Pixel Scroll 6/18/21 Pixels, Who File Pixels, Are The Soylenty-Est Pixels In The Scroll

(1) KOONTZ UPDATE. “Putting the Heart in the Work: Close-up on Dean Koontz” at Publishers Weekly asks how he keeps growing as an author. I’m always a bit fascinated to compare his ultimate success with his beginnings as a testy newcomer who wrote locs to Science Fiction Review.  

Would you say that your writing style continues to evolve?

When I was young, I thought that after a few years, I would learn all the tricks of the trade, after which writing novels would be easy. Instead, it gets harder—and more exciting—because there are infinite approaches and techniques to explore. In the past, I’ve had some publishers express bafflement as to why I had to change direction. However, repetition of past work is not art; it’s imitation and not in the least satisfying. You have to do new things and risk failure. My experience is that readers expect that and will reward it.

There’s a certain comfort for readers in returning to a world they already know. Is it ever a struggle to maintain your own investment in a particular story or with particular characters?

I don’t think I could ever write as many words about any other character as I wrote about Odd Thomas. I loved him. I knew he was on a journey to absolute humility—which would really test my powers of imagination—and he won my heart with every page. Five novels was right for Jane Hawk, and two seasons for Nameless. Readers who want more of any one thing need to be won over by a new world and new characters that they like as well or better. Otherwise, both they and the author are standing still emotionally and intellectually.

(2) CALL FOR FANWRITING. For the next issue of The Drink Tank, Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, and Chuck Serface want articles, artwork, and anything printable dedicated to Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  Chuck Serface says: “The novels, the PBS shows, the recent Netflix series — it’s all good.  Our due date is July 10, 2021, and we’ll have the issue out shortly thereafter.”  Send your offerings to Chuck at ceserface@gmail.com or to Christopher at johnnyeponymous@gmail.com.

(3) A PLEONASM OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Sam Woods gives us “James Joyce’s The Hobbit at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

There never was a Hobbit Hole quite like Bag End in all of Hobbiton a place that oftsaw the comings and goings of many of the Little Folk and Big Folk the bastards they are as time has onwardflown and kings and queens of the other lands of Middle Earth have died and been barrowburied since the dawn of Man upon these soils but even so there have been no bigger bastards to tromp up to Bilbo’s door (for I am the current resident of Bag End) than the Sackville Bagginses…

(4) BENEATH THE RISING TRILOGY. What is the Premee Mohamed calling the third book? The Edmonton Journal has the scoop: “Edmonton author announces final title of cosmic horror trilogy”.

Premee Mohamed didn’t intend to publish multiple books about the end of the world during a global pandemic — it just worked out that way.

Her debut novel, Beneath the Rising, has garnered major attention since its release in March of 2020. The book’s popularity led to a sequel, A Broken Darkness, released in March of this year, and The Void Ascendant, the trilogy’s final installment, was just announced for March 2022.

(5) UP THE MIGHTY AMAZON. The New York Times contends: “Buyers of Amazon Devices Are Guinea Pigs. That’s a Problem.”

…Many have learned a hard lesson about what it means to be an Amazon customer. Even when you’re paying lots of money, you are a guinea pig at the whims of a company endlessly striving to innovate. At any moment, the company could surprise you with an unwelcome change to an Amazon product you own or decide to kill it altogether.

Last week, many people who own Amazon devices were automatically enrolled in Sidewalk, a new internet-sharing program that drew intense scrutiny. Basically, the program lets owners of newer Amazon products share their internet connections with others nearby. If a neighbor’s Ring camera has a spotty internet connection and yours has a strong one, you can share your bandwidth with your neighbor.

That all sounds nice if everything works as expected, but security experts have raised concerns that device makers could have inappropriate access to people’s data. They advised that people opt out of the program to avoid becoming part of Amazon’s experiment because there are still many unknowns….

(6) JAWS JAZZ. Sarah Gailey is joined by Christine Sandquist and Martin Cahill to play with a writing prompt: “Building Beyond: Space Mouth-ain”:

NASA has discovered a massive open mouth floating just beyond the edge of our solar system. It’s just a mouth. And it’s open.

(7) GRADUATION DAY. A big day for Galactic Journey’s Marcus family:

Lorelei Marcus is graduating today. As school Valedictorian. And with department math honors.

I know, I know. “Of course she is.” But actually, we couldn’t be prouder of her super hard work that has made her accomplishment a seeming inevitability. Her perseverance, her willingness to help others, her dealing with disabilities that make computer-use difficult to impossible, have all just been stellar.

The other piece of news regards Journey Press, the publishing house the Marcus Family and Co. run. Yes, we managed to make it through 2020. In fact, we kind of flourished. In March 2020, we were in about 200 stores. Now we’re in 600 — in five countries and every state of the Union.

