Pixel Scroll 5/13/19 She Loves The Pixel’s Uncle, Yeah, Yeah

(1) MCEWAN REBUTTED. Mark Tiedemann tees off on Ian McEwan and other offenders in “The Myopeia of the Lit Club” at The Proximal Eye.

… Ian McEwan, who has published a novel about artificial intelligence and somehow feels he is the first to discover that this thing has serious implications for people to be expressed through literature. Thus he now joins a long line of literary snobs who have “borrowed” the trappings of science fiction even as they take a dump on the genre. I would say they misunderstand it, but that presumes they have read any. What seems more likely is they’ve seen some movies, talked to some people, maybe listened to a lecture or two about the genre, and then decided “Well, if these unwashed hacks can do this, I can do it ten times better and make it actual, you know, art.”

…I have always thought that people who are dismissive toward SF have a problem imagining the world as someday being fundamentally different. By that I mean, things will so change that they, if they were instantly transported into that future, will be unable to function. Things will be radically different, not only technologically but culturally and therefore even the givens of human interaction will seem alien.

That is the meat, bone, and gristle of science fiction and I would like someone to tell me how that it not “dealing with the effects of technology on human problems.”

(2) KRAMER SIDEBAR. The judge who had Ed Kramer checking whether her work computer was hacked is in trouble: “Judge Kathryn Schrader barred from hearing criminal cases for 60 days” says the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader is reportedly not allowed to hear any cases prosecuted by Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter’s office for at least the next two months while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation sorts out a complicated dispute between the two public officials.

Porter confirmed news reports that a visiting Fulton County judge issued the ruling barring Schrader from presiding over cases for 60 days during a hearing Thursday.

The ruling stems from an unusual case in which Schrader accused Porter of hacking her work computer, and he in turn raised concerns that the county’s computer network may have been compromised. He then asked that she recuse herself from any cases his office is prosecuting.

…The unusual case first surfaced in March after it was revealed that Schrader hired private investigator T.J. Ward because she believed her work computer was being hacked. Ward, in turn, brought in convicted sex offender Ed Kramer, who Ward said has computer training, to look into the matter.

(3) OREO NEWS. Glows in the dark, no less!

(4) FIELD REPORT. Joe Siclari’s FANAC Flash summarizes their accomplishments at Corflu 2019.

We took the FANAC scanning station to Corflu FIAWOL last weekend, and scanned 3500-4000 pages (the count is not complete yet). We received material to scan and help from many Corfluvians, and are getting the scans up  on line. So far, we have a little over 1,800 of those pages online. They’re marked in the index pages as “scanned at Corflu 2019”. Fanzines scanned at Corflu include Terry Carr’s Innuendo, John D. Berry’s Hot Shit, Charles Lee Riddle’s Peon, Ron Bennett’s Ploy, some of Forry Ackerman and Morojo’s Voice of the Imagi-Nation, and lots more. At Corflu, we also received scans from Rob Hansen’s OCR project. There are some gems there too. Watch the “What’s New” on the Fanac.org page to get details on what’s been put online.

FANAC.org was given the FAAn award for Best Online Fan Activity at Corflu! It was wonderful to receive this recognition. The team on Fanac.org, Fancyclopedia.org, and and the Fanac YouTube channel (https://youtube.com/c/fanacfanhistory) is thrilled!

You can find Rob Jackson’s recording of the Corflu Saturday afternoon programs at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUstxv0rmRk&feature=youtu.be

(5) THE ORVILLE IS GO FOR ANOTHER ORBIT. ScienceFiction.com fills fans in on the renewal: “Seth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ Will Return For A Third Season”.

The series had quite a few eyes on it with 3.16 million total live viewers combined with a 0.75 in the 18-49 demographic it hit the sweet spot for commercials. On top of that, the show gained a $15.8 million TV tax credit for the third season which was up $1.3 million from season 2. This was a nice bonus that was nothing to scoff at.

(6) BIOPIC APPROVED. At Amazing Stories, Dianne Lynn Gardner gives it five stars — “Tolkien: A Movie Review.”

…If I were to sum up the movie in one word, that word would be “sensitive”. I was brought to tears in a few places and I think those who have the sensitivity of an artist will enjoy the film. It’s no Lord of the Rings, no. Do not expect it to be. This is a story about a compassionate man with revolutionary ideas concerning the world around him, and his journey to tell the tale of evil and the fight for survival which often can only be heard through parables.

(7) DS9 NEWS. CBS News interviews director Ira Steven Behr and actress Nana Visitor about the new documentary, “What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

(8) BOLGEO TRIBUTE. The family obituary for Tim Bolgeo, who died yesterday, is online here.

…A lifetime reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Uncle Timmy was Founder and Chairman of Liberty Con 1 – 25, an original Board Member and Chairman of ChattaCon 7 – 11, and a staff member at numerous conventions throughout the southeast. He was the long running Editor/Publisher of the Fanzines The LibertyCon Newsletter (1987-1997) and The Revenge of Hump Day! (1997 to 2018)….

(9) GREEN OBIT. Patrice Green, fan and wife of SF author Joseph L. Green, died May 5, “after deciding that the glioblastoma she’s battled for 2 1.2 years had had enough,” says son-in-law Guy H. Lillian III. “She was deeply interested in Genealogy and had made several trips to Europe tracing her family roots. Glorious human being.”

(10) UPTON OBIT. Ilaine Vignes Upton (1952-2019), a New Orleans fan deeply involved in past DeepSouthCons, passed away April 26. She became a bankruptcy lawyer who practiced in Virginia.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The DeadTo Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. (Died 1995)
  • Born May 13, 1945 Maria Tatar, 74. Folklorist who that if you’re not familiar with, you should be. She’s written, among several works, The Annotated Brothers GrimmThe Annotated Peter Pan and The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen which is reviewed here on Green Man.
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman, 73.  Editor at both Marvel and DC, and writer of comics, animation, television, novels and video games.  Most known for The New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez. Creator of Blade, and more characters adapted into movies, TV, toys, games and animation than any other comics writer except Stan Lee.  Winner of Inkpot and Eagle Awards, CBG Awards, 2007 Scribe Award for his novelization Superman Returns, and 2011 Will Eisner Hall of Fame Award. Notable fan activity was publishing Stephen King in Wolfman’s horror fanzine Stories of Suspense.
  • Born May 13, 1947 Stephen R. Donaldson, 72. I suspect y’all know him from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, his long running series. He’s got, to my surprise, a sf series called The Gap Cycle which he says “in part to be a reworking of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.” H’h. 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 70. She forms one of the crowd in “State of Decay”, a Fourth Doctor tale. She’s Elle in The Raggedy Rawney and Madam Rolanda Hooch In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She’s Clarice Groan in the BBC Gormenghast series which I really should see. And I note that she made a return appearance on Doctor Who during the time of the Tenth Doctor in The End of the World” and “New Earth” episodes. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 68. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes onthe samelegendfor an interesting look at taking an legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel!
  • Born May 13, 1957 Frances Barber, 62. Madame Kovarian during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space Precinct, Red Dwarf and The IT Crowd
  • Born May 13, 1958 Bruce Byfield, 61. No idea if he has academic training, but he certainly has a fascination with Leiber. He wrote Witches of the Mind: A Critical Study of Fritz Leiber which was nominated for a Locus Award for Best Non-Fiction, and many fascination sounding essays on Lieber and his fiction including “The Allure of the Eccentric in the Poetry and Fiction of Fritz Leiber” and “Fafhrd and Fritz”.
  • Born May 13, 1964 Stephen Colbert, 55. Ubernerd. Currently hosting charity showings of Tolkien. Genre credits a cameo as a spy in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the voice of Paul Peterson in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the voice of President Hathaway in Monsters vs. Aliens.  

