Pixel Scroll 1/18/20 The Previous Title Appears to Be Accurate

(1) THE FOREVER FRANCHISE. Dave Itzkoff wonders “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?” in New York Times Magazine.

Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.

Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.

These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.

“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”

…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”

(2) OPENING THE DOOR TO BOOK BANNING. PEN America protests that “Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians”.

 … The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.

“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the January 15 KGB readings where Richard Kadrey read from his new novel The Grand Dark and Cassandra Khaw read from her forthcoming novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey 1
Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey

(4) PANTSER. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Simon Jimenez” begins with a confession:

I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.

(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY. On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.

(6) COP ON THE CORNER. “Nine years later, Detroit’s RoboCop statue is finally ready for installation”Curbed Detroit has the story.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign. A mere nine years later, the RoboCop statue is nearly done.

The campaign, launched by the community arts nonprofit Imagination Station in March 2011, received $67,436 in donations.

In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.

The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.

(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little” a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.

She’s also posted a roundup of links to other reviews of eligible 1944 works, including several reviews by Steve J. Wright:  “Retro Review Links for January 15, 2020”.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 18, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
  • January 18, 1959 Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. 
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUGGLING THE BOOKS. “Majipoor – Les Objets Volants” took inspiration from a Robert Silverberg novel to create this stage act.

Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.

The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.

(12) WATER LOSS ON MARS GREATER THAN THOUGHT. Science reports that water is easily transported high into the atmosphere during storms and lost. This takes place even during the dusty season. “Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season”.

Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.

(13) VERY OLD BIRDS OF A FEATHER. SYFY Wire also reports on the distant past: “This new dinosaur just called it: even feathered dinos were nothing like birds”.

Some dinosaurs looked like birds. Some prehistoric birds looked like dinosaurs, and some birds that are still around echo dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean feathers and wings always make a bird—or a dinosaur.

Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….

(14) TIS MANY A SLIP. Popsugar thinks “Disney’s New Space Mountain Mug Is Light Years Ahead of Everything Else in My Kitchen Cabinet”.

Official blog Oh My Disney recently announced the upcoming arrival of Space Mountain mugs at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in honor of the high-speed roller coaster’s 45th anniversary.

(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/19 Why The Pixel Shudders When It Perceives The Scroll

(1) MCINTYRE BEQUEST. Clarion West announced in August that they are the recipient of the literary assets of Vonda N. McIntyre, who wished that the organization manage her literary copyrights in perpetuity. Locus Online in an article today reported —  

She also left a bequest of $387,129 to the program, the largest single financial gift in the organization’s history: “The bequest will bolster the Clarion West endowment, strengthening our mission and ensuring our financial stability for years. Vonda’s extraordinary generosity will allow Clarion West to continue to support emerging writers for generations to come.” Janna Silverstein has joined as literary contract manager, and will advise Clarion West on how to manage “all copyright materials.”

(2) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. In the Washington Post, Heather Kelly looks at dedicated e-book patrons who sign up with multiple library systems (including out of state ones) because e-book sales to libraries are rationed and signing up for multiple libraries is the only way to quickly check out popular e-book titles: “E-books at libraries are a huge hit, leading to long waits, reader hacks and worried publishers”.

…And while there are technically an infinite number of copies of digital files, e-books also work differently. When a library wants to buy a physical book, it pays the list price of about $12 to $14, or less if buying in bulk, plus for services like maintenance. An e-book, however, tends to be far more expensive because it’s licensed from a publisher instead of purchased outright, and the higher price typically only covers a set number of years or reads.

That means Prince’s recently released memoir “The Beautiful Ones” recently had a four-week wait for the e-book in San Francisco. Library-goers in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County were waiting 13 weeks to download Jia Tolentino’s book of essays, “Trick Mirror.”

Library e-book waits, now often longer than for hard copies, have prompted some to take their memberships to a new extreme, collecting library cards or card numbers to enable them to find the rarest or most popular books, with the shortest wait.

(3) CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIP CREATED. With a gift of $1,000, Blue Corn Creations, a publishing firm undertaking a variety of Native American-themed projects, has launched a scholarship for writers of Native American descent at the Clarion West Writers Workshop: “Blue Corn Creations Sponsors Scholarship for Native American Writers”

 “We’re excited about developing the next generation of Native superhero, science fiction, and action/adventure stories,” said Rob Schmidt, owner of Blue Corn Creations. “To do that, we also need to develop the next generation of Native writers. This scholarship will help accomplish that.”

Clarion West has helped emerging writers reach for their dreams of professional careers in speculative fiction since 1971. Every summer, aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers attend the Clarion West Writers Workshop, a six-week intensive whose instructors include the best and brightest in the genre. Attendees benefit from the opportunity to hone their craft with the guidance of successful writers.

“Historically the field has reflected the same prejudices found in the culture around it, leading to proportionately fewer successful writers of color,” according to Clarion West’s vision statement. That’s why the Blue Corn Creations scholarship is a great fit with Clarion West’s mission, said Schmidt. “With it the workshop can serve another group with untapped potential: Native Americans.”

The Blue Corn Creations Scholarship for students of Native descent will help cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student in 2020. The winner will be awarded in a blind judging to those indicating an interest on the application form. 

…Blue Corn Creations and Clarion West encourage others to contribute to the scholarship fund. The goal is to establish a permanent full scholarship for students of Native American descent.

(4) BAIZE WHITE MOURNED. Mark Oshiro is going on immediate hiatus while he deals with the sudden death of his partner Baize White.

The pair figured in an important story about Code of Conduct enforcement in 2016 when they surfaced issues of mistreatment at a midwestern con: “Mark Oshiro Says ConQuesT Didn’t Act On His Harassment Complaints”.

(5) SPINNEY OBIT. Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney died December 8 reports the New York Times:

Sometimes he stood 8 feet 2 inches tall. Sometimes he lived in a garbage can. He often cited numbers and letters of the alphabet, and for nearly a half century on “Sesame Street” he was Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, opening magic doors for children on the secrets of growing up and the gentle arts of friendship.

His name was Caroll Spinney — not that many people would know it — and he was the comfortably anonymous whole-body puppeteer who, since the 1969 inception of the public television show that has nurtured untold millions of children, had portrayed the sweet-natured, canary-yellow giant bird and the misanthropic, furry-green bellyacher in the trash can outside 123 Sesame Street.

…Big Bird appeared in “The Muppet Movie” (1979) and “The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984), and in 1985 starred in “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird,” in which a meddlesome social worker sends him to live with “his own kind,” a family of dodos in “darkest Illinois.” He runs away, and has a cross-country adventure.

…With the impending 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street” in October 2018, Mr. Spinney left the show after his own remarkable half-century run as the embodiment of two of the most beloved characters on television and one of the last surviving staff members who had been with the show from its beginning.

(6) AUBERJONOIS OBIT. René Auberjonois, known to fans as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s shapeshifting Odo, died December 8. Variety noted his famous roles in and out of genre: “René Auberjonois, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Boston Legal’ Actor, Dies at 79”.

Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of “Boston Legal” and as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in ABC’s long-running sitcom “Benson” — a role that earned him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1984. He played shape-shifter Changeling Odo in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and carried that role into video games, voicing Odo in “Harbinger” and “The Fallen.” His appearance as Judge Mantz in ABC’s “The Practice” earned him another Emmy nod for guest actor in a drama in 2001.

… Other film credits include Roy Bagley in 1976’s “King Kong” and Reverend Oliver in “The Patriot,” as well as parts in “Batman Forever,” “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “Walker.”

…Auberjonois was also known for his voice roles, particularly in 1989’s Disney Renaissance hit “The Little Mermaid,” in which he voices Chef Louis and sang the memorable “Les Poissons.” Fans of “The Princess Diaries” would recognize him as the voice of Mia Thermopolis’ father, Prince Philippe Renaldi, in an uncredited role.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 8, 1954 The Atomic Kid premiered.  It was produced by Maurice Duke and Mickey Rooney, and directed by Leslie H. Martinson. It stars Mickey Rooney, Elaine Devry and Robert Strauss. This is the film showing in 1955 at the Town Theater in Back to the Future

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of.  (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1916 Richard Fleischer. Starting in the early Fifties, he’s got he an impressive string of genre films as a Director — 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Fantastic Voyage (which came in second to Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” at NyCon 3 in that Hugo category), Doctor DoolittleSoylent Green (placed third in Hugo voting), Conan The Destroyer and Red Sonja during the thirty year run of his career. (Died 2006.)
  • Born December 8, 1939 Jennie Linden, 80. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. 
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 69. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything, but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the  Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version.
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 68. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. 
  • Born December 8, 1953 Kim Basinger, 66. She was the of Bond girl Domino Petachi in Never Say Never Again. After that, it’s Vicki Vale in Burton’s Batman as far as we’re tracking her. (We’re pretending My Stepmother Is an Alien never happened.) Ahhhh, Holli Would In Cool World… there’s an odd film.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur has Alexa working on helping you to become a better writer.

(10) 124C2020. Nicholas Whyte is able to tell us all about the coming year because he’s been reading its history for years: “Life in 2020, as portrayed in science fiction”. Here’s what one author has in store for us:

In 1907, the gloriously named Horace Newte published The master beast : being a true account of the ruthless tyranny inflicted on the British people by socialism A. D. 1888-2020, republished in 1919 as The Red Fury: Britain Under Bolshevism. Unlike the other two, Bellamy isn’t mentioned explicitly but it’s clearly a response all the same. Newte’s hero is dismayed to see socialists come to power in Britain at the start of the twentieth century, followed of course by a successful German invasion. He then sleeps from 1911 to 2020, and awakes to find a morally degenerate country where women behave with dreadful freedom. But England is then invaded again, this time by African and Chinese forces, and he escapes to France. It’s online here.

(11) A SEASON FOR GIVING. Nerds of a Feather helps fans with their holiday shopping in a series of posts about gift suggestions, such as — “Holiday Gift Guide: Games (All Kinds!)”. Adri Joy’s enthusiasm about the Goose Game is contagious.

Untitled Goose Game (Recommended by Adri)

It will come as a surprise to nobody that Untitled Goose Game is my pick for a video game gift this year. This year’s most memeable game, from indie developer House House, combines elaborate stealth-based mechanics with the aesthetics of a rural English village, and puts you in the shoes (well, the webbed feet) of a horrible goose completing a number of tasks to mess with a series of villagers. Featuring four main areas for mischief which open up into an increasingly elaborate world, its a game whose puzzles are satisfying and unrepentantly sadistic, with a great flow through the “level-based” tasks and into more elaborate post-game tests. There’s also plenty of fun to be have in tasks which serve no in-game purpose apart from the pure-hearted joy of being a goose, and while this isn’t quite Breath of the Wild levels of “exploring the world because its there” content, it’s still a diversion that can be returned to even once your goose to-do is all crossed off.

(12) BREAKING IN. The Odyssey Writing Workshop posted an interview with Guest Lecturer JG Faherty.

Once you started writing seriously, how long did it take you to sell your first piece? What were you doing wrong in your writing in those early days?