Lorelei Marcus displaying the wares from Journey Press.

(7A) KEEPING PACE. There will be “Hollywood Walk of Fame stars for Carrie Fisher, Michael B. Jordan, Jason Momoa” reports SYFY Wire.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a tourist hotspot in Los Angeles — a stretch of sidewalk that passes other iconic L.A. locations like the Chinese Theater, the El Capitan, Pantages, and a Toyota dealership.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decides who among the many applicants receive a star each year, and for 2022, there’s an impressive roster of genre actors who made the cut. The most notable star, however, goes to Carrie Fisher….

Fisher won’t be the only Star Wars actor getting a spot on the sidewalk next year. The Mandalorian’s Ming-Na Wen will also get a star, along with young Obi-wan himself, Ewan McGregor.

Other extended universes also got some love. MCU veterans Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Salma Hayek (Eternals) will also be honored, while the DCEU will be represented by Jason MomoaWatchmen’s Regina King and Jean Smart will also get their own stars, as well as Willem Dafoe (aka the Green Goblin from the 2002 Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film).

Continuing on the comic book front, two other notables receiving stars are The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Greg Berlanti, creator of The CW’s Arrowverse.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 18, 1983 — Thirty-eight years ago today, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, paving the way for sixty-four other female astronauts to do the same. While in orbit, Dr. Ride launched two commercial satellites, directed the use of robotic technology, and served as her ship’s mission specialist; as of 2022, she will be one of the few women featured on US coinage.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen. The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated The Hobbit. Of course, his major non-genre role was Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel.
  • Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies  through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as KippleParsection and Psi-Phi. In university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish  autobiography is  How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Mike has much to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 18, 1943 — Paul McCartney, 78. I could include him for the Magical Mystery Tour which might be genre. He actually has a cameo in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales as a character named Uncle Jack in a cell playing poker singing “Maggie May”. A shortened version of the song is on the Let It Be album. 
  • Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 74. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performance was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode. 
  • Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 72. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it. 
  • Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 63. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here.
  • Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 61. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view each one of them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THE RISING TIDE OF PIXAR. “Luca: Living La Dolce Vita” – a review at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

Luca doesn’t look or sound like any film Pixar has made before. It has a charm all its own and captures our imagination from the moment it begins. It’s the living definition of an immersive experience (pun intended). Who else would dare ask us to care about strange-looking sea monsters, and then repeatedly surprise us while spinning its coming-of-age tale?

The story begins underwater, where we meet an adolescent boy named Luca and his family. These fish have no idea that people regard them as sea monsters. Curiosity impels Luca to disobey his protective parents and see what life is like above the surface of the ocean. Director Enrico Casarosa and his team draw us into their lively story as Luca ventures onto dry land, where he is magically transformed into a human being…

(12) PRECEDENT. SYFY Wire traces film fan history — “’Superman II: The Donner Cut’ was the OG Snyder Cut”.

While the Snyder Cut had to wait four years to finally be realized, it took 25 years for Superman II: The Donner Cut to get the same treatment. In doing so, the Donner Cut was arguably the “OG” Snyder Cut; a trial run that — for better or worse — set a precedent for fan-led campaigns that set the stage of an (at best) aggressive breed of fandom to help Snyder’s take on Superman and the rest of the Justice League defy the Anti-Life equation that is Development Hell. In honor of Superman II’s 40th anniversary this week, here’s a look at how that film’s troubled production and pop-culture legacy paved the way for another Man of Steel to find a second chance. 

(13) BUILDING TRUST. “Sciencing Out: What it Means to Make Information Tangible” from NOVA.

In the second episode of Sciencing Out, host Reyhaneh Maktoufi introduces us to 18th century Englishwoman Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and modern-day wildlife conservationist Paula Kahumbu. By dedicating time to build public trust, both Montagu and Kahumbu made major positive changes in their communities.

In 1716, when smallpox was still ravaging the world, Montagu moved to Constantinople, where she noticed that smallpox was less widespread than in England. She discovered that Constantinoplans held “smallpox parties” where, in a process called “inoculation,” a person would place a dried smallpox scab from a patient with a mild case into the open wound of a healthy person. Montagu grew to trust the process enough that she had her own child inoculated.

Montagu returned to England and tried to advocate for inoculation, but struggled to gain trust. So she went to her friend Caroline, the Princess of Wales, and implored her to inoculate her own child against smallpox and inform the public of the result. Caroline agreed. Seeing royalty successfully inoculate their children against smallpox helped build the public’s trust in the practice, ultimately resulting in significantly fewer disease-related mortalities and setting the stage for modern-day vaccination….

(14) IN THE ‘BAG. “Horror Comedy Short Snore: Puppets, Gore, Mayhem”Gizmodo says this short video delivers a lot.

