of my antagonists of prejudice (only of stupidity, hypocrisy, and suchlike faults that are widely shared by all races and genders), and I trust I may be granted the same courtesy, especially in the absence of evidence (and of course there is none) that I myself have ever exhibited racial or gender prejudice. I confess to an irremediable prejudice against illiterate morons like Mr. Keene (in part because this “revolt of the stupid” inflicted upon us our current “president”), but beyond that, my record is clean.

Mr. Keene also asserts, preposterously, that I do not want Lovecraft’s racism discussed. I myself have discussed this issue—in my biography and elsewhere—more comprehensively and with a greater understanding of the historical, philosophical, social, and cultural issues involved than any other commentator. Where Mr. Keene got the idea that I threatened to boycott the 2017 NecronomiCon if there was a panel on this subject, I cannot begin to imagine. In fact, Niels Hobbs and I, long before our falling out, had already agreed that there need not be any such panel at the 2017 event, since we had had panels on the subject at the two previous conventions—and I was a member of the panel in 2013. My boycott threat was tied specifically to the presence of known and unrepentant Lovecraft-haters on the program—and I was under the impression that Mr. Hobbs had acceded to my request to keep them off the program…

Joshi’s love for abusing people in lush terms inspires me to ask who would win if he and John C, Wright were paired in a literary cage match?

(3) LEFTOVER STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz has posted the “Happy Frogs OFFICIAL 2017 Nebula Awards Slate Recommendations”. Whether such a slate can be effective remains to be seen, since only SFWA members can nominate. If the real goal is to court controversy and gain publicity, well, it’s working already.

The Happy Frogs are back!  It’s already getting close to award season, as nominations are opening for the 2017 Nebula Awards. Our Board of Trustees  has scoured  the best of the best of Science Fiction and Fantasy to come up with recommendations for YOUR SFWA Nebula Award ballots. These stories are tremendous. Believe me. You’ll want to jump to fill in your Nebula ballots with these choices immediately.

Many categories had very difficult choices with so much great fiction available, and we did our best to bring about the five best of the year in each category.  The TOP BALLOT was given a little extra love, so we can ensure SFWA members give proper focus if they only wanted to choose one Happy Frogs nominee.

Jon’s work, some Superversive and Castalia House authors, and other Scrappy-Doos comprise most of the list, but a Tor book is recommended for Best Novel – go figure.

Top Ballot: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis (Tor Books) – Hands down the most epic fun book of 2017. It has fantasy, it has steampunk, it has incredibly well detailed battles that rival David Weber. It’s got one of the coolest main characters in Josette, and is so well written, we at the Happy Frogs could read it over and over again. Incredible work.

(4) CALL FOR PAPERS,. “Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations” has put out a call for papers on the theme of “Escaping Escapism in Fantasy and the Fantastic.” The event takes place April 26-27, 2018.

What is the role of fantasy and the fantastic? Why—and perhaps more crucially, how—does the genre matter? Fantasy theorists frequently define the genre in opposition to what is possible and real: Kathryn Hume, for instance, sums it up in Fantasy and Mimesis as “departures from consensus reality”. Critics often scrutinize this departure as a negative, and disparage representations of the fantastic either due to their failure to depict real world issues or their presumed attempts at “escapism.” This perceived link between fantasy and escapism is so strong that dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary define escapism as “engaging in fantasy”.

… This two-day conference seeks to examine and honour the relationship between escapism and the fantastic. We welcome proposals for papers on this theme from researchers and practitioners working in the field of fantasy and the fantastic across all media, whether within the academy or beyond it. We are particularly interested in submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 1, 1932 — The big screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Island Of Lost Souls premieres in the U.S.

(6) HONOR IN GOTHAM. Welcome2TheBronx says a street will be given the name of Batman’s co-creator: “Recognition At Last! Bronx Street to be Renamed After Batman Co-Creator Bill Finger”.

On December 8th, late Bronxite and DeWitt Clinton alumni Bill Finger and co-creator of Batman will have justice with a Bronx street renamed after him.