I started writing fiction in 2004, but prior to that I had been writing non-fiction for a long time. Laboratory manuals and procedures, business documents, etc. Then I got a part-time gig writing elementary school test preparation guides for The Princeton Review. That required writing fictional reading passages. I found I liked it, and here’s where real serendipity enters the equation. Makes you wonder if Fate really exists. I wanted to write horror and sci-fi, so I attended a convention (LunaCon) in New York, where I met Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos. We talked, and she said I should submit something to an anthology she was working on. I had two days before the deadline. I went home and wrote like a fiend. Finished my first-ever short story and sent it to her, unedited, unproofed.

It got rejected, of course.

But she sent it back with a note saying I almost made it in, I had real talent, and I should keep writing. So I did. And a year later I made my first professional sale, a short story. The year after that, it was two pieces of flash fiction and some poems. Then another couple of short stories. I went on like that for five years, all while also working on my first novel, which was published in 2010.

In those days, I’d have to say I was doing EVERYTHING wrong! I didn’t know about using editors or beta readers. I thought you just proofed your work and the publishers edited it. I didn’t know about first or third drafts. I didn’t know how to write a cover letter. I didn’t know anyone in the business except Jeanne. Over time, I attended more conventions. Met people. Joined the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Took some classes. Learned how to edit properly.

And gradually, the quality of my work improved.

(13) BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. In “The Hugo Initiative: They’d Rather Be Right (1955, Best Novel)”, after mustering all the possible explanations for the book’s unlikely victory, Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry drops this bomb:

Is They’d Rather Be Right the worst Hugo Award winning novel of all time? I’m in the minority of readers who hated The Three-Body Problem, so that will always be in contention for my personal Worst Hugo Winner of All Time category.

(14) BONES. The New York Review of Books’ Verlyn Klinkenborg dismisses their own question “What Were Dinosaurs For?” while covering a selection of dino books.

…As I was reading some recent books on dinosaurs, I kept wondering, “What were dinosaurs for?” It’s a ridiculous question, and I wondered why I was wondering it. After all, dinosaurs were “for” exactly what we are “for,” what every organism has been “for” since life began. Every species that has ever lived is a successful experiment in the enterprise of living, and every species is closely kinned at the genetic level with all other species. This is harder to grasp than it seems, partly because the logic of that Satanic preposition—“for”—is so insidious, so woven through the problem of time. Teleology is the moralizing of chronology, and nowadays science tries to keep watch for even the slightest trace of it, any suggestion that evolution has a direction tending to culminate in us or in what we like to call intelligence or in any other presumably desirable end point.

(15) LEGACY. PopHorror interviewed the actor about his myriad projects including his one-man Ray Bradbury show: “He’s No Dummy – Actor Bill Oberst, Jr. Talks ‘Handy Dandy,’ Ray Bradbury And Bill Moseley’s Beard”.

PopHorror: Are you still touring with Ray Bradbury Forever (Live)?

Bill Oberst, Jr.: Yes. I’ve got a show in Atlanta next year and then I’m going to Walla Walla, Washington. I wanted to go there just so I could say Walla Walla. It’s fun. And then I’ll be performing at some libraries next year because it will be the 100th anniversary of Ray’s birth. We did it on Broadway, and we did it in Los Angeles. We did about ten performances last year, so I learned what worked and what didn’t work. My goal is to get it to the point where people who know nothing at all about Ray Bradbury, people who have never read a word of his, can say, “Wow, I got something out of that.” I’m not interested in the Wikipedia info, where he was born and what he wrote and all that.

Think about it: after we’re all gone and all the people who have known us are gone, what’s left of Tracy and Bill? What were our lives lived for? What did we stand for? What is it about us that future people can say, “Well, I don’t know anything about Tracy or Bill, but this thing they did could apply to my life.” That’s the test. In 100 years, who is going to remember you unless you have some legacy, some mark.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Darrah Chavey, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

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 11/15/19 Looks Like The Time Machine’s Getting Stuck Between Floors. There’s Just A Blank Where The Chronograph Should Be

(1) JOHN M. FORD RETURNING TO PRINT. Isaac Butler’s research for “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” at Slate led to an unexpected benefit: “I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn’t expect that I would help bring his books back to life.”

It would take me 18 months to answer my questions. My quest would bring me to the vast treasure trove of Ford’s uncollected and unpublished writing. It would introduce me to friends and relatives of Ford who hadn’t spoken to each other since his death in 2006. And, in an improbable ending worthy of a John M. Ford novel, my quest would in fact set in motion the long-delayed republication of his work, starting in the fall of 2020. How did this happen? More importantly, why was he forgotten in the first place? More importantly than that: How did he write those amazing books?

…And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford’s horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family’s perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.)

But I reconnected Ford’s family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

(2) A LOOK AT CHIZINE CONTRACTS. Victoria Strauss’ roundup “Scandal Engulfs Independent Publisher ChiZine Publications “ at Writer Beware includes this analysis of CZP’s exploitative hold on royalty payments:

CZP’s contract boilerplate empowers the publisher to set a “reasonable” reserve against returns. There are no specifics, so it’s basically up to the publisher to decide what “reasonable” is.

For CZP, “reasonable” seems to mean 50%. This seemed high to me, so I did a mini-canvass of literary agents on Twitter. Most agreed that smaller is better–maybe 25-30%, though some felt that 50% was justifiable depending on the circumstances. They also pointed out that the reserve percentage should fall in subsequent reporting periods (CZP’s remains at 50%, unless boilerplate has been negotiated otherwise), and that publishers should not hold reserves beyond two or three years, or four or five accounting periods (CZP has held reserves for some authors for much longer).

(If you’re unclear on what a reserve against returns is, here’s an explanation.)

– Per CZP’s contract, royalties are paid “by the first royalty period falling one year after publication.” What this means in practice (based on the royalty statements I saw) is that if your pub date is (hypothetically) April of 2016, you are not eligible for payment until the first royalty period that follows your one-year anniversary–which, since CZP pays royalties just once a year on a January-December schedule, would be the royalty period ending December 2017. Since publishers often take months to issue royalty statements and payments following the end of a royalty period, you’d get no royalty check until sometime in 2018–close to, or possibly more than, two full years after publication.

In effect, CZP is setting a 100% reserve against returns for at least a year following publication, and often much more. This gives it the use of the author’s money for far too long, not to mention a financial cushion that lets it write smaller checks, since it doesn’t have to pay anything out until after returns have come in (most sales and most returns occur during the first year of release).

I shouldn’t need to say that this is non-standard. It’s also, in my opinion, seriously exploitative.

– And…about that annual payment. It too is non-standard–even the big houses pay twice a year, and most small publishers pay quarterly or even more often. It’s also extra-contractual–at least for the contracts I saw. According to CZP’s boilerplate, payments are supposed to be bi-annual after that initial year-or-more embargo. The switch to annual payment appears to have been a unilateral decision by CZP owners for logistical and cost reasons, actual contract language be damned (I’ve seen documentation of this).

(3) ANIMATED TREK. Tor.com has assembled a wealth of “New Details and Trailers Out for Star Trek‘s Animated ‘Short Treks’”.

Before the end of 2019, Star Trek will boldly do something it has never done in the 21st century before: Tell stand-alone stories in an animated format. It’s been known for a while that the final two Short Treks of 2019 would be animated, but we didn’t know what they’ d be about, or how they would even look…until now!

(4) TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Ursula V’s dungeon party reports in. Thread starts here.

(5) CAPTAIN FUTURE. Amazing Selects™ will launch with the release of Allen Steele’s Captain Future in Love, a novella originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine that “continues the adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s pulp adventure hero Curt Newton, aka Captain Future, rebooted and updated in Allen Steele’s inimitable Neo Pulp style.”

Amazing Selects ™ is a new imprint from Experimenter Publishing Company LLC that will feature stand-alone novella-length works, in both print and electronic formats.

The new Captain Future, originally introduced in Steele’s Avengers of the Moon (Tor, 2017),  “brings golden age science fiction into the modern era presenting classic space opera adventure with modern sensibilities.”

The edition features concept art by Rob Caswell, interior illustrations by Nizar Ilman and non-fiction features by Allen Steele.

Captain Future in Love is available through Amazon in paperback and ebook and through the Amazing Stories store.

(6) NOBODY’S KEEPING SCORE. The new edition of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme “Emma Thompson” is mainly about the Last Christmas film, but includes two other segments of genre interest. Hear it online for the next four weeks.

Emma Thompson has written 6 films in which she also stars. Last Christmas is the latest. She explains why she sometimes has to bite her tongue when actors deliver her lines in ways that she hadn’t quite imagined.

Neil Brand reveals how the ground-breaking score to cult classic Forbidden Planet was a last minute replacement and why the original composer decided to destroy his rejected score.

“Apocalypse Now meets Pygmalion”. Matthew Sweet pitches a long forgotten science fiction novel to film industry experts Lizzie Francke, Rowan Woods and Clare Binns.

(7) TUNE IN AGAIN. Also on BBC Radio 4 is a production of Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Available for the next 11 days.

First-ever dramatisation of Doris Lessing’s 1985 satire of incompetent revolutionaries in a London squat. Starring Olivia Vinall and Joe Armstrong, dramatised by Sarah Daniels.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble naan with artist Paul Kirchner in Episode 109 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Kirchner.

I’ve been attending the Maryland-based indie comics convention SPX — that is, the Small Press Expo — for 15 or so of its 36 years, and this time around took the opportunity to dine with artist Paul Kirchner, who breathed the same comic industry air I did during the ’70s.

Paul broke into comics in the early ‘70s through a fortuitous series of events which had him meeting the legendary comics artist Neal Adams, who introduced him to DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, and within the week getting a gig as assistant to Tex Blaisdell helping him out on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and stories for DC’s mystery books. He also worked for awhile as assistant to the great EC Comics artist and Daredevil innovator Wally Wood. He moved on from mainstream comics to draw two wonderfully surrealistic strips — “Dope Rider” for High Times and “the bus” for Heavy Metal. His wide-ranging creative resume also includes a graphic novel collaboration with the great writer of detective novels Janwillem van de Wetering, designs for such toy lines as Dino-Riders and Spy-Tech, and much more.

(9) RAINBOW OVER AND UNDER. Will this Andy Weir collaboration make it to the screen? The Hollywood Reporter covers the deal: “Amblin, Michael De Luca Tackling ‘Martian’ Author’s Fantasy Graphic Novel ‘Cheshire Crossing'”.

…The fantasy mashup tells the story of Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan‘s Wendy, who meet in boarding school for troubled young ladies. They each believe they’ve traveled to a fantastical world but no one else does. When their world-hopping sees Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West team up to combine their magical villainy, the trio must band together to thwart them.