…Snore introduces us to a businesswoman named Karen who’s fallen on hard times—currently, she’s got nothing left except a stack of schemes for her comeback, and her personal assistant/sorta-boyfriend Callum. Together, they check into a fleabag motel for the night while she plots her next move, but there’s something already in their room that causes quite a ruckus….

The YouTube blurb says it all comes down to this question:

Who will survive and, most importantly, what will be left of Callum’s designer manbag?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from AT&T Corporate Television from 1979 shows the exciting future where everyone can have an electronic Yellow Pages in their home that gives access to business listings AND Dr. Joyce Brothers!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chuck Serface, Olav Rokne, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/20 You Scroll My Pixel Round Baby Right Round

(1) THE BOOKSELLER FROM UNCLE. Laurie Hertzel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has assembled readers’ “Fond memories of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s, and hope for the future”.

Elaine K. Murray, Minneapolis: It was my mother’s bookstore. All the years she worked at Sears across the street she could go there and get her beloved vintage mysteries at a price she could afford. After she retired I would drive her there and buy her books for a Christmas or birthday present.

She has been gone more than five years, but I could still go there, find books from some of her favorite authors, and feel like she was still near me.

Now that’s gone forever and I can’t seem to stop crying.

(2) WRITER INDEPENDENCE DAY. Cat Rambo is teaching two online courses on the Fourth of July. Registration and cost information at the links.

The next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

The question isn’t how to tell a good idea from a bad one; it’s how to learn to turn any idea into a story. Come with a story idea, no matter how vague. We’ll discuss multiple ways of plotting a story based on its unique inspiration, as well as engaging in class exercises designed to hone your plotting skills. Learn how to build a roadmap for your story that will help you complete it in a class that combines discussion, lecture, and in-class writing exercises.

Next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

Learn how to create interesting, rounded characters that your readers can identify with, whether hero or villain. We’ll cover how to write convincing interesting dialogue as well as how to flesh out a character so they come alive and help you move the story along. A combination of lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises will help you apply new technique immediately to your own stories.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is offering plenty more classes in the weeks to come. Here are two examples.

Saturday, July 11

Values are not universal across all cultures, and thus what a satisfying story looks like is not limited to one model either. This course examines East Asian storytelling forms and themes, including the four-act kish?tenketsu structure, which is not based on conflict, tension, and resolution. The course will use case studies from books, films, and other mediums, and in-class exercises and games to demonstrate that elements that we consider staples of European/Western storytelling, such as the Hero’s Journey story structure, the empowerment arc, and individual heroism, are not universal across all cultures. Students will complete the course with tools to analyze the European/Western forms and themes in the stories they have written as well as templates from East Asian storytelling to explore and apply to their work.

Sunday, July 12 

Are you a novelist with a fascinating world? Have you thought about turning your novel into an RPG? In this class, gaming industry veteran will walk you through the ins and outs of adapting your novel to fit a gaming world. This class is customized for authors who have published at least one original novel or novella. It is not designed for adaptations of someone else’s work.

(3) MURDOCH MYSTERIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] We are on the home stretch of, via Acorn.tv, watching the Murdoch Mysteries [1], and, sans spoilers, I thought I’d drop a brief note on one of the episodes we saw earlier this week, Season 13 Episode 11, “Staring Blindly into the Future”

In addition to the use of (then) new scientific techniques to solve crimes — fingerprinting, blood typing, ultraviolet to reveal bloodstains, surveillance cameras — and various legitimized/finessed tech, like a prototype hyperloop, a (larger) roomba, and more — another of the sf/fan-adjacent aspects of the show is the use of historical figures (e.g., Mark Twain, played by William Shatner).

This episode features a dozen — most of whom (all but 3, IIRC) have appeared on previous episodes throughout the season:

  • Nikola Tesla
  • Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (a fictional daughter of rocketry’s Konstantin T.)
  • Thomas Edison
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Emma Goldman
  • Albert Einstein (previous name-dropped but not shown)
  • Marie Curie
  • Ernest Rutherford
  • Henry Ford
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Harry Houdini
  • H.G. Wells

Fun stuff!

[1] From the CBC URL:  “Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama series that explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.”

(4) JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS BACK COVER. The Guardian reports a practice adopted by some newly reopened UK bookstores to minimize COVID-19 contamination  — “Flipping hell: book designers lament Waterstones’ back-to-front displays”.

It was understandable but slightly “heartbreaking”, designer Anna Morrison said of the news that Waterstones is asking shoppers to judge a book by its back cover.

The retailer has offered its apologies to book designers after some newly reopened branches began displaying books back to front so browsers could read the blurb without picking it up.

…People can pick up a book in Waterstones but if they do not buy, it is quarantined for 72 hours. A branch in Swansea was first to post on Twitter that they were turning books round where possible. 