For years, many only knew Bob Kane as the creator of Batman but it was actually Bill Finger who gave Bob Kane not only the idea of how Batman should look but also created his origin story and wrote many of the stories during the beginning of the rise of the Dark Knight.

Born Milton Finger in Denver, Colorado on February 8, 1914, eventually he and his family moved to The Bronx where he was raised and went to DeWitt Clinton High School (where Bob Kane went as well).

Kane was trying to come up with a character to compete with the craze created by Superman but was stuck in a rut when he asked Bill Finger for some advice. The two would meet up at Poe Park on the Grand Concourse to come up with ideas and it was Finger who told him to change his costume into what became the Batman we know today.

(7) THE SEASON. The Book Smugglers decreed: “Smugglivus is HERE – A Primer”.

Smugglivus is our month-long (technically about five weeks long) end of the year celebration. Back in our first year of The Book Smugglers in 2008, we wanted to do something special at the end of the year leading up to our blog anniversary in early January. So, we came up with the idea to host a holiday bonanza to celebrate our favorite books, authors, and bloggers of the year. Thus, inspired by Seinfeld’s infamous Festivus, Smugglivus was born.

Each year, Smugglivus begins on December 1 and features guest posts from our favorite people across the interwebs (with a healthy serving of our regular reviews and giveaways, of course). The event ends with a bang on January 7, our very own blogiversary. And this year? We will be celebrating our biggest milestone to date: our tenth anniversary!

…This year, our all-star author lineup includes, among many others, Aliette de Bodard, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, N.K. Jemisin and more. Of course, we’ll also have plenty of awesome bloggers/reviewers/vloggers over to play too!

(8) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Camestros Felapton is a great fan of book cover art (something we know because he’s already done 22 covers for McEdifice Returns and may not be done). In that line, he has gathered some of the year’s most admired artwork in his post “The Book Cover Thing 2017: The Longlist”.

Thanks for all the suggestions I didn’t include them all (looks specifically at Doris for a moment). I also went hunting for some extra names and interesting covers of books I haven’t heard of. Obvious note: appearance on the list is not any kind of endorsement of the content of the books or their authors and in some cases I know nothing about the books at all – but at least one was intentionally deplorable.

(9) ENDEAVOUR AWARD. Although the winners of the 2017 Endeavour Award, Patricia McKillip and Matt Ruff, weren’t at OryCon to pick up their awards, two other finalists were on hand to receive commemorative certificates, Curtis Chen and David D. Levine. Thanks to Jim Fiscus for the photos:

The two head shots were taken when the authors were reading from their books, Arabella of Mars for David D. Levine and Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis Chen.

Curtis Chen

David D. Levine

(10) VIRAL CAT. Social media has another feline star: “Meet Max, the cat who lost the library but won the Internet”.

This story, printed and taped onto a university library door in St. Paul, Minn., might have ended there. But as seen above, it got tweeted. It also got Tumblr-ed. And Reddit-ed. And because the Internet loves cat characters — and has a special fondness for those known as library cats — the story of 3-year-old Max exploded Wednesday. (In some online corners, anyway; it was a heavy news day.)

Having been shooed away from the Macalester College library, Max sprinted straight toward Internet fame.

The people wanted a children’s book. Someone dashed off text in rhyme:

Get into the thread here —

(11) ELASTIC CURRENCY. Nerd & Tie reports “Checks Are Bouncing For Guests Who Appeared at Waxacon”.

About six hundred people turned up for the first ever Waxacon in Waxahachie, TX on November 18th and 19th. Attendees got to meet guests like Corin Nemec, Olivia Hack, Kevin Duhaney, Jeff Parazzo, Christina Masterson, Philip Andrew, Jack Guzman, Philip Jeanmarie and Chuck Huber. With so few attendees present, it must have been a fun, intimate experience for fans. But here’s the thing, as far as we can tell none of those guests have been paid yet.