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity gets a joke out of Fred and Barney.

(13) HOW TO CHECK THE LIBRARY FIRST. Lifehacker advises how to “See if a Book You’re About to Buy Is Available at Your Local Library Using This Extension” –  specifically Library Extension. It’s compatible with Chrome and Firefox.

The way the extension works is pretty simple: Just scroll through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads as you normally would. When you do, the extension will display where you can find the book at a local library as well. The extension has been available for Amazon for a bit now, but has expanded support over the years to additional spots as well.

(14) POLL CATS. There must be a reason it isn’t easy to get non-English speakers to vote in a poll on my blog. I’m sure it will come to me….

(15) ANIMAL ART. Coming tomorrow to The Getty Center in Los Angeles:

Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World

May 14–August 18, 2019

A vast throng of animals tumble, soar, and race through the pages of the bestiary, a popular medieval book describing the beasts of the world. Abounding with vibrant and fascinating images, the bestiary brought creatures to life before the eyes of readers. The beasts also often escaped from its pages to inhabit a glittering array of other objects. With over 100 works on display, this major loan exhibition will transport visitors into the world of the medieval bestiary.

(16) GRAPE EXPECTATIONS. Delish reports “There’s A Space-Themed Restaurant Coming To Epcot This Year” .

The next time you visit Epcot, you may be able to dine in outer space. Two years after announcing a space-themed restaurant would be opening near the Mission: SPACE ride, Disney World is finally gearing up to open the doors. While there’s no actual stratosphere breaking involved, from the looks of it, the dining room will look and feel like you’re on a space ship.

(17) SILVER LINING. Ron Koertge, South Pasadena’s Poet Laureate, was honored by the Independent Publisher’s Book Award with a silver medal for his illustrated books of poems about the secret life  of the Greek gods – Olympusville. 

Alice Kleman’s clever illustration of gods like Zeus and Persephone in modern dress contributes to the  magnetism of this book by a popular and prolific poet.   Gene Yang, recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, says, “Ron Koertge and Alicia Kleman will help you see  Mount Olympus with new eyes.  Who knew those old gods could be so funny, so charming and so disarmingly tragic.” 

The book is available a Vroman’s or directly from Red Hen Press. 

(18) AUTUMN ARRIVALS. Should you be so inclined, The Hollywood Reporter has a roundup: “Fall TV 2019: Watch Trailers for All the New Broadcast Shows”.

Includes Next 

An internal favorite of new Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier, the drama is a fact-based thriller about the emergence of a rogue AI that combines action with an examination of how tech transforms culture in a way that isn’t always understandable. Manny Coto (24) penned the script and exec produces alongside John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. Mad Men grad John Slattery stars and reunites with former AMC president Collier on the drama. The series hails from 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment.
Time slot: Midseason

(19) ARMY UNPLUGGED. The Verge: “The US Army cut power to its largest military base to test reactions to a cyberattack”. Tagline: “This week’s outage at Fort Bragg was designed to test the ‘real world reactions’ of a simulated attack.”

Fort Bragg, the US Army’s largest base issued an apology earlier this week following an unannounced exercise to see what would happen in the event of a cyberattack. The base lost power for 12 hours on Wednesday and Thursday [24–25 April], and caused some confusion and concern on the base. 

Army officials told the Charlotte Observer that the exercise was designed to “identify shortcomings in our infrastructure, operations and security,” and wasn’t announced to the public in order to “replicate likely real-world reactions by everyone directly associated with the installation.”

[…] In recent years, officials have become increasingly concerned that the country’s power grid and infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattacks. Such attacks aren’t unheard of: a couple of years ago, Ukrainian power plants and airports experienced such attacks, and US officials have said that they’ve detected Russian-linked actors targeting US facilities

(20) JUST A POWERFUL SUGGESTION. Inverse: “Origin of Loch Ness Monster and Other Sea Serpents Traced to Odd Phenomenon”. Tagline: “A form of mania gripped the world.”

The Loch Ness Monster is perhaps our most famous sea monster, known for drowning locals in front of saints and avoiding motorcycles on its early morning cruise back to the loch. But Scotland’s Nessie is just one of the many, many sea monsters people have allegedly seen. In the 19th century, saying you saw a sea monster was very common indeed. And the reason why this happened, a new study in Earth Science History argues, is based on something very real.

The collective illusion — that creatures in the water were actually mysterious monsters of the deep — was driven by so-called “dino-mania,” researchers reported this week. This conclusion is based on their statistical analysis of the nature of sea monster reports from 1801 to 2015.

[…] They are the first scientists to seriously test a theory first posited by American science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp — famous for coining the abbreviation “E.T.” — in 1968. His hypothesis, reprinted in the study, is this:

After Mesozoic reptiles became well-known, reports of sea serpents, which until then had tended towards the serpentine, began to describe the monster as more and more resembling a Mesozoic reptile than like a plesiosaur or mosasaur.

(21) SCARY ROBOT VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “IHMC Atlas Autonomous Path Planning Across Narrow Terrain” on YouTube, software developer IHMC Robotics showed how they programmed a large Boston Dynamics Atlas robot to walk across very tiny blocks.

[Thanks to Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Guy H. Lillian III, Chris M. Barkley, Daniel Dern, Nancy Collins, Michael J. Lowrey, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dave Clark.]

Pixel Scroll 5/6/19 Who Knows What Pixels Lurk In The Hearts Of Scrolls? The Filer Knows!

(1) A LITTLE GAFFE. Yahoo! Entertainment covers the internet uproar of the day — “Latest ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Reveals There’s a Starbucks in Winterfell”. Mistake or product placement? You decide!

Somehow, a disposable coffee cup found its way into last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. In Winterfell’s main hall, Tormund sloppily toasts Jon as Daenerys watches nervously in the background, concerned that her lover-slash-nephew could challenge her for the Iron Throne. It’s a stressful time for the Khaleesi, and apparently, she prefers to calm her nerves with lattés instead of wine.