(5) SOME AMENDS. John Scalzi reacted to news about the misconduct of several sff writers he knows (named in the piece): “When Friends Fuck Up, and So Do I”.

… I have some friends who have fucked up in how they’ve been treating women.

… I’m angry at my friends right now. I’m sad for my friends right now. I’m even more angry about and sad for the women who they have made feel unsafe, and who they have harassed, or groomed, or otherwise harmed, because it is unacceptable. I want to be a friend to my friends and I also want to chuck them off the side of the fucking boat and be done with them. I want to think there’s a way back for some of them, for the same reason there was a way back for me when I’ve fucked up before. That’s on them, and right now I don’t know how much, if any, of my personal time and credibility I want to put into helping them. I’m frustrated and I’m tired that we keep having to do this, and I’m ashamed that some of the reason we keep having to do this rests on me. I understand and accept why I need to write this piece and I also fucking resent having to, and that resentment rests solely on my friends, and me….

(6) GAMING FIGURES ACCUSED. The New York Times covered last weekend’s outpouring: “Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment”. Tagline: “After more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter this weekend, gaming companies and streamers responded with action. Some say it’s the beginning of real change in the industry.”

More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.

The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.

Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.

Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage. The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)

In interviews with The Times, when asked to describe their experiences with Lono, the streamers asked a reporter to refer to their public statements on Twitter, TwitLonger and Twitch.

Lono responded to their Twitter accusations in a YouTube video posted on Saturday. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it. The things I did were unacceptable,” he said in the video. “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.” (He declined to speak to a reporter from The Times on Monday, and would not share his last name.)

(7) BRAVE NEW SHOW. “You are an essential part of a perfect social body.” Brave New World  begins streaming July 15 on Peacock. Let SYFY Wire set the frame: “It’s A ‘Brave New World’ In First Full Trailer For Peacock’s Sci-Fi Dystopia Series”.

…Based on the highly-conditioned, controlled, and warped population in Huxley’s 1932 novel, this society is a tragic one in need of resistance. So why not John? And, as the new posters for the series declare, “everybody happy now.” The grammar might be a little strange but the sentiment is clear: this dystopia thinks emotional problems have been solved thanks to some handy pharmaceuticals.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 – George Orwell. His other work is admirable but he compels our attention with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Naturally people on both the Left and the Right have claimed them and attacked them.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Thai.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1935 – Charles Sheffield.  Physicist and SF author. “Georgia on My Mind” won both the Hugo and the Nebula.  Thirty novels, a hundred shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Croatian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish.  Toastmaster at BucConeer the 56th Worldcon.  Pro Guest of Honor at Lunacon 44 the year I was Fan Guest of Honor.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1944 – Rick Gellman, age 76.  Art Shows and Dealers’ Rooms at various conventions.  Helped start a Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund for sending writers to Clarion.  Founded the Minnesota Munchie Movement.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1958 – Pat Sayre McCoy, age 62.  She chaired WindyCon 33 and 34; ran the Green Room at Chicon 2000, the 58th Worldcon; contributed an essay to the wrestling with “SF conventions and Gender Equity” in Journey Planet 13, as did Our Gracious Host. [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1963 – Yann Martel, age 57.  Famous for The Life of Pi, second of three SF novels (besides writing Beatrice and Virgil, which is not about those two historical persons, nor a book-length treatment of The Divine Comedy, but – well, read it for yourself).  A theatrical adaptation of Pi with puppets (no, not hand puppets) was a great success and was scheduled to open in London this month, naturally postponed.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1980 – Amanda Arista, age 40.  Third novel about Merci Lenard, who always gets her story but doesn’t always get the truth she wants, just released in January.  Three novels about an urban panther.  AA herself likes bowling, croquet, and the SMU (Southern Methodist University) Creative Writing Program in which she once studied and now teaches.  [JH]

(9) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,” a story about big data, emerging life forms, and a plea for coexistence by Regina Kanyu Wang.

 It was a public hearing held online. Billions of people crowded into the meeting room, in suits, in pajamas, on treadmills, on sofas, in groups in front of large screens suspended above busy streets, alone at home with VR headsets on. The host called for silence and their words were translated into myriad languages, in both sound and text. The audience held its collective breath and waited for the special guest to show. A face appeared, vague in detail, like billions of faces merged into one. The face began to talk, in an equally vague voice, in thousands of languages at the same time, alien but also familiar to everyone…

On Monday, June 29 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Regina in conversation with Athena Aktipis, a psychology researcher who studies cooperation across systems, from human sharing to cancer. Registration required.

(10) TONI WEISSKOPF Q&A. Author Robert E. Hampson interviewed Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf for his Wake Forest University class.