The graphic novel began life as a piece of fan fiction that Weir wrote prior to finding best-selling and Hollywood success with Martian…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 15, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” premiered on NBC.  In a two-part episode of Enterprise titled “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the Tholians will be back with a story continuing this story.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 90. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends, Batman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while.
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is superb. Flicker is available at Apple Books and Kindle though no other fiction by him is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1934 Joanna Barnes, 85. She’s Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Danny Miller in the title role. It’s not until she’s Carsia in the “Up Above the World So High” episode of The Planet of The Apes series that she does anything so genre again. And a one-off on classic Fantasy Island wraps up her SFF acting.
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 80. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV.
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 77. She’s a writer mostly of speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening“.  She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. And 1973, she was a finalist for the first Campbell Award for Best New Writer. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets laughs from the thought-life of Batman’s sidekick.

(13) PALEO POSTAGE. I think I missed the news when these T.Rex stamps were issued in August. Fortunately, they are Forever stamps….

The four distinct stamps depict the long-extinct beast in various forms of its life from a hatchling to a skeleton in a museum.

In two of the stamps, the young adult depicted in skeletal form with a young Triceratops and in the flesh emerging through a forest clearing is the “Nation’s T. Rex,” whose remains were discovered on federal land in Montana and is considered one of the most important specimens of the species ever found, it said.

The four stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from original artwork by scientist and paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi.

Here’s the USPS link to T.Rex products.

(14) NYCON 3. Andrew Porter shared three photos from the 1967 Worldcon, NyCon 3, you aren’t likely to have seen before.

Ted White, Dave Van Arnam, chairs of NYCon 3, at the convention. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Ted White pastes up display about NyCon 3, as Robin White looks on: Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Sam Moskowitz, Norm Metcalf (foreground), Ed Wood at NyCon 3. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

(15) DRONING AWAY. “DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots” – but only if the drone self-identifies…

Drone maker DJI has demonstrated a way to quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption, and give members of the public peace of mind.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.

“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.

“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”

DJI told the BBC it could add the functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.

…“If Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capability in their pockets,” explained Adam Lisberg, from DJI, “they could have taken it out, seen a registration number for the drone, seen the flight path, and the location of the operator.

(16) YA TWITTER. Vulture will fill you in about a new YA Twitter kerfuffle: “Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy”. They include gene authors.

Young-adult book Twitter took an especially surreal turn this week when the best-selling novelist Sarah Dessen took offense at a brief critique of her work, inciting a minor Twitter riot, with some of the most famous writers in the world jumping into the fray to defend her.

(17) HOW DID THEY KNOW? I couldn’t help laughing when I read this line in Jon Del Arroz’ blog:

(18) ANOTHER OUTBREAK. USA Today’s Don Oldenburg has kind things to say about Daniel H. Wilson’s novel: “‘The Andromeda Evolution’ an infectious sequel to Michael Crichton’s classic best-seller” – although the reviewer sounds reluctant to admit the book isn’t by Chrichton, who died in 2008.

A new team of four Project Wildfire scientists is sent to the Amazon to investigate how to stop the unexplainable anomaly. A fifth scientist is tracking the crisis from the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, a deadly, self-replicating, microparticle structure is growing exponentially, eating the jungle and killing nearby tribal habitants.

(19) NOOO! Those who fail to learn from Jedi history… “Jon Favreau Already Has a Star Picked for His ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special”.

… “Oh I would definitely be interested in doing a holiday special,” Favreau told Variety at “The Mandalorian” fan event. “And I’m not going to say who I would be interested in. But one of the people is the member of the cast in an upcoming episode of the show. So we’ll leave it at that for now.”

When pressed to see if he was serious, the director doubled down. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s ready, the ideas are ready. I think it could be really fun. Not as part of this, but there’s an excitement around it because it was so fun and weird, and off and not connected to what ‘Star Wars’ was in the theater. ‘The Mandalorian’ cartoon, the Boba Fett cartoon, from the holiday special was definitely a point of inspiration for what we did in the show.”

(20) WALLACE & GROMIT. The Drum finds a seasonal commercial featuring two popular characters is at the top of the charts: “A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost”.

Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules’ festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/19 The Pixels In This Scroll Are Not For Eating!

(1) CHESLEY AWARD. Neil Clarke shows off this year’s beautiful trophy.

(2) HELP NEEDED TO FIND TEXT OF A BOB SHAW SPEECH. Rob Jackson and Dave Langford are planning an ebook of Bob Shaw’s legendary Serious Scientific Talks, to be added to the free library at the TAFF site (taff.org.uk). They have traced thirteen of these convention speeches — three never before collected — but not the final one. This was delivered at Confabulation, the 1995 UK Eastercon, and (perhaps with revisions) at the first Glasgow Worldcon later that year. Rather than the usual knockabout punning, Bob reminisced movingly about his 50 years in fandom. Can any Filer help with a copy, transcription or recording of this talk to complete the set?

Here is the planned cover, with artwork by Jim Barker from the five-speech collection The Eastercon Speeches (1979) edited by Rob Jackson.

(3) MODERATING CON PANELS. Matt Moore’s post from a few years ago surfaced again because it has so many useful things to say: “How to Be a Good Moderator for Panel Discussions at Conventions”.

Understanding your role as moderator

The moderator is there to make sure there actually is a discussion, and that it runs smoothly. Panelists should have a lot to say, but you need to guide the conversation. This means:

  • Everyone gets a chance to speak
  • Only one person speaks at a time
  • People can disagree and be passionate in their views, but it must be done respectfully
  • You stay on topic

(4) TALKIN’ ABOUT THE 451 WAYS. Alex Jay talks about drafting graphics for a long-ago video game in “Lettering: Fahrenheit 451” at Tenth Letter of the Alphabet.

In 1984 Byron Preiss Visual Publications produced a video game adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for Trillium. The book was published by Ballantine Books on October 19, 1953.

Byron Preiss gave an Atari console to me to create the graphics. I don’t recall the model number. Below are my ideas for the title sequence. Preiss wanted to use a salamander in the sequence.

(5) THE CRAFT IN LOVECRAFT. Learn how unexpectedly picky HPL was about space opera in “The Cthulhu Mythos and Space Opera by Bobby Derie” at the On An Underwood No. 5 blog.

…A keen amateur astronomer, Lovecraft largely eschewed the dynamics that made space opera feasible. In his 1935 essay “Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction” he railed:

“A good interplanetary story must have realistic human characters; not the stock scientists, villainous assistants, invincible heroes, and lovely scientist’s-daughter heroines of the usual trash of this sort. Indeed, there is no reason why there should be any “villain”, “hero”, or “heroine” at all. These artificial character-types belong wholly to artificial plot-forms, and have no place in serious fiction of any kind…”

(6) FELINE PERFECTION. BBC reports: “Catwoman: Zoe Kravitz follows Hathaway and Berry in The Batman role”.

Comic book fans will be purring with delight at the mews that Zoe Kravitz will play Catwoman opposite Robert Pattinson in the next Batman film.

Kravitz as good as confirmed her casting when she responded to an Instagram post by Aquaman star Jason Momoa in which he said he was “freaking stoked” by her latest role.

“Love that Aquaman and Catwoman spend the holidays together from now on,” wrote the 30-year-old, best known for her appearances in Big Little Lies and the Fantastic Beasts films.

Kravitz, daughter of rock star Lenny and actress Lisa Bonet, previously provided Catwoman’s voice in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie.

The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Pattinson as a young Bruce Wayne, will be released in the UK in June 2021.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 16, 2001 — WB first aired Smallville which would run for ten seasons. Starring Tom Welling, Kristin Kreuk and Annette O’Toole, it ran five years on the WB and the last five on the CW. The series lives on in comics and novels. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He never had a major role in any genre show but he was in myriad ones. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchmen twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission Impossible, Get Smart!, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 94. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady.
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 72. He’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly, he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”. 
  • Born October 16, 1952 Ron Taylor. He got his break with the 1982 off-Broadway production Little Shop of Horrors as he voiced Audrey II in the show which ran for five years and over 2,000 performances. He didn’t do a lot of genre, showing up only on Ice PiratesQuantum Leap, Twin Peaks and Deep Space Nine, plus voice work on Batman Beyond. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 61. His first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern.
  • ?Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 54. He is most noted for work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. 
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 46. Most likely best-known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(9) INSERT LIGHTSABER SOUND HERE. Major League Baseball’s Cut4 blog declares “The best possible way to interrupt a live interview is with a lightsaber”.

The Nationals finished off an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals on Tuesday and are headed to their first-ever World Series. Champagne was flowing, players were dancing, Max Scherzer was being Max Scherzer and a couple MLB Network analysts were still on the field — trying to wrap their heads around what had just happened. And then, well …

(10) IF YOU WERE A DESKTOP DINOSAUR, MY LOVE. Gizmodo teases, “Lego’s New Dinosaur Fossils Turn Your Desk Into a Miniature Natural History Museum”. Photos at the link.

You can claim to be interested in historical artifacts like pottery, suits of armor, and maybe even a mummy, but the most compelling reason to visit a museum, even as an adult, are the dinosaur fossils. If your hometown happens to be lacking in museums, however, Lego’s new Dinosaur Fossils set puts a small collection of thunder lizard skeletons on your desk, no admission required.

(11) SMILE AND THE WORLD SMILES WITH YOU. Delish claims “People Are Loving The Joker Frappuccino Even More Than The Movie That Inspired It”.

…First, you’ll have to ask for the barista to draw the smile on the side of the cup in strawberry syrup. Next, they’ll blend a Matcha Green Tea Creme Frappuccino. Then, Pyper suggests you ask for matcha powder to be mixed into the whipped creme but you honestly could probably just get it on top. That’s finished off with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and there you have it.

(12) BOMBS AWAY. The Mirror (UK) names the “Biggest box-office flops of the 21st century”.  There are three genre films atop the list. One of them is —

4. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Starring Eddie Murphy in a dual role, the critically panned sci-fi comedy managed to earn a Razzie nomination for worst film, worst actor, worst director, worst screenplay and worst on-screen couple (both for Eddie Murphy and a cloned version of himself).

It managed to make just £5.73 million on a budget of £81.83 million.

(13) MOBILE SUIT xEMU. “For NASA’s New Suits, ‘Mobility’ Is The Watchword”NPR has the story. (The BBC has more pictures here.)

NASA has unveiled prototypes of its next generation space suits to be worn inside the Orion spacecraft and on the surface of the moon when American astronauts return there as soon as 2024.

At the space agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., two NASA engineers modeled the new suits destined for the Artemis program, one known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), designed for walking around the lunar surface, and the other, the Orion Crew Survival System, a bright orange pressure suit to be worn when astronauts launch from Earth and return.

The design criteria? After keeping the crew safe, including America’s first woman moon walker, it’s all about mobility.

To that end, the suited models demonstrated bending, squatting and walking around in the bulky garments.

“This is the first suit we’ve designed in about 40 years,” Chris Hansen, a manager at NASA’s spacesuit design office, said. “We want systems that allow our astronauts to be scientists on the surface of the moon.”

Amy Ross, NASA’s lead spacesuit engineer, said: “Basically, my job is to take a basketball, shape it like a human, keep them alive in a harsh environment and give them the mobility to do their job.”