Yes, instead of a metal chalice — maybe something bejeweled, she is the Queen after all — the Mother of Dragons had what looked suspiciously like a Starbucks coffee cup sitting in front of her at a banquet celebrating the victory of the living in the Battle of Winterfell. It’s a big, obvious goof that made it into one of the most widely and closely watched shows in television history. Yikes.

(2) KNIT UP THE RAVELED SLEAVE OF CARE. Game of Thrones actors may need caffeine but the fans have a different problem says the Huffington Post: “‘Game Of Thrones’ Fans Are Turning To CBD For Episode Stress”.

…Hardcore fans have become consumed by the need to replay episodes in their heads and contemplate theories as they toss and turn in bed after the credits wrap, leaving many to say “not today” to episode anxiety by reaching for CBD products to calm themselves. So much so that the folks at Lord Jones, which specializes in luxury CBD products, have begun to notice a spike in Instagram tags for their brand on Sunday nights.

CBD, aka cannabidiol, is the nonpsychoactive ingredient in the marijuana plant, and folks today turn to CBD-infused lotions, oils, gummies, pills and other products to help with their stress and anxiety.

(3) SPOILER-MAN. New trailer for Spider-Man: Far from Home. Joe H. cautions: “Note that it contains some pretty major spoilers for events from Avengers: Endgame, so calibrate your watching decision accordingly.”

(4) JURY VERDICT. The Aurealis Awards have published the “2018 Judging Comments” from the panelists who decided this year’s winners. Here’s one example —

Best Science Fiction Novel

Panel Members: Dianne De Bellis, Astrid Edwards, Lorraine Cormack. Cathie Tasker (Convenor)

Number of Entries: 43

Judging criteria:

The Best Science Fiction novel panel judged the entries against several criteria. Of utmost importance was the literary merit of the work. Originality, especially for SF themes, was also valued, along with strong characterisation and interesting world building. Another important factor was the extent to which science fiction themes were integral to the novel and the story being told.

Overview of nominations:

The competition for the top spots on the shortlist is tough this year.

The themes represented are varied, with several surreal works, space operas and genetic manipulation stories. Social issues are strong in fiction this year. The best of these avoid clichè and show strong understanding of how to present such issues in narratives that are compelling and challenging but in the end tell a good story.

The quality of the editing made a big difference and those on the shortlist show tight and accurate editing. Publishers and self-publishers should understand that typographical and spelling errors as well as superfluous and irrelevant prose throw the reader out of the story and work against some otherwise good ideas.

A number of excellent novels failed to reach the shortlist as they either were not genre novels at all, or had science fiction references that were incidental at best to the story being told. In others, genre elements were cliched or weak. It was positive to see many sub-genres represented, including surreal works, space operas, and hard science fiction. Many novels were strongly concerned with contemporary issues.

Cat Sparks’ photos from the Aurealis Awards event are on Flickr.  

(5) AUTOPSY FOR THE REVOLUTION. Lewis Shiner supplies “The Big Idea” today at Whatever, explaining the genesis of his novel Outside the Gates of Eden.

…I’d never written a book by starting with a high concept. My previous novels were inspired by historical incidents or particular obsessions of mine, and they usually announced themselves with dialog playing out in my head. Specifics first, generalities later. In this case the idea had such a grip on me that the specifics came tumbling along after it–the main characters, the first scenes, various milestones along the course of what I immediately knew was going to be at least a thousand-page manuscript.

What I didn’t know was why. What happened to our Revolution? To all our revolutions? How did the rich come to own the moral high ground along with all the banks and houses? I hoped the answers would come with the writing.

And if Outside the Gates of Eden does answer those questions, it’s in a novelistic way. Which is to say, I don’t expect readers to extract simple answers and match them to numbered questions printed in the back. Instead I hope that the experience of (re)living those years in the controlled environment of a novel will leave them feeling like maybe they understand something in a visceral way that they didn’t understand before….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success but he also for the Federal Theatre Project, did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That is was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did to it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 6, 1932 Jack Sharkey. Author of several humorous SF novels,  It’s Magic, You Dope! and The Secret Martians. He also wrote an Addams Family franchise novel, The Addams Family. His two novels are in print at iBooks and Kindle though his short fiction is not so easily found. (Died 1991.)
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 73. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice”. I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. 
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “ Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 6, 1961 George Clooney,  58. In From Dusk till Dawn, he was Seth Gecko.  His first genre film was Return of the Killer Tomatoes where he was Matt Stevens. Of course, he was was Batman in Batman & Robin, a grand mess of a film. Later, he’s Devlin in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and voices the lead role in Fantastic Mr. Fox. He’s Lieutenant Matt Kowalski in Gravity, and his last genre film to date is Tomorrowland where he’s Frank Walker, an inventor who breaches other dimensions. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart says in his Full Lid for May 3 he “takes a detailed look at the fantastic new science fiction comedy podcast Oblivity, the Hugo spotlight returns with the brilliant Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and I take a vastly spoiler-y look at why I like the final scene of Avengers: Endgame so much.”

No spoilers in this excerpt —

[Best Fan Writer finalist Elsa Sjunneson-Henry’s] writing, wherever it appears and in whatever form it takes always has focus and eloquence. She always unpacks its central ideas with absolute precision, the intensely complex emotional, psychological and sociological algebra of communicating with her audience always successfully landed. Much of Elsa’s work has centered on raising the visibility of disabled people and through that, increasing their inclusion in the speculative genre field. It’s yielded and will continue to yield, impressive results. She can be found on twitter at @snarkbat and online at http://snarkbat.com 

(9) PEEWEE T.REX. Gizmodo’s post“Newly Discovered Cousin of T. Rex Was a Pint-Sized Killer”, about “a previously unknown relative of T. rex that stood just below 3 feet at the hip,” gifts us with this classic explication —

All tyrannosaurids are tyrannosauroids, but not all tyrannosauroids are tyrannosaurids; the tyrannosaurid group of dinosaurs sits within the larger tyrannosauroid group. Gigantic tyrannosauroids such as T. rex and Albertosaurus are tyrannosaurids.

If only Danny Kaye were still alive to record those lines…

(10) SHOW-STEALER. BBC tells how “Catwalk gatecrasher becomes surprise fashion star”.

An unlikely model made an appearance at a fashion event in Marrakesh this week.

Purr-rading on the runway, the grey and white cat stole the show as it dodged models heading the other way.

There’s a video, with a lot of puns worse than that one.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Continued on Vimeo, Tomin offers six very short cartoons in less than 90 seconds!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/19 Heroic Struggle Of The Little Guys To Finish The Scroll

(1) SCRAMBLED WHO. “Neil Gaiman Shares That There Are Multiple ‘Doctor Who’ Easter Eggs In ‘Good Omens’”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

So, what kind of Easter Eggs might we see appear on the screen? Gaiman chimed in and shared:

“Jack Whitehall plays Newton Pulsifer, and the first time you see him going off to do a job he’s about to be fired from, his tie is actually the fourth Doctor’s scarf — really small, as a tie.

