Pixel Scroll 2/16/19 When You Wish Upon a Scroll

(1) “TOO LAZY TO FAIL.” WIRED Magazine interviewed Gregory Benford about his new book, in which a familiar sff figure is a character: “Sci-Fi Author Robert Heinlein Was Basically MacGyver”. Benford also talks about several other subjects, including Philip K. Dick. 

Robert Heinlein is the legendary author of such classic works as Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Stranger in a Strange Land. His books have influenced generations of artists and scientists, including physicist and science fiction writer Gregory Benford.

“He was one of the people who propelled me forward to go into the sciences,” Benford says in Episode 348 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Because his depiction of the prospect of the future of science, engineering—everything—was so enticing. He was my favorite science fiction writer.”

Heinlein appears as a character in Benford’s new novel, a time travel thriller called Rewrite. The novel depicts Heinlein as a MacGyver-esque man of action who dispatches his enemies with the aid of improvised traps. Benford, who met Heinlein in the late 1960s and knew him throughout his life, says this is an extremely accurate portrayal.

“He had a degree in engineering from Annapolis, and he liked doing things himself,” Benford says. “You can certainly see it in his novels, which are full of people rigging stuff up and making it work. He loved that kind of thing.”

(Note: The item’s subtitle references a Heinlein character in Time Enough for Love who also had some things in common with the author.)

(2) IT PAYS TO BE LAZY. Hey, there’s even research behind this – at CNBC, “Science: Lazy people are likely to be smarter, more successful, and better employees. Who knew?”

Are lazy people really smarter and more successful?

That certainly doesn’t add up. But part of the problem might have to do with how we view laziness itself; it’s very possible that the things we associate with laziness are actually not so indicative of laziness at all.

Bill Gates has often been quoted as saying, “I always choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Whether Gates even said that in the first place is questionable, but the quote still gets repeated — and that’s because there’s some truth in it.

Many obsessively critical thinkers (a.k.a. people with a high “need for cognition”) are concerned with reducing wasteful actions, and instead prefer to use efficient processes….

(3) ZONE TRANSFERS TO WEST END. The Twilight Zone is coming to the West End at London’s Ambassadors Theatre March 4, 2019 after its initial run elsewhere. Poster photos by Steve Green.

The 1960s CBS series has been adapted for the stage by Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play) as eight stories from original writers Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson unfold. Richard Jones directs.

(4) SFF ROMANCE HONORED. The finalists of genre interest for the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards are:

Favourite Paranormal Romance

  • Clash of Storms by Bec McMaster
  • Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
  • Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold by Demelza Carlton
  • Lionheart by Thea Harrison
  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh
  • The Chosen by Thea Harrison
  • When Darkness Follows by Athena Daniels

Favourite Sci Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Almost Perfect by Tamara Martin
  • Breakeven by Michelle Diener
  • Cursed by Keri Arthur
  • Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

(5) BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Berlin film festival ended tonight with various awards being handed out (and there are a lot of awards). The full list is here in a lengthy PDF document. Most of the winners are not genre.

Two winners are genre interest. The Teddy Award for the best LGBT feature film as well as the Teddy Readers Award, awarded by the readers of the website queer.de went to Breve Historia Del Planeta Verde (A Brief Story from the Green Planet), an Argentinian movie about a transwoman taking a road trip with a purple alien through rural Argentina, which sounds pretty fabulous. Here is the Teddy Award website and here is a bit more about the movie from the official Berlin film festival website.

And this year’s honorary Golden Bear was awarded to Charlotte Rampling, whose genre roles include Zardoz and the upcoming Dune adaptation by Denis Villeneuve. More here.

(6) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Cheryl Morgan tweeted photos of her walking tour of Dublin, especially the vicinity where the Worldcon will be held. The thread starts here.

(7) SMITH OBIT. Disney archivist Dave Smith died February 15. Disney Parks Blog profiles him in “Remembering Dave Smith” .

Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith passed away in Burbank, California, on February 15, 2019. He was 78. Dave dedicated his four-decade career at The Walt Disney Company to preserving Disney’s precious treasures from film, television, theme parks, and beyond. Named a Disney Legend in 2007, Dave was beloved by fans around the world for his wide knowledge of the Company’s rich history, which he shared in books and through his popular magazine column “Ask Dave.”

(8) GANZ OBIT. Swiss actor Bruno Ganz died today. Cora Buhlert recollects: “Genre roles include Werner Herzog’s take on Nosferatu, Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin/Wings of Desire and its sequel Faraway, So Close, and The Boys From Brazil, which I’ve totally forgotten he was in. Oh, yes, and he gave the best ever portrayal of Adolf Hitler in Downfall, i.e. the movie all of those subtitled ranting Hitler videos on YouTube were taken from. My parents actually saw him on stage in the 1960s, when he played at the Bremen theatre early in his career.”

The New York Times has the story — “Bruno Ganz, Who Played an Angel and Hitler, Is Dead at 77”.

By many standards, the greatest honor Mr. Ganz received was possession of the Iffland-Ring, a diamond-studded piece of jewelry named for an 18th-century German actor and given to the “most significant and most worthy actor of the German-speaking theater.” When he received it in 1996, as a bequest from his predecessor, Josef Meinrad, he was only the fifth actor to have held it since the 1870s.

Mr. Ganz admitted that his convincing performances seemed to transcend reality for some fans. “People really seemed to think of me as a guardian angel” after “Wings of Desire,” he told The Irish Times in 2005. “People would bring their children before me for a blessing or something.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 16, 1909 George Gross. Pulp artist whose first cover work was for Mystery Novels Magazine starting with their March 1935 cover. He then had a very long association with Jungle Stories from 1941 to 1954. In the 70s, he illustrated The Avenger series of paperback books which were published by Warner Paperbacks. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 66. Happy Birthday! OGH has won the Hugo Award 11 times in two categories: File 770 won the Best Fanzine Hugo seven times. He himself has won the Best Fan Writer Hugo four times. Chicon IV, the 1982 Worldcon, presented him a special award for “Keeping the Fan in Fanzine Publishing.” It is even rumored that he might have written several pieces of genre short fiction. 
  • Born February 16, 1953 Roberta Williams, 66. Video game designer and writer, and considered to be the creator of the graphic adventure game genre. Her work include: King’s Quest, Phantasmagoria, and Mystery House. She and her husband founded Sierra Entertainment. Are video games genre? Depends on the story being told, and her stories were some of the best.
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I think I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about whisky, George Bush and the Iraq War. Oh and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 16, 1957 LeVar Burton, 62. Well y’all know what series he was on and what character he played that he’s best known for so I can dispense with that. Other genre appearances include The Supernaturals, a zombie film, as Pvt. Michael Osgood, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies voicing Black Lightning and in another zombie film Rise of the Zombies as Dr. Dan Halpern. 
  • Born February 16, 1958 Ice-T, 61. Really how could I pass up an actor who played a kangaroo named T-Saint In Tank Girl? It’s not his only genre appearance as he did show up in Johnny Mnemonic as J-Bone. Remember the  Warwick Davis Leprechaun horror series I noted on his Birthday? Well he’s in The fifth one, Leprechaun in the Hood as Mack Daddy. And he’s in Bloodrunners as Chesterfield, the lead bloodsucker. He was also in Frankenpenis but frankly let’s not go that way..
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 55. The Ninth Doctor and the first of the new series of Doctors who despite the all the controversy among fans actually only agreed to one season. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (a truly shitty film), Thor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre, both in London. 
  • Born February 16, 1968 Warren  Ellis, 51. English comic-book writer, novelist, and screenwriter. Ok I think Planetary is fucking brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to sniffed either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if if you like hard boiled detective fiction, I strongly recommend.
  • Born February 16, 1972 Sarah Clarke, 57. Renée Dwyer In The Twilight Saga franchise and starred on The Tomorrow People series as Marla Jameson. She was also in The Booth at the End series as Sister Carmel
  • Born February 16, 1974 Mahershala Ali, 45. First shows up in the genre in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ss Tizzy Weathers. He was. Obsessed in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and voices  Aaron Davis / The Prowler In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a film on my short list to purchase from iTunes. He was on The 4400 as Richard Tyler, and was on Marvel’s Luke Cage as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. 

(10) HEARTS & RUBBISH. Valentine’s Day is past—thankfully so for some people. Now Tim Surette, writing for TV Guide, wants to serve up “10 Terrible TV Couples Who Will Remind You Valentine’s Day Is Trash.” Genre shows figure prominently.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to sit your special someone down, look deep into their eyes, and coo, “Why the hell did Rory ever go out with Dean?” Love is all over television, but sometimes television gets love W-R-O-N-G.

We’re looking at 10 instances of bad love from some of our favorite television shows. Some of these scarred us in the past, some are still going, but all of them are relationships that were doomed from the beginning despite the shows’ best efforts to make us swoon and ship. Nice try, TV!

While Surette has plenty to say about each couple, the list looks like this:

  • Ross and Rachel, Friends
  • Veronica and Duncan, Veronica Mars
  • Damon and Elena, The Vampire Diaries
  • Jon and Dany, Game of Thrones
  • Rory and Dean, Gilmore Girls
  • Ted and Robin, How I Met Your Mother
  • Sayid and Shannon, Lost
  • Olivia and Fitz, Scandal
  • Rosita and Father Gabriel, The Walking Dead
  • Dawson and Joey, Dawson’s Creek

(11) THE HERMITAGE. Fanzine fans may be interested to know that Harry Warner Jr.’s old home in Hagerstown, MD is up for sale. I sent many an issue of File 770 to the Hermit of Hagerstown at 423 Summit Ave., and looked forward to letters of comment with that return address.

(12) ICE PIRATES! BBC News: “Vodka firm loses valuable iceberg water in apparent heist”.

A Canadian vodka distiller has lost 30,000 litres of valuable iceberg water in what appears to be a heist.

Iceberg Vodka CEO David Meyers says he is mystified as to who – or why – someone would have stolen the water.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say someone made away with the liquid – enough to fill a tractor-trailer tanker – from a warehouse in the historic community of Port Union, Newfoundland.

The water is valued at between C$9,000 ($6,775; £5,200) and C$12,000.

[…] The water is insured but the company is only able to harvest it in the spring from the ice giants that appear annually on Newfoundland and Labrador’s coast along the famed “iceberg alley”.

(13) STAY FROSTY. Paul Weimer has good things to say about this northern tale: “Microreview [book]: The Song of All, by Tina LeCount Myers”.

The Song of All uses Saami culture and mythology, as well as a crunchy set of characters and motivations to portray a frozen and bloody tale.

…This is a novel that reads much more like a saga than an epic fantasy novel, and a saga told to locals more than a secondary fantasy novel in typical fashion trying to build that out. One could imagine Irjan’s story, as written here, being presented for the benefit of the inhabitants of that world, who would already know what, for instance, a duollji is. The novel is far more interested in actions, and the consequences of those actions. So while the novel is light on traditional worldbuilding, it is very strong on plot. There is a rich tapestry of character stories and motivations here that, when the novel gets out of that early roughness, propels the narratives of the characters forward in a very readable fashion…

(14) A MONTH’S WORTH OF GOOD STUFF. Lady Business chronicles “Our Favourite Media of January 2019”. For example, Susan praises this book:

Witchmark by C. L. Polk — Oh no, I loved it. Miles Singer, an army doctor turned psychiatrist is treating returned soldiers with PTSD – until a dying man charges him with solving his murder. It’s so satisfying – the mystery is compelling, like full on “I just lost three days of my life and immediately started rereading the book to pick up the clues better” levels of compelling, and I may have raptor screeched about both the romance and the sibling relationships that we get to see here. The world-building is superb, and the way it gets revealed and built up made me so happy! … Plus, I spent most of the book viscerally angry at the secondary characters, and I was supposed to be! It’s been so long since I got to be angry at a book for the reasons that the author wanted me to be angry, and I’m so glad C. L. Polk brought that joy back to me. Basically, I adored it, and I am desperate for the sequel to come out now!

(15) WILL YOU SHELL OUT FOR THIS? Exciting is not the word I would choose. (GeekTyrant: “New Image Released For Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”).

Earlier this week it was announced that DC Entertainment and Nickelodeon were teaming up to produce an animated film called Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Today we’ve got a new image from this exciting crossover film and it features the Ninja Turtles coming in contact with The Dark Knight.

The film is based on the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics miniseries by James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II. The story “will see the turtles meeting Batman via a transdimensional encounter, and feature our heroes teaming up to face Batman’s deadly rogues gallery.” 