(11) BOUNTY PAID. “Rare ‘Star Wars’ Toys Attract Big Money At Auction”Forbes reported some high sales figures in March – but also that one rare item failed to attract its minimum bid.

One of the most sought after Star Wars collectibles has sold for $93,750 at auction.

Bidding on the Rocket-Firing Boba Fett started at $30,000 but had already exceeded the $60,000 lower estimate before the auction began thanks to several absentee bids. The final sale price includes the buyer’s premium.

The unpainted promotional item, made of blue plastic, is a prototype that utilized an L-Slot design named after the shape of the backpack mechanism to allow the rocket to fire. It was created by toymaker Kenner to promote the second film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It is one of the few prototypes known to exist. The launcher design was amended to a J-Slot mechanism and eventually replaced by a non-firing version. None of the firing toys were ever made available to the general public.

This item is the latest to be available on the market. A similar item sold at auction through Hakes in July 2019 for $112,926. Another, one that had been painted and had a J-Slot design in the backpack, sold for $185,850 in November 2019. Both prices include the buyer’s premium.

(12) LUNAR LOO. “NASA and HeroX Launch Lunar Loo Challenge to Find Way for Astronauts to Poop on the Moon”. So, will this be an outhouse with a crescent Earth on the door?

HeroX, the social network for innovation and the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Lunar Loo” on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program. NASA is preparing to return to the Moon by 2024 and needs to develop a new way for astronauts to urinate and defecate in microgravity and lunar gravity. The crowdsourcing challenge calls on the global community of innovators to provide innovative design concepts for fully capable, low mass toilets that can be used both in space and on the moon.

Competitive toilet designs will align with NASA’s overall goals of reduced mass and volume, lower power consumption, and easy maintenance. Selected designs may be modified for integration into Artemis lunar landers. This effort is all part of NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.

HeroX says this is the payoff:

This Lunar Toilet Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category.  The top three participants in the Junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.

(13) ABOUT THE WEATHER. I’ll bet they were.

(14) FROM HIDDEN FIGURE TO MARQUEE NAME. BBC reports “Nasa to name HQ after first black female engineer”.

Nasa is to name its headquarters in Washington DC after its first black female engineer, Mary Jackson.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology.

The story of Mary Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005.

Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.

“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognise the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa’s successful history of exploration possible,” Mr Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Mary W Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped Nasa succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” Mr Bridenstine added.

“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

(15) LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM OF THE FALLING RAIN. “The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell”.

Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery… until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.

Transcript here

(16) FORK OVER. Snippet good! “Google to pay for ‘high quality’ news in three countries”.

Google says it will pay some news outlets for “high-quality” stories that it uses amid pressure from publishers.

Part of the initiative will require Google to pay for its users to access news stories otherwise locked behind a so-called paywall on certain websites.

The first sites to join are in Australia, Brazil, and Germany, with a product launch set for later this year.

It comes as authorities in some countries investigate how tech firms use news content without paying for it.

Australia has put forward plans to force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers under competition rules.

France has already issued Google with an order to do so.

It is the latest development in a long-standing row with news publishers over whether tech giants should pay them to include “snippets” of news articles in search results or on social media.

(17) YOUTH’S A STUFF WILL NOT ENDURE. “Parties — Not Protests — Are Causing Spikes In Coronavirus”, according to NPR.

As the U.S. begins to open back up, coronavirus clusters — where multiple people contract COVID-19 at the same event or location — are popping up all over the country. And despite drawing massive crowds, protests against police violence and racial injustice in Washington state weren’t among those clusters.

“We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we’re finding is in large part that’s due to the use of masks,” Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it’s really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease.”

For the clusters that have popped up, Lautenbach says the state has been using contact tracing to learn more about how they’re contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.

“So that one event spread to 29 people and 31 related employers,” Lautenbach says. “Our challenge is to continue to trace as it moves through families, as it moves through workplaces and as it moves through social events as well.”

But protests just aren’t spreading the disease in the same way, Lautenbach says.

“We’re finding that the social events and gatherings, these parties where people aren’t wearing masks, are our primary source of infection,” Lautenbach says. “And then the secondary source of infection is workplace settings. There were 31 related employers just associated with that one party because of the number of people that brought that to their workplace. So for us, for a community our size, that’s a pretty massive spread.”

And much of that spread, Lautenbach says, is affecting young people.

“We have seen almost a near flip in the cases that we’re experiencing,” Lautenbach says. “So in April of this year, we were really struggling with long-term-care outbreaks. And so about 3 out of 4 people were over the age of 30 and really pretty heavily skewed to 60-plus. And by contrast, in June, we’re seeing that now 2 out of 3 people that have contracted this disease are under 29.”

(18) SPLICING EDGE. NPR reports,“A Year In, 1st Patient To Get Gene Editing For Sickle Cell Disease Is Thriving”.