You know he must be an enormous Doctor Who fan, because he only owns one tie”

There’s also a new teaser trailer for the show –

(2) SINGING GEEKS! “Batman! Spider-Man! Marvel! DC! The Geeks are back this Sunday night in NYC!” The Off Broadway production of Geeks! The Musical! opens April 21 at St. Luke’s, 308 W 46th Street in New York. The music is by LASFSian Ruth Judkowitz.

David Bratman reviewed the 2014 production in San Diego.

…The story takes place over several days at a Comic-Con, though it could be any large generic media-oriented SF con – the coincidence of running into somebody and the difficulty of finding them when you’re looking for them plays some role in the plot. It’s the story of three pairs of friends who come to the convention, one set specifically in hopes of selling the avant-garde comic they’re working on, the others to buy collectibles or to attend programming or just to people-watch. They interact, and romantic pairings, both straight and gay, ensue….

The material has been updated for the 2019 production.

(3) TYPECAST ON TWITCH. Half a dozen sff and game writers will launch TypeCast RPG on Twitch this coming April 23. The continuing role-playing game will stream live Tuesday nights from 7-10 MST.

The members of TypeCast RPG will adventure in a world they’ve collaboratively created named Vaeron. Throughout the sessions, the dungeon master and five game players will make use of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rule system to take their characters through a dark and heroic world in which cities have been built on the backs of slumbering eldritch monsters, stone-age dangers lurk in the lands below, and sky-ships plunder both land and air! 

The cast includes: 

  • Dan Wells will serve as the Dungeon Master for the group.
    • Notable Works: I am Not a Serial Killer, the Partials series, the Writing Excuses podcast. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Charlie N. Holmberg will be playing Fleeda, a Stone Age human druid with complicated family problems.
  • Alan Bahr brings forth Seggrwyrd, the gentlest (and biggest) Jotunnblut barbarian you’ve met.
  • Robison Wells is Grummund, a scoundrel sky dwarf pirate you’ll cheer for.
  • Mari Murdock is Grisk, a half-orc rogue torn between profit and faith, and willing to switch allegiances for the right reward.
    • Notable Works: Legend of the Five Rings Contributor, RPG Writing, Whispers of Shadow and Steel. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Brian McClellan is Krustov, the necromancer cleric and atheist (yes, it’s that confusing).
    • Notable Works: The Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, Uncanny Collateral. TwitterFacebookWebsite

After the livestream wraps up, video viewing will be available on YouTube, as well as a podcast intended to launch on Wednesday afternoons. Various bonus content such as interviews, industry discussions for both fiction writing and gaming, and guest stars will be part of the live stream and other formats!

(4) AMAZON WILL PUBLISH SFF COLLECTION. The AP service carried the announcement of a prestigious collection:

Amazon Original Stories, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, announced today the forthcoming six-part science-fiction collection Forward, featuring original short stories from some of today’s most celebrated voices in fiction, including Blake Crouch, N. K. Jemisin, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles, Paul Tremblay, and Andy Weir. Forward will be available for free on September 17 th, 2019 to Prime and Kindle Unlimited customers. Readers can download the collection as a Kindle eBook or Audible audiobook.

Forward explores a central theme: the resounding effects of a pivotal technological moment. While each author started with this same prompt, readers will discover that each story unearths a unique corner of the sci-fi genre, ranging from intimate to epic, grounded to far future, hopeful to harrowing.

 Andy Weir ( Artemis, The Martian ) imagines a high-tech Las Vegas casino heist; Paul Tremblay ( The Cabin at the End of the World ) immerses readers in a patient’s mysteriously slow healing process; Amor Towles ( A Gentleman in Moscow ) explores a fertility clinic’s god-like abilities to alter an unborn child’s life path; Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) spins a story of finding connection in the face of our world’s certain destruction; N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth series) subverts all expectations when an explorer returns to the ravaged Earth his ancestors fled; and Blake Crouch ( Dark Matter) follows a video game designer whose character Maxine unexpectedly “wakes up.”

(5) BLADE. Is this the sword that Claire Ryan’s pen was mightier than? Authors thanked Claire Ryan for her work helping to expose #CopyPasteCris. (A list of 40 plagiarized authors is posted at the link.)

(6) RAISING A WRITER. Stuart Anderson’s Forbes profile “Isaac Asimov: A Family Immigrant Who Changed Science Fiction And The World” starts with a topical hook but is mainly a literary biography.

Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, came to America as a family immigrant. In fact, he came as part of what some people, sometimes those not particularly in favor of immigrants, today call “chain migration.”

(7) NO SURPRISE. You will not be shocked by this BBC news item — “Hellboy: David Harbour remake fails to fire up box office”.

The latest remake of Hellboy has failed to catch fire, mustering a mere $12m (£9m) at the US box office in its opening weekend.

The turnout falls short of Lionsgate’s $20m (£15m) estimated figures.

Directed by Neil Marshall, the film stars Stranger Things’ David Harbour as a demon who switches satanic allegiance to protect humanity from evil.

Based upon Mike Mignola’s graphic novels, tensions reportedly plagued the R-rated superhero production.

Its poor performance with audiences, (underlined by its disappointing C-rating on Cinema Score), was also reflected by critics.

The Chicago Sun-Times described it as “loud and dark – but almost instantly forgettable,” while the Washington Post lamented its “flat performances and incoherent story”.

(8) PICARD. Three additions to the CBS All Access “Picard” series have been announced. Variety: “‘Star Trek’ Jean-Luc Picard Series Adds Three to Cast”.

Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Isa Briones have jumped aboard as series regulars alongside Sir Patrick Stewart in the upcoming untitled “Star Trek” series.

They join previously announced cast members Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora.

…Pill, who is represented by CAA and The Burstein Company, is best known for playing Maggie Jordan on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom.” Treadaway is known for playing Victor Frankenstein on “Penny Dreadful.” He is represented by Principal Entertainment LA. Briones, who recently starred in “American Crime Story: Versace,” is repped by Piper/Kaniecki/Marks Management.

(9) ALIEN  RETURNS TO STAGE. “Date announced for North Bergen High School’s ‘Alien’ encore performance” reports NorthJersey.com.

There will be an encore performance of the stage version of the classic 1979 sci-fi movie, which became a viral sensation when some enterprising North Bergen High School students produced it with eye-popping sets and effects.

On April 26 at 8 p.m., North Bergen will reprise the show, which was staged for only two performances in March. Those performances caused a tsunami of interest when a video posted the weekend of March 23 got some 3 million hits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 77. It’s his Who work that garners him a Birthday honour.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as the actor who was the First Doctor that made him worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 60. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area of interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark which purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.)  Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. 
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 47. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra Natchios and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil.
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 46. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of  Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? 