(16) IT BARS MY DESTINATION. The proposed route of the US border fence (or wall or whatever it’s currently called) with Mexico cuts right through a spaceport under construction (Bloomberg: SpaceX Texas Launch Site Risks Being Split in Two by Border Wall”), which seems to be an odd definition of “border.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has a big stake in the battle over border security being waged in Congress: a launchpad on the U.S.-Mexico border that it plans to use for rockets carrying humans around the world and eventually to Mars.

Democratic lawmakers have taken up the cause of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and are trying to thwart the Trump administration’s efforts to build a border barrier that could cut across the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico coast near Brownsville.

[…] Representative Filemon Vela, a Democrat whose district includes the SpaceX facility, said the company isn’t happy about the plans, though it hasn’t publicly raised objections.

“They are way behind the scenes on this, they are lying pretty low,” said Vela, citing information he was given by local officials. “SpaceX doesn’t want to offend DHS.”

(17) DELVING INTO EARTH’S PAST. The “Dinosaur Pictures and Facts” site allows you to see the shape of the continents and oceans at many times in Earth’s past. You can enter an address to locate it on past landmasses (or ocean depths) from the present back to 750 million years ago. Each selection also comes with a blurb about the diversity of life at that time.

Here’s the entry for 240 million years ago.

Early Triassic. Oxygen levels are significantly lower due to the extinction of many land plants. Many corals went extinct, with reefs taking millions of years to re-form. Small ancestors to birds, mammals, and dinosaurs survive.

(18) FLYING STANDBY. Reuters: “NASA mulls buying new rides to space from Russia amid programme delays”.

NASA said on Friday it was weighing an option to buy two additional astronaut seats aboard a Russian rocket as a contingency plan against further delays in the launch systems being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing Co. 

A possible purchase “provides flexibility and back-up capability” as the companies build rocket-and-capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011. 

(19) TITLE TUNE. Anna Nimmhaus penned a verse to go along with today’s title —

When You Wish Upon a Scroll
 
* * *
When you wish upon a scroll,
Makes no difference who’s a troll;
When you wish upon a scroll,
As Filers do;
 
With your pixels in your dreams,
Ignore “Blameless me, it seems”;
When you wish upon a scroll,
Kind dreams come true.

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Gregory Benford, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/6/19 Pixels In The Hands Of An Angry Scroll

(1) BETTER WORLDS. Latest in the Better Worlds series on The Verge is “Skin City” by Kelly Robson.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Skin City” in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

Andrew Liptak’s Q&A with author Robson: “Kelly Robson on burlesque and privacy in a futuristic Toronto”.

Tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for “Skin City.”

One of my big fandoms here in Toronto is Nerd Girls Burlesque. They are a wonderful troupe of nerdy burlesque dancers who recently put on a Game of Thrones burlesque show, two fantastic and incredibly well-attended the Harry Potter burlesque nights, and a Doctor Who burlesque show. I love them. I think they’re fantastic. They’re so witty and so delightful. So when I think about Toronto or when I think about a better world in Toronto, it definitely includes them. I wanted to write about a nerdy burlesque dancer, and I wanted to put her front and center in the city, and I wanted Toronto to be known for that kind of thing.

(2) BEST PRACTICE. It’s just good manners:

(3) WHAT IT IS. Jeff VanderMeer reviewed the book for the LA Times: “Marlon James’ ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ unleashes an immersive African myth-inspired fantasy world”.

James certainly makes his own unique contribution to the process of decentralizing the white European experience in fantasy fiction, although it’s important to recognize that this process has been underway for some time — and in so many different ways that it’s just plain lazy to compare this novel with, say, works from the last decade by Nnedi Okorafor or David Anthony Durham or Nora Jemisin or Minister Faust or Nisi Shawl or Kai Ashante Wilson (perhaps even beyond lazy). Neither is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” Afrofuturism or even, really, “the African Game of Thrones,” as many – including James – have called it.

What it is … is the latest Marlon James novel.

(4) GOT CHARACTERS WHO ARE STILL WITH US. As the next and final season of Game of Thrones approaches, publicity is cranking up (Mashable:New ‘Game of Thrones’ pics tease Varys’ return and more surprises”). A dozen new still photos have been released.

We’re just months from Game of Thrones’ final season, and HBO has released the first stills of Season 8 to get this hype train moving.

Though mostly character shots, it’s thrilling to see our favorite characters again – alive, for the time being, and moving around Westeros with the speed and urgency established in Season 7. Most surprising is the return of Varys (Conleth Hill) to the North…or does that snow mean winter is spreading south with the White Walkers?

(5) PROTIP. Myke Cole was yanking peoples’ chains:

Of course, one person actually went looking for the list. (See Twitter thread.)

(6) VORLICEK OBIT. [Apologies for substituting certain letters in his Czech name which WordPress won’t reproduce.] Vaclav Vorlicek, a Czech director of fantasy films that are greatly beloved throughout Europe, died February 6. Cora Buhlert says he’s “definitely one of the greats of our genre who deserves to be remembered” and has written an appreciation:

You may never have heard Vaclav Vorlicek’s name until today, but if you were a kid in Eastern and/or Western Europe in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, you have almost certainly watched his films at some point. Because Vaclav Vorlicek was the man behind many of those Czech fairytale movies that were afternoon television staples for children all over Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Because – uncommon for the time – Vorlicek’s films crossed the iron curtain and entertained children on both sides.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1923 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. Stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely shitty remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1925 Patricia S. Warrick, 94. Academic who did a lot of Seventies anthologies with Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander with such such titles as Social Problems Through Science FictionAmerican Government Through Science Fiction and Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction. She did write two books of a more serious nature by herself, The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction and Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick.
  • Born February 6, 1927 Gerard O’Neill. Author, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space and though lesser known, 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future. Conceptualized ideas of permanent space habitats and mass drivers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Rip Torn, 88. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Questionable Content comic strip’s workplace is the Coffee of Doom coffeehouse. One of the baristas is highly educated.

(9) SIGNPOSTS. Wim Crusio says you should avoid The Road to Hell. No, he’s not talking theology, he’s reviewing a novel: “Recent Reads: David Weber & Joelle Presby, The Road to Hell”.

However, there are serious problems with this series, which I am afraid is symptomatic for Weber’s recent work. Like the Safehold series, this one moves at a glacial pace. In 1009 pages, we advance from November 29, 1928 CE to May 3, 1929 CE. Barely three months… And this in a multiverse where it takes months even to send a message from one end of a chain of universes to another. The use of CE dates (in addition to the calendars used by the two opposing universes) makes me fear the worst: is the story at some point going to add a gate to our own universe? Which, of course, should be at some point in our future? Meaning that at a pace of 3 months per 1000 pages we have something like 400,000 pages to look forward to? Please no!

In fact, I’m not even sure that I will by the next installment in this series, because the glacial pace with which the narrative advances is not even the worst part of this book. No, those are the endless discussions of military logistics….

(10) THANKS FOR THE PRIVILEGE. This went badly. Anand Giridharadas accepted a speaking engagement at a club for wealthy progressives. Thread starts here.

(11) SPIKE-O-SAURS. These dinos look very punk: “Newly Discovered Spiked Dinosaurs From South America Look Like Creatures From ‘No Man’s Sky’”.

Paleontologists in Argentina have uncovered a dinosaur unlike anything ever seen before. Alive some 140 million years ago, these majestic herbivores featured long, forward-pointing spikes running along their necks and backs. These spikes may have served a defensive role, but their exact purpose now presents a fascinating new mystery.

(12) CLIMATE’S INFLUENCE ON JAPANESE HISTORY. “How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future”.

Locked inside the wood of Japan’s hinoki trees is an unprecedented 2,600 year-long record of rainfall patterns that are helping to piece together how weather shapes society.

At his laboratory in a wooded grove in northern Kyoto, Takeishi Nakatsuka holds up a vacuum sealed bag. Inside, bobbing in a bath of brown water, is a glistening disk the size of a dinner plate and the color of rich gravy. This soggy circle is the remnants of a 2,800-3,000-year-old tree, recovered from a wetland – water included, so the spongy wood does not deform – in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, just north of Hiroshima. Within this ancient trunk lie secrets that can help us prepare for the future.

Nakatsuka, a palaeoclimatologist at Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, along with a diverse team of 68 collaborators, has spent the last decade developing a novel method to reveal bygone precipitation patterns and interpret their effect on society. The results offer unprecedented insight into 2,600 years of Japanese rainfall patterns. By teasing out information locked inside the preserved wood of ancient forests, they are able to reveal just how much rain fell around the country over the past two and half millennia. It is an extraordinary record.

About every 400 years, the researchers found, the amount of rain falling on Japan would suddenly become extremely variable for a period. The nation would toggle between multi-decadal bouts of flood-inducing wetness and warmer, drier years that were favorable for rice cultivation. As the rains came and went, Japanese society prospered or suffered accordingly.

As weather patterns today increasingly defy expectations and extreme events become more frequent and severe, this window into past climate variability hints at what may be in store for us in the coming years. “Today is not different than 1,000 or 2,000 years ago,” Nakatsuka says. “We still have the same lifespans and we are still facing large, stressful multi-decadal variation.”

(13) IT’S A HIT! “Cosmic pile-up gives glimpse of how planets are made”.

Astronomers say they have the first evidence of a head-on collision between two planets in a distant star system.

They believe two objects smacked into each other to produce an iron-rich world, with nearly 10 times the mass of Earth.

A similar collision much closer to home may have led to the formation of the Moon 4.5 billion years ago.

The discovery was made by astronomers in the Canary Islands observing a star system 1,600 light years away.

One planet – called Kepler 107c – is thought to have an iron core that makes up 70% of its mass, with the rest potentially consisting of rocky mantle.

Another planet further towards the star – known as Kepler 107b – is also about 1.5 times the size of Earth, but half as dense.

(14) UPDATING KIPLING. Did you wonder? “When did the kangaroo hop? Scientists have the answer”.

Scientists have discovered when the kangaroo learned to hop – and it’s a lot earlier than previously thought.

According to new fossils, the origin of the famous kangaroo gait goes back 20 million years.

Living kangaroos are the only large mammal to use hopping on two legs as their main form of locomotion.

The extinct cousins of modern kangaroos could also hop, according to a study of their fossilised foot bones, as well as moving on four legs and climbing trees.

The rare kangaroo fossils were found at Riversleigh in the north-west of Queensland in Australia.

(15) HISTORY-MAKING DUDS. BBC takes you “Inside the museum dedicated to failure” – video.

Welcome to the home of the biggest product flops of all time, including Sony Betamax, an electrocuting face mask and a Swedish alternative to marshmallows.

(16) MOTHER COMPLEX. “Netflix Acquires Rights to Sci-Fi Thriller I Am MotherComingSoon.net has the story. The flick was mentioned in the January 27 Pixel Scroll.

(17) NEW DUMBO TRAILER. Opens in the UK March 29.

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/19 I Don’ Wanna File, I Wanna Bang On The Pixel All Day

(1) A DOG STORY. The Verge has released the latest installment in its multimedia science fiction project about hope, Better Worlds. Don’t tell me – John Scalzi wrote a story about a Sad Puppy?

Today, we published one of the original short stories that we’re most excited about, “A Model Dog,” from prolific science fiction writer and Hugo Award-winner John Scalzi. Scalzi is a familiar name to most science fiction readers, best known for his novels Old Man’s War, Redshirts, The Collapsing Empire, and, most recently, The Consuming Fire.

In Scalzi’s hilarious new story story “A Model Dog” and the video adaptation from animator Joel Plosz, an eccentric tech billionaire’s frivolous project to “engineer a solution” to a dying dog takes a surprising and heartwarming turn.

There’s also a Q&A — “John Scalzi on machine learning and remembering our favorite pets”.

It does seem like this type of experimentation would have a downstream effect. I know Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of saying that going to space brought with it a number of other things you wouldn’t expect.

Absolutely. It’s the whole Velcro effect. You go into space, so you had to invent Velcro. It’s weird when you think about it. I’m not necessarily a proponent of the idea that you do a big thing because you get a few small, ancillary things out of it because it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get anything out of it. But it’s certainly not wrong. Anything you do is going to have failures and spinoffs and dead ends. But those failures, spinoffs, and dead ends aren’t necessarily things that are going to be bad or useless. It might be an unexpected thing. You do see this. A guy wanting to make a more powerful adhesive ended up creating the sticky note at 3M. Even if something doesn’t work the way you expect it to, you still get something beneficial out of it. And, to some extent, that’s what this story also nets: they aimed for one thing, and they ended up getting another.