Like millions of other Americans, Victoria Gray has been sheltering at home with her children as the U.S. struggles through a deadly pandemic, and as protests over police violence have erupted across the country.

But Gray is not like any other American. She’s the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

And as the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has just received good news: The billions of genetically modified cells doctors infused into her body clearly appear to be alleviating virtually all the complications of her disorder, sickle cell disease.

(19) DON’T LESNERIZE. Dean Koontz, in the course of telling fans his new book Devoted is available, filled them in about his experience dining out in newly-reopened California.

Wow, after months of having to eat at home every night, we here in Koontzland were excited when our favorite restaurants began to do business again this past week. We went with Ms. Elsa on opening day. The patio tables were ten or twelve feet apart, the waiters wore masks and gloves, the busboys wore full-face plastic shields, and the mood-music guitarist kept alternating between “Eve of Destruction” and “Saint James Infirmary.” It was sooooo romantic!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/19/20 Hey, Mister! You Missed A Pixel!

(1) FAN HISTORY PROJECT SPOTLIGHT. File 770 is late to pass on the great news, but last October Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari told everyone on his list “that we have received a request from the Library of Congress to archive our site.”

…From the letter: “The Library of Congress preserves important cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them…The Library will make this collection available to researchers at Library facilities and by special arrangement.” They may later make it publicly available as well. We’ve all seen the loss of many websites that showcase the hard work and outstanding accomplishments of fans and historians in our field. This archiving request from the Library of Congress will ensure that the work we’ve been doing with your help will be available, even after the current class of fan historians has bit the dust. Color us ecstatic. We’ll let you know when the process has completed.

The Library of Congress gives an overview of its web archiving program here.

The Library of Congress Web Archive manages, preserves, and provides access to archived web content selected by subject experts from across the Library, so that it will be available for researchers today and in the future. Websites are ephemeral and often considered at-risk born-digital content. New websites form constantly, URLs change, content changes, and websites sometimes disappear entirely. Websites document current events, organizations, public reactions, government information, and cultural and scholarly information on a wide variety of topics. Materials that used to appear in print are increasingly published online.

(2) COMPLETING THE SET. The 2020 Kurd Laßwitz Preis  (German SF Award) winners now have all been named following this late selection:

Best German language audio drama first broadcast in 2019

  • Unser Leben in den Wäldern by Marie Darrieussecq and Gerrit Booms, WDR

(3) D&D GETTING ANOTHER LOOK. From io9: “Dungeons & Dragons Team Announces New Plans to Address Race and Inclusivity in the Game”.

….in a new blog post on the official D&D website the development studio detailed what it has been doing to tackle the game’s own history of racist stereotyping, and what will be done going forward to ensure the game tastefully represents its fantasy world.

“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,” the new statement reads in part. “That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.”

Going forward, D&D will be making those things right with a six-point plan. Outside of the game itself, these include the use of sensitivity readers on upcoming and current Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks as part of the creative process, and a commitment to “proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists,” a move already made for products set to release in the next year, but a policy being maintained going forward.

…From an editorial standpoint, the D&D team will also go back through material as it is being prepared for reprints, and update them to modify and remove any racially insensitive material. The adventures Tomb of Annihilation and The Curse of Strahd were cited as particular examples, with Curse of Strahd being called out specifically for its use of Romani sterotypes in the background of the Vistani, a nomadic group of travelers that primarily resided in Barovia before the death of Count Strahd von Zarovich. In the editorial process for Strahd’s reprint, as well as two upcoming products, Wizards worked with a Romani consultant to present the Vistani without using reductive tropes.

But some of the points delve into the game itself—for example, the aforementioned ongoing exploration and re-examination of Drow and Orcish cultures in the game’s fiction, beings that were long described as beastly and villainous by nature while also being approximations of non-white cultures….

(4) FATE OF LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly warns “Changes Loom as Public Libraries Begin to Reopen”.

…But whenever that happens, the public libraries that will emerge from this historic pause will be changed from the ones that closed their doors in March, librarians tell PW, both in the short term, and into the future.

The most pressing issue facing libraries, of course, is how to reopen safely, for both library staff and the public. For most libraries, that means services like curbside pickup or limits on patron visits to start. It means ensuring library workers have appropriate personal protective equipment, and reconfiguring the library space: less furniture, distance between computer stations, more hand sanitizer stations, spit guards, and plexiglass dividers. It means contactless checkout, new cleaning procedures, and 72-hour materials quarantines.

It also means enormous pressure on library staff, including new rules to enforce, such as physical distancing and wearing masks. None of it will be easy. And all of it will be done under the threat of job cuts, a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, immense budget pressure, and worsening political dysfunction….