(11) SOMEONE BLEW THE BUGLE. Do cats really have nine lives, or do they make up the other eight? The question is inspired by the latest installment of Timothy the Talking Cat’s autobiography — “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 3”

Chapter 3: Marine Sergeant Tim

…My first attempt failed as I had mistaken the Post Office for the Marines. In my defence “Royal Mail” and “Royal Marines” look very similar if you are reading a sign from cat height. Further confusion at the Salvation Army ended more violently as I attempted to attack a uniformed man with a trumpet in an attempt to show my martial temperament….

(12) RIGHT THERE IN THE TAX RECORDS. CNN reports: “Shakespeare home in London, where he wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ found by historian”.

…Marsh’s quest began after The Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered in 2008. The historian wondered where Shakespeare was living when his plays were performed there, which predated The Globe as the playwright’s workplace.

It had previously been identified that the Shakespeare lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station, then known as the parish of St. Helens, after he was listed on taxpayer records in 1597/98, but the exact location was never identified….

(13) UNQUOTE. This 1975 letter from Thornton Wilder mentions the Dinosaur from “The Skin of Our Teeth” while illustrating a classic writers’ problem:

Before leaving for Europe (hope you had a lovely time) you sent me a beautiful American Wildlife Calendar. I was enjoying the pictures – the timber wolf, the woodchuck, the bison – and the mottos, Job, Walt Whitman. Dostoievsky, Dante – when I was thunderstruck to see my name-my birthday month, April … subscribed to a howling idiocy: “The best thing about animals is  that they don’t say much.” I never wrote that! I never thought that! I yelled for Isabel and pointed it out to her, the tears rolling down my face. “Isabel! Somebody’s played a cruel joke on me.  WHEN DID I SAY SUCH A THING? Let’s move to Arkansas until the laughter dies down.”
 
      “Don’t you remember that Mr. Antrobus says it in The Skin of Our Teeth when the Dinosaur is whining about the Ice Age.”
       “But l, I didn’t say it.”
       Then I thought of all the damaging things that could be brought up against me from that same play:
The Child Welfare Calendar: “A child is a thing that only a parent can love” Thornton Wilder.
The Anti-War Calendar: “God forgive me but I enjoyed the war; everybody’s at their best in wartime.” Thornton Wilder.

X

No more playwriting for me.

(14) DREAMSNAKE. Adri Joy gives a very fine overview of the book and its influence in “Feminist Futures: Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre” at Nerds of a Feather.

Executive Summary: Snake is a healer in a fractured post-apocalyptic world, travelling through various communities which live out relatively isolated existences in a world which appears to have gone through nuclear war. As you might guess from her name, the title, and almost every book cover Dreamsnake has been released with (except for a 1994 edition which decides to focus on the book’s stripey horse. There’s also… this.) this healing involves snakes: Mist, an albino cobra, and Sand, a rattlesnake, are both bred to synthesise various cures and vaccinations for illnesses, representing a combination of genetic engineering and on-the-spot biochemistry. The third snake is even more special: Grass is a dreamsnake, an extremely rare “offworlder” breed able to create hallucinations and pleasant dreams which are most often used to ease the pain of the dying.

(15) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Spacefaring Kitten bring Nerds of a Feather readers up to speed about the series of which this new Reynolds work is a part: “Microreview [Book]: Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds”.

There’s something in the dying (or at-least-super-old) Earth subgenre that has always resonated with me: a storyworld littered with weird and wondrous leftovers from times so far past that people are not quite sure what to make of them. In those stories, the massive weight of history hangs over the world and makes it alien in a very specific way….

(16) NO SHORTAGE. Charles Payseur uncorks more short fiction reviews in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #275”.

The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!

(17) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. The BBC will supply a soundtrack for the anniversary of the first Moon landing — “The BBC Proms are going to outer space: 2019’s season highlights”.

The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

Alongside classics like Holst’s The Planets, the season will include a Sci-Fi Prom, featuring scores from films such as Gravity and Alien: Covenant.

A CBeebies concert will take children on a journey to the Moon, including a close encounter with The Clangers.

And the season opens in July with a new piece inspired by the first Moon walk.

Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory will be premiered on Friday 19 July, under the baton of Karina Canellakis – the first female conductor to oversee the First Night of the Proms.

Meanwhile, art-rock band Public Service Broadcasting will play their concept album Race For Space in a special late night Prom.

The record, which combines sparse electronic beats with archive audio recordings from the US-Soviet space race, will be presented in a new arrangement with the Multi-Story Orchestra.

(18) DESERVES A TOUNGELASHING. “Star Wars: George Lucas names Jar Jar Binks as his favourite character”. Check the calendar – nope, it’s not April first.

George Lucas’ has revealed that Jar Jar Binks, one of the most reviled characters in the Star Wars saga, is actually his all-time favourite.

The 74-year-old director made the surprise announcement at a fan event marking the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

“[It] is one of my favourite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favourite character,” he said via video.

(19) A.K.A. Maybe George was just creating a distraction to keep us from noticing that “Disney Has Officially Renamed The First Star Wars Movie”. Let Gamebyte explain:

Just when you think you’ve got your life sorted and you know what’s what with the world, Disney has to go and screw with all our heads and rename the original Star Wars movie.

Heading back to 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was our first trip to that galaxy far, far away and made household names of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Jump to 2019 and we’re on the cusp of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX.

We’ve come a long way since A New Hope, but now, the House of Mouse is renaming George Lucas’ epic space opera. The movie is now called Star Wars: A New Hope, fitting with Disney’s current naming of the movies since Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

(20) COMIC RELIEF. Philip Ball’s 2014 post “The Moment of Uncertainty” translated his interview on uncertainty, with Robert Crease, historian and philosopher of science at Stony Brook University. The interview appeared in the French publication La Recherche. Amid the serious scientific stuff is this little joke —

There’s even an entire genre of uncertainty principle jokes. A police officer pulls Heisenberg over and says, “Did you know that you were going 90 miles an hour?” Heisenberg says, “Thanks. Now I’m lost.” 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Mike Kennedy, 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 3/29/19 This Is File 770, You Can Scroll On The File And Call The Cat A Pixel

(1) HIGH PRAISE AND SOME CASH. A student stage production of Alien has earned the highest seal of approval – and it’s more than just kind words: “Ridley Scott Praises Students for ‘Alien’ Stage Show, Offers Funds for Encore Performance”.

The North Bergen High School students who put on a stage production of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” have made a fan out of the director himself…

“My hat comes off to all of you for your creativity, imagination, and determination to produce such an ambitious show,” Scott writes in the letter. “Limitations often produce the best results because imagination and determination can surpass any shortfalls and determine the way forward – always.”

Scott continues, “Self-sufficiency is what this country was largely based upon with its immigrant population coming in to a New World and working together. This is maybe the biggest lesson for all of you, and your future plans – stay with this determination, and this spirit in everything you do, and you will succeed – let nothing put you off – or set you back.”