(2) NUSSBAUM STATUS REPORT. Winner of the 2017 Best Fan Writer Hugo, Abigail Nussbaum, took herself out of contention in 2018. I asked what her plans were for 2019. She replied —  

I really hadn’t thought about the issue this year.  I suppose my feeling is that one year of telling people what to do with their vote is enough.  I’m not officially taking myself out of the running, but I don’t expect to be nominated again.  If it does come up, I’ll decide what to do then.

(3) AMERICAN GODS. The epic war of the gods begins when American Gods premieres March 10 on STARZ.

(4) ROSWELL AWARD. The submission deadline for The Roswell Award sci-fi writing competition is Monday, January 28.

The UCLA Extension Writer’s Program is sponsoring a free 10-week or shorter online class for the 1st Place winner with the option of three (3) UCLA credits.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place Roswell Award prizes!

Special prizes awarded for the Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award feminist sci-fi story and the Best Translated Sci-Fi Story Award.

Full details and guidelines here.

(5) FREE READ. A story by Kary English made the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot and she’s made it available as a free read in a Facebook public post — “Cold, Silent, and Dark” from Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath.

Here’s the story in its entirety. Please enjoy it while I have a sip of port and a bite of chocolate to celebrate. The chocolate, like the story, is deliciously dark.

(6) HALL OF FAME CALLS TROY L. WIGGINS. The Darrell Awards jury has chosen the next inductee to the Dal Coger Memorial Hall of Fame:

It gives us great pleasure to announce that the winner is TROY L. WIGGINS, who was chosen for his outstanding contributions to Midsouth literacy, both as a writer of SF/F/H short stories and for his role in founding Fiyah Lit Mag, a relatively-new SF/F/H magazine (now in its third year).

Mr. Wiggins joins 16 previous inductees, including Nancy Collins, Eric Flint, Justin Cronin, Howard Waldrop, and a dozen more worthies.

There’s more information on the Coger Memorial Hall of Fame here.

(7) THE BEST POLICY. Virgin Money wants people to pay attention to their life insurance offerings so they’ve increased the scope of their coverage. ScienceFiction.com has the story — “Insurance Company Will Cover Wacky Deaths, Including Death By Dalek”.

Here is the entire list of what Virgin Money will cover:

  1. Engulfed by a sharknado
  2. Attacked by a 100 ft tall Stay Puft marshmallow man
  3. Dalek invasion
  4. Attack by a world terraforming engine (ie: Superman)
  5. Injury caused being pursued by a Giant from a cloud-based castle
  6. Getting trampled by Godzilla
  7. Attack by Decepticon (ie: Transformers)
  8. Attack by heat ray from Martian tripods
  9. Attack by the Loch Ness monster
  10. Being given the cruciatus curse by Lord Voldemort

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 21, 1972 — NYC hosted the first Star Trek Convention.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much lauded Books Editor there at the same time. Yes, I know she had a complicated personal life but that’s not for here. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924  — Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 21, 1956 Diana Pavlac Glyer, 63. Academic whose work centers on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. She has a number of published works to date with two of interest to us, Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings and The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community.  The third in case you’re wondering is Clay in the Potter’s Hands.
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 63. Her first genre was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly  followed by her by widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She next plays Morgan Adams in the theatrical bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1958 Michael Wincott, 61. Guy of Gisbourne In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was his first genre role. Oh well. He did much better playing the truly evil Top Dollar in The Crow next, and his Comte de Rochefort in the 1993 The Three Musketeers wasn’t that bad. He played Philo Grant in Strange Days, and was Captain Frank Elgyn In Alien Resurrection. His latest film role was as Dr. Osmond In Ghost in the Shell. He shows up as the Old Bill character in the “The Original” and “Contrapasso” episodes of Westworld
  • Born January 21, 1970 Ken Leung, 49. Best known for playing Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. His latest role is as  Karnak, a member of the Inhumans on the series Inhumans. His first genre appearance was I think was as Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. and he later has a recurring role on Person of Interest, a show where AIs play a prominent role.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The problems of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Graduated: Rhymes With Orange.
  • For Over the Hedge’s RJ, there’s just too much good stuff on TV.
  • Lucas could have made a fortune with custom editions if he’d followed the advice implicit in this classic FoxTrot.

(11) REACTIONARY COMPS. Laura B. McGrath, in “Comping White” at LA Review of Books, makes the case that a publishing industry technique for projecting a book’s success, comp titles, is biased against people of color, and further, tends to neutralize the effect of having more people of color working behind the scenes.

…Instead, I decided to study the most important data that no one outside of publishing has ever heard of: Comp Titles. “Comps are king in this business,” an editor told me. (She works for a major house, and spoke under the condition of anonymity.) Comps, short for “comparable” or “comparative” titles, are the basis of all acquisitions. By predicting profits and losses, comps help editors determine if they should acquire a book or not. Comps are a sort of gatekeeper, determining what — and who — gets access to the marketplace.

The logic is straightforward: Book A (a new title) is similar to Book B (an already published title). Because Book B sold so many copies and made so much money, we can assume that Book A will also sell so many copies and make so much money. Based on these projections, editors determine if they should pre-empt, bid, or pass on a title, and how much they should pay in an author advance. Above all, comps are conservative. They manage expectations, and are designed to predict as safe a bet as possible. They are built on the idea that if it worked before, it will work again…

And if there’s no comp to be found? If a book hasn’t ever “worked” because it hasn’t ever happened? If the target audience for a book isn’t considered big or significant enough to warrant the investment? “If you can’t find any comps,” one editor explained, grimacing, “It’s not a good sign.” While intended to be an instructive description (“this book is like that book”), some editors suggested that comps have become prescriptive (“this book should be like that book”) and restrictive (“…or we can’t publish it”). 

(12) DISCO VOLANTE. Motherboard thinks “Mysterious ‘Planet Nine’ Might Actually Be a Gigantic Disk of Space Objects”.

The mysterious “Planet Nine,” which is theorized to be 10 times larger than Earth and lies somewhere in the outer reaches of our solar system, might not be a planet at all, says a new study.

It may really be a gigantic disk made up of smaller objects lying just beyond Neptune exerting the same gravitational force as a super-Earth-sized planet, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge and the American University of Beirut.

(13) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A MARTIAN COLONIST. Dwayne Day reviews season 2 of National Geographic’s Mars in “Mars: Bringer of ennui (Part 1)” at The Space Review.

The first season, consisting of six episodes, featured some excellent and insightful documentary segments and commentary, but the drama segments, which were closely tied to the documentary stories, were grim and depressing. Now, two years later, season two has aired. Unfortunately, that same dynamic was repeated: often stunning documentary segments and intelligent commentary interspersed with tedious and uninspiring drama. If National Geographic has a message about the human exploration of Mars, it is that nobody will have any fun.

(14) UNEXPECTED HOMECOMING. A piece of history will go on display: “Black Arrow: UK space rocket returns home from Australia”.

The UK’s only rocket to successfully launch a satellite into orbit is to be unveiled in Scotland after a 10,000-mile journey back home.

The Black Arrow projectile had lain at its crash landing site in the South Australian outback for 48 years.

Over time it was damaged by extreme weather and vandalism before space technology firm Skyrora stepped in.

The historic rocket is set to go on display in Penicuik, Midlothian, later this month.

Daniel Smith, director at Skyrora, said: “This is quite feasibly the most important artefact linked to the UK’s space history.

“While our engineers have been working on our own launches, our STEM ambassadors have been arranging all of this in the background.”

(15) SHOWBOATING. “He Jiankui: China condemns ‘baby gene editing’ scientist”.

China says the scientist who claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies last year acted illegally and in pursuit of fame and fortune, state media report.

He Jiankui’s claim to have altered twin girls’ genes so they could not get HIV was met with scepticism and outrage.

Investigators say the researcher faces serious punishment after acting on his own and forging ethical review papers.

Professor He, who is reportedly under house arrest, has defended his work.

In November, he told a genome summit in Hong Kong he was “proud” of his gene-editing work, a practice which is banned in most countries, including China.

His announcement was met with condemnation from hundreds of Chinese and international scientists, who said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical

(16) ANOTHER PIECE OF HISTORY. “How migration formed the English language”

The interconnectedness of Europe has a long history, as we’re reminded when we explore the roots of the English language – roots that stretch back to the 5th Century. Anglo-Saxon England “was connected to the world beyond its shores through a lively exchange of books, goods, ideas,” argues the Medieval historian Mary Wellesley, describing a new exhibition at the British Library in London – Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War – that charts the genesis of England.

“Something like 80% of all surviving Old English verse survives in four physical books… for the first time in recorded history they are all together,” she tells BBC Culture. “The period that is represented by Old English is about 600 years, which is like between us and back to Chaucer… imagine if there were only four physical books that survived from that period, what would that say about our literature?”

(17) CRETACEOUS PERAMBULATOR. (Well before that era, actually, but I couldn’t resist the Barfield reference.) A recent issue of Nature tells how “SF/F cinematic and scientific techniques combine to show how a long-extinct creature moved”.

The trolls and orcs in The Lord of the Rings films aren’t real. The dragons and dire wolves on the hit television show Game of Thrones are simulated. The dinosaurs that rampaged through a string of Jurassic Park films don’t exist outside a computer. Or do they?

These days, it can be hard to tell from the screen, given that computer-generated characters in films and video games now seem so realistic down to every tooth and claw. The realism comes from the long and fruitful interaction between science and the cinema that can be traced back to the pioneering work more than a century ago of the photographer Eadweard Muybridge (the eccentric spelling of his first name was a deliberate homage to Anglo-Saxon style).

The blending of cinematic and scientific techniques continues today. In a paper in this week’s Nature, researchers describe how they used animation techniques to reconstruct the motion of a long-extinct animal….

(18) LOOKING FOR A LAIR. A new trailer for SHAZAM! — in theaters April 5.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:

https://robin-anne-reid.dreamwidth.org/50424.html

(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • 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. 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. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. 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 a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these 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, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/18 The Black Hole Singularity’s A Feinman Private Place, But None, I fear, Do From There Escape

(1) DUBLIN 2019 ADDS FACILITIES. Next year’s Worldcon is branching out to accommodate a growing membership: “Dublin 2019 Expands: Announcing Dublin 2019’s New Creative Hub”. Chair James Bacon told fandom:

It is with excitement that I write to share that Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon is expanding.

We have watched as membership increases beyond our expectations, and have been working for some time now on how to ensure we can welcome and accommodate everyone.

We also want to ensure that any expansion works to improve the experience for members who come along, while taking into account that there is not a building directly next to the Convention Centre Dublin that we can expand into.

Eight hundred and fifty meters from the CCD, or just over half a mile, are a number of facilities that we have decided to hire and use at a wonderful location called The Point. Conveniently, there is a Luas stop outside the CCD and one outside our new facilities, with direct tram travel between them. The facilities include hotel function rooms for over 300 people, auditorium space in the Odeon Cinema for 1,000 people, 2,600 sq metres of extra exhibits space, and a number of bars, social spaces, and restaurants, all in one ‘Block’.

The additional space is not only desirable to accommodate our members, but also to accommodate everything we want to celebrate and bring to our members. It allows elements such as our art show to increase their footprint, it allows programme to programme more items for the 800 potential participants who have signed up already, it allows us to include an amazing installation from a featured artists, it will allow us to have more large displays, and it will allow us to increase dealers’ space and our ‘creative alley’.

The new spaces are the Odeon Cinema, The ‘Warehouse’, and the Gibson hotel.

More details at the link.

(2) MAPPING IRELAND’S MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Guardian’s Jack Fennell (@JFennellAuthor), who literally wrote the book on Irish science fiction, shared his list of the “Top 10 Irish science fiction authors”. If you’re looking for some reading to get you in the mood for Dublin 2019, this might be a good place to look. It is surprising to note that he omitted mention of James White’s media tie-in novel for the TV series Earth Final Conflict

9. Sarah Maria Griffin (1988-)

Spare and Found Parts is a homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a feminist dissection of creativity and interpersonal relationships, and a dystopian critique of Irish society. Set in a disease-ravaged future Dublin, the story follows Nell Crane, a talented roboticist who decides to construct a companion for herself out of items she salvages from a nearby beach. Griffin refers to herself as a “spec”(speculative) writer, rather than declaring allegiance to any one genre, but her appreciation for sci-fi, horror and fantasy bleeds through all her work.

(3) NO NINE WORLDS IN 2019? Former committee member Steve Lacey casts doubt on the chances of there being a Nine Worlds next year. Thread starts here. (The London convention Nine Worlds announced in August that they are “beginning a process of reconstitution”.)