(5) NO SMOKING. During last autumn’s round of California wildfires, a Washington Post writer accompanied a salesman for treating houses with fire retardant on a visit to Dean Koontz’ estate. “California will never stop burning”.

…Thirty miles southwest of the 46 Fire, Dean Koontz, the mega­selling novelist, was standing outside his enormous new home the morning after Halloween.

“We had friends who wouldn’t move to California because of earthquakes.”

Like other Californians, he has stood on a roof with a garden hose and a stance of defiance.

“They moved to the Gulf Coast and got hit by a hurricane.”

It costs a fortune to insure some homes in California. This is why Koontz invited Moseley and his team for a consultation about a defensive sprinkler system and his SPF3000 spray. Local authorities have challenged the effectiveness and safety of the product, but Moseley has testimonials from grateful clients and documentation of test results.

He also has his on-the-go demonstration. On Koontz’s front stoop, Moseley blowtorches one end of a piece of wood. It ignites, burns, starts to disintegrate. Then he torches the other side, which has been treated with SPF3000. It blackens but does not ignite. Then Moseley scrapes the charred veneer with a car key to reveal intact wood underneath….

“Impressive,” Koontz says. His Tuscan-style villa is in a gated community near Irvine. This is a place of Bentleys and catering trucks, and an air of invincibility. Koontz knows that nothing is invincible. If he were younger, maybe he’d move to a place that wasn’t quaking and conflagrating so much. Arizona, perhaps. But he loves it here.

“None of us live forever,” he says. “And you have to weigh the quality of life with the risk.”

(6) ZAFÓN OBIT. “Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind, dies aged 55”The Guardian marked the passing of this best-selling Spanish-language author.

….Born in Barcelona, Ruiz Zafón worked in advertising before he made his debut as an author in 1993 with young adult novel The Prince of Mist. In 2001, he published The Shadow of the Wind, which followed a boy called Daniel who is taken to the Cemetery of Lost Books in Barcelona and becomes fascinated by the author Julian Carax and the shadowy figure trying to eradicate every last copy of Carax’s books. The novel was translated into English by Lucia Graves in 2004, and became an international hit. “If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind,” said Stephen King in a review. “Shadow is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendour and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots.”

Ruiz Zafón, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, and divided his time between Spain and the US, has said that while he had written “pretty successful” young adult novels for 10 years, with The Shadow of the Wind he “wanted to create something very special”.

“So what I did was take what for me is very important, which is take all the great ambition in all those 19th-century novels, but try to reconstruct those big novels – the Tolstoy, the Dickens, the Wilkie Collins – but try to reconstruct all of that with all the narrative elements that the 20th century has given us, from the grammar of cinema, from multimedia, from general fiction, from everything that is out there, to create a much more intense reading experience for the readers,” he said.

He followed the bestseller up with three more novels in the series, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrinth of Spirits. Completing the tetralogy, he told Spanish press in 2016 that he had “the feeling of the job done”….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone finale aired. 

“A swimming pool not unlike any other pool, a structure built of tile and cement and money, a backyard toy for the affluent.” — Rod Serling in his opening narration to this episode.

The Twilight Zone series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool” was the thirty-sixth episode of the fifth and final season. Earl Hamner, Jr., got the idea for this episode while living in the San Fernando Valley region and witnessing an alarming divorce rate and the effect it had on children. The episode was one of the first shows on television to really address the problem of divorce and bad parenting, and in part it represents wish fulfillment for children in such situations.  It was directed by Joseph M. Newman from the script by Earl Hamner, Jr. 