The letter ends with Scott encouraging the students to put on a live production of his Oscar winner “Gladiator” next year. The director is currently working on a sequel to the blockbuster. Scott said he felt “very complimented” the students decided to use “Alien” as a source of inspiration. The filmmaker ended his note with good news: “Scott Free will advance some financial help to fund an encore performance of ‘Alien.’”

(2) CHICK-A-BOOM. In science news: they have fossils from very soon after Chicxulub hit. Like within a few hours afterward. Fish, dinosaurs, trees with amber, tektites. Science Daily has the story: “66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor”.

Paleontologists have found a fossil site in North Dakota that contains animals and plants killed and buried within an hour of the meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. This is the richest K-T boundary site ever found, incorporating insects, fish, mammals, dinosaurs and plants living at the end of the Cretaceous, mixed with tektites and rock created and scattered by the impact. The find shows that dinosaurs survived until the impact.

(3) UP AGAINST THE WALL. In anti-science news, Lonely Planet announced that “The Flat Earth Cruise wants to sail to the edge of the world in 2020”.

Despite real, scientific evidence to the contrary, the Flat Earth Society is continuing its quest to convince the world that spherical planets are a hoax and the earth is flat. In 2020, they’ll bring their message to the seas with a special cruise they promise will be “the biggest, boldest, best adventure yet.”

It may seem somewhat dangerous to embark on a cruise on a flat surface, given the danger of potentially falling off the edge. Fear not, however, as the flat earth theory proposes that we think of as Antarctica is actually a giant ice wall which “helps protect us from whatever lies beyond.”

(4) DIRECTOR CUT. NPR’s Chris Klimek says of Dumbo: “Elephants Never Forget, But Audiences Will”.

Dumbo, the first of three live-action(ish) remakes of beloved Disney cartoons due in the next four months (Aladdin is coming in May, The Lion King in June), coulda been a contender. Its director is Tim Burton, who began his career as an animator, and who has periodically returned to that medium for heartfelt, handmade pictures like Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie. More recently, Burton is the filmmaker most directly responsible for this cartoon-reclamation trend: His 2010 re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland took in more than a billion dollars around the world. Do you know anyone of any age who likes that film? Dumbo is better, but that’s a bar any able-bodied adult elephant could clear, no unusual talents necessary.

Once the most idiosyncratic of big-studio filmmakers, Burton has long since become a company man. This efficient, indistinct Dumbo could’ve been directed by any number of Chris Columbuses or Brad Peytons or Jon Favreaus (who made 2016’s The Jungle Book and that upcoming digitized Lion King) — able project managers all, and not a one of them possessed of the fevered imagination to pull off a Beetlejuice, never mind an Ed Wood. The docile Burton we have here is the one Warner Brothers’ wished they’d had on Batman Returns a generation ago, when parents and a certain billions-and-billions-served burger chain screamed about how the blockbuster sequel turned out awfully weird and kinky and violent, for a film they’d worked so hard to sell to children.

(5) SHIRAISHI OBIT. Voice actress Fuyumi Shiraishi passed away March 28 at the age of 82 reports Anime News Network.

She is arguably best known outside Japan for voicing Mirai in the first Mobile Suit Gundam anime series.

She won a Merit Award for lifetime achievement at the 9th Annual Seiy? Awards in 2015.

(6) RIMMER OBIT. Thunderbirds voice actor Shane Rimmer had died reports The Guardian.

Actor Shane Rimmer, who voiced the character of pilot Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds, has died. The official Gerry Anderson website carried the news, saying that the death of the 89 year old had been confirmed by his widow Sheila Rimmer. Rimmer died at home in the early hours of 29 March. No cause of death has been given.

… . The actor also contributed his voice to other Gerry Anderson projects including Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and appeared in person in the Anderson’s live action project UFO. Behind the scenes, Rimmer also wrote episodes of Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, The Secret Service and The Protectors.

As well as his work with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson he appeared in over 100 films including Dr Strangelove, Gandhi and Out of Africa. He played three different roles in three different James Bond movies, appearing in Diamonds Are Forever, You Only Live Twice, and The Spy Who Loved Me.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 29, 1923 Geoffrey Ashe, 96. British historian and lecturer, Arthurian expert. His first book, King Arthur’s Avalon: The Story of Glastonbury, was published sixty years ago. He wrote one novel, The Finger and the Moon, set at Allhallows, a college near Glastonbury Tor. 
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 76. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I submit that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all hand in are.
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased  the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1948 Bud Cort, 71. First genre role was in  producer Roger Corman’s final film for AIP, Gas-s-s-s (also known as Gas! or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It). Next was Brave New World which was followed by Invaders from Mars, a remake of the early Fifties film of that name. There was a pilot for a Bates Motel series (H’h?) but ignored the timeline from Psycho II and Psycho III. Last I’m going to note his voicing Toy Man in the Justice League and Superman animated series.
  • Born March 29, 1955 Marina Sirtis, 64. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. I admit I never did find her role all that interesting. As for her roles outside of Trek, let’s see what we’ve got. Her first genre film appearance, The Wicked Lady, a highwayman film being noted here only for Sirtis somehow getting whipped while topless by Faye Dunaway. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Titans, the DC streaming service based series, as Marie Granger in the “Hank and Dawn” episode. 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 62. Not even going to attempt to summarise her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 51. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in  Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Another Incidental Comic from Grant Snider:

(9) ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter has been patrolling the airwaves again: “Not a science fiction answer/question, but a good topic,” he says.

Answer: This 1883 classic ends with the words “A well-behaved little boy!”

All contestants got it wrong, with the questions, “Who is Little Lord Fauntleroy,” “What is The Velveteen Rabbit,” and “What is Peter Pan?”

The correct question: “Who is Pinocchio?”

(10) HELP WANTED. According to Jezebel, “Space Scientists Need Women Volunteers Who Will Stay in Bed Eating Pancakes for Two Months”.

Do you speak German and hate getting out of bed? That could be worth almost 19k to space scientists.

A study commissioned by NASA and the European Space Agency being conducted at the German Aerospace Center needs German-speaking, non-smoking women ages 22-55 to lie in bed for 60 days in order to help understand the impact of weightlessness on the body.

(11) NOT JUST CATS. It’s a veritable hitchhikers’ guide… “Dozens Of Nonnative Marine Species Have Invaded The Galapagos Islands”.

The Galapagos Islands are like a biological ark in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Giant tortoises live there, and swimming iguanas, and numerous species found nowhere else. It’s one of the world’s most protected places.

But scientists have discovered that dozens of exotic species have invaded the Galapagos — underwater.

Marine biologist James Carlton remembers when he first got to thinking that the famously wild Galapagos, a World Heritage, might not be as pristine as people thought. “On my first visit to the Galapagos,” he recalls, “I collected some samples from a boat bottom.” He found barnacles, sponges and other hitchhikers.