We’ve spoken to representation for multiple guests who appeared at Waxacon, and those who were supposed to see payment arrive via Paypal haven’t received what’s due to them. What’s worse is that we’ve confirmed that guests who were handed checks by the convention organizer Alex Betsill have seen them bounce….

(12) ANOTHER STRANGER. Netflix has greenlighted a third season of Stranger Things. [H/T Nerd & Tie.]

(13) REJECTED. This video from the Bradbury Center tells how the scripts and films of Something Wicked This Way Comes were rewritten, reshot, and re-edited before the popular Disney movie was released.

(14) BEER REVIEW Nickpheas writes, “We had the underwhelming Dark Vader a couple of weeks ago.” He found its lack of taste…disturbing. But if you’re in the neighborhood —

The pub just next to my place of work (and any filer visiting the area can always hit on me for a pint) has turned up two more genre themed ales.

 

(15) SPECULATING ABOUT PLANET NINE. Maybe the Lectroids’ home? “Planet Nine: Theories About the Hypothetical Planet”.

A massive ice giant may be traveling through the outer solar system. Dubbed “Planet Nine,” the hypothetical world was proposed to exist after scientists noticed that a handful of objects beyond Pluto had been shaken up in unusual orbits. Search parties have formed to find the unseen planet, with optimistic hopes of spotting it within a year.

“It’s not crazy; this is the kind of stuff people are finding all the time,” co-discoverer Mike Brown, at the California Institute of Technology, told Space.com earlier this year. Brown and lead author Konstantin Batygin, also at CalTech, published a paper in January 2016 suggesting that a massive planet could be stirring up the icy bodies of the Kuiper Belt, a ring of material at the edge of the solar system.

(16) POWER UP. Tesla makes goal: “World’s Largest Battery Is Turned On In Australia As Tesla Ties Into Power Grid” — 37 days ahead of schedule.

The power grid in South Australia now includes a huge Tesla battery tied to a wind farm, allowing the system to supply electricity around the clock. The battery was installed well before Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s 100-day guarantee lapsed — and just in time for the start of summer.

“This is history in the making,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said of the battery system, which sits next to wind turbines at the Horndale Power Reserve.

(17) DEL TORO FILM REVIEWED. Close but no cigar: NPR’s Justin Chang finds that “Gorgeous And Lyrical ‘Shape of Water’ Doesn’t Quite Hit Its Mark”.

“The Shape Of Water” is such a lyrical and imaginative piece of storytelling that I’m genuinely disappointed that I didn’t love it more. There’s no doubting the visionary credentials of the director, Guillermo del Toro, though his richly atmospheric fantasies are often more inspired in concept than they are in the moment-to-moment unfolding. The great exception is his Oscar-winning 2006 film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a masterpiece of historical fantasy in which he held a brutal Spanish war story and a transporting fairy tale in exquisite balance.

(18) PTEROSAUR EDEN. NPR reports “Hundreds Of Eggs From Ancient Flying Reptile Are Found In China”.

A cache of hundreds of eggs discovered in China sheds new light on the development and nesting behavior of prehistoric, winged reptiles called pterosaurs.

Pterosaurs were fearsome-looking creatures that flew during the Lower Cretaceous period alongside dinosaurs. This particular species was believed to have a massive wingspan of up to 13 feet, and likely ate fish with their large teeth-filled jaws.

Researchers working in the Turpan-Hami Basin in northwestern China collected the eggs over a 10-year span from 2006 to 2016.

A single sandstone block held at least 215 well-preserved eggs that have mostly kept their shape. Sixteen of those eggs have embryonic remains of the pterosaur species Hamipterus tianshanensis, the researchers said in findings released today in Science.

(19) A DISCOURAGING WORD. The BBC tells how they do it — “From disguises to bad manners: How celebs avoid being pestered in public”.

[Mark] Hamill recently tweeted how he hopped into a wheelchair at an airport to “avoid autograph $alesmen/Dealer$ who constantly badger me (and my family) to increase value of their items”.

Hunger Games star Lawrence, who refuses selfies with fans, said: “I just, generally, once I enter a public place, I become incredibly rude – that’s kind of like my only way of defending myself.”