(4) HELLBOY TRAILER. In theaters April 12, 2019.

(5) UNALLOYED PLEASURE. Steve Carper revisits a comic that fascinated me as a kid in “Elementary, My Dear Metal Men” at Black Gate.

It’s 1962. You are Irwin Donenfeld, executive vice president for DC Comics, the 800-pound gorilla of superhero comics. You are riding high on the Silver Age of comics, having revived superhero comics from their near-death experience at the hands of Fredric Wertham, the New York District Attorney, and Congress itself. A dozen new versions of 1940s legends have poured from your offices since 1956 along with brand-new successes. The secret? Showcase, a comic invented purely to give tryouts to comic concepts and get the fans, the readers, the buyers to write in insisting that one or another of them be given their own titles. The Barry Allen Flash emerged from Showcase #4, The Challengers of the Unknown in #6, Lois Lane in #8, Green Lantern in #22, Aquaman in #30, the Atom in #34.

(6) WHAT HORROR WRITERS EAT. The “Winners of the 2018 Cookbook Contest” have been announced by the Horror Writers Association. They’ll publish the winning recipes and photos in their January newsletter.

1st Place

  • Owl Goingback – Indian Pumpkin Fry Bread

2nd Place – Tie

  • Dan Rabarts – Slow-Cooked Minotaur Shanks
  • Kelly Robinson – Blue Hubbard Squash Tarts & Cemetery Quiche

3rd Place – Tie

  • Frank Coffman – Hungry for man Goulish
  • Bruce Boston – WASP Pizza (with story)

(7) IN TRANSLATION. At Speculative Fiction in Translation, Rachel S. Cordasco is assembling a list of sff in translation due out in 2019.  See the spreadsheet for complete information [Google Docs].

(8) IT CAN GET WORSE. That’s Phoebe Wagner’s takeaway: “Microreview [Book] Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias”at Nerds of a Feather.

…Ten years ago when Ink first hit shelves, it would have been a difficult read. Now, the images of tattoos, GPS trackers, internment camps, border dumps are all too mainstream. Just like Twitter in the novel, these stories fill my timeline. This past weekend, a brief discussion popped up on my timeline regarding good speculative fiction: it’s not meant to predict the future but warn against a type of future…

(9) WHERE DID UNIONS GO IN SFF? Olav Rokne begins a short series about “Imagining the future of organized labour (part one of two)” at the Hugo Award Book Club.

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

(10) BOWDLERIZING HARLAN. Amazing Stories’ SF Trivia Context #3 poses this question:

True or False:

Harlan Ellison once stated that the “hideous neologism”…”SciFi”…“sounds like grasshoppers f***ing”.

I know the answer – though I’m curious about the attempt to clean up the quote.

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The late Penny Marshall was the first-ever guest star on The Simpsons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 19, 1918 — Marylou Tousignant in the Washington Post notes that Robert Ripley started the comic strip that, re-named, became “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” in December 1918.
  • December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke:The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball. And a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 58. Best known for his Fractured Europe series which consists of Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight, Europe in Winter and Europe at Dawn. Great reading! He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 49. Her first starring genre film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe PhantomNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 46. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre, an excellent animated short.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 43.Best known for the Mistborn series . He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time .OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of these series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979Robin Sloan, 39. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it  is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing,  Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 38. First genre role was the lead in Donnie Darko. Later roles have included The Day After TomorrowPrince of Persia: The Sands of TimeSource Code and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) THE SOUND OF M.R. JAMES. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie recommends these Christmas short audio ghost stories from the BBC and M.R. James (grandmaster of horror). “They are only 14 minutes long and perfect to bring a delightful shiver to the festive season.  Yesterday’s was this one –“

“Casting the Runes” by the master of the ghost story, M.R. James. The tale of a curse passed on by a curiously inscribed slip of paper.

This story inspired the film Night of the Demon (1957). You can hear it online for the next 28 days.

(15) READING BY GASLIGHT.Did somebody hack JDA’s blog? There’s a new post, “On Bullying And ComicsGate” [Internet Archive ink], which begins —

One of my main principles is I’m anti-bullying…. 

(16) SAD PUPPY DNA. Gizmodo says “Don’t Take the DNA Test You’ll Probably Get for Christmas”.

… there’s no guarantee that the results you get back from a DNA-testing company are particularly meaningful or even accurate. Earlier this year, a company called Orig3n, which claims to offer fitness and lifestyle advice based on your genes, failed to note that a sample of submitted DNA actually came from a Labrador retriever.

(17) EXPLAINING THAT FLOPPEROO. Looper would be delighted to have you watch their video explaining why Mortal Engines tanked, although by the time you’ve read the “hook” you may already know all they have to say:

Mortal Engines was a massive flop at the box office. What was the reason that this potential series builder bombed so hard at the box office, really? There’s a lot to unpack with this movie – which potentially just killed a franchise. Despite a $100 million budget, and a marketing budget of more than $120 million, Mortal Engines pulled in a measly $7.5 million domestic in its opening weekend – only good enough for fifth place. What went wrong exactly? Well, we can start by looking at the marketing. Despite a lot of cash and ads, unless you were familiar with the 2001 Philip Reeve book (and books after), the idea of cities on wheels that roll around and gobble up smaller cities sounds… well… silly. The ads didn’t do a very good job explaining what exactly was going on. Another issue was the presentation: Is this a drama? An action movie? Is it a teen drama? If you went with teen drama for Mortal Engines you’d be correct, and we are at a time when teen/young adult dramas are flopping left and right; the timing was rather poor. Then Mortal Engines had the misfortune of opening against Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and The Mule – which eliminated two major age groups from seeing it. Add in a surprise exclusive showing of Aquaman via Amazon Prime and holdovers like Ralph Breaks The Internet, it’s not a surprise at all that the city on wheels movie never got rolling.

(18) GENIE-US. ScienceFiction.com liberated Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery so that you can “Get Your First Look At Will Smith And The Cast Of ‘Aladdin’”.

In May of next year, Will Smith is hoping to enchant audiences with his depiction of the Genie in the latest live action remake of a classic Disney animated film, ‘Aladdin’.  This project is directed by Guy Ritchie (‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’) and also stars Mena Massoud (‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’) as Aladdin, Naomi Scott (‘Power Rangers’) as Princess Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari (‘Murder on the Orient Express’) as the villainous Jafar, as well as Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen, Navid Negahban, and Nasim Pedrad.

To prepare you for your trip to Agrabah, Disney has released a series of first-look photos from the film…

(19) CLEAR ETHER. BBC assures everyone “Nasa’s New Horizons probe on course for historic flyby”.

The American space agency’s New Horizons probe remains on course for its daring flyby of Ultima Thule…

When the mission sweeps past the 30km wide object on New Year’s Day, it will be making the most distant ever visit to a Solar System body – at some 6.5 billion km from Earth.

Mission planners decided at the weekend to forego a possible trajectory change.

It means the probe will get to fly 3,500km from icy Ultima’s surface to take aseries of photos and other data.

There had been some concern that the object might be surrounded by large debris particles which could destroy the probe if it were to run into them. But nothing of the sort has been detected and so a wider, safer pass will not be needed.

(20) WHICH CAME FIRST? Maybe neither the chicken nor the egg – it may have been the feathers: “Pterosaurs: Fur flies over feathery fossils”.

Two exceptionally well preserved fossils give a new picture of the pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs.

Scientists believe the creatures may have had feathers, and looked something like brown bats with fuzzy wings.

The surprise discovery suggests feathers evolved not in birds, nor dinosaurs, but in more distant times.

Pterosaurs were the closest relatives of dinosaurs, sharing a common ancestor about 250 million years ago.

“We would suggest – tentatively – that it would be worth considering that feathers originated much earlier than we thought,” Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, told BBC News.

(21) THE CONQUEROR BEFORE WILLIAM. “Hastings dinosaur footprints exposed by cliff erosion”. “Yes, technically the conqueror before William was Claudius,” admits Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, “but he didn’t land at Hastings.”

Dozens of well-preserved dinosaur footprints from at least 100 million years ago have been uncovered in East Sussex.

At least seven different species were identified by University of Cambridge researchers during the past four winters following coastal erosion along the cliffs near Hastings.

They range in size from less than 2cm to more than 60cm across, and are so well-preserved that even the skin, scales and claws are easily visible.

There are more than 85 markings, all of which date from the early Cretaceous period.

(22) WHAT’S UP, DOCS? The American Chemical Society sent out a story about how “Rabbit gene helps house plant detoxify indoor air.”

A genetically modified houseplant can efficiently remove toxins from the air.

Our homes are supposed to be safe havens from the outside world. However, studies have shown that household air is more polluted than either office or school air, exposing children and home workers to higher levels of carcinogens than the general population. Now, researchers have made a genetically modified houseplant that can efficiently remove at least two toxins from the air. They report their results in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Indoor air often contains volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform. These toxins come from many sources, including cooking, showering, furniture and smoking. House plants can remove some toxins from the air, but they aren’t very efficient: A homeowner would need more than 20 plants to remove formaldehyde from a typical room, researchers estimate. Stuart Strand and colleagues wondered if introducing a mammalian gene called CYP2E1 to a common houseplant, pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum), would boost the plant’s detoxifying potential. his gene encodes cytochrome P450 2E1, an enzyme that breaks down a wide range of volatile organic compounds found in the home.

The team introduced rabbit CYP2E1 to the ivy’s genome and injected benzene or chloroform gas into closed vials that contained growing plants. After 3 days, the concentrations of these compounds in the vials had dropped dramatically, and by 8 days, chloroform was barely detectable. In contrast, the compounds’ concentrations in vials containing unmodified ivy or no plants did not change. The researchers estimate that a hypothetical biofilter made of the genetically modified plants would deliver clean air at rates comparable to commercial home particulate filters.

(23) MORE SEASONAL VERSE. Submitted by Anna Nimmhaus, inspired by item 14 in the December 17 Pixel Scroll. (Apologies for the formatting — I have not yet conquered the WordPress 5.0 update of a week ago.)

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll,

Pixels all the way.

Oh, what fun it is to rhyme

With Camestros today.

Scrolling pixels through

With Camestros today,

Internets we view,

Laughing all the way.

Trolls will fail to sting,

Making spirits bright.

Camestros and we shall sing

A scrolling song tonight.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/18 One Dream, One Soul, One File, One Scroll, One Pixeled Glance Of What Should Be

(1) NO ESCAPE CLAUS. John Scalzi reveals that when it comes to who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, litigation can play a role: “An Interview With Santa’s Lawyer”. There also are some surprising revelations about elvish labor law:

If elves don’t qualify as human under the law, what are they?

Under Canadian law, they’re technically animals.

Animals.

Yes. Just like reindeer. And technically, under Canadian law, Santa’s Workshop qualifies as a federally inspected farm, the oversight of which is handled by Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

So, technically, Santa’s elves have as many rights as veal.

I’m offended at this comparison, and also, yes.

 (2) IT’S MORTAL. Deadline saw the B.O. numbers and administered last rites — “‘Mortal Engines’ Conks Out At The B.O. And Is Poised To Lose At Least $100M+: Here’sWhy”.

There is nothing more daunting right now in the current franchise-obsessed box office marketplace than launching an original piece of sci-fi/fantasy. This weekend, we’re seeing the Peter Jackson-produced,$110M+ Mortal Engines a casualty of its own ambition to create a brand new world on screen, with a disastrous opening of $7.5M and a running worldwide total of $42.3M.

(3) THE ACADEMY AWARDS. Variety shares some preliminary 2019 Oscar nominee sorting — “Oscars: Film Academy Narrows the List of Contenders in Nine Categories”. Below are the contenders of genre interest. (Click on the link for the complete list.) The official nominations for the 91st annual Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 22, 2019.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Black Panther”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

“Annihilation”

“Avengers: Infinity War”

 “Black Panther”

 “Fantastic Beasts: TheCrimes of Grindelwald”

“First Man”

 “Isle of Dogs”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

 “Ready Player One”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

 “All The Stars” from“Black Panther”

 “The Place Where LostThings Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”

“Trip A Little Light Fantastic” from “Mary Poppins Returns”

 “A Place Called SlaughterRace” from “Ralph Breaks the Internet”

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

“Age of Sail”

“Animal Behaviour”

“Bao”

“Bilby”

“Bird Karma”

“Late Afternoon”

“Lost & Found”

“One Small Step”

“Pépé le Morse”

“Weekends”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Ant-Man and the Wasp”

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Black Panther”

“Christopher Robin”

“First Man”

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“Ready Player One”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

“Welcome to Marwen”

(4) LET THE YEAR’S BESTS BEGIN. Jonathan Strahan has announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 13 and Jason has added links to the contents as the start of Featured FuturesCollated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links).