That was in 1987. Carlton didn’t know if the creatures he found were native or not. So about four years ago, he and a team of scientists decided to return and take a closer look.

“We didn’t know quite what to expect,” he says. They already knew there were lots of invasive species — species not native to the Galapagos — on land. But in the surrounding ocean, there were only five known species of invaders. Everything else, presumably, was native.

When Carlton’s team looked underwater, however, they found a horde of invaders. “Now we have 53, which is a rather stunning increase,” says marine biologist Gregory Ruiz, who was on the trip. “It’s about a tenfold increase.”

(12) AT LONG LAST. Try and look on the bright side —

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

Pixel Scroll 3/24/19 For Work Or For Pleasure, It’s A Triumph, It’s A Treasure, Oh, There’s Nothing That A Pixel Cannot Do

(1) COSPLAY. SYFY Wire shares a photo gallery: “Pokémon and Spider-Verse cosplay highlight Day 1 at C2E2 2019”.

Video games were well represented with Halo and Detective Pikachu complimenting the various Mario Bros. sticking up for the nostalgic. Various superheroines ran around with plenty of well-costumed anime heroes and it was all as exciting (and packed) as an Avengers film.

(2) FEAR ITSELF. Ethan Mills reveals his “Non-Spoilery Impressions of Jordan Peele’s Us” at Examined Worlds.

Is Us scary?  Sure, but not as much in a straightforward horror sense as you might think. There aren’t a lot of jump scares.  There are no scary clowns or zombies or vampires or ghosts or whatever.  But it’s horror in a deeper sense.  It’s supposed to communicate directly with something deep inside the viewer and stay there, lurking in both your conscious and unconscious mind.  It’s a mirror that allows you to see that you’ve been there staring at yourself the whole time.

(3) SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT. Ellen Datlow responded to S.T. Joshi on Facebook.

This is very tiresome. I know I should let sleeping dogs lie, but I don’t like being called a liar, especially in print, and even more especially by someone who seems ignorant of how things actually work.

S. T. Joshi claims I was the “prime mover” behind the change in the WFA bust. I was not. I was/am a member of the Awards Administration that decided it was time for a change.

He further claims he was told by “a member of the committee” that there was no vote taken to change the award.

#1 there is no such thing as the World Fantasy Committee. There is a World Fantasy Convention Board and there is an Awards Administration. Perhaps he is confusing the two.

#2 I am a member of the Awards Administration and a voting member–only of the AA. At the time there were six of us.

#3 I am on the overall WFC board board itself as a non-voting member.

#4 The entire WFC board under David Hartwell voted unanimously to change the award. There were no nays and as far as I can remember there were no abstentions.

I would be happy to know who the person is that claims there was no vote taken because there is likely a record recording (or at least acknowledging) the vote.

(4) GRAVITY INDUSTRIES DEMO. The Chicago Tribune posted video of “Jet suit flight at Museum of Science and Industry”.

In the future, we have been promised, there will be jet packs. Usually this is said with disappointment. But on the front steps and lawn of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry this week, there actually was a working jet suit, and a man brave enough to get in and buzz around. Inventor Richard Browning, a British former oil trader, was showing off his invention to promote the museum show, “Wired to Wear,” that features the suit from his Gravity Industries and scores of other examples of cutting-edge wearable tech.

(5) FIREFLY. More on the Disney/Fox merger’s princess implications for the women in Firefly.

(6) A HEAP OF GLORY. Gizmodo has discovered “Where Movies Get Their Vintage Electronics”.

Have you ever watched a show like Mad Men and wondered where they found those early Xerox machines? Or where The Americans got their hands on all the Reagan-era IBMs that you thought would be piled in a landfill? Well, there’s a good chance these historically-accurate gadgets came from a massive warehouse in Brooklyn with a specific mission: to preserve some of the world’s oldest, most cherished electronics.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 24, 1834 William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of it its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly ParadiseThe Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature as it looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. (Died 1896.)
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. Yes, him. He wrote “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt” which had its first half published in March 1924 issue of Weird Tales. An issue of that sold at an auction aimed at Houdini collectors for $2,500 on eBay fetching 43 bids. (Died 1926.)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Another one of those women with an amazing full name, to wit Theodora Covel Kracaw Kroeber Quinn, she’s the mother of Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. She’s here because ISFDB insists that she wrote a genre novel by the name of Carrousel. Well it’s a novella actually at ninety-one pages and might or might not be genre. If anyone’s read it, they can tell me what it is. (Died 1979.)
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 73. Monthly reviewer for Locus for 27 years now and, yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 70. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None with her husband.

(8) COMIC SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine today has a questionable solution to our country’s problems.
  • Evidently JDA spent the most recent St. Patrick’s Day communing with The Little People. He hopes they’ll give him lots of green.

(9) FOLLOW THE YELLOWING PAGE ROAD. That pulp fiction we’ve all been talking about? Open Culture says you can find a lot of it here: “Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive, Featuring Over 11,000 Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction”.

There’s great science fiction, no small amount of creepy teen boy wish-fulfillment, and lots of lurid, noir appeals to fantasies of sex and violence. Swords and sorcery, guns and trussed-up pin-ups, and plenty of creature features. The pulps were once mass culture’s id, we might say, and they have now become its ego.

(10) BOOK VS. MOVIE. Steve Fahnestalk digs deep into the DVD bin for his “’Historic’ Film Review: King Solomon’s Mines (1937)” – at Amazing Stories.

Quatermain’s companions (Commander Good—Roland Young; and Sir Henry Curtis—John Loder), who have paid him to be a guide on their African hunting trip, tell him they want to pursue O’Brien; Umbopo tells them he knows the country because he was from there originally. They end up in a desert region and have to abandon the wagon because the oxen can drink up all their water in no time at all. So they head off, following the map, onto the “burning sands” on foot. (In the book, Quatermain, who’s been an elephant hunter for years, knows better, and they go only at night in the desert.) Umbopo sings them on their way (Robeson was, at this point, an international star—his “Old Man River” was the hit of the British version of Showboat—and he’s actually got the biggest credit; this film is a vehicle for him, rather than just an attempt to film Haggard’s book.)

(11) XO4K. BBC reports “Exoplanet tally set to pass 4,000 mark”.

The number of planets detected around other stars – or exoplanets – is set to hit the 4,000 mark.

The huge haul is a sign of the explosion of findings from searches with telescopes on the ground and in space over the last 25 years.

It’s also an indication of just how common planets are – with most stars in the Milky Way hosting at least one world in orbit around them.

That’s something astronomers couldn’t be certain of just 30 years ago.

(12) PRESERVED JELLIES. Rare finds near the Danshui river: “Huge fossil discovery made in China’s Hubei province”.

Scientists say they have discovered a “stunning” trove of thousands of fossils on a river bank in China.