Mark Hamill tries “the old wheelchair trick”, Daniel Radcliffe wore a Spider-Man suit (plus rucksack and American accent) to Comic-Con, …

(20) THE BADDEST PART OF THE FILE. For some strange reason a Jim Croce filk festival broke out in comments. Here is microtherion’s contribution:

If I could save time in a shoggoth
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to sleep in R’lyeh
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend strange aeons with you

(21) HOW IT TOOK SHAPE. Marc Scott Zicree, who worked on a book with Guillermo Del Toro, tells the vision behind The Shape of Water.

Mr. Sci-Fi Marc Zicree shares insider info on his friend and co-writer Guillermo del Toro’s wonderful new film The Shape of Water.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jim Fiscus, JJ, Nickpheas, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs ti File 770 contributing editoe of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/17 Pixel the Thirteenth, Part Scroll

(1) PKD DAUGHTER ACCUSES AMAZON STUDIOS HEAD OF HARASSMENT. The Hollywood Reporter says Isa Hackett, executive producer of two TV series based on the work of her father, Philip K. Dick series, has told the media she was harassed by the head of Amazon Studios — “Amazon TV Producer Goes Public With Harassment Claim Against Top Exec Roy Price”.

In the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged years-long sexual harassment and assault, a producer of one of Amazon Studios’ highest-profile TV shows is ready to talk about her “shocking and surreal” experience with Amazon’s programming chief Roy Price.

Isa Hackett is the daughter of author Philip K. Dick, whose work is the basis for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, as well as the upcoming anthology series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. Hackett, 50, is an executive producer on both series. Price, 51, is head of Amazon Studios and has presided over its growth into a major streaming service with such series as Transparent and movies such as Manchester by the Sea. His family has deep connections in the entertainment world: His father, Frank, ran Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios. (The existence of the alleged incident detailed below and the subsequent Amazon investigation were previously reported by the website The Information.)

On the evening of July 10, 2015, after a long day of promoting Man in the High Castle at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hackett attended a dinner with the show’s cast and Amazon staff at the U.S. Grant Hotel. There she says she met Price for the first time. He asked her to attend an Amazon staff party later that night at the W Hotel (now the Renaissance) and she ended up in a taxi with Price and Michael Paull, then another top Amazon executive and now CEO of the digital media company BAMTech.   Once in the cab, Hackett says Price repeatedly and insistently propositioned her. “You will love my dick,” he said, according to Hackett, who relayed her account to multiple individuals in the hours after the alleged episode. (The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed Hackett told at least two people about the alleged incident in the immediate aftermath.) Hackett says she made clear to Price she was not interested and told him that she is a lesbian with a wife and children.

The New York Times reports Price was put on a leave of absence

In a statement, an Amazon spokesman said, “Roy Price is on a leave of absence effective immediately.” Albert Cheng, currently the chief operating officer of Amazon Studios, will assume Mr. Price’s duties on an interim basis, an Amazon spokesman said.

Ms. Hackett is a daughter of the late science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. “The Man in the High Castle” series, which was renewed for a third season in May, is based on one of his 44 published novels. Although Amazon does not release viewership numbers, the company said in 2015 that “The Man in the High Castle” was its most-streamed show.

Ms. Hackett is also a producer of “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” an anthology series that premiered in Britain last month and will be streamed by Amazon Video next year.

Allegations that Mr. Price had made unwanted sexual remarks to Ms. Hackett surfaced in August in an article by Ms. Masters that was published on the tech news website The Information.

That article included few specifics about Ms. Hackett’s claims, with Ms. Hackett providing a statement that she did not “wish to discuss the details of this troubling incident with Roy except to say Amazon investigated immediately and with an outside investigator.”

(2) OFF THE BOOKS. Last year California state Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, responding to complaints by celebrities like Mark Hamill, got a law passed requiring autographed memorabilia come with a certificate of authenticity. (For a refresher, see the LA Times article “The high cost of an autograph”.)