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF,Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(5) HELLBOY ON THE WAY. IGN News has the scoop: “Hellboy: Check Out a Brand New Poster, Plus Trailer Debut Date – IGN Premiere”— 

Not only can you check out an exclusive new poster for the upcoming David Harbour-starring movie, but we can also confirm that — at long last! — the first trailer for Hellboy is coming this Thursday.

Additionally, IGN can confirm that Hellboy will be releasing in IMAX theatrically.

(6) PALEO ANKLEBITER. National Geographic, in “New species of incredible ‘living tank’ dinosaur unveiled”, assures readers, “Even fierce tyrannosaurs would have been afraid of Zuul, a club-tailed Cretaceous beast known as the ‘destroyer of shins.’”

On the second floor of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the skeleton of an older, ganglier cousin of Tyrannosaurusrex stands tall. But if the creature were alive today, it might be limping. More than 70 million years ago, this Gorgosauruswould have been an apex predator in what are now the badlands of Montana and western Canada. Apex doesn’t mean invincible, though. The animal’s right shin is a mess of broken bone that healed over in life.

What broke the poor tyrannosaur’s leg? Short of hopping in a time machine, researchers can’t be sure. But elsewhere in the same museum, visitors can get a glimpse of one of the best—and most exquisite—suspects in this Cretaceous cold case.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1945Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. I find it impressive that he attended every Worldcon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 64. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Space Balls, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough. He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot. Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon. He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in  Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 43. First genre appearence as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the forthcoming Hellboy

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Paging Col. Mustard. Col. Mustard please report immediately to Brewster Rockit aboard the R.U. Sirius.

(9) HOW TO TROLL FOR FUN AND PROFIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Somehow,when the title of the upcoming Avengers movie was announced, the studio had neglected to buy the domain names AvengersEndgame.com and AvengersEndgameMovie.com.That’s when Twitter user @AGuyInChair sprang into action, snapping up those domains and redirecting them… to the website for Once Upon a Deadpool. That, in turn, spurred Deadpool himself—well, OK, Ryan Reynolds—into action to send a reward to @AGuyInChair. CinemaBlend has the story (“Ryan Reynolds Sent The Coolest Gift To The Guy Who Redirected Endgame Domains To Deadpool”). Reynolds swag for@AGuyInChair was cool, and all, but not what the latter wanted.

So what did @AGuyInChair want? Why, a pair of tickets to the Avengers: Endgame premiere naturally. Apparently not having scored those, the two sites have since been re-redirected to “a video of Santa Claus (possibly the user himself?)addressing ‘that naughty boy’ [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige to trade the websites for those two golden tickets to Avengers: Endgame.”

(10) BLACK METAL HONORS. Summoning, a Tolkien-inspired Austrian black metal duo, has been recognized in “Bandcamp’s Best Metal Albums of 2018” for their latest album With Doom We Come:

Apart from maybe the Bible (the Satan parts, anyway), no work of literature has inspired more metal bands than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Middle-Earth has been the setting for all of the Austrian black metal duo Summoning’s albums, and their synth-driven, often minimalist songs truly sound like they could be echoing from an Uruk-hai cave. With Doom We Come is another superb entry in the band’s rock-solid discography. Guitarist Protector’s lo-fi tone is still straight out of the ’90s Second Wave, and he and bandmate Silenius have never sounded better as vocal foils for one another. Closing track “With Doom I Come” repurposes a verse of Tolkien’s poem Beren and Lúthien to create what’s arguably the catchiest vocal hook in Summoning’s career.

(11) THERE AND BACK AGAIN. This SJW Credential wasn’t named Bilbo, not quite, but Baloo did go There and Back Again. The Huffington Post has the story: “Cat Mistakenly Shipped More Than 700 Miles From Home After Sneaking Into Box.”

A curious cat named Baloo was mistakenly shipped more than 700 miles away from his home in Nova Scotia, Canada after crawling into a parcel destined for Alberta.

The tabby’s owner, Jacqueline Lake, told CTV News that the mischievous,1-year-old cat had secretly sneaked into the bottom of a package containing tire rims. The day after the parcel had been sent, Lake began searching for the missing family pet. 

“We knocked door-to-door, we searched the woods, we searched under decks, in garages, under steps … he was gone,” she said. 

Baloo was later discovered by a delivery driver in Montreal, 17-hours into his cross-country road trip. 

A local SPCA shelter managed to track down the feline stowaway’s owners using the parcel’s tracking code. 

Baloo returned to his family, safe and sound, on Saturday evening.

(12) MORE ABOUT CHRISTMAS DRAGONS. Diana Rowland’s “controversial” dragon lawn decorations reported in Sunday’s Pixel Scroll have attracted national attention (Vice: “These Dragon Christmas Decorations Are Tearing a Neighborhood Apart”).

A Louisiana woman’s unusual Christmas decorations have inadvertently ignited a beef on her street—because they’ve apparently got her boring-ass neighbors worried that she’s a member of a “demonic cult.”

Author Diana Rowland just wanted to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season by, naturally, setting up a bunch of inflatable dragons on her front yard. Of course, dragons are an appropriate and welcome addition to a lawn at any time of the year, bringing a nice Khaleesi vibe to an otherwise routine patch of grass—but one neighbor wasn’t having it. 

[…] “Your dragon display is only marginally acceptable at Halloween,” the note reads. “It is totally inappropriate at Christmas. It makes your neighbors wonder if you are involved in a demonic cult.”

[…] Thankfully, Rowland apparently did consider the true meaning of Christmas, and came to the conclusion that it meant “add more dragons to your lawn and give them halos for good measure,” because that’s exactly what she did

(13) LATE LOGGING IN. Just in time for Christmas Mike Kennedy discovered this… From 2016, but it’s news to me!

Do you need a Yule Log video to help lift everyone’s spirit when gathered for the family Christmas? Maybe this isn’t it. WarnerBros. Home Entertainment had helpfully(?) provided a 5-hour video of the “Eye of Sauron Yule Log” on YouTube, complete with the crackling noise one would expect from a nice(?) fire. There’s even a surprise(?) ending.

(14) PIXEL SCROLL ROCK. Camestros Felapton shared this instant classic in comments:

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll, pixel scroll rock
Pixel scrolls swing and pixel scrolls ring
Scrolling and linking up bushels of fan
Then the pixel hop had began

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll, pixel scroll rock
Pixel scrolls rhyme in pixel scroll time
Cosplaying and straying in pixel scroll land
To the sounds of the pixel scroll band

What a bright time, it’s the right time
To web surf the night away
Pixel scroll time is a swell time
To get caught up in a fandom array
Giddy-up pixel horse, pick up your feet
Scroll around the clock
Mix and a-mingle in the pixeling feet
That’s the pixel scroll,
That’s the pixel scroll,
That’s the pixel scroll, rock

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

Pixel Scroll 11/8/18 Octokittens

(1) DUMBLEDORE. Another Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald  featurette, “Distinctly Dumbledore,” released this week. The movie arrives in theaters November 16.

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

 

(2) WHAT’S UP, WHITE WOLF? Joseph D. Carriker identifies a big problem with the next Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition in a public post on Facebook.

So, filing this under “Second Verse Same As The First”: the excerpt below is from the upcoming Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition.

In it, it describes a vampire-dominated Chechnya. Even setting aside the gross implications of that design decision – and there are plenty of them – it also turns the internment of queer people into literal death camps into what amounts to a distraction.

This text literally refers to the “controversy” (which is such a weighted word in this context, quite frankly, carrying with it connotations of mountains being made of mole-hills) over queer internment and murder as “clever media manipulation.” This text literally turns the ending of queer lives into a throw-away feint that hides vampires. Which is a monstrous reframing of that real-world thing STILL GOING ON.

This is egregiously vile. It’s not okay. Our lives are constantly being *ended* for straight peoples’ prejudices in real life, but also in fiction and media for straight peoples’ fucking entertainment, and all of this is just “second verse same as the first.”

…This is not a good fucking look, White Wolf. Not in the least.

(3) PRO TIP. How to avoid crossouts while autographing books:

(4) ABEBOOKS BACKS DOWN. An Amazon subsidiary has yielded to an international protest by booksellers and abandoned its plans to stop allowing rare and used booksellers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and South Korea to sell books on AbeBooks. The New York Times article “After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary” says the “Banned Booksellers Week” protest involved nearly 600 booksellers around the world who stopped selling nearly 3.8 million titles via AbeBooks.

A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

… “I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before with any part of Amazon,” said Juozas Kaziukenas, chief executive of Marketplace Pulse, an e-commerce analytics firm. “It would be much harder to have a strike on Amazon itself, just because there are so many sellers there and they are not part of an organized community.”

(5) KATHERINE KURTZ JOINS WOTF PANEL. Broadway World reports “Internationally Acclaimed Author, Katherine Kurtz, Named as Judge for Writers of the Future”.

Historical fantasy author of the Deryni series, Katherine Kurtz, is the newest judge to join the ranks of the internationally-acclaimed L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, now in its 35th year.

Kurtz is now amongst a blue-ribbon panel of 23 judges, including Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Nnedi Okorafor, Tim Powers, Jody Lynn Nye, and Robert Silverberg….

(6) REMEMBER THE CRATONS. Fragments of ancient continents, known as cratons, have been isolated as parts of Antarctica using data from a European satellite (Newsweek: “Lost Continents Hidden Deep Beneath Antarctica Ice Sheet Discovered From Space”). Cratons—both in Antarctica and as parts of other continents—comprise the oldest surviving parts of Earth’s lithosphere. The satellite data was from a mission that ended in 2013.

Scientists have discovered the remnants of ancient lost continents hidden deep beneath Antarctica’s ice. Using the European Space Agency’s gravity mapping satellite, researchers were able to peer beneath the ice to map out the terrain below.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, reveal a long-lost landscape littered with cratons—large, stable blocks of the Earth’s crust that are remnants of ancient continents. They are part of the lithosphere—which consists of the crust and upper mantle—and are generally found in the center of modern continental plates. Studying these features allow researchers to understand the history of the Earth—and its future.
The ESA’s Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was launched in 2009 to measure the pull of Earth’s gravity. However, during its last year of operation, it was flown at an altitude of just 158 miles—meaning it could take extremely accurate measurements of localized gravity gradients. Using this data, the team was able to build up a patchwork 3D image of the lithosphere beneath Antarctica—including the cratons.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 – Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula, but did you know he wrote other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1906 – Matt Fox. I’m here to praise an illustrator of one of those magazines that published the stories of such writers as Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman and Ray Bradbury. The covers by Fox were of course intended to lure you to magazine rack, pick up the magazine and purchase it. Such was what he did for Weird Tales from 1943 to 1951. After that, during the fifties and sixties he worked for Atlas Comics, inking and penciling Journey into Mystery, World of Fantasy, Tales of Suspense and Journey into Unknown Worlds. It is thought that his last known published work is an advertisement, printed in 1967, for original mail-order glow-in-the-dark posters. (Died 1988.)
  • Born November 8, 1932 – Ben Bova. He’s written more than 120 books. While at Analog, he won six Hugo awards as Best Professional Editor, and he was once editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history, so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that, though uneven, is overall splendid hard sf, as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes. Like R.A. Lafferty, I know each of you has favorites by him.
  • Born November 8, 1952 – Alfre Woodard. Her most memorable genre role is as Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact in which she assisted Zefram Cochrane in building the Phoenix. Other genre roles are Captain America: Civil War,  A Series of Unfortunate EventsLuke Cage, The Last Ship, True Blood, The animated Black Panther, and  K-PAX.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TEXAS LEGISLATOR OF GENRE INTEREST. Here’s an election news item you may have missed — Luke Plunkett, in Dragon Ball Z Composer Elected To Texas State Senate” on Kotaku says that Nathan Johnson, a lawyer who has composed a lot of Dragon Ball Z music, was elected to the Texas state senate from the 16th district as a Democrat.

Johnson, a Democrat, won 54% of the vote to beat out the incumbent, Republican Don Huffines. It’s not like he just suddenly jumped into office from composing—he’s a lawyer by trade…

(10) WELCOME HOME. Been a long time since I was overseas, however, I remember the importance of gifts that are easy to pack…

(11) A SPLIT-LEVEL HEAD. James Davis Nicoll, who barely has room enough for his own thoughts, tells why he’s horrified by the idea – “Get Out of My Head: SFF Stories About Sharing Brain-Space With Somebody Else” at Tor.com.