(14) WHAT APRIL SHOWERS BRING. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.]“Unmanned ship to go on 400-year-old journey across the Atlantic”. This will be a real test for artificial “intelligence” — how will it aim for Virginia and wind up in Massachusetts?

A fully autonomous ship tracing the journey of the Mayflower is being built by a UK-based team, with help from tech firm IBM.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship, or MAS, will launch from Plymouth in the UK in September 2020.

Its voyage will mark the 400th anniversary of the pilgrim ship which brought European settlers to America in 1620.

IBM is providing artificial intelligence systems for the ship.

The vessel will make its own decisions on its course and collision avoidance, and will even make expensive satellite phone calls back to base if it deems it necessary.

(15) CUBE ROUTER. Working one-handed and with obstacles, “Robot hand solves Rubik’s cube, but not the grand challenge”. Includes video.

A remarkable robot, capable of solving a Rubik’s cube single-handedly, has demonstrated just how far robotics has advanced – but at the same time, experts say, how far we still have to go.

OpenAI’s system used a computer simulation to teach the robot hand to solve the cube, running through routines that would take a single human some 10,000 years to complete.

Once taught, the robot was able to solve a cube that had been slightly modified to help the machine tell which way up it was being held.

Completion time varied, the research team said, but it generally took around four minutes to complete the task.

Using machine-learning and robotics to solve a Rubik’s cube has been achieved before. Notably, in March 2018, a machine developed by engineers at MIT managed to solve a cube in just 0.38 seconds.

What’s significant with OpenAI’s effort is the use of a multi-purpose robot, in this case a human-hand-like design, rather than a machine specifically designed to handle a Rubik’s cube and nothing else.

(16) TERMINAL MAN. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “And ‘Lo!’ – How the internet was born”. The writer underestimates undergraduate students…

In the 1960s, Bob Taylor worked at the heart of the Pentagon in Washington DC. He was on the third floor, near the US defence secretary and the boss of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa).

…Next to his office was the terminal room, a pokey little space where three remote-access terminals with three different keyboards sat side by side.

Each allowed Taylor to issue commands to a far-away mainframe computer.

…Each of these massive computers required a different login procedure and programming language.

It was, as the historians Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon put it, like “having a den cluttered with several television sets, each dedicated to a different channel”.

…The solution was proposed by another computing pioneer, physicist Wesley Clark.

Clark suggested installing a minicomputer at every site on this new network.

The local mainframe – the hulking Q-32, for example – would talk to the minicomputer sitting close beside it.

…The network designers wanted message processors that would sit quietly, with minimal supervision, and just keep on working, come heat or cold, vibration or power surge, mildew, mice, or – most dangerous of all – curious graduate students with screwdrivers.

(17) DOGGIE DINER. It can’t be easy to get a real dog to forego eating a meatball. Although maybe the meatball is fake, unlike the dog? “New Trailer for Live-Action ‘Lady and the Tramp’ Teases Iconic Spaghetti Dinner Scene”. Hypebeast breaks it down.

Following the first trailer for Disney’s forthcoming live-action adaptation of the renowned pup love story, Lady and the Tramp, the second trailer for the highly-anticipated film has arrived. Pegged as the first of the entertainment conglomerate’s original movies to premiere via Disney+, the film will take on the memorable story of a cocker spaniel named Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who finds love with a stray mutt named Tramp (Justin Theroux). The film will also star Janelle Monáe, Thomas Mann, Kiersey Clemons, Benedict Wong, Ashley Jensen, and Yvette Nicole Brown.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/19 “This Title Is Too Hot” Said Glyerlocks. “And This One Is Too Long!”

(1) HAUNTING VERSES. Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Halloween readings can be listened to at the link.

SFPA’s Halloween Poetry Reading shares our enjoyment of speculative poetry with a broader audience, increases awareness of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and promotes the individual poets who take part. All SFPA members are welcome to submit one audio file per person of themselves reading one of their spooky, haunting, ghoulish, or humorous Halloween or horror poems.

(2) HE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. Timothy the Talking Cat chooses the nuclear option for an answer to the question “How Come Cats are All the Same Size?” at Camestros Felapton.

….Here I am at the Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire or “CERN” in Geneva. Only here at the pinnacle of modern sub-atomic particle research can scientists determine the minute differences in cat length. To better understand our question I have taken two dogs and placed them within the seventeen mile long Large Hadron Collider. Within this massive apparatus, the two dogs will be accelerated to extraordinarily high speeds until, somewhere close to the Swiss-France border the two dogs will collide resulting in a cascade of elementary dog-particles.

(3) ADDAMS CHOW. The International House of Pancakes is on the movie’s marketing bandwagon — “New! Addams Family Menu”.

(4) OH, WHAT A FINANCIAL WEB WE WEAVE. Anthony D’Alessandro, in the Deadline story “Spider-Man Back In Action As Sony Agrees To Disney Co-Fi For New Movie, Return To MCU: How Spidey’s Web Got Untangled” says that Sony and Disney made a pact whereby Disney puts up a quarter of the cost for the third Tom Holland Spider-Man film and gets a quarter of the profits, returning Spider-Man to the MCU for Spider-Man 3 and one other MCU film.

This is also a big win for Sony here in continuing a series that will likely give it another $1 billion-plus-grossing film along with an 8% distribution fee or higher. Additionally, the deal keeps intact the creative steering of Disney’s Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who led two of the best and most profitable fan-pleasing pics in the Spidey film canon to $2 billion worldwide.

(5) TWILIGHT BEEB. BBC Radio 4’s documentary You’re Entering Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is available to listen to at the website for another four weeks.

October 1959, America was deep into the ‘age of unease’ as viewers took their first steps into ‘another dimension, not only of sight & sound but of mind. Their ‘next stop, The Twilight Zone.

…Rod Serling, America’s most famous television playwright, astonished people with his announcement that he was to explore the realms of science fiction and fantasy in a new anthology show. Like Dennis Potter starting up Dr Who. But Serling, an impeccable liberal haunted by war, racial strife & the possibilities of nuclear Armageddon smuggled stories of conscience, doubt and possibility into 5 seasons of a remarkable show that has never died & has been revisited for a fourth time with Jordan Peele as host. In truth, nothing can match a realm of the American weird that Serling made uniquely his own.

In this special Radio 4 Extra documentary Alan Dein hears from Serling’s family, veteran directors Richard Donner & John Frankenheimer, actors Earl Holliman (star of the first ever episode) & Jean Marsh as well as the writers Jonathan Lethem & David Thomson & Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker. 2 Twilight Zone radio episodes accompany the documentary.

(6) JOKER AUDIENCE WARNING. Dell Cameron, in “U.S. Military Issues Warning to Troops About Incel Violence at Joker Screenings [Updated]” at Gizmodo, says the military has issued an warning to troops (which they obtained) saying that screenings of Joker could be attacked by incels and to be careful when attending them.

The U.S. military has warned service members about the potential for a mass shooter at screenings of the Warner Bros. film Joker, which has sparked wide concerns from, among others, the families of those killed during the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

The U.S. Army confirmed on Tuesday that the warning was widely distributed after social media posts related to extremists classified as “incels,” were uncovered by intelligence officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 28, 1858 — First photograph of a comet.
  • September 28, 1990 I Come In Peace (aka Dark Angel) premiered. Starring Dolph Lundgren, it scores 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • September 28, 2012 Looper premiered. Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, it scored 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, and lost to The Avengers for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, Hugo Award in 2013. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1909 Al Capp. Cartoonist responsible of course for the Li’l Abner strip. Is it genre? Of course. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 28, 1913 Ellis Peters. Writer of two excellent ghost novels, The City Lies Four-Square and By This Strange Fire. These alas are not available on iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 28, 1923 William Windom. Commodore Matt Decker, commander of the doomed USS Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine” episode, one of the best Trek stories told. Norman Spinrad was the writer. Other genre appearances include being the President on Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Major in “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” episode of Twilight Zone and Ben Victor in the “The Night of the Flying Pie Plate” story of The Wild Wild West. This is a sampling only! (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1926 Bernard Behrens. He voiced Obi-Wan Kenobi in the BBC radio adaptations of the original trilogy. He also was Gustav Helsing in Dracula: The TV Series, played several different characters on the War of the Worlds and The Bionic Woman series and was even in a Roger Corman film, Galaxy of Terror. The latter scored 33% at Rotten Tomatoes begging the question whether any film he did score well there? (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1934 Janet Horsburgh. She’s likely best remembered as Katie O’Gill in Darby O’Gill and the Little People. She was also Anne Pilgrim in The Trollenberg Terror and Jeannie Craig in The Day the Earth Caught Fire. (Died 1972.)
  • Born September 28, 1935 Ronald Lacey. He’s very best remembered as Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (A series where they should’ve stopped with first film.) he’s actually in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as Heinrich Himmler though it’s uncredited role. One of his first genre appearances was as the Strange Young Man in The Avengers episode “The Joker”.  In that same period, he was the village idiot in The Fearless Vampire Killers which actually premiered as The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck. And he’s in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as President Widmark. This is but a thin wafer of his genre roles so do feel free to add your favorite.  (Died 1991.)
  • Born September 28, 1946 Jeffrey Jones, 73. I see his first SFF role was as Mayor Lepescu in Transylvania 6-5000 which followed by being in Howard the Duck as Dr. Walter Jenning / Dark Overlord. He recovered from that movie flop by being Charles Deetz in Beetlejuice, and Dick Nelson in Mom and Dad Save the World. He’s Uncle Crenshaw Little in Stuart Little, and I see he shows in Sleepy Hollow as Reverend Steenwyck. He’s does series one-offs in The Twilight ZoneTales from the Crypt, Amazing Stories and The Outer Limits.
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 69. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of Piranha, Alligator, Battle Beyond the Stars, The HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1966 Maria Pilar Canals-Barrera, 53. She’s getting Birthday Honors for being the voice of Hawkgirl on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. She’s also voiced Commissioner Ellen Yindel in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and voiced Rio Morales, the mother of the Spider-Man, Miles Morales, on the Ultimate Spider-Man series. I just picked this to watch as it’s look very good. 
  • Born September 28, 1967 Mira Sorvino, 51. She’s Sara in Falling Skies in a recurring role in the last two seasons, and she’s Amy Whelan in Intruders. She voices Ingrid Cortez on Spy Kids: Mission Critical, and she’s Tess Chaplin in The Last Templar

(9) FUTURE TENSE. At Slate, the new Future Tense story is Marcy Kelly’s “Double Spiral”. Tagline: “Read a new short story about genetic testing, privacy, and profit.”

She was lucky.

Lucky, and then unlucky, and then lucky again, she thought, guiltily, seeing this child on the subway.

It was obvious, instantly. The shape of his head. The low-set mouth. The boy’s mother turned toward Rada and she looked away, not wanting to be caught staring.

The response essay, “Crossing the Germline” is by Josephine Johnston, an expert on the ethical, legal, and policy implications of biomedical technologies.

…Primarily as a result of our seemingly benign interest in family trees, several U.S. companies have already amassed proprietary databases of DNA from 26 million customers. There are an estimated 15 million samples in Ancestry’s database, while 23andMe says it has tested 10 million customers. Having learned that a minority of traits, such as Huntington’s disease or cystic fibrosis, can be explained by single genetic differences, scientists are now bringing big data approaches to genome sequencing to calculate “polygenic risk scores” quantifying the likelihood that people will develop schizophrenia, graduate from high school, or score highly on IQ tests.

(10) PATREON. WIRED’s article “Jack Conte, Patreon, and the Plight of the Creative Class” by Jonah Weiner, a profile of Patreon creator Jack Conte, includes this interesting statistic —

The most popular musician on Patreon is the extremely online singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer, who has more than 15,000 patrons and doesn’t disclose her earnings.

…By and large, he (Conte) says, Patreon privileges those creators who tend toward higher-frequency output and whose fans regard them as (mistake them for?) dear friends.  ‘Amanda Palmer loves her fans and they love her,,’ Conte adds.  ‘They actually feel love for her.  That’s a particular type of artists.  Not every artist wants that vulnerable, close, open relationship with their fans.  Like, really tactically:  Do you run fan-art contests>  Do you respond to comments on Twitter>  Do you sell soap–do a weird fun thing with your fans then send them a thing in the mail, thanking them for what they contributed>’  If not, don’t count on making your rent via Patreon.

(11) TODAY’S CONSPIRACY THEORY. Someone who thought it would enhance the paranoid theme of his latest blog post asked why Dan Simmons’ official site today is displaying the message “We’ll be up and running soon” – essentially an “under construction” sign. The blogger wonders, did someone hack it to show displeasure about the author’s Thunberg comments? Maybe the blogger’s lack of research is what should be suspected. The Internet Archive shows this message has been on Simmons’ front page for over a year — https://web.archive.org/web/20180804122809/http://dansimmons.com/.

(12) SKELETON IN THE GARDEN. Yahoo! News learned the truth is out there – in this case, buried under a pile of dirt: “Family dig up Jurassic fossil hidden by ‘god-fearing’ Victorian ancestors for 170 years”.

A man whose Victorian ancestors buried a giant Jurassic fossil because it threatened their religious beliefs has put it on display 170 years later.

Cider brandy maker Julian Temperley knew that a Jurassic period 90 million-year-old ichthyosaurus fossil was buried in the garden at his family’s home in Thorney, Somerset.

But his god-fearing ancestors kept it hidden for years after its discovery in 1850, worried they would be ‘denying God’ by flashing it around.

When recent flooding forced him to dig the stunning relic up for good, Mr Temperley paid £3,000 for it to be cleaned – and he’s now having its image printed on his cider brandy bottles.

(13) FIGURES. Titan Merchandise previewed their DC Hero Titans, which will be showcased in Booth #2142 at New York Comic-Con starting October 3.

(14) MORE UNDERWATER REAL ESTATE. LAist heralds a new attraction in Downtown Los Angeles: “A Childhood Obsession Led To This New Atlantis-Themed DTLA Escape Room”.

There are more than 2,000 escape rooms across the country, with hundreds available here in Los Angeles. One of the most popular homes for escape rooms, Escape Room L.A., opens one of their most ambitious projects to date this weekend: Atlantis.

Escape room designer John Hennessy said that the idea for this room has been brewing for a long time.

…We went to a media preview and tried out the new game. The story begins with an eccentric professor who, like Hennessy, is obsessed with Atlantis. The professor has discovered how to open a portal to Atlantis, with your mission involving a search for the mysterious MacGuffin of the Poseidon Crystal.

You start inside the professor’s office, solving clues to activate his machine and open up the portal. The professor gifts your group with the ability to breathe underwater through a special hand stamp (just go with us here) and four Atlantean pendants.

Note: whenever you start out with an item in an escape room, you’re always going to need to use that item somewhere else. A door opens, and you’re whisked away to Atlantis.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, who found one that was “Just right.”]

Pixel Scroll 9/19/19 The SJW Credential That Sleeps On You From Nowhere

(1) MATCHLESS PROSE, WE HOPE. Will Frank (scifantasy), Vice-Administrator of the 2016 Hugo Awards and Administrator of the 2021 Hugo Awards, who also identifies himself as a fanfiction writer on AO3 and a trademark attorney, is trying to pour some oil onto the stormy waters that separate parts of the Worldcon community from parts of the AO3 community: “HugO3”. (Please don’t strike a match.)

…If the Worldcon-running community doesn’t police use of the phrase, someone else–someone with less humorous, less celebratory, less free-spirited intent–might be able to plausibly argue that he can call his self-published book a Hugo Award Winner just because it was fanfic, or he has an AO3 account, because the term has lost all of its significance by not being protected.

Is that likely? Who the hell knows. Is it something the Worldcon-running community wants to risk, especially so soon after a concerted effort to undermine the award, not by fanfiction authors in celebration of their validation but by a group of politically-motivated writers with an axe to grind? Definitely not.

(I’ve also seen some people saying that there isn’t any prestige in a Hugo Award given some of the historical winners, and…well, get in line behind the Oscars and the Grammys and the others, I guess. The fact is that “Hugo Award” on the cover of a book does indeed help sales. It matters. There is still cachet in being a Hugo Award winner. Or even a finalist!)

So, no, the Worldcon-running community is not saying “Hey, don’t have fun.” It is saying, “please, don’t undermine our ability to stop people with malicious intent from poisoning the term Hugo Award.”

I’m not even telling you that you have to think I’m right. But at least, please know that this isn’t just a matter of “don’t have fun.” It’s a plea for your help.

(2) HEINLEIN’S OTHER VERSION. The Number of the Beast versus Pursuit of the Pankera – not the same book at all. Arc Manor would be delighted for you to put the claim to a test — http://www.arcmanor.com/as/Comparison.pdf

It is a different book. Of the 187,000 words in the new book, it shares the first 28,000. But then is totally different. The separation occurs in chapter XVIII and here is a side by side comparison of the chapters in the two books with the point of divergence clearly marked.

(3) HISTORIC CON MASQUERADE (AND OTHER) PHOTOS. At Vintage Everyday, “Wendy Pini Cosplay: 22 Rare and Amazing Photographs of Wendy Dressed as Red Sonja in the 1970s”.

Wendy Pini does it all. In the 1970s Wendy used to hit the cons dressed as Sonja. She was born in San Francisco in 1951, and from an early age demonstrated the talents later to come to fruition as a professional illustrator, and eventually as the creator of Elfquest.

(4) CHANGES AT TOR. Shelf Awareness is reporting a couple of promotions at Tom Doherty Associates:

  • Theresa DeLucci has been promoted to senior associate director of marketing of Tor Books, Forge, and Nightfire.
  • Renata Sweeney has been promoted to senior marketing manager, Tor.

(5) ELLEN VARTANOFF INTERVIEW. From Small Press Expo 2017 (but just posted on YouTube today.)

Rusty and Joe talk to Ellen Vartanoff about her decades in the comics field and the early days of comic conventions!

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 19, 1952 — “Superman On Earth” aired as the pilot episode for The  Adventures of Superman television series starring George Reeves.
  • September 19, 1961 — On a return trip from Canada, while in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted by aliens.
  • September 19, 1986 — The Starman series debuted with Jeff Bridges replaced in the role of The Starman with Robert Hays. The series lasted for twenty-two episodes.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 19, 1867 Arthur Rackham. English book illustrator who is recognized as one of the leading literary figures during the Golden Age of British book illustration. His work can be seen on genre fiction ranging from Goblin Market to Rip Van Winkle and The Wind in the Willows. Derek Huson’s Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work is one of the better looks at him and his art. (Died 1939.)
  • Born September 19, 1911 William Golding. Though obviously best known for the Lord of The Flies novel, I’m more intrigued by the almost completed novel found in draft after his death, The Double Tongue which tells the story of the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo at Delphi. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 19, 1922 Damon Knight. Author, critic, editor. He is the author of “To Serve Man”, a 1950 short story which became a The Twilight Zone episode. It won a 50-year Retro-Hugo in 2001 as the best short story of 1950. Wiki says “He ceased reviewing when Fantasy & Science Fiction refused to publish a review.” What’s the story here? (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 19, 1928 Adam West. Best known as Batman on that classic Sixty series, he also had a short role in 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars as Colonel Dan McReady. The less said about his post Batman films, including a softcore porn film, the better. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 19, 1928 Robin Scott Wilson. Founder, with Damon Knight and others, of the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop. He edited Clarion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction and Criticism from the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Clarion II and Clarion III. He wrote one genre novel, To the Sound of Freedom (with Richard W. Shryock) and a lot of short fiction. Alas, neither iBooks nor Kindle has anything by him available. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 19, 1933 – David McCallum, 86. Gained fame as Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and has rounded off his career playing medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in another TV series that is known by its initials, NCIS.
  • Born September 19, 1940 Caroline John. English actress best known for her role as scientist Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw in Doctor Who as companion to the Third Doctor. She’d repeat her role in Dimensions in Time, a charity special crossover between Doctor Who and the EastEnders that ran in 1993. Her only other genre role was playing Laura Lyons in The Hound of the Baskervilles. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 19, 1947 Tanith Lee. I hadn’t realized that she wrote more than ninety novels and three hundred short stories in her career. And even wrote two Blake’s 7 episodes as well. I was more fond of her work for children such as The Dragon Hoard and The Unicorn Series than I was of her adult work. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 19, 1952 Laurie R. King, 67. She’s on the Birthday Honors List for the Mary Russell series of historical mysteries, featuring Sherlock Holmes as her mentor and later partner. She’s also written at least one genre novel, Califia’s Daughters
  • Born September 19, 1972 N. K. Jemisin, 47. Her most excellent Broken Earth series has made her the only author to have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) UNIDENTIFIED WALKING OBJECTS. Aliens have landed at the convention hotel (a couple years early) reports the Tonopah Nevada in 2021 for Westercon 74 page – see the photographic evidence there!

Starting to see some out of this world stuff in honor of Alien Weekend… these aliens came all the way from Michigan to check out the happenings…

(10) OH NO, NOT AGAIN. “False Tsunami Warning In Hawaii Triggered By Police Exercise”.

Emergency sirens wailed on Hawaii’s Oahu and Maui islands Wednesday evening, warning of a tsunami, but the alert turned out to be a mistake, sparking anger from residents who recalled a similar false warning last year of an imminent ballistic missile attack.

Within minutes of the alarm going off shortly after 5 p.m. local time (11 p.m. ET) authorities were trying to calm the public by getting out word of the mistake.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu tweeted: “***NO TSUNAMI THREAT*** We have received phone calls about sirens going off across Oahu, but we have confirmed with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center that there is NO TSUNAMI THREAT.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also took to Twitter. “Mahalo to everyone for taking appropriate action & tuning into local media,” he tweeted, adding that the sirens had been “inadvertently triggered” during Honolulu Police Department training.

(11) I’M MELTING! FastCompany tells everyone “Burger King is melting down plastic toys to recycle them into something actually useful”.

… Burger King has decided to remove all plastic toys from its kids’ meals. Not only that but the initiative, created by agency Jones Knowles Ritchie and starting this week in the U.K., is also calling for people to drop plastic toys from meals past in “plastic toy amnesty bins” at Burger King locations to be melted down and recycled into things that are actually useful, like play areas and surface tools, which can be recycled many times over.

People in the U.K. who bring in toys to melt down next week will get a free King Junior meal when they buy any adult meal. To promote the project, Burger King has created a cast of melted-down plastic toy characters, including Beep Beep, a jeep-driving bunny, which the brand has installed a giant melting version of on London’s South Bank to promote the project.

(12) IF YOU WERE A PTEROSAUR AS TALL AS A GIRAFFE, MY LOVE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Inside Science reports: “Newest Pterosaur Was Likely as Tall as a Giraffe”.

Ancient flying reptile dubbed Cryodrakon boreas, the “cold dragon of the north winds,” may shed light on the evolution of these dinosaur relatives.

CBC News agrees: “Giraffe-sized flying reptiles once soared over Alberta”

Newly identified pterosaur species had a wingspan of 10 metres

Mark Whitton’s 2013 article has additional details and a great illustration: “9 things you may not know about giant azhdarchid pterosaurs”

Despite their giraffian proportions, giant azhdarchid torso were relatively tiny. Witton and Habib (2010) noted that, like many pterodactyloid pterosaurs, their torsos were probably only a third or so longer than their humeri, suggesting a shoulder-hip length of about 65-75 cm for an animal with a 10 m wingspan. That’s a torso length not much larger than your own, although they were considerably more stocky and swamped with muscle. Azhdarchid shoulders, in particular, are well endowed with attachment sites for flight muscles, as are (for pterosaurs) their pelves and hindquarters.

(13) JURASSIC SHORT. Battle at Big Rock on YouTube is an eight-minute video, set in the Jurassic World universe one year after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that premiered on FX last night and was put online today.

(14) BRADBURY INTERVIEW. Here’s a 9-minute video of Ray Bradbury’s 1978 appearance on the Merv Griffin Show.

The always brilliant Ray Bradbury, one of the greatest sci-fi writers in history, talks with Merv about the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, Steven Spielberg, his mission as a writer, the future of mankind, and ends by reading from his poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” from his collection “When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/10/19 I Can’t Believe I Pixeled In Front Of The Dean Of Science Fiction!

(1) SNEAK PEEK. The folk at the seasonal SF² Concatenation have advance-posted a review of the Dublin Worldcon ahead of their autumnal edition.

The SF² Concatenation is largely run by Brits  — however, the conreport here is by Sue Burke, a US fan and sff author (Semiosis): “Dublin 2019”.

…Despite the inconvenience, the snaking queues became good places to meet new people.

The Auditorium held only 2,000, so events there required wristbands to get in, and we had to line up in the afternoon to get them. I didn’t attend the Opening Ceremony/1944 Retro Hugos, Masquerade, or Hugo Award Ceremony. (During the Closing Ceremony, I was instead standing in line at the airport). I wanted to get a wristband for the Hugo Awards, but the queue was enormous and located outside, next to the CCD, during a cold, windy rainstorm, so I abandoned that attempt. (In fairness to the organisers, I am not sure where else the queue could have been located. All available space inside the building was in use!)

Other than that, the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.  Events started at 9 a.m. with accessible yoga and a “stroll with the stars” morning walk, and ended in the wee hours at Martin Hoare’s Bar – known as Martin’s, named for the volunteer who was to be Fan Bar Manager but who died a few weeks before the convention.

…Other than [overcrowding] the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.…

…For me, one of the many high moments of the convention came on Saturday evening at the Bright Club Ireland, a stand-up comedy show. Steve Cross made an excessively deep, textual reading of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to determine the exact date that the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons.

(2) NOT EASY MAKING GREEN. That new Muppets comedy series? Fuggedabowdit! The Hollywood Reporter has learned: “‘The Muppets’ Disney+ Comedy Series Scrapped”. But Disney is greenlighting the talk show Muppets Now.

….Creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis (Once Upon a Time) and Josh Gad (Frozen) have walked away from the scripted comedy, called Muppets Live Another Day, which they had been quietly at work on for months, and Disney+ has opted to abandon work on the series.

…The decision to retool the planned Muppets show will not impact the unscripted shortform series Disney+ announced last month at D23. That show — Muppets Now — will feature beloved characters like Kermit and Miss Piggy alongside celebrity guests.

(3) ATTEMPTED THEFT. A BBC story reports — “Margaret Atwood says thieves targeted Handmaid’s Tale sequel”.

Margaret Atwood says thieves made concerted efforts to steal her manuscript for The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

The author and her publisher were targeted by “fake emails” from “cyber criminals”, trying to obtain the unpublished novel, she told the BBC.

She described the attempts as a “phishing exercise” that could have led to blackmail or identity theft.

“It was a commercial venture of a robbery kind,” Atwood said.

“People were trying to steal it. Really, they were trying to steal it and we had to use a lot of code words and passwords,” she told BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones.

“What would they have done with it if they had succeeded? They might have said, ‘We’ve got the manuscript, and we’re putting it up online [unless you] give us your credit card details’. Or they might have said, ‘Read this excerpt and download it. And if you downloaded it, a virus would have stolen your information’.

(4) NEW COINAGE. Ken Pelham offers advice about devising “The Jargon and Slang of the Fantastic” at the SFWA Blog.

…But don’t fear creating words. Heck, Shakespeare did it all the time. Just make sure they sound authentic to the world created. Sometimes those words even become part of our own Earthly languages. Like William Gibson’s “cyberspace.” We instinctively knew what it meant the first time we heard it. And J.K. Rowling may have added more words to the English language than anyone since Shakespeare. Time will tell….

(5) NEW DEAL. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “‘Bonkers’ new ‘Joker’ sidesteps controversy, ‘Batman’ hook-up”, has an interview with Joker director Todd Phillips, who says that his film, set in a world resembling New York City in the late 1970s “was never meant to connect” to anything in the DC Extended Universe, “and I don’t see it connecting to anything in the future,” meaning it’s unlikely Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker will take on Robert Pattinson’s Batman.

Meanwhile, Phoenix choked up while paying tribute to his late brother, River. “When I was 15 or 16 my brother River came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull and he sat me down and made me watch it. And the next day he woke me up, and he made me watch it again. And he said, ‘You’re going to start acting again, this is what you’re going to do,’” the younger Phoenix recalled while receiving the TIFF Tribute Actor Award. “He didn’t ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life.”

What initially appeared to be a curious experiment is shaping up to be a sure thing, at least in terms of box office. According to some forecasts, Joker is on track to enjoy a $100 million opening weekend, topping last year’s Venom, which also billed itself as a darker alternative to the usual superhero fare. And the Toronto audience largely greeted the movie with cheers and applause, with the majority of the praise being directed in Phoenix’s direction.

(6) HORROR YOU CAN BANK ON. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Is ‘It’ a New Kind of Horror Franchise?” Tagline: “Never before has there been a series that’s been closer to being the ‘Avengers’ or ‘Star Wars’ of the genre.”

…But with only two films to its name, It is larger than its competing properties. Consider: It: Chapter One did around 40 percent of the Conjuring series’ combined global gross with just the first installment. It: Chapter Two‘s success remains unwritten, but short of disaster the film will cement this duology among the genre’s greatest blockbusters. Chalk that up once more to King’s name; that alone gives It: Chapter One and Chapter Two a built-in audience at a moment when the author’s material is a ubiquitous hot commodity. (See: April’s Pet Sematary re-adaptation, Hulu’s Castle Rock, the upcoming Doctor Sleep and In the Tall Grass.) Give credit to It‘s shapeshifting antagonist, Pennywise, too, a movie monster tailor made to scare the bejesus out of a wide viewing audience. Spiders might be your worst nightmare. Maybe werewolves. Maybe diseased hobos, mummies, your abusive father, your dead brother, a kindly old lady lurking naked in her kitchen or, last but not least, clowns. It has all of these (plus a very cute pomeranian that isn’t actually so cute after all).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 10, 1935Popeye was heard for the first time on NBC radio.
  • September 10, 1993 — Fox TV first aired The X-Files.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1898 Bessie Love. In 1925, she starred in The Lost World based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She wouldn’t show up again in a genre film until 1963 when she was in Children of the Damned followed by being in Battle Beneath the Earth a few years a later and then having a small uncredited role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She’d be in Vampyres, Gulliver’s Travels and The Hunger to round her genre career. Vampyres btw is described as a “erotic/lesbian vampire horror film”, an apparent subgenre in the Seventies. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 67. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 66. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she co-wrote with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Stuart Milligan, 66. He first shows up as Walters on the Sean Connery-led Outland and a few years later we see him as a Police Sergeant on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’ll play Richard Nixon in Doctor Who for two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of The Moon”. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 64. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised for being founder along with AC Crispin for being founder of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 60. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Fifth Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film.
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 60. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile.
  • Born September 10, 1968 Guy Ritchie, 51. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked,  and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently sucked. 

(9) BRADBURY HISTORY.  In this decade-old video, Roslyn Shapiro talks about Ray Bradbury’s writing group with her husband in the 1940’s.

(10) THE NO GOOD, VERY BAD… “The day the dinosaurs’ world fell apart” — lots of concrete details in this BBC article.

Scientists have a recording of the worst day on Earth; certainly the worst day in the last 66 million years.

It takes the form of a 130m section of rock drilled from under the Gulf of Mexico.

These are sediments that were laid down in the seconds to hours after a huge asteroid had slammed into the planet.

You’ll know the event we’re talking about – the one researchers now think was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals.

The high-resolution account of this catastrophe was recovered by a UK/US-led team, who spent several weeks in 2016 drilling into what remains of the crater produced by the impact.

Today, this 200km-wide structure is positioned under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, with its best preserved central portions sitting just offshore of the port of Chicxulub.

The team pulled up a great long core of rock but it’s a particular 130m-long section that essentially documents the first day of what geologists call the Cenozoic Era, or as some others like to refer to it: the Age of Mammals.

(11) INSPIRATION. BBC’s current affairs and entertainment channel Radio 4 presents a 25-minute ‘religious’ program, Beyond Belief. Yesterday’s episode focused on the implications for religion of the novel Frankenstein.

Ernie Rea in conversation with guests about the religious content in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, which is often lost in its interpretation on the big screen.

(12) LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION. “Polaroid’s newest gadget gives analog life to smartphone photos”. FastCompany says the device goes on sale October 10.

It’s a shiny, tightly framed snapshot of a couple of friends of mine, posing as we share a booth at a New York diner. It’s almost (but not quite) square, with a distinctive white border that’s thicker at the bottom than on the other sides.

As you may already have figured out, the item I am cradling in my hand is a Polaroid photo.

But unlike the hundreds—thousands?—of Polaroids I’ve shot in my life, this one began its life as a digital image. I took it with my Pixel 3 smartphone and then used a new gadget, the Polaroid Lab, to transfer it onto a piece of proudly analog Polaroid instant film, where it developed before my eyes in classic fashion.

… For the most part, I liked how my Polaroid-ized photos came out—but not because they were perfect replicas of the digital originals. They were soft rather than crisp, with a dreamy color palette and an element of surprise, since two copies of the same image don’t necessarily develop identically. The current Polaroid Originals film is the best it’s made since Impossible revived the format, but it still isn’t as consistent as Fujifilm’s Instax.

(13) UNDER THE RADAR. Smithsonian’s 2017 article shows Moose and Squirrel were the real subversives: “How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire”, not the villains.

…The Variety Show format enabled three things. First, its gloss of adult sophistication completely undercut by silliness was incredibly attractive to me and my sister.  Secondly, it got us to delight in the work of a revolving cast of top-notch, old school voice actors who’d grown up in radio and knew how to sell a line.  June Foray, for example, is the common thread that weaves together the everyman fast-talkers of Warner Brothers films (she voiced Granny and Witch Hazel for Looney Tunes), the pop culture and political satire of Stan Freberg, and the Cold War kiddie fare of “Bullwinkle” (as Rocky, Nell Fenwick, Natasha, and more).

“Fractured Fairy Tales” were narrated by veteran actor Edward Everett Horton, a Warner Bros. stable favorite, and featured Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson), a Stan Freberg comedy show veteran, along with Paul Frees and June Foray. Before giving voice to Dudley Do-Right’s nemesis Snidely Whiplash, Hans Conried was better known as Captain Hook in Disney’s “Peter Pan,” as well as for his years’ long yeoman’s work on radio mystery shows, “I Love Lucy,” and “Burns and Allen.”

Finally, the show’s format and depth of talent connected my sister and me to a world of comedy that was well before our time, but helped us navigate what came afterwards. Apart from Sesame Street and the Electric Company (whose cast was a gift to future Broadway lovers) the cartoon landscape during the 1970s was bleak. I don’t know what happened during the Summer of Love to cause formerly respectable shops like Hanna-Barbera to go from “Jonny Quest” to “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels,” but it can’t have been pretty.

(14) IN THE DOCKET. The New York Post reports the late author’s relatives are contesting ownership of a valuable Ellery Queen collection: “Late author’s stolen book collection found after hitting auction block: suit”.

The jig is up!

In a twist straight out of a pulpy page-turner, a son says he discovered his late mystery-novelist father’s signed books had been stolen — after seeing them go up for auction at Soetheby’s, according to a new lawsuit.

Upper West Sider Richard Dannay — son of detective-fiction author Frederic Dannay — claims 33 of his dad’s signed books were stolen by his step-mom Rose, passed to her son Terry Koppel and eventually given to Sotheby’s for auctioning, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed late Wednesday.

Richard says he didn’t even know the books existed until he got the brochure from the auction house on Nov. 18, 2016 which described the collection as “The Terry R. Koppel Collection of Ellery Queen,” the court papers say.

(15) CONFLICT OF INTEREST CONTINUES TO FUEL CONFLICT. Washington Post economics columnist Steven Pearlstein discusses the debate between writers v. agents in Hollywood, saying that showrunners ought to end their memberships in the Writers Guild of America so that they can be “honest brokers” who are neither writers of talent agencies and then can act as a check on talent agencies’ power. “Big agencies and studios have a lock on Hollywood. It’s high time to apply antitrust law”.

… Five months ago, with the backing of 95 percent of its members, the Guild instructed writers to fire their agents unless they agreed to limit themselves to making money the old-fashioned way — taking a 10 percent commission for every contract they negotiate. Some of the small and midsize agencies agreed. But the Big Four — William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency and ICM Partners, which together negotiate 75 percent of the writers income — refused. The big bone of contention: a decades-old industry practice known as “packaging.”

These days, four of five TV shows and movies are said to be “packaged,” meaning that a talent agency has put together a group of its clients — actors, directors, writers and other talent — to participate in a project. For this, they earn a packaging fee that, in television, is almost always 3 percent of what a network pays the studio to produce the show, or somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000 per episode. Although these package fees are paid by the studios out of the production budget, they substitute for the traditional 10 percent commissions that writers, actors and directors would otherwise be required to pay their agents. The agencies claim that packaging is saving writers $49 million a year in commissions. The writers contend that whatever they are saving in commission is more than offset by the lower salaries they earn when production budgets are squeezed to pay packaging fees to their agents.

… The five-month standoff has also caused a rift among the writers, some of whom are having second thoughts about the Guild’s hard-line strategy. With the quiet encouragement of the agencies, more than 500 guild members are backing a slate of dissidents running against the current leadership in an election that will be decided Sept. 16.

The dissidents — headed by top “showrunners” such as Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” “Arrow”), Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing,” “Network”), John Wells (“ER,” “The West Wing”) and David Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “Goliath”) propose to reopen talks in the hope of reaching a “reasonable” compromise with the agencies.

On Twitter, the dissidents have been called “scabs” and “shills,” while the current leadership is accused of waging a needless battle and weakening the Guild as it heads into more important negotiations next year on a new contract with the studios and networks….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “To Scale: The Solar System,” a 2015 video on YouTube, Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet travel to Nevada’s Blackrock Canyon to build a scale model of the solar system so large that Neptune’s orbit is seven miles in diameter.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/19 Two Thousand Million Or So Years Ago Two Pixels Were Scrolling

(1) MOSLEY QUITS STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Walter Mosley tells “Why I Quit the Writers’ Room” in an op-ed for the New York Times. His piece doesn’t name the show he quit. The Hollywood Reporter does: “Author Walter Mosley Quits ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ After Using N-Word in Writers Room”. Mosley writes —  

Earlier this year, I had just finished with the “Snowfall” writers’ room for the season when I took a similar job on a different show at a different network. I’d been in the new room for a few weeks when I got the call from Human Resources. A pleasant-sounding young man said, “Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’ room.”

I replied, “I am the N-word in the writers’ room.”

He said, very nicely, that I could not use that word except in a script. I could write it but I could not say it. Me. A man whose people in America have been, among other things, slandered by many words. But I could no longer use that particular word to describe the environs of my experience.

…I do not believe that it should be the object of our political culture to silence those things said that make some people uncomfortable. Of course I’m not talking about verbal attacks or harassment. But if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job. And furthermore, I do not believe that it is the province of H.R. to make the decision to keep my accusers’ identities secret. If I’ve said or done something bad enough to cause people to fear me, they should call the police.

My answer to H.R. was to resign and move on. I was in a writers’ room trying to be creative while at the same time being surveilled by unknown critics who would snitch on me to a disembodied voice over the phone. My every word would be scrutinized. Sooner or later I’d be fired or worse — silenced….

The Hollywood Reporter solicited CBS’ take on Mosley’s departure –

CBS TV Studios responded to Mosley’s op-ed on Friday in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter: “We have the greatest admiration for Mr. Mosley’s writing talents and were excited to have him join Star Trek: Discovery. While we cannot comment on the specifics of confidential employee matters, we are committed to supporting a workplace where employees feel free to express concerns and where they feel comfortable performing their best work. We wish Mr. Mosley much continued success.”

(2) CHANDRAYAAN-2. The lander and rover apparently didn’t make it: “‘We Came Very Close:’ Indian Prime Minister Modi Lauds Chandrayaan-2 Team After Moon Lander Goes Silent”.

India’s space program will bounce back strong from the apparent failure of Friday’s (Sept. 6) lunar landing attempt, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed.

The nation’s Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter dropped a lander called Vikram toward the lunar surface Friday afternoon. Everything went well for a while, but mission controllers lost contact with Vikram when the craft was just 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) above the gray dirt.

As of this writing, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had still not officially declared Vikram lost; the latest ISRO update stated that descent data are still being analyzed. But Modi’s comments strongly suggest that Vikram and Pragyan, the rover that was supposed to deploy from the lander, are dead.

…Indeed, India plans to develop a Chandrayaan-3 moon mission in the coming years, and the nation also intends to put humans on the lunar surface at some point. ISRO is working to send a second orbiter to Mars in the mid-2020s as well. (The nation’s first Red Planet probe, Mangalyaan, has been studying Mars from orbit since September 2014.)

And there’s still the other half of Chandrayaan-2 to consider. The mission’s orbiter, which arrived at the moon last month, is scheduled to operate for at least a year. The spacecraft is using eight science instruments to study the moon in a variety of ways — creating detailed maps of the lunar surface, for example, and gauging the presence and abundance of water ice, especially in the south polar region.

(3) TIME FOR THE TESTAMENTS. NPR has the answer to “Why Margaret Atwood Said ‘No’ To A ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Sequel — Until Now”.

…Atwood says it just seemed like the time for a sequel. “People had been asking me to write a sequel for a long time, and I always said no, because I thought they meant the continuation of the story of Offred which I couldn’t do,” she says. “But then I thought, what if somebody else were telling the story? And what if it were 15 or 16 years later? And it was also time, because for a while we thought we were moving away from The Handmaid’s Tale. And then we turned around and started going back toward it, ominously close in many parts of the world. And I felt it was possibly time to revisit the question of, how do regimes like Gilead end? Because we know from The Handmaid’s Tale that it did end.”

(4) DANCING MARVELS. Popsugar features some amazingly skilled kids – who apparently are their high school’s counterparts to my daughter’s colorguard team. “Oh, Snap: This High School Dance Team’s Avengers Routine Is Pretty Freakin’ Marvelous”.

A year after their viral Harry Potter dance routine, the students of Arizona’s Walden Grove high school are at it again with some incredible Avengers-themed homecoming choreography. The talented PAC dance team put their own twist on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and brought the beloved superheroes back to life — with some badass moves.

The full routine is an intergalatic trip through the Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame storylines. […]

(5) WITH RECEIPTS. Mimi Mondal is “Rewriting the history of science fantasy fiction” in the Hindustani Times.

…In 2016, a bust of HP Lovecraft was removed as the trophy for the World Fantasy Award, but the change had caused so much debate that a new trophy — a twisted tree girdling a full moon — wasn’t released till the next year. Last year, after the death of Harlan Ellison, obituaries from grieving fans were mixed with accounts of his serial sexual harassments, including of women author peers. Two months later, NK Jemisin made history by winning her third consecutive Hugo Award for the best novel. Veteran author Robert Silverberg denounced her acceptance speech as “graceless and vulgar” for having passionately spoken against the obstacles faced by black women writers in SFF, again to the thundering applause of the auditorium in San Jose, which I was present to witness. Jemisin’s speech was in more than one way a precursor to Ng’s.

The change in our genre is a reflection of the change that’s happening in the world. As a genre, SFF is fairly new — barely a century old — and, while science fiction in particular (less so fantasy and horror) has always worn a progressive veneer, the stories of progress have always belonged to a small, privileged group of people. But SFF is also a hugely popular and consumer-facing genre, which means trends are driven by those who consume the stories. Changes in SFF are a direct result of the changing reader and buyer demographic, which no longer simply constitutes white men in the West….

(6) YOU’RE GETTING COLDER. “Was Walt Disney Frozen?” Snopes says nope. Is there nothing left for us to believe in?

Half a century onwards, the rumor that Walt Disney’s body was put in cryonic storage remains one of the most enduring legends about the entertainment giant.

(7) LYNLEY OBIT. Actress Carol Lynley died September 3 of a heart attack reports the New York Times. She was 77. Her genre appearances included The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Night Gallery, and Tales of the Unexpected, She was in the feature films Beware! The Blob and Future Cop, and the TV movies that gave rise to series Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Fantasy Island.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7, 1795 John William Polidori. His most remembered work was “The Vampyre”, the first published modern vampire story published in 1819. Although originally and erroneously accredited to Lord Byron, both Byron and Polidori affirmed that the story is his. Because of this work, he is credited by several as the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction. (Died 1821.)
  • Born September 7, 1937 John Phillip Law. He’s probably best remembered as the blind angel Pygar in the cult  film Barbarella which featured Jane Fonda in that bikini. He shows up in Tarzan, the Ape Man as Harry Holt, and he’s in a South African SF film, Space Mutiny, as Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan, that’s set on a generation ship. Look actual SF! (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 7, 1955 Mira Furlan, 64. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in Marc Zicree’s Space Command.
  • Born September 7, 1960 Christopher Villiers, 59. He was Professor Moorhouse in “Mummy on the Orient Express”, a Twelfth Doctor story. It’s one of the better tales of the very uneven Calpadi run. He’s also Sir Kay in First Knight and is an unnamed officer in From Time to Time which based on Lucy M. Boston’s The Chimneys of Green Knowe.
  • Born September 7, 1966 Toby Jones, 53. He appeared in “Amy’s Choice”, an Eleventh Doctor story, as the Dream Lord. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he voiced Dobby the house elf. And in 
  • Finding Neverland, Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s bo’sun. Guess what work that film was based on. Finally I’ll note that he was — using motion capture — Aristides Silk in The Adventures of Tintin. 
  • Born September 7, 1973 Alex Kurtzman, 46. Ok, a number of sites claim he destroyed Trek. Why the hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems them for me.
  • Born September 7, 1974 Noah Huntley, 45. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days Later, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (woo, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, got a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent approval rating. Ouch. 
  • Born September 7, 1993 Taylor Gray, 26. He’s best known for voicing Ezra Bridger on the animated Star Wars Rebels which I highly recommend if you’re into Star Wars at all as it’s most excellent.  He also played Friz Freleng in Walt Before Mickey

(9) MIGNOGNA SUIT WHITTLED DOWN. A Texas state judge delivered a setback to Vic Mignogna, who has brought suit to stifle some of the public #MeToo charges voiced against him. The Dallas News has the story: “In anime’s #MeToo moment, Vic Mignogna a no-show at Tarrant County hearing and his case is mostly an unholy mess”.

State District Judge John Chupp dismissed a number of the claims by Mignogna’s attorney and promised to rule on the remainder in the next 30 days.

…Friday was a significant milestone in a civil lawsuit brought by local anime voice actor Vic Mignogna against two of his Dallas-area colleagues, the fiance of one of the women, and a company that cut ties with him. Mignogna says their statements about his inappropriate behavior with women amount to an unfair campaign to destroy his career. His accusers say his lawsuit is aimed at silencing them.

After three hours of arguments between a tightly scripted defense team and Mignogna’s astonishingly unorganized — and at times ill-prepared and illogical — attorney, Chupp dismissed a number of the claims and promised to rule on the remainder in the next 30 days.

…January’s record-breaking opening of Broly also set off another round of accusations and stories on social media about the 56-year-old actor’s long-rumored inappropriate behavior with women — which allegedly has included aggressive kisses, hugs and unwanted sexual advances.

Online, thousands of anime fans rushed to pick a side in the warfare hashtagged #kickvic and #IStandWithVic. Mignogna repeatedly, and sometimes in great detail, denied all the allegations.

Amid the outcry, Flower Mound-based Funimation Productions, which dubs and distributes anime shows, including much of the Dragon Ball franchise, announced in February that it had severed ties with Mignogna after an internal investigation.

Mignogna’s lawsuit, filed April 18, alleged defamation, tortious interference, conspiracy and other charges against Funimation, voice actors Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, and Rial’s fiance, Ron Toye. The lawsuit painted the company and three individuals as a band of conspirators leading the charge to reduce Mignogna to ruins.

Friday the 141st District Court’s gallery was packed with interested parties, and many of them were there to support Rial and Marchi.  But Mignogna was nowhere to be found. Perhaps that was for the best, given the often befuddled oral arguments of his Tyler-based attorney, Ty Beard….

And the many worldwide Mignogna fans who have contributed to the massive GoFundMe for his legal fees, a war chest which now stands at more than $242,000,  might well have wanted their money back if they had been in the courtroom today.

…At the end of the proceedings — which went an hour longer than the court had allocated — Chupp dismissed all claims against Marchi, all except defamation against Funimation and all except defamation and conspiracy against Rial and Toye.

Those outstanding claims are weighty ones — Funimation, Rial and Toye are still on a sharp hook. I suspect Chupp needed to give more consideration and study to each before making his ruling. Or maybe the amateurish performance of the plaintiff’s legal team had just worn on his last nerve to the point that the extremely patient judge  needed a break.

(10) A TOAST GOODBYE. Food & Wine says “An Official ‘Mr. Robot’ Beer Will Premiere Along with the Final Season”. Doesn’t it make you wonder what alcoholic beverages should have accompanied the cancellation of The Original Star Trek (Saurian brandy!) or Agent Carter (Crown Russe Vodka?).

All good things come to an end. Including TV shows. (Except maybe The Simpsons.) But for fans of USA Network’s critically-acclaimed hacker drama Mr. Robot, at least they’ll have a beer to toast when the series premieres its fourth and final season on October 6.

In an official collaboration, USA Network has enlisted New York’s Coney Island Brewery to produce fsociety IPA — a hazy IPA inspired by Mr. Robot. Though the connection between television show and branded beer can often feel tenuous, working with the Coney Island-based brand is actually an inspired choice since the beachy New York City neighborhood serves as a significant setting in the show.

(11) THE VEGETARIAN GODZILLA. “Japanese scientists find new dinosaur species”: Yahoo! has photos.

Japanese scientists have identified a new species of dinosaur from a nearly complete skeleton that was the largest ever discovered in the country, measuring eight metres (26 feet) long.

After analysing hundreds of bones dating back 72 million years, the team led by Hokkaido University concluded the skeleton once belonged to a new species of hadrosaurid dinosaur, a herbivorous beast that roamed the Earth in the late Cretaceous period.

A partial tail was first found in northern Japan in 2013 and later excavations revealed the entire skeleton.

The team named the dinosaur “Kamuysaurus japonicus,” which means “Japanese dragon god,” according to a statement issued by the university.

(12) ANOTHER CON REPORT. Emily Stein in CrimeReads offers “An Ode To Podcasts:  Dispatches From Podcon 2019” as a report from a podcasting convention in Seattle that won’t be held again because of financial trouble.

…Earlier this year, I traveled to Seattle to attend PodCon, an annual conference celebrating all things podcasts. While many kinds of podcasts were represented, PodCon has always had a special fondness for audio dramas, or fiction podcasts, and the fervent fandom they inspire. (Have I stayed up until midnight to hear the mind-blowing 50th episode of The Bright Sessions the second it dropped? Maybe! Did I co-create a Facebook group for listeners of I Am In Eskew to trade their nerdy fan theories? Who’s to say? Might I have joined a Discord server just to talk about Debbie’s mysterious notebook in King Falls AM? Yes, I might have. I did.)…

Four months after PodCon 2 came to a close, conference co-founder Hank Green announced that PodCon would not be returning. A variety of financial and logistical challenges had converged to make the event unsustainable, though Green expressed optimism that another conference might develop solutions to the issues they’d found insurmountable. As beloved as many podcasts are, in many ways, the medium is still finding its footing in today’s entertainment landscape. For every My Favorite Murder or Reply All, there’s a multitude of indie podcasts fighting for a wider audience, even as some bask in the glow of a small but fiercely loyal following—a coven of people who’ve found the same secret, whose days all light up when a new episode hits their feed.

(13) ACROSS A SEA OF PAPER. Polygon’s Isabella Kapur acquaints readers with the historic role of the fanzine Futurian War Digest: “Fandom under fire: how fanzines helped sci-fi survive the Blitz and beyond”.

…For the past six months, as part of the exhibition As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now at The Drawing Center, a small art museum in New York City, I have explored illustration, novels, and posters as well as fanzine materials from as far back as the 1940s. Zines were hard for fans to get their hands on, as they were printed and collated in school clubs or at the dining room table, sometimes mailed out to subscribers and contributors one by one. And yet, these publications formed the backbone of what would become modern fan culture, not just a reflection of media but a reimagining of reality.

The cost of a mimeograph machine may have been high, but the cost of not talking to each other was higher — even in some of the most dire moments of the 20th century. The oldest zine included in As If is also the longest running fanzine to remain in distribution in Britain throughout the course of the second World War: Futurian War Digest, or FIDO, which printed from October 1940 until March 1945.

FIDO reviewed science fiction works and reflected on the fragile state of the fan community in the United Kingdom during wartime. The first issue of the zine, which was published and distributed less than a month after the start of the London bombing raids known as The Blitz, made a point of announcing the conscription of fan William F. Temple and the death on active duty of sci-fi enthusiast Edward Wade. These sombre announcements ran alongside musings about John Carter of Mars.

In a time of great uncertainty, publisher J. Michael Rosenblum said in the pages of FIDO that his self-avowed goal was to “a) to give news of and to fandom, b) to keep burning those bright mental constellations possessed by all fans.” The publication was created just as much to be an archive and time capsule as a source of entertainment, news, and distraction. By publishing the fanzine, Rosenblum recorded the history of a subculture of science fiction enthusiasts, and helped to keep a community that was being actively ripped apart together.

… The physical evidence of this transatlantic fan solidarity can be seen in the unusual shape and size of Futurian War Digest Vol. 1 #9, which was printed on four packages of paper donated by U.S. fan Forrest J. Ackerman. Ackerman, who became a pioneer in his own right, helped fund publications and initiatives similar to FIDO in the United States, contributing to Le Zombie fanzine. Le Zombie, which began production in December 1938, likewise included a “War Department” section which organized to provide fanzines to American fans who had enlisted, in order to help them maintain some level of connection and normalcy under the pressures of war.

(14) THE HARRYHAUSEN WE MISSED. Episode 27 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast celebrates “Ray Harryhausen’s ‘Lost Movies'” (Part I).

The first of two podcasts exploring Ray Harryhausen’s unmade films, this episode features interviews with contributors to upcoming Titan Books publication, ‘Harryhausen: The Lost Movies’. The book examines Harryhausen’s unrealised films, including unused ideas, projects he turned down and scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. This book includes never-been-seen-before artwork, sketches, photos and test footage from the Harryhausen Foundation archives.

(15) FAMILIAR FACE. Hayley Atwood will be in the next Mission: Impossible film. More details in The Hollywood Reporter.

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