That put a crimp in the state’s collectibles business (one collectibles dealer stopped shipping to California), so the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America sponsored a bill, AB 228, now signed into law and in effect, granting broad exceptions to the original law. The ABAA has informed members —

More comprehensive Guidelines will be forthcoming. In the meantime, the three main takeaways for members are:

  • Allbooks, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as any ephemera not related to sports or entertainment media, are now categorically excluded from the regulation of “Autographed collectibles” under California’s autograph law.
  • Those few of us who do deal in the kind of autographed collectibles in the state of California that still fall under the law may now provide an “Express Warranty” guaranteeing the item as authentic, rather than a Certificate of Authenticity.  That warranty may be incorporated into an invoice rather than being a separate document.  And the requirement to disclose in the warranty from whom the autographed collectible was purchased has been eliminated.
  • Civil penalties incurred by those subject to the law who fail to comply have been lowered.

(3) HANGING AROUND. David D. Levine tells readers of Unbound Worlds “A Lot Harder Than It Looks: David D. Levine Experiences Zero Gravity”.

As a child of the Space Age, born in the same year as Gagarin and Shepard’s historic flights, I have always fantasized about floating in zero gravity. In college, I studied orbital mechanics and rolled my eyes at stories and films that got zero-g wrong. And as a science fiction writer, I have often used zero gravity settings (notably in my debut novel Arabella of Mars) and took pride in getting the physics right. So when I got the opportunity to experience zero gravity myself, thanks to a very generous birthday gift from my father, I was thrilled, and also confident that I would know how to conduct myself in free fall.

Let me tell you this: the thrill was real, but the confidence… well, maneuvering in zero gravity is a lot harder than it looks….

(4) GEEKWIRE. The third episode of Frank Catalano’s GeekWire podcast on science fiction, pop culture and the arts has posted. Says Catalano, “I invited Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP Museum) Curator Brooks Peck and Collections Manager Melinda Simms to come on the podcast and talk about the MoPOP collection, how they source/conserve/display objects, and the role of fans in helping find needed pop culture and science fiction items.”

There are also two accompanying articles, the first on the collection and what happens at MoPOP behind the scenes.

You might sum up the motto of their dual mission as to preserve and protect … as well as present. There’s a lot of stuff — artifacts or objects, depending on your preferred term — involved.

“I am responsible for the daily care and feeding of the collection, and make sure everything is housed appropriately to archival standards,” Simms explained. She estimated MoPOP has close to 100,000 objects cataloged, and “if you expand that out to the pieces in the vault that we are still working on getting cataloged in the collection, probably close to 150.”

The second on the important role of fans in preserve pop culture artifacts.

It’s not like one art museum simply calling up another to borrow a Monet. “With pop culture artifacts, it’s different from art collectors. Because art has a tendency to be high-value commodity, and you know museums have art, and you sort of know the lenders around the world who have the art,” Simms explained. “But with with pop culture things it could be anybody.”

Fortunately, pop culture fans tend to know each other. And they tend to focus.

For example, for the current Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds exhibition, “I was looking for a few Ferengi related items,” Peck explained. “And I’m asking around the main Star Trek people I know. No one’s got anything.” Ultimately, one fan collector in this loose network said he should contact “the Ferengi guy … So I talked to him and he’s absolutely going to loan what I need. So there’s this constant leapfrogging of networking and the things that people specialize in,” Peck said.

The podcast audio is embedded (and downloadable from) each article.

(5) CLAIMED BY FLAMES. An Associated Press story called “Wildfire Burns Home of Peanuts Creator Charles Schulz” says that Schulz’s Santa Rosa home was destroyed in the wildfires but that his widow, Jean Schulz, escaped the fires before the house burned.

The Schulzes built the California split-level home in the 1970s and the cartoonist lived there until his death in 2000.

…Charles Schulz usually worked at an outside studio and most of his original artwork and memorabilia are at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, which escaped the flames.