I have a modest dream. I hope one day to live in an isolated skull-shaped mountain guarded by carnivorous birds. My lair would be surrounded by a fearsome fence, adorned with the heads of uninvited guests. I like my privacy. It should not surprise anyone, then, that I would emphatically NOT like to have a second person sharing my head.

Mental timeshares are a rich source of plot for science fiction and fantasy authors. I was reminded of this trope when I was reading, or re-reading, a few novellas in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series.

(12) STAND ASIDE, CHAUVET. “Indonesian Cave Hold Oldest Figurative Painting Ever Found, Scientists Say” — new uranium-thorium dating tech shows paintings are 40,000 years old, vs Chauvet’s 32,000 and Lascaux’s mere 17,000.

It depicts … a cow. Despite the humble subject matter, the painting is extraordinary because it’s at least 40,000 years old. That makes it thousands of years older than the oldest such paintings in Europe.

The Indonesia painting is one of thousands of drawings and stencils in a warren of limestone caves tucked into remote mountains at the far eastern edge of the island of Borneo, a part of Indonesia called Kalimantan. Archaeologists went there in the 1990s looking for cave art.

The BBC reports uncertainty from some reviewers:

The prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet in France, and Altamira in Spain, are similarly magnificent. They contain images of a veritable prehistoric menagerie, including cave lions, hyenas, horses, deer, rhinos and bison.

But a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science pushed the dates for cave art in Europe back to as much as 65,000 years. These paintings pre-date the known arrival of modern humans in Europe, leading to the study’s suggestion that they might have been made by Neanderthals.

One of the authors of that paper in Science was Prof Alistair Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton. Prof Pike – who was not involved with the new research – welcomed the findings, but expressed reservations about the date for the oldest figurative painting.

(13) NEW FOSSIL SITE. NPR is there to see the bones — “Scientists Unveil Ancient Sea Monsters Found In Angola”.

When the South Atlantic Ocean was young, sea monsters ruled it.

Some of their bones have turned up along the coast of West Africa and are going on exhibit Friday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. They tell a story of the bloody birth of an ocean.

The fossils of giant swimming reptiles called mosasaurs have been found in the rocky cliffs of Angola, overlooking the Atlantic. It’s not a country known for fossils. Few scientists have looked there — half a century of civil war made it too dangerous. But geologically, Angola is special.

(14) DOWNSIZING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge talks  bout how “SpaceX’s helipad-equipped boat will bring astronauts safely home”. I mean, Apollo used a frikin’ aircraft carrier plus many other ships for recovery. Now SpaceX will use the GO Searcher, which looks more like the captain’s gig for an aircraft carrier—though it does have a brand new helipad grafted above the main deck.

Go Searcher is part of a fleet of ocean vessels that SpaceX has acquired over the years to aid in its spaceflight efforts. The most famous of these are SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships, which are used as landing pads when the company’s Falcon 9 rockets are recovered in the ocean after launches. Go Searcher used to accompany these drone ships when they were tugged back to shore as a support vessel. But at the end of summer, SpaceX gave Go Searcher a suite of upgrades — including the addition of a helipad and a radar dome — to make sure the boat can swiftly recover Dragon capsules that carry astronauts back to Earth.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX has been developing the Crew Dragon capsule to take astronauts to the ISS. And the company is also responsible for getting these crews safely back to Earth. When astronauts need to return home, the plan is for the Crew Dragon to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. During an ideal mission, Go Searcher will lift the Crew Dragon out of the water with a crane, attached to the end of the boat, according to NASA. The capsule will then be hauled onto the deck of Go Searcher, and the astronauts will be evaluated by doctors from SpaceX and NASA.

(15) BOOK TRAILER. Does A Town Divided by Christmas mark the beginning of a “War on Christmas” series by Orson Scott Card?

It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don’t need to know.

 

(16) REACH OUT AND TOUCH E.T. One grad student – completely disregarding warnings by everyone from Stephen Hawking to Cixin Liu — would like to use a laser beam to send a “Here We Are” signal to aliens (Popular Mechanics: “Firing a Giant Laser Into Space Could Help Find Aliens, MIT Scientist Says”). There’s no word if the laser would be attached to a shark.

If scientists wanted aliens to find Earth, how would they arrange such an encounter? A new paper from MIT suggests that a giant laser, magnified by a giant telescope and aimed out into space, could do the trick.

In what author James Clark calls a “feasibility study,” he proposes that a high-powered 1-to 2-megawatt laser be focused directly into space. While the Earth has been sending signals like radio waves into space for over a century, like those famously seen in the opening of Contact, it’s possible that solar entities like the sun and exoplanets beyond the solar system have been interfering with signals, making it harder for potential aliens to touch base.

The goal of the laser-telescope rig is the creation of an energy beam, meant to stand out amid all of the excess noise in the solar system. Its target would be areas like Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, and TRAPPIST-1, a star around 40 light-years away with seven exoplanets in orbit. Scientists say 3 of those exoplanets are potentially habitable.

“If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years,” says Clark, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in a press statement.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The 3-Second Dumpling” on YouTube explains how you can cook dumplings in three seconds if you happen to have a cannon and a flamethrower! (I may have linked to this one before – but let’s do it again!)

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/18 Eight Scrolls A File

(1) CRYSTAL HUFF AND ARISIA NEWS DEVELOPMENTS. During the day, Noel Rosenberg resigned as Operations Division Head and President of Arisia Inc. on the Arisia Corporate Members mailing list, per a report by Kris Snyder on Facebook.

Huff’s initial public response was:

Arisia continues to hear from program participants, for example, this group — “Public Statement Re: Arisia Convention Performances”.

We at the Post-Meridian Radio Players are committed to supporting Crystal Huff following her bringing to light the deeply upsetting actions taken by Arisia leadership to shield and promote her assailant.

As a performance group, we have long appreciated our working relationship with the Arisia convention. That relationship ends immediately, unless the called-for changes in leadership take place.

Sonya Taaffe offered a historical perspective on “Safety concerns at Arisia”

…As a member of the Readercon convention committee in 2012, I had a ringside seat when the similar failure of a convention to abide by its own stated policies led to the creation of its safety committee, the total overhaul of its code of conduct as well as incident report protocols, and the resignation of all members of the Readercon board. All steps including public statements of apology and accountability were necessary to restore the trust of a membership built over decades and burned in hours. I do not joke when I say it was a near-death experience for the convention. We still work to make its reputation inclusive, responsive, and safe, as opposed to tarnished by double standards and more tolerance for perpetrators than victims.

It is my sincere hope that the executive board of Arisia can heed the lesson of Readercon in choosing from this moment forward which kind of convention it wishes to be.

This is a more explicit version of the statement Nalo Hopkinson tweeted yesterday.

Kris Snyder, who works on Arisa and chaired the con in 2016, says “I believe Crystal that Noel violated her consent,” but sees a number of other things differently than Huff described them.

…I have received training for working with people who have been subjected to trauma and sexual violence. I have an extensive abuse and trauma history myself. I understand that it can take years to fully process a traumatic event like sexual assault or rape. I support Crystal’s right as a victim to evolve her understanding of what took place, and to make decisions later about how to handle the situation that are different than the ones she initially made.

I take issue with her characterization of how members of Arisia handled the situation. I do not like that she now demonizes people for actions (or lack thereof) that she specifically requested of them.

I don’t doubt that there were some people in leadership positions within the community that downplayed or dismissed the situation. That was not OK. I was not one of them. In 2012, when Crystal started enforcing boundaries with Noel, she sent several of us an email complaining about his actions but addressed it “To you guys as my friends and not as people in charge of things.” Once Arisia officially instated a disciplinary process in the spring and summer of 2013, Crystal was approached to make a report about Noel’s behavior. She declined, as was and is her right to do. Members of the eboard asked Crystal multiple times between 2013 and 2017 if she wanted to make a report and encouraged her to handle this through process. She said no….

(2) BOOK BURNING. “Iowa man burns LGBTQ children’s books from public library to protest pride festival”The Hill has the story.

An Iowa public library is considering legal options after a man checked out and burned children’s books to protest the city’s Pride festival and story time.

Paul Dorr posted a live video on Facebook on Friday that showed him throwing at least four books with LGBTQ themes into a fire inside a trash can, The Des Moines Register reported on Monday.

Dorr’s video was posted just before the beginning of the second annual OC Pride, a three-day weekend of “love, acceptance and pride” in conservative Sioux County in northwest Iowa.

Libraries here struggle to stock decent, recent books for kids as it is. Hhere’s a call to answer this crime by donating to the library —

(3) IT GOES ROUND. Alastair Reynolds saw “File 777” discussing “Paternoster Elevators” and says he knew about one in a familiar building that had, in fact, claimed a victim —

Years later I reasoned that the story must have been a carefully engineered rumour designed to stop people using the elevator in a way that wasn’t intended, not because of the risk of injury (or death) but because it caused problems with the mechanism, perhaps leading to the elevator shutting down or needing maintenance. I could well imagine that the authorities would “leak” a story like that just to stop students larking around and causing expensive breakdowns.

But (being a grisly sort of fellow) the File777 article prompted me to read up a little bit more paternosters and their history of accidents, and rather shockingly the first such account I read about was indeed one in the Claremont Tower, in 1975:

(4) ROLL THE BONES. Publishers Weekly has learned “‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ To Become a Board Game”.

Osprey Games will publish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic, a game set in the world of Susanna Clarke’s novel, coming in June 2019. Players will take on the role of four principle characters from the novel—Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell, Miss Redruth, or John Segundus—and “travel around England and Europe, attending social engagements and performing feats of magic in the hope of becoming the most celebrated magician of the age. On their travels they encounter a host of familiar characters, from the jovial Mr Honeyfoot and beautiful Lady Pole to the extraordinary Stephan Black and the enthusiastic Lord Portishead. All the while they will be building up their magical abilities, as the gentleman with the thistledown hair is weaving his magic in the background and must be stopped for any player to have a chance of claiming victory.” The game was created by designers Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello, who have previously brought the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Marvel Universe to the tabletop. The game is illustrated by Ian O’Toole.

(5) THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Clip and keep this handy if you aspire someday to be making the rounds to promote your book: “Notes and Advice From a Book Tour”

  1. Authors: Want to make friends with the bookseller hosting you on the tour? At the end of your presentation, just before the signing part, encourage the people at the event to buy a book from the bookstore (even if it’s not your own book!). Most people at your event have probably gotten a book from the store already (and probably your book, because they want you to sign it), but some haven’t, and some people forget that there’s a high correlation between a bookseller hosting future events, and the bookseller doing well with the current events. So remind people to buy books from the bookstore at your event, and to support them the rest of the time as well.

(6) SABRINA REVIEW. The BBC’s Annabel Rackham answers a burning question: “Does Netflix’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot live up to the hype?” She says the show is more feminist, but “more innocent than Riverdale.”

Whilst Sabrina in 90s-sitcom form didn’t realise she had magic powers until her 16th birthday, the new Sabrina is already well aware of her supernatural skills.

That’s not the only difference – the modern Sabrina is as Kelly-Leigh puts it, “woke”. She’s a feminist icon for a new generation of teens and is not afraid to question the archaic rules of the satanic cult she’s a part of.

Also, Sabrina’s cutting rebuttals of everything high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) says is her way of bringing down the patriarchy, and I for one loved it.

(7) TOP WITCH. Vulture rates “The Best Teen Witches of Pop Culture, From Buffy to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

Queenie, American Horror Story (Class of 2013)

Most Likely to Defect From the Coven: Queenie’s power was so great she thought she might be the Supreme, and she was one of two witches who survived the Seven Wonders, which is a pretty great reward for all the crap she had to deal with during AHS: Coven.