It had an unusually large cast: Mary Badham as Sport Sharewood, June Foray as Sport Sharewood (voice, outdoor scenes), Kim Hector as Witt,  Dee Hartford as Gloria Sharewood, Jeffrey Byron as Jeb Sharewood, Georgia Simmons as Aunt T and Tod Andrews as Gil Sharewood. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 19, 1824 – Henri Hildibrand.  Wood engraver for Hetzel, who did so much good and bad for Verne; those editions were lavishly illustrated, anyhow.  This cover for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a composite of a Peter Gimbel photo and a de Neuville print Hildibrand engraved.  Here is Aronnax studying the giant squid.  Here is the underwater destroyed town (note de Neuville’s signature at lower left).  (Died 1897) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1872 – Sutton Griggs.  Son of a slave; Baptist minister; active in the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People; published and distributed his own books and pamphlets, thirty of them. Imperium in Imperio has a black nation hidden in Texas, outsold many contemporaries to whom he was invisible.  (Died 1933) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1881 – Maginel Enright.  Younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright (Maginel a contraction of Margaret Ellen).  Illustrated Frank Baum’s Twinkle TalesPoliceman BluejayJuvenile Speaker; five dozen by others.  See here and here and here.  Memoir, The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1915 – Julius Schwartz.  Co-published pioneer fanzine The Time Traveller. Helped organize NyCon I the first Worldcon.  Co-founded Solar Sales Service, representing Bester, Bloch, Bradbury.  In reviving or re-creating the Flash, Green Lantern, and like that, instrumental in opening Silver Age of Comics.  Edited BatmanSuperman, fifteen years each; dozens more.  Memoir Man of Two Worlds subtitled “my life in science fiction and comics”; also he was active as fan and pro; also “Man of Two Worlds” was his creation Adam Strange – in whose stories Alanna’s father Sardath looked like him. Inkpot, Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba.A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 73. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1949 – Marilyn Kaye.  Taught twenty years at St. John’s University (New York), now lives in Paris.  A hundred children’s and young-adult books, four dozen ours.  In her Replica series, teenage Amy’s discovering she is a clone, genetically modified for superhuman abilities, is only the beginning.  In her Gifted series, each in a small middle-school class has a superhuman ability; an outside group seeks to manipulate them and their abilities for profit; the students dislike their abilities and one another.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 67. Best-remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 63. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. (CE)
  • June 19, 1963 – Aleksandar Žiljak.  A dozen short stories; some covers and interiors, see here (his collection Blind Birds).  Co-edited Ad Astra anthology of Croatian SF 1976-2006; co-edits literary SF journal Ubiq.  Six SFera Awards: three for Best Story, two for Best Illustration, one (shared) for Ad Astra.  The Wayback Machine has this interview.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 42, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the new Trek series, and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film though I’m less impressed with the second film by far. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE GREATEST. “Panel Mania: Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli”Publishers Weekly has an 11-page excerpt. The book will be released in July.

There’s a reason why Jack Kirby, co-creator of such iconic comics characters as the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Captain America, is called the “King of Comics.” Considered one of the great innovators in the history of American comics, Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is arguably the greatest superhero comic book artist of all time. 

In the new graphic biography, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, comics artist and biographer Tom Scioli pays tribute to Kirby in a vividly illustrated and comprehensively researched examination of Kirby’s life and career from his rough and tumble childhood growing up on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 20th century to his military service in WWII to the transformative comics he created for Marvel and later for DC Comics…. 

(11) SACKY HACK. This is real thinking outside the box.

(12) MARCH OF TIME. At the LA Review of Books, Aleida Rodriguez’s autobiographical essay “Time Machine”, in addition to Wells and Borges, even mentions Clyde Crashcup from the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.

WHEN I LANDED in the US as a child of nine, I felt I had not only traveled in space but also in time. Though it was 1962, behind me lay a 19th-century world of oil lamps, muddy rutted roads, and horse-drawn carts, while before me flickered a vision so sleek and modern there were no shadows and bright-green lawns sprouted cones of mist.

Time traveler became my invisible identity. Secretly, I searched for mentors in movies like The Time Machine (1960), envying Rod Taylor his ability to go back and forth, to witness and control the passage of time. Propelled and buoyed by a utopian vision of the future, he set off, watching the rising hemline on a mannequin in a shop window, then the shop itself disintegrating to dust in an instant, the surrounding buildings crumbling and disappearing, replaced by insect-like cranes scampering on skyscrapers. His present had succumbed to shattered shards. But by moving a crystal-topped lever sharpened to a point like a pen, he could also reverse direction and return to his intact and cloistered world of waistcoats.

I yearned for that, a trip back — not to Bountiful but to a prelapsarian time, before the rupture in my family caused by the Cuban revolution….

(13) X FACTOR. BBC has a picture of a “Breathtaking new map of the X-ray Universe”.

Behold the hot, energetic Universe.

A German-Russian space telescope has just acquired a breakthrough map of the sky that traces the heavens in X-rays.

The image records a lot of the violent action in the cosmos – instances where matter is being accelerated, heated and shredded.

Feasting black holes, exploding stars, and searingly hot gas.

The data comes from the eRosita instrument mounted on Spektr-RG.

This orbiting telescope was launched in July last year and despatched to an observing position some 1.5 million km from Earth. Once commissioned and declared fully operational in December, it was left to slowly rotate and scan the depths of space.

eRosita’s first all-sky data-set, represented in the image at the top of this page, was completed only last week. It records over a million sources of X-rays.

“That’s actually pretty much the same number as had been detected in the whole history of X-ray astronomy going back 60 years. We’ve basically doubled the known sources in just six months,” said Kirpal Nandra, who heads the high-energy astrophysics group at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany.

(14) QUARANTINE CAT FILM FESTIVAL. This looks promising!

The most purr-fect, a-meow-zing, and totally fur-tastic cat videos anyone has ever seen!

[Thanks to Darrah Chavey, Frank Olynyk, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.

(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.

(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

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