But the loss of the house itself is painful, [stepson] Monte Schulz said.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 13, 1957 — Movie audiences in America are treated to the science-fiction thriller, The Amazing Colossal Man.
  • October 13, 1995 — James Cameron’s sf thriller Strange Days premiered in theaters

(7) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian sees technology ruining another holiday tradition in today’s Close To Home.

(8) HAVE DICE, WILL TRAVEL. UrsulaV’s Paladin Rant — Or “Why Kevin’s D&D campaign has an Order of the Silver Weasel” — has been Storified.

(9) DID YOU MISS IT? Sheesh, wasn’t 2001 already long enough? Now some supposedly lost footage has been found.

17 minutes of lost footage from Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey was uncovered in a salt-mine vault in Kansas. Warner Bros. has now released a statement regarding the “found” footage.

Here is Warner Bros statement:

“The additional footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey has always existed in the Warner vaults. When [director Stanley] Kubrick trimmed the 17 minutes from 2001 after the NY premiere, he made it clear the shortened version was his final edit. The film is as he wanted it to be presented and preserved and Warner Home Video has no plans to expand or revise Mr. Kubrick’s vision.”

(10) NEWITZ REVIEWED. In an English-language review at Spekulatív Zóna, Bence Pintér concludes, “The Magpie Wants Too Much – Annalee Newitz: Autonomous.

I had high hopes for this one, because the premise was really interesting, set in a postnational world ruled by patent-protecting international organisations and multinational drug companies. The main character is Judith Chen, aka Jack, a middle-aged drug pirate and onetime patent-rebel who runs a reverse-engineering, drug-smuggling business while driving a badass submarine. Shit hits the fan when consumers of her reverse-engineered performance-enhancing drug (stolen from a big pharma company) starts to show the signs of dangerous addiction. Jack is determined to make up for her mistake and to help bring down the company which had patented the dangerous drug. In the meantime, a young military robot, Paladin, and his human partner, Eliasz are commissioned to hunt down Jack and his loose gang of pirates.

Sounds good? Yeah. Still… I think my hopes were too high. It’s true that Newitz’s vision of the somewhat dystopian state of the world in 2144 is kind of intriguing and on every page there is some fascinating gadget, invention, etc. I also liked Jack and her backstory about the failed patent-revolution thirty years ago. But I felt that this novel has too much on its plate and Newitz cannot really find the focus….

(11) DRILLING FOR INSPIRATION. In the Washington Post, Chris Richards compares Kanye West’s current spate of spells and visions to those of Philip K. Dick and wonders if West experienced something comparable to Dick’s experience of “2-3-74” — “Philip K. Dick was a sci-fi prophet. Did he predict the unraveling of Kanye West?”

Kanye West saw his beams during a visit to the dentist.

“I’ve heard that there are colors that are too bright for our eyes to see,” the rap auteur said during a concert in Washington last summer, explaining how a few puffs of nitrous oxide had recently enabled him to catch a direct glimpse into heaven. The prismatic rays he described sounded as astonishing as your imagination would allow — and then you had an opportunity to feel them on your ears during “Ultralight Beam,” a song that captured all of the beauty and bewilderment of West’s epiphany in the dental chair. “This is a God dream,” the lyrics went. “This is everything.”

Philip K. Dick saw his beams a few days after seeing the dentist. But once they started, they didn’t let up for weeks….

(12) GAME OF THRONES CAKE UPSMANSHIP. A lot of people run photos on Reddit bragging about their Game of Thrones themed cakes. Click through and judge for yourself whose is the mightiest.

(13) TOAST OF TRANSYLVANIA. Dracula said, “I never drink…wine,” but maybe you do? Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon in a bottle with a cape – is that cute, or what?

Full-bodied with Blackberry and Dark Cherry aromas, with just the right amount of Oak flavors leading to a lingering finish. Classic, small-lot fermentations, followed by aging with Oak, gives full expression to the rich varietal flavors in this wine.

(14) MORE THINGS. Stranger Things Season 2 final trailer. IanP asks, “Is it just me or does Eleven look very Frodo’ish?”

[Thanks to Gary Farber, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, IanP, and Bence Pinter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH!]