Activities: Witches’ Council; voodoo; practicing the Seven Wonders

Senior Quote: “I grew up on white-girl shit like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Cracker. I didn’t even know that there were black witches. As it turns out, I’m an heir to Tituba. She was a house slave in Salem. She was the first to be accused of witchcraft. So, technically, I’m part of your tribe.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 26, 1966 — Jerry Lewis’ Way … Way Out had fun with the genre.
  • October 26, 1984 — The Terminator premiered.
  • October 26, 2015 Supergirl premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 26, 1934 – Dan McCarthy, the grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and colour graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Bob Hoskins, Oscar-nominated Actor from England who is famous for his quirky character roles and is known in genre circles for the Hugo-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit (for which he received a Saturn nomination) and Super Mario Bros. He played Professor George Challenger in the most recent film version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and also appeared in Snow White and The Huntsman, Hook, the Hugo-nominated Brazil, A Christmas Carol, Son of The Mask, and as the voice of The Badger in an animated version of The Wind in The Willows.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Jane Chance, 66, Teacher, Writer, and Lecturer who specializes in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien – with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter, for which she has received three Mythopoeic Award nominations, including Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England, Tolkien the Medievalist, The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power, and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – Jennifer Roberson, 59, Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is a desert-based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed most is her Sherwood duology that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood, telling that tale from the perspective of Marian. She has been Guest of Honor at more than a dozen conventions, including a Westercon, and a novel she co-authored received a World Fantasy Award nomination. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – François Chau, 59, Actor from Cambodia who is most known to genre fans as Jules-Pierro Mao on the Hugo-winning series The Expanse, but who has also had recurring roles on Lost and Gemini Division, and appeared in episodes of the TV series The Flash, Intruders, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Time Trax, The Invisible Man, The X-Files, Alias, Medium, and Awake, as well as lending his voice to numerous videogames.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – James Pickens Jr., 56, Actor and Producer who played the FBI’s Deputy Director on 21 episodes of The X-Files; he also appeared in genre films Rocket Man, Sphere, Venom, and Red Dragon, and had guest roles in episodes of The Pretender and Touched by an Angel.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – Cary Elwes, 56, Actor, Director, and Producer from England who is unquestionably most famous for his role as the pirate Westley in The Princess Bride; he alsoplayed astronaut Michael Collins in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, voiced historical roles in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ella Enchanted, Shadow of the Vampire, Saw, and Saw 3D, had parts in episodes of Stranger Things, The X-Files, The (new) Outer Limits, and Night Visions, and has provided voices in animated features and series including Quest for Camelot, The Adventures of Tintin, Hercules, Batman Beyond, Sofia the First, and Family Guy.
  • Born October 26, 1963 – Keith Topping, 55, Writer from England. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published a number of non-fiction reference works – frequently in collaboration with Martin Day and/or Paul Cornell – for various genre franchises, including The Avengers, The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written four novels in the Doctor Who universe, and co-authored The DisContinuity Guide.
  • Born October 26, 1971 – Jim Butcher, 47, Writer who was nominated for the Compton Crook Award for the first novel in his Dresden Files urban fantasy series, now up to 15 novels and countless short fiction works, which became immensely popular and was made into a TV series lasting one season. He has also written half a dozen novels in his Codex Alera series and contributed a novel to the Spiderman universe. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including an Eastercon (the UK natcon).
  • Born October 26, 1976 – Florence Kasumba, 42, Actor of German Ugandan heritage who has done films in English, German, and Dutch languages. She is best known for her role as Ayo in the Marvel universe movies Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, but she also had a role in the Hugo-winning Wonder Woman, played the Wicked Witch of the East in the TV series Emerald City, and voices a character in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NO PUMPKIN SPICE HERE. In the Washington Post story, “Halloween cocktails can be lame. These Stephen King and ‘Beetlejuice’ drinks are scary good”, Fritz Hahn says two Washington bars are specializing in Beetlejuice and Stephen King cocktails for Halloween (one is having a Pet Sematary night for animals to spend time with their drinking owners).

The drinks, meanwhile, are playful and delicious, with names that will have “Beetlejuice” fans exchanging knowing looks. (They’ll be available through early November.) My favorite is the Miss Argentina, a twist on the classic Corpse Reviver #2. Blue Curacao gives it a lovely blue color — a nod to the skin of the undead beauty queen-turned-receptionist in Beetlejuice’s Netherworld — while stripes of Peychaud’s bitters are reminiscent of the “little accident” that sent her to the afterlife.

(12) IS SMOKING REQUIRED? Aliya Whiteley, in “Smoking, Science Fiction, and Addiction” on Den of Geek, asks: if you’re writing a hard-boiled sf novel, should your protagonist smoke?”  Looking at John Constantine in the comics, the movie Watchmen, and Tade Thompson’s novel Rosewater, she answers:  “Yes, sometimes.”

For instance, back in the film noirs of the 1940s and 50s it would have been inconceivable for our hero not to smoke. Look at the thick smoke hanging in the light from the projector in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) or the silhouette of Robert Mitchum, the cigarette smoke rising up and out of the French windows, in Jacques Tourneur’s Out Of the Past (1947) – it was often used as an excuse for intimacy between lovers, the camera closing in on the lips, or to bring movement to a still frame. Great directors used it as a language of its own, and it must be really difficult to decide to not use that language, as a contemporary director, if you’re making a film that deliberately uses noir elements.

(13) WHAT GOES AROUND. Bounding Into Comics, which publicizes comics from JDA and Vox Day, says industry professionals are trying to silence them.

Bounding into Comics has become the latest target of comic book industry professionals’ attempts to silence those whose opinions they disagree with.

On Tuesday, prominent Marvel and DC Comics Colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Doom Patrol, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers) issued a call to her followers to unfollow and ignore Bounding Into Comics (henceforth BiC):

(14) RAP SHEET LENGTHENS. “Fatal ‘swatting’ hoaxer faces more charges” — jerk whose swatting lead to death of a gamer had been doing it for years.

This incident arose following a dispute in the Call of Duty video game between two men. One of them owned the home occupied and rented by Mr Finch and this address was given to Mr Barriss as the place to send police.

The two men have been charged for their role in the fatal incident. Both have pleaded not guilty.

US federal prosecutors filed the fresh charges in a California court, claiming that many of the crimes were committed when Mr Barriss lived in Los Angeles.

The charge sheet details incidents in which Mr Barriss is suspected of being involved, between September 2014 and December 2017.

Many of the charges relate to fake calls about bombs planted in schools, federal buildings and universities. Others relate to separate swatting incidents, bank fraud, other hoax calls to police departments and threats of violence.

(15) THE SMELL OF SUCCESS. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports “Swedish Film Cleverly Blurs The ‘Border’ Between Reality And Folklore”.

Ostensibly, the title of the Swedish film Border refers to the internationally recognized demarcation separating one country from another. Its main character Tina (Eva Melander), after all, works at the Swedish Customs Service, where she screens those entering the country for contraband. She’s very, very good at her job: She can literally smell deceit, which, when you think about it, should single-handedly earn her portrait pride of place on the Employee of the Month wall, in perpetuity.

Of course, there’s more to it. If Border were only about Customs practices, howsoever informed they might be by nasal lie-detection, the film would be odd, but relatively straightforward — a kind of Nordic, olfactory-powered superhero yarn, maybe. Happily, this is not the case.

(16) THE WILD LIFE. Timothy the Talking Cat provides “A Helpful Guide to the Wonderful World of Mammals” at Camestros Felapton.

Squirrel: Sinister bastards who crave power and control and off-season nuts. You know they are whispering about you in the trees with their clever little hands and distracting tails.

(17) COOKIE IN A BOTTLE. Treat your palate — “Stroopwafel Liqueur”

Anyone who has visited the Netherlands has undoubtedly come across the country’s famous stroopwafels, a pair of thin, crisp waffles sandwiching a caramel filling. Fans especially enjoy the fantastic aroma that stroopwafel stands emit when making a fresh batch, and many claim that no better treat exists. However, the company Van Meer’s did not agree and decided to up the ante by transforming the stroopwafel into alcohol form.

The resulting liqueur, which won a gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, captures both the distinctive smell and flavor of stroopwafels.

(18) THE SITUATIONAL ETHICS OF DRIVERLESS CARS. Mike Kennedy says what he learned from The Verge’s article “Global preferences for who to save in self-driving car crashes revealed”, is “Why I should stay away from school zones with self driving cars around.”

“If self-driving cars become widespread, society will have to grapple with a new burden: the ability to program vehicles with preferences about which lives to prioritize in the event of a crash. Human drivers make these choices instinctively, but algorithms will be able to make them in advance. So will car companies and governments choose to save the old or the young? The many or the few?”

Researchers from MIT have published a paper (Nature: “The Moral Machine experiment”) discussing the results of an online experiment (using a platform they call the Moral Machine) to “explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles”. They gathered 40 million decisions across a variety of languages and cultures. The paper itself is behind a paywall, but the article on The Verge takes a look at their findings. The data itself—and the code the researchers used to perform some of their analyses—is available to the public.

PerThe Verge article, the Moral Machine asked users to:

“make a series of ethical decisions regarding fictional car crashes, similar to the famous trolley problem. Nine separate factors were tested, including individuals’ preferences for crashing into men versus women, sparing more lives or fewer, killing the young or the elderly, pedestrians or jaywalkers, and even choosing between low-status or high-status individuals.”

Millions of users took the quiz. There were some fairly universal agreements. Again, per The Verge coverage:

“[…] the study’s authors found certain consistent global preferences: sparing humans over animals, more lives rather than fewer, and children instead of adults.”

There were also some disagreements, including:

“The study’s authors suggest this might be because of differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures. In the former, where the distinct value of each individual as an individual is emphasized, there was a ‘stronger preference for sparing the greater number of characters.’ Counter to this, the weaker preference for sparing younger characters might be the result of collectivist cultures, ‘which emphasize the respect that is due to older members of the community.’”

Of course, at present self driving cars might be able to tell most animals from most humans, but haven’t a clue about most age differences—nor can they likely tell law-abiding pedestrians from jaywalkers. So, this is mostly academic at present (see, e.g., the reference to MIT, above) but sooner or later some sort of ethical decisions will probably be baked into a car’s programming. Thinking about what that should be now seems sensible.

Taking a step past the automakers themselves, though, The Verge article also asks:

“But how close are we to needing legislation on these issues? When are companies going to start programming ethical decisions into self-driving vehicles?”

[…] the problems ahead can already be glimpsed in Germany, the only country to date to propose official guidelines [Google Translate version] for ethical choices made by autonomous vehicles. Lawmakers tried to slice the Gordian knot of the trolley problem by stating that all human life should be valued equally and that any distinction based on personal features like age or gender should be prohibited. […] if this choice is implemented, it would go against the public’s strong preference for sparing the younger over the elderly. If a government introduces this policy […], how will it handle the backlash “that will inevitably occur the day an autonomous vehicle sacrifices children in a dilemma situation.”

Obviously, much more work remains to be done

(19) PROVED AGAIN. “Archaeopteryx: The day the fossil feathers flew” – Back in the day, noted contrarian (and SF writer) Fred Hoyle claimed the fossil was a fake; disproved then by analysis, and disproved now by precision scanning of fossil halves and “fitting” them together by computer.

Sir Fred was high-profile and if the idea of fakery in a transitional fossil went unchallenged, Archaeopteryx would quickly become a cause célèbre for the anti-evolution movement. And don’t forget, the museum was the scene of perhaps the biggest fossil fake of all time – Piltdown Man.

The astronomer’s accusation could not be allowed to pass.

(20) NOT BIRDBRAINS. “Clever crows reveal ‘window into the mind'” — several assembled a reaching tool out of pieces.

New Caledonian crows are known to spontaneously use tools in the wild. This task, designed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and the University of Oxford, presented the birds with a novel problem that they needed to make a new tool in order to solve.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Orson Welles On Censoring Horror Comics” on YouTube is an excerpt from an interview Welles gave a British show in the mid-1950s where he says that he personally dislikes horror comics, but feels that they shouldn’t be censored.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 777, er, 770, contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Pixel Scroll 10/20/18 No One Pixels There Any More, It’s Too Scrolled

(1) HORROR HUMBLE BUNDLE. “The Tales of Horror Humble Bundle” is now up with horror anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow (Darkness, Nightmares, Lovecraft’s Monsters), also: The Ultimate Werewolf, The Ultimate Undead, and The Ultimate Dracula, plus books by Lisa Goldstein, Ellen Klages, Nancy Kress, Kelley Armstrong, and Joe R. Lansdale. Plus graphic novels like From Hell, by Moore/Campbell, Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki, Devil’s Line by Ryo Hanada, Until Your Bones Rot by Yae Utsumi, Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome To Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, and others.

(2) PATTINSON IN SPACE. The BBC’s Claire Davis reviews Robert Pattinson in High Life: 4 stars, but won’t please nearly everyone.

Robert Pattinson, sci-fi and sex in outer space – if ever the audacious, brilliant French director Claire Denis were making a bid for a mainstream audience, High Life would seem to be it. It turns out, the reverse is true. Before and especially after his Twilight years, Pattinson has sought out roles in smaller, artistic films, apparently on a mission to establish himself as a serious actor. The plan is working….