The fossils are estimated to be about 518 million years old, and are particularly unusual because the soft body tissue of many creatures, including their skin, eyes, and internal organs, have been “exquisitely” well preserved.

Palaeontologists have called the findings “mind-blowing” – especially because more than half the fossils are previously undiscovered species.

The fossils, known as the Qingjiang biota, were collected near Danshui river in Hubei province.

(13) GOAL MODELS. “The greatest strong female characters of all time” is another list/opinion piece from SYFY Wire’s Fangrrls.

In the entirety of its existence, the majority of sci-fi, fantasy and horror works have centered men — usually straight, white ones. It is then perhaps all the more impressive that the most powerful, inspirational characters across genre are women. While there is still a long way to go to make genre less white, less cis and less able-bodied, we are grateful for the women who showed us that genre isn’t just for “boys” and that not all heroes are male. 

Jenna Busch picked –

Lessa

Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series embodies the true strong female character. Even better? It was written back in the late ’60s when SFCs were few and far between. Lessa survived in awful conditions as a child, was chosen as the last Dragonrider of a Queen, ensuring the survival of the creatures. She defied conventions and helped prepared for the return of the deadly Threadfall, traveled 400 years back in time to bring forward other Dragonriders to help and stood strong against the very male-dominated society she lived in. OK, maybe her time travel did sort of form a paradox that caused the deficit in Dragonriders to begin with, but hey, she couldn’t know that, could she? Lessa took no crap from anyone, was proud of her no bull policy and is the perfect example of someone defined by the Shakespeare quote, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” –

(14) THINK UP, PLEASE! Around 75% accuracy is claimed: “Neuroscientists Have Converted Brain Waves Into Verbal Speech”Smithsonian has the story.

The team’s research, published in Scientific Reports, involves a somewhat unconventional approach. Rather than directly tracking thoughts to produce speech, the researchers recorded neurological patterns generated by test subjects listening to others speak. These brain waves were fed into a vocoder—an artificial intelligence algorithm that synthesizes speech—and then converted into comprehensible, albeit robotic-sounding, speech mirroring the phrases heard by participants.

(15) A KINGDOM OF ONE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the top level, life is divided into three domains  bacteria, archae, and eukaryotes—the latter having cells in which the genetic material is DNA in the form of chromosomes contained within a distinct nucleus. Eukaryotes are divided into several kingdoms, typically Animalia (animals), Plantae (plants), Fungi, and Protista—the latter of which is something of a catch-all category. (It should be noted that a number of other division schemes exist.)

A new DNA analysis of  creature called hemimastigotes—firmly in the domain of eukaryotes given their cellular structure—says they are so different from the four eukaryote kingdoms (even the catch-all Protista) that they should be their own kingdom (CBC News: “Rare microbes lead scientists to discover new branch on the tree of life”). The original source (Nature: “Hemimastigophora is a novel supra-kingdom-level lineage of eukaryotes”) is behind a paywall, but the CBC News article notes:

Two species of the microscopic organisms, called hemimastigotes, were found in dirt collected on a whim during a hike in Nova Scotia by Dalhousie University graduate student Yana Eglit.

A genetic analysis shows they’re more different from other organisms than animals and fungi (which are in different kingdoms) are from each other, representing a completely new part of the tree of life, Eglit and her colleagues report this week in the journal Nature.

“They represent a major branch… that we didn’t know we were missing,” said Dalhousie biology professor Alastair Simpson, Eglit’s supervisor and co-author of the new study. 

“There’s nothing we know that’s closely related to them.”

In fact, he estimates you’d have to go back a billion years — about 500 million years before the first animals arose — before you could find a common ancestor of hemimastigotes and any other known living things.

(16) ONCE AND FUTURE. VickyWhoReads praises this reworking of the Arthurian legend: “Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy: An Underhyped, Genderbent King Arthur Retelling in Space!”

I think something that I forget to think about with books is just how much they appeal to readers outside of pure entertainment. The cast of characters is so diverse—and in a futuristic space setting, it’s just a big bundle of inclusivity. (Except for the bad corporations, but even then, there’s not really discrimination based on sex/religion/race/etc., it’s “oh look people rebelling, let’s kill them.”)

And, frankly, it was a really refreshing read in the way that I didn’t have to watch people suffer based on who they were, we got to watch them suffer because they were fighting evil corporations. (Not to say that books that do show this are bad, but this was a nice moment where I could just bury myself under all the openly queer characters and accepting nature of everyone in the novel.)

Ari & Gwen are bi or pan, Lam is fluid, Merlin is gay, and Jordan is ace so we get to see a whole giant cast of queer characters, and no one suffering because of their queerness! It was wonderful and just really refreshing.

(17) ICONIC MOMENTS. About half the scenes in Vanity Fair’s collection of “The 25 Most Influential Movie Scenes of the Last 25 Years” are from genre/adjacent movies.

Sometimes, all it takes is a single scene to change moviemaking for good. (“Rosebud . . .” comes to mind.) And while many of the last quarter-century’s films have awed, inspired, and offered up iconic entries into the cultural canon, only some—and particularly, only a few individual moments—have genuinely influenced how future films were made. So, what makes that list? To mark the 25th edition of the Hollywood Issue, Vanity Fair’s film critics pinpointed 25 film scenes since 1995 that changed the industry, the art form, and even the culture, and our reporters spoke to the performers and filmmakers who made them happen.

  • Toy Story
  • Scream
  • The Matrix
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith
  • Children of Men
  • Iron Man
  • The Dark Knight
  • Twilight
  • Get Out

(18) SIBLINGS. Paul Weimer tells why he largely enjoyed this fantasy novel: “Microreview [book]: The Sisters Mederos by Patrice Sarath” at Nerds of a Feather.

House Mederos has seen better times. Much better times. After the sinking of a fleet, that may have been secretly the doing of the younger of the Mederos sisters, the family is impoverished and cast out of the society of Port Saint Frey. Yvienne and Tesara spent years in a horrid boarding school for the impoverished. But now they have returned, and now have the opportunity, as they try to help their family recover their fortunes. House Mederos has been reduced to near penury, but that status will not remain forever if the sisters have anything to do about it. Even if it takes questionable acts, in ballrooms and nightly doings alike, to accomplish the feat.

(19) THREE DIMENSIONS. The Weatherwax Report’s Esme, Coffee, and Kristen collaborate on areview of another indie fantasy work — “SPFBO Finalist: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe”. Esme begins —

The main characters are young, but they aren’t whiny or angsty which is why I think this one clicked. I liked seeing diversity in the characters with both an LGBT side character and a Hispanic main character – I don’t see either of those represented often in fantasy. This was a quick book that I read in a sitting, the writing was straight forward and sped the story along, so it earned high marks in pacing.

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

[Update 03/26/19: Removed Andrew Porter’s birthday listing.]

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.]