High Life, Denis’ first film in English, is set on a spaceship full of prisoners sent on an almost certain suicide mission to explore a black hole.

(3) ROSSUM’S UNIVERSAL TWEETERS. A lot of Twitter bot activity preceded and followed Chuck Wendig’s firing by Marvel says Bethan Lacina:

(4) AT THE FRONT. Cedar Sanderson has quite a bit of interest to say about book covers in “7 Rules for Cover Design” at Mad Genius Club.

It’s not just that I’m an artist and designer and I enjoy the process of book creation. It’s that even though people will say they don’t care about a book cover, they actually do. They will totally judge your book by it’s cover. And your book cover signals a lot about your book, whether you are conscious of it, or not. Every little choice, from font to color focus, says something about the book. I think by now everyone reading this knows the cardinal rule of a book cover: cover art is a marketing tool, not a scene from the book.

(5) TOMORROW’S THE FIFTH. Happy fifth anniversary, Galactic Journey!

In “[October 20, 1963] Science Experiments (November 1963 F&SF and a space update)”, The Traveler celebrates the occasion —

Five years ago tomorrow, I created the Journey to detail the day-by-day adventures of a science fiction magazine fan who just happened to also be a space journalist.  In the passage of five circuits around the sun, the scope of this project has expanded tremendously to cover books, movies, tv shows, comics, politics, music, fashion, and more.  The Journey has grown from a solo project to a staff of twenty spanning the globe.  Two years ago, we won the Rod Serling Award, and this year, we were nominated for the Hugo.

(6) DINOBITES. BBC finds “Jurassic-era piranha is world’s earliest flesh-eating fish”.

“We were stunned that this fish had piranha-like teeth,” says Martina Kölbl-Ebert, of Jura-Museum Eichstätt, who led the study.

“It comes from a group of fishes (the pycnodontids) that are famous for their crushing teeth. It is like finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf. But what was even more remarkable is that it was from the Jurassic.

“Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time. Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later.”

(7) PERSONS OF INTEREST. Steve Shives investigates who did it —

(8) TOLKIEN LETTER OFFERED. A rare bookdealer is offering a long letter from JRRT for $48k. That’s not news — people can list their property for any price they like. But the listing includes images of all four pages, so you can read it in its entirety — “J.R.R. Tolkien. Autograph Letter Signed” at The Manhattan Rare Book Company.

-insists that The Lord of the Rings is “in no way an ‘allegory’”, but “mythical-historical” based on “deeply rooted ‘archetypal’ motifs”

-reveals his motivations for writing The Lord of the Rings (“I merely tried to write a story that would be ‘exciting’ and readable, and give me a scope for my personal pleasure in history, languages, and ‘landscape’”)

-bemoans certain analyses of The Lord of the Rings that focus on symbolism (“they miss the point and destroy the object of their enquiry as surely as a vivisectionist destroys a cat or rabbit”)

(9) SELF-PUBBERS ARE LEARNING. At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss charts “The Continued Decline of Author Solutions”. Strauss observes, “costly and often deceptive ‘assisted self-publishing’ services that proliferated in the early days of digital publishing are gradually being supplanted by better options.”

What I want to focus on, though, is Author Solutions–where ISBN output is a useful measure of overall activity, since all AS publishing packages include ISBN assignment.

In previous posts, I’ve followed AS’s steady decline, from an all time high of 52,548 ISBNs in 2011 (one year before Pearson bought it and folded it into Penguin), to less than half that in 2015 (the same year that Penguin unloaded it to a private equity firm called Najafi Companies*).

In the latest version of Bowker’s report, that slide continues. 2016 did see a small post-Najafi uptick, from 24,587 to 30,288; but in 2017 the freefall resumed, with ISBNs dropping to 25,971–just slightly above 2015’s output. A few of the individual imprints do show negligible increases, but for the most part they all go down (by four figures in the case of AuthorHouse).

(10) CALL FOR BOOKSTORE ACTIVISM. Electric Literature points readers to Lexi Beach’s Twitter thread which tells “Why Buying Books Will Not Save Our Beloved Bookstores” and what to do instead. The thread starts here.

(11) BOL OBIT. Little Free Library creator Todd Bol died October 18 — “Todd Bol, creator of the Little Free Library movement, dies at 62”.

Todd Bol hammered together the first Little Free Library. Then he built a movement around it.

Bol believed the now-ubiquitous little boxes of books — and the neighbors who cared for them — could change a block, a city, the world. So he brought them to front yards all over, often installing them himself. Known for his wild optimism and keen business sense, the Little Free Library founder died Thursday morning, just weeks after he was found to have pancreatic cancer.

…Bol set a goal of 2,150 — to beat the number of Carnegie Libraries in the country. Less than a decade later, more than 75,000 dollhouse-size libraries have sprouted on front lawns in 88 countries…

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 20, 1965Village Of The Giants showed that size does matter.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 – Bela Lugosi, Actor from Hungary who appeared in many Hungarian and German silent films, but first became famous for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film of that name, a role he had previously played on Broadway. Other genre roles included the films Island of Lost Souls, Mark of the Vampire, Night Monster, White Zombie, and countless Frankenstein movies. He never really made it as a major performer, and his last film was Plan 9 from Outer Space.
  • Born October 20, 1923 – Erle M. Korshak, 95, Attorney, Publisher, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who discovered SF in 1934 with the August Astounding magazine and became a very serious collector. By 1939, he was a well-known fan and one of the leaders of the Moonstruck Press publishing house which was formed to create a bibliography of all fantasy books. He was a co-organizer for the second Worldcon in 1940, and served as chair pro tem when the con chair fell ill on the first day. He later founded a publishing house whose first major work was Everett F. Bleiler’s The Checklist of Fantastic Literature, a pioneering work of SF bibliography. This was followed by major works by Heinlein, Bester, Fredric Brown and other SF authors. He was absent from fandom from the late 50s through late 80s, but rejoined fandom and has attended cons with his children.
  • Born October 20, 1934 – Taku Mayamura, 84, Writer and Haiku Poet from Japan who is well-known in that country for his science fiction stories, which have earned him two Seiun Awards. He is also a young adult fiction writer whose works have been adapted into TV drama, film, and anime. He was named an honorary member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan.
  • Born October 20, 1934 – Michael Dunn, Actor who was probably best known for his recurring role on The Wild Wild West series as the villain Dr. Miguelito Loveless, but is better known to Star Trek fans as Alexander, the court jester, in the original series episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”. He also had roles in episodes of Night Gallery, Tarzan, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He died far too young at the age of 38 in his sleep, from congenital health issues related to dwarfism.
  • Born October 20, 1949 – George Harris, 69, Actor born in the West Indies who emigrated to England. His acting debut was in The Gladiators, the 1969 Swedish predecessor to The Hunger Games. His face is well-known to genre fans from his character roles in Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and several Harry Potter movies; he also had parts in Riders of the Storm, Danny Boyle’s National Theatre Live: Frankenstein, and a recurring role on the series Starhunter and Starhunter ReduX.
  • Born October 20, 1955 – Thomas Newman, 63, Oscar-nominated Composer of film scores who has provided songs and soundtracks for numerous genre films, including the Hugo- and Oscar-winning WALL-E, The Green Mile, Meet Joe Black, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Adjustment Bureau, Passengers, Real Genius, and The Lost Boys.
  • Born October 20, 1956 – Peter Morwood, 62, Writer and Fan from Ireland who has written novels in several series, as well as contributing a couple of novels in the Star Trek universe. A frequent SFF con attendee in the UK, he was introduced by Anne McCaffrey to his wife Diane Duane at a convention, and the two were married at the 1986 Worldcon in Atlanta. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions and, with Duane, was Toastmaster at the 1995 Worldcon in Glasgow.
  • Born October 20, 1958 – Lynn Flewelling, 60, Writer best known for works featuring LGBTQ characters and touching on issues of gender. Novels in her Nightrunners series have received Compton Crook and Spectrum Award nominations, and her work has been published in 13 countries, including Japan.
  • Born October 20, 1966 – Diana Rowland, 52, Writer who has an eclectic list of past professions as a bartender, a blackjack dealer, a pit boss, a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant. In the last 10 years, she has produced at least 14 novels in two series, as well as a short work set in the Wild Cards universe. She is a graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop, received the Phoenix Award (lifetime achievement award) from Southern Fandom, and has been Toastmaster and Guest of Honor at several conventions.

(14) APRIL FOOLISHNESS. Gábor Takacs sff-related April’s fools prank is in Hungarian, but you can enjoy the covers of these fictitious upcoming books, e. g. a Culture-novel by Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton, and so on. With covers!

(15) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. A second superhero series marked for death: “Netflix cancels ‘Luke Cage’ a week after dropping ‘Iron Fist'”.

When Marvel and Netflix announced Iron Fist wouldn’t return for a third season, there were reports Luke Cage was close to being renewed. That is not the case, however, as they announced tonight that the show will end after two seasons, even though additional seasons for Jessica Jones and The Punisher are already on order. In a statement, the companies said “Unfortunately, Marvel’s Luke Cage will not return for a third season. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is grateful to the dedicated showrunner, writers, cast and crew who brought Harlem’s Hero to life for the past two seasons, and to all the fans who have supported the series.”

(16) FIRST PERSON. Saga tells it all to The Guardian: “I pulled a 1,500-year-old sword out of a lake”.

I was crawling along the bottom of the lake on my arms and knees, looking for stones to skim, when my hand and knee felt something long and hard buried in the clay and sand. I pulled it out and saw that it was different from the sticks or rocks I usually find. One end had a point, and the other had a handle, so I pointed it up to the sky, put my other hand on my hip and called out, “Daddy, I’ve found a sword!”

I felt like a warrior, but Daddy said I looked like Pippi Longstocking. The sword felt rough and hard, and I got some sticky, icky brown rust on my hands. It started to bend and Daddy splashed up to me, and said I should let him hold it. It was my sword and now he was taking it away! I gave it to him in the end.

(17) NEED GAS. Brian Gallagher, in “So Can We Terraform Mars Or Not?” at Nautilus, argues the question of whether or not terraforming Mars will be successful depends on how much carbon dioxide is stored in the Martian rocks, with NASA arguing that there isn’t enough carbon dioxide to do the job, while Robert Zubrin argues that NASA dramatically underestimates that amount of carbon dioxide that would be available.

This is where, to Zubrin and McKay, Jakosky seems to contradict the known data. 0.5 bar of atmospheric CO2 loss is a fair—even if not conclusive—assessment, McKay and Zubrin told me. (McKay: “There is some debate if they are actually measuring CO2 loss or just O2 loss.” Zubrin: “That claim is controversial, but we’ll let it pass because at least in that case [Jakosky] is arguing from data.”) What they disagree with is Jakosky’s carbon isotope analysis. Zubrin said it is impossible for the 0.5 bar of atmospheric CO2 loss to represent 75 percent or more of Mars’ original atmospheric total because, “based on the available data on liquid water on ancient Mars, Mars must have had at least 2 bar of CO2” enveloping the planet (the ground-based amount at that time is unknown). If so, contrary to Jakosky, there would be well over a bar left in shallow ground deposits somewhere—enough to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect if vaporized.

(18) STILL READING RICE. Princess Weekes, in “Why Our Love for Anne Rice’s Vampires Is Undying” at The Mary Sue, explores why people still read Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles 40 years after Interview with the Vampire was first published.

The desire to be loved, to understand what it means to be human when your humanity is stripped away from you, those are beautiful themes and questions to raise in a novel about vampires. Rice showed the poetry in the genre and also gave women a stronger place in vampire literary lore. She wrote vampires for a female audience while creating a brutal and dark novel with Interview, but it was dark not just through violence but through emotion—and that is why the series means so much to people even now.

(19) MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Polygon spotlights the rediscovery: “The Empire Strikes Back’s long-lost making-of documentary surfaces on YouTube”.

The Making of the Empire Strikes Back, a documentary partially referenced on the internet but otherwise believed incomplete and lost, has made it to YouTube in full.

The film lingers on the special effects required for the Hoth battle opening the 1980 flick, but also includes backstage interviews with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and the late Carrie Fisher. At this point in history, all three were bought into the love triangle set up in the original Star Wars, before everyone figured out Luke’s parentage — and then Leia’s, as well.

 

(20) KILLER MOVES AND KILLER TUNES. The second trailer for Anna and the Apocalypse.

A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.